The old Hebrew defined “heaviness” as somewhat akin to what we, in our time, define as anxiety. It is the state of mind in which one is concerned about someone or something and the situation or state of that thing. The Hebrews thought and viewed this state, not as being nervous but arising from genuine and even profound concern. In the NT we read that Paul, one familiar with the OT and its’ meanings, say in Philippians 2:20:
20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.
“Sincerely” as Paul uses it in this Philippians passage carries pretty much the same emphasis as in Proverbs 12 above. The idea is that Paul and his concern for the state of the Philippians as he cared for them arose as a genuine and profound emotion for them. It was not just a mechanical thing or the observance of his duty as huge as his duty and Apostle and evangelist was.
“Heart” as is most often the case in the entire Bible is not speaking of the physical organ but making a general reference to the center of man’s being. It can be thought of as the place where the mind, the emotions and the will all come together. The ‘heart” is affected by many different things in many different ways. Suffice it to say here that it seems that Solomon is saying that it is the emotions that are affected by the other parts of the “meeting place” of man’s being that take effect in the manner spoken of.
“Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop…”
It clearly is not speaking of the blood pumping organ and the “heaviness”, the “stooping” result (we’ll talk about just what THESE are in a moment) it is experiencing is, fairly clearly, an emotional thing. Thus, I think we can conclude that the heaviness spoken of is the experience of the emotion of anxiety and what Solomon is speaking of is that this emotion/anxiety must be avoided because of its’ effect. “Stooping” has an undesireable effect on what which, in the Scripture is addressed as the BTW, as always we remember that “man” here does not speak of males, but of mankind in general. The warning here is addressed to and should be heeded by all men.
“Stoop” as it is used here refers to the act of a thing as it bends because it is weighed down by something else due to the “weight” of the other the other thing in view.
The second part of the verse turns our attention to the virtual opposite of what Solomon has already said.
“… but a good word maketh it glad.”
“But” which starts the second half of the verse is, as we noted before, what can be called a contrastive conjunction, that is, it joins two parts of a sentence or phrase, but is a way that highlights the contrast within them. Here it highlights the basic idea in the first part and the basic idea in the second. It is clear that this was Solomon’s intent as he wrote this verse. He wished us to clearly see the contrast between that which could make the heart “stoop” and that which could make it “glad”.
The “good word” is the subject of this second portion of the verse. It speaks of that which is pleasant, joyful, or perhaps agreeable. We’re told (in the language books) that it primarily speaks of that which gratifies the senses and, in a secondary sense, of that which give an aesthetic or moral sense of satisfaction. It can even be seen to refer to that which is beautiful. But, in this type of context, it speaks of that which reflects the enrichment of the heart due to what it experiences. David, interestingly, used this word in 1 Chron. 16:31 in his “Song of Thanksgiving” to speak of what pleases God’s heart:
31 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
(1 Chronicles 16:31)
He says that all of the heavens ought to “rejoice” because God rules over them. In one his more famous Psalms he says:
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Similar to his 1 Chronicles statement, he is pointing out that it is God who is in charge and Who, in reality, has made and controls all things. Because of this we ought to “rejoice” (and be glad), using the same word as Solomon uses in our proverbs passage.
Jesus Himself used the NT version of the word in the Beatitudes, in
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
So, we conclude that Solomon’s intent is to tell us that what can be considered to be a kind of communication (speaking to another here) that is pleasant or joyful, even agreeable has an effect on the hearer of the speaking. That effect is on the “heart” of the listener. The glad that is brought forth in the heart as a result of this “good speaking” speaks of outright rejoicing, even a physical demonstration of that great happiness.
There could be any number of practical interpretations of this verse when we think of it in terms of our personal experience. There is no specific “what” that Solomon says we must say to one another in order to make the one listening glad. His intent is to tell us that, when speaking to others we must consider that our speaking has power either to discourage or upset the one listening, or it can make them glad and cause them to rejoice. His advice (or instruction) to the readers seems obvious. Given the knowledge he has put forth, it would surely be better for us to cause rejoice than it is to give weight and cause the heart to “stoop”.
One writer said that sorrow, anxiety, disappointment, - these are a load upon the spirit, a weight upon the heart, which cause depression and melancholy. But how often will a word of kindness, or good news, or a comforting assurance, spoken in the ear in season, not only banish despondency, but cause gladness to take its place!
Illustrations. · Jacob experienced at times great heaviness of heart, which was relieved by good words from heaven, from his brother, and from his son.
· Ezra and Nehemiah, in their patriotic ardor, became deeply distressed and sore afraid; but a word of promise from the people and from the king restored their spirits (Ezra 9; 10; Neh. 1; 2).
· Of David, “the woman that was a sinner,” and other penitents, how was their overwhelming sorrow turned into joy by the word of absolution!
· The widow of Nain’s stooping heart was lifted up by the the Word which restored her son to her. Paul speaks words of truest comfort to the bereaved, when he assures them (on divine authority) Word which restored her son to her.
· Likewise, Paul speaks words of truest comfort to the bereaved, when he assures them (on divine authority) that those who have fallen asleep in Jesus are not to be sorrowed for without hope, because they will reappear and be recognized and reunited to their friends in the day of the Lord’s coming (1 Thess. 4:13, etc.).