The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity.This verse struck me as odd. Why would Yahweh's way be ruin to anybody? So I decided to investigate.
The phrase "way of Yahweh" occurs seven times in the OT, five of which are conceptually parallel Proverbs 10:29 (Gen. 18:19; Jdg. 2:22; 2 Kgs 21:22, Jer. 5:4, 5). God “knows” Abraham so that he will command his children to “keep the way of Yahweh” by doing righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). This set of collocations—the way of Yahweh is kept by doing righteousness—shows up in Judges 2:22, where the Lord tells Israel he will leave Canaanites in the land in order to test them to see whether they will keep the way of Yahweh as their father’s did. The clear implication is that keeping the way of Yahweh involves doing what is right and good in His eyes.
Amon, son of Manasseh, unmoved by his Father’s late-in-life repentance, “forsook Yahweh, the God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of Yahweh” (2 Kings 21:22). Here failure to walk in the way of Yahweh is the consequence of forsaking Yahweh. One cannot cleave to Yahweh and not walk in His way. The previous two verses fill out the “way” Amon walked: he did evil in Yahweh’s sight, walked in all the way Manasseh had walked, and served the idols his father had served.
In Jeremiah 5:4, 5, the prophet seeks for those who “know the way of Yahweh, the mishpat of God.” The way of Yahweh appears to be appositionally modified by the phrase mishpat of God. Keil & Delitzsch comment on Jeremiah 5:4-5, “They know not the way of Jahveh, i.e., the way, the manner of life, prescribed to men by God in His word; (cf. 2 Kgs 21:22; Psa 25:9). The judgment of their God, i.e., that which God demanded as right and lawful (2 Kgs 17:26)."
This background illumines Proverbs 10:29 and helped me know how to interpret its cryptic lines. A paraphrase of the passage would read, “The upright—those who do what is right and good in Yahweh’s sight—find that Yahweh provides them protection because they know, keep, and walk in His way; the wicked—those who do what is wrong and evil in Yahweh’s sight—find that their way leads them to destruction; they have no protection from Yahweh."
I think the NASB mistranslates the second half of this verse by not supplying a linking verb. It should read, “but destruction [is / shall be] to the workers of iniquity.” As it stands, the NASB’s rendering implies that the way of Yahweh is destruction to the workers of iniquity. This rendering depends on understanding Yahweh as a subjective genitive, and ignores the phrase’s predominant usage throughout the OT--as a shorthand for the lifestyle Yahweh desires and requires from His followers.
Those who choose not to walk in His ways (the wicked) will be destroyed. On the other hand, those who live the way Yahweh prescribes find Yahweh is indeed their stronghold.