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Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Bible

“Pleasant words” (ōmer nō’am) literally means “delightful speech,” which refers to words that are favorable, agreeable, and kind. Such “pleasant words” are said to be a “honeycomb.” The Hebrew words translated “honeycomb” (tsūp debash) more literally mean simply “liquid honey.” They refer to honey in it’s raw, natural form with its delicious palatable taste and medicinal value. This metaphor draws a vivid image of words or speech that are agreeable and satisfying to the hearer. However, the idea of “pleasant words” is not to be taken in the sense of someone performing lip-service to feed someone’s ego or to flatter them, but rather it refers to words that bring nourishment and soothing to the individual.

The exact nature of the words is not specified but their effects are described as being “sweet to the soul” and “healing to the bones.” This double predicate indicates two distinct effects that “pleasant words” have upon the hearer. “Soul” (nephesh) refers to the person’s mind, emotions, and life. “Bones” is put as a synecdoche of the part (the part put for the whole) for either the person’s innermost being or their whole being. Thus, the effect of “pleasant words” is that they are like the drippings of the honeycomb, enlivening the soul and uplifting the entire person.

This proverb might bring to mind the record in 1 Samuel 14:27 when Jonathan dipped his staff into the honeycomb and tasted the sweetness of the honey. At once he became refreshed and it says “his eyes brightened,” meaning he was invigorated with a renewed energy. It is this sort of effect that the proverb is describing that “pleasant words” deliver to those who hear them.

“healing to the bones.” The Bible has a lot to say about how what we hear and what we think affects our body and can heal it. See commentary on Proverbs 17:22.


Commentary for: Proverbs 16:24