Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.- Proverbs 18:21
Meaning of Proverbs 18:21
The verse ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’ means a person must be careful of what he or she speaks. King Solomon speaks words of wisdom in the book of Proverbs, especially Chapter 18 is known to have a piece of practical advice for a person. The verse Proverbs 18:21 is especially trying to tell the readers that their words are powerful and can affect them as well as the person they are aiming they are aiming at. Hence king Solomon wanted the readers to make sure whatever this speak must be encouraging.
Interpretations of Proverbs 18:21
The verse proverbs 1821 is often misinterpreted by readers as well as Bible scholars. The following are a few interpretations of the same.
Interpretation #1 Words can kill another person
In this interpretation, the reader assumes that the phrase ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ gives him or her the power to truly kill listeners or physically harm them by using words with that intent. While Christianity is against witchcraft, the reader who believes in this verse is likely to follow that path. Hence, they may just continue to wish that their enemy may simply suffer death. On the other hand, the believer of Christ will use this verse to encourage the person to live through his or her words. They might also believe that a person can heal them from sickness or bring them back to life, similar to Jesus during His ministry.
Interpretation #2 Speech can manifest riches
Here the reader believes that the second part of the verse, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’ can allow them to manifest money, needs, and even income without having to work for it. The same principle is also taught by a few churches, known as the prosperity gospel, to encourage the listeners to bring positive change in his or her life. It is also taught that through speaking and prayer, a person can become rich and successful. Hence, in this interpretation, the readers speak their wishes, sometimes repeatedly, to see their desires come true.
Interpretation #3 A person must love death the same as life
In the following interpretation, the reader believes in the phrase, ‘and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’ the word ‘it’ refers to both life and death. Hence, if he or she loves or appreciates life, they can live a positive and fulfilling life. However, a person must also appreciate death, just as he or she appreciates life. Thus, avoiding fear of old age or taking risks. Also, the reader believes that if a person loves death as much as he or she loves life, they may become less greedy and more generous in their community.
Interpretation #4 Christians must understand the power of speech
Here the verse ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’ is interpreted as a warning as well as an instruction to watch their words carefully. A sensitive person may be more susceptible to harm themselves if the speaker does not word their intentions in a gentle and non-condescending way. The churches also teach the verse to encourage the congregation to stay positive and uplift one another while encouraging them to live healthy lives. This applies to both physical and mental well-being. Additionally, the proverb is also similar to an English saying, ‘those who live by the sword will die by the sword’, which encourages the listeners or readers to be peacemakers.
Historical background of Proverbs 18:21
King Solomon is known as the wisest king in the world according to the historical account of 1 and 2 Kings in the Old Testament. The Book of Proverbs validates his wisdom and knowledge that is applicable in any era. The chapters by King Solomon might have been written between 1015 and 975 B.C. and found 200 years later. The current verse from Chapter 18 is one of the 24 verses that talks about the importance of careful speech and having faith in their words, leading to a positive life.
Literary Devices of Proverbs 18:21
The verse Proverbs 18:21, spoken by King Solomon, has some noteworthy literary devices. The following is the analysis of literary devices in verse.
Alliteration – The verse has particularly one consonant sounds repeated throughout the verse in the beginning of the words and once in quick succession. For example, the sound of /th/ in ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’.
Consonance – The verse also has repeated consonant sounds without quick successions. For example, the sound of /r/, the sound of /t/, and the sound of /l/ in ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’.
Assonance – The vowel sounds used in verse is repeated without quick succession. For example, the sound of /uh/ and the sound of /a/ in ‘the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof’.
Theme – The major themes of Proverbs 18:21 are life, understanding, and peace.
Parallelism – The verse is also an example of parallelism as it has similar words repeated in Proverbs 13:3 ‘He who guards his mouth protects his life, but the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.’