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Pro 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Pro 25:12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
Verses 11 and 12 are a proverb pair because both use the image of precious metal as an analogy for proper speaking and listening. In both proverbs, the gold is crafted into something aesthetically pleasing. The analogy apples of gold in settings of silver comes in the first line in the Hebrew text (not in the second line, as in the NIV) and is intended to engage the reader actively in wondering what it is about. The first line intentionally withholds the reference. The line simply alludes to some beautiful piece of artwork, jewels, or precious stones that are inlaid on a silver frame. The second line discloses the referent. Such a masterpiece of human art is compared to the artistic use of words: a word aptly spoken. The meaning of “aptly” (אֹפֶן, ˒ōphen) is uncertain because this is the only time the word appears in the Old Testament. McKane suggests that the phrase “aptly spoken” (עַל־אָפְנָיו, ˓al–˒āphnāyw) might literally allude to a word “upon its two wheels.” That is, the “two wheels” refer to the two parallel halves of a proverb. Without a doubt, proverbs themselves model artful speech. In any event, the second line (in the Hebrew text), “a word aptly spoken,” speaks to the artful and appropriate use of speech. When used aptly, words are a beautiful piece of artwork (cf. 15:23).
In verse 12, the image is stated first, like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold. The artwork here is jewelry, a gold earring. The reader then anticipates the second line, a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. Such attractive jewelry is compared to advice that is seasoned with correction given to one (a student or a youth) who has a listening ear. Notice the team effort necessary to acquire wisdom, “wise rebuke” and “a listening ear.” The process of offering reproof that is in good taste to one who is receptive to it is described as a work of art.
by Dave Bland
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