Proverbs 16:4 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Pro 16:4  The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. 

Calvinists tend to use this verse as a prooftext for divine determinism. Commenting on Proverbs 16:4, Reformed Answers author Joseph R. Nally writes:

This is simply the truth. Everything and everyone is created for a divine purpose – even the wicked for the day of destruction (cf. Rom 9:22-23).

Nally goes on to address criticism, but neglects the main criticism to the determinist rendering of this verse. Nelly neglects charges that the translation is biased towards determinism and ignores a better translation.

Neil Short writes:

The Hebrew verb often translated “has made” (RSV, NRSV, ESV, NASB, KJV, ASV) can also be translated as “works out” (NIV, NCV, NET). The word translated as “purpose” can also be translated as “answer.” Thus, the meaning of the verse is that God works things out so that the end of the wicked properly answers their wickedness. As a bonus, that reading appreciates Proverbs 16:4 as a proper proverb. The NIV has the best reading of this verse:

The LORD works out everything for his own ends―even the wicked for a day of disaster (NIV).

Let us not ignore the plain translation of the International Children’s Bible:

The Lord makes everything work the way he wants it. He even has a day of disaster for evil people (ICB).

Proverbs 16:3-7 follows the proverbial format of antecedent – consequence. Proverbs 16:3 says to “Commit your work to the LORD” (first/antecedent) “and your plans will be established” (second/consequence). Verse 5 says people who are arrogant (first) “are an abomination to the LORD” (consequence). Verse 6 says people who are loyal and faithful (first) find atonement for iniquity (consequence). Verse 7 says when people’s ways please the LORD (first) they have peace with their enemies (consequence). God sees to it. Verse 4, in agreement with the context, says people who are evil (first) will find disaster (consequence). God sees to it.

In short, the Proverb author is more likely exclaiming that God’s purposes ultimately come to fruition. The wicked will not escape.

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