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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 17

 

 

Verse 1

Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Better is a dry morsel - without butter or oil (Leviticus 7:10).

Than a house full of sacrifices - victims, part of which were offered in sacrifice and the rest feasted upon. The choicest beasts were need in sacrifice, so that their flesh would be of the best kind.

With strife - (Proverbs 15:17.)


Verse 2

A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren. The value of wisdom is shown in that it supersedes even birthrights, giving to the slave freedom, and even rule over the freeborn, and making him a co-heir of the family inheritance-on a par with the sons (Sirach 10:25, 'Unto the servant that is wise shall they that are free do service;' cf. Genesis 15:3).


Verse 3

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.

The fining pot (is) for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts. As men test and purify silver in the crucible and gold in the furnace, so the Lord trieth the hearts. Men can prove silver and gold, but not hearts; that is the work of the Lord alone.


Verse 4

A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.

A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; (and) a liar (literally, a lie) giveth ear to a naughty tongue - literally, 'to a tongue of perversities'-a tongue that speaketh nothing but what is perverse, to the grievous injury of others. Malignity of action is generally combined with falsehood. Not content with his own inborn depravity, the "wicked doer" seeks out helps to foment it and so gives ear to those who are more practiced and ingenious in evil than himself, in order to add mischief of tongue to mischief of deed.


Verse 5

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker (Proverbs 14:31); and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished. So Tyrus is threatened, because she was glad at Jerusalem's calamities, saying "I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste" (Ezekiel 26:2). And Edom similarly (Obadiah 1:12). He who "mocketh" at a work, mocketh the workman. God especially warns against insulting over the poor, because it is inhuman, and it betrays a pride that forgets one's own frailty and liability to calamity, to tread upon those who are prostrated by God's afflicting hand (Psalms 109:16; Isaiah 47:6).


Verse 6

Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

Children's children (are) the crown of old men; and the glory of children (are) their fathers - a reciprocal ornament-the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children (Malachi 4:6). "The crown," the ornament, help, and delight of the old, by the blessing of God. Good "fathers" are "the glory of children;" because men look kindly on the children for the sake of the fathers; because through the instrumentality of the fathers the children are often promoted to honours and offices; also, because of their counsels and prayers. Epanimondas used to say that he regarded it as the highest fruit of his honours that his parents were spectators of them (Mercer).


Verse 7

Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

Excellent speech (a lip of excellency) becometh not a fool; much less do lying lips (a lip of lying) a prince. "Excellent speech" - speech which is above the capacity, office, and experience of the speaker, in this case "a fool" - speech whereby one wishes to be eminent above all others, to be the only one to speak and to be heard. Such speech, however excellent in itself it might chance to be, is incongruous in a fool. It would do more harm than good. On the contrary, in "a prince" [whose very Hebrew name, naadiyb (Hebrew #5081), expresses liberality, from naadab (Hebrew #5068), to be liberal, to give freely] excellent speech is most becoming his office and person; therefore the opposite kind of speech, 'a lip of lying,' or vanity, in respect to his promises, and catching at men's applause by specious but insincere words, would be as utterly unbecoming in him, as "excellent speech" ('a lip of excellency') would be unbecoming in "a fool."


Verse 8

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.

A gift (is as) a precious stone (literally, a stone of grace) in the eyes of him that hath it; wheresoever it turneth, it prospereth - literally, it acteth prudently, and so prosperously. Solomon states what is commonly the case, not what ought to be. How selfish, how mercenary is man naturally! But the man of God is raised above a mercenary spirit (cf. 1 Samuel 12:3, Samuel; Daniel 5:17, Daniel; Acts 8:18-20, Peter and John). The prosperity which attends bribery is a lure set forth here in order that we may shun, not that we may follow it. A gift, not to pervert justice, but to conciliate the angry, is right, as Jacob's gift to Esau (Proverbs 18:16; Genesis 32:20); and Abigail's to David (1 Samuel 25:27).


Verse 9

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love - (Proverbs 10:12.) Promoteth love (cf. Proverbs 17:19; Proverbs 11:27). We ought to 'cover' a fault when the glory of God and the good of our neighbour and of the commonweal do not require its publication.

But he that repeateth a matter separateth (very) friends. "Repeateth" - i:e., reviveth the remembrance of some injury or cause of quarrel which ought to be consigned to oblivion; or repeats to another some transgression which ought, for love's sake, rather to have been 'covered' (Proverbs 16:28).


Verse 10

A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

A reproof entereth more into [descends into, from naachat (H5181)] a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool - literally, 'than to strike a fool a hundred times.' It is the height of folly to harden one's self against the reproofs of God, and so to incur His "hundred stripes." 'A generous horse is ruled even by the shadow of the rod; a lazy beast cannot be stirred even by a spur' (Curtius, ). Tender susceptibility to the monitions of our Father, by His Word, His ministers, and His Providential dealings, is the mark of a gracious soul.


Verse 11

An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

An evil (man) seeketh only rebellion - so the Septuagint and Arabic. But the Chaldaic and Syriac take "rebellion" as the abstract for the concrete, and make it nominative. 'A rebel seeketh only evil,' notwithstanding a "hundred stripes" being inflicted on him (Proverbs 17:10).

Therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him - the executioner of the king's wrath. So the King of kings "casts upon" rebels against him "the fierceness of His anger ... by sending evil angels among them" (Psalms 78:49).


Verse 12

Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.

Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than (literally, and not; Proverbs 8:10) a fool in his folly.

It would be safer to meet a she-bear, infuriated by being robbed of her cubs (2 Samuel 17:8; Hosea 13:8), than to encounter a fool hurried along by the full raging tide of his folly. "Fool ... folly," include the idea Sinner ... sin. The fiercest she-bear can be tamed by human sagacity, but a fool and sinner, as such, can be tamed by nothing short of Omnipotence. The fool spurns "reproof" (Proverbs 17:10), and assails his faithful and kind reprover, as madmen attack their physician.


Verse 13

Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.

Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house. Such a monstrous sin shall entail punishment not merely on the sinner himself, but also on his posterity.


Verse 14

The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

The beginning of strife (is as) when one letteth out water - as when, in a dam or mound raised to oppose a flood or the sea, there is ever so small an aperture, the water passing through is sure to make it larger and larger, until with one mighty volume of water the whole embankment is swept away.

Therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with - leave off, instead of eagerly discussing most minute offences, and devising means of retaliation, with a pertinacious determination to conquer. 'It is easier to abstain from a contest than to withdraw from it' (Seneca). Oppose beginnings. 'The mother of mischief is no bigger than a midge's wing.' Strife is compared to the two most merciless elements, fire and water.


Verse 15

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both (are) an abomination to the Lord - (Isaiah 5:20; Isaiah 5:23.) We ought to be of one mind with God concerning both "the wicked" and "the just" respectively (2 Chronicles 19:2; 1 Kings 8:32). This verse shows that the term "justify" (Hebrew, matsdiyq (Hebrew #6663)) is forensic, to pronounce just one, even though not just in himself: a key-word in the doctrinal Epistle to the Romans: the opposite of 'condemn,' or pronounce impious (mareshia`).


Verse 16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

Wherefore (is there) a price (literally, this price: demonstratively) in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing (he hath) no heart (to it)? Why has he in his power the wealth and other means of obtaining wisdom, when he has no heart for it? Wealth is given to us by God in order that by its help we may advance in piety and wisdom. Money will obtain the help of teachers, both the living and the dead-namely, good and pious books-and other helps. Practical benevolence, in giving to the Lord's needy people, is a means of increasing in heavenly wisdom. But wealth without the heart, or teachable, humble, God-fearing mind, is of no avail for acquiring wisdom.


Verse 17

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A true friend loves at all times; but it is in adversity especially that he becomes as a brother born to you, or a brother by blood just born for the emergency. It is when put in the fire that the gold is proved. There ought to be no intervals of forgetfulness or alienation in the true friend. Proverbs 18:24 goes still further than this verse: it tells of "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."


Verse 18

A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend. A man void of understanding striketh hands (in token of his engaging to be responsible for another), (and) becometh surety in the presence of his friend - implying habitual rashness in suretiship. "In the presence of his friend" (Maurer, for "his friend," translates, 'another'); namely, in the presence of the creditor. Luther takes it, If you wish to help your friend, be surety for him, but not in his presence, which will increase his negligence. The believer is worse than a pagan, if he is not provident for his own household (1 Timothy 5:8). So close is the connection of prudence in the household with prudence in religious concerns in general, that the two generally stand or fall together.


Verse 19

He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.

He loveth transgression that loveth strife - because strife both is itself a transgression, and is the source of many transgressions.

(And) he that exalteth his gate (i:e., his house: not as Micah 7:5 is quoted for the door, of the mouth) seeketh destruction. To 'love strife' is the mark of one who 'exalts' himself (Proverbs 13:10). Such a one 'loving transgression' is virtually 'seeking destruction,' for destruction is the issue of transgression. Where two angrily contend, both are in fault. Imprecations, rash appeals to God, superciliousness, abuse, and implacable spite, are generally engendered, as the strife proceeds, whichever may have been in the right at first.


Verse 20

He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.

He that hath a froward heart findeth no good - one whose "heart is deep" (Psalms 64:6); one "with a double heart" (Psalms 12:2). The opposite to an open, sincere, upright heart (Proverbs 11:20).

And he that hath a perverse (crafty) tongue falleth into mischief - a tongue adapting itself to those with whom it converses; not only discrepant from the heart, but from itself. "Double-tongued" (1 Timothy 3:8; James 3:9-10). The perverse think, by the subtlety which twists itself into all shapes, to 'find good' and escape "mischief." But the reverse ensues: it "findeth no good," and "falleth into mischief."


Verse 21

He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.

He that begetteth a fool (doeth it) to his sorrow - findeth afterward that what he had regarded as a joy is but a "sorrow," when the son betrays his foolishness. Hence, infer that we should be anxious not so much for a numerous, as for a godly offspring (T. Cartwright).


Verse 22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

A merry heart doeth good (like) a medicine - or else, 'make good (i:e., effectual) medicine;' cf. margin: so Mercer. The same root as here [ geehah (Hebrew #1456)] occurs in Hosea 5:13, "cure." Gesenius thinks the root-meaning to be the removal of the ligature of a wound. Quiet, diet, and cheerfulness flowing from a good conscience, are the best medicines (Proverbs 15:15; Proverbs 3:7-8; Proverbs 4:22).


Verse 23

A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.

A wicked (man) (or judge) taketh a gift out of the bosom (taken out of the giver's bosom), to pervert the ways of judgment - to pervert the due course of justice by quibbles and loopholes of escape. The "bosom" implies the secrecy of the offer of the bribe: a gift hidden in the bosom (Proverbs 15:27; Deuteronomy 16:19).


Verse 24

Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

Wisdom is before (Hebrew, in the face of) him that hath understanding - is always before his face as a friend, ready at hand (Gejer) (cf. the phrase, Genesis 19:13). Or, 'appears in his countenance' composed, grave, and modest. The latter, which is supported by the Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Chaldaic, is the prominent thought, as the parallel second clause shows (cf. Sirach 19:29, 'A man may be known by his look, and one that hath understanding, by his countenance, when thou meetest him').

But the eyes of a fool (are) in the ends of the earth. The wandering "eyes" indicate the unsettled mind, that But the eyes of a fool (are) in the ends of the earth. The wandering "eyes" indicate the unsettled mind, that seeks wisdom "in the ends of the earth," and "findeth it not" (Proverbs 14:6). As far as attaining wisdom is concerned, his restless eyes show that it is all one as if they were in the ends of the earth. He neglects the "word of faith," which is "nigh" him (Romans 10:8). The face of the man of understanding, on the contrary, shows that wisdom is with him.


Verse 25

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

A foolish son (is) a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him. The mother, as having to a greater degree than the father spoiled her son by indulgence, entails on herself "bitterness," which is worse than "grief," the portion of the father (T. Cartwright).


Verse 26

Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.

Also to punish the just is not good, (nor) to strike princes for (literally, upon) equity. The "also" expresses, Besides other evils, also to punish the just is not good (Proverbs 19:2). The Septuagint and Maurer, instead of "for equity," translate, 'transgresses equity.' I prefer the English version. With the Chaldaic, Syriac, and Vulgate, "to strike" refers to judicial inflictions. It is awful perversion of right to punish those who deserve reward, and commendation. "Princes," or 'the noble:' Hebrew, nedibim.


Verse 27

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

He that hath knowledge spareth his words: (and) a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. The Hebrew text, Kethibh, reads, [w


Verse 28

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; (and) he that shutteth his lips (is esteemed) a man of understanding. This confirms Proverbs 17:27. Thus, the objection is met, If I do not repay an injury with words or blows, I shall be esteemed a fool. Nay, thou shalt be esteemed by God, by angels, and by saints, wise.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-17.html. 1871-8.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
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