What does Proverbs 10:11 mean?
ESV: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
NIV: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
NASB: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
CSB: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
NLT: The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.
KJV: The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Speech is one of the more noticeable differences between those who honor God—the righteous—and those who reject Him—the wicked. At times, the sheer volume of hateful, evil chatter can be overwhelming. Like an oasis in the desert, the words of a godly person offer refreshment. They encourage and comfort life's weary travelers. Like a "fountain of life," the words of a righteous person are clean and invigorating. They edify those who hear them.
Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). Followers of Jesus should carefully guard their speech and employ words that are gracious and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). His followers should shun malice, deceit, and slander (1 Peter 2:1). They should not allow any corrupt talk to come out of their mouths, "but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).
Unlike the speech of the righteous, the speech of the wicked corrupts. The wicked commit violent acts and use deceptive words to cover their evil deeds (Proverbs 4:14–17; 10:6).
Proverbs 10:11–32 contrasts the righteous and the wicked, focusing on their different speech patterns, their different lifestyles, their different attitudes, and their different destinies. Verses 21 through 27 are especially focused on the different results which can be expected from pursuing godliness, versus pursuing sin.
This chapter begins 375 "proverbs," which are general-case lessons or observations. These wise remarks continue the discussion of wisdom and wickedness begun in chapters 1—9. Most of the verses in chapter 10 contain a sharp contrast, with the conjunction "but" separating the lines. Often, the subject changes from verse to verse. The contrasting subjects include sons, treasure, work ethic, reputation, relationships, success, and speech.
In Proverbs 7—9 Solomon contrasts wisdom and wickedness in the symbolic persons of Lady Wisdom and Woman Folly. He calls upon his sons, or students, to choose wisdom, and he points out the benefits of choosing wisdom and the disastrous results of choosing wickedness. Chapter 10 presents vivid contrasts between wisdom and wickedness in many of life's settings. These comparisons continue into chapter 11.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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