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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
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  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
  6. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  7. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
  8. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Countenance;   Friendship;   Iron;   Thompson Chain Reference - Friendship;   Friendship-Friendlessness;   The Topic Concordance - Countenance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Iron;   Metals;  
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Church;   Pardon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Greek Versions of Ot;   Proverbs, Book of;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Countenance;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Countenance;   Friend;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Metals;  

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."


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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

The valuable things of life (27:1-27)

Over-confidence, self-praise, stupidity and jealousy must all be avoided (27:1-4). True friends will show the inner love they have for each other by being open and honest with each other. Over-pleasantness may be a sign of a deceitful heart (5-6). Those with many possessions do not find contentment; the poor are more than satisfied if they can get what the rich throw away (7). Among the most priceless of possessions are a happy home and faithful friends (8-10).

Common sense will save people a lot of trouble and bring happiness to their parents (11-12), but those who give rash guarantees must be prepared to suffer the consequences (13). A loudmouthed but insincere friend is a curse, and a nagging wife can make life miserable (14-16). Where there is true understanding, differences of personality and viewpoint are of benefit to all concerned. Faithfulness to one another brings its reward (17-18).

The mind of a person reflects the true self. Therefore, a person's worth must be judged by reputation and character, not by possessions or wealth. Material things cannot fully satisfy (19-21). The character of the fool is easily judged, for no amount of corrective discipline will bring any lasting change (22). Instead of thinking only of building up wealth, a person should combine conscientiousness in daily work with trust in God's provision (23-27).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman 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?

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘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.


‘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.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring foRuth ( Proverbs 27:1 ).

Very good. This is, of course, the idea is taken up in the New Testament book of James. He said, "Go to now, ye who say, "Tomorrow we"ll do this and that and the other."" He said, "You should rather say, "If the Lord wills, tomorrow we will do this, that and the other." Because you really don"t know what tomorrow"s going to bring. It"s all in God"s hands. You don"t even know if you"re going to be here."

Jesus speaks about the man who said, "What am I going to do? I"m increased with goods. I have need of nothing and all. I know what I"ll do. I"ll tear down my barns and build bigger and so forth that I may hold all of my goods." And the Lord said unto him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required" ( Luke 12:20 ).

So don"t boast of tomorrow what you"re going to do. "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for you don"t know what the day is going to bring forth." Also Jesus tells us that we are not to worry about tomorrow, taking anxious thought for tomorrow. What I"m going to eat, what I"m going to drink, what I"m going to wear. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So don"t be all worried or concerned about tomorrow or don"t boast about tomorrow what I"m going to be doing tomorrow. You don"t know what God has in mind for you.

Next proverb is a very good one.

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips ( Proverbs 27:2 ).

Don"t go around praising yourself.

A stone is heavy, the sand weighty; but a fool"s wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy? ( Proverbs 27:3-4 )

Now wrath is cruel enough. Anger is outrageous. But man, someone who"s envious, how, who can stand before him? How totally devastating envy can be.

Open rebuke is better than secret love ( Proverbs 27:5 ).

And this next one also. So powerful.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of the enemy are deceitful ( Proverbs 27:6 ).

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend."

The full soul loatheth a honeycomb ( Proverbs 27:7 );

You know, if you"re full even something as sweet as honey just is... I"m so full I don"t want anything.

but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: and so doth the sweetness of a man"s friend by hearty counsel ( Proverbs 27:7-9 ).

Oh, how great it is to have a friend who will come in and give you honest counsel. There are many people who ostensibly seek counseling. That is what they are ostensibly seeking. But in reality they are not seeking counsel. They say they are seeking counsel. They come and say, "Oh, I want to talk to a counselor." Under the guise of desiring to be counseled. But in reality, they don"t want counsel.

Quite often I have people come to me, and they say, "Oh, I need to talk to you." And I try to explain to them that I have very little time that isn"t taken up with something. You see, in the early church they had problems that rose as the church began to grow. Because the people were bringing their complaints to the apostles and they were saying, "Our widows who are following the Hellenistic culture are being discriminated against by the men who are distributing the church"s welfare program." And the pressure was to get Peter and John and those guys to come and to stand there as the widows would come in and apportion them out so that the thing would be equal.

And so the elders said, "Hey, let"s appoint men that are filled with the Holy Spirit, men of good report, men who are honest, to oversee this distribution of the church"s welfare in order that we might give ourselves continually to the Word of God and to prayer." So they appointed godly men, Stephen, Philip and others, to oversee the distribution of the church"s welfare program in order that they might be free to do the things that God had called them to do. That is, of waiting upon the Lord in prayer, in the study of the Word, that they might be able to instruct the whole body of Christ.

Now it is wonderful that here at Calvary Chapel we"ve been able to establish priorities. And in the establishing of the priorities, God really hasn"t called me as a counselor. He hasn"t gifted me as a counselor. I don"t have the patience to be a counselor, nor do I have enough understanding. God has called me to minister the Word. It would be very easy, the pressure is on me to fill up my whole calendar from nine o"clock Monday morning till eight o"clock Friday night solid with counseling appointments one after another. There are that many people who call who need to talk to me. It"s urgent. It"s desperate. So that I would have absolutely no time for my family, no time for the Word of God, no time for prayer, no time for waiting upon the Lord, so that when I stood up in front of you, I"d have nothing to say.

So God has established the various priorities. And people sometimes they"ll come to me, "Oh, I need to talk to you." Well, we have counselors here at the church. "Oh, well, I talked to them." Wait a minute. If you talked to them, then why do you want to talk to me? Probably because they didn"t agree with what you wanted to hear, you know. They didn"t say the things you want to hear. So you"re hoping to find someone that"s going to say the thing that you want to hear. Well, that isn"t true counseling. And you"re not really seeking counsel if you"re only seeking confirmation for the dumb things you want to do. You"re not really looking for counsel, you see.

And so many people who ostensibly are seeking counsel are only seeking confirmation in the actions that they have decided upon. They really don"t want real counsel as such. Yet hearty counsel is a wonderful thing. It"s like perfume.

Thine own friend [verse Proverbs 27:10 ], thy father"s friend, forsake not; neither go to thy brother"s house in the day of your calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother that is far off ( Proverbs 27:10 ).

Now this assumes, of course, that your brother is way down some place and better to just go to a neighbor or to a friend for help than go across to the country to your brother. Neighbor that is near is better than a brother that is far off.

My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproaches me. A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished ( Proverbs 27:11-12 ).

We had basically the same thing in the twenty-second. But you remember these are proverbs that were gathered together by Hezekiah"s men, and in gathering them they did repeat some that were declared earlier.

Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman ( Proverbs 27:13 ).

That also was an earlier Proverbs 20:16 .

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him ( Proverbs 27:14 ).

That is the guy that"s still in the sack, man. I don"t want any blessings at five in the morning, you know. "I just called you up to give you a blessing, brother." Well.

In Bible college we used to have a guy that roomed in the room next to mine. And he won some kind of contest in Los Angeles years ago, a singing contest, and won a scholarship to some voice school to train him for opera. And so he was always using his operatic voice. And he had some peculiar idiosyncrasies beside that. And we used to give him this proverb because he would wake up early and decide to storm heaven with his prayers and just so loud. He was so loud; you can"t believe how loud. This guy did have a voice. I mean, he was loud. And used to always, "Well, bless the Lord." Just really put the whole thing into it. So. You do that early in the morning and it really doesn"t come across as a blessing. It comes across as a curse.

A continual dropping in a rainy day is like a contentious woman ( Proverbs 27:15 ).

It could be irritating and annoying, I would imagine.

Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind ( Proverbs 27:16 ),

That would be the contentious woman.

and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend ( Proverbs 27:16-17 ).

We sharpen each other.

Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honored. As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man ( Proverbs 27:18-19 ).

Like looking into a clear pool of water and seeing your reflection.

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied ( Proverbs 27:20 ).

Very important proverb. "Hell and destruction never full, the eyes of a man." If a man is bent towards chasing, bent towards running around, he"ll never be satisfied. His eyes are never satisfied. Always looking for a new conquest. Never satisfied.

As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise. And though thou shouldest pound a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him ( Proverbs 27:21-22 ).

Can"t beat it out of him.

Now the next five are coupled together.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds: For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass showeth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats" milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance of thy maidens ( Proverbs 27:23-27 ).

So the idea is diligence in looking over your own welfare, keeping your own flocks and herds. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Sundry Observations. Agriculture

4. Envy] a husband's jealousy is meant (Song of Solomon 8:6).

5, 6. Men 'hide' (RV) love when they refrain from telling a friend his faults. An enemy will be 'profuse' (RV) in deceitful kisses: Judas kissed Jesus much (Matthew 26:49; RM).

7. The Spartan king told the tyrant Dionysius that the broth was nothing without the seasoning of fatigue and hunger.

8. 'East, West, hame's best.'

