ESV - 19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
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"As in water face to face, so the heart of man to man" (Prov 27:19) [Words such as 'reflect' or 'answer' are usually supplied to make the expression clearer]. As we can judge the gist of our own physical appearance by our own face peering into our reflection in water, so we can discern the general heart (inner man, will, mind, heart) of another man by discerning with our own heart. We can only do this in a limited manner, as only God knows the true thoughts of someone's hearts (Prov 21:2). So, this verse also has has the warning of "you can paint yourself with makeup and disguise yourself from the world as the best of humanity - but God can see straight through you". We should not look at someone's appearance to discern their character (1 Sam 16:7, John 7:24). As Shanna said, this is going to be about how what they say and do. This verse can also be applied to ourselves- we can examine our own lives and character, not by looking at ourselves in a mirror, but by examining our hearts. (Prov 21:4, Psalm 19:12-13, Psalm 26:1-3).
Judging by the different translations, this is a difficult passage. I liked the New King James' "As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man." NIV says "As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart." The idea of water reflecting the face is easy to understand, but the last clause is difficult. Does a person's heart (will, emotions, center of being) really reflect that person, or (as Jesus suggests) does a person's life/outward actions reflect what's in his heart? To me personally, the latter makes more sense. What's in your heart comes out in one way or another through what you do. Keep in mind: 1) This is one verse 2) it's interesting, but not a major doctrine 3) this is Old Testament wisdom literature; it gives general guidelines for a "wise" life rather than absolutes and 4) it's sometimes partially poetical and might make use of an idiom we don't completely comprehend. Perhaps someone skilled in Hebrew can add more insight into this puzzling verse.
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