Proverbs 12:6

The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood: but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them.

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Wicked men use words to slander and snare their victims. They want to destroy the helpless, the oppressed, or the righteous. They conspire to steal their assets; they pursue them to death (Pr 1:11-19). But upright men use their mouths to deliver the helpless, the oppressed, and the righteous from trouble. They only want to speak the truth and help.

You cannot trust the words of wicked men. They speak to confuse, to entice, to slander, or to trap. Their goals are to injure, steal, or kill. Since the object of their envy, greed, or malice is not their own blood, it must be understood as the blood of the helpless, the oppressed, or the righteous. It is these persecuted ones that the upright man saves.

Good men always speak the truth, and it is their desire to help any man in trouble. King Lemuel’s mother exhorted him to use his mouth to deliver the poor, the needy, and any unjustly appointed to death (Pr 31:8-9). As king, he would have a golden opportunity to righteously judge the cases of those who were being pursued by deceitful murderers.

Consider the pronoun “them” in this proverb. What is the plural antecedent? Who are those the upright man delivers? It cannot be the wicked, because that would be confusion. It cannot be the words of the wicked, because they cannot be delivered. It cannot be the upright, because that sacrifices the proverb’s parallelism, and it also is singular. It must be the victims of the wicked, understood elliptically from the first clause.

The wicked Haman flattered and deceived King Ahasuerus of the Persian Empire to pass a law for the extermination of the Jews. His words were to lie in wait for blood, not only for his enemy Mordecai, but for all of Mordecai’s people as well. However, it was the mouth of Queen Esther that delivered both Mordecai and his people from the decree.

Jesus Christ once ate at the house of Simon the Pharisee, who despised a sinful woman that came to beg for mercy (Luke 7:36-39). But the Lord Jesus, the most upright Man ever, used His mouth to condemn Simon and deliver the woman (Luke 7:40-50). He did a very similar thing with the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees (John 8:1-11).

God despises men who use words to harm others (Pr 26:24-26). Death and life are in the power of the tongue, so be careful how you use it (Pr 18:21). The tongue is an unruly evil that must be guarded and ruled (Jas 3:1-12). The Lord considers unjustified name-calling to violate the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” (Matt 5:21-26). He ground to powder a generation of Jews that used words to snare His Son (Matt 21:44; Luke 20:20).

Avoid angry and deceitful men (Pr 22:24-25; 23:6-8). Look out for arrogance, backbiting, deceit, flattery, railing, scorn, sedition, or talebearing. Drive away such wicked tongues (Pr 25:23). Always use your words to help those in trouble, because the holy and just God will reward or punish you accordingly (Pr 24:11-12; 31:8-9; Eph 4:29). Is there a helpless, oppressed, or righteous person you could deliver today with your mouth? Do it.