9. Sweetness of disposition is desirable when it arises, not from mere emotion, but from a settled purpose of the soul.

14. Early and loud demonstrativeness is not stable. 'Evening words are not like to morning.'

16. The RV makes this difficult v. mean that he is attempting the impossible.

17. The solitary grows dull. 'The best mirror is an old friend.' The Greek proverb is, 'One man, no man.'

19. Judge another by yourself.

21. Estimate him by the reputation he wins. The Russian proverb is, 'A man's reception is according to his coat; his dismissal according to his sense.'

22. 'Heaven and earth fight in vain against a dunce.' 'Fools grow without watering.'

23-27. A homily in praise of careful attention to the flocks and herds. The writer is not disposed to depreciate agriculture, as some of the later Jewish proverb-makers were. One of these says, 'Lay out your money in trade, and you will have flesh and wine daily; lay it out in land, and you. will have but a bare subsistence.'

24. Riches and honour (the crown) are fleeting: attention to field and flock are profitable.

26. Sell your stock, and with the proceeds buy clothing and land.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

3. Virtues and vices27:1-22

Many of the analogies in this pericope deal with virtues and vices that are characteristic of the wise and the foolish.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

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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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

A Threefold Cord (for the First Sunday of the Year)

Proverbs 27:1

This is not a commonplace. Nothing in God"s Word is commonplace. Nothing inspired by the Holy Ghost could be commonplace. If you think it is a commonplace sentiment, I can tell you are commonplace. It is the deepest and truest philosophy of life. "Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." And it is the very best philosophy by which to stimulate us Christians for the beginning of the new year.

First of all, there is the possibility that before the year is done you and I may have passed away. It may be in the sweet hope of the spring when everything is budding forth, or it may be in the brilliant summer-time, or it may be in the sad autumn. I do not know. It is far better that we should not know. While we breathe before God let us be happy men and women. We do not know what a day may bring forth, and it is very much better that we should not. But if we are uncertain about this, we ought to be certain about our God. No uncertainty there. You must know Him. You must know in whom you believe, and trust Him to the uttermost. You must have no uncertainty about God. Your mind must be sure and steadfast—made up. You must be able to say, like St. Paul, "I am ready when the call comes. I have fought my own fight, I have kept my faith, and I am ready as He was ready".

It is on the first Sunday of the year that we should look to the rock from which we are hewn and to the pit from which we are digged. We should make our calling and election sure. And having done all we can, let us stand upon our feet, and let the countenance of God shine on our face—uncertain about our days, but certain about our God. Look today straight up before the new year and say, "O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded". And so I want to give you just a Scriptural cord to bind you to your God—a threefold cord, for it says a threefold cord cannot be broken.

I. The first part of the cord is this—live by faith in the Son of God. You know where it comes from. Paul said, "He loved me and gave Himself for me. The life that I live, I live by faith in the Son of God." Then you become citizens, not of the moments, not of the hours, not of the days, not of the months, not of the years, not of the centuries, but citizens of Eternity. Live by faith in the Son of God, and the terrors of time will not affect you. Oh, how some men are terrified by the tomorrow! To them tomorrow is a terror; it whips and scourges them, holds them over the crater, and shows them the pit. To-morrow we may be ruined, our character gone. "I cannot face it; I know not what it may bring forth." What a mystery it Isaiah, this future! It is not only that God is a mystery, but you are a mystery, and a mystery to yourself. Live by faith in the Son of God, and then all things are yours—things past, things present, and things to come.

II. The second twist in the cord to bind you is this—Cast all your care upon God. Some of us hardly like to face the many cares. Civilization, instead of easing the burden of cares, only increases it. Then we have other cares which trouble us—the difficulties, for instance, of this war, the difficulties of the Church, the difficulties amongst us. It is all natural. But here is my second point—Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you. That is abandonment. The most beautiful thing you can say about death is this—abandonment. You know nothing about the state after death, but you give yourself up: "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit". And the most beautiful action of life is abandonment into the hands of God—casting all your care upon God. It is the beautiful abandonment of life which is the best preparation for the abandonment of death, because, finding that the everlasting arms are round you, and that your God has not deserted you, it becomes a matter of experience, and you are not afraid to go. That is the way to learn to die.

III. And now another cord to make it strong—"My times are in Thy hands". Does God know what will happen to me this next year? Poor dear heart! of course He does. Does He know every little thing that will happen to me this new year? Yes, everything. There is no past or future with God. There is only one thing: the Eternal Now—"I am". God can never say of Himself, "I was and I shall be". God is "I am". He is the Eternal Now. When did He begin? From everlasting. When will He end? Everlasting. "From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God," It is sweet to think that He Who brought me into the world, Whose hands made me, Whose heart redeemed me, settled the time when I should come into the world. I also want Him to settle the time when I go out.

Think of our Lord Himself. How did He speak of the future? Did He say, "To-morrow at twelve o"clock?" No. Great minds use great words. He said, "Hereafter". That throws us forward right beyond temporal things. Sursum corda. Let your hearts go right up from the finite into the infinite Hereafter—out of time into Eternity. As the great historian begins his work: "In the beginning God—" The Lord was never a pessimist. He could say to the people, "Hereafter". It was the same Lord who said to the poor snubbed publican, "He is a son of Abraham"; the same Lord who said to the thief, "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise"; and the same Lord who said, "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man coming, and all the holy angels with Him".

References.—XXVII:1.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p218. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. ii. p231. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p527. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No94. XXVII:3.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture— Esther,, Job,, Proverbs, etc, p279. XXVII:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No1227.

The Wandering Bird

Proverbs 27:8

I. You will note that the whole point of the rebuke lies in the emphasis we put on wandering. It is not the flying, it is the wandering bird that reads us a lesson on our discontent.

To all men come times when we must forward. The Christ-filled life has got its own ambition. The waters of God are not a stagnant pool. But all that earnest pressing forward, seizing new opportunities, taking the cross up—all that stands separated as by the poles asunder from the fickle, restless, discontented spirit that is the spirit of the wandering bird.

II. Sometimes, of course, we do not know our place. I mean, we are almost certain this is not our place, and it is only afterwards we find it was. So when our dear Redeemer hung on Calvary, the whole world said, That is no place for God! And it has taken the centuries to teach us that the love of God came to its beauty there. It is not the place that makes the man: it is the man and his heart who make the place.

III. I have two thoughts to give you:—(a) That as a bird that never wanders from her nest, so Jesus never wandered from His place. Through sun and tempest, through censure and through praise, in youth and manhood, in agony and death, Jesus was true to His redeeming work.

(b) The true place of our deepest life is God. It is not self—we are growing tired of self. It is not the world—we can embrace the world; and ever, for the spirit, there is a beyond. It is when the roots of my being run down to the Divine; it is when, beneath all other facts for me, there lies the great fact of a living, moving God; it is when my life is hid with Christ in God, that my wandering spirit is in its proper place.

—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p262.

References.—XXVII:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No2627. J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii1890, p108. XXVII:17.—J. Duncan, The Pulpit and the Communion Table, p211. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p533. XXVII:18.—J. R. Popham, Sermons, p81. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No1118; see also vol. xlv. No2643. XXVIII:1.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p537. XXVIII:13.—Ibid. p541. XXVIII:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No2971. C. J. Vaughan, Last Words in the Parish Church of Doncaster, p19. XXVIII:26.—H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii. p92. XXIX:1.—W. Brooke, Sermons, p230. XXIX:7.—J. Guinness Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii1892, p279.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.

F.B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary


Proverbs 27:1-22

The keyword in this paragraph is friends, Proverbs 27:6; Proverbs 27:9-10; Proverbs 27:14; Proverbs 27:17; Proverbs 19:1-29. Friends, according to the original sense of the Hebrew word, are those who delight in each other’s companionship. Either they are useful to each other because the one possesses gifts that the other lacks, or they have certain tastes in common.

It is in friendship that we get to know ourselves, as a man sees his face in the mirror of calm water, Proverbs 27:19. We unfold to each other; our friend elicits traits of which we were hardly aware. Our sympathy and tenderness are drawn forth by our friend’s troubles, as our laughter flashes out to awaken or to answer his high spirits. We shudder to think what cold and undeveloped beings we should be without the sharpening of friendship, Proverbs 27:17. How sweet human friendships are! Proverbs 27:9. Why not find equal confidence and sweetness in the greatest Friend of all? Of course, there is a friendship “which is wholly hypocritical and worthless.” Such a friendship is marked by loud and ostentatious demonstration. See Proverbs 27:14. Ponder Christ’s offer, John 15:14-15.

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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". 1914.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible


In the three chapters which follow 27-29 we find the change we have noticed before. These proverbs are addressed to a person and the phrases “My son” and the personal address, “thou,” “thy” and “thyself,” are again used in these chapters. Like the previous sections, so here we find instructions which were given to Solomon.

