Proverbs 6:13 KJV

He winks with his eyes, he speaks with his feet, he teaches with his fingers;

The context is speaking of the characteristics of an evil, perverse person who continually devises mischief. I understand that the phrase "he winks with his eyes", is a clear reference to a gesture that indicates deceit. However, how should we interpret the rest of the verse in this context?

Specifically, assuming these other phrases are the same as "he winks with his eyes" in showing deceit, how does someone "speak" with his feet to indicate deceit and how does someone "teach" with their fingers to indicate deceit?

5 Answers 5


In Proverbs chapter 6, V13 cannot be separated from its surrounding material describing a "worthless person" also called a "wicked person". Allow me to quote the section and set it out in point form. Here I quote V12-14 (my literal translation) -

A worthless person, a wicked man

  • walks with perverse mouth
  • winks with his eyes
  • speaks with his feet
  • points with his fingers
  • perverses with his heart
  • devises evil constantly
  • sows discord ...

The impression here is of a wicked person who acts in concert with similar individuals by sending secret messages, hand signals, feet signals, eye signals, and thus is continually evil in devising wickedness.

In V13, we have three verbs:

  • קָרַץ (qarats) = to nip or pinch, ie, (in this context) to wink with the eye. See also Ps 35:19, Prov 10:10. In Prov 16:30 it indicates to perse the lips.
  • מָלַל (malal) = to speak, utter, say. It is always used in the sense of communicating something, Gen 21:7, Job 8:2, 33:3, Ps 106:2, Prov 6:13. In this case, "signals" or "speaks" or "communicates" with the feet in indicated
  • יָרָה (yarah) = to throw or shoot. The action with the finger (or toe) suggests that the wicked person is again pointing or otherwise communicating something to a co-conspirator information about an evil scheme. The LXX translates this as, "teaches with the beckonings of his fingers."

Thus, again, the wicked person takes every opportunity to spread wickedness. The verse is parallel to that in Prov 10:10 -

He who winks the eye causes trouble, And a babbling fool will come to ruin.


The word "ἐννεύμασιν" (enneúmasin) is not found in Plato's dialogues. However, Plato often uses the related verb "ἔννευω" (enneuō), which means "to nod" or "to signal with the head", in his dialogues.

An example of Plato using the verb "ἔννευω" can be found in the dialogue "Phaedrus," where he describes Socrates nodding in a specific manner while giving a speech:

"And so, Phaedrus, for what purpose do you think Socrates was nodding?"

In this context, Socrates is described as making a specific gesture or nodding while speaking.

In the dialogue "Phaedrus" by Plato, Socrates is having a conversation with Phaedrus about the nature of rhetoric and love. In the passage where the verb "ἔννευω" (enneuō) is used, Socrates is critiquing a speech by the famous orator Lysias, which Phaedrus has just recited to him. Socrates questions the structure and content of the speech and highlights its deficiencies.

Socrates suggests that a true and effective speech should come from genuine knowledge and love for the subject matter. He emphasizes the importance of understanding and valuing the topic one speaks about rather than merely following a formula or pleasing the audience. In the dialogue, Socrates is depicted as someone who critically evaluates rhetoric and encourages a deeper understanding of the art of persuasion.

The use of the verb "ἔννευω" (enneuō) in this context implies Socrates expressing his agreement, disagreement, or a nuanced response to the points made by Phaedrus or Lysias. It's a way of illustrating Socrates' engagement in the conversation and his use of gestures or non-verbal cues to convey his thoughts and opinions during the discussion.

Proverbs 6:13 from the King James Version (KJV), uses symbolic language to describe the actions and characteristics of a deceitful and wicked person.

  1. Winking with the eyes: "he winks with his eyes" is a gesture indicating deceit. It's a subtle, non-verbal signal often associated with conniving or secretive communication.

