and the one who holds his tongue is deemed discerning. 13
that is his folly and his shame. 16
1 tn Heb “does not cease.” It is impossible to avoid sinning in an abundance of words – sooner or later one is bound to say something wrong.
2 tn Or “holds his lips under control.” The verb חָשַׂךְ (khasakh) means “to withhold; to restrain; to hold in check” (BDB 362 s.v.). The related Arabic term is used in reference to placing a piece of wood in the mouth of a goat to prevent it from sucking (HALOT 359 s.v. חשׂךְ).
3 tn Heb “his lips” (so KJV, NAB, NASB); NIV “his tongue.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause for speech.
4 tn Heb “a shrewd man” (so NAB); KJV, NIV “a prudent man”; NRSV “One who is clever.”
sn A shrewd person knows how to use knowledge wisely, and restrains himself from revealing all he knows.
5 sn The term כֹּסֶה (koseh, “covers; hides”) does not mean that he never shares his knowledge, but discerns when it is and is not appropriate to speak.
6 tn Heb “the heart of fools.” The term לֵב (lev, “heart”) functions as a synecdoche of part (= heart) for the whole (= person): “foolish people.” This type of fool despises correction and instruction. His intent is to proclaim all that he does – which is folly. W. McKane says that the more one speaks, the less likely he is able to speak effectively (Proverbs [OTL], 422). Cf. TEV “stupid people advertise their ignorance”; NLT “fools broadcast their folly.”
7 sn The noun אִוֶּלֶת (’ivvelet, “foolishness; folly”) is the antithesis of perception and understanding. It is related to the noun אֱוִּיל (’evvil, “fool”), one who is morally bad because he despises wisdom and discipline, mocks at guilt, is licentious and quarrelsome, and is almost impossible to rebuke.
8 tn Heb “mouth” (so KJV, NAB). The term פֶּה (peh, “mouth”) functions as a metonymy of cause for speech.
9 tn The term “but” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
10 tn Heb “opens wide his lips.” This is an idiom meaning “to be talkative” (BDB 832 s.v. פָּשַׂק Qal). Cf. NIV “speaks rashly”; TEV “a careless talker”; CEV “talk too much.”
11 sn Tight control over what one says prevents trouble (e.g., Prov 10:10; 17:28; Jas 3:1-12; Sir 28:25). Amenemope advises to “sleep a night before speaking” (5:15; ANET 422, n. 10). The old Arab proverb is appropriate: “Take heed that your tongue does not cut your throat” (O. Zockler, Proverbs, 134).
12 tn The imperfect tense here denotes possibility: One who holds his tongue [may be considered] discerning.
13 tn The Niphal participle is used in the declarative/estimative sense with stative verbs: “to be discerning” (Qal) becomes “to be declared discerning” (Niphal). The proverb is teaching that silence is one evidence of wisdom, and that even a fool can thereby appear wise. D. Kidner says that a fool who takes this advice is no longer a complete fool (Proverbs [TOTC], 127). He does not, of course, become wise – he just hides his folly.
14 tn Heb “returns a word”; KJV “He that answereth a matter.”
15 sn Poor listening and premature answering indicate that the person has a low regard for what the other is saying, or that he is too absorbed in his own ideas. The Mishnah lists this as the second characteristic of the uncultured person (m. Avot 5:7).
16 tn Heb “it is folly to him and shame.” The verse uses formal parallelism, with the second colon simply completing the thought of the first.
17 sn “Mouth” and “tongue” are metonymies of cause, signifying what one says (cf. NCV, TEV, CEV).
18 tn This part could also be translated “keeps himself” (so NIV), for נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) often simply means “the whole person.” The participle שֹׁמֵר (shomer) is repeated from the first line in the parallelism – to guard what is said is to guard against difficulty.
19 sn The “troubles” (צָרוֹת, tsarot) here could refer to social and legal difficulties into which careless talk might bring someone (e.g., 13:3; 18:21). The word means “a strait, a bind, difficulty.” Careless and free talking could get the person into a tight spot.