Proverbs 29:11

A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
– Proverbs 29:11

The first phrase literally says a fool vents all his breath. The picture is such a sheer quantity of words coming from a fool he is out of breath. Fools are characterized in Proverbs for much foolish speaking. They pour out words like water from a bucket (Proverbs 15:2, 28). It is such a common indicator that a fool might be thought wise by simply being quiet and offering no opinion (Proverbs 17:28).

A fool’s speech is not marked only by quantity, but also by content, all his mind. A fool is compelled to make his foolishness known (Proverbs 12:32; 13:16; 14:33). Such characteristic speaking is a product of the lack of self-control, particularly in terms of anger (Proverbs 12:16).

Most of the verses referenced have the contrasting characteristic of the wise that he has control over his tongue. The wise will understand many reasons for restraining speech: provide less to be used against him (Proverbs 10:14; 13:3), maintain relationships (Proverbs 11:12-13), calm heated tempers (Proverbs 17:27; 15:1), and even to lessen sin (Proverbs 10:19).

That a wise man keeps his words in till afterwards, can provide a cooling off period until minds are more reasonable, but also speaks to the characteristic wisdom of taking time to investigate, understand, and formulate a reasonable response (Proverbs 15:28; 18:13, 17).

Proverbs 25:28

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
– Proverbs 25:28

This chapter ends with an obvious proverb comparing the lack of self-control to a city without defenses. The genius of the simile is that the city is not merely without walls, but it is broken down, or broken through. A man with no self-control has been overcome and has no resistance so he is vulnerable.

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Proverbs 23:33

Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
– Proverbs 23:33

This verse continues with the effects of excessive drinking. One’s perception of reality and judgment are impaired. Kings and leaders are not to be indulgent drinkers because they need soberness of mind not to pervert justice (Proverbs 31:5; 1 Timothy 3:3). Of course, wine and strong drink are not the only mind altering substances. The first phrase speaks of the eyes, as in what will attract your attention while under the influence that you would not otherwise consider. The second phrase speaks of the heart, or mind, and what you utter, or speak. Clearly, under the influence of intoxicating drinks, you will think, say, and do things you would not when thinking clearly.

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Proverbs 23:3

Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
– Proverbs 23:3

This verse brings the warnings of the previous two verses into focus. The word for desirous means to covet, or lust after. Dainties are delectable food. One thinks of the rich foods served the ruling elites. The key issue is in the explanation they are deceitful meat. So gluttony doesn’t seem the main concern but rather being deceived by the ruler. A number of reasons for the warning could be suggested, but, at least, wisdom would have us always be discerning and considering our way and its end.

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Proverbs 23:2

And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
– Proverbs 23:2

Exercising self-control is a part of keeping your wits from the previous verse. The phrase, put a knife to thy throat, is a figurative expression for exercising extreme control over your appetite. Today, we might say, “Bite your tongue,” and by that mean you should exercise extreme control over your speech. The word appetite makes us think about gluttony. Proverbs warns against gluttony (Proverbs 23:21; 28:7), but the warning here is not as much about gluttony in general. Wisdom is teaching to be self-controlled, discerning, and sober minded. This is particularly so when we are in situations where we need to be on guard.

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Proverbs 19:11

The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
– Proverbs 19:11

The word for discretion means prudence, or good sense. The phrase, deferreth his anger, literally means long of nose. It is an idiom that means long, or slow, to get angry. The proverb is not describing a forgiving man, but rather a man that overlooks, or shrugs off, a personal offense. He is not easy to make angry, nor is he quick to respond to insults. The word for glory means ornament and speaks of beauty in the sense of being finely adorned. Wisdom is marked by control of oneself, not being quick tempered, and here being thick skinned (Proverbs 14:29; 16:32). This proverb also highlights the moral beauty of self-control (Proverbs 20:3) and contrasts with the ugliness where it is wanting (Proverbs 25:28).

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Proverbs 16:32

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
– Proverbs 16:32

Self-control is a mark of wisdom found throughout Proverbs. A wise man controls his anger (Proverbs 14:17, 29; 15:18), his mouth (Proverbs 29:11), and his spirit (Proverbs 25:28). This proverb not only promotes the self-control of wisdom but describes it as better. The mighty and one that taketh a city refers to a conquering warrior or king. The proverb concludes wisdom is better, as Solomon also said elsewhere (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

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