Proverbs 20:19 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Proverbs 20:19, NIV: A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Proverbs 20:19, ESV: Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Proverbs 20:19, KJV: He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

Proverbs 20:19, NASB: One who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with a gossip.

Proverbs 20:19, NLT: A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don't hang around with chatterers.

Proverbs 20:19, CSB: The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.

What does Proverbs 20:19 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the Bible, "slander" means making false statements about someone to ruin their reputation. It can also refer to things like gossip—which is often unsubstantiated rumor or scandal—or undue criticism. In most modern legal contexts, slander and libel refer to untrue spoken or written comments which harm someone's standing, and which the offender should have known were false. The term used here is rākil, which plays on the similarity of terms for merchants and those for liars and deceivers. The "gossip monger" or "tale bearer" should be avoided. This person not only cannot keep legitimate secrets (Proverbs 2:11; 19:11), but they prefer controversy and scandal (Proverbs 16:28; 17:9; 18:8). They "deal in" such things as if it were a business. Associating with such a person means eventually being caught up in the consequences of their sins.

History's most notorious slanderer is the Devil. Revelation 12:10 calls him "the accuser of our brothers…who accuses them day and night before our God." The Devil still has access to God's throne, but he does not live in heaven. His realm is Earth and its atmosphere. He is "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2). All who engage in slander resemble him and are censured by Solomon as "babblers." The Hebrew phrasing here connects the idea of being "simple," or uninformed, with the lips. This is a simple definition of gossip: spreading rumors about issues when one lacks full understanding.

Investing any trust in such a person is a foolish risk. The gossip will reveal those secrets to others and likely embellish them with lies. According to Solomon the way to deal with a slanderer is to avoid him. In his instructions to Timothy, the apostle Paul warned about those who depart from faithful pursuits and occupy their time as slanderers: gossips and busybodies (1 Timothy 5:11–13).