Friday, May 31, 2013

Tongue of the Wise - Proverbs 15:2


The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive,
but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.
Proverbs 15:2


The Book of Proverbs is full of divine wisdom and practical counsel. It is a wisdom and a poetry book.  It is filled withs small couplets of truth. They are short pithy maxims that help us face the every day.  The truth is so beautifully expressed that one can easily grasp their message.  Most often these truths are expressed in the form of a couplet.  The couplet is two ideas placed next to each other. There are three major forms of the couplet: contrastive, completive and comparative.

  1. The contrastive couplet often includes the word but. One statement is set in contrast to the next statement. For the lips of a strange woman drop honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil:  But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two- edged sword.  Proverbs 5:3-4
  2. In the completive couplet, the second statement completes the first and generally adds to it. In these statements the connecting word is generally and or soIn the fear of Jehovah is strong confidence; And his children shall have a place of refuge. Proverbs 14:26
  3. In a comparative couplet, the one statement serves as a comparison of the other.  The focus in these Proverbs is often to what actually is the more excellent of the two.  To identify these couplets you can look for than.  Also look for  better . . . than  /  as . . .  so  /   or  like . . .  soBetter a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.  Proverbs 16:8
The words tongue, mouth, lips and words are mentioned nearly 150 times in the book of Proverbs.  You likely can not read a full chapter of Proverbs and not find a reference to the words one speaks. It will appear somewhere as a figure of speech, most often as a metonymy.  This should be an indication of the importance of guarding your tongue.   The key verse in Proverbs on the subject of the tongue is probably: The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive,  but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.  Proverbs 15:2  It is a contrastive couplet.   There is that small, important word "but" included in the couplet.  It contrasts the "tongue of the wise" and the "mouth of the fool." Both of these are expressions are metonymies of cause. In both parts of the couplet, the subject is what they say.  The wisdom of a person can be determined by what they say.

The word translated as fool in this verse is the Hebrew word כְסִיל k siyl.  This word refers to a fool, a stupid or shameless person. This noun is used solely of humanity and found only in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. It is found 49 times in the  book of Proverbs.  The verb יַבִּיעַ (yabia’) is translated as "blurts out" means “to pour out; to emit; to cause to bubble; to belch forth.”  The words of the wise are useful.  These words teach valuable information and knowledge in an interesting and pleasant way.  The word of the fool are of no help to the listener. Their words burst out with reckless abandon.

As was stated in an earlier blog, the root of the problem is not in the mouth and tongue, but in the heart. Charles Swindoll states, 
"Like a bucket draws water from a well, so the tongue dips down and pours whatever is in the heart.  If the source is clean, that is what the tongue communicates.  If it is contaminated, again, the tongue will expose it."   

Another biblical book of book of poetry, Psalms states: The fool says in his heart, God does not exist.  Psalm 14:1  As stated in the previous blog: The central and recurring theme in Proverbs is that  the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  What you speak comes from the heart.  Without knowing God your speech is foolish.  It seems that everyone at some time or another have either struggled with using their tongue in the wrong matter, or they have suffered the injury of a harsh tongue from another.  Remember a fool blurts out foolishness, and a fool is one who is not in step with God's will.


The tongue is also used as a figure of speech both today and in the Bible.  Here are a few of the many metaphors for the tongue used in today's culture.
  • The word or answer is on tip-of-the-tongue — Momentary forgot
  • tongue in cheek comment — Not to be taken entirely seriously, subtle irony or sarcastic.
  • tongue twister — a phrase made specifically to be very difficult to pronounce.
  • The phrase cat got your tongue  — when a person is speechless.
  • To bite one's tongue — holding back an opinion to avoid causing offense.
  •  A slip of the tongue — an unintentional utterance. 
  •  Speak with a forked tongue - deceptive person.
  •  A silver tongue – a smooth-talking person.

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