CHAPTER 27 Instructions and Warnings

The opening proverb warns against procrastination. No one can be sure of what the next day may bring forth.True wisdom is not to trust the future day, for it may never come, nor are we to dwell in the past. While it is today we must live and act and leave nothing undone which can be done today. How true this is of salvation which is offered for today--now is the day of salvation. How many have been lost forever by procrastination, by thinking a more convenient time would come. Well has one said, “The thief which cheats us of our days and beggars us of our wealth is the specious thought that tomorrow belongs to us.” The illusion is as old as the world, but is today as fresh and powerful as ever. James 4:13-17 gives the same lesson. In the second verse we find a warning as to self-praise. Self-praise is one of the worst forms of pride, that pride which another proverb states Proverbs 16:18-33 “goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

“Open rebuke is better than secret love” and “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” Proverbs 27:5-27. A wise man welcomes open criticism and rebuke, though such rebuke may wound, yet being given by the faithfulness of a friend, it is far better than the deceitful kisses of a flattering enemy. The 14th (Proverbs 27:14) verse may be linked with these statements. “He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse unto him.” Insincerity lurks behind such loud, pharisaical protestations of friendship.

A great truth is given in Proverbs 27:19 : “As in water face answereth face, so the heart of man to man.” The still pool of water was man’s first mirror. Gazing in it the face is reflected. As truly as the face seen in the pool is like the face which the water reflects, so truly does one man’s heart reflect the other’s. Though there may be culture, education and a certain refinement, underneath each human being there is the same corrupt, fallen human nature.

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

Verse Proverbs 27:5. This proverb takes for granted the need for rebuke, and by 'love that is hidden" is meant a love which fails to rebuke.

Verse Proverbs 27:14. There is nothing more calculated to arouse suspicion than profuse protestations of friendship.

Verses Proverbs 27:15-16. These must be read together. The first part suggests the persistence and wearisomeness of a contentious woman; the second part the inability to hinder her.

Verse Proverbs 27:21. There are three interpretations of this proverb. First, that you may know what a man is by the way he bears praise. Second, that you may know what a man is by the things he praises. Third, that a man who treats praise as the fining pot treats silver and gold purges it of unworthy substance.

Verses Proverbs 27:23-27. A brief proverbial discourse setting forth the advantages of a simple agricultural life over a life spent in amassing wealth.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

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.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights 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
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1Comments- Proverbs 28:1 tells us that the wicked make fear-based decisions even when danger is not present. The wicked flee because they are afraid. This is because the world is fear-based, while God's children are faith-based. In other words, the world makes decisions based upon fear, but we make our decisions based upon faith in God's Word.

Proverbs 28:2 For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.

Proverbs 28:2Comments- A nation with just leaders will have longer years of reigns than a wicked nation where kings are quickly cut off. A corrupt land is an unstable land. There is much infighting over power and politics. For example, in 922 B.C. the nation of Israel is divided into southern Judah and northern Israel. While the more stable southern Judah had nineteen kings in period of three hundred thirty-five (335) years before its destruction in 586 B.C. by the king of Babylon, northern Israel had twenty kings in a period of only two hundred years. Thus, politically, Judah was more stable than northern Israel.

Judah has 19 kings, 1queen and lasts for 335 years (922-587 B.C.).

Israel has 20 kings and only lasts 200 years (922 - 724B.C.).

Proverbs 28:3 A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.

Proverbs 28:4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

Proverbs 28:5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.

Proverbs 28:5Scripture References- Note a similar verse in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

Proverbs 28:6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

Proverbs 28:7 Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.

Proverbs 28:8 He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.

Proverbs 28:8Scripture References- Note similar verses:

Proverbs 13:22, "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children"s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just."

Ecclesiastes 2:26, "For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight Wisdom of Solomon, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit."

Proverbs 28:9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

Proverbs 28:10 Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.

Proverbs 28:10 — "Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit" - Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 26:27, "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him."

Proverbs 28:10 — "the upright shall have good things in possession" - Illustration- In 1990 I had just bought an old used car from a fellow employee of Brown Trail Apartments for only US$ 12500. I had done it out of good will because he had desperately needed the cash. But the Lord then spoke to me and said, "You have to stop buying the worst so that you can have the best." I soon took courage, gave this car back to the person I had purchased it from as a free give to him and went out and purchased a new car.

Proverbs 28:12 When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.

Proverbs 28:12Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 28:28, "When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase."

Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Proverbs 28:13 Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Proverbs 28:18 Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.

Proverbs 28:18Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 10:9, "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known."

Proverbs 28:19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

Proverbs 28:20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

Proverbs 28:20Illustration- Abraham:

, "And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion."

Scripture References- Note similar verses:

Proverbs 10:22, "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it."

1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Proverbs 28:28 When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.

Proverbs 28:28Scripture Reference- Note a similar verse:

Proverbs 28:12, "When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden."

Proverbs 29:1 Hebrews, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

Proverbs 29:1"and that without remedy" - Word Study on "remedy" - The Enhanced Strong says the Hebrew word ( מַרְפֵּא) (H 4832) is used 16 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "health 5, healing 3, remedy 3, incurable 1, cure 1, sound 1, wholesome 1, yielding 1."

Comments- Note other uses of this same Hebrew word, "remedy":

2 Chronicles 36:16, "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.

Proverbs 6:15, "Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy."

The opposite of "remedy" would be "trouble or calamity." Note the use of the same Hebrew as it is translated "health, healing":

Jeremiah 8:15, "We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!"

Jeremiah 14:19, "Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!

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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

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

Proverbs 27:17Comments- A man's countenance shows his spirit. Note:

Proverbs 15:13, "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken."

says that a blunt axe takes more strength to cut wood:

, "Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct."

A sharp axe allows you to chop wood with greater ease and less strength. A sharp axe is like a cheerful countenance. Therefore, a blunt axe is like a dull countenance. How much easier it is to carry on the tasks of life with a cheerful heart, rather than a dull, unhappy heart.

Also, the countenance of a friend strengthens a man when he is low spiritually. The best place to go is to a friend, for he will sharpen your countenance.

Proverbs 27:17Comments- Note these insightful words from Frances J. Roberts regarding Proverbs 27:17 :

"Turn thy face toward Me, and leave to Me the responsibility of probing thy soul. I am the Master Surgeon. I am skilled in all cures of the soul as well as those of the body. Let Me care for thy health. Delight thyself in Me, and I shall bring about that which ye desire to see in thy character and personality. Feed upon My Word. It is there that ye shall come to a clearer understanding of My Person. Only as ye know Me can ye come to be more like Me. In association with others, man taketh to himself a measure of the mannerisms and ideologies of these other persons. So shall it be likewise to those who spend much time in My company. Silently, and without conscious effort, thou shalt be changed." 146]

146] Frances J. Roberts, Come Away My Beloved (Ojai, California: King's Farspan, Inc, 1973), 168.

Proverbs 27:18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.

Proverbs 27:18Comments- When we support a ministry with prayer and financial giving, we will receive some of the same eternal rewards that the great minister himself will receive.

Proverbs 27:19 As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.

Proverbs 27:20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

Proverbs 27:20Comments- Those men who are in positions of much gain, if they have a greedy heart, find themselves dissatisfied with their accumulations of gain. They chase after more, and their eyes are not content with the wealth they now have.

Proverbs 27:21 As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.

Proverbs 27:21Word Study on "praise" - Strong says the Hebrew word "mahalal" ( מַהֲלָל) (H 4110) means, "fame." It is used only once in the Old Testament, being translated "praise" in Proverbs 27:21. Strong says it comes from the primitive root "halal" ( הָלַל) (H 1984), which literally means, "to be clear, to shine, to make a show, to boast, to be foolish, to rave, to celebrate." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 165 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, "praise 117, glory 14, boast 10, mad 8, shine 3, foolish 3, fools 2, commended 2, rage 2, celebrate 1, give 1, marriage 1, renowned 1."

Proverbs 27:22 Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.

Proverbs 27:22Comments- Foolishness is bound in the heart. It is not easily driven out of a person. As an adult, foolishness is hard to change. The Scriptures tell us to deal with this problem when he is a child ( Proverbs 22:15).

Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(g) One hasty man provokes another to anger.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

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

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Proverbs 27

Procrastination is a snare that often results in ruin. The first verse of this chapter solemnly warns every reader against this error.


The present is given man in order that he may plan wisely for the future. To defer until tomorrow what should be attended to today is a sad mistake that has destroyed untold thousands. The old Spanish proverb says, “The road of by and by leads to the house of never,” while another trite saying reads, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The English are fond of quoting, “Procrastination is the thief of time;” and it is likely that every nation has some maxim intended to remind one of the warning of our verse. Yet, how prone we all are to leave for tomorrow matters that should be settled at once!

In nothing is this matter of procrastination more evident than in regard to the great question of the salvation of the soul. Again and again Scripture impresses on men the importance of an immediate settlement of this matter of tremendous consequence. “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord” (Hebrews 3:7-8; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Isaiah 1:18). These are but a few of many such calls to urgent decision.

Yet what is more common than to find people putting off a final settlement, like Festus, until a “more convenient season,” which in many instances is never found! The uncertainty of health, reason, and of life itself all loudly cry, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow.”

Pharaoh said “tomorrow” when he should have said “today,” and the morrow found his heart as hard as a millstone, beyond the reach of repentance or concern (Exodus 8:10).

If the reader is unsaved, let me remind him of five important reasons why he should not delay in coming to Christ.

