What does Proverbs 26:18 mean?
ESV: Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
NIV: Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death
NASB: Like a maniac who shoots Flaming arrows, arrows, and death,
CSB: Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows,
NLT: Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon
KJV: As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
NKJV: Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,
Verse Commentary:
Prior lessons warned about those who make excuses to avoid accountability (Proverbs 26:13, 16). Verses 18 and 19 depict someone caught in a lie who tries to brush it off as a joke. "Firebrands," sometimes referred to as "fiery darts" (Ephesians 6:16), ignite what they strike. An earlier proverb referred to someone firing arrows without control (Proverbs 26:10). The person who casually lies is throwing destruction around like an insane man launching flaming arrows in every direction. Like a modern person blindly shooting a rifle in a crowd, damage will be done, whether it's intentional or not. Saying "I didn't mean it," after the fact, doesn't remove the damage done.

Lies might come out of carelessness or gossip. They may be inspired by frustration and anger towards another person. In either case, they are dangerous not only for dishonesty, but for a lack of judgment. Scripture warns that we should rein in angry responses, in part to avoid hasty mistakes and slander (Ephesians 4:26; Romans 12:19). Fits of anger indicate the influence of sin nature (Galatians 5:20). The "madman" depicted here is someone lacking sanity and control.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 26:17–28 turns from a focus on laziness to discussion about conflict. Solomon (Proverbs 25:1) warns against prying into other people's arguments, gossip, and dishonest speech. He also cautions about the danger of casual lies. How and when a person chooses to speak greatly influences their involvement in conflict.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter includes three main sections. The first repeatedly refers to a "fool," meaning someone lacking godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). The second warns against being lazy. The third condemns careless conflict, lying, and warns about those who disguise their hate with words. Several statements in this passage repeat or echo others made in the book of Proverbs.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 25 introduced another section of Solomon's proverbs (Proverbs 25:1). These were collected by later scribes; the list runs through the end of chapter 29. This chapter covers topics such as foolishness, laziness, and conflict. This echoes principles given in other proverbs.
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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