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.
* [18:10–11] 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.
* [18:19] 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 30:15–20) 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.
c. [18:7] Prv 10:14; 12:13; 13:3; Eccl 10:12.
f. [18:12] Prv 11:2; 16:18; Sir 10:15.
k. [18:22] Prv 12:4; 19:14; Sir 7:26.