First-Every day spent in sin is a day lost. The only true life is that which is lived for God. Those who are saved always regret not having turned to the Lord earlier; they find true joy and peace in the path of the just, which shines ever brighter and brighter to the perfect day.

Second-Every day spent in procrastination is adding to the terrible number of things you can never undo. It is often forgotten by the young that even though saved and forgiven at last, the consequences of their sins will never be blotted out. We have an influence on others today for good or ill and a future change of ways may never utterly destroy that influence. Sin leaves its effect on our minds and bodies-an effect that lasts through all time. A father meaning to impress this fact on his son told him to drive a handful of nails part way into a clean, smooth post. With great delight the lad did as he was bidden. “Now, my boy,” said the father, “draw them out.” This was soon successfully accomplished. “Now take out the holes,” was the next command. “Why, father,” exclaimed the child, “that is impossible!” So we may think of the forgiveness of our sins as a drawing out of the nails; but, let us never forget that the marks remain. Therefore the wisdom of ceasing at once to do what can never be undone.

Third-It is possible that at any moment conviction of sin may pass away from the troubled soul and that God may cease to speak to you by His Holy Spirit. Many a man or woman has, by long resisting the Holy Ghost, reached a point where, like Pharaoh, the heart refused to respond to further entreaties or warnings. Such people are often said to be “gospel-hardened,” and the designation is all too correct.

Fourth-Before tomorrow, Death may claim you for his prey. Even as you read these lines, he may be feeling for your heart-strings. David said, “There is but a step between me and death” (1 Samuel 20:3); and so it is with any of us. Before tomorrow, sinner, your lips may be silent, your heart be still, your form be cold, and your soul in Hell!

Last of all, you should not forget that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. He may return from Heaven to call all His redeemed away (according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) before you lay down this book. No event has to transpire, no prophecy to be fulfilled before that great and solemn moment arrives. “In such an hour as ye think not” (Matthew 24:44), the day of grace may be brought to a close, and the days of vengeance begin for all who have rejected, or merely neglected, so great a salvation.

Knowing not what a single day may bring forth, it is surely wise to turn at once to God, admitting your sins and trusting His grace!


Self-praise always indicates poor nurturing and a lack of realization of proper conduct. If others praise you, go on humbly looking to God to keep you in a spirit of meekness and lowliness; for you know far more about your own failings than any other can. Boasting in your attainments or abilities is obnoxious and opens the door to severe criticism. See the men of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 17:14-15).


A fool’s wrath is so heavy because of its unreasonableness. He will listen to no explanations and will view with malice and suspicion all attempts to appease him. Better far to leave such a man to himself than to argue with him, for he is incapable of sound judgment. Treat an angry fool as Hezekiah commanded his nobles to act towards Rab-shakeh (Isaiah 36:21).


The anger referred to in the previous verse s a brief tempest of the mind, a passing emotion. It is to be dreaded while it lasts; but jealousy is to be feared far more, for it lingers when all outward evidence of it has disappeared. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6). See the brothers of Joseph (Genesis 37).


True love will lead me to be faithful to my brother even when his steps are declining from the path of moral virtue. While avoiding a fault-finding spirit, I will seek to recover his soul if he has gone astray. In so doing, I may have to wound him, but such pains are faithful. Reproof in grace is better far than love kept concealed, which forbids my drawing his attention to his faults. An enemy may lavish kisses and tokens of affection at such a time, overlooking the evil and bolstering the wrongdoer up in his unrighteous cause, but they are deceitful evidences of love, like the kiss of Judas. How faithful was Paul to Peter and Barnabas and to the beloved Galatians, dear as all assuredly were to him (Galatians 1 and 2).


The verse has been paraphrased as follows: “The pampered glutton loathes even luxurious food; but he who is really hungry, will eat even indifferent food with a high relish.” Hunger stimulates appetite and enjoyment for what would otherwise be despised. To many, the Word of God is one of these bitter things; but when the soul is hungry it becomes sweet as honey. See the little books eaten by Ezekiel and John (Ezekiel 3:1-4; Revelation 10:9-10).


The Lord has given “to every man his work,” and we may also say to every man his place. “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Corinthians 12:18). He who fills his appointed niche in dependence on the Lord and maintains his proper place will find rich blessing. But as a bird that wanders from its nest exposes itself to danger and suffering, so is it with him who turns away from his sphere.

Looking at it in another way, we may apply the principle to life within the church. God would have all His children gather together in the peerless name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who wanders from the joy and blessedness of this fellowship because of imagined insults or any other cause is like a homeless bird that has forsaken its nest. See Demas (2 Timothy 4:10).


In a warm, dry atmosphere and an enervating climate like that of Palestine, it is very soothing and invigorating to be anointed with oil. Sweet and stimulating perfumes are employed to rouse the inactive sensitivities and bring welcome refreshment. Loving, solicitous counsel on the part of a true friend is as refreshing and stimulating to the soul as oil and perfume are to the body. Happy is the man who has a friend to advise him in this way. David found such a friend in Jonathan.

When grief and calamity fall suddenly, it is far better to have a tried friend like this to turn to, than to be dependent on relations, however near, who may lack the heart and affection of a close companion. Time and distance are powerful forces for the weakening of family ties, as many have learned to their sorrow. Each should know that Friend who sticks closer than a brother! See notes on Proverbs 17:17 and 18:24.


The obedience and careful behavior of a wise son reflects positively on his solicitous parent. If the child is willful and disobedient the father will be reproached for not properly training his offspring. The admonition is important for us as “sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.” By walking worthy of Him who hath called us, we will glorify our Savior-God and Father before men. How often do wicked men reproach Him for the follies of His children! David’s sin caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, and therefore the child of Bathsheba had to die (2 Samuel 12:14).


This verse is a repetition of Proverbs 22:3. See previous notes. In this proverb we read a warning to the unsaved. How great must be the concern of the God you are neglecting that He reminds you again of the importance of considering your future and hiding yourself in Christ before judgment comes and it is too late. If you pass carelessly on to your well-deserved doom after this second warning, “What wilt thou say when He shall punish thee?” (Jeremiah 13:21)


This too is a repetition of an earlier proverb (20:16). It is not mere chance that caused the friends of Hezekiah to repeat several of Solomon’s wise sayings in this way. It is rather God’s way of bringing to our attention the importance of the instruction they contain. He who neglects such abundant wisdom is truly guilty and deserves no sympathy when he has to reap as he sowed.


There is a vein of easily perceived irony in these words. One who declares his affection beneath one’s window, with loud tones early in the morning, when the object of his attentions is resting, is utterly obnoxious and his blessing becomes instead a curse. Blatant unsolicited words of praise are always to be dreaded. They generally demonstrate insincerity of heart and a lack of sensitivity that is most repugnant to a quiet, humble person. The Italians say, “He who praises you more than he is wont to do, either has deceived you, or is about to do it.” See Absalom and the men of Israel (2 Samuel 15:1-6).


See notes on Proverbs 21:9,19. No better comment could be written on the first of these verses than Dr. Thompson’s description of a Palestine rainstorm. He says: “Such rains as we have had thoroughly soak through the flat earthen roofs of these mountain houses, and the water descends in numberless leaks all over the room. This continual dropping-tuk, tuk-all day and all night, is the most annoying thing in the world, unless it be the ceaseless chatter of a contentious woman.” He who endeavors to hide the fact that such a disagreeable person shares his home is like one who tries to hide the wind or who seeks to keep people from detecting the fragrance of perfume when his right hand is covered with it. Ahasuerus considered Vashti as having offended in this way when she shamed him before all his nobles by defying his command (Esther 1:10-20).


By friction, one iron instrument is sharpened and polished when rubbed with another; so we may be a help to each other by interesting and profitable exchange of thought. A recluse is always a very one-sided man. He who would be a blessing to others must mingle with them that he may learn to understand their needs and their sorrows. He may gain much wisdom by their superior knowledge or virtues. Among Christians, fellowship one with another is precious indeed and becomes increasingly sweet as the days grow darker. How profitable to Timothy was the association with Paul (2 Timothy 3:10-11).


Even as the caretaker of the fig tree would be entitled to enjoy its fruit, so faithfulness in our appointed service has its rewards. Let the Christian remember that his Master is in Heaven, and that he who honors and obeys Him in this the day of His rejection, will be honored when the day of Christ has come. Meantime let him labor on, strong in faith, giving glory to God, and the harvest is sure, as with the hard-working farmer of 2 Timothy 2:6.


Of all mirrors, clear water is perhaps the most primitive. As the reflection portrays the face of him who is looking into it, so does one man’s heart reflect another’s. There is no difference. Men may seem to differ through hereditary characteristics, education, or the lack of it, environment, or experience; yet the fact remains that all have the same evil corrupt heart which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. No one has ground for boasting over another. All are sinners needing a Savior.

Therefore, to show a man his sinfulness, I only need to describe in a measure the evil of my own heart; he is likely to think someone has privately informed me as to his faults and I am exposing him publicly! Often men have reasoned this way when some faithful preacher was declaring the terrible sinful nature of every human being!

