Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 29:20; Proverbs 14:29; Ecclesiastes 5:3
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
He that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
A fool’s voice is known by [a] multitude of words.
CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): We cannot conceive of words, much less a multitude of words, without sin―the wisdom of these proverbs will be acknowledged by those who know the sins of the tongue, and the immense difficulty of restraining the unruly member.
MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): “A fool’s voice is known by a multitude of words;” it discovers the man to be a foolish, and rash, and inconsiderate man—“A fool is also full of words,” Ecclesiastes 10:14—Forward to promise and brag what he will do, which is the common practice of foolish men.
CHARLES BRIDGES: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth,” Proverbs 27:1. How awfully has this boasting been put to shame!—Abner promised a kingdom, but could not ensure his life for an hour, 2 Samuel 3:9-27…The rich fool’s soul was required of him “on the very night” of his worldly projects “for many years” to come, Luke 12:16-20.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): A little time may produce considerable changes, and such as we little think of. “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips,” Proverbs 27:2. [Even] when we have done it we must not commend ourselves, for that is an evidence of pride, folly, and self-love, and a great lessening to a man’s reputation. Every one will be forward to run him down that cries himself up.
CHARLES BRIDGES: There is the sin of egotism: “Our own mouth praises us, not another.” We love to hear ourselves talk, and present our own judgment intrusively.
MATTHEW HENRY: There may be a just occasion for us to vindicate ourselves, but it does not become us to applaud ourselves―thus boasting is for ever excluded.
WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): We are on dangerous ground when we are contending in our own cause…Self-love ties a bandage on the eyes of the understanding, and then leads the blind astray.
ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): It is impossible to speak much, and yet speak nothing but truth; and injure no man’s character in the mean while.
WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): Sins of the tongue are commonly very cruel…Its canons are infernal. One of them is, “If a lie will do better than the truth, tell a lie.” Another is, “Heap on reproach; some of it will stick.”
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile,” Psalm 34:13. The precept which David here delivers relates to a virtue which is very rare, namely, that we should be truthful and free from deceit in our discourse. Some, indeed, understand it in a much more extended sense, supposing that slander is condemned.
PETER BARO (1534-1599): Detraction or slander is not lightly to be passed over, because we do so easily fail in this point. The good name of a man, saith Solomon, is a precious thing to everyone, and to be preferred before much treasure, Ecclesiastes 7:1. It is no less grievous to hurt a man with the tongue than with a sword: nay, oft-times the stroke of a tongue is worse than the wound of a spear, as it is in a French proverb.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Slander is an old-fashioned weapon out of the armoury of hell, and is still in plentiful use…The deadliest of all venom is the slander of the unscrupulous. Some men care not what they say so long as they can vex and injure…Slander leaves a slur, even if it be wholly disproved.
JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Slander is a kind of murder.
ADAM CLARKE: “He that uttereth slander is a fool,” Proverbs 10:18. He slays three persons: The man whom he slanders; him to whom he communicates the slander; and himself, the slanderer.
CHARLES BRIDGES: The next warning is directed against hasty words.
WILLIAM ARNOT: It is the part of a wise man to set a watch upon his own lips.
MATTHEW HENRY: A man may show himself to be a wise man—by the good government of his tongue…We ought to be “swift to hear,” and “slow to speak,” James 1:19…Seest thou a man that is forward to speak to every matter that is started, and affects to speak first to it, to open it, and speak last to it, to give judgment upon it, as if he were an oracle? There is more hope of a modest fool who is sensible of his folly, than of such a self-conceited one…He that is hasty of spirit, whose heart is tinder to every spark of provocation, that is all fire and tow, as we say―he thinks hereby to magnify himself and make those about stand in awe of him, whereas really he exalts his own folly.
CHARLES BRIDGES: He that hath knowledge spareth his words, and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit, Proverbs 17:27. A man of knowledge will spare his words, when the probable prospect is harm rather than good.
MATTHEW HENRY: He “spares his words,” because they are better spared than ill-spent. This is generally taken for such a sure indication of wisdom that a fool may gain the reputation of being a wise man if he have but wit enough to hold his tongue, to hear, and see, and say little. If a fool hold his peace, men of candour will think him wise, because nothing appears to the contrary, and because it will be thought that he is making observations on what others say, and gaining experience, and is consulting with himself what he shall say, that he may speak pertinently. See how easy it is to gain men’s good opinion?
ADAM CLARKE: But who that thinks he can speak well can refrain from speaking?
WILLIAM ARNOT: If we fling the door open, and allow the emotions to rush forth as they arise, it is certain many of our words will be evil, and do evil. To refrain, that is, to bridle back the lips, requires some practice to make one skilful in it; but skill in that art will be very profitable in the long run. It easier, and more natural, when one is full of emotions, to open the sluices, and let the whole gush forth in an impetuous stream of words. It is easy, but not right; it is pleasant to nature, but it is offensive to God, and hurtful to men. You must consider well, and pull the bridle hard, and permit no false or proud words to pass the barrier of the lips. Strangle the evil thoughts as they are coming to the birth, that the spirits that troubled you within may not go forth embodied to trouble also the world.
JOHN CALVIN: Good order cannot exist, unless princes are sedulously on the watch to repress pride.
JOHN TRAPP: It is seldom seen that a man of many words miscarries not.