Proverbs 25:11
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
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(11) A word fitly spoken.—Or, it may be, at the proper time. (Comp. Proverbs 15:23.)

Apples of gold in pictures of silver.—Probably golden-coloured apples are meant, or fruit of the same tint, such as pomegranates, citrons, or oranges. “Pictures” of silver probably means “figures,” i.e., baskets or dishes of ornamental work.

Proverbs 25:11. A word fitly spoken — As to the matter, and season, and other circumstances of it; is like apples of gold in pictures of silver — Which, it seems, were usual in those times, and were grateful to the eye for the beauty and variety both of the colours and figures, the golden apples appearing through the net-work of silver, or being engraven, or portrayed, upon tablets of silver. Some translate the clause, Golden apples in vessels of silver, and think that, by golden apples, citrons or oranges are meant, or some fruit of the like kind and colour, which, put into silver vessels, appear the more beautiful by the contrast of the whiteness of the silver with their golden colour. Bishop Lowth observes, that Solomon in this sentence gives us not only an apt description of the proverb or parable, but also an example of the thing described. He means, in these words, that weighty and hidden meanings are as much commended by a concise and well-turned speech, as apples, exquisite for their colour, appear more lovely and pleasing when they shine through the net-work of a silver basket exquisitely chased: see his twenty-fourth lecture.

25:1-3 God needs not search into any thing; nothing can be hid from him. But it is the honour of rulers to search out matters, to bring to light hidden works of darkness. 4,5. For a prince to suppress vice, and reform his people, is the best way to support his government. 6,7. Religion teaches us humility and self-denial. He who has seen the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus, will feel his own unworthiness. 8-10. To be hasty in beginning strife, will bring into difficulties. War must at length end, and might better be prevented. It is so in private quarrels; do all thou canst to settle the matter. 11,12. A word of counsel, or reproof, rightly spoken, is especially beautiful, as fine fruit becomes still more beautiful in silver baskets. 13. See what ought to be the aim of him that is trusted with any business; to be faithful. A faithful minister, Christ's messenger, should be thus acceptable to us. 14. He who pretends to have received or given that which he never had, is like the morning cloud, that disappoints those who look for rain. 15. Be patient to bear a present hurt. Be mild to speak without passion; for persuasive language is the most effectual to prevail over the hardened mind. 16. God has given us leave to use grateful things, but we are cautioned against excess.Apples of gold - Probably the golden colored fruit set in baskets (i. e., chased vessels of open worked silver); so is a word spoken upon its wheels (i. e., moving quickly and quietly on its way). The proverb may have had its origin in some kingly gift to the son of David, the work of Tyrian artists, like Hiram and his fellows. Others gazed on the cunning work and admired, but the wise king saw in the costly rarity a parable of something higher. "A word well set upon the wheels of speech" excelled it. Ornamentation of this kind in the precious metals was known, even as late as in the middle ages, as oeuvre de Salomon. 11. a word fitly—literally, "quickly," as wheels roll, just in time. The comparison as apples … silver gives a like sense.

apples, &c.—either real apples of golden color, in a silver network basket, or imitations on silver embroidery.

A word fitly spoken, for the matter, and season, and other circumstances of it,

is like apples of gold in pictures of silver, which it seems was usual in those times, and was grateful to the eye for the beauty and variety both of the colours and figures, the golden apples appearing through net-work of silver, or being engraven or portrayed upon tablets of silver.

A word fitly spoken,.... Or, "a word spoken on its wheels" (d): that proceeds aright, keeps due order, is well circumstanced as to matter, method, time, place, and persons; a discourse well put together, properly pronounced, roundly, easily, and fluently delivered to proper persons, and adapted to their circumstances; and "seasonably" spoken, as the Targum and many versions render it:

