When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth. – Proverbs 11:7 KJV
This is a fascinating verse to contemplate, so please take a moment to think about these words with me.
If you don’t already know, I love the King James Version of the Bible, but I am not a King James Only-ist by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are times when I wish modern translators could have left well enough alone.
For example, below are four different versions of Proverbs 11:7, each from a very popular translation.
NLT – When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength.
NIV – Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.
ESV – When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
CSB – When the wicked person dies, his expectation comes to nothing, and hope placed in wealth vanishes.
If you will indulge me for a moment, let’s look at the differences.
The NLT (New Living Translation) changes the word translated “expectation” in the KJV to the plural word “hopes.” Then, somehow “feeble strength” gets thrown in.
The NIV (New Internation Version) translators somehow determined that the “expectation,” or “hope,” is actually in the (wicked) mortal who dies.
The ESV (English Standard Version) seems to imply that the “hope” is not necessarily in the wicked, but they continue in the same idea that when the wicked die there is lost investment.
The CSB (Christian Standard Bible) stays closer to the KJV in the first part of the verse in that it does not overtly imply that the “expectation” is in the wicked, but a possession of the wicked. But in the second part of the verse, it sides more with the ESV and assumes that “hope” is money or “wealth.”
Like I said before, I’m not a KJV-only-ist. I have found each of the above versions useful in my study of the Bible. However, one word, in particular, makes me wish they’d kept things unchanged, or at least interpreted differently.
The Hebrew word that is translated as “expectation” is a word that literally means “rope.” Consider the following definition from Strongs Concordance:
תִּקְוָה tiqvâh, tik-vaw’; from H6960; (compare H6961) literally a cord (as an attachment); figuratively, expectancy:—expectation(-ted), hope, live, thing that I long for.
The first two times this word is used in the Old Testament is in Joshua 2:18 and 21. This is the story where Rahab the harlot is given the assurance that she and her household will not be harmed, just as long as she hangs a scarlet cord from the window of her home on the wall of Jericho.
The same word translated “cord” in Joshua 2:18 and 21 is translated “expectation” in Proverbs 11:7. Now, this does not necessarily mean that the “expectation” of the wicked is a rope, but it does give me the idea that what the wicked man has is something that he’s depending on to save him.
Granted, I could be wrong in my interpretation of this verse, but it would seem to me that it’s not too much to believe that the wicked man’s “expectation” is the hope and trust he has in something that will hold on to him, guide him, or keep him after death. It could mean that when a wicked man dies all the hopes others have in him will die with him, but considering the context of the surrounding verses (11:6 and 11:8), I think my interpretation holds more water.
Thankfully, my “expectation” is more akin to the scarlet thread that Rahab hung from her window than anything I can come up with on my own. What I’m counting on to pull me through death into eternal life is the “scarlet thread” woven throughout all of Scripture, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…”
When I die, my expectation will hold.