Proverbs 26:23

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.

– Proverbs 26:23

Verses 23-26 focus on hypocritical speech. The word for burning means flaming and can be put for fervency, or we might say passion. It is passionate and earnest speech that covers the motives of a wicked heart. The saying refers to hypocrisy or deception. Scholars debate the precise meaning of the words for silver dross, but the image is clear enough. The picture is of a clay vessel glazed over to appear brilliant and solid. The intention would be to sell it as a pure and strong vessel in order to get a higher price. It’s a common enough deception we’ve all probably encountered. We should equally beware of fair speech (Proverbs 10:18).




Proverbs 25:25

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
– Proverbs 25:25

The image uses water in a good form. Cold water is refreshing and invigorating to a thirsty soul. Being from a far country meant rare, hard to come by. So good news here is an apt and timely word (Proverbs 15:23, 30).

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Proverbs 25:23

The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.
– Proverbs 25:23

The final proverbs in this chapter don’t have a strong connection, or theme. The original in this verse is difficult, but the image is clear enough. The word for driveth away means bring forth, so rain comes with the wind. The word for backbiting means covering, or secrecy. When the word is used of speech, it indicates slanderous speech. The saying is that as sure as the wind brings the rain, a slandering tongue will bring an angry countenance. Wisdom’s warning would here goes to the slanderer.

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Proverbs 25:20

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
– Proverbs 25:20

The first image depicts irritation as well as an actual worsening of a person’s situation. The second image is somewhat obscure in terms of the precise meaning. The word for nitre refers to sodium carbonate, which is neutralized by vinegar and doing so is counterproductive. Most likely it depicts ruining and making useless something otherwise useful. The point of the images is explained in the last phrase. The singing of songs here indicates an insensitive jollity. The effect is opposite of a word fitly spoken (Proverbs 12:25; 25:10-11).

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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 25:12

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 25:8

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.

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