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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Iron sharpeneth iron - As hard iron, viz., steel, will bring a knife to a better edge when it is properly whetted against it: so one friend may be the means of exciting another to reflect, dive deeply into, and illustrate a subject, without which whetting or excitement, this had never taken place. Had Horace seen this proverb in the Septuagint translation when he wrote to the Pisos?

Ergo fungar vice cotis, acutum

Reddere quae ferrum valet, exors ipsa secandi.

Hor. Ars. Poet., ver. 304.

"But let me sharpen others, as the hone

Gives edge to razors, though itself have none."

Francis.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-27.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The proverb expresses the gain of mutual counsel as found in clear, well-defined thoughts. Two minds, thus acting on each other, become more acute. This is better than to see in “sharpening” the idea of provoking, and the point of the maxim in the fact that the quarrels of those who have been friends are bitter in proportion to their previous intimacy.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/proverbs-27.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Friendship

Scripture instances of friendship are David and Jonathan; Ruth and Naomi; Paul and Timotheus; and our Lord and the Bethany sisters. In classical literature we see that friendship had a great part, both in the government of states and the lives of individuals. It is an aspect of politics and of human nature, and of all virtue. Partly owing to the different character of domestic life, the tie of friendship seems to have exercised s greater influence amongst the Greeks and Romans than among ourselves; and although these attachments may sometimes have degenerated into evil, we cannot doubt that much that was noble in the old life was also pure. See cases of Achilles and Patroclus, and of Pylades and Orestes. The school of Socrates was as much a circle of friends as a band of disciples. Roman friendships are illustrated in Scipio and Loelius, and in Cicero and Atticus. Shakespeare gives several types of friendship. In youth, when life is opening before us, we easily form friendships. A young man, even if he be poor in worldly goods, may reasonably hope to be rich in friends. Like draws towards like, and youth rejoices in youth. We cannot make friendships exactly as we please. Friendships are not made, but grow out of similar tastes, out of mutual respect, from the discovery of some hitherto unsuspected vein of sympathy. They depend also on our own power of inspiring friendship in others. Yet neither is the choice of friends altogether independent of ourselves. A man may properly seek for friends. He gets good, or he gets harm, out of the companionship of those with whom he lives. Such as they are he will be in some degree.

I. The character of true friendship. It should be simple, manly, unreserved; not weak, or fond, or extravagant, nor yet exacting more than human nature can fairly give; nor intrusive into the secrets of another’s soul, or curious about his circumstances. The greatest element in friendship is faithfulness. Friends learn from one another; they form the characters of one another; they bear one another’s burdens; they make up for each other’s defects. The ancients spoke of three kinds of friendship--one for the sake of the useful, one for the sake of the pleasant, and a third for the sake of the good or noble. The first is a contradiction in terms. It is a partnership, not a friendship. Every one knows the delight of having a friend. Is there a friendship for the sake of the noble and the good? Mankind are dependent beings, and we cannot help seeing how much, when connected together, they may do for the elevation of one another’s character and for the improvement of mankind.

II. Changing friendships. Like the other goods of life, friendship is commonly mixed and imperfect, and liable to be interrupted by changing circumstances or the tempers of men. Few have the same friends in youth as in age. Some youthful friendships are too violent to last; they have in them some element of weakness or sentimentalism, and the feelings pass away. Or, at some critical time of life, a friend has failed to stand by us, and then our love to him grows cold. But there are duties we owe to an extinct friend. We should never speak against him, or make use of our knowledge about him. A passing word should not be suffered to interrupt the friendship of years. It is a curious observation, that the most sensitive natures are also the most liable to pain the feelings of others.

III. Christian friendship. The spirit of a man’s life may be more or less consciously Christian. Friendship may be based on religious motives, and may flow out of a religious principle. Human friendships constantly require to be purified and raised from earth to heaven. And yet they should not lose themselves in spiritual emotion or in unreal words. Better that friendship should have no element of religion than that it should degenerate into cant and insincerity. All of us may sometimes think of ourselves and our friends as living to God, and of human love as bearing the image of the Divine. There are some among us who have known what it is to lose a friend. Death is a gracious teacher. Who that has lost a friend would not wish to have done more for him now that he is taken away? The memory of them is still consecrated and elevating for our lives. (Professor Jowett.)

