Death and Life Are in the Power of the Tongue: What Does Proverbs 18:21 Mean?


Proverbs 18:21 reads, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” King James Version (KJV)

TranslationProverbs 18:21
ESVDeath and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
NASBDeath and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
NIVThe tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
NLTThe tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Also see We Are More Than Conquerors to learn more.

Death and Life Are in the Power of the Tongue: Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

18:19. Great care must be taken to prevent quarrels among relations and those under obligations to each other. Wisdom and grace make it easy to forgive; but corruption makes it difficult.

20. The belly is here put for the heart, as elsewhere; and what that is filled with, our satisfaction will be accordingly, and our inward peace.

21. Many a one has caused his own death, or the death of others, by a false or injurious tongue.

22. A good wife is a great blessing to a man, and it is a token of Divine favour.

23. Poverty tells men they must not order or demand. And at the throne of God’s grace we are all poor, and must use entreaties.

24. Christ Jesus never will forsake those who trust in and love him. May we be such friends to others, for our Master’s sake. Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end; and we are his friends if we do whatever he commands us, Joh 15:14.

Also see Give Thanks to the Lord for He Is Good to learn more.

Proverbs 18:21 | Pulpit Bible Commentary

Verse 21. – Death and life are in the power of the tongue; literally, in the hand of the tongue. The tongue, according as it is used, deals forth life or death; for speech is the picture of the mind (comp. Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 26:28).

The vast importance of our words may be learned from James 3; and our blessed Lord says expressly (Matthew 12:36, etc.), “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Hence the gnome –

Γλῶσσα τύχη γλῶσσα δαίμων

intimating that the tongue is the real controller of man’s destiny; and another –

Λόγῳ διοικεῖται βροτῶν βίος μόνῳ

By words alone is life of mortals swayed.” And they that love it (the tongue) shall eat the fruit thereof. They who use it much must abide the consequences of their words, whether by kind and pure and edifying conversation they contribute health and life to themselves and others, or whether by foul, calumnious, corrupting language they involve themselves and others in mortal sin. For “they that love it,” the Septuagint has, οἱ κρατοῦντες αὐτῆς, “they who get the mastery over it.”

Also see Temple of the Holy Spirit to learn more.

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