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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 17

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) A house full of sacrifices.—Possibly the same as the “peace offerings” of Proverbs 7:14 (where see note). The consumption of these may have at times degenerated into licence (comp. 1 Samuel 1:13), and quarrelling have ensued.

Verse 2

(2) A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame. . . .—This was strikingly exhibited in the case of Ziba, who by his timely succour to David (2 Samuel 16:0), first gained all the property of his master, Mephibosheth (i.e., the “man of shame”), and was later confirmed in the possession of half of it. Slaves, especially those “born in the house,” often rose to a position of great trust. (Comp. Genesis 24:2; Genesis 39:4-6.) Eliezer would have been Abraham’s heir had not Isaac been born (Genesis 15:3).

Verse 3

(3) The fining pot is for silver.—See above on Proverbs 2:4.

The Lord trieth the hearts.—By allowing sorrows and temptations to assail them, in order that they may come out of the trial as pure gold (Revelation 3:18; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Malachi 3:3), purged of earthly infirmities.

Verse 5

(5) Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker.—See above on Proverbs 14:31.

He that is glad at calamities.—Of enemies. (Comp. Proverbs 24:18; Job 31:29.)

Verse 6

(6) Children’s children are the crown of old men.—Comp. Psalms 127, 128.

The glory of children are their fathers.—And, as such, to be honoured by them. For the blessing which parents bring to children, comp. 1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 15:4; Jeremiah 33:21.

Verse 7

(7) Excellent speech becometh not a fool.—Rather, perhaps, Superfluous or pretentious words become not a vile person (nâbhâl), such as is described in Isaiah 32:6. (Comp. 1 Samuel 25:25.)

Much less do lying lips a prince.—Or, liberal person (Isaiah 32:8): noblesse oblige.

Verse 8

(8) A gift is as a precious stone . . .—A description of the influence of bribery:—A bribe is as a jewel in the eyes of him that receives it; whithersoever he turns he prospers: all his energies are called out by the prospect of gain, so that he carries out successfully all that he sets his hand to. The constant warnings against this form of corruption, from the time of Moses (Exodus 23:8) to that of the prophets (Amos 5:12; Isaiah 1:23, &c), show the prevalence of the evil in Israel.

Verse 9

(9) He that covereth a transgression seeketh lovei.e., one who does not notice, but rather conceals and excuses, anything done against him; that man “follows after charity” (1 Corinthians 14:1). (Comp. Proverbs 10:12.)

He that repeateth a matter, who is always returning to old grievances, “alienates (even his) chief friend.”

Verse 11

(11) An evil man seeketh only rebellion.—Or. A rebellious man (literally, rebellion; comp. Ezekiel 2:7) seeketh only evil.

A cruel messenger.—Such as the “chief of the executioners” (margin of Genesis 37:36), who was always ready to carry out the bidding of an Oriental king. (Comp. 1 Kings 2:34; 1 Kings 2:46.) The ministers of the Divine wrath against impenitent sinners appear as “tormentors” in Matthew 18:34. (For the office of the angels in the same work, comp. Revelation 8:6, sqq.)

Verse 12

(12) A bear robbed of her whelps.—Proverbially dangerous then (2 Samuel 17:8; Hosea 13:8). (See also 1 Kings 2:24.)

A fool (khesîl).—Comp. Proverbs 1:32.

Verse 14

(14) The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water.—The drops which ooze through a tiny hole in the bank of a reservoir soon swell into an unmanageable torrent; so from insignificant beginnings arise feuds which cannot be appeased. Solomon constructed large pools (Ecclesiastes 2:6) beyond Bethlehem, and is supposed to have brought the water from these by an aqueduct into Jerusalem.

Before it be meddled with.—The same expression is used at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3. It probably means before (men) show their teeth, a metaphor from an angry dog.

Verse 15

(15) He that justifieth the wicked—i.e., acquits. The perversion of justice was a fruitful source of evil in Israel, and a constant topic of reproach in the mouth of the prophets (1 Samuel 8:3; Psalms 82:2; Isaiah 5:7).

Verse 16

(16) Wherefore is there a price . . .—He will still remain a fool, though he has paid high for instruction, if he has no capacity for taking it in.

Verse 17

(17) A friend loveth at all times . . .—Rather, The (true) friend loveth at all times, and (as) a brother is born for adversity.

Verse 18

(18) In the presence of his friend.—Or, With his neighbour. (For the same warning, comp. Proverbs 6:1, sqq.)

Verse 19

(19) He that exalteth his gate.—Builds himself a sumptuous house.

Verse 20

(20) He that hath a froward heart, findeth no good.—For he is an abomination to God (Proverbs 11:20), and so gains no blessing from Him.

Verse 21

(21) He that begetteth a fool (khesîl).—See above, on Proverbs 1:32.

The father of a fool (nâbhâl).—See above, on Proverbs 17:7.

Verse 22

(22) A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.—Or rather, Makes good a recovery., (For the duty of religious gladness, in gratitude for the love of God towards us, comp. Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4.)

Verse 23

(23) A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom.—Or rather, receives it. “From the bosom” signifies the folds of the dress in which the bribe was concealed, ready to be slipped into the judge’s hand whose favour was to be bought.

Verse 24

(24) Wisdom is before him that hath understandingi.e., he can easily find her.

But the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.—He is looking for her everywhere, while all the time she lies straight before him. (For the thought, comp. Deuteronomy 30:11-14.)

Verse 26

(26) Also.—Among other evil things. The subject of perversion of justice is again taken up.

To punish.—Especially by fining.

To strikei.e., scourge. (Comp. Deuteronomy 25:1-3.)

For equity—i.e., when they have acted uprightly.

Verse 27

(27) He that hath knowledge . . .—This verse will better be rendered, He that restrains his words hath knowledge, and one who is cool of temper is a man of understanding. The avoidance of rash speech and hasty temper is here advised.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/proverbs-17.html. 1905.
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