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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Proverbs 18:3

When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.
– Proverbs 18:3

The word for wicked means wicked one, or a morally bad person. The word for contempt means despising. It is an attitude born of pride that looks upon others as beneath oneself. The word for ignominy means shame, or intense disgrace. The word for reproach means scorn, or public shame. The key is the word for cometh, which means to enter, or to come in. When a wicked one comes in, he brings contempt, shame, and reproach. Solomon later instructs to cast out such and have peace (Proverbs 22:10).

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Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
– Proverbs 18:2

This proverb amplifies the point of Proverbs 17:28. Fools are described as having little to no control over their tongues throughout Proverbs, and this lack of control easily marks them a fool before others. The word for delight means to take pleasure, or we could say, inclination. The word for understanding means intelligence, but not innate mental capacity. It refers more to the skill of discernment, to distinguish between. Solomon instructs his son to seek it diligently as searching for hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:1-5). To acquire understanding, one has to humble himself to be instructed (Proverbs 5:1). Acquiring understanding is also a spiritual issue, since you must begin with the fear of the Lord and comprehend that understanding comes “out of his mouth” (Proverbs 2:5-6), i.e., God’s word (Matthew 4:4). Acquiring understanding is impossible independent of, or contrary to, God (Proverbs 21:30).

The fool has no delight in the instruction and correction of wisdom. Rather his joy rests in speaking his own thoughts and feelings. The word for heart often means mind, but the context is appropriate to say thoughts and feelings. The word for discover itself means to expose, or uncover. The fool doesn’t want to be taught, but is rather always waiting for opportunities to empty his emotional bucket (Proverbs 15:2). Fools have no joy in life until they’ve exposed themselves in some manner (Proverbs 13:16), and Solomon elsewhere described them as always advertising their folly (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

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Proverbs 18:1

Chapter 18 continues the “Proverbs of Solomon.” These proverbs continue as primarily two-line parallels and touch on various topics, such as speech, pride, and friends.

Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.

– Proverbs 18:1

This proverb’s wording is a little odd and various renderings have been put forward. The key is in the word for intermeddleth, which means to be obstinate, or against. It can be used to describe a defiant outburst. The desire mentioned is the man’s own desire. In other words, he is self-seeking and self-serving. So the man intent on his own way separates from others because he does not want their advice (Proverbs 12:15).

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