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Key Concepts of Mishlei 12-17 (Credibility)
A person earns credibility by habituating himself to always speak the truth, even when he is talking of less important matters. A deceitful person is not sensitive to the value of honesty and so, even when people depend on his testimony he has no qualms about lying. Therefore he is not a credible witness and should be thoroughly interrogated.
One way of distinguishing the habitual truth teller from the habitual liar is the emotional content of what he is saying. Someone who is used to telling the truth is confident that he will be believed, so he expresses himself calmly. The liar suspects that he won’t be believed so he may use rhetorical tricks to get his point across.
(יז) יָפִיחַ אֱמוּנָה יַגִּיד צֶדֶק וְעֵד שְׁקָרִים מִרְמָה:
He who speaks truthfully testifies justly but a lying witness practices deceit.
The proverb contrasts the credibility of a person who has developed a sensitivity to truth with the untrustworthiness of the habitual liar.
(יז) יָפִיחַ אֱמוּנָה יַגִּיד צֶדֶק
וְעֵד שְׁקָרִים מִרְמָה:
He who is accustomed to speak truthfully will also testify justly — יָפִיחַ אֱמוּנָה יַגִּיד צֶדֶק , but a lying witness can be found out by his habit of deceit — וְעֵד שְׁקָרִים מִרְמָה .
A series of insights illuminating this proverb are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources at the end of the segment.
(1) The one who is habituated to speak the truth can be relied on because every breath that he utters reflects his devotion to truth. His speech is expressed with the word יָפִיחַ , breathes.
(2) The one who habitually speaks the truth tends to be speak calmly like a person who is breathing normally because he is sure people will believe him. However, a person who is lying tends to be emotional and uses psychological manipulative tactics to get people to believe what he is sayting.
(3) Mishlei uses the word for belief (אֱמוּנָה) to refer to the truth, because the truth teller is confident that what he says will be believed.
(4) The one who is habituated to use his power of speech to deceive others will not be a reliable witness and should be thoroughly interrogated berfore his testimony bcan be believed.
(5) A person who is used to telling lies will lie even when there is no benefit in lying. He gains pleasure in distorting the truth and deceiving others.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this segment are listed below.
(1) – אלשיך
(2) – מלבי”ם
(3) – מלבי”ם
(4) – מצודות
(5) – רלב”ג