is like apples of gold in pictures of silver; either like apples made of gold, and so valuable and precious; or as apples, called golden from their colour, as golden pippins, and golden rennets; or oranges, which are sometimes called golden apples: either of these in silver cases and enclosures, as Aben Ezra and Gersom interpret the word, or in a silver cup, as the Syriac version, or in silver lattices, as Maimonides, through which they may be seen, look very pleasant and delightful. The words may design, as some think, silver baskets of network (e); into which golden apples or oranges being put, and placed on a table, look very beautiful; and to such a word fitly spoken is compared. This may be applied to the word of the Gospel, as spoken by Christ, the great Prophet of the church; who has the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to weary souls, Isaiah 50:4; and by his ministers, who publish the Gospel, that faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation: this being the word of salvation, is fitly spoken to all sensible sinners, and must be exceeding agreeable to them; since it is of salvation from all sin, and for the chief of sinners, and entirely of free grace; includes all blessings in it, and is for ever; and since it is a proclamation of pardon of all sorts of sins and sinners, and of all their sins, and according to the riches of grace; and is also the word of reconciliation, and publishes peace to rebels, who could not make their own peace with God; and yet this is done by the blood of Christ, as the Gospel declares: and, seeing it is likewise the word of righteousness, which reveals the righteousness of Christ as justifying, when a man's own righteousness will not acquit him; and invites weary souls to Christ for rest, and therefore must be grateful to all such persons, and be esteemed as valuable as balls or apples of gold; and as pleasant and delightful to see and hear of as those set in silver baskets of network; and be as refreshing and comfortable, and as grateful to the taste, as real apples of the best kind; see Sol 2:2. It may also be applied to the promises of grace, seasonably spoken, and suitably applied by the Spirit of God; who takes the promises which are in Christ, and shows and opens them to souls in distress, at the most proper and seasonable time; and which are exceeding great and precious, yield abundance of pleasure and delight, and are very comfortable. Yea, this may be applied to the words of good men, in private conversation, either by way of counsel, or comfort, or admonition; and to every word that is with grace, and ministers grace to the hearer, and is for the use of edifying, when time, place, persons, and circumstances, are observed. Maimonides (f) thinks the external sense of the word is meant by the silver, and the internal sense by the gold; which latter is seen through, and is much better than the former.

(d) "super rotis suis", Montanus, Piscator, so Kimchi and Ben Melech; "super rotationibus suis". Schultens. (e) "in thecis transparentibus", Montanus; "cancellis", Baynus; "cancellaturis, sive retiaculis", Glassius; "in speciosis calicibus", Cocceius. (f) Praefat. Moreh Nevochim.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
11. fitly] Lit. upon its wheels, i.e. smoothly and without hesitation.

Others render, at its (proper) times, i.e. seasonably, perhaps from the idea of times or seasons “revolving,” or “rolling round.” In tempore suo, Vulg. Comp. Proverbs 15:23.

apples of gold] Either golden-coloured fruit, such as oranges or quinces (χρυσόμηλα, Plin.; aurea mala, Virg. Ecl. iii. 71), or fruit gilded or made of gold, as part of the artistic ornament.

pictures] Rather, baskets of silver network or filigree work, through and in contrast with which the golden fruit was shown to advantage. In lectis argenteis, Vulg. The LXX. has ἐν ὁρμίσκῳ σάρδιου, in a necklace of sardius, evidently regarding the whole ornament, including its apples, or bosses, of gold as the work of the artificer.

The imagery of the proverb accords with the growth of art and luxury in the reign of Solomon, though the Hebrews were familiar from the days of Egypt (Exodus 3:22), and earlier (Genesis 24:22), with ornaments of gold and silver.

“The proverb may well be thought of as having had its origin in some kingly gift to the son of David, the work of Tyrian artists, like Hiram and his fellows. Others, as they gazed on the precious metals and the cunning work, far beyond the skill of their own countrymen, might highly admire, but the wise king saw in the costly rarity a parable of something higher. A word well set upon the wheels of speech excelled it. It is singular that ornamentation of this kind in the precious metals was known even as late as the middle ages, as œuvre de Salomon.” Dean Plumptre, Speaker’s Comm.

Verse 11. - One of the emblematical distiches in which this collection is rich. A word fitly spoken. עַל־אָפְנָיו may be translated "in due season," or "upon its wheels" (Venetian, ἐπὶ τῶν τροχῶν αὐτῆς). In the latter case the phrase may mean a word quickly formed, or moving easily, spoken ore rotundo, or a speedy answer. But the metaphor is unusual and inappropriate; and it is best to understand a word spoken under due consideration of time and place. Vulgate, Qui loquitur verbum in tempore suo; Aquila and Theodotion, ἐπὶ ἁρμόζουσιν αὐτῷ, "in circumstances that suit it;" the Septuagint has simply οὕτως. Is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. In these emblematical distichs the words, "is like," in the Authorized Version, are an insertion. The Hebrew places the two ideas merely in sequence; the object with which some, thing is compared usually coming before, that which is compared with it, as here, "Apples of gold - a word fitly spoken" (so in vers. 14, 18, 19, 26, 28). There is a doubt about the meaning of the word rendered "pictures," maskith (see on Proverbs 18:11). It seems to be used generally in the sense of "image," "sculpture," being derived from the verb שָׁכָה, "to see;" from this it comes to signify "ornament," and here most appropriately is "basket," and, as some understand, of filagree work. St. Jerome mistakes the word, rendering, in lectis argenteis. The Septuagint has, ἐν ὁρμίσκῳ σαρδίου, "on a necklace of sardius." "Apples of gold" are apples or other fruits of a golden colour, not made of gold, which would be very costly and heavy; nor would the comparison with artificial fruits be as suitable as that with natural. The "word" is the fruit set off by its circumstances, as the latter's beauty is enhanced by the grace of the vessel which contains it. The "apple" has been supposed to be the orange (called in late Latin pomum aurantium) or the citron. We may cite here the opinion of a competent traveller: "For my own part," says Canon Tristram ('Land of Israel,' p. 605), "I have no hesitation in expressing my conviction that the apricot alone is the 'apple' of Scripture Everywhere the apricot is common; perhaps it is, with the single exception of the fig, the most abundant fruit of the country. In highlands and lowlands alike, by the shores of the Mediterranean and on the banks of the Jordan, in the nooks of Judea, under the heights of Lebanon, in the recesses of Galilee, and in the glades of Gilead, the apricot flourishes, and yields a crop of prodiscus abundance. Its characteristics meet every condition of the 'tappuach' of Scripture. 'I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste' (Song of Solomon 2:3). Near Damascus, and on the banks of the Barada, we have pitched our tents under its shade, and spread our carpets secure from the rays of the sun. 'The smell of thy nose (shall be) like tappuach' (Song of Solomon 7:8). There can scarcely be a more deliciously perfumed fruit than the apricot; and what fruit can better fit the epithet of Solomon, 'apples of gold in pictures of silver,' than this golden fruit, as its branches bend under the weight in their setting of bright yet pale foliage?" Imagery similar to that found in this verse occurs in Proverbs 10:31; Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20. There is a famous article on the analogies between flowers and men's characters in the Spectator, No. 455. Proverbs 25:11The first emblematical distich of this collection now follows:

