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Bible: What Does Proverbs 15-16 Teach Us About the Tongue, the Heart, and God's Sovereignty?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Wisdom of Solomon


Proverbs 15-16: The Tongue and the Heart/Contrasting the Wise/Righteous with the Foolish/Wicked; The "Better. . . than" Formula; God's Sovereignty

The Influence of the Tongue

Solomon is very conscious of the influence of the tongue and its associated parts, and is concerned that righteous people exercise proper control over them (vv. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 23; cf. James 3).

Coincidental with this thought follows a firm reminder about God's omnipresence: He sees all the moral (and immoral) acts of men (v. 3).

Lessons on the Heart

Verses 11b, 13-15, 28 contain several lessons about the "heart":

(1) how God sees and knows men’s hearts (v. 11b);

(2) how a merry heart causes attractive features to appear—a smiling face, laughter, an uplifting environment (vv. 13a, 15b);

(3) how a sorrowful heart is not inherently bad; God must often break the spirit before He can heal and redirect it (v. 13b; cf. Ps. 51:17);

(4) how one whose heart contains understanding continues to seek knowledge (v. 14a); and

(5) how a righteous man’s heart is deliberate and thoughtful (v. 28).

The Fool


The Wise and the Foolish

Using the contrast-comparison form, the writer considers two sets of opposites together: the wise and the foolish, and the righteous and the wicked.

The righteous wise individual

(1) receives correction (vv. 5, 31-32),

(2) offers prayers in which God delights (vv. 8b, 29b),

(3) does right (v. 9b),

(4) seeks knowledge (v. 14a),

(5) reduces interpersonal friction because he exercises self-control (v. 18b),

(6) pleases his father (v. 20),

(7) walks rightly (v. 21),

(8) travels on an ascending "highway" (vv. 19, 24),

(9) speaks right after much study and counsel (vv. 22b, 28a; cf. James 1:19), and

(10) hates bribes (v. 27b).

On the other hand, the foolish, wicked man

(1) hates instruction and counsel (vv. 5a, 22a, 32a),

(2) has money problems (vv. 6b, 27a),

(3) thinks, lives, and sacrifices abominably (vv. 8a, 9a, 26a),

(4) deserves correction and death for his apostasy (v. 10a),

(5) causes "words" between people by means of his anger (v. 18a),

(6) endures a hard "road" in life because he's lazy (v. 19a),

(7) hates his mother (v. 20b),

(8) rejoices in folly (v. 21a),

(9) speaks wickedly (v. 28b) and

(10) is far from God (v. 29a).

Solomon also introduces his "better . . . than" formula. This literary device helps him express the superiority of spirituality over materialism (vv. 16-17).

Solomon mentions the fear of the LORD in verse 16 and then later where it is acknowledged as "the instruction of wisdom" (v. 33).

His final word in this chapter asserts the individual's need to learn humility before he will experience honor (v. 33).

[The differences between the ways of the righteous and the ways of the wicked should be so obvious that no one should wonder what yours are].

God is in Complete Control


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Proverbs 16

God's Sovereignty

Solomon declares the sovereignty of God in the affairs of man (vv. 1-9).

Man prepares his thoughts or plans, but what he says and does is what the LORD has determined (vv. 1, 9).

[Notice the framing device here].

Man has a great capacity to delude himself about his morality, but God is not fooled (v. 2).

Once a man truly chooses to live his life for God's glory, the LORD will solidify his plans and thoughts (v. 3).

God's control extends to the damnation of the wicked (v. 4); He will punish their abominable, conspiring pride (v. 5).

On the other hand, He provides atonement for sin, and enables those who fear and please Him to resist evil influences (v. 6) or, as the case may be, mollify the forces of evil (v. 7).

Being a poor, just man is infinitely better than being a rich, unrighteous one (v. 8).

The Value of Good Judgment and Wisdom

Verses 10-15 concern the judgments of kings.

Again, both speaking and living righteously is vital for kings (vv. 10, 12).

Righteous kings also love the wise speech of others, rewarding it accordingly (v. 13).

Solomon continues to extol the value of acquiring godly wisdom over riches (v. 16).

Resisting evil and living humbly before God preserve one's life, but being full of pride and avarice leads only to destruction (vv. 17-19).

Obeying God's word and trusting Him result in happiness (v. 20).

One who has a wise heart gains a good reputation (v. 21), and can speak profitably to others (vv. 23-24).

Oftentimes, such a one has grey hair (v. 31) and exhibits self-control (v. 32).

Solomon intersperses some comments about how the words and deeds of the wicked increase discord and violence as well as perversity and conflict (vv. 27-30).

Asserting the sovereignty of the LORD in all these matters, the king concludes the chapter as he began it (v. 33).

[Affirming God's sovereignty, of course, is Solomon's thrust in this passage.

No matter, however small, escapes His notice or control; He determines whatever comes to pass].

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      I appreciate your kind remarks. Two of my favorite (and most cited) verses are Proverbs 3: 5, 6. I find that it is always wise to trust in the LORD and not to rely upon my own understanding.

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      dellea 4 years ago

      I love Proverbs... the whole book is all about morals and common sense, and is straight to the point! Thank you for your expansion and enlightenment!

    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Thank you, Laurie. I appreciate your kind comments. The Lord is good.

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      Rayne123 4 years ago

      I read all your hubs, they are so well written with great information.