Proverbs 4:15

ESV Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.
NIV Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
NASB Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on.
CSB Avoid it; don’t travel on it. Turn away from it, and pass it by.
NLT Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving.
KJV Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
NKJV Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on.

What does Proverbs 4:15 mean?

Repetition in a written work is a sign of strong emphasis. In ancient literature, this was also the case. Over these verses, Solomon has been pleading with his son to entirely shun "the way of the evil." The phrasing in verse 14 specifically referred to wicked persons: "the" evil, rather than evil in a generic sense. Solomon's own struggles with sin came as a result of bad choices in his relationships (1 Kings 11:4). Here he issues four commands, with their own subtle differences.

First, we should "avoid" evil. The best way to avoid following the example of evil people is to obey God's Word. It always steers us in the right direction (2 Timothy 3:16–17), even when evil is disguised as good (2 Corinthians 11:14). We should be actively seeking to stay away from people, and behaviors, which are depraved.

Second, we should not "go on it," again referring to the path of those who are evil (Proverbs 4:14). There may be the temptation to experience what the wicked find so attractive, but we will not lack anything worthwhile by refusing to enter the path of the wicked. There is no safe way to experience sin "just a little," or "for now." Psalm 16:11 assures us that the Lord makes known to us the path of life, and in His presence is fullness of joy, and everlasting pleasures are at His right hand.

Third, we should "turn away from" the path of evil people. This acknowledges that temptations are real, even if we make an effort to avoid sin. When tempted to do evil, we ought to turn to the Lord for grace and strength. First Corinthians 10:13 assures us the Lord will make a way of escape in any situation. We are never "forced" to sin, and can always make a decision to turn in the right way.

Fourth, we should "pass on." A powerful tool in combatting sin is to be active in seeking God and His will. We don't need to go in some random direction. We should continue, deliberately, in our pursuit of God and His goodness. Instead of stopping to glance at evil, we need to keep moving along the path of righteousness (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1).
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