Monday, November 17, 2014

Evil Listening

Our series towards a biblical definition of gossip moves on from the Hebrew words most often translated "gossip" to other phenomenon in the Old Testament we call "gossip" even when a technical term is not used. Today's post is about the first of four important and related concepts, along with exposition of key texts.

No Taste for Truth

Evil Listening. We encountered the importance of listening in Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22.The words of a gossiping person are very attractive to a listener but very harmful. Now we learn something more. The book of Proverbs warns not just of evil speech but of evil listening. For example, Proverbs 17:4 states, “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.” Popular paraphrases see gossip in this verse. The NLT renders it, “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; / liars pay close attention to slander.” The Message has “Evil people relish malicious conversation; the ears of liars itch for dirty gossip.”39

The important thing to grasp is that Proverbs 17:4 is saying that a certain kind of listening to evil speech is just as evil as saying it. Waltke summarizes, “The synonymous parallelism of v.4 underscores the startling truth that the one who listens to lies is himself a liar. . . . How one uses his lips and tongue is inseparably connected to that which he inclines his ears. Both the liar and his willing audience have no taste for truth.”40  Kidner adds, “Evil words die without a welcome; and the welcome gives us away.”41

Consequences for Evil Listening

The rest of the Old Testament bears this out. Listening is vitally important, and if we listen to the wrong people or in the wrong way, there will be disastrous consequences. Adam “listened” to his wife, and it resulted in the curse (Gen 3:17). Proverbs 29:12 says, “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.” Evil listening is contagious. Proverbs 25:26 says, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.” A compromise in listening will sully your soul.


[39] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: New Testament With Psalms and Proverbs (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1995), 900.

[40] Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005), 41.

[41] Derek Kidner, Proverbs, TOTC 15 (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1971), 123.

Previous Posts in "Toward a Definition of Gossip"