Proverbs 18:8

The Words of a Talebearer


1. This verse, which appears again in Proverbs 26:22, is problematic in the translation of one key word in the verse: wounds. (Hebrew: laham)

a. Two out of 21 translations I consulted translated it “wound” (KJV & Young’s) and the rest translate according to its other definition – something like a “dainty or tasty morsel”…

b. Of the six different Hebrew dictionaries I consulted, all of them defined the Hebrew term as “to gulp… to greedily swallow.” None defined it as “wound.”

c. It does not appear to be a textual issue. The disagreement is not over a different Hebrew word underlying the English.

2. It appears to be a disagreement on the definition of a Hebrew term (laham) that appears only twice in the Bible.

a. And the other occurrence of the term sheds no light on the definition because the other verse is exactly the same as this one…

b. Obviously Solomon only meant ONE thing by the term he chose.

c. Unfortunately, some ancient words go out of use… some change meaning… and it is hard to know for SURE which definition is the correct one here.

d. All things being equal, I normally give more weight to the KJV—because it has stood the test of time.

e. But here I have NO dictionary that supports defining the term as “wound.”

f. After comparing 21 translations, 6 Hebrew dictionaries, and about 20 commentaries, none gave any conclusive answers.

g. With a little more light on the subject, I might change my mind, but right now, I have to go on what I have… and all the Hebrew dictionaries defined the word as “dainty or delicate morsels.”

3. Whichever meaning you give this term, truth is presented… that is elsewhere validated by other Scripture.

a. Hence, which definition we use will NOT affect truth or doctrine one bit.

b. So, in the spirit of honesty, I have to admit, I just don’t know for sure which dictionary definition best suits Solomon’s meaning.

c. BUT—since this verse appears again in chapter 26… that gives me about 5 more years to get to the bottom of this!

8a The words of a talebearer are as wounds

A. The Words of a Talebearer

1. Talebearer defined: a whispering gossip!

a. Strong’s: Murmur; whisper; murmurers; backbite; slander.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: express discontent in low tones—whispering under your breath about someone…

c. Zodhiates: It indicates a person who whispers things that will harm others.

d. It is crystal clear what this term means.

e. Solomon is speaking about a blabber mouth… a gossip… one who runs from person to person spreading dirt about someone else.

2. Wounds Defined:

a. Strong’s: to gulp, swallow greedily.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: Tidbit of food that is easy to consume

c. Zodhiates: something gulped.

d. Hebrew Aramaic Dict.: dainty morsels swallowed greedily

e. Theol. Wordbook of the Old Testament: bits greedily swallowed

3. The meaning: gossip is like a delicious delicacy…

a. Gossip is the sort of thing that is extremely tempting… appealing… delicious!

b. It is the sort of thing that people LOVE to gobble up…

c. Within each of us is an insatiable appetite to consume gossip. It’s our nature.

d. Juicy news about someone is almost too good to pass up.

e. Who doesn’t like to hear the latest dirt?

f. Why do think the gossip tabloids are so popular? Because it is human nature to love to hear gossip… every society loves to consume this sort of thing…

g. And to look at the titles of some of the tabloids in line at grocery store, people like to hear about it, even if they KNOW it isn’t true. (Martian discovered in mountains of Montana…)

h. People love to hear the gossip about celebrities… who’s getting divorced… and who’s on drugs… how much money they make…

i. The words of a gossiper are as juicy tidbits that people love to gobble up.

4. But if we take the reading in the KJV, that too makes perfect sense here AND it is backed up by Scripture elsewhere.

a. If we understand laham to mean “wound” as in the KJV—or “self inflicted wound” as in the Young’s Literal Translation, then Solomon’s point is different.

b. Thus, he would be speaking about the pain and suffering that follow gossip.

c. Gossip is like a wound…

d. Ps. 52:2-4 – here again words are spoken of as a razor… that can cut, maim, and harm.
• His words are sharp like a razor… painful and damaging…
• Obviously, this is figurative language, but we all know that words CAN cause wounds.
• This man uses his tongue for mischief: calamity, evil, or destruction.
• He is deceitful… he loves evil and lying… he LOVES this kind of hurtful talk… as long as he is not the one being hurt.
• He loves devouring words… words that devour others… do them harm…
• It is human nature to LOVE this sort of thing…
• And it is harmful and hurtful.

8b And they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

A. Laham as Dainty Morsels

1. People have an overly hearty appetite for the dainty morsels of gossip. (First part of the verse). They are appetizing.

2. The second part of the verse states that they are not only appetizing, they are gobbled up!

3. Gossip IS swallowed by most people.

4. People consider gossip to be a delicacy for the ears.

a. Delicacy is rare… something not everyone gets every day… something special… just for the “in” crowd, and therefore craved.

b. They love it… and therefore they eat it up.

5. Therefore, they take it in… they swallow it and it goes down into their bellies.

a. This could be a figurative way of saying that people often BELIEVE it…
• They take it in and absorb it.
• They swallow the gossip—hook, line, and sinker.
• As food is assimilated into the body, gossip is assimilated into their thinking—as truth.

b. This could also be a way of saying that they remember it.
• They swallow it up… and retain it…
• Why is it that it is so much easier to remember the juicy gossip you heard last year, than the information you studied for the test last week!
• There is a warning here. Before you start spreading dirt about someone—remember, that once you give it out… it is retained for a LONG time. People will remember what you said about so and so.

B. Laham As a Wound

1. If that is the meaning, the second part of the proverb speaks about the DEPTH of the wound.

a. Some wounds are superficial and easily healed. Some wounds are deep and are not easily healed.

b. The wounds that go down into the innermost part of the belly are obviously very deep wounds.

c. Gossip then results in wounds that go deep… long lasting hurt… damaging… painful…

d. This truth is also validated elsewhere in Scripture.

e. Prov. 12:18 – Words can be like the piercing of a sword
• Here the meaning is that words can PIERCE like a sword.
• Being stabbed by a sword leaves deep wounds… so too being stabbed by gossip. It can equally painful.
• And deep wounds don’t heal as easily or as quickly as superficial ones.

2. Thus, BOTH definitions for laham make perfect sense in both parts of this proverb.

a. Solomon is either describing human nature with respect to gossip—how tantalizing and appealing it is to hear; how much people love to gobble it up. There is in each of us an appetite for it.

b. OR Solomon is warning us about the pain that results from gossip.

c. BOTH of those statements are true. Our fallen nature craves gossip… AND it is extremely hurtful.

3. So in light of that, we are warned NOT to tolerate gossip.

a. When we hear gossip, we should consider that in a sense, we ARE our brother’s keeper.
• If someone is gossiping about a brother and slandering his name… we have a responsibility to NOT participate by listening.
• We are to “look not every one on his own, but every man also in the things of others.”
• We should be concerned about the reputation of the one being slandered.

b. I Sam. 24:9 – We should not listen to it.

c. Prov. 25:23 – Sometimes all it takes is an angry look… to drive away the gossiper.
• Express your disapproval facially… and many gossipers will get the message and stop.
• They will sense whether you have an appetite for their juicy story or not.
• If not, they will offer their dainty morsels to another customer…
• It’s not hard to find ears eager to hear gossip…