The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.
Anger is good when someone criticizes a person not present. Get indignant! Tell the person to stop running others down. Tell the person to take up their attack with the party directly. Tell them, if they cannot say something good, then not to say anything at all.
Backbiting is detracting, slandering, or speaking ill about a person not present. God hates it, and He condemns it in several places (Ps 15:3; Rom 1:30; II Cor 12:20). It is often described by the similar sins of slandering, talebearing, and whispering (Pr 6:19; 10:18; 11:13; 16:28; 17:9; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20-22; Lev 19:16; Ps 50:20; Rom 1:29; II Cor 12:20).
Foolish or wicked men criticize others when they are not present to flatter themselves. If they can destroy the character of others, they think it makes them look better and reduces their competition, though only in their wicked minds. You should make strong efforts to protect and defend any persons not present, just as you hope others would protect you.
What is backbiting? It is telling things about a person behind their back that hurts their reputation. Backbiting is not justified if the disclosed facts are true, for truth can also hurt a reputation, which is the essence of the crime. Failures in the past should remain buried unless it is absolutely necessary to reveal them (Pr 10:12; 16:28; 17:9). You should protect and enhance every man’s reputation as far as you possibly can. God bless you.
Righteous men will not allow backbiting in their presence. They hate sin in themselves, and they hate it in others. They must correct wrongdoing, and they want to protect the character of all men. If they hear backbiting, they will end it with an angry look of disapproval, for it is a duty of godly men to warn the unruly (I Thess 5:14). If the guilty party is under their authority, they will correct it or cast the offender out (Ps 101:4-6).
Not all accusations or relating of facts about others is backbiting. Informing authorities for the sake of truth, exposing dangerous individuals, protecting the innocent, helping an offender, righteously recording history, prudent illustrative examples, or witnessing in court are justified actions of reporting the faults of others (Lev 5:1; Deut 13:12-18; Matt 18:16; Acts 15:36-41; I Cor 1:11; Gal 2:11; I Tim 1:20; II Tim 4:10,14; III John 1:9).
Solomon knew about weather (Eccl 1:5-7), and he knew wind out of the north drove away rain in Israel. Elihu wrote in the book of Job, “Fair weather cometh out of the north” (Job 37:22). These two witnesses make our faith. For Palestine, the north wind was cool and fair, the south wind warm, the west moist, and the east dry.
Most commentators violently pervert these words of God, much like the serpent in Eden, by making the first clause read: “The north wind brings forth rain.” But even a child can know they are wrong, by a simple comparison with the parallelism of the second clause. Does an angry countenance bring forth backbiting, or drive it away? Let God be true!
For entertainment, consider the NIV, “As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks.” What about the NASB? “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.” How about the name-stealing New King James? “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.” If a backbiting tongue causes an angry countenance, what is the lesson? Let God be true!
Poor John Darby was the most confused, even before he got to speculating about Bible prophecy. He guessed at the translation of Proverbs 25:23, “The north wind bringeth forth rain, and the angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” How in the world does an angry countenance cause backbiting? Let God be true! God demolished the arrogance of these textual critics by manifesting their folly to all men (I Cor 1:19-20; 3:19-20).
If wise men and righteous men fulfilled the rule of this proverb, there would be less detracting and slandering of reputations. Good men would have spotless names, and evil men would be exposed as their obvious inferiors. Every conscientious reader will make sure that he has a preserving effect in this world by shutting down backbiting tongues.