Proverbs 18:12

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honor is humility.
– Proverbs 18:12

To be haughty is to be lofty, or exalted, at least in one’s own eyes. Self-conceit primes one to be brought low (Proverbs 16:18; 26:12; 29:23). The second phrase appears in another proverb where humility is coupled with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 15:33). Wisdom brings honor, but that path leads through humility (Proverbs 3:16).

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Proverbs 18:11

The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.
– Proverbs 18:11

This proverb is linked to the previous one with similar images, though wealth is contrasted with the name of the Lord as safety. Wealth has benefits and offers protections of a sort on earth, but those are limited. Wealth in itself is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. Trusting in riches is to be ultimately confounded (Proverbs 11:4).

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Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.
– Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord refers to the full attributes of Yahweh. Israel was to trust in the name of the Lord to be delivered from Egypt (Exodus 3:13-15; 34:5-7). A strong tower is an unassailable defense. The believer in Christ is here sheltered from the destruction of his enemies (Psalm 18:2; 61:3-4). The running and safety of the righteous refers to a complete trust and rest in Yaweh (Psalm 56:3-4). Wisdom sees the strength of the unseen defense.

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Proverbs 18:9

He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.
– Proverbs 18:9

The word for slothful means to slacken, to be loose. The word for waster means a destroyer, or speaks of ruining. The lazy worker and the active destroyer belong to the same family. They are brothers, or in the same category. The result of each one’s work is ruin, though the waster intended that from the start and the sluggard did not. Sluggards have dreams and ambitions, but little to show for it (Proverbs 13:4; 21:25-26). Sluggards cannot get started to work on their ideas (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14), and once started, they cannot follow through and finish their work (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15). Sluggards wake up one day to waste and loss (Proverbs 6:11). They end up the same place as the one who set out to destroy from the start.

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Proverbs 18:8

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
– Proverbs 18:8

The word for wounds means to gulp down. The word is only used twice in the Hebrew text, here and in Proverbs 26:22, which is a word-for-word copy of this proverb. The whole proverb is a warning to the penetration of words. A talebearer is a slanderer, or gossiper. So gossip is eagerly gobbled up, and just as food is eaten and internalized, gossip goes to the innermost parts. Wisdom recognizes the natural bent and taste we have for gossip and slander, and also the effect they have on the soul. Refusing to hear a talebearer is the obvious implication (Proverbs 26:17, 20-21; 20:3).

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Proverbs 18:7

A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
– Proverbs 18:7

A fool’s speech betrays his lack of wisdom, but also brings him into trouble (Proverbs 12:13; 13:3). The word for snare refers to a noose for catching animals. The fool lays a trap for himself by his unrestrained and foolish speech. He is caught in the trap of his own making like the one who foolishly enters into suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-2).

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Proverbs 18:6

A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
– Proverbs 18:6

The word for contention means strife, or controversy. A fool’s mouth gets him into trouble, eventually. He knows no restraint and often presses things until the dam bursts (Proverbs 29:11; 17:14). Where there is no controversy, the fool is itching to start one (Proverbs 16:27-28). The word for strokes means blows and refers to beating, whether it is civil or domestic. The fool takes a dog by the ears and shouldn’t complain of being bit (Proverbs 26:17).

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Proverbs 18:5

It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
– Proverbs 18:5

This proverb refers to the perverting of justice by showing partiality. Such miscarrying of justice is forbidden by the law and by wisdom (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Proverbs 17:26; 28:21). Accepting bribes (Deuteronomy 16:19), showing favoritism to a class (Leviticus 19:15), and oppressing the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 24:14; Leviticus 19:33-34) can pervert Justice.

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Proverbs 18:4

The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.
– Proverbs 18:4

Interpretations of this proverb vary. How you understand the parallel governs the interpretation. If the two phrases are antithetical, then “words of a man’s mouth” and “wellspring of wisdom” are opposites. Then, “deep waters,” has a negative meaning contrasted with the positive, “flowing brook.” If the parallel is complementary, then the second phrase continues and expands, or amplifies, the first. This makes “the words of a man’s mouth” and “the wellspring of wisdom” to be synonymous, and so on.

Many commentators take one of these two tracks with the proverb, and more seem to favor the complementary, positive interpretation. Alternatively, we can view this proverb as a conditional statement, an if/then statement. Then we take the first phrase as neutral, but stating a universal truth. The second phrase gives the result of a condition met. So let’s take this view and see the point of the proverb differently than the other two.

The figures used in this proverb are used elsewhere in Proverbs and usually with a positive meaning (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; 16:22). The first phrase here has a couple of differences. The “words of a man’s mouth” is unqualified and unmodified. In Proverbs 10:11, it is the “mouth of a righteous man.” In Proverbs 13:14, it is the “law of the wise,” and in Proverbs 16:22, “understanding” is the “wellspring.” Also, the figure “deep waters” is not use in those other proverbs. It is used in one other place (Proverbs 20:5). If positive, it is assumed that “deep waters” refers to abundance and even an inexhaustible supply. However, the use in Proverbs 20:5 has a different gloss, where it means hidden and inaccessible.

Accounting for the lack of qualification and interpreting the figure consistently with Proverbs 20:5, the first phrase is not about the good or bad of the “words,” but rather is stating the truth that our words come from within. Our spoken words are connected to and come from the heart, or mind (Proverbs 12:23; 15:7, 28; 16:23; 18:2). The condition is met in the second phrase. If our hearts are a “wellspring of wisdom,” then our words will be refreshing and life-giving, as “a flowing brook.”

The point of the proverb is that our words will not rise above the level of our hearts. If foolishness or evil is in our hearts, then they will come out of our mouths (Proverbs 6:14, 18; 12:20, 23; 19:3; 26:25). When wisdom is in our hearts, our words will be wise and helpful (Proverbs 14:33; 15:7, 14, 28; 16:21, 23). The prescription is to get and keep wisdom in our hearts (Proverbs 2:2, 10; 3:3, 5; 4:4, 21; 6:21; 7:3; 10:8; et al).

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