Friendship

This is what one friend should be to another; a whetstone, to give keenness to the edge of his energy. A friend can encourage his friend when duty is difficult, or wearisome, or painful; can comfort, can advise. But friendship is too often made the stepping-stone to the worst falls; and many a sinner has his friends to thank for his having fallen into sins which, left to himself, he would have shrunk from with horror. God has mercifully hedged round most sins with many barriers--the barrier of ignorance, of shame, and of affection. This latter, in a personal friend, may be especially helpful. A friend may aid us in both the right and the wrong. It is sometimes the duty of a true friend openly to find fault with a friend. But the occasion is very rare. In most cases all that is wanted is to hold to the right, and you will do more towards holding your friend to the right than by all manner of exhortations. Few things can give acuter pain to the soul in after-years than the memory of friends misled by our friendship. Friendship, and sympathy, and cheerful example ought to help us more than anything else to grow up soldiers and servants of Christ, and to fight His battle when we are grown up. Iron cannot sharpen iron more than we might sharpen each other. The very differences in our character might be such a help to us in making friendship valuable, because when one friend is much tempted the other is strong, and can uphold him, and yet, when another kind of temptation comes, will receive back as much support as he gave. (Frederick Temple, D.D.)

“A friend in need is a friend indeed”

Bacon says, “To be without friends is to find the world a wilderness.” It is only a mean man that can be contented alone. A trusty friend is one of earth’s greatest blessings. Alas, for the dire contagion of evil friendships! Washington said, “Be courteous to all, intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” Stick to your friend. He can never have any true friends who is often changing them. Bring your friend to a proper understanding of himself. Persuade him of his follies. Phocion said truly to Antipater, “I cannot be both your friend and flatterer.” True friendship cannot exist between bad men. True friendship is tested in the hour of adversity. Wait until you are in trouble, and many a professed friend will be shy of you and give you the dead cut. Many people expect too much from their friends. There is an old saying that “Friends, like fiddle-strings, must not be screwed too tight.” Friendships are often productive of mischief because they are not governed by wisdom and prudence. He is our best friend who is a friend to our soul. Give a wide berth to the sneering sceptic. Have for your bosom friends men who will “strengthen your hand in God,” who will foster your piety and make you wiser, better, and holier men. In Christ alone the proverb at the heading of this outline finds its fullest verification. (M. C. Peters.)

Friendly converse

This proverb is described by Edward Irving as forcibly expressing the effect of religious converse and communion by a beautiful figure, which also not inaptly represents the way in which the effect is produced. Iron sharpeneth iron by removing the rust which has been contracted from their lying apart; so intercourse between friend and friend rubs down the prejudices which they have contracted in their separate state. And as the iron, having removed the rust which entered into the good stuff of the blade, and hindered its employment for husbandry or war, straightway applies itself to the metallic substance, brings it to a polish and to an edge, shows its proper temper, and fits it for its proper use, so the intercourse of friends having removed the prejudices which were foreign to the nature and good conditions of each, proceeds, in the next place, to bring out the slumbering spirit which lay hid, to kindle each other into brightness, and prepare each other for action. (Francis Jacox.)