It is a blessing to remember that since all are sinners alike, a Savior has been provided for all. See the “no difference” gospel as expounded by the Holy Spirit in Romans 10:5-13.


This verse helps to seal the truth of the previous one. In this all men are the same. The natural heart will not permit the eyes to be satisfied. There is in man an insatiable capacity likened to Hell. Let man accumulate as he may, he still yearns for more. This is the great lesson of the book of Ecclesiastes. There we find a man with a heart so large that all the world could not fill it. In the Song of Solomon, on the other hand, we have an object so great that the heart cannot hold it; the cry goes up, “I am sick of love” (Song of Solomon 2:5). It is Christ alone who can meet every craving of the soul and more than satisfy all who find in Him the object of their deepest affections. See Proverbs 30:15-16.


There is no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and adulation. To go on while being slandered, clinging to the Lord and counting on Him to clear one’s name is comparatively easy, though many weaken in such circumstances. But to humbly pursue the regular course of one’s life, undisturbed and unaffected by applause and flattery marks a truly godly man.

Hundreds have thrived spiritually when going through adverse circumstances, but have failed grievously in prosperous times. Gideon becomes a warning to all who are in danger of pride resulting from unmerited praise ( 8:22-27).


Folly is bound up in the heart of the fool and after long years of willfulness it becomes part of his very being. To beat him as one beats grain in a mortar will not deliver him from his wickedness. In childhood the correction properly administered might have had good effect (22:15). But having permitted his character to develop itself, it is now too late to seek to eradicate the foolishness by corporal punishment. Nor will moral persuasion effect the desired result, for the fool is deaf to all entreaties and cares for nothing but doing his own pleasure. It is a dreadful state to be in. God alone can awaken such a one to a sense of his guilt and his danger and turn him from his folly. See Jeremiah 13:23.


A shepherd’s faithful service results in suitable provision for himself and those dependent on him. Wealth is fleeting and riches soon pass away. See note on Proverbs 23:4-5. Therefore the importance of earnest persistent effort and careful adherence to duty. Even a crown does not last forever. Dynasties rise and fall in this world of changes. But he who plods on, conserving his resources and wisely attending to the care of his flocks will have both food and clothing; what more does the wealthiest enjoy?

We also may see in these verses a picture of pastoral care among the sheep and lambs of Christ’s flock. Christ told Peter to feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep. Wherever He has implanted the pastor’s heart this will be the result. A loving shepherd will look well to the state of the flock; not, however, with a view to pecuniary profit, nor as lording his position over his flock, but out of pure love for the members of Christ.

Nor will he be without reward. It is sure to come in the end, even though he does not labor for it. “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (See 1 Peter 5:1-4). In Jacob’s defense to Laban we are reminded of what this shepherd service may mean if carried out conscientiously (Genesis 31:40).




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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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

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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.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

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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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Self-Boasting, Etc.

Self-boasting is always a source of weakness as well as a revelation of vanity. In vanity there is no substance; it is idle breath, it is foolish vapour. When a man is left to praise himself it is evident that he has lived an inverted life, not a life full of blessedness and comfort in relation to other men. The sun does not praise himself, but under his splendour and warmth men look up and say how pleasing a thing it is for the eyes to behold the light. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." On the other hand, we must beware of a very common and perilous deceit. There is a sense in which every man ought to be able to praise himself; otherwise the applause of the public will be felt by him to be a mockery and a lie. Our own heart should not condemn us. The Psalmist was wont to glory in his integrity, and to point to it as his refuge in the time of misunderstanding. We are forbidden to publish our own praise, to commend ourselves with a loud voice: we are not forbidden to vindicate our honour when it is assailed, or to defend our action when it is called in question. Whilst we are forbidden to use the language of vanity, we are exhorted to use the language of honest confession when we have been consciously wrong: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." We cannot command the praise of the world, but: we can deserve it. We should be careful not to live for the minor commendation, for the mere word of flattery; we should not covet the incense of false compliment, but should so live that the solidity of our work will attract attention and justify commendation. He in very deed is a foolish man who lives in order that he may be praised. We are not so much admonished by this verse not to care for the praise of men as to quench within ourselves the spirit of vanity. When a man is vain he is weak, because he supposes there is no farther cause for diligence and action on his own part, for he has accomplished that which he had purposed in his heart. Nothing is done whilst anything remains to be accomplished. Let us not reckon up the past with a view to settling down to an ignominious rest, but let us constantly reckon it that we may observe its shortcomings and hasten to repair its omissions.

"Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" ( ).

By "secret love" we are to understand the love that never discloses itself in positive kindness; a love that is professed, but never realised; a sentiment that never attains the dignity of practice. Such love never comes even in the form of open rebuke; it is indolent love; if it is love at all it is so lost in languor as to be absolutely without sacred or happy effect. No friend loves to wound another, yet he believes that in rebuke there may be honour, and in chastisement there may be a purification of friendship. "The kisses of an enemy are deceitful"; that is to say, they are plentiful, they are showered upon their object, and yet there is nothing in them of real meaning or of substantial value; they are not the seals of genuine affection, they are the empty compliments by which vanity relieves itself or displays its folly. There should be more frankness in human intercourse. Men should speak to one another in the clearness and simplicity of earnestness. In a true life there is no room for falsehood. A look may be false, so may a smile, so may a kiss, so may an embrace, so may a compliment; it requires the very Spirit of God to search the heart and the life, in order to dislodge the enemy, so ghostly is his form, so subtle is his operation. Let us pray mightily to Heaven, saying, "Search me, and try me, and see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Great care is needful of course in the administration of "wounds." If thy brother should trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. Sometimes we are called to the exercise of open rebuke; thus—"Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." The Apostle Paul gave examples of this faithful wounding:—"When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed"; "When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said------" The Psalmist agrees with the proverbist in this desire for honest and timely rebuke—"Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." We cannot read of the kisses of an enemy without remembering the most treacherous kiss ever planted on the human cheek: "He that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him." Many men prefer the kisses of an enemy to the wounds of a friend: this is because they themselves are indolent, vain, self seeking; they do not inquire into motives; it is enough for them to have the immediate and transient blessing. A friend is not necessarily friendly because he delights in wounding another. In proportion as his friendship is large and wise will he feel the delicacy of even hinting at a rebuke. He will rebuke himself more than he will rebuke another. So clearly and tenderly will this be the case that in rebuking another he will approach the unwelcome and uncongenial task with a timidity and misgiving that will add to the blessing he is about to administer. Let there be nothing boisterous, blatant, violent, ostentatious about a rebuke; let it be given rather as if a preparation for approval, with a self-restraint which will increase its pungency, and with a religiousness that will elevate its dignity.

"Thine own friend, and thy father"s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother"s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off" ( Proverbs 27:10).

By "near" we are to understand near in feeling, and by "far off" we are to understand far off in feeling. Men should not treat the relations of life with frivolity One generation after another should but contribute a succession of reasons why old friendships should be consolidated and perfected. Friends are the most precious treasures. One may not necessarily feel this with equal acuteness at all times, yet there come periods in life when we naturally look around for the friend who can pray, or advise, or interpret us from our own point of view, or speak the word of light, or pay the price of ransom. Jesus Christ recognised the continuity and faithfulness of those who had been with him in his sorrow; said Hebrews, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations." Fickleness in friendship proves that the friendship is but superficial. Have confidence in the Prayer of Manasseh, and do not always be exposing that confidence to the test of incidental experiments, as if you could only trust your friend one act at a time, saying within yourselves, Although he has been faithful up to this point, he may be faithless ever after. We are not to have confidence in the separate actions of a Prayer of Manasseh, but in the man himself; then when the separate actions are mysterious, indistinct, even ambiguous, we are to have such confidence in the man himself as to relieve ourselves of all anxiety regarding special actions or peculiar incidents. Do not make a mere convenience of your brother"s house by going into it only in the day of calamity. We should visit our friends in sunshine as well as in darkness. Some friends are never known to us except when their hands are empty; then they discover us, importune us, and endeavour to shame or coerce us into sympathy and co-operation. In the sunshine we need friendship, the friendship that will keep us from presumption, or vanity, or idolatry; in the darkness we need friendship, the friendship that will keep us from despair, from bitterness of spirit, from complaining against God. Sometimes a neighbour is nearer than a brother: the neighbour sees us in our proper relations, in the right atmosphere and surrounding; he is not embittered by resentful memories, nor is he plied by selfish considerations: he is enabled to take a large and impartial view of our circumstances and purposes. "Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth": "He that hath friends must show himself friendly": "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

