Put Away Your Crooked Mouth (Proverbs 4:24)


WTT Proverbs 4:24 הָסֵ֣ר מִ֭מְּךָ עִקְּשׁ֣וּת פֶּ֑ה וּלְז֥וּת שְׂ֜פָתַ֗יִם הַרְחֵ֥ק מִמֶּֽךָּ׃
APB Proverbs 4:24 Put away from you a crooked mouth And put devious lips far from you.

crooked. This word occurs only here and in Prov. 6:12. Its cognates (מַעֲקָשׁ עקשׁ) consistently describe what is not straight (Mic. 3:9). It is the opposite of blameless (Job 9:20 tam; Prov. 11:20 tamim). Those whose paths are crooked do not know the way of peace and there is not justice in their paths (Isa. 59:8). To put away a crooked heart is to have nothing to do with evil (Psa. 101:4). It is the worthless (beliya‘al) and wicked (’aven) man who walks with a crooked mouth. Lady Wisdom declares that all her words are righteous (tsedeq); none of them are crooked or perverse. To put away a crooked mouth is to walk in integrity (Prov. 19:1; 28:6; 28:18).

How do you put away a crooked mouth? By refusing crooked thoughts. By leaving the company of those who are crooked. By choosing blameless companions. By choosing wisdom’s righteous words. By letting your yes be yes and your no, no. By having integrity in all you say.

Yahweh, you want me to avoid and refuse to have a crooked mouth. You want this for my good, the good of others, and the glory of your name. As your image bearer, a crooked mouth would misrepresent you. I ask for your help to identify and refuse crooked thoughts, words, and deed, by focusing on what is straight, right, and blameless.

devious lips. Lezut ‘devious’ occurs only here in the OT. Its cognate, לוּז, is found in the niphal stem four times (Prov. 2:15; 3:32; 14:2; Isa. 30:12). It describes the ways of evil men who speak perverse (tahpukot) things (Prov. 2:12), abandon upright (yosher) paths for ways of darkness (Prov. 2:13), and who delight in doing evil and in its perversity (Prov. 2:14). It parallels crooked ways (Prov. 2:15), violence (Prov. 3:31-32), and oppression (Isa. 30:12). If the entire litany of prohibitions in Prov. 3:27-31 is concluded by the kiy in 3:32, then all the negatives proscribed there count as deviousness: withholding good that is due (3:27-28), devising harm against a neighbor (3:29), causelessly quarrelling or sueing someone (3:30).

It contrasts with uprightness (yashar; Prov. 2:13-15; 3:32; 14:2) and the fear of Yahweh (14:2). He who chooses not to fear Yahweh and thus to walk in uprightness despises Yahweh and walks in crooked paths. Isaiah describes those who tell the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, Speak to us pleasant words, Prophesy illusions.  Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 30:10-11). Such people put their trust in oppression and deviousness (naloz; Isa. 30:12).

“By turning against God, one goes the wrong way, despising him and his path (Prov 14:2; Isa 30:12). Such a person is abominable to God (Prov 3:32) and faces … ruin (Isa 30:12)” (NIDOTTE).

Kidner, 65: “After the thoughts [cf. Pro. 4:23] come the words (cf. Luke 6:45c; Rom. 10:10); yet it is not enough to take care of the first and let the second take care of themselves. Superficial habits of talk react on the mind; so that, e.g., cynical chatter, fashionable grumbles, flippancy, half-truths, barely meant in the first place, harden into well-established habits of thought.”

Yahweh, you abominate deviousness. Here you tell me to put away devious lips, i.e., speech. Since speech always proceeds from the heart, this connects directly to the preceeding verse (4:23). I must guard my heart from crooked and devious thoughts, plans, and perspectives. I do this by fearing You and choosing to set my mind on uprightness and speek words that are motivated by love for you and others.

APB Psalm 141:3 Set a guard, O Yahweh, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, …

Philip Brown
Philip Brownhttp://apbrown2.net
Dr. Philip Brown is Graduate Program Director and Professor at God's Bible School & College. He holds a PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Academic, 2008).