Proverbs

CHAPTER 18

1One who is alienated seeks a pretext,

with all persistence picks a quarrel.

2Fools take no delight in understanding,

but only in displaying what they think.*

3With wickedness comes contempt,

and with disgrace, scorn.

4The words of one’s mouth are deep waters,

the spring of wisdom, a running brook.* a

5It is not good to favor the guilty,

nor to reject the claim of the just.b

6The lips of fools walk into a fight,

and their mouths are asking for a beating.*

7The mouths of fools are their ruin;

their lips are a deadly snare.c

8The words of a talebearer are like dainty morsels:

they sink into one’s inmost being.d

9Those slack in their work

are kin to the destroyer.

10* The name of the LORD is a strong tower;

the just run to it and are safe.

11The wealth of the rich is their strong city;e

they fancy it a high wall.

12Before disaster the heart is haughty,f

but before honor is humility.

13Whoever answers before listening,g

theirs is folly and shame.*

14One’s spirit supports one when ill,

but a broken spirit who can bear?*

15The heart of the intelligent acquires knowledge,

and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.*

16Gifts clear the way for people,

winning access to the great.h

17Those who plead the case first seem to be in the right;

then the opponent comes and cross-examines them.*

18The lot puts an end to disputes,

and decides a controversy between the mighty.*

19A brother offended is more unyielding than a stronghold;

such strife is more daunting than castle gates.*

20With the fruit of one’s mouth one’s belly is filled,

with the produce of one’s lips one is sated.* i

21Death and life are in the power of the tongue;j

those who choose one shall eat its fruit.*

22To find a wife is to find happiness,

a favor granted by the LORD.k

23The poor implore,

but the rich answer harshly.

24There are friends who bring ruin,

but there are true friends more loyal than a brother.l

* [18:2] One grows in wisdom by listening to others, but fools take delight in expounding the contents of their minds.

* [18:4] Words express a person’s thoughts (“deep waters”), which in turn become accessible to others. Cf. 20:5a.

* [18:6] The bold personification of lips and mouth is similar to Ps 73:9, “They set their mouths against the heavens, their tongues roam the earth.” Careless words can lead one into serious trouble.

* [18:1011] Contrast this judgment with the observation in 10:15.

* [18:13] To speak without first listening is characteristic of a fool; cf. 10:14; Sir 11:8.

* [18:14] The paradox is that something as slight as a column of air offers protection against the encroachment of death. If it is stilled, nothing, no matter how powerful, can substitute for it.

* [18:15] “Knowledge” here refers to what one knows, not knowledge in itself. The mind acquires and stores it, the ear strains toward it.

* [18:17] A persuasive speech in court can easily make one forget there is another side to the question. When the other party speaks, people realize they made a premature judgment. The experience at court is a lesson for daily life: there are two sides to every question.

* [18:18] See note on 16:33.

* [18:19] The Greek version, followed by several ancient versions, has the opposite meaning: “A brother helped by a brother is like a strong and lofty city; it is strong like a well-founded palace.” The Greek is secondary as is shown by the need to supply the phrase “by a brother”; further, the parallelism is inadequate. The Hebrew is to be preferred.

* [18:20] Fruit from the earth is our ordinary sustenance, but “the fruit of one’s lips,” i.e., our words, also affect our well-being. If our words and our deeds are right, then we are blessed, our “belly is filled.”

* [18:21] This enigmatic saying has provoked many interpretations, e.g., judicious speech brings a reward; those who love the tongue in the sense of rattling on must face the consequences of their loquacity. This translation interprets the verb “love” in colon B in its occasional sense of “choose” (e.g., 12:1; 20:13; Dt 4:37) and interprets its pronominal object as referring to both death and life in colon A. Death and life are set before every person (cf. Dt 30:1520) and we have the power to choose either one by the quality of our deeds. Words (= “the tongue”) are regarded here as the defining actions of human beings.

a. [18:4] Prv 20:5; Jn 7:38.

b. [18:5] Prv 24:23; 28:21.

c. [18:7] Prv 10:14; 12:13; 13:3; Eccl 10:12.

d. [18:8] Prv 26:22.

e. [18:11] Prv 10:15.

f. [18:12] Prv 11:2; 16:18; Sir 10:15.

g. [18:13] Sir 11:8.

h. [18:16] Prv 21:14.

i. [18:20] Prv 12:14; 13:2.

j. [18:21] Sir 37:18.

k. [18:22] Prv 12:4; 19:14; Sir 7:26.

l. [18:24] Prv 17:17.

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