What does Proverbs 16:28 mean?
ESV: A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
NIV: A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
NASB: A perverse person spreads strife, And a slanderer separates close friends.
CSB: A contrary person spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
NLT: A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.
KJV: A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
Verse Commentary:
Verse 27 used a Hebrew word, translated as "worthless" in English, which was later used as another name for Satan: Belial. Those scoundrel-types, or villains, make deliberate effort to do evil and harm others with their words. Here, Solomon condemns similar themes of dishonesty and damaging speech. "Dishonest" is from a Hebrew term used elsewhere in Proverbs (Proverbs 2:12; 6:14; 8:13; 10:31–32) in reference to perversity and immorality.

From Solomon's royal perspective, a dishonest counselor might give false information about a neighboring nation (Proverbs 16:13). This could lead the two nations to war. A dishonest man might lie about the intentions of a neighbor, starting a conflict with someone else. One of the Devil's frequent tools is uncontrolled speech (James 3:5–6). That includes things like gossip and slander (Proverbs 6:16–19). Lies can create a rift even between friends. The apostle Paul wisely counsels Timothy to reject anyone who aspires to be a church leader if he tolerates slander within his family (1 Timothy 3:11). Jesus anticipated how often dishonest statements would be thrown against His people. He said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 16:27–33 closes chapter 16, as Solomon continues his wise sayings. This passage contrasts evil men with men who are righteous, honest, and disciplined. Evil in the heart produces wicked speech, but righteousness in the heart shows itself in righteous living.
Chapter Summary:
This part of Solomon's proverbs emphasizes human motives, self-control, and common sense. Many of these proverbs are arranged in a two-part style. The first and second half of these statements make the same basic point, but from opposite perspectives. Notable verses are verses 9 and 33, speaking of God's sovereignty, and verse 18, a famous warning about arrogance. Also often cited is verse 25, which repeats Proverbs 14:12 and encourages self-reflection.
Chapter Context:
A lengthy list of Solomon's wise sayings began in chapter 10. Chapter 16 begins a section mostly composed of comparisons and completions. It extends to Proverbs 22:16. Man's thoughts, speech, motives, and conduct are examined in this chapter. The chapter also addresses pride, evil, and injustice.
Book Summary:
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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