Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
What does “righteous” and “wicked” look like. The sad thing is that someone you know just popped into your head for each of these words. But, is this what Solomon meant? Was he thinking of your two illustrations? No. These are abstract words.
So, what do the original words describe since Hebrew was not spoken in abstract thought?
If we were to look up every place where the word for “wicked” was used we would discover that a few times it was translated “lost,” meaning “to stray from the path,” “having no direction.”
Now, can you see someone wondering without direction, confused as to where they are going? Sure you can and much easier than you can picture a wicked. Not only can we picture what it is to be lost but most of us have experienced being lost.
Therefore, the “wicked” in this verse are those who are not following the way of God.
There is an even deeper meaning. A drinking glass has a purpose. It is used for drinking. We would say that it’s purpose is good and that the glass is good. If you break the glass where it can no longer hold water it can no longer be used for the purpose of drinking. Therefore, it would fall into the definition of the Hebrew word for wicked or lost.
But what about “righteous?” The original word is always translated as righteous so it makes it a little more difficult to understand the word as clearly as the Hebrew reads.
Here is a little help. In the Hebrew poetry, rather than rhyme words they wouldd give the opposites in the same sentence. That is used a great deal in Proverbs.
So, if “righteous” is the opposite of someone who is lost or without purpose, then what can we say? We really do not have much of an English word to describe someone not lost, but we can describe them.
Could we then read the verse like this:
The mouth of the one who knows where they are and where they are going in God because they are following his way, fulfilling His purpose, they are a well of life; but the violence covers the mouth of the one who is lost from God’s way, who is broken, not fulfilling their life purpose.
Is it possible the Jesus, being a Hebrew, used this same word in Matthew 18:11 when He said that He was sent to save the lost. Could He have used the same word that was translated “wicked” in the Old Testament? That He came to save the “wicked,” the “unfulfilled,” the “those who have no direction.”