The sharpening influence of religious intercourse

We are all well acquainted with the every-day fact that “iron sharpeneth iron”; we have all seen steel used to sharpen a blade, to give it an edge, and make it fit to do its work. We are also well aware that the blade, when sharpened, may be used for a good purpose, or abused for a bad one. The axe may be used to fell the timber of the temple, or to break down all the carved work thereof. The steel or the whetstone to sharpen, fits the blade for doing good or doing evil, according to circumstances. The act of sharpening increases its power, whether for good or evil; and so is it with regard to a man’s friends--they stir him up, they excite him, but it is to good or to evil, according as they themselves are good or evil. We must take care who our friends are, lest we receive mischief; take care what kind of friends we are, lest we impart it. Those who countenance what is wrong are answerable for much of the evil their countenance leads to. For instance, all persons should take great care to what they are led by the countenance and encouragement of friends on occasions of public festivity or show. Many on such occasions have their countenances sharpened as they are not on other days. They are encouraged to say, to do, to boast, to indulge, as they never would do, and never do, when sitting at home in their own houses. It is a pleasing thought, however, that the man whose heart is right with God “sharpeneth” for good “the countenance of his friend. There is nothing more false upon true religion than to imagine that it stunts our minds, that its design is to withdraw them from the genial warmth of social life, where it may blossom--where, like a healthy plant, it may open and expand, and place them alone, to become proud and selfish. True religion, like every other good sentiment, requires society to bring it to perfection. Now, if there be something so valuable in the intercourse of true Christians, they should seek it in the spirit best calculated to profit by such communion. They should seek it in Christian friendship. They should constantly be on the look-out for those who are willing to drink deep with them at the fountain of Divine truth. But our expectations from this truth are not to be limited to the exercise of private friendship. We cannot all be bound together by such ties, desirable as they are; but then, again, all real Christians are real friends. They may never have spoken; they may want introduction one to another; distance of situation may keep them apart; circumstances may keep them unacquainted though near in point of neighbourhood; yet have they, being all partakers of the same Spirit, that which is calculated, under altered circumstances, to make and keep them friends. All Christians, I repeat, are friends; and, therefore, we may expect many circumstances, short of strict and intimate friendship, calculated to bring into play the principle upon which I have been dwelling. I shall mention two circumstances under which this may happen.

1. I would recommend all persons to seek this means of improvement in their families. With his family is every Christian bound to share, and by sharing to increase, his devout affections. There are innumerable degrees of life among the members of our Lord: there are all the stages from simple consecration to Him, in baptism and profession, to the fullest union. To be helpers of each other’s faith throughout these several stages--to become by mutual communication joint partakers of one common Spirit--is one of the most effectual means of spiritual growth. “He that watereth may hope to be watered also himself.”

2. But this is not all: he is in the way to have his own “countenance sharpened,” his own motives quickened, his own soul stirred up to watchfulness, love, zeal, diligence, and an endeavour at being consistent. If we know ourselves, we know that we want every kind of motive, every sort of help. Then let every Christian try the power of meeting each morning and evening to pray together with his family. But, if so, how much more should we thank God for those further helps which He affords to us in the public assemblies of the congregation. Here especially the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. If we came to His house expecting much, imploring much, desiring much, we should gain much. Our God would enrich us, and that partly through the channel of our “fellowship one with another.” (J. H. A. Walsh, M.A.)


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 27:17". The Biblical Illustrator. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-27.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

Based upon the truism that a friend would not sharpen the features of another's face, is the following: "As one iron implement is sharpened by another, so a man sharpens the perception of his companion."[22] However, would not the joy over the arrival of a friend actually change the appearance of a companion's face, wreathing it in smiles?


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-27.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Iron sharpeneth iron,.... A sword or knife made of iron is sharpened by it; so butchers sharpen their knives;

so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend; by conversation with him; thus learned men sharpen one another's minds, and excite each other to learned studies; Christians sharpen one another's graces, or stir up each other to the exercise of them, and the gifts which are bestowed on them, and to love and to good works. So Jarchi and Gersom understand it of the sharpening of men's minds to the learning of doctrine; but Aben Ezra, takes it in an ill sense, that as iron strikes iron and sharpens it, so a wrathful man irritates and provokes wrath in another. Some render the words, "as iron delighteth in iron, so a man rejoiceth the countenance of his friend",F9יחד "laetatur", a חדה "laetari; ferrum in ferro laetatur, et virum laetificant ora socii ejus", Gussetius, p. 242. "ferrum ferro hiluratur, et vir exhilarat vultum sodalis sui", Schultens. : by his company and conversation.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-27.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a g man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

(g) One hasty man provokes another to anger.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/proverbs-27.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

a man sharpeneth … friend — that is, conversation promotes intelligence, which the face exhibits.