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

Wit provokes wit; laughter excites laughter: man was made for man. He who separates himself from his own kind deprives himself of stimulus and inspiration: for the right quickening and highest utility of life friction is indispensable. History is full of instances in which mutual help has been of the greatest advantage. The whole Bible exhorts men to think of one another in weakness and misfortune. "They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage." Sometimes all we want is the encouraging word, the one stimulating sentence. It is not enough to say, "Be ye warmed and filled," because there may be actual bodily hunger; but it is sometimes enough to say, "Be of good courage," for all that was needed was a stimulus of faculties ready for action but disinclined because of fear. The human voice has in it a mystery of sympathy: an exhortation may be an inspiration. There are religious circumstances under which conference becomes essential to encouragement and progress—"They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." All wisdom is not with any one saint: let each contribute what he can to the general stock of wealth: sometimes the little child will supply the one jewel that was wanting; sometimes the feeblest member of the company will through his very feebleness utter the most expressive and pathetic prayer of all. We are to remember, too, that sometimes men fall down and require to be assisted to their feet. "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." So whilst there is a place for solitariness in the religious life, there is also a large place for companionship. We cannot tell which of us shall fall. No man must say that he alone is safe and that he himself goes out to help up others. He himself may be the first to fall. If he think contrariwise let him take heed, for in his very boasting there is danger. The strongest of us needs to be helped sometimes, and how often it happens that the weakest can help the strongest. The Apostle Paul continually recognises his indebtedness to those who were, according to the judgment of this world, weak and poor and even contemptible. There is a great apostolic exhortation to which we should take heed—"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." We are necessary to one another; we are one another"s complements. What one man lacks another man has: therefore we should in this highest, broadest sense have all things in common, so that the poor intellect shall avail itself of the treasures of the greatest mind, and the least of the world"s saints may count upon the protection of the most honourable sons in the household of God. Christianity is not a divisive but a uniting force. There is nothing of contempt in all its holy and benevolent spirit. No man is excluded from its hospitality because of his littleness, his frailty, his poverty. We are not Christ"s if we have not the spirit of the Master, and that spirit was one of all-inclusive benevolence, a spirit that could never be satisfied whilst one soul was lacking from the household. In this way of mutual encouragement and mutual inspiration we may be doing good unconsciously. We never know where the light of a smile may fall; we know not how a word of praise or commendation may be borne by the wind in many directions, so that it may fall upon hearts needing just such a gospel, and may descend upon lives that were withering for want of refreshment Christianity is a great humanising and consolidating power; it makes the whole world one sphere of beneficent labour; it constitutes all mankind into one trustful and beneficent society.

"Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him" ( Proverbs 27:22).

Thus again is the fool encountered with the contempt of the wise man. By "the fool" we are not to understand a man of weak mind so much as a man of weak character, a man who is foolish in his heart, vain and self-conceited in spirit, boasting as if he knew much whilst he knows nothing, and holding himself up as a scholar highly educated and fully equipped when in very deed he has not begun to learn the very elements of true wisdom. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." The fool receives chastisement without knowing the meaning of it. The Lord pleads with such, and pleads without avail. "Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint." But for the testimony of history and the corroboration of experience, we should think it impossible that a man should receive divine correction without instantly kissing the rod that administered it, and obeying the wisdom it was meant to inculcate. Yet from the earliest times prophets and apostles have mourned that divine correction has been thrown away,—"Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return." A tremendous power this on the part of man. The very iniquity of the soul in a sense proves the soul"s greatness. Men think they can outlive the divine thunderstorm. Souls imagine they can outlive the very punishment of hell. How lofty is the ambition, how ineffable the presumption of man! Even God himself would seem to be left without resource in the matter of those who pass through his corrections with a disobedient heart The Lord himself knows not what more to do. He asks in parable what more he can do for his vineyard than he has done. The conflict must be left to the exposition and arbitrament of time. It would seem as if eternity itself could scarcely conquer the obduracy of the soul. "The fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." Over this tragedy we must draw the veil. We cannot bear to look upon such agony. Why will men be stricken any more? Why will the potsherd fight against its maker? Why will the puny arms of flesh stretch themselves out against the lightnings of heaven? Our God is a consuming fire. It is impossible that God can be overthrown in the tremendous conflict. That man is not overthrown in the first instance is a circumstance to be referred to the compassion of the forbearing God. His mercy endureth for ever.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 27:2. Let another man praise thee. A man is sometimes compelled to speak of himself. But modesty often prefers speaking in the third person; as St. John, who says, “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” St. Paul, grievously mauled by the Jews at Corinth, says, “I knew a man about fourteen years ago—such an one was caught up into the third heaven.” It is a man’s works, not his tongue, which memorializes his worth.

Proverbs 27:5. Open rebuke is better than secret love. For it is secret love brought into action, and seasonably exercised to save us from harm. The wounds of a friend soon heal, but the caresses of an enemy convey a subtle poison to the vitals.

Proverbs 27:6. The kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Perhaps he had Joab’s kiss to Abner in his eye when he wrote this proverb.

Proverbs 27:7. The full soul loatheth an honeycomb. Here the poor have pleasures which the rich do not often taste. They relish their food when they come from the field; and sleep, shunning the palace and “kingly couch,” courts a residence in the hovels of the poor. So providence provides happiness for every class of men.

Proverbs 27:8. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. Since the general peace of 1816, England has been overrun with men and women wandering about, which marks a defective state of society. A vagrant, being unknown, has lost his moral and civil obligations of social order. Their own parishes injure others, by driving out the poor in search of bread.

Proverbs 27:15. A continual dropping, through the thatch on a rainy day, and a scolding wife alike drive the husband from his house. Scolding is a pernicious habit, it betrays the ignorance and naughtiness of the heart, and requires to be vanquished by the most judicious management. But who is sufficient for the task?

Proverbs 27:17. Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. When we recognize the face of an old friend, we recollect the endearments of former life; and we want to know all the adventures of interest since we saw him. We anticipate a thousand pleasures we shall yet enjoy in his company. How much more so in religious society where friends are more pure, and where the hopes are immortal; and how much more so in heaven where we meet to part no more, and where we shall see the Lord with open face, who loved us, even unto death? Horace says,**** Ergo fungar vice cotis, acutum reddere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi. Ars Poet. 5:304. Whether you cut yourself or not, sharpen and make me cut, then I shall hope to return the favour.

Proverbs 27:23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. Servants do their duty better, when the master performs his.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

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.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

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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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

To Sharp and to Guard

Man is not made to be alone, but to be with others. He is a social creature and needs others to be able to show himself as man. One of the aspects of being together is the sharpening of each other's insights and thoughts by talking with one another. It is about the identity or character of the person (Pro 27:17). The comparison with the sharpening of iron with iron shows that it is about two equivalent materials. When two people talk with one another about a subject and also listen to one another, it sharpens the understanding of both person on that subject. It is win-win situation.

It is about the sharpening of character and understanding. A character is mainly shaped by contacts with others. Friends do not always have to agree with one another, but by talking with one another about something, both will gain insight. It sharpens them in their convictions and at the same time it takes the sharp edges away.

The fact that contact has a formative influence, applies in a special way to our dealings with our brothers and sisters with whom we share our thoughts about God's Word. When we share what we have learnt about God's truth, it is a sharpening of the faith of everyone. It gives a sharper insight in God's thought, which enables us to serve one another with more insight.

In Pro 27:18 it is about the care of working on our relationships, so that people not only develop a better insight and character (Pro 27:17), but in correspondence to that, also fruitfulness and servitude. It is not about sharpening or edging, but about nursing and faithfully serving. The care of a fig tree is a matter that demands attention. Sufficient and appropriate care have the result that the care-giver will eat of its fruit. That is his reward.

This comparison is drawn with someone who cares for his master. He who does that faithfully, will not worry about whether his efforts will be recognized or rewarded (cf. Pro 22:29). Paul was a diligent and faithful servant who cared for all things that his Master had entrusted to him concerning truths. He did not abandon any of them. He knew that the Lord will honor him for that with a crown (2Tim 4:7-8). So, the Lord shall reward each person in a suitable way for the faithfulness with which he or she has served Him (1Sam 2:30; Mt 25:21; 23; Jn 12:26).

