Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
I don’t know how so-called snake charmers manage the creepy creatures. I really don’t much care. But from what v. 11 says, it would seem that without that “charm” being practiced, the snake would certainly bite. Likewise, in v. 12, the words of a fool are endless, and harmful. There is, as we would say today, no filter on a fool’s mouth.
Often, working as a therapist, I would encourage people to talk less to their long-suffering spouses. “Say it once, and then stop!” I would tell them. Instead, they would continue to explain, enlighten, enlarge, until you really just wanted to put a bag over their heads. It’s as if they believe that if they can just keep talking long enough, somehow their words will magically fall together and the spouse will understand and change his ways. Rarely does that happen. More often, the spouse finally breaks under the torrent of words and eventually leaves the marriage.
A fool is sometimes a source of endless words, repeated words, senseless words. The more he speaks, the less he says. The longer he continues to babble, the less likely he will be heard. He is like that uncharmed serpent–he will surely bite with his words and end up in an even worse place than before.
That person is wise whose words bring grace to the hearer. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that a wise person never speaks words of rebuke, of correction. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed. But even then, his words are to build up, not to tear down.
The word for fool here is sakai, a dense, confused thinker.
I think it’s interesting that Solomon says he talks in such a way as to indicate he knows the future, when no man can be sure what will happen in one hour, one day, week, month, or year. The future is not known to us, yet a fool who “multiplies his words” speaks as if he knows what no one else knows.
He ends his talking in mischievous madness, sometimes creating a following of other foolish people who are drawn in by his endless speaking. One of the earmarks of a fool is that he speaks with authority when he has no authority at all.