Proverbs 15:4

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the Spirit.
– Proverbs 15:4

This proverb contrasts the power of words to either heal or hurt (Proverbs 18:21). The word for wholesome means curative, or healing. The tree of life imagery speaks of life-giving, as here with the wholesome tongue. Wise and apt speech gives health and life (Proverbs 16:24). The word for perverseness refers to distortion or crookedness. What is bent or distorted is obviously the way of wisdom. Such perverseness is a mark of transgressors (Proverbs 11:3). The word for breach means a fracture, or crushing. These words are damaging inwardly and outwardly (Proverbs 18:8).

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Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
– Proverbs 13:12

The word for deferred means to stretch or draw out. It indicates a hope, or expectation, that is delayed. The phrase heart sick is akin to what we would call depression, though not necessarily the full clinical sense. The point is the unbearable discouragement of endless waiting. When that longing is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. This imagery is used a few times in Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18; 11:30). It indicates a source that is life-giving and sustaining. The phrase here speaks of a reviving of the overwrought soul.

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Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
– Proverbs 11:30

The first phrase employs the tree of life metaphor. Fruit is something that is produced. The produce of the righteous is life-giving and nourishing to people. When taken with the second phrase, we know this is not coincidental. The righteous aim at doing good to others. The second phrase states that the wise win souls. The word for winneth is used over 900 times in the Old Testament and can be used in a variety of ways. It means to take in the sense of take hold of or grasp. It is also used to mean to receive or accept something. It can be used to describe taking or capturing men as in conquest. It can also mean to capture in terms of thought or persuasion. The word is used 19 times in Proverbs.

• The most common use is in the sense of taking hold of wise instruction (Proverbs 1:3; 2:1; 4:10; 8:10; 10:8; 21:11; 24:32).
• The second most common use is in the sense of taking or acquiring an object or possession (Proverbs 7:20; 20:16; 22:27; 27:13; 31:16).
• The third use describes the taking of life by the wicked (Proverbs 1:19; 24:11).
• The fourth usage refers to receiving shame or a snare (Proverbs 9:7; 22:25).
• The fifth use of the term described the strange woman taking her victims (Proverbs 6:25).
• The sixth use is in the sense of taking a bribe to pervert justice (Proverbs 17:23).
• That leaves the last usage, which is in our text (Proverbs 11:30).

It’s obvious the usage in this proverb is akin to the most common use of the word, which describes the receiving of wisdom. The use is simply inverted here. Rather than commanding or commending the receiving of wisdom, the word is describing the wise one who wins people to wisdom. The point of both phrases together is that the wise, those who have truly received wisdom, will seek to guide others into wisdom.

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Proverbs 3:18

She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
– Proverbs 3:18

This verse removes doubt, if there is any, about the spiritual nature of the gifts of wisdom. Here she is a tree of life, which tree is so called because it is life giving and a tree that never dies. The Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden at the creation (Genesis 2:9; 3:22). The way to the tree was barred by the angels after Adam sinned and, I believe, taken from the earth before the flood. The next location that is given for the tree is in the new heaven and new earth, and specifically in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2).

Here it is a figure that represents everlasting life, which is real life, and access to it means full communion with God (Revelation 2:7; 22:14). Laying hold and retaining mirrors the language of apprehending Christ in faith (Hebrews 6:18; John 8:31; 1 John 2:24). Every one that has wisdom after this manner is happy or makes good progress.

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