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/proverbs-27.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

This proverb expresses the influence arising from the intercourse of man with man:

Iron is sharpened by iron,

And a man may sharpen the appearance of another.

When the Masora reads יחד , Ewald remarks, it interprets the word as denoting “at the same time,” and the further meaning of the proverb must then accord therewith. Accordingly he translates: “iron together with iron! and one together with the face of another!” But then the prep. ב or עם is wanting after the second יחד - for יחד is, in spite of Ewald, §217h, never a prep. - and the “face,” 17b, would be a perplexing superfluity. Hitzig already replies, but without doing homage to the traditional text-punctuation, that such a violence to the use of language, and such a darkening of the thought, is not at all to be accepted. He suggests four ways of interpreting יחד : (1) the adverb יחד , united, properly (taken accusat.) union; (2) יחד , Psalms 86:11, imper. of the Piel יחד , unite; (3) יחדּ , Job 3:6, jussive of the Kal חדה , gaudeat ; and (4) as Kimchi, in Michlol 126a, jussive of the Kal חדה (= חדד ) acuere , after the form תחז , Micah 4:11. ויּחץ , Genesis 32:8, etc. in p . יחד , after the form אחז , Job 23:9. ויּחל , 2 Kings 1:2 (= ויּחלא , 2 Chronicles 16:12). If we take יחד with בּרזל , then it is à priori to be supposed that in יחד the idea of sharpening lies; in the Arab. iron is simply called hadyda = חדוּד , that which is sharpened, sharp; and a current Arab. proverb says: alḥadyd balḥadyd yuflah = ferrum ferro diffinditur ( vid ., Freytag under the word falah ). But is the traditional text-punctuation thus understood to be rightly maintained? It may be easily changed in conformity with the meaning, but not so that with Böttcher we read יחד and יחד , the fut . Kal of חדד : “iron sharpeneth itself on iron, and a man sharpeneth himself over against his neighbour” - for פני after a verb to be understood actively, has to be regarded as the object - but since יחד is changed into יחד ( fut . Hiph . of חדד ), and יחד into יחד or יחד ( fut . Hiph . of חדד , after the form אחל , incipiam , Deuteronomy 2:25, or אחל , profanabo , Ezekiel 39:7; Numbers 30:3). The passive rendering of the idea 17a and the active of 17b thus more distinctly appear, and the unsuitable jussive forms are set aside: ferrum ferro exacuitur, et homo exacuit faciem amici sui (Jerome, Targ., the Venet .). But that is not necessary. As ויּעל may be the fut . of the Hiph . (he brought up) as well as of the Kal (he went up), so יחד may be regarded as fut . Kal , and יחד as fut . Hiph . Fleischer prefers to render יחד also as Hiph .: aciem exhibet , like יעשׁיר , divitias acquirit , and the like; but the jussive is not favourable to this supposition of an intransitive (inwardly transitive) Hiph . It may indeed be said that the two jussives appear to be used, according to poetic licence, with the force of indicatives (cf. under Proverbs 12:26), but the repetition opposes it. Thus we explain: iron is sharpened [ gewetzt , Luther uses this appropriate word] by iron ( ב of the means, not of the object, which was rather to be expected in 17b after Proverbs 20:30), and a man whets פני , the appearance, the deportment, the nature, and manner of the conduct of his neighbour. The proverb requires that the intercourse of man with man operate in the way of sharpening the manner and forming the habits and character; that one help another to culture and polish of manner, rub off his ruggedness, round his corners, as one has to make use of iron when he sharpens iron and seeks to make it bright. The jussive form is the oratorical form of the expression of that which is done, but also of that which is to be done.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-27.html. 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

