Saturday, December 2, 2023

A Word at the Right Time (Prov. 15:23)

One of the things I love about the Hebrew of the Old Testament is its succinctness. Succinctness is the quality of speaking or writing without unnecessary words. A synonym would be "conciseness." As the author of New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide, you might expect that I value succinctness. Examples of succinctness are numerous in Biblical Hebrew. Here's one I ran across today:

There are only four words in the Hebrew. Compare that with the NLT:

"It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time."

That's 12 words. The NIV is shorter: "How good is a timely word!" The CSB tries to retrain the Hebrew word order: "A timely word -- how good that is!" But the prize has to go to The Message:

"The right word at the right time -- beautiful!" 

I had a mentor in college who always seemed to have the right word at the right time. His words were tov words indeed! The Bible tells us to encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13). When was the last time you felt meaningfully encouraged by another believer? Is there someone who needs a "timely word" from you today? Our words matter. With a snub we can create a horror. With charity we can work a miracle. The power to speak "fitly" is one that's probably left in the hands of God. But he has entrusted it to us as his representations on earth.

"A word at the right time. How good!"