  2. Speaking with the feet: The phrase "he speaks with his feet" can be understood metaphorically. In the context of describing a deceitful person, it likely suggests that this individual uses body language and actions to communicate deceitfully. Movements of the feet can indicate intentions, plans, or actions that are deceitful or harmful. This complements the idea of non-verbal communication used for deceptive purposes.

  3. Teaching with the fingers: Similar to speaking with the feet, "he teaches with his fingers" is a metaphorical expression. In this context, it suggests that the person uses gestures or actions with their fingers to impart or convey deceitful teachings, ideas, or plans. The fingers can be used to emphasize points or to manipulate, adding a layer of deceit to the communication.

The use of metaphoric language in these expressions emphasizes the pervasive nature of deceit in the actions, non-verbal communication, and teachings of the wicked individual described in the proverb. It paints a vivid picture of how their deceit permeates various aspects of their behavior and communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

Drawing from the earlier discussion on Plato's "Phaedrus" and the importance of gestures and non-verbal cues in conveying meaning and engagement in communication, we can see a similar understanding of the power of body language and actions to communicate intentions and thoughts, even in ancient literature like Proverbs.

  1. Proverbs 10:10 KJV

He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.

In this verse, the expression "He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow" reinforces the notion that winking, a gesture or sign, can be used to communicate something. In the context of the proverb, it suggests that winking deceptively or maliciously can cause sadness or suffering. This aligns with the earlier idea that certain gestures or body actions can be used to express deceit or harmful intentions.

Additionally, the second part of the proverb, "but a prating fool shall fall," emphasizes the foolishness of those who talk too much or are garrulous. The proverb may indicate that imprudence in speech can lead to a fall or negative consequences, underscoring the importance of choosing words and gestures carefully.

  1. Luke 1:62

And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

In this verse, the action "they made signs" highlights the situation where people are communicating through gestures or signs, indicating that they are not using verbal communication to decide the child's name. This use of gestures for communication is consistent with the understanding that gestures and signs were often used at that time to convey information or intentions.

Applying this idea to the specific context of Luke 1:62 suggests that gestures were used to overcome any barrier in verbal communication or to ensure that the father's will was understood and respected, demonstrating the importance of gestures in social interaction.

These verses illustrate how non-verbal communication, including gestures and signs, was valued and used to express meaning and intention in different contexts, both in proverbs and in biblical narratives.

  • Thank you. Agarza
    – Betho's
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 19:42

In vss. 12-15 we are introduced to the "worthless person." (”בְּ֭לִיַּעַל“ (Proverbs 6:12 HMT-W4)) That's the context in which these gestures occur.

Steinman writes this about the conduct of the worthless one:

In the Hebrew text each of these descriptions contains a participle and part of the body. The participles signal habitual behavior: this devious person is repeatedly doing these things. The parts of the body signify his outward actions (“mouth,” “eye,” “foot,” and “fingers” in 6:12-13) as coming from his corrupted character (“heart” in 6:14). While the corrupt character is his alone, the actions seek to involve others in his perversity. Whether by persuasion (mouth) or by innuendo (the body language of his eyes, feet, and fingers), he spreads conflict by the messages he sends, seeking to destroy others by harming their reputation and by playing on the willingness of people to listen to disparaging things about others. The two other passages in Proverbs that use בְּ֭לִיַּעַל, "good for nothing," also speak of harming reputations (16:27;19:28). (Steinmann. p. 170)

Any kid growing up in public school or watching TV sees/learns the hand gestures and body language that tear down the reputation of others. That's the sort of person that this proverb is characterizing.


Of the many and various commentaries, I prefer the simple meaning that the body language of a person with evil intent betrays them. In the case of 'speaking with his feet', meaning shuffling from foot to foot. Hand gestures in the case of fingers, 'teach' meaning to advise.

Credit: Hebrew nation


There were and are still many Hebrew body gestures that were used in the market place and also in everyday occurances to indicate to someone just what they intended on doing.When they taked with each other they used many parts of the body to communicate signals such as the hands, feet, legs, facial expressions and entire body. They spoke and communicated with a high level of epressivity.


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