but a perverse tongue 5 breaks the spirit.
and a word at the right time 8 – how good it is!
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. 12
1 tn Heb “a tongue.” The term “tongue” is a metonymy of cause for what is produced: speech.
2 tn Heb “a tongue of healing.” A healing tongue refers to speech that is therapeutic or soothing. It is a source of vitality.
3 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied for the sake of clarity.
4 tn Heb “tree of life.”
5 tn Heb “perversion in it.” The referent must be the tongue, so this has been supplied in the translation for clarity. A tongue that is twisted, perverse, or deceitful is a way of describing deceitful speech. Such words will crush the spirit (e.g., Isa 65:14).
6 tn Heb “joy to the man” or “the man has joy.”
7 tn Heb “in the answer of his mouth” (so ASV); NASB “in an apt answer.” The term “mouth” is a metonymy of cause for what he says. But because the parallelism is loosely synonymous, the answer given here must be equal to the good word spoken in season. So it is an answer that is proper or fitting.
8 tn Heb “in its season.” To say the right thing at the right time is useful; to say the right thing at the wrong time is counterproductive.
9 tn The verb יֶהְגֶּה (yehgeh) means “to muse; to meditate; to consider; to study.” It also involves planning, such as with the wicked “planning” a vain thing (Ps 2:1, which is contrasted with the righteous who “meditate” in the law [1:2]).
10 tn The word “how” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
11 tc The LXX reads: “the hearts of the righteous meditate faithfulness.”
sn The advice of the proverb is to say less but better things. The wise – here called the righteous – are cautious in how they respond to others. They think about it (heart = mind) before speaking.
12 sn The form is plural. What they say (the “mouth” is a metonymy of cause) is any range of harmful things.