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What does "a word fitly spoken is like an apple of gold in a picture of silver" (Proverbs 25:11) mean?

I know that an apple is a fruit but the apple of gold in a picture of silver part I can't understand.

14 Answers 14

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The parallelism is clearer in the original than in the translation you quoted. A literal, wooden translation would be something like this:

Apples of gold in carvings of silver - A word spoken in its circumstances

Word is parallel to apples of gold, while the [appropriate] circumstances is parallel to the carvings of silver.

Waltke in NICOT comments:

“A word is commended which is spoken whenever the precise time arrives to which it is adapted, a word which is thus spoken at its time as well as at its place, and the grace of which is thereby heightened.” The shape of the apple and perhaps the lovely fragrance associated with it refer to the loveliness of a proper decision, and the gold, to its great value. However, like a gold ring in a swine’s snout, its beauty and value can be undone without the proper setting. Handing down the carefully crafted decision that in every way is proper to the circumstances of its composition and delivery (i.e., at the right time and in the right way) enhances its aesthetic impression and its moral influence. The proverb has broader application to any fitly spoken word or deed.

The word translated circumstances is אפן, a hapax legomena (a term only occurring once). This word is apparently related to the word for wheel, and might have something to do with turning (see BDB), however it has also given rise to other interpretations.

The New American Commentary mentions a possible alternative translation, stating:

An intriguing alternative reading of “a word aptly spoken” is that it is “a word spoken in its two lines,” that is, that it refers to the two lines of a proverb.

This is based on McKane's argument that the word wheel is here a dual form (Hebrew has singular, dual, and plural forms, but in this instance the plural and dual forms are indistinguishable morphologically) "and is metaphorical for the two lines of a proverb."

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Much of Proverbs is presented in the form of analogy, and the challenge therein is that the strength of the message is limited by the clarity of the comparison.

Let's examine the apple reference first. Fruit, and more often the specificity of the fig are used to symbolize prosperity. In the New Testament, it references prosperity of the spirit in verses such as:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5 ESV

In the Old Testament, it is more literally revealed:

And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. - Deuteronomy 28:11 ESV

And apples, specifically are equated to figs in this manner in Joel, in reference to final judgement:

The vine dries up; the fig tree languishes. Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up, and gladness dries up from the children of man. - Joel 1:12 ESV

A similar study references gold and silver as items of great value, and also symbolic of prosperity according to scripture:

and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, - Deuteronomy 8:13 ESV

And again, fruits of the womb, combined with prosperity of wealth:

2 And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, "Thus says Ben-hadad: 3 'Your silver and your gold are mine; your best wives and children also are mine.'" - 1 Kings 20:2-3 ESV

From this, in can be concluded that a word, fitly spoken is like an apple of gold in a picture of silver in that it is of great value to the recipient, and can be prosperous in benefit to them.

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The picture is an urn... Not a photograph, portrait, painting or the like. It is not a reference to an image as much as a body or vessel. The apple is an English translation (quince fruit) but apple of gold was in middle eastern cultures was the citrus fruit; orange (apple of gold). apples were apples (quince fruit), apples of gold were oranges (citrus) and not of the quince variety's of fruits. When oranges are juiced and stored in a silver pitcher (urn), the acid of the orange's juice oxidizes the surface silver in the pitcher and thus creating silver colloid solution (colloidal silver), one of the earliest methods of colloidal silver production without the use of electrolysis.

Colloidal silver is one of the most powerful natural anti viral, anti bacterial agents known, and in particular in ancient times and has been used in modern times orally/internally to treat illness and topically in the dressing wounds.

So then the proverb is saying that when a word is fitly spoken (in the right vein/spirit) in season (at the appropriate time) it (the phrase) is as a healing agent or medicine.

  • That's an interesting proposal. Do you have a source for the information you provided? Thanks. – Ruminator Dec 25 '18 at 20:46
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It's a parallel a apple of gold and set in silver is a very valuable and precious item. Likewise if we were to receive such a gift will be very meaningful to us and we will cherish it forever. Therefore when we give commendation or appreciation for someone in word that can have a meaningful heartfelt sediment that they will cherish forever. So in turn what we say can be of great value to the receiver.

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It's interesting to note that the Hebrew word that has been translated into "fitly" is 'owphan and is strong's number H212. It appears 36 times in the OT. Only ONCE though does it appear as the word fitly, with all the other 35 times being translated into the word wheel. Strong's Lexicon also says the word comes from an unused root meaning to revolve. It's also important to note that the following proverb describes reproving (criticism) as being like an ornament of gold to the one willing to accept the criticism. Solomon than is describing wise words properly revolving - which means both the speaker and receiver (teacher and student) work in proper order for the words to be accepted and adhered to so the receiver receives the full benefit of the words. The writer tries to emphasize the beauty of such a working by comparing it to the two most precious metals known at that time.

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As I read this verse in the King James version:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
-- Proverbs 25:11

I understand this to be the answer to a question that you have presented to God. Something deep down that has meaning and wisdom attached to it. When you hear your Pastor, Prophet, Priest or whomever the presenter of the word is to you, including yourself. That when you hear the answer to your question, it stands out as Gold Apples would on a painting of Silver. The colors are both contrasting which means the "Gold" stands out.

