Proverbs 29:1

ESV He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
NIV Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
NASB A person often rebuked who becomes obstinate Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.
CSB One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimands will be shattered instantly— beyond recovery.
NLT Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.
KJV He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
NKJV He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

What does Proverbs 29:1 mean?

This has occasionally been described as the most ominous verse in the Bible. Application to earthly life is dire, but not as chilling as the spiritual implications (Proverbs 10:25). Those who stubbornly refuse to be corrected, despite many warnings, put themselves at risk of sudden, catastrophic disaster (Proverbs 6:15; 8:32–36). That can involve legal or social consequences. It might mean physical injury or death.

When it comes to God, some obstinately ignore His many warnings and invitations to be saved (Romans 1:18–20; Micah 7:18–19). While God is merciful and gracious, He does not offer infinite patience. Eventually, the opportunity to repent is gone. There comes a time when God takes His hands off an obstinate unbeliever and simply "lets them go" wherever their sin will take them (Romans 1:26–28; 1 Samuel 2:25). That means a life without God and an eternity of hopeless doom (Revelation 20:15; John 3:36).

A "stiff neck" or a "hardened neck" implies someone who refuses to bow in submission, or even to nod in agreement. The symbolism comes from livestock, in the case of an animal refusing to respond to commands. In Noah's day, the culture was thoroughly wicked and refused to accept God's goodness. As a result, everyone except Noah and his family perished in the flood God unleashed on the earth (Genesis 6:5–8). The Israelites who wandered the desert for forty years were said to be stiff-necked (Exodus 33; Nehemiah 9:16–18). King Hezekiah, in calling the people who had escaped the Assyrians to celebrate Passover, warned them to return to the Lord and not "be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lᴏʀᴅand come to his sanctuary … and serve the Lᴏʀᴅ your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you" (2 Chronicles 30:8). Hezekiah reminded the people that "God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him" (2 Chronicles 30:9).

John the Baptist warned the stiff-necked, self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees, "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:10). Stephen accused his killers of being "stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51). Saul of Tarsus, also known as the apostle Paul, approved of Stephen's death (Acts 8:1). And yet when Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus, he repented (Acts 9). In fact, he became the "apostle to the Gentiles" and wrote much of the New Testament.

Stiffening one's neck against the truth of God is a dangerous place to be, and yet God is unchanging and remains merciful to all who turn to Him in faith (Ephesians 2:1–10; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11). Even so, the apostle Peter warns, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed" (2 Peter 3:9–10).
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