11 Golden apples in silver salvers.

     A word spoken according to its circumstances.

The Syr. and Jerome vocalize דּבר דּבר, and the Targ. דּבר דּבר; both are admissible, but the figure and that which is represented are not placed in so appropriate a relation as by דּבר דּבר; the wonderfully penetrating expression of the text, which is rendered by the traditional nikkud, agrees here with the often occurring דּבר ( equals מדבּר), also its passive דּבוּר. The defective writing is like, e.g., בּטח, Psalm 112:7, and gives no authority to prefer דּבּר equals מדבּר (Bttcher). That דּברי, corresponding to the plur. תּפּוּחי, is not used, arises from this, that דבר is here manifestly not a word without connection, but a sentence of motive, contents, and aim united. For על־אפניו, the meaning of בּעתּו presents itself from Proverbs 15:23, according to which, among the old interpreters, Symmachus, Jerome, and Luther render "at its time." Abulwald compared the Arab. âiffan (âibban, also 'iffan, whence 'aly 'iffanihi, justo tempore), which, as Orelli has shown in his Synon. der Zeitbegriffe, p. 21f., comes from the roots af ab, to drive (from within) going out, time as consisting of individual moments, the one of which drives on the other, and thus denotes time as a course of succession. One may not hesitate as to the prep. על, for אפנים would, like עתּות, denote the circumstances, the relations of the time, and על would, as e.g., in על־פּי and על־דּברתי, have the meaning of κατά. But the form אפניו, which like חפניו, Leviticus 16:12, sounds dualistic, appears to oppose this. Hitzig supposes that אפנים may designate the time as a circle, with reference to the two arches projecting in opposite directions, but uniting themselves together; but the circle which time describes runs out from one point, and, moreover, the Arab. names for time âfaf, âifaf, and the like, which interchange with âiffan, show that this does not proceed from the idea of circular motion. Ewald and others take for אפניו the meaning of wheels (the Venet., after Kimchi, ἐπὶ τῶν τροχῶν αὐτῆς), whereby the form is to be interpreted as dual of אפן equals אופן, "a word driven on its wheels," - so Ewald explains: as the potter quickly and neatly forms a vessel on his wheels, thus a fit and quickly framed word. But דבר signifies to drive cattle and to speak equals to cause words to follow one another (cf. Arab. syâḳ, pressing on equals flow of words), but not to drive equals to fashion in that artisan sense. Otherwise Bttcher, "a word fitly spoken, a pair of wheels perfect in their motion," to which he compares the common people "in their jesting," and adduces all kinds of heterogeneous things partly already rejected by Orelli (e.g., the Homeric ἐπιτροχάδην, which is certainly no commendation). But "jesting" is not appropriate here; for what man conceives of human speech as a carriage, one only sometimes compares that of a babbler to a sledge, or says of him that he shoves the cart into the mud.

(Note: It is something different when the weaver's beam, minwâl in Arab., is metaph. for kind and manner: they are 'aly minwâl wâḥad, is equivalent to they are of a like calibre, Arab. kalib, which is derived from καλόπους (καλοπόδιον), a shoemaker's last.)

