Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence
or stand in the place of the great,
for it is better to be told, “Come up here”,
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
What your eyes have seen
do not hastily bring into court,
for what will you do in the end,
when your neighbour puts you to shame?
Argue your case with your neighbour himself,
and do not reveal another's secret,
lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,
and your ill repute have no end.
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
In 6 and 7 we have the social climber once again (cf 23:1ff and Note). Jesus uses the saying in 7 in Luke 14:7-11, and Paul has the same kind of thought in Romans 12:3; which JB Phillips translates 'Don't cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance'. The RSV takes 7c with 8, 'What your eyes have seen do not bring hastily into court'. The meaning is that we do not always know all the facts of a situation and therefore are seldom able to judge correctly. We may live to regret our hasty drawing of conclusions about the particular piece of hearsay we have passed on! The best advice is in 9 - Go to the fountain head. It is so difficult to get the real facts second hand, or to interpret them properly. Also, as Kidner penetratingly points out one's motives in spreading a story are seldom as pure as one pretends. One is reminded of Alexander Whyte's dictum: 'Is it true? Is it kind to repeat it? Is it necessary to repeat it?' To become known as someone who has a tendency to gossip and not trustworthy with confidences given, is an awful blight and indictment! The theme in 11 and 12 is apt words (cf 24:26). Kidner refers 11a back to 9, the direct approach. This is salutary. So often the man who 'speaks his mind' is like a bull in a china shop for sensitivity. Right words spoken at the proper time - this seems to be the meaning of the metaphor a kind of 'still-life' picture which can sometimes be extraordinarily eloquent and living. The metaphor continues in 12, and suggests that reproof, far from harming its recipient, will actually adorn him, when it is rightly received. In 13 our modern equivalent would be something like iced drinks on a hot afternoon in the cornfield. We should note particularly what is being said here, however: it is not those to whom the faithful messenger is sent, but those who send him, who are refreshed and blest. When this is applied spiritually, it underlines an important lesson. Faithfulness in gospel work is a refreshment of spirit to God. The Pauline phrase, 'a sweet-smelling savour to God' is the New Testament equivalent.