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 27:17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Wisdom and Humility Go Hand in Hand

v. 11. My son, be wise and make my heart glad, the inspired author again addressing all his readers in the tone of fatherly admonition, that I may answer him that reproacheth me, since the wise behavior of a pupil will enable the teacher to stop the reviling of an enemy who would mock at his teaching.

v. 12. A prudent man foreseeth the evil, he is able to judge the signs of the times, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on and are punished, they come to harm because they take no steps to avoid it. cf Pro_22:3.

v. 13. Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, foolishly pledging himself, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman, rather, "on account of strange things. " cf Pro_20:16.

v. 14. He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, in an attempt to appear most friendly and sincere and thus to hide his real feeling, it shall be counted a curse to him, it will so be charged against him on account of his hypocrisy and insincerity.

v. 15. A continual dropping in a very rainy day, when the drip of the spouts persists with maddening monotony, and a contentious woman, one always nagging and quarreling, are alike, namely, in their disagreeable effect upon others.

v. 16. Whosoever hideth her, that is, whoever attempts to restrain such a woman, hideth the wind, it is just as foolish to try to shut out the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself, rather, "and his right hand encounters oil," something which always slips out of his grasp; for it is impossible to put a stop to the shrew's scolding.

v. 17. Iron sharpeneth iron, namely, when a file is used; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend, namely, by the stimulation of his conversation and the encouragement of his example.

v. 18. Whoso keepeth the fig-tree, giving it the care which it needs, shall eat the fruit thereof, thus finding his labor rewarded; so he that waiteth on his master, having the proper regard for him, cultivating the spirit of loyal service in his employ, shall be honored, his faithfulness being properly rewarded.

v. 19. As in water face answereth to face, the surface of the water acting as a mirror which reflects all objects, so the heart of man to man, being mirrored in that of his fellow, a true knowledge of men being gained best by a thorough study of self.

v. 20. Hell and destruction are never full, the grave and the realm of the dead are insatiable, they never have enough; so the eyes of man, of him who has given way to covetousness, are never satisfied, the avaricious man never has enough.

v. 21. As the fining-pot for silver and the furnace for gold, both of them serving to bring out the purity of the metals tried in them, so is a man to his praise, he is tested, his real character is disclosed, by his glorying or boasting, whether this is concerned with praiseworthy or with blameworthy and trivial things, or, according to the opinion in which he is held by honorable people. cf Pro_12:8.

v. 22. Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, stamping him into little bits in a crucible in an effort to find at least a grain of sense, yet will not his foolishness depart from him, since it pervades every atom of his being.

v. 23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, literally, "the face of thy sheep," their condition, and look well to thy herds, as a careful manager must do.

v. 24. For riches are not forever, they are unstable and must therefore be carefully looked after; and doth the crown endure to every generation? Even the king is not sure that his royal dignity and power will descend in his family, so uncertain and vain is all human possession; whence it behooves man all the more to make use of care and circumspection.

v. 25. The hay appeareth, and the tender grass showeth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered, the careful and provident manager insuring a sufficient supply for his herds, so that they do not lack food.

v. 26. The lambs are for thy clothing, their fleece furnishing wool for garments, and the goats are the price of the field, their value being so great that the money obtained by their sale will pay for the farm.

v. 27. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, the family and the house-servants, and for the maintenance for thy maidens, the female slaves which were always found in large establishments. Prosperity is a blessing of the Lord, but that does not exclude diligence and care on the part of every person, for prayer and industry must go hand in hand.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

             b) Against vain self-praise and presumption


(With an admonition to prudence and frugality in agriculture: Proverbs 27:23-27)

1 Boast not thyself of to-morrow,

for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth.

2 Let another praise thee and not thine own mouth,

a stranger and hot thine own lips.

3 Stone is heavy and sand weighty;

the fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.

4 Anger is cruel and wrath is outrageous;

but who can stand before jealousy ?

5 Better is open rebuke

than secret love.

6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

7 The satisfied soul loatheth a honeycomb;

to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

8 As a bird that wandereth from her nest

so is a man that wandereth from his home.

9 Oil and perfume rejoice the heart,

but the sweetness of a friend is better than one’s own counsel.

10 Thine own friend and thy father’s friend forsake not;

and into thy brother’s house enter not in the day of thy calamity;

better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.

11 Be wise, my Song of Solomon, and make my heart glad,

that I may know how to give an answer to him that reproacheth me.

12 The prudent man seeth the evil (and) hideth himself;

the simple pass on and are punished.

13 Take his garment, for he hath become surety for a stranger,

and on account of a strange woman put him under bonds!

14 He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,

let it be reckoned a curse to him!

15 A continual dropping in a very rainy day

and a contentious woman are alike.

16 He that will restrain her restraineth the wind,

and his right hand graspeth after oil.

17 Iron sharpeneth iron;

so doth a man sharpen the face of his friend.

18 Whosoever watcheth the fig-tree eateth its fruit,

and he that hath regard to his master is honored.

19 As in water face (answereth) to face

so the heart of man to man.

20 Hell and destruction are never full,

and the eyes of man are not satisfied.

21 The fining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,

but man according to his glorying.

22 Though thou bruise a fool in a mortar

among grain with a pestle,

his folly will not depart from him.

23 Thou shalt know well the face of thy sheep;

direct thy mind to thine herds;

24 for riches are not forever,

and doth the crown endure forevermore?

25 The grass disappeareth, and the tender grass is seen,

and the herbs of the mountains are gathered.

26 Lambs (are) for thy clothing

and the price of thy field (is) goats;

27 and abundance of goat’s milk for thy food, for the food of thine house,

and subsistence for thy maidens.


Proverbs 27:4. אַכְזְרִיּוּת is used here only in the Old Testament.

[טֹובָה is regarded by Bött. (§ 1133, 1and n3) as the 3 d sing. fem. of the verb and not as the fem. of the adj.: the chief evidence being found in the participles following, which, according to Hebrew usage, more naturally follow a unite verb.—A.]

[רֵעֵהוּ we have one of the examples found in Hebrew in connection with words in wide and frequent me, in which the suffix loses all distinct and specific application; comp. in modern languages Monsicur, Madonna, Mynherr; etc.; therefore one’s friend, a friend, and not his friend. Bött, § 876, c. עֲצַת is regarded by Gesen, Fuerst, Döderlein, Dathe, etc., as a fem. of עֵץ used collectively; the meaning in connection with נֶפֶשׁ is then, “more than fragrant wood Bött. (§ 643, δ) pronounces all the examples cited in the lexicons for this use of the noun” more than doubtful; and, as the exegetical notes show, nearly all commentators give to עֵצָה its ordinary meaning.—A.]

[רֵעֶה is one of three nouns whose full and original form appears only in the stat. constr.; the K’ri therefore points as though the absol. were used רֵעַ, while the K’thibh exhibits the form רֵעֵה. See Green, § 215, 1, e; Bött. §§ 721, 8; 794, Decl4.—A.]

[וְאָשִיבָה an Intentional, or paragogic Imperf, connected to Imperatives by וְ used as a final conjunction, “ in order that;” Bött, § 965, B, c. And let me=that I may.—A.]

Proverbs 27:14.הַשְכֵּים, an Infin. abs. used adverbially, as in Jeremiah 25:4; here on account of the pause written with ־ֵי instead of simple ־ֵ.

Proverbs 27:15. On the question whether נִשְׁתָּוָה is to be accented and explained as a 3 d pers. Nithpael, or whether, with Kimchi, Norzi, and the most recent editors and expositors, we should point the form as Milel [with penultimate accent], and accordingly regard it as perhaps a voluntative Hithpael, with the ־ָה of motion (therefore “let us compare”,), con-suit Bertheau, Stier and Hitzig on the passage. [Gesen, Röd. (Gesen. Thes., p1376, add. p114), Fuerst, etc. make the form a Nithpael; Bött. (§§ 474, 4, a and1072, θ) agrees with Hitzig in making it a simple Niphal with a different transposition of consonants, and argues at length for this view. Fuerst pronounces the form participial, in opposition to nearly all lexicographers and commentators who make it 2 d sing. fem. Gessn. and some others, following Chaldee analogies, rendered, “are to be feared”. RöDIGER (ubi supra) and most others render, “are esteemed alike,” or “ are alike.” Comp. also Ewald, Lehrb. § 182, d; Green, § 83, c (2).—.A.]

[In clause a we have a singular verb following a plural participle taken distributively as in Proverbs 22:21; Proverbs 25:13, etc.—A.]

[Bött]. §1124, b insists that the Masoretic forms can be regarded as nothing but the ordinary adverb “ together,” and that the pointing must be changed to יֻחַד,יֻחָד, or יֵחַד,יֵחָד. Green, § 140, 1, makes it a simple Kal Imperf. Fuerst regards it as a Niphhal Imperf, no change of vocalization being required, although the more common form would be יֵהַד. Röd. (Thes. Gesen, Ind. pp6, 88) regards the form as an apoc. Hiphil. for the more common יַחֵד, used impersonally, “one sharpens, men sharpen.”—A.]

Proverbs 27:20. The parallel passage Proverbs 15:11 (see notes on this passage) shows that instead of אֲבַדֹּה (or again instead of אֲבֵדָה) we should read with the K’ri אֲבַדּוֹן, or that we should a least assume a transition of this latter form into the former) in the way of lexical decay (as in מְגִדּוֹ for מְגִדּוֹן). [Bött. (§§ 262, a; 233) notes this as a tendency in proper nouns, aided perhaps in the case before us by the following liquid.—A.]

[בַּעֱלִי instead of the more regular בָּעֱלִי, mimetically sharpened in its vocalization at the end of its clause. See Bött, §§ 394, b; 493, 6.—A.]

[עִשְּׁבוֹת with Daghesh dirimens or separative, indicating the vocal nature of the Sheva. See, e.g. Green §24, b; 21G, 2, a.—A.]


1. Proverbs 27:1-6. Three pairs of Proverbs, directed against self-praise, jealousy and flattery.

Proverbs 27:1-2. Boast not thyself of tomorrow, i.e., “do not throw out with proud assurance high-soaring schemes for the future” (Elster); do not boast of future undertakings as if they had already succeeded and were assured.—For thou knowest not-what a day-will bring forth; i.e., what a day, whether it be today or to-morrow, will bring in new occurrences, is absolutely unknown to thee. Comp. James 4:13-15; also Horace, Od., iv7, Proverbs 17 : Quis scit an adjiciant hodiernze crastina summæ Tempora Di superi?

