A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
How beautiful is your speech? Would hearers compare it to a beautiful painting or sculpture? Solomon praised good speech here by comparing it to an exquisite scene. In your city are many paintings or sculptures of fruit in bowls and other settings, and apples are commonly used. Fine homes are decorated with such lovely art.
Here is a simple simile, a figure of speech of comparison. It is known by the word "like." Apples, gold, pictures, or silver are not the subject. They only have comparative value taken together. Proper speech is commended by likening it to their combined beauty.
But some dream it proves an important rule of hermeneutics, or Bible interpretation - single words are more important than their context. They imagine a single word is like gold and its context like silver, and since gold has always been worth more than silver, then a single word is more important than its context. Incredible! Such wisdom is too high for us (Ps 131:1), as the Spirit never imagined hermeneutics here. Lord, help us.
What are pictures, especially before photography? Since the other uses do not define the word (Num 33:52; Is 2:16), let us give a dictionary summary of this English word.
Picture. A painting, drawing, sculpture, statute or other symbolic representation of some thing as a work of art.
Can you visualize apples of gold in a painting or sculpture of silver? As in a silver basket or bowl? What a beautiful combination of color and images! So are words well spoken!
As the next verse shows, Solomon is using similes to praise good speech (Pr 25:12), though there he uses "as" to indicate the simile. Still using gold, he compares it to fine jewelry.
Right words used the right way at the right time are wonderful. They deserve a kiss on the lips (Pr 24:26)! They are wonderful (Pr 15:23,26; 16:13,24; 22:11; Eccl 12:10; Col 4:6)!
A single word is not the point! Paul said more than one word when giving a word of exhortation (Acts 13:15)? And he called Hebrews a word (Heb 13:22)? Solomon and we use "word" this way, as something said, often (Pr 12:25; 13:13; 14:15; 15:23; Eccl 8:4).
How did our Lord speak? Most beautifully! The assembly at Nazareth could not believe it (Luke 4:22); Mary could not get enough of it (Luke 10:39); His enemies praised it (John 7:46); His beautiful tongue and choice of words were foretold long before (Is 50:4).