Proverbs 25:15

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
– Proverbs 25:15

This verse ends this group of proverbs concerning the right use of words. Wisdom highlights the value of patience and soft words. The word for soft means tender, or delicate. It can be used to speak of weakness, but it is elsewhere put against “wrath” and “grievous words” (Proverbs 15:1). It stands opposite of harsh and angry words. The image of breaking a bone refers to overcoming stiff opposition. Wisdom teaches patience and calm speech can pacify wrath (Proverbs 16:14).

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Proverbs 25:14

Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
– Proverbs 25:14

The word for false means lie, or deception. The first phrase refers to promising something you cannot deliver. Wisdom denounces a deception to gain place or favor. The comparison is to clouds and wind without rain, the promise of a refreshing rain without the benefit of the actual rain. This imagery is used elsewhere in warnings against false teachers (2 Peter 2:17-19; Jude 1:12). Those teaching error can never deliver on their promises because: “Truth leads to freedom (John 8: 32), and error leads to bondage (2 Tim. 2: 25– 26). Truth saves (2 Thess. 2: 10); error destroys (2 Thess. 2: 11). Truth enlightens (Ps. 43: 3; Eph. 5: 9); error deceives (Prov. 12: 17; 2 Cor. 11: 13). Truth gives life (1 John 5: 20); error brings death (2 Sam. 6: 7).” 1

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  1. Piper, John. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Kindle Locations 1697-1699). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Proverbs 25:13

As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.
– Proverbs 25:13

The precise meaning of the image is treated variously by commentators, but the point of the proverb is clear from the last phrase. A faithful messenger is one who discharges his duty as appointed. There is a relation to the proverbs of speech in the sense that the messenger is faithful to relay the speech of his master. This would also be wise speech. The result is refreshing, or returning, the soul of his masters. Wisdom also contrasts the negative effects of an unfaithful messenger (Proverbs 13:17; 25:25; 26:6).

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Proverbs 25:12

As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
– Proverbs 25:12

This proverb is along the same line as the previous in considering the aptness of a fitting word. The image used continues to convey beauty, craftsmanship, and value in wise words. The word for reprover means to correct, or prove. Wisdom is not only found in the selection of words, but also in the right time and place for the speaking of them, and the right listener for them. The word for obedient means to hear with intelligence, or to give careful attention to. Wisdom knows when to speak and when to keep silent, particularly when it comes to reproof or instruction (Proverbs 1:8-9; 9:8; 15:5, 31-32; 27:5-6).

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Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
– Proverbs 25:11

Verses 11-15 are proverbs concerning the right use of speech. The words used in this verse are difficult. Translators have taken them differently as to their precise meaning. The phrase, a word fitly spoken, refers to balance and arrangement. The proverb speaks of well-ordered and appropriate words to the situation (Proverbs 15:23; 24:26). The image of the proverb suggests beauty of form, quality of work, and lasting value. Such is the wisely formed and wisely spoken apt word.

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Proverbs 25:10

Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.
– Proverbs 25:10

Verse 10 gives the consequence of being hasty to contend with someone. Particularly, the verse continues the thought from verse 9 and revealing a “secret to another.” The word for shame means to bow and, in the context, refers to being reproached. The word for infamy means slander. The warning means you will be brought to disgrace and gain reputation as a slanderer. Of course, the answer to avoid this was given in the previous verse, “Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself” (Proverbs 25:9).

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Proverbs 25:9

Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another:
– Proverbs 25:9

Verse 9 continues from verse 8, which warned against being hasty to confront or accuse your neighbor. Wisdom here teaches to keep the controversy as private as possible, which principle Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17. The word for debate means to strive, or contend. It refers to taking up a cause or complaint with another. The word for discover means to expose. The point wisdom is teaching is to go directly to the person involved and not enter into the gossip of telling another about the matter (Proverbs 11:13; 20:19).

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Proverbs 25:8

Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame.
– Proverbs 25:8

Verses 8-10 form a saying concerning resolving conflict and reconciling offenses. The context can be from private, interpersonal concerns to public, legal matters. As such, wisdom has much to say here to the maintaining of personal relationships in family and community and discipleship within a church body. Wisdom generally teaches our spoken words are to be few, thoughtful, and slow to come (Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 15:28; 17:27; 18:2; 21:23; 29:20). Wisdom here speaks specifically to entering into controversies with your neighbor. The warning begins with avoiding haste, or being quick or in a hurry to strive, which means to grapple or wrangle. This striving could be accusing your neighbor for some offense against yourself or another, or even the giving of general advice or rebuke for his way. Wisdom is not saying these should never be done, but rather they should never be done hastily. There is an appropriate time, place, and way to address your neighbor.

The consequence of such hasty contention is being put … to shame. In other words, if you speak hastily to your neighbor over a matter, you most likely speak without full knowledge or understanding. Your neighbor answers exposing your folly for speaking before you understood the matter fully (Proverbs 18:13). Robert Deffinbaugh noted three reasons wisdom give for restraining our speech, which are applicable in our case of not being hasty to enter a controversy. We must be slow to speak “in order to hear what the other person is trying to say (Proverbs 18:13, 15, 17).” We must be slow to speak “in order to allow any anger or strong emotion to pass (Proverbs 12:16; 15:1-2; 17:27; 29:11).” We also must be slow to speak to give “the wise time to consider what to say and how to say it (Proverbs 15:28).” 1

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  1. Robert Deffinbaugh. The Way of Wise (Kindle Locations 2289-2300). Galaxie Software. Kindle Edition.

Proverbs 25:7

For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
– Proverbs 25:7

Humility and patience are better than promoting oneself and later being humiliated. The king or prince determines the places of their people. If you grasp for a higher place, you will likely be shamed when someone higher in standing arrives and you must give place to him. Jesus alluded to these wisdom principles in Luke 14:8-10. At first glance, the proverb may seem mere helpful advice to avoid social embarrassment. With further reflection, wisdom teaches there are more important matters than one’s social standing, whether real or perceived.

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