“life.” The Hebrew is nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), usually translated “soul.” Nephesh, “soul,” has a broad range of meanings, including the person himself and his life, the physical life force of humans and animals, our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, and more. In this verse, “life,” or “soul” refers to our physical life, but also to our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions.
When we carefully guard the road we take, that is, the way of life we live, we are watching over both our physical life and our emotional life, and ensuring our being blessed and successful in this life and also having everlasting life and rewards from God in our next life. There are many pressures and pleasures that tempt us to leave our godly way of life, the godly road we are walking on, and turn aside to sin. But although sin and ungodliness may seem “good,” “joyful” or somehow “profitable” at first, they always have a bitter end, and Proverbs has a lot of verses stating that (for example: Prov. 1:32; 2:18-19, 22; 3:33; 5:4-5, 22; 6:15, 29; 8:36; 10:13-18; 11:5).
There is another reason that guarding our “road” keeps watch over our life. The way we live and the habits we form as we engage in godly activities day after day, keep watch over our “soul,” our physical and mental life. The wise person guards his road, his way of life and the good habits he has formed, because they help keep watch over him. Often in times of personal distress it is the “road” one has carefully guarded and the habits one has carefully developed that almost take over and help safeguard one’s life and keep it from spinning out of control.
The wise person jealously guards his godly way of life because he knows it leads to God’s blessings and helps him stay godly in difficult times. [For more on the uses of “soul” nephesh, see Appendix 7, “Usages of Soul”].