25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver, 1
so is a word skillfully spoken. 2
25:15 Through patience 3 a ruler can be persuaded, 4
and a soft tongue 5 can break a bone. 6
1 sn The verse uses emblematic parallelism, stating the simile in the first part and the point in the second. The meaning of the simile is not entirely clear, but it does speak of beauty, value, and artistry. The “apples of gold” (possibly citrons, quinces, oranges, or apricots) may refer to carvings of fruit in gold on columns.
2 tn Heb “on its wheels.” This expression means “aptly, fittingly.” The point is obviously about the immense value and memorable beauty of words used skillfully (R. N. Whybray, Proverbs [CBC], 148). Noting the meaning of the term and the dual form of the word, W. McKane suggests that the expression is metaphorical for the balancing halves of a Hebrew parallel wisdom saying: “The stichos is a wheel, and the sentence consisting of two wheels is a ‘well-turned’ expression” (Proverbs [OTL], 584). The line then would be describing a balanced, well-turned saying, a proverb; it is skillfully constructed, beautifully written, and of lasting value.
3 tn Heb “long of anger” or “forbearance” (so NASB).
4 tn The two imperfect verbs in this line may be nuanced as potential imperfects because what is described could happen, but does not do so as a rule.
5 tn The “tongue” is a metonymy of cause; and so the expression here refers to soft or gentle speech. This fits well with the parallel idea of patience (“long of anger”) – through a calm patient persuasion much can be accomplished. Some English versions relate this figure directly to the persuasion of a ruler in the previous line (cf. TEV “can even convince rulers”).
6 sn The idea of breaking a bone uses the hardest and most firm part of the body in contrast to the “softness of the tongue.” Both are figurative, forming a comparison. A gentle speech can break down any stiff opposition.