Is it then thus decided that אפניו is a dual? It may be also like אשׂריו, the plur. especially in the adverbial expression before us, which readily carried the abbreviation with it (vid., Gesen. Lehrgebr. 134, Anm. 17). On this supposition, Orelli interprets אפן from אפן, to turn, in the sense of turning about, circumstances, and reminds of this, that in the post-bibl. Heb. this word is used as indefinitely as τρόπος, e.g., באופן מה, quodammodo (vid., Reland's Analecta Rabbinica, 1723, p. 126). This late Talm. usage of the word can, indeed, signify nothing as to the bibl. word; but that אפנים, abbreviated אפנים, can mean circumstances, is warranted by the synon. אודות. Aquila and Theodotion appear to have thus understood it, for their ἐπὶ ἁρμόζουσιν αὐτῷ, which they substitute for the colourless οὕτως of the lxx, signifies: under the circumstances, in accordance therewith. So Orelli thus rightly defines: "אפנים denote the âḥwâl, circumstances and conditions, as they form themselves in each turning of time, and those which are ascribed to דבר by the suffix are those to which it is proper, and to which it fits in. Consequently a word is commended which is spoken whenever the precise time arrives to which it is adapted, a word which is thus spoken at its time as well as at its place (van Dyk, fay mahllah), and the grace of which is thereby heightened." Aben Ezra's explanation, על פנים הראויים, in the approved way, follows the opinion of Abulwald and Parchon, that אפניו is equivalent to פניו (cf. aly wajhihi, sua ratione), which is only so far true, that both words are derived from R. פן, to turn. In the figure, it is questionable whether by תּפּוּחי זהב, apples of gold, or gold-coloured apples, are meant (Luther: as pomegranates and citrons); thus oranges are meant, as at Zechariah 4:12. הזּהב denotes golden oil. Since כסף, besides, signifies a metallic substance, one appears to be under the necessity of thinking of apples of gold; cf. the brazen pomegranates. But (1) apples of gold of natural size and massiveness are obviously too great to make it probable that such artistic productions are meant; (2) the material of the emblem is usually not of less value than that of which it is the emblem (Fleischer); (3) the Scriptures are fond of comparing words with flowers and fruits, Proverbs 10:31; Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20, and to the essence of the word which is rooted in the spirit, and buds and grows up to maturity through the mouth and the lips, the comparison with natural fruits corresponds better in any case than with artificial. Thus, then, we interpret "golden apples" as the poetic name for oranges, aurea mala, the Indian name of which with reference to or (gold) was changed into the French name orange, as our pomeranze is equivalent to pomum aurantium. משׂכּיּות is the plur. of משׂכּית, already explained, Proverbs 18:11; the word is connected neither with שׂכך, to twist, wreathe (Ewald, with most Jewish interpreters)

(Note: On this proceeds also the beautiful interpretation by Maimuni in the preface to More Nebuchim: Maskiyyth sont des ciselures rticulaires, etc., according to Munk's translation from the Arab. text, vid., Kohut's Pers. Pentateuch-Uebers. (1871), p. 356. Accordingly Jewish interpreters (e.g., Elia Wilna) understand under אפניו the four kinds of writing: פשׁט, רמז, דרושׁ, and סוד, which are comprehended under the memorial word פרדס.)

nor with שׂכה, to pierce, infigere (Redslob, vid., under Psalm 73:7); it signifies medal or ornament, from שׂכה, to behold (cf. שׂכיּה, θέα equals θέαμα, Isaiah 2:6), here a vessel which is a delight to the eyes. In general the Venet. rightly, ἐν μορφώμασιν ἀργύρου; Symmachus and Theodotion, more in accordance with the fundamental idea, ἐν περιβλέπτοις ἀργύρου; the Syr. and Targ. specially: in vessels of embossed work (נגוּדי, from נגד, to draw, to extend); yet more specially the lxx, ἐν ὁρμίσκῳ σαρδίου, on a chain of cornelian stone, for which, perhaps, ἐν φορμίσκῳ (Jger) ἀργυρίου, in a little silver basket, is the original phrase. Aquila, after Bereschith rabba c. 93, translates by μῆλα χρύσου ἐν δίσκοις ἀργυφίου. Jerome: in lectis argenteis, appears to have fallen into the error of taking משב for משכב, lectus. Hitzig here emends a self-made ἅπαξ λεγ. Luther's "golden apples in silver baskets" is to be preferred.

(Note: A favourite expression of Goethe's, vid., Bchmann's Geflgelte Worte, 1688.)

A piece of sculpture which represents fruit by golden little disks or points within groups of leaves is not meant - for the proverb does not speak of such pretty little apples - but golden oranges are meant. A word in accordance with the circumstances which occasion it, is like golden oranges which are handed round in silver salvers or on silver waiters. Such a word is, as adopting another figure we might say, like a well-executed picture, and the situation into which it appropriately fits is like its elegant frame. The comparison with fruit is, however, more significant; it designates the right word as a delightful gift, in a way which heightens its impression and its influences.

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