A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
How beautiful is your speech? Would hearers compare it to a beautiful painting or sculpture? King Solomon praised good speech in this proverb by comparing it to an exquisite scene. In your city are many paintings or sculptures of fruit in bowls and other settings, and apples are commonly used. Fine homes are decorated with such lovely art.
Here is a simple simile, a figure of speech of comparison. It is identified by the word “like.” Apples, gold, pictures, and silver are not the real subject matter of the proverb. They only have comparative value taken together as a beautiful setting. Proper speech is praised and recommended by comparing and likening it to their combined beauty.
What are pictures, especially before photography? Since the other uses do not define the word (Num 33:52; Is 2:16), you should find a dictionary summary of this English word.
Picture. A painting, drawing, sculpture, statute or other symbolic representation of some thing as a work of art.
Can you visualize apples of gold in a painting or sculpture of silver? As in a silver basket or bowl? What a beautiful combination of color and images! So are words well spoken!
As the next verse shows, Solomon again used a simile to praise and encourage good speech (Pr 25:12), though there he used “as” to show the simile. Still using gold, he compared it to fine jewelry. You should easily get the lesson of learning good speech.
Right words used the right way at the right time are wonderful. The person speaking them deserves a kiss on the lips (Pr 24:26). Such proper words are wonderful (Pr 15:23,26; 16:13,24; 22:11; Eccl 12:10; Col 4:6). Will you start today to beautify your speech?
Some have foolishly dreamed this proverb proves an important rule of hermeneutics, or Bible interpretation – single words are more important than their context. They imagine a single word is like gold and its context like silver, and since gold is worth more than silver, then a single word is more important than its context. Incredible! Such wisdom is too high for us (Ps 131:1), since the Holy Spirit has no hermeneutics here, and especially a rule that is entirely contradictory to understanding a passage of scripture. Lord, help us.
Furthermore, a single word is not the point or lesson of the proverb. Paul said much more than one word when giving a word of exhortation (Acts 13:15). And he called Hebrews a word when closing out that lengthy epistle (Heb 13:22)? Solomon and you use the word “word” this way, as something said, quite often (Pr 12:25; 13:13; 14:15; 15:23; Eccl 8:4).
How did Jesus Christ speak? Most beautifully! The synagogue at Nazareth could not believe it (Luke 4:22); Mary could not get enough of it (Luke 10:39); His enemies praised it (Jn 7:46); His beautiful tongue and choice of words had been foretold long before (Is 50:4). Delight in His words as recorded in the Bible, and copy them as well.