Proverbs 17:7

Excellent Speech and Lying Lips

7a Excellent speech becometh not a fool

A. Excellent Speech Defined

1. Excellent:

a. This term is translated variously in the Old Testament.
• And so has this proverb.
• It has been translated “excessive speech,” “excellent speech,” “arrogant speech,” or “fine speech.”
• It makes a big difference in interpreting the proverb.

b. Basic definition: remainder; leftovers; the rest; excess; abundance; riches; overflow; exceeding.

c. In the vast majority of cases, (about 80 or so) it is translated “rest, remnant, or residue.” That is the basic meaning of the term.

d. It is translated “excellent” only once—here.

e. However, it is translated excellency twice in Gen. 49:3.
• You can see why… an overflow of dignity or power would be considered excellent. (Above and beyond the norm.)
• But the basic meaning of the term is excess; overflow; which is how it is translated in the approximately 80 other times it is used.
• But it also has the meaning of excellence. Hence, it could be translated either “excellent” or “abundance.”
• The context has to determine the usage—whether it means extra (too much) or in a good sense, abundance or excellence.

f. The make up of the Proverb decides this for us.
• In the second part of the proverb, Solomon points out how out of place lying is from a prince or ruler.
• Hence, the first part of the proverb ought to reflect that point.
• An overabundance of words (talking too much) is NOT out of place for a fool. That happens all the time with fools.
• But excellent speech IS out of place with a fool. It is something you don’t expect.
• Hence, that interpretation best fits the purpose of the proverb.

g. It is best in my opinion to stick with the good old KJV: “excellent speech”
• He is speaking about absurdities. (Cf. Prov. 26:1)
• Excellent speech coming out of the mouth of a fool.
• Lies coming out of the mouth of one put in a position of guarding and preserving the truth in the theocracy.

2. Speech:

a. Speech: lip

b. It is the very same term translated lip in the second part of the proverb.

c. It is the literal lip—but obviously used in a figurative sense as speech.

d. It stands for the conversation, the theme of conversations, the type of speech, that which is communicated verbally…

e. Excellent speech = eloquent speech; elevated conversations on noble themes; wisdom employed in speech.

B. Becometh Not a Fool

1. Becometh:

a. Defined: comely; seemly; fitting; appropriate; suitable; in its proper place.

b. Ps. 33:1 – praise is comely for the upright. (fitting)

c. Prov. 19:10 – certain things are not appropriate for a servant, like delight (luxury) or to rule over princes. That is out of place.

d. That is the sense of the term in Prov. 17:7.

e. Solomon is speaking about things that are not becoming… out of place… not appropriate… unexpected… unsuitable for the situation.

f. He is speaking about things that do NOT fit together. (round peg and a square hole)

2. Fools and excellent speech do not go together.

a. It is abnormal… an absurdity. (Proverbs 26:6) (They both limp!)

b. It is quite out of place for a fool to blurt out his folly at a business meeting when he knows nothing of the business world.

c. It is absurd for a fool to take the floor at a conference of scientists if he knows nothing of science.

d. It is absurd for a foolish person to attempt to make a speech on politics or philosophy if he knows nothing about politics or philosophy!

e. It is equally absurd for a fool to make a speech to correct the theologians if he knows nothing about theology.

f. All of this is absurd… out of place…

g. Excellent speech and fools don’t go together.

3. Fools do sometimes say things that are true or wise… but when they do, something is still not quite right.

a. They are not the right person to speak!

b. For example, David wrote that praise is comely for the upright.

c. But praise coming from those who are NOT upright… but are foolish (wicked fools)… their praise is NOT comely. It is hypocrisy.

d. God doesn’t accept excellent words of praise if it comes from a fool.

e. Solomon is sending out a warning to us here. Don’t be deceived by a fool who tries to speak with excellence. Something is not right with that picture.

f. It is far better for excellent speech—noble communication—wise words—to be communicated by a wise man… not a fool.

g. A fool—a man with no credibility—is not the best communicator for an excellent message.
• A man who is hooked on smoking is not the best spokesman for the nicotine patch. (they don’t go together)
• A man slurping down a bottle of Jack Daniels is not the best spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous.
• These men might SAY excellent words… but the message loses a lot coming from that person…
• A business looking for a spokesman to represent their company will not choose a fool… they want someone whose life backs up the message they present.

h. Psalm 50:14-17.
• Vs. 14-15 – to the godly and the upright God encourages them to offer praise and to call upon Him and He will deliver them.
• Vs. 16-17 – but to the ungodly—the fools—God says, “What right do you have to declare my statutes (word) or to make claim on God’s covenants?”
• That is absurd… out of place… inappropriate.

i. As Christians, we too have an excellent message: the glorious gospel of the grace of God! (Phil. 1:27)
• But if our walk is more like the walk of a fool… then we are not the best spokesmen for Christ.
• What we say may be excellent speech… our words may be correct… but something is not right with that picture.
• It is an absurdity for a believer who is living in sin to speak forth the excellent message of deliverance from sin!
• That brother would do well to put his energy into dealing with sin in his own life before he makes speeches for Christ.
• Fools and excellent speech do not go together.

7b Much less do lying lips a prince.

A. Lying Lips Defined

1. Lying lips is in contrast to the excellent speech.

2. This presents another absurdity:

a. One in a lowly position (a fool) is out of place with excellent speech.

b. One in a high position (prince) is out of place lying.

c. Neither one is appropriate. Both are equally out of place.

B. Becometh Not a Prince

1. Prov. 16:12-13 – Kings are expected to be righteous and just.

2. II Sam. 23:3 – He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”

3. Just as it is unbecoming for a fool to attempt excellent speech, it is unbecoming for a prince—one in a position of authority and power—to lie or deceive.

4. It happens all the time in modern politics… but it is inappropriate. That’s the point. It is out of place… inconsistent… not fitting…

5. Of course lying is not fitting for ANY man… but it is far more inappropriate for one who is in a position of trust for the common good.

6. The position a man holds carries with it a further obligation and responsibility.

a. When a man in a position of authority sins, it is marked as being far worse.

b. It is a shame when anyone commits adultery, but more so if it is a pastor or missionary.

c. It is a shame for anyone to deceive others, but more so if it is the president.

d. People look to the position and have expectations.

e. It is so very out of place for one in a position of authority to LIE or deceive.

f. It is FITTING or appropriate for one in a position of authority to speak the truth.