Proverbs 29:18 informs, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” Without divine revelation from the Word of God, a spiritual Wild West environment will surely develop.
The Hebrew word translated as “revelation” here is consistently associated with the visions the prophets received from the Lord (see Daniel 8:13; Nahum 1:1). In ancient times, the prophets were God’s chosen teachers to instruct the Lord’s people in righteousness and truth. To cast off restraint is “to be turned loose or free from restraints.” When people are deprived of knowledge or instruction in the revealed Word of God, it’s as though they are allowed to run wild and free. The same idea is expressed in Leviticus 13:45 as letting one’s hair “hang loose” (see also Numbers 5:18). In Exodus 32:25, the terminology describes how the people of Israel went “completely out of control” (NLT) or “had broken loose” (ESV) with the golden calf.
The Word of God provides the insight we need to navigate this world (Psalm 119:105). Without Scripture’s guidance, people make serious mistakes. They end up lost and in deep trouble. Where there is no revelation of His truth, people do whatever they please, and chaos ensues. But “those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!” (Luke 11:28, HCSB).
The proverb writer recognizes the importance of prophetic ministry and the teaching of God’s Word for the community’s welfare and to maintain social harmony. The Bible mentions times and places where there was no revelation. When God called the boy Samuel to minister as a prophet, “in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon” (1 Samuel 3:1, NLT). A similar condition existed in King Asa’s day: “For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them” (2 Chronicles 15:3, NLT).
The prophet Amos forewarns of God’s coming judgment, likening it to a famine in the land—“not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it” (Amos 8:11–12). When there is no revelation in Hosea’s era, the Lord says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children” (Hosea 4:6; cf. Hosea 3:4).
Scripture laments the lack of prophetic revelation: “Jerusalem’s gates have sunk into the ground. He has smashed their locks and bars. Her kings and princes have been exiled to distant lands; her law has ceased to exist. Her prophets receive no more visions from the Lord” (Lamentations 2:9, NLT; see also Psalm 74:9).
The basic message of Proverbs 29:18 is that blessings of well-being and harmonious living come to those who receive instruction in God’s Word and obey it (Proverbs 16:20). “There is great reward” in keeping God’s law (Psalm 19:11). By contrast, where there is no revelation of truth and no obedience to the commands of the Lord, the fatal effect will be chaos, disorder, confusion, and rebellion.