This intimates both the pleasure and the advantage of conversation. One man is nobody; nor will poring upon a book in a corner accomplish a man as the reading and studying of men will. Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men's wits; and those that have ever so much knowledge may by conference have something added to them. It sharpens men's looks, and, by cheering the spirits, puts a briskness and liveliness into the countenance, and gives a man such an air as shows he is pleased himself and makes him pleasing to those about him. Good men's graces are sharpened by converse with those that are good, and bad men's lusts and passions are sharpened by converse with those that are bad, as iron is sharpened by its like, especially by the file. Men are filed, made smooth, and bright, and fit for business (who were rough, and dull, and inactive), by conversation. This is designed, 1. To recommend to us this expedient for sharpening ourselves, but with a caution to take heed whom we choose to converse with, because the influence upon us is so great either for the better or for the worse. 2. To direct us what we must have in our eye in conversation, namely to improve both others and ourselves, not to pass away time or banter one another, but to provoke one another to love and to good works and so to make one another wiser and better.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-27.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

We are cautioned to take heed whom we converse with. And directed to have in view, in conversation, to make one another wiser and better.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-27.html. 1706.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Iron — Iron tools are made sharp and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron.

The countenance — The company or conversation of his friend.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/proverbs-27.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

IDEAS GROW BY INTERCOURSE

‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.’

Proverbs 27:17

I. The character of true friendship.—It should be simple, manly, unreserved, not weak, or fond, or extravagant, nor yet exacting more than human nature can fairly give. It should be easy, too, and cheerful, careful of little things, having also a sort of dignity which is based on mutual respect. Perhaps the greatest element of friendship is faithfulness.

II. Like the other goods of life, friendship is commonly mixed and imperfect, and liable to be interrupted by changing circumstances or the tempers of men.—The memory of a friendship is, like the memory of the dead, not likely to be spoken of or aspersed.

III. Christian friendship is another aspect of the ideal, though in some respects different.—For the spirit of a man’s life may be more or less consciously Christian. That which others regard as the service of man he may recognise to be the service of God; that which others do out of compassion for their fellow-creatures he may also do from the love of Christ. And so of friendship; that also may be more immediately based on religious motives, and may flow out of a religious principle. ‘They walked together to the house of God’; that is, if I may venture a paraphrase of the words, they served God together in doing good to His creatures. Human friendships constantly require to be purified and raised from earth to heaven.

IV. Some among us have known what it is to lose a friend.—Death is a gracious teacher. The thought of a departed friend or child, instead of sinking us in sorrow, may be a guiding light to us, like the thought of Christ to His disciples, bringing many things to our remembrance of which we were ignorant; and if we have hope in God for ourselves, we have hope also for them. We believe that they rest in Him, and that no evil shall touch them.

Rev. Dr. B. Jowett.

Illustration

‘Oh, the sweetness of a man’s friend! it is as ointment and perfume to the heart. Let us be careful not to forsake a friend, especially if he be an old friend of many years’ standing. At the same time, we shall probably keep our friends longest if we remember the warning of Proverbs 27:14. Mutual intercourse between friend and friend tends to the sharpening of each, and so we say: Choose your friends wisely, cling to them tenaciously, make much of them, be true to them, and through them learn the friendship of God.’


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Church Pulpit Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/proverbs-27.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Ver. 17. Iron sharpeneth iron.] One edge tool sharpeneth another; so doth the face of a man his friend. Ipse aspectus viri boni delectat, saith Seneca. Let us "whet one another to love and good works," saith Paul, [Hebrews 10:24] as boars whet their tusks, as mowers whet their scythes. Thus Paul was "pressed in spirit" by the coming of Timothy, [Acts 18:5] and extimulates Timothy to "stir up ( αναζωπυρειν) the gift of God that was in him." [2 Timothy 1:6] Thus Peter roused up ( διεγειρειν) those to whom he wrote, ex veterno torporis et teporis, out of their spiritual lethargy. [1 Peter 1:13] And thus those good souls "spake often one to another," for mutual quickening in dull and dead times. [Malachi 3:16-17] {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:16"} {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:17"} As amber grease is nothing so sweet in itself as when compounded with other things; so godly and learned men are gainers by communicating themselves to others. Conference hath incredible profit in all sciences. Castalio renders this text thus: Ut ferrum ferro, sic heroines alii aliis coniuguntur; As iron is to iron, so are men joined and soldered to one another, - viz., in a very straight bond of love and friendship.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-27.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 27:17

