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Let Your Lips Be Guided by Wisdom

Proverbs 14:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
In the mouth of a fool is the rod of pride,
    but the lips of the wise will preserve them.

In the mouth of a fool is the rod of pride: What the author meant by “the mouth of the fool” is really the “talk of the fool” or “what a fool has to say,” which is specified in the interpretive translations, “proud speech” (LEB), “stupid talk), “talk too much” (GNT), or “foolish words” (ERV).

The NET Bible has the following textual note, “The MT reads גַּאֲוָה (ga’avah, “pride”) which creates an awkward sense ‘in the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride’ (cf. KJV, ASV). The BHS editors suggest emending the form to גֵּוֹה (‘disciplining-rod’) to create tighter parallelism and irony: “in the mouth of a fool is a rod for the back” (e.g., Prov 10:13). What the fools says will bring discipline.”[1] A Handbook on Proverbs says, “The Hebrew at the end of this line is difficult to interpret because it says ‘a rod of pride,’ which RSV has changed to a rod for his back. The change made by RSV is followed by most other translations, and this line then becomes similar to 10:13b. HOTTP gives the Hebrew form an ‘A’ rating and recommends interpreting this line as ‘In the mouth of a fool is a rod to punish pride.’ In this sense ‘punish’ is included in the meaning of rod, and it is “pride” that receives the punishment.”[2]

but the lips of the wise will preserve them: What the author meant by “the mouth of the fool” is really the “talk of the wise” or “what a wise has to say.” The Hebrew word (שׁוֹמֵר Shomer) means “to keep watch over,” “to guard” or “to protect.” So, the words of the wise or talk of the wise person will serve as a protection, while the fool in the above will only run into repeated difficulties brought on himself.

What can we say about the talk or words of a person who has reverential fear of displeasing God, as opposed to the one who detests Him and scorns Him? The wise person will not be disrespectful or arrogant with his words, harsh with his speech, or reckless talk. Those who lack the wisdom from God’s Word, the foolish person is neither one who makes peace nor is he rational and reasonable. The wisdom of the foolish one earthly, animal, demonic. He utters words that are contentious and arrogant. The haughtiness in his mouth stirs up much trouble for himself and others. – James 3:13-18.

[1] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Pr 14:3.

[2] William David Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry, A Handbook on Proverbs, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 2000), 306.

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