The mouth is a booby-trap
- 18:1 People who isolate themselves don’t care about anyone else.
When confronted by good judgment, all they do is badmouth it.
- 18:2 Idiots aren’t interested in learning anything.
All they want to do is tell you what they think.
- 18:3 When wicked people come along, they bring hate with them.
Their shameful behavior ends with their disgrace.
- 18:4 Words we speak come from deep waters—thoughts deep inside.1
Wisdom bubbles out like a refreshing stream.
- 18:5 In judgments, it’s wrong to give guilty people special treatment,
And the innocent no justice at all.
- 18:6 A fool mouthing off sparks a fight.
His lips talk him into a beating.
- 18:7 A fool talks himself to death,
Booby-trapped by his own lips.
- 18:8 Gossip tastes delicious.
We absorb it all, until it becomes part of us.2
Lazybones and broken bones
- 18:9 A lazybones is a cousin
To the crook who breaks bones.3
- 18:10 The LORD is a tower of strength.
He protects good people who run to him.
- 18:11 The rich find security in the kingdoms they build,
With high walls that exist only in their minds.
- 18:12 Before people ruin their lives, they’re proud and snooty.
Before people are praised and honored, they’re humble.
- 18:13 Giving an answer before hearing the question
Is dumb and dumber, so shame on you.
- 18:14 We have the spirit to survive a busted body.
But who’s body could survive a broken spirit?
- 18:15 Thoughtful people get their head in the game, hunting knowledge.
Wise, they’ve got their ears on, too.
- 18:16 Bring a gift and they’ll find room for you.
A gift will get you in front of important people.
- 18:17 The first side of a disputed story sounds right,
Until the other side starts asking questions.
- 18:18 Flipping a coin4 can settle an argument
Between the strongest of people.
Friends and relatives: It’s complicated
- 18:19 It’s harder to win back a relative you offended than to capture a walled city.
It’s like breaking through the steel bars at the strongest part of a fortress.5
- 18:20 You’ll get a wonderful bellyful of satisfaction by choosing your words well.
You’ll be happy you said what you did, and didn’t say what you didn’t.
- 18:21 Words are a matter of life or death.
People who love to talk will face the consequences.
- 18:22 It’s good for a man to find a good wife.
Take it as a sign God’s pulling for you.
- 18:23 A poor person begs.
A rich person barks something harsh.
- 18:24 There are friends you hang out with, to keep you company.
And there’s a friend who stands by you like a brother.
Literally, “words of a man’s mouth are deep waters.” Scholars guess what that means. Some see a clue in Proverbs 20:5, in which the writer compares thoughts to deep waters. “Deep water” might sound threatening, especially to anyone living in a flood plain, unable to buy flood insurance. But in the hot and dry Middle East, where the ancient Wisdom writers probably lived, deep water meant life and security instead of death by thirst and drought.
This proverb is repeated in 26:22.
More literally, a person “slack in work is brother to one who destroys.” Or a slacker is like a whacker. The problem with saying it this way is that it’s too English. Hebrew poetry, as far as we can tell, didn’t rhyme. It repeated or contrasted parallel ideas.
They’re not really flipping coins for heads or tails, “Chalice I win, pomegranate I lose.” They’re throwing “lots.” Possibly marked stones or bone fragments. See note for Proverbs 16:33.
Scholars are left guessing about this wise saying. They say they trip over vague words such as the one describing the nature of the dispute, nipsa. It can mean offend, sin, revolt. None of which is a good thing to do to a relative who doesn’t deserve it. And in the second line, it’s hard to know what the “bars of a citadel” (the more literal translation) are meant to illustrate. What appears in this paraphrase is one of many educated guesses. Others say the bars are the disputes, or that they illustrate how hard it is to break through the defenses, or that people are on opposing sides of the bars. Discussions like these are what scholars talk about over a drink at a bar.