I. The character of true friendship. It should be simple, manly, unreserved, not weak, or fond, or extravagant, nor yet exacting more than human nature can fairly give. It should be easy, too, and cheerful, careful of little things, having also a sort of dignity which is based on mutual respect. Perhaps the greatest element of friendship is faithfulness.

II. Like the other goods of life, friendship is commonly mixed and imperfect, and liable to be interrupted by changing circumstances or the tempers of men. The memory of a friendship is, like the memory of the dead, not lightly to be spoken of or aspersed.

III. Christian friendship is another aspect of the ideal, though in some respects different. For the spirit of a man's life may be more or less consciously Christian. That which others regard as the service of man he may recognise to be the service of God; that which others do out of compassion for their fellow-creatures he may also do from the love of Christ. And so of friendship: that also may be more immediately based on religious motives, and may flow out of a religious principle. "They walked together in the house of God;" that is, if I may venture a paraphrase of the words, they served God together in doing good to His creatures. Human friendships constantly require to be purified and raised from earth to heaven.

IV. Some among us have known what it is to lose a friend. Death is a gracious teacher. The thought of a departed friend or child, instead of sinking us in sorrow, may be a guiding light to us, like the thought of Christ to His disciples, bringing many things to our remembrance of which we were ignorant; and if we have hope in God for ourselves, we have hope also for them. We believe that they rest in Him, and that no evil shall touch them.

B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 218.


The particulars in which this similitude lies seem to be the following: (1) sameness of nature, iron with iron; (2) mutual action by the friction of the one piece of iron on the other piece of iron; (3) the result of this application of the two similar substances one to the other—the imparting of a finer polish and a sharper edge. To this is compared the effect of friendly social intercourse: "So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Iron with iron; man with man. Iron with iron; man—in the intercourse, the exchange, and in the mutual friction and operation of mind upon mind—with man: and the result the improvement of both.

I. God made man a social being. This social principle is one of the great gifts of God, for which we ought to be deeply thankful, and which we ought to improve for the great and benevolent ends for which God imparted it. We are designed to live not as so many separate, isolated individuals, but as those who, bound together by the God who made us by the ties of a common nature, a common human intelligence, a common relation to the common Father of all; are to be interested in, and helpful to, one another in the service of God, and in promoting the well-being of one another, of society, and of the human race.

II. Scripture points out besides this common principle which should unite the human race one particular and individual friendship. The benevolence which is due to all may take, and must take, and so should take, in many cases, a particular direction, not lessening our benevolence by the confinement of it, but by giving it a more particular direction, affording opportunity for its being more fully exercised than it can be in the wider sphere.

III. The social, indeed, has its dangers; and these are carefully to be guarded against. Therefore let me add one word: the truly Christian social. God appointed the social for the purpose here stated: for sharpening, not for blunting and dissipating; for the improvement, not for the deterioration, of the mind; for edification, not for destruction.

IV. Let us see from this the importance of well-formed friendship. He whom we admit into our friendship we admit into the formation of our character.

J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 211.


These words express what one friend should be to another: a whetstone to give keenness to the edge of his energy. And this use of friendship, valuable under all circumstances and in all undertakings that belong to earth, does not lose its value in the service of Christ. In that service, more than in any other, the conviction of a true heart and thorough sympathy close at hand is the greatest help that any man can have. But it is undeniable that friendship is too often made the stepping-stone to the worst falls.