[“Who knows if they who all our fates control

Will add a morrow to thy brief to-day?”

Theo. Martin’s Translation.]

and Seneca, Thyest. V. Proverbs 619: Nemo tarn divos habuit faoentes Crastinum ut possit polliceri[No one has had the gods so favorable that he can promise himself a morrow].—With Proverbs 27:2 comp. the German Eigenlob stinkt, and Arabic proverbs like “Not as mother says, but as the neighbors say” (Fuerst, Perlenschnare, ii8), or “Lot thy praise come from thy friend’s and kinsman’s mouth, not from thine own” (Meidani, p467.)

Proverbs 27:3-4.—Stone is heavy and sand ¦weighty, lit, “ weight of stone and heaviness of the sand.” Hitzig fitly remarks with respect to the genitive combinations of this as well as the succeeding verse (“ Cruelty of anger, etc.”) “ The genitive relation holding a figure before our eye instead of developing it in a proposition, possesses nevertheless the value of a combination of predicate and subject.” [So K, W, etc., while S. and others make the relation directly that of subject and predicate].—The fool’s wrath, i.e., probably not: the vexation and anger occasioned in others by the fool (Cocceius, Schultens, Bertheau, [S.], etc.], but the annoyance and ill-humor experienced by himself, whether it may have originated in envy, or in a chafing against some correction that he has received, etc. Such ill-temper in the fool is a burden, heavier than stone and sand, and that too a burden for himself, but beyond this also for those who must besides suffer under it, whom he makes to feel in common and innocently his ill-will and temper.—Anger is cruel arid wrath is outrageous, lit, “cruelty of anger and inundation of wrath.” With regard to the genitives, compare remarks above on vs3, a. For the expression “overflowing of wrath ” or “ excess, outrageousness of wrath,” comp. Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 30:30; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:22.—קִנְאָה in clause b. often “envy,” is plainly “jealousy,” as in Proverbs 6:34-35, which passage is here to be compared in general.

Proverbs 27:5-6. Better is open rebuke (open, undisguised censure, honorably expressing its meaning) than secret love, i.e., than love which from false consideration dissembles, and does not name to one’s neighbor his faults even where it should do so. Compare the ἀληθεύειν ἐν ἀγάπῃ, Ephesians 4:15, as well as the numerous parallels in classic authors (Plautus, Trinummus, I:2, 57; Cicero, Læl. 25; Seneca, Epist. 25); and Meidani, 2:64: “Love lasts long as the censure lasts,” etc.—Faithful (lit. true, coming from a true disposition) are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. נַעְתָּרוֹת, from the root עָתַר, is if this be identical with עשׁר, largus fuit, as is generally assumed, equivalent to “plentiful” (comp. עָשִׁיר), in which case we must think of kisses “liberally bestowed but faithless,” or it may be kisses “to be lightly esteemed” (so Gesen, Umbreit, Bertheau, Stier [Fuerst, S, W.]) And yet it corresponds better with the parallelism, as well as with the exegetical tradition (Vulg, fraudulenta), to derive from an Arabic root عثر, to stumble (σφάλλειν, fallere, therefore falsus, false—30 Ewald, Elster, etc.), or it may be from غىل ر = עדר in the sense of “ to miss”—thus Hitzig,—both of which modes of explanation give the idea ”deceptive, crafty, treacherous.” With regard to the meaning compare, therefore, Proverbs 26:23.

2. Proverbs 27:7-14. Eight proverbs in praise of contentment, of friendship, prudence, etc.

Proverbs 27:7. A satisfied soul loatheth honeycomb. The verb literally means “ tramples, treads under feet,” comp. Daniel 7:19 : Judges 5:21.—With clause b compare the German proverb “Hunger is the best cook;” and also Sirach 4:2.

Proverbs 27:8. So is a man that roameth far from his dwelling-place. As the preceding proverb is directed against a want of contentment in the department of food and drink, so is this against weariness of one’s own home, against adventurous wandering impulses, and a restless roving without quiet domestic tastes. Comp. Ecclesiast29:28, 29; 36:28.

Proverbs 27:9. With clause a compare Psalm 104:15; Psalm 133:2But the sweetness of a friend is better than one’s own counsel. The “sweetness” of the friend is according to Proverbs 16:21 doubtless sweetness of the lips, the pleasing, agreeable discourse of the friend (lit. “of his friend;” the suffix stands indefinitely, with reference i.e., to every friend that a man really has; here with especial reference to the possessor of the נֶפֶשׁ). See also the critical notes. The מֵעֲצַת is best taken in the sense of comparison (with Jarchi, Levi, Cocceius, Umbreit, Stier): “better than counsel of the soul,” i.e., better than one’s own counsel, better than that prudence which will help itself and relies purely on its own resources (comp. Proverbs 28:26). Ewald, Elster (in like manner also Luther, Geier, De Wette [K, N.], etc.,) render: “The sweetness of the friend springeth from (faithful) counsel of soul,” which is understood as describing the genuineness and the hearty honesty of the friend’s disposition. Bertheau gives a similar idea, except that he supplies in b from a the predicate with its object: “The sweetness of a friend from sincere counsel maketh glad the heart” (?); [this is very nearly the conception of the E. V, H, S, M.]. Hitzig following the καταῤῥήγνυται δὲ ὑπό συμπωμάτων ψυχή of the LXX, amends so as to read: “but the soul is rent with cares.” [See critical notes for still other expositions of the phrase.]

Proverbs 27:10. Thine own friend and thy father’s friend forsake not. Whether one read with the K’ri וְרֵעַ or with the K’thibh the stat. constr. of the emphatic form [or according to others the primitive form—see critical notes], in any even; together with the friend of the person addressed “his father’s friend ” is also named, but as an identical person with the former, who, for that reason, has a value proportionally greater, and may so much the less be neglected, because he is as it were an heirloom of the family of long tried fidelity and goodness.—And into thy brother’s house enter not in the day of thy calamity. Hitzig, who explains the three clauses of this verse as originally separate propositions, only “afterward forced together,” fails to see a logical connection as well between a and b as between b and c. This is in fact in the highest degree arbitrary, for the common aim of the three members: to emphasize the great value of true friendship and its pre-eminence in comparison with a merely external relationship of blood, comes out to view as clearly as possible. The “near” neighbor is he who keeps himself near as one dispensing counsel and help to the distressed, just as the “far off” brother is he who, on account of his unloving disposition, keeps at a distance from the same. [Our commentators have in general agreed substantially with this conception of the scope of the verse.—A.].

Proverbs 27:11. Be wise, my Song of Solomon, and make my heart glad, etc. Evidently an admonition of a fatherly teacher of wisdom addressed to his pupil (comp. Proverbs 1:8 sq.; Proverbs 22:21; Proverbs 23:15),—perhaps of the same one to whom the wise counsel of the preceding verse in regard to conduct toward friends likewise belonged.—That I may know how to give an answer to him that reproacheth me (literally, “and so will I then return a word to my reviler ”), i.e., in order that I, pointing to thy wise and exemplary conduct, nay be able to stop the mouth of him who reviles me, the responsible teacher. Comp. Psalm 119:42; also Proverbs 127:5; Sirach 30:2 sq.

Proverbs 27:12. In almost literal accordance with Proverbs 22:3.

Proverbs 27:13. Almost exactly like Proverbs 20:16 (comp. notes on this passage.)

[This insincere and untimely praise may be accredited to its giver as no better than a curse in his intention, or more positively it may be regarded as veiling an evil intent, and so threatening an actual curse to him who is its object.—A.]

3. Proverbs 27:15-16. Two maxims concerning a contentious woman.—A continual dropping in a very rainy day (according to the Arabic סַגְרִיר denotes “a rain poured as if out of buckets,” and so “a pouring rain;” moreover the word occurs only here), and a contentious woman are alike. Like this, only more concise, is Proverbs 19:13, b. [The peculiar force of this comparison to one who has been in the rainy season under the flat earthy roofs of Oriental houses, is commented on and illustrated, e.g, in Hackett’s Scripture Illustrations, p85, and Thomson’s Land and Book, I:453. A.]—He that will restrain her restraineth the wind (צַָן literally “to shut out, dam up, confine”), and his right hand graspeth after oil, i.e, it grasps after something, encounters an object, seeks to retain something that is necessarily continually eluding it. [The idea of hiding her disagreeable and vexatious disposition from the view of others, which is expressed by the E. V, H, W,. in both clauses, and by N. and M. in the, second, is less appropriate and forcible than that given in the version of our author, K, S, etc.—A.]

4. Proverbs 27:17-22. Six proverbs against haughtiness, selfishness, a greedy eye, self-praise and folly.—Iron sharpeneth iron, lit. iron to iron maketh sharp, or according to others, “iron is made sharp by iron,”—see critical notes]. So doth a man sharpen the face of his friend. Whether we render פָּנִים by “face, look,” or (as Hitzig maintains) by “edge, acies ingenii, the men tal keenