Ecclesiastes 10:12
The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
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Ecclesiastes 10:12-15. The words of a wise man are gracious — Hebrew, חן, grace: as they are profitable, so they are acceptable to others, procuring him favour with those that hear him. But the lips of a fool will swallow up himself — His discourses are ungracious and offensive to others, and therefore pernicious to himself. The beginning of his words is foolishness, &c. — All his talk, from the beginning to the end, is foolish and sinful; the more he talks the more his folly and wickedness appear; and the end is mischievous madness — He proceeds from evil to worse, and adds wilfulness to his weakness, and never desists till he hath done mischief to himself or others. A fool also is full of words — Forward to promise and boast what he will do; which is the common practice of foolish men, and running on endlessly, and never knowing when to cease; for he will have the last word, though it be but the same with that which was the first. A man cannot tell what shall be — What he will say next; his talk is so incoherent. And what shall be after him, who can tell? — That is, what mischief his foolish talk may produce. The labour of the foolish wearieth, &c. — Fools discover their folly by their wearisome and fruitless endeavours after things which are too high for them. Because he knoweth not, &c. — He is ignorant of those things which are most easy, as of the way to the great city whither he is going.

10:11-15 There is a practice in the East, of charming serpents by music. The babbler's tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison; and contradiction only makes it the more violent. We must find the way to keep him gentle. But by rash, unprincipled, or slanderous talk, he brings open or secret vengeance upon himself. Would we duly consider our own ignorance as to future events, it would cut off many idle words which we foolishly multiply. Fools toil a great deal to no purpose. They do not understand the plainest things, such as the entrance into a great city. But it is the excellency of the way to the heavenly city, that it is a high-way, in which the simplest wayfaring men shall not err, Isa 25:8. But sinful folly makes men miss that only way to happiness.Rather: "If a serpent without enchantment (i. e., not being enchanted) bites, then there is no advantage to the charmer": i. e., if the charmer is unwisely slack in exercising his craft, he will be bitten like other people. See Psalm 58:4 note. 12. gracious—Thereby he takes precaution against sudden injury (Ec 10:11).

swallow up himself—(Pr 10:8, 14, 21, 32; 12:13; 15:2; 22:11).

Gracious, Heb. grace; as profitable, so also acceptable to others, procuring him favour with those who hear him.

Will swallow up himself; his discourses are ungracious and offensive to others, and therefore pernicious to himself.

The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious,.... Or "grace" (u). He speaks kind and good things in favour of the characters of men, and not as the babbling detractor: he speaks well of civil magistrates and rulers in the state; of the ministers of the word in the church; and of all his fellow creatures, as far as can with truth be said: and a truly good and gracious man, who is Solomon's wise man, in opposition to a fool and wicked man; his discourse will run upon the grace of God, upon the doctrines of grace, and upon the experience of the truth of grace on his heart: upon the grace of God the Father, in loving and choosing men; in contriving their salvation; in making a covenant of grace with them in Christ; in sending him to die for them, and in accepting his satisfaction and righteousness for them: and on the grace of the Son, in becoming their surety; assuming their nature, dying in their room and stead, interceding for them, taking care of them, and supplying them with grace out of his fulness: and on the grace of the Spirit, in regeneration and sanctification; working in them faith, hope, and love; applying precious promises to them, and sealing them up to the day of redemption: of these things they speak often one to another, and cannot but talk of the things they have felt and seen: and such words and discourses are gracious, graceful, and grateful to truly pious souls, and minister grace unto them; and are also well pleasing and acceptable to God and Christ, as well as gain them favour among men; see Proverbs 22:11;

but the lips of a fool swallow up himself; his words are not only able and displeasing to others, but bring ruin upon himself; by talking too freely of rulers and others, he brings himself into trouble, and plunges himself into difficulties, out of which he cannot easily get; yea, is swallowed up in them, and destroyed. Or, his "lips swallow up him" (w); the wise man, whose words are gracious; and, by his calumny and detraction, his deceit and lies, brings him into disgrace and danger: or, "swallows it up", or "that" (x); the grace of the wise man, or his gracious words; and hinders the edification of others by them, and the good effects of them. Though the first sense seems best.

