“A Divine Sentence” (Prov. 16.10) | Hugo McCord

Posted on October 29, 2011 by


It was impossible for an error to be in the first writing of the Bible books, for “[E]very Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16, FHV). But those perfect books, written in three foreign languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) would have been useless to me if some learned men had not translated them into the King James Version.

Because somebody (unknown to me, to whom I am indebted) brought the KJV to Mississippi I first learned about Jesus and his love. When I was baptized at age 12 I did not know there was any other version. However, later it dawned on me that all translations are second-hand, since no translation is “God-breathed,” and so all translations are subject to human error.

One such error is in Proverbs 16:10 in my mother’s Bible:

A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.

To attribute divine inspiration, yes, infallibility, to the king, making him incapable of error in his judgments, cannot be what Solomon wrote. He himself “did that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah” (1 Kings 11:1-10).

The scholars who gave us the American Standard Version made the same mistake as those who gave us the KJV. However, the ASV tells us in the margin that Solomon did not write “a divine sentence” but “Divination.” The dictionary says that a divination is “trying to foretell future events or the unknown by occult means,” which definition is far from “a divine sentence.”

The marginal reference in the ASV, “Divination,” fits exactly 30 of the 31 times a form of Solomon’s word qasam appears in the Old Testament, an action “prohibited” to the the Israelites (Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 kings 17:17, BDB, p. 890). As a verb it is “used always of the false prophets of the Hebrews,” but as a noun one time “in a good sense, an oracle, Proverbs 16:10″ (Gesenius, p. 736).

Webster says that an “oracle” is a “divine announcement.” But to say that “a divine announcement is in the lips of the king” still asserts a king free of error. So I turn to other translations:

A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment (New American Standard Version).

The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth shall not betray justice (New International Version).

Inspired decisions are on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment (New Revised Standard Version).

Rulers speak with authority and are never wrong (Contemporary English Version).

All of these translations set forth the king as incapable of error with his lips. Then one notices that the KJV tells us, by italicizing is, that that word was inserted by the translators. The Hebrew text, word for word, is:

Divination (or, “a divine oracle”) on lips king in judgment not he is perverse his mouth.

Since an understood verb is called for to make sense, and since “is” makes the king infallible, another verb has to be understood.

If one uses “should be” an admirable and beautiful thought shines out, that the king should have Bible verses on his lips as he sits on his throne in judgment. What Guy Woods called “the worst of all versions” is excellent in Proverbs 16:10:

Inspired decision should be upon the lips of a king; in judgment his mouth should not prove unfaithful (New World Translation).

If I live long enough,[1] I am hoping to add the book of Proverbs to 4th edition of the Freed-Hardeman Version. If so, at present Proverbs 16:10 will be as follows:

A divine oracle should be on the king’s lips; his mouth should not be unfair in judgment.


  1. In 2000, Hugo McCord fulfilled this desire to add Proverbs – along with Genesis and Psalms – in the 4th edition of his “Freed-Hardeman Version” (FHV4) before his death on May 14, 2004. The translation can be available from Freed-Hardeman University Press (Henderson, Tenn.) under the title, The Everlasting Gospel, Plus Genesis, the Psalms, and the Proverbs (5th ed, 2007).