The Apples could also represent growth of not only you but of your "fruit". (Your family lineage. That you should share that word with your fruit so that they may grow from it as well) Also they could represent the value not in the monetary since but to the worthiness of those words to your soul.

Many times it is referenced throughout the Bible that Wisdom is more valuable than Silver and Gold.

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Aesthetically speaking such a combination of precious, harmonious and luminescent colors would be a delightful marvel and quite valuable:

[Psa 68:13 NLT] 13 Even those who lived among the sheepfolds found treasures--doves with wings of silver and feathers of gold.

The metaphor to that which is "venerable" in people, pure, valuable and the like is found frequently in scripture.

There is also a contrast within Proverbs to an undignified woman:

[Pro 11:22 NIV] 22 Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

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The verse simply means a good word spoken in evil manner. To be precise. Compare to; why make gold a silver. Why devalue the quality and make gold less of its value. So many people has lost their great destiny living on the contrary. We pray we retain our glorious destinies. Prov 25:11. .

  • Welcome to the site, Chuks! Please scroll down and click on "Tour" to see how we are different than other sites. In your case, it would be a stronger answer if you were to supply supporting authorities for the answer. Is there a link you can provide that supports your answer? – Steve May 12 '19 at 3:45
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“Apples of gold” are citrus fruits, very likely apricots (that ripen early compared to other fruits and only for a comparatively short ‘season’. The agricultural calender ‘revolves’ through the year like a wheel, like the constellations revolve, so that only at the right time can the fruit be harvested and eaten. Literally in the verse ‘words fitly spoken’ is ‘words on their wheels’ I.e. when the right time comes around, like a time to harvest, as in the verse “a time to sow and a time to reap”. So then the idea is “Golden fruit in silver baskets: advice given at the right seasons”. As the beauty of the fruit is enhanced when seen through the lattice work and context of the silver surrounds of the basket so the value (gold) of the wise advice (fruit) is better recognised when the time is most appropriate for the message to make an impression. telemachusquest@hotmail.com

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What does “an apple of gold in a picture of silver” represent in Proverbs of Solomon'

When giving advice it is important to choose the right words and the correct moment to speak. King Solomon said:

Proverbs 25:11 (NASB)

11 "Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances."

Most likely "apples of gold" crafted by an expert craftsman against a background of silver carvings would be a precious possession , so also are words chosen and spoken at the right moment, help build lasting relationships with others.

Or, if you were to receive such an exquisite gift , you would certainly appreciate it. Likewise in the same manner well chosen courteous words , would comfort the person you are trying to help.

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This is so refreshing, so many ideas, thoughts, different approaches, with reasonable Bible data to back it up! Wow! So many are positive enlightening beliefs, that I believe God's approves of these various interpretations as a commumlitive oneness of good!! You same people will read same passages later in life, and find thru life experiences, that your understandings change, still positive, I pray, but with deeper understanding from Gods Holy Spirit! Thank you for your true need to understand God!

  • Hey sharall, welcome to BHSE, glad to have you with us. If you haven't already, please make sure to take our tour, to see how we are a little different from other sites you may know. Thanks! (hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour) – sara Oct 6 '19 at 7:11
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Here’s my personal interpretation, the proverbs begins with v2, it is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the honour of king’s to search out a matter, following on to v11 God hides himself, The Invisible God. As we read his word (Apple) so we find the silver and Gold which is so much better than what silver and Gold in the monetary sense could exchange for ie material possessions, the entrance of thy word gives understanding to the simple, thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against thee,

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I learned that the setting = an urn or vessel as well. I saw it as a pitcher filled with the juice of an apple (or citron) refreshing and wholesome and helpful. As when we are dehydrated from overwork and need to have a cool refreshing drink. it is then most well received and considered a gift. I use this verse in connection with giving encouragement to others during difficult times. As to the aptly spoken. Isn't timing always important?

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The NKJV and NIV have "settings" of silver, calling to mind a piece of jewelry. The setting holds the gem in place, so it won't fall out and get lost. The apple of Gold is the wise teaching, ruling, decision. Because it was fitly spoken - delivered at the right time in a sensitive and appropriate way to one ready to receive it - it becomes set - appropriated into the recipient's store of knowledge, treasured and kept for future use, not tossed aside or forgotten.

After further digging, it seems I am way off. After looking here: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/proverbs/25-11.htm

It seems that the apples of gold are golden delicious apples, or oranges or citrons - a real fruit, not a piece of jewelry. The "picture" of silver is a serving bowl or platter. The color of the apple contrasts nicely with the silver of the bowl, making the arrangement even more pleasing to the eye. Since it is possible to state wise truths in an unappealing way that offends or alienates the hearer, this shows that it is possible and desirable to present a word of wisdom in a winsome way that is attractive.

  • I'd suggest making a further edit to remove or change the first half, rather than having two different halves of one answer which disagree with each other? – Steve Taylor May 13 '16 at 12:48
  • Good point, but I think that pointing out how easy it is to read a proverb and get it totally wrong is the best part of my answer. – Paul Chernoch May 13 '16 at 13:12

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