(u) "gratia", Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius, Cocceius, Rambachius. (w) "deglutiet eum", Montanus; "absorbent eum", Piscator, Rambachius. (x) "Illam", Munster, Cocceius; "quam labia stulti velut absorbendo sufferunt", Tigurine version.

The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
12. The words of a wise man’s mouth] The mention of the babbling eloquence of “the master of tongue” in the previous verse is naturally followed by precepts fashioned after the type of those in Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 10:32; Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 17:7 as to that which is of the essence of true eloquence. In “are gracious” (literally are grace itself) we find a parallel to the “gracious words” (literally words of grace) of Luke 4:22. They describe the quality in speech which wins favour, what the Greeks called the ἠθικὴ πίστις (moral suasion), which conciliates the good will of the hearers (Aristot. Rhet. i. 2, § 3).

the lips of a fool will swallow up himself] The English version rightly preserves the vivid force of the original, instead of weakly paraphrasing it by “destroy” or “consume.” Who has not heard orators who, while they thought they were demolishing their opponents, were simply demolishing themselves, swallowing up their own reputation for honesty or consistency, greeted by the ironical cheers of their opponents, while those of their own party listen in speechless dismay? Our own familiar phrase, when we speak of an imprudent orator having “to eat his own words,” expresses another aspect of the same idea.

Verses 12-15. - Section 14. The mention of "the master of the tongue" in ver. 11 leads the author to introduce some maxims concerned with the contrast between the words and acts of the wise, and the worthless prating and useless labors of the fool. Verse 12. - The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; literally, are grace (χάρις, Septuagint); i.e. they net only are pleasing in form and manner, but they conciliate favor, produce approbation and good will, convince and, what is more, persuade. So of our blessed Lord it was said, "All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words (τοῖς λόγοις τῆς χάριτος) which proceeded out of his mouth" (Luke 4:22; cutup. Psalm 45:2). In distinction from the unready man, who, like the snake-charmer in the preceding verse, suffers-by reason of his untimely silence, the wise man uses his speech opportunely and to good purpose. (A different result is given in Ecclesiastes 9:11.) But the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. This is a stronger ex-prosaic, than "ruin" or "destroy." Speaking without due forethought, he compromises himself] says what he has shamefully to withdraw, and brings punishment on his own head (cutup. Proverbs 10:8, 21; Proverbs 18:7).

Ῥῆμα παρὰ καιρὸν ῤιφθὲν ἀνατρέπει βίον.

"Untimely speech has ruined many a life." Ecclesiastes 10:12"The words of a wise man's mouth are grace; but the lips of a fool swallow him up." The words from a wise man's mouth are חן, graciousness, i.e., gracious in their contents, their form and manner of utterance, and thus also they gain favour, affection, approbation, for culture (education) produces favour, Proverbs 13:15, and its lips grace (pleasantness), which has so wide an influence that he can call a king his friend, Proverbs 22:11, although, according to Ecclesiastes 9:11, that does not always so happen as is to be expected. The lips of a fool, on the contrary, swallow him, i.e., lead him to destruction. The Pih. בּלּע, which at Proverbs 19:28 means to swallow down, and at Proverbs 21:20 to swallow equals to consume in luxury, to spend dissolutely, has here the metaphorical meaning of to destroy, to take out of the way (for that which is swallowed up disappears). שׂפתות is parallel form to שׂפתי, like the Aram. ספות. The construction is, as at Proverbs 14:3, "the lips of the wise תשׁם preserve them;" the idea of unity, in the conception of the lips as an instrument of speech, prevails over the idea of plurality. The words of the wise are heart-winning, and those of the fool self-destructive. This is verified in the following verse.
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