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Mishlei 12-17 (Credibility)

Mishlei 12-17


Key Concepts

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.

Exploring Mishlei

 יז = יָפִיחַ אֱמוּנָה יַגִּיד צֶדֶק וְעֵד שְׁקָרִים מִרְמָה

(17) He who tells the truth as a matter of course testifies justly
and can be believed but a lying witness practices deceit.

The proverb contrasts the credibility of a person who is habitually truthful with the untrustworthiness of the habitual liar.

Learning Mishlei

He who is accustomed to speak truthfully יָפִיחַ אֱמוּנָה
will also testify justly יַגִּיד צֶדֶק
but a lying witness
וְעֵד שְׁקָרִים
can be identified by his habit of deceit מִרְמָה.

Additional Insights

(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. In effect, he “breathes” the truth (יָפִיחַ). (אלשיך)

(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 an affected style of speech to get people to believe what he is saying. (מלבי”ם)

(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. (מלבי”ם)

(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. (מצודות)

(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. (רלב”ג)

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