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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Notes:

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

Proverbs 24:26

Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.
– Proverbs 24:26

This verse closes the saying on just judgment. The word for right means straight and the word for answer means word, or something said. Giving a straight answer is likened to a kiss, which was a sign of loyalty and affection. Though the wording seems a little obscure, the proverb suggests a true kinship with one who speaks straight. This saying accords with the value of wise speech taught elsewhere (Proverbs 15:23; 16:13; 25:11-12).

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Proverbs 23:16

Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
– Proverbs 23:16

The word for reins literally means kidneys, but references to internal organs or parts, such as bones, are intended to speak of being deeply affected within. Rejoicing of the reins speaks of a deep joy and rejoicing of the whole man. The word for right things means even and straight. It is used figuratively to speak of moral uprightness. The parent rejoices when the child grows to speak right things, because this means he has learned wisdom. Speaking right things is the essential cry of wisdom in Proverbs 8:6. Those who have been instructed in wisdom, speak wise things (Proverbs 15:2, 28). Even the Servant of Yahweh speaks wisdom with “the tongue of the learned” (Isaiah 50:4). True wisdom can only be spoken from a heart possessing true wisdom (Proverbs 12:17; 14:5).

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Proverbs 23:9

Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
– Proverbs 23:9

Verse 9 stands alone, though it complements the pearls-before-swine aspect of the previous group. To speak … in the ears is to make a direct address. It refers to a direct word of reproof, counsel, or instruction. The word for fool is the most common in Proverbs and refers to a stupid and obstinate person. Their problem is not ignorance, or lack of information, but rather the hate and rejection of wisdom (Proverbs 1:22). Words of wisdom are lost on fools and gain only hatred for the speaker of them (Proverbs 9:7-8; 15:12).

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Proverbs 23:8

The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
– Proverbs 23:8

Verse 8 gives the result of evil-eyed hospitality. In a word, all is a waste. The rich food is purged and gracious words are lost. No progress has been made, nor friendship forged. No mutual edification has happened. It reminds one of Jesus’ warning against casting “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Wisdom teaches the right use of words and warns they can be wasted (Proverbs 10:8; 12:15; 15:5; 17:10; 29:19).

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Proverbs 22:18

For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
– Proverbs 22:18

Verse 18 continues from the previous with blessings for bending your ear, listening to wise sayings, and committing to understanding. A pleasant thing kept within refers to a store, or treasure of delightful wisdom (Proverbs 2:10; 3:17; 24:13-14). The word for fitted means set up, or established. This doesn’t refer to recitation of maxims, but rather acquiring wisdom that means discernment, and appropriate and timely applications of understanding. Acquiring wisdom is not merely about expanding our mental faculties, but about gaining understanding and speaking wisdom to others (Proverbs 10:13, 21; 15:7; 16:21; 25:11). This is the cycle of wisdom. If you listen and keep the words of the wise, you become wise and speak words the simple should attend to (Proverbs 13:20).

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Proverbs 22:14

The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.
– Proverbs 22:14

Though the strange woman featured often in the fatherly addresses of chapters 1-9, she is scarcely mentioned in the large collection of proverbs that form the bulk of this book. The reference to deep pit means a hazard, or a trap. The reference to the mouth means the danger of listening to her flatteries (Proverbs 2:16; 5:3-4; 6:24; 7:5). The word for abhorred means enraged and refers to the subjects of God’s wrath. They fall in the deep pit as judgment for forsaking the way of the Lord.

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Proverbs 22:11

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.
– Proverbs 22:11

The word for pureness means clean and can refer to ceremonial, physical, or moral cleanness. The word for grace means kindness, or favor. Wise speech is marked by honesty (Proverbs 16:13), appropriateness (Proverbs 15:23), and beauty (Proverbs 10:20; 25:11). The first phrase indicates purity of motives and the second indicates purity of speech. The proverb teaches honest and gracious speech wins favor.

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Proverbs 21:23

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
– Proverbs 21:23

The word for keepeth in both occurrences means to guard, or hedge about. The act of closely guarding your speech also guards your life to prevent troubles, or adversity, as the word indicates. Proverbs consistently testifies to the wisdom of controlling your words so that they are few (Proverbs 10:19; 17:27-28), timely (Proverbs 15:23), righteous (Proverbs 16:13), and cool tempered (Proverbs 15:1; 25:15). The mouth of the wicked and foolish will always bring them into trouble (Proverbs 6:2; 11:8; 18:6-7).

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