Proverbs 16:23

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
– Proverbs 16:23

The use of heart here refers to the mind, as is common in Proverbs. The first phrase means that wisdom informs and constrains speech. Wise speech is a mark of a wise heart (Proverbs 15:28). The word for learning includes the idea of persuasion. This proverb is akin to verse 21 and highlights the worth of listening to wisdom (Proverbs 22:17-18).

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Proverbs 16:22

Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
– Proverbs 16:22

The word for understanding means prudence, or good sense. It appears several times in Proverbs and throughout the Old Testament. It was the word used to describe Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:3. We would say she had a good head on her shoulders. Practical wisdom is a life giving blessing (Proverbs 3:22; 14:30), as wellspring of life indicates (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 18:4). The second phrase is a contrast to the life giving blessing of wisdom. The word for instruction means chastisement, or reproof. Such correction coming from fools is useless, worthless (Proverbs 15:2, 28). If we press the antithetical parallel further, rather than giving life, folly leads to destruction and death (Proverbs 5:23; 14:1).

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Proverbs 16:21

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.
– Proverbs 16:21

Being called prudent means the wise are recognized for their wisdom. The word for prudent means discernment and reflects the ability to distinguish things in the mind to arrive at accurate perception and understanding. The prudent are able to understand dark sayings and difficult words (Proverbs 1:5-6). His way is thoughtful and examined, and so he perceives and avoids danger (Proverbs 14:8, 15-16). The word for sweetness means pleasantness. It could be thought of as eloquence, but since it increaseth learning, it is more likely something well-stated. The word for learning means teaching and includes the idea of persuasiveness. The summary truth of the proverb is that men known for wisdom will have influence with their words. They are worth paying attention to (Proverbs 16:23; 1:5; 8:33; 19:20; 22:17; 23:19).

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Proverbs 16:20

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
– Proverbs 16:20

The word for matter means a word, or something spoken. Here it refers to instruction, and we may infer it is the instruction of wisdom. The first phrase speaks of receiving instruction wisely, or prudently. The second phrase promises the blessing of the Lord. If a man receives the instruction of wisdom well, he will be blessed of the Lord (Proverbs 13:15; 19:8; 24:3-5).

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Proverbs 16:19

Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
– Proverbs 16:19

This proverb continues with the thought of the previous one. Pride precedes destruction and, therefore, it is better to be humble. The word for humble means low and the word for lowly means poor. To divide the spoil with the proud is to share in the product of their wicked schemes and oppressions (Proverbs 1:8-19). Being oppressed by the proud is better than oppressing with them. Even if being poor, being humble more prepares one for God’s blessing (Proverbs 15:33; James 4:6).

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Proverbs 16:18

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
– Proverbs 16:18

The word for pride means arrogance, as in insolent arrogance. It is human self-confidence that is put with others human attitudes and activities God hates (Proverbs 8:13; 16:5). The word for destruction means a crushing ruin and fall is close to a stumbling ruin. The word for haughty mean exalted, or elevated. It’s descriptive of having a higher view of oneself than justified. Such highness is ripe to be brought low (Proverbs 18:12). It is the opposite of the humility that attains wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 11:2).

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Proverbs 16:17

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
– Proverbs 16:17

The word for highway means a road or course and is used figuratively for course of life. Departing from evil has a moral overtone and sums to more than simply avoiding pitfalls (Proverbs 16:6). The word for upright means straight and the way is obviously a straight and righteous way (Proverbs 11:3). The word for preserveth means to hedge about, or to guard. The second phrase is more than security in the sense of walking safely (Proverbs 10:9). By guarding his way, the upright man is guarding his soul (Proverbs 19:16).

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Proverbs 16:16

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
– Proverbs 16:16

Verse 16 starts a new group of proverbs themed around general wisdom. This group goes through verse 30 and touches on general wisdom topics, e.g., wealth, speech, work, etc. The word for better means good in its root form and is used here comparatively. The second phrase of this proverb is likewise comparative in choosing to get understanding over silver. Comparison is common in the Proverbs and it means the things compared are not antithetical. So here, wisdom and wealth are compared, but not shown to be opposites. The proverb states it’s better, or more important, to seek and acquire wisdom than gold and silver.

Proverbs mentions many things better than wealth: righteousness or justice (Proverbs 15:27; 16:8); family love (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1); and honesty and integrity (Proverbs 19:1, 22). Proverbs emphatically teaches wisdom is better than wealth (Proverbs 3:15-18; 8:10-11, 19). Choose wisdom above all, whether wealth comes or not (Proverbs 4:7).

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Proverbs 16:15

In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.
– Proverbs 16:15

This proverb gives the opposite perspective from the previous one. The king has great power to do much damage in his wrath, but that power can also be used for much good (Proverbs 19:12). The king is crucial to the prospering and flourishing of his nation. A wise, righteous king will lead to a productive and rejoicing people (Proverbs 11:10; 28:12, 28; 29:2, 4).

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