Proverbs 20:25

It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.
– Proverbs 20:25

The wording is dark but two words bring light in this proverb. The word for holy means set apart, or consecrated. The word for vow means promise. So the proverb speaks to consecrating things to the Lord by a vow. The word for devoureth can mean to swallow but also in a more figurative way, to open the mouth as in speaking. The word for enquiry means to search out, or consider. The proverb then teaches a man is ensnared who rashly speaks a vow without considering the implications and obligations until afterward. Vows were voluntary by the law, but they were commitments that must be kept (Leviticus 27:1-34). It may be easy for a man to vow and later forget, but God doesn’t forget (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). The law did provide for redemption from vows, but it was costly. Vowing and not keeping the vow was a serious offense against God, and so Solomon warns about making vows rashly here as well as in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.

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Proverbs 20:19

He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
– Proverbs 20:19

The word for talebearer means slanderer, or informer. The word for secrets means counsels, or closed deliberations. The talebearer uncovers such things that should be kept private. Sometimes the talebearer’s work is malicious and sometimes merely careless. Regardless, the work of talebearers does damage (Proverbs 18:8; 26:20-22). The word for flattereth means to open. This describes a person who is overly talkative, tells all they know, etc. Because they have no control over their mouth, they disclose private news to a public audience. The word for meddle means to braid, or intermix. Wisdom teaches to avoid such a person who is not trustworthy (Proverbs 20:16).

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Proverbs 20:15

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
– Proverbs 20:15

The word for multitude means abundance and makes the supply of rubies sound more like that of sedimentary rocks. Both gold and rubies are relatively rare and highly valued. However, lips of knowledge, one who speaks wisdom, is rarer and more valuable. The word for knowledge means skill and discernment. It is one of the words used to describe wisdom in Proverbs. One who has wisdom speaks and spreads knowledge (Proverbs 15:7). Such wisdom is rarer and more valuable than adornments of gold and rubies (Proverbs 3:15; 8:11; 16:16).

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Proverbs 18:21

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
– Proverbs 18:21

The previous proverb had a positive gloss and this one is more negative. Both speak to the consequences of our speech, though this one gives stronger warning. Words can be good or bad, death or life. Words have power, or hand, or strength. Wisdom warns to be careful of our speech, realizing the power of the tongue (Proverbs 10:20-21). The second phrase uses love to speak of loving the tongue, or speech. Knowing how powerful words are and loving, or indulging, in speech means we must live with the consequences (Proverbs 10:19). In most cases, it is better to have said too little than too much (Proverbs 11:12-13; 17:28).

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Proverbs 18:20

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
– Proverbs 18:20

Wisdom understands the general principle of sowing and reaping (Proverbs 11:27; 13:2; 14:14). This proverb treats that principle in regard to our words and the next gives a warning in this same track. To be satisfied means to be filled. It could be negative in terms of excess, but in this context it seems positive. The word for fruit means the produce, as in from a sown field. The word for increase is different and means yield, or profit. This proverb doesn’t focus on the words spoken, but rather on the consequences, or results, of words spoken. Wisdom understands good words yield good fruit and bad words, bad fruit (Proverbs 12:13-14; 13:2).

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Proverbs 18:13

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
– Proverbs 18:13

The word for answereth means to turn back, or return. Here it speaks of making a reply to some matter, which is a word or something said. The word for heareth means to hear intelligently. The word refers to listening with understanding, or comprehension. The first phrase speaks of making a hasty reply, or we would say, jumping to conclusions. The proverb speaks of speaking on a matter without knowing what you are talking about and the parallel phrase plainly labels it folly. Such folly leads to shame, or disgrace. It is a disgrace to be so foolish as to speak to something we don’t understand. This proverb pairs well with Proverbs 18:2 and Proverbs 18:17.

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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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