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In Proverbs 4:18 (NASB)

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn

That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

What's the meaning of this metaphor?

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Prov 4:18 should not be separated from the previous and subsequent verse which forms a literary contrast. The thought begins in V14 as follows:

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.

15 Avoid it; do not travel on it. Turn from it and pass on by.

16 For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; they are deprived of slumber until they make someone fall.

17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.

19 But the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they do not know what makes them stumble.

The metaphor is a common one throughout Scripture as often noted by many commentators where the righteous enjoy "light" (John 8:12, Ps 27:1, Mal 4:2, 2 Sam 23:4, etc) and the wicked are in "darkness" (1 John 1:7, John 12:35, Prov 11:10, Isa 8:22, etc)

The fact that God Himself is depicted as being in "light" emphasizes this point/metaphor:

1 John 1:5 - And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

The fact that the righteous follow the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2) and Jesus is called the "light of the world (John 8:12), AND that according to Prov 4:18 the righteous shine and this light is growing, means that the righteous grow in their knowledge and relationship with Jesus.

Ellicott succinctly observes:

(18) But the path of the just . . .—The just have the Lord for their light (Psalm 27:1), on them the “Sun of righteousness” has arisen (Malachi 4:2). as “the light of the morning, even a morning without clouds” (2Samuel 23:4), and this light, that is, their knowledge of God, will become clearer and clearer till the “perfect day,” when they shall see Him as He is (1John 3:2). (Comp. Job 11:17; and Notes on Proverbs 6:23.)

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