A misunderstood Bible verse can cause a life of unnecessary confusion and suffering. The Bible teaches us who we are and who God is. Errors in understanding will have serious consequences.
When you don’t understand a Bible verse, do you skip over it or do you stop and search for a way to better understand it? A wise person will prioritize gaining understanding (Proverbs 3:13). Difficult passages of the Bible make sense when you make the effort to understand them.
The words of the mouth are deep waters,NIV (Proverbs 18:4)
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.
What is this verse saying? Words coming from a person are deep? But, wisdom is simple (shallow?) like a rushing stream? This translation is confusing to me. To me, it seems to be saying that a person’s thoughts are complicated but God’s truth is simple. While there is some truth to this, that’s not the full meaning behind this verse.
As a new Christian I read the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. I like it because it translates many of the difficult passages into more understandable English. But, for Proverbs 18:4, the NIV leaves me scratching my head.
Last week I talked about how using multiple versions of the Bible can help you find a more accurate meaning (see Are You Interpreting the Bible Correctly?). Let’s see how that helps.
Since I became a Christian nearly 30 years ago, many new translations have been developed. This is good news because any one translation has its biases. In considering Proverbs 18:4, the NIV seems to lean more towards a word-for-word translation (like the ESV). It stays closer to the original wording, but lacks readability.
Words of wisdomCEV (Proverbs 18:4)
are a stream
from a deep fountain.
A person’s words can be a source of wisdom, deep as the ocean, fresh as a flowing stream.GNT (Proverbs 18:4)
The CEV, GNT, and other translations omit the “but” and instead find harmony within the verse. The deep fountain and bubbling brook are one and the same. These translations clearly present a positive meaning. Words of wisdom come from a deep place, but they can be expressed in understandable and meaningful ways.
Words of wisdom are like a fresh, flowing brook—TPT (Proverbs 18:4)
like deep waters that spring forth from within,
bubbling up inside the one with understanding.
The TPT adds the idea of wisdom coming from “the one with understanding.”
A wise man’s words express deep streams of thought.TLB (Proverbs 18:4)
A wise person can find ways to express his deep thoughts in ways that others can understand. I summarize verse 4 as: a wise man’s words gush from a heart of understanding (see the Pulpit Commentary verse 4).
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who obtains understanding.Proverbs 3:13 (God’s Word Translation)
From here we might go on to ask, how does a person find wisdom and obtain understanding? Until next week, consider what is wisdom? How do you know you have understanding? What are the fruits of understanding something?