Proverbs 25:15

ESV With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.
NIV Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
NASB Through patience a ruler may be persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks bone.
CSB A ruler can be persuaded through patience, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
NLT Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones.
KJV By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

What does Proverbs 25:15 mean?

Solomon (Proverbs 25:1) commends the person who exhibits patience and speaks softly when trying to convince those in authority. The Hebrew terms used here can also apply to judges or chiefs. Harsh, impatient words typically make others more resistant (Proverbs 15:1). This is especially true of employers and government officials (Proverbs 14:35; 20:2) who may react poorly to impolite criticism. A wiser approach is to be patient, waiting for the right time to give the right words (Proverbs 15:23). The Hebrew phrase translated "patience" or "forbearance" is ō'rek ap'payim, which literally means "length of anger" and implies delaying one's frustration before reacting. Rather than rushing to confrontation, one can use patience to convince those in authority of their views.

The reference to a tongue breaking bone is a figure of speech; the lesson is that soft words can accomplish difficult tasks. Well-timed, well-chosen words can persuade a ruler to pursue a difficult course of action. An example of the power of soft words is seen in Abigail's conversation with David. Her husband Nabal arrogantly rejected David's request for provisions; David was prepared to retaliate. However, Abigail went to David and persuaded him not to shed blood (1 Samuel 25). David responded: "Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand" (1 Samuel 25:33).
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