He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.
Some men are crafty and cause real harm. Some men run their mouths, do little harm, and are fools. Compare these two kinds of men to dogs. A dog’s bark is often worse than his bite. Barking dogs seldom bite. Beware of a silent dog. Timid dogs may bark the most. The proverb presents two wicked characters, and they are contrasted by the damage they do to others or to themselves. Which of these two men is the most dangerous?
Wisdom is the power of right judgment – the ability to discern a person or situation and do what is most effective and prudent. Solomon used this proverb to warn about the subtle and crafty kind of man, for he can cause pain and trouble in the lives of others. The man with lots of blustery talk is usually not nearly as dangerous, and he will self-destruct by the folly of his own mouth. Learn wisdom to protect yourself from the greater danger.
The proverb has two clauses, contrasted by the disjunctive “but.” The first clause describes a wicked man, for Solomon warned about him (Pr 6:12-15; Ps 35:19). The second clause describes a foolish man (Pr 10:8; 18:6-7; III Jn 1:10). The disjunctive conjunction, rather than a coordinating “and,” requires an adversative contrast. Both men are wicked, and both will be judged, but one is more dangerous than the other.
A man who winks with his eyes is dangerous, for he is subtle, secretive, seductive, and subversive. He is the silent dog – biting without warning. You need to avoid this wicked snake, so God gave warning of the greater danger. Beware of hypocrites, who cover evil intentions by good words and fair speeches (Pr 26:24-26; Rom 16:17-18). These liars may call their mischief a joke, but they are dangerous and to be rejected (Pr 26:18-19).
This crafty person may stay hidden. He may not get caught until the Day of Judgment. Foolish men may never recognize the danger, but wise men will learn to identify and avoid him. When a man seldom speaks directly, but relies rather on insinuations and manipulative maneuvers, you need to watch your back. He cannot be trusted, for honest men never behave this way. You have met a dog that would rather bite than bark.
A prating fool is a big-mouthed and long-winded idiot, for prating is babbling and chattering to no real purpose. He can do little harm. He is mostly or all bark. His bite is less than the noise he creates. He gives himself away in mere minutes of meeting him. He is more bluster than bite. He is going down even while he is talking, because others can easily recognize that he is a foolish braggart and harmless boaster. He falls in his own noose every time he opens his mouth (Pr 10:14; 13:3; 14:3; Eccl 5:3; 10:3,12-13).
Do not trust those who are outwardly friendly with aggressive gestures, body language, facial expressions, or flattering speech but show little depth or substance in sober conversation and lack zealous godly conduct (Pr 6:13; 7:10-21; 10:18; 23:6-8; 26:23-26; 27:6; 29:5). They are usually dangerous, for their heart is not with you. If you learn to identify and avoid these dangerous deceivers, you will save yourself from trouble.