posted on Apr, 12 2019 @ 05:00 PM
The collector of the Old Testament Proverbs makes his purpose clear from the beginning.
“That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight” (ch1 v2).
Then he further defines this wisdom as “fear of the Lord” (v7). This phrase, when used in the Bible, means respect and willingness to obey.
I’m studying the different characters of Proverbs, as one way of organising and understanding the teaching
The Wise Man, by definition, is the man who understands “fear of the Lord”, and the Fool, by definition, is the man who does not.
The Fool gives himself away when he opens his mouth.
One of the frequent effects of his use of the tongue is that he stirs up trouble;
A common starting-point is the lie, which God hates;
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight” (ch12 v22).
He hates them because of their social effects;
“A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth brings ruin” (ch26 v28).
Therefore these people have no share in the future which he intends for the righteous;
“Truthful lips endure for ever, but the lying tongue is but for a moment” (ch12 v19).
So nobody who understands the wisdom of God will engage in slander;
“He who utters slander is a fool” (ch10 v18).
“One who speaks foolishly” is also the description of the man who “goes about gossiping and revealing secrets” (ch20 v19).
“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing hidden” (ch11 vv12-12).
For there are some things, relating to personal affairs, which ought not to be spread about even if they are true.
This behaviour should be avoided because it is a cause of strife;
“The north wind brings rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks” -ch25 v23
Proverbs is eloquent on the insidious effects of slanderous gossip;
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (ch18 v8).
It works best when the people receiving the gossip have the same evil intentions as the people giving it out;
“An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue” (ch17 v4).
The effect is to alienate people from one another and provoke friction;
“A perverse man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (ch16 v28).
Similarly a “bad messenger” plunges men into trouble (by distorting their understanding of each other?), while “a faithful envoy brings
healing” (ch13 v17).
In fact there’s a reasonable possibility that strife would die down if people would stop stirring it up;
“For lack of wood the fire goes out; and where there is no whisperer, quarrelling ceases.
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife” (ch26 vv20-21).
Of course the most dangerous kind of liar is the one who appears in court.
The character of the evidence follows on from the character of the witness;
“He who speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit” (ch12 v17).
In fact a false witness “breathes out” lies (ch14 v5). That is, they are part of the very life that is in him.
A worthless or lying witness “mocks at” justice (ch19 v28), he betrays lives instead of saving them like the truthful witness (ch14 v25), and he
is like a war club, a sword or a sharp arrow directed against his neighbour (ch25 v18).
We are told that “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who utters lies will not escape” -ch19 v5
And again; “A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure” ch21 v28
That last contrast implies that the way men speak, in truth or falsehood, reflects whether they have or have not heard “the truth” from God.
That is one way of detecting the difference between wisdom and folly, between righteousness and unrighteousness.
“A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a flogging.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin and his lips are a snare to himself” (ch18 vv6-7).