I. God has mercifully hedged round most sins with many barriers. (1) There is, first, the barrier which while it lasts is so very powerful, and when it has once been broken down can never be set up again: the barrier of ignorance. A friend teaching his friend the way to sin is the most shocking use of friendship that can be imagined; and yet it is not uncommon, not uncommon from mere thoughtlessness—the thoughtlessness of the soul that, having plunged into evil, thinks little of seeing another plunge after him. (2) The second barrier in the way to evil is shame. And if a friend takes away the first, how still more often does he help to take away the second. (3) A third barrier is the affection that we feel for parents, for home, for those natural friends whom God's providence has given us. And this, too, a friend is better able than any one else to break through. A friend can supply us with another affection near at hand to take the place of that distant affection on which we are turning our backs.

II. It is sometimes, but not often, the duty of a true friend openly to find fault with his friend. And when that duty comes, a servant of Christ must not be so cowardly as to flinch from it. But the occasion is very rare. In most cases all that is wanted is to hold to the right, and you will do more towards holding your friend to the right than by all manner of exhortations. Friendship, and sympathy, and cheerful example might help us more than any teaching in the world to grow up soldiers and servants of Christ, and to fight His battle when we were grown up.

Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 139.


References: Proverbs 27:17.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 342. Proverbs 27:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1118, and My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 195. Proverbs 27:21-27.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. iii., p. 244. Proverbs 27:23.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 242; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 355. Proverbs 27:24.—New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 230. Proverbs 28:1.—Parker, Pulpit Notes, p. 285; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 348. Proverbs 28:1-13.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. iii., p. 255. Proverbs 28:13.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 353; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 85; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, 3rd series, p. 270; New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses, p. 38.




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Bibliography
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/proverbs-27.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Iron cutting tools are made bright, and sharp, and fit for use by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron. So a man, who being alone is sad, and dull, and unactive, by the company and conversation of his friend is greatly refreshed, his very wits are sharpened, and his spirit revived, and he is both fitted for and provoked to action.

The countenance is here put for the mind or spirit, whose temper or disposition is commonly visible in men’s countenances.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-27.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

17. Iron sharpeneth iron; so, etc. — Men’s minds are excited to activity by contact. One wit whets another. One friend encourages another. One intellectual man stimulates another. Both good and bad emotions are excited by mutual conversation. It is probable that the wise man here chiefly refers to the enlivening and improving influence of good, intelligent society.

Countenance פני (pene) may be used tropically for mind. Miller translates: “Iron is welded to iron, so for a man the tie is the face of his friend.” He takes the root to be יחד, (yahhadh,) instead of חדד, (hhadhadh:) his idea is not without plausibility.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-27.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 27:17. Iron sharpeneth iron — Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend — Quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better man. The countenance is here put for the mind or spirit, the state and disposition of which are commonly visible in men’s countenances.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-27.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Sharpeneth. Or instructeth. Fungar vice cotis. (Horace, Art.)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-27.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Iron sharpeneth iron (Ecclesiastes 10:10); so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend - i:e., sharpeneth the mind of his friend, so that the countenance expresses it; by mutual conversation and instruction; by the communion of saints. The countenance brightens up in meeting intelligent friends, who sharpen the intellect and warm the heart (Job 4:3-4). So Jarchi. Aben-Ezra refers it to anger: 'So a man (by his passion) sharpeneth the countenance (i:e., the anger) of another' (cf. Job 16:9). I prefer the English version. 'The very sight of a good man delights' (Seneca). (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.)


