Good counsel vs. much counsel. What really is the point?
This one bothered me when I first came to the Bible as a new Christian, until I found the 1537 Matthew Bible. See what the different versions say, and tell me if the Matthew Bible doesn’t make a whole lot more sense:
♦ Wycliffe Bible: Thoughts be destroyed, where no counsel is; but where many counsellors be, they be confirmed.
♦ 1537 Matthew Bible (from Coverdale 1535): Unadvised thoughts shall come to nought, but where men are that can give counsel, there is steadfastness.
♦ 1599 Geneva: Without counsel, thoughts come to nought, but in the multitude of counsellors there is steadfastness.
♦ KJV: Without counsel, purposes are disappointed, but in the multitude of counsellors, they are established.
♦ 2016 NIV & ESV: Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
♦ The Message: Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.
Coverdale simply makes sense: seek wise counsel, not many counsellors. A multitude of wise advisors would of course be a good thing, but that is because good advice lies in wisdom, not because it lies in numbers.
Jay Green (Interlinear Hebrew/English Bible) indicates that number is not necessarily the point here. In his marginal rendering he has “great counsellors.” At least Eugene Peterson had the guts to depart from the common wisdom.
Does the Bible not teach that the wisest usually stand alone, and the Lord’s servants will often be lonely witnesses? They will follow His footsteps, for the servant is not greater than the master. And how alone was He before a multitude of counsellors in Jerusalem, who condemned Him to death, the Lord of Life and Truth. That shows where a multitude of counsellors can take us.
Ruth, August, 2017