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Proverbs 17:1. A dry morsel— Bread with pulse, or husks. Bochart and Houbigant. This was the food of meaner persons; whence Horace says, Epist. 1: lib. 2: line 123.
Vivit siliquis et pane secundo:
Lives on coarse bread and vegetable fare.
This verse is plainly similar to the 16th and 17th of chap. 15:
Proverbs 17:2. A wise servant— In all troubled and disagreeing families, there is commonly some servant, or gentle friend, who, being powerful with both sides, may moderate and compose the differences which are among them; to whom, in that respect, the whole house, and the master himself, are much engaged and beholden: this servant, if he aim only at his own ends, cherishes and aggravates the divisions of the family; but if he be sincerely faithful and upright, certainly he deserveth much; so as to be reckoned as one of the brethren, or at least to receive a fiduciary administration of the inheritance. Lord Bacon.
Proverbs 17:4. And a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue— And a hearkener after lies to, &c. Houbigant renders the verse, A wicked man will give ear to false lips, a just man will not hearken to an evil tongue.
Proverbs 17:8. A gift is as a precious stone, &c.— A gift is so tempting, that it can be no more refused than a precious jewel by him to whom it is presented, if he be not under the influences of Divine grace, and the bribe come up to his price. Such is its power in those cases, that it too often prevails, dispatches business, carries causes, and, in a word, effects whatever a man desires: But O, how detestable a practice in the sight of a just God! See chap. Pro 18:18 and Bishop Patrick.
Proverbs 17:11. An evil man, &c.— Houbigant renders it, A cruel man will seek only for evil; and therefore a most cruel messenger shall be sent to him.
Proverbs 17:12. Let a bear robbed, &c.— Bochart observes four things concerning the bear: the first every one knows, that the bear is an exceedingly fierce creature; the second, that the female is more fierce than the male; the third, that she is more fierce than ordinary when she has whelps; and lastly, when she is robbed of them, the is fiercest of all. See 2 Samuel 17:8. Hos 13:8 and Bochart de Animal. Sacr. lib. 3: cap. 9.
Proverbs 17:14. The beginning of strife, &c.— Those who begin a quarrel are like those who make a breach in a bank, and give an opening to the waters of a rapid river; which they can never be sure to stop before it produces the most fatal and calamitous events. This painting admirably represents the effects of lying and false reports, and supplies us with an excellent lesson to avoid the contagion, and prevent the beginnings of contention. See Calmet and Poole.
Proverbs 17:16. Wherefore is there a price, &c.— What would it profit a fool to have that wherewith he might purchase wisdom, whilst he hath no heart? Houbigant. No discretion to discern the worth of wisdom, no desire to gain it, no understanding to use it properly?
Proverbs 17:17. A friend loveth at all times, &c.— This may be rendered; A friend loveth at all times; but he is a brother in the day of adversity. A good friend on certain occasions is better, and will do more, than a brother or a parent. See chap. Proverbs 18:24. We may read, And becomes a brother in adversity.
Proverbs 17:19. He that exalteth his gate— Among other violences of the Arabs, that of riding into the houses of those whom they mean to harass, is not one of the least observable; the rather, as it seems to be referred to in the Scriptures. To prevent this insult, and the mischief which these Arabs might do them, Thevenot tells us, that the door of the house in which the French merchants lived at Rama was not three feet high; and that all the doors of that town are equally low, to hinder the Arabs from entering their houses on horseback; and he afterwards speaks of a large door going into the church at Bethlehem, which has been walled up, and only a wicket left in it three feet high, and two wide, to hinder the Arabs from entering the church with their horses. Other authors have made the like observation. Now may not the present passage refer to this, He that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction, or calamity? The royal preacher elsewhere saith, Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall; and again, Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility; texts which seem to contain the same thought in general with that before us. If then he thought fit to come to particulars, why is the height of the gate of a haughty person mentioned, rather than other circumstances of magnificence in a building? rather than the wideness of the house, the airiness of the rooms, the cutting out of windows, the cedar ceilings, and the vermillion, which are all mentioned by Jeremiah as pieces of grandeur? It can hardly be imagined, that Solomon mentioned the stateliness of the gateway of a house without a particular meaning; but if bands of Arabs had taken the advantage of large doors to enter into houses which stood in the confines of Solomon's kingdom, or of neighbouring countries with which the Jews were well acquainted, there is a most graceful vivacity in the Apophthegm. See Observ. p. 56.
Proverbs 17:22. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine— Dr. Grey renders this verse thus, A merry heart doeth good to the body, or flesh; but a broken spirit drieth the bones. We often meet with this opposition, and the sense perhaps is more complete, especially if we leave out the word like, which is not in the Hebrew. Houbigant translates it nearly in the same manner.
Proverbs 17:24. The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth— As a wise man's understanding appears in his very countenance, and a fool is known by his garish and wandering eyes; so the one has his wisdom always present, and ready at hand to guide and govern him, when the other knows not what to follow; but his thoughts are roving up and down to no purpose, though he ramble to the very ends of the earth. See Patrick and Calmet. Houbigant renders the verse, Wisdom hath her seat in the countenance of the prudent: folly swells in the eyes of the foolish; or, the eyes of the foolish swell with folly.
Proverbs 17:26. Also to punish the just, &c.— It is not right to oppress the just; not even when the prince hath declined from equity: Houbigant; who observes, that Solomon means to say, "It is dangerous to oppress the just, even when unjust princes favour oppressors." See Chap. Proverbs 18:5. Schultens renders it, Also to punish the just is not good; it is to strike the ingenuous for their equity. According to the common interpretation, Solomon condemns here the temerity of those who do injury to the just, and who attack the prince, the magistrate, the judge, because they are too exact and equitable in the exercise of justice.
Proverbs 17:27. Is of an excellent spirit— Or, will be cool in his temper. He who hath prudence moderates his spirit. Houbigant.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19