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-27.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(17) So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend—i.e., the play of wit with wit sharpens and brightens up the face.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-27.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Iron
1 Samuel 13:20,21
so
9; Joshua 1:18; 2:24; 1 Samuel 11:9,10; 23:16; 2 Samuel 10:11,12; Job 4:3,4; Isaiah 35:3,4; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:8,12; 2:3,9-13; Hebrews 10:24; James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12,13

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-27.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Stuart and Noyes find here the idea of provocation. But most critics take the ordinary view. Miller translates "Iron is welded by iron; so, for a man, the tie is the face of a friend."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A SOCIAL WHETSTONE

I. This proverb may be applied to men's general intercourse with each other. It is needful for a man to mingle with his fellow-creatures in order to have his faculties and capacities developed and fitted for action. Social intercourse is stimulating to the mind and refreshing to the spiritual nature, and is indeed indispensable to our happiness and usefulness. "A man by himself," says Muffet, "is no man—he is dull, he is very blunt; but if his fellow come and quicken him by his presence, speech, and example, he is so whetted on by this means that he is much more skilful, comfortable, and better than when he was alone." The human countenance, as the organ by which the soul of one man makes its presence felt by another, has a quickening influence even when no words are uttered, and this general friction of soul with soul preserves men from intellectual dulness and spiritual apathy.

II. It is especially applicable to intercourse with those whom we know and love. Above and beyond the general need of man to have constant intercourse with man, there are times and seasons when the face of a friend is especially helpful. The sword that has seen much hard service must come in contact with another steel instrument to restore its edge. The ploughshare that has pushed its way through hard and stony ground must be fitted for more work by friction with a whetstone, and the axe, after it has felled many trees, must be subjected to a similar process. So the intellectual and spiritual nature of man becomes at times in need of a stimulus from without which may fitly be compared with this sharpening of iron by iron. Hard mental toil, contact with uncongenial persons and things, disappointments, and even great spiritual emotions, have a tendency to exhaust our energies and depress our spirits, and render us for a time indisposed to exertion, and perhaps incapable of it. In such a condition a look of sympathy and encouragement from one who understands us is very serviceable indeed, and has power to arouse within us fresh hope, and therefore new life for renewed action.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

As you can only sharpen iron by iron, you can only sharpen souls by souls. Neither dead matter, however majestic in aspect or thunderous in melody, nor irrational life, however graceful in form or mighty in force, can sharpen a blunted soul. Mind alone can quicken mind; it is in all cases the spirit that quickeneth.—Dr. David Thomas.

Iron is welded by iron. (This is Miller's rendering.) That is, we must bring a "face" of "iron" (not of tin, or brass, or wood, but, by the very necessities of its nature, of iron), and strictly a face of it, so that face may meet face (as of the water in the 19th verse), or they cannot run or mould themselves together. Fit a face of iron, red hot, to a face of iron, also hot, and force them hard upon each other, and thus you weld them. Bring a man face to face with his neighbour, and let them be warmed by a common taste, and, though one of them be God Himself, this will weld them.—Miller.

We owe some of the most valuable discoveries of science to this active reciprocity. Useful hints were thrown out, which have issued in the opening of large fields of hitherto unexplored knowledge. The commanding word in the field of battle puts a keen edge upon the iron. (2Sa ). The mutual excitation for evil is a solemn warning against "evil communications." But most refreshing is it, when, as in the dark ages of the Church, "they that feared the Lord spake often one to another." Sharpening indeed must have been the intercourse at Emmaus, when "the hearts of the disciples burned within them." The apostle was often so invigorated by the countenance of his friends, that he longed to be "somewhat filled with their company." Upon this principle—"Two are better than one"—our Lord sent His first preachers to their work. And the first Divine ordination in the Christian Church was after this precedent. (Act 13:2-4.)—Bridges.

The countenance of a friend is a wonderful work of God. It is a work as great and good as a sun in the heavens; and verily, He who spread it out and bade it shine did not intend that it should be covered by a pall.… He intends that it should shine upon hearts that have grown dark and cold.… The human countenance—oh, thou possessor of the treasure, never prostitute that gift of God! If you could, and should pluck down these greater and lesser lights that shine in purity from heaven, and trail them through the mire, you would be ashamed as one who had put out the eyes and marred the beauty of creation. Equal shame and sin are his who takes this terrestrial sun—blithe, bright, sparkling countenance—and with it fascinates his fellow into the old serpent's filthy folds.—Arnot.


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-27.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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