By Irvin Himmel
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Prov. 25:11).
Words are vehicles which carry thoughts. The appropriate word must be chosen if the thought is to be conveyed with accuracy, and the manner in which the word is spoken helps the vehicle to transport its cargo without loss.
Please take a moment to consider the following points relative to “fitly spoken” words.
1. Timely advice. Suggestions and recommendations are sometimes excellent, but if the timing is off the counsel misses its mark. There is an art to one’s saying the right thing at the right time. A word of advice that is timely is suitably spoken.
2. Carefully thought out. In the use of words, quality is more important than quantity. The words which fall from the lips of the superficial talker are seldom fitly spoken. He thinks too little who talks too much. The person who desires to make his remarks suitable and worthy of hearing must learn to think with care before speaking.
3. Appreciated. A word fitly spoken is esteemed or valued by the hearer. To be appreciated, a word must be comprehended. Some preachers miss the mark by using the words which their hearers do not understand. Big words baffle; simple language sheds light.
4. Adapted to the occasion. There are times when the most fitting word is in the form of praise or encouragement. Like high-octane gasoline, encouragement helps to eliminate knocking. The appropriate word on another occasion may be an expression of sympathy. The individual who is despondent or discouraged may be assisted by a remark that shows understanding and compassion. Or, on a different occasion the proper word may be in the form of rebuke. Happy is the person who gauges his statements so that they will befit the circumstances.
5. Tactfully stated. The real art of conversation is not only saying the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. Some people use precious little discretion in their remarks. How a thing is said may determine its results to as great an extent as what is said. Paul wrote about “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and that bears on the manner of speaking as well as what is spoken. If you wish your words to be “fitly spoken,” learn to be tactful in conversation.
Apples of Gold
The word “fitly spoken” is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. ” “Apples of gold” probably means gold-colored fruit, like an orange or apricot” (Kufeldt). It is by no means certain that the fruit which we call 66apples” grew in Palestine in Bible times. Some think the “apples” of Scriptures were the citron, or quince, or perhaps the apricot. Delitzsch interprets “gold apples” as the poetic name for oranges. Whatever the specific fruit might be, the comparison is easy enough to understand and the point of the proverb is clear.
Pictures of Silver
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” (NASB).
What are “pictures of silver”? “Carved work adorning the ceilings of rooms is perhaps alluded to” (Pulpit Commentary). Others think the picturesque, ornamented silver basket, laden with golden yellow fruit, is referred to. The latter seems to fully explain the thought of the proverb.
The “contrast of the golden fruit in the exquisitely wrought silver basket, which may be all termed picture work, has a fine and pleasing effect upon the eye, as the contained fruit has upon the palate at an entertainment in a sultry climate. So the word spoken judiciously and opportunely is as much in its place, as the golden apples in the silver baskets” (A. Clarke).
Two points stand out in the comparison. A word fitly spoken is like golden fruit served in settings of silver because such is (1) beautiful, and (2) refreshing.
Appropriate, welcome words are as beautiful as golden fruit against a background of silver. Such words, “like a well executed picture,” are as lovely as an “elegant frame” made for the picture (Delitzsch).
And how refreshing is the appearance of golden fruit in a silver basket! Many times a bowl of fresh fruit is placed on a table to add a wholesome atmosphere to the dining area. Wholesome, appropriate words are likewise refreshing. Often the words that we hear are ill-suited, poorly chosen, and ugly sounding, A word that befits the circumstances and conveys an appropriate thought is invigorating. We welcome those words which are spoken in season.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 9, p. 275
May 7, 1992