Proverbs 18:4

ESV The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
NIV The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.
NASB The words of a person’s mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
CSB The words of a person's mouth are deep waters, a flowing river, a fountain of wisdom.
NLT Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.
KJV The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.

What does Proverbs 18:4 mean?

In modern terminology, meaningful wisdom is often labeled as "deep." This implies something with a great deal of substance, and much more to be learned than what appears on the surface. Deep waters aptly symbolize the wisdom that lies within a godly person (Proverbs 1:7). Honoring God with our minds brings the resources to perceive life correctly, to give sound advice, and to answer hard questions (Proverbs 3:13; 14:33).

At the same time, deep water also obscures; it is difficult to know exactly what it hides. That murkiness is the idea being used in this proverb. Words can be taken out of context. What someone means, at first, is not easy to understand (Proverbs 18:13). A later proverb will also note that it takes wisdom to uncover something that's covered up, like the secrets hidden under deep waves (Proverbs 20:5).

In contrast, godly wisdom (Proverbs 8:8–9; 12:18) is like an active stream: clear, fresh, and invigorating. It flows without interruption and never dries up. The benefits are obvious and immediate. That's not to say that godly wisdom is never "deep," as the modern world would describe it (Romans 11:33). But part of wisdom is relating truth in ways others can more easily understand (Proverbs 1:1–6).

Jesus' words reflected deep wisdom, and they were life-giving. Many who heard Him speak observed how unique this ability was (John 7:46). Jesus testified that His words were spirit and life (John 6:63). It is meaningful that the Scriptures are called "the word of life" (Philippians 2:16). Worldly wisdom cannot compare to what issues from the teachings of Jesus, contained in the Word of God!
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