Proverbs 25:18 “A man that beareth false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.”
The context, here seems to indicate that this false witness is slandering a person in a court of law which results in their punishment unjustly. King Solomon saw this happen probably on more than one occasion as King of Israel. 1 Kings 3:16-28 vividly illustrates this proverb with the account of the two harlots and their sons and how Solomon determined the true mother of the living son and the mother of the son that had died. King Solomon saved the true mother from greater suffering through his wisdom.
A person that tells lies about another is a slanderer. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “slander” as:
To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.
A slanderer is likened to three instruments of destruction in this proverb, a maul, a sword, and a sharp arrow.
The maul refers to a war club. It was a tool for scattering and breaking down. This Hebrew word for Maul is only used once in the Bible and comes from another Hebrew word that means “to scatter.” Therefore, a slanderer is like a heavy club delivering jolting, crushing blows to one’s character and reputation that shatters it in pieces.
Secondly, the slander is likened unto a sword. A sharp weapon designed to cut, pierce, and kill.
Thirdly, a slander is likened to a sharp arrow. This speaks of a whetted arrow or an arrow carefully sharpened. This arrow is designed to pierce through its target with ease.
So in other words, slandering someone is figuratively wounding or killing them; slander delivers irreparable damage. Slander crushes. Slander divides with precision. Slander pierces through a person’s reputation. The slanderer or false witness is well aware that what he says defames another’s character and causes suffering.
We can learn several things from this verse.
- Lying words motivated by hate are words of death.The opposite also holds true.
- Words are powerful, words can destroy. Therefore we need to be careful what we think and say. The little saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a flat out lie. Since God created the entire universe with just words, words are very powerful. Words influence and form the opinions of others. Words are the basic language in which everyone thinks. Just as blood is the life of the body, so good words are the blood and energy of life. Inversely, just as poisoned blood can kill the life of the body so can poisoned words kill the life of a person’s soul, that is their mind, will, and emotions (1 Thes. 5:23).
- Words of truth spoken in love are words of life which promote life and spiritual growth. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” The truth spoken in love is what needs to be on our minds, and it is these words that ought to proceed out of our mouths (Eph. 4:29).
While we may never lie about someone in a court of law, are we careful with our words, whether it be spoken, written, or posted on social media? Words are an outflow of what’s in our hearts, so let’s keep our heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). Let’s never defame another’s character, but let’s always strive to use our words to build another up. Let’s then ask ourselves, “How is the building process going? Am I at a standstill? Have I forgotten about the power of words?” Also, let’s be careful that we do not complain, otherwise we are that maul, sword, and sharp arrow to God’s character and His goodness to us. Let’s instead be in stark contrast to a false witness, and be a true witness of the one true God as David was. Let’s catch the spark of his love for God in Psalm 71:15, “My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.” Let’s be in awe of who He is and the rest will follow as we seek Him first (Mat. 6:33). Remember your words are powerful, so use them for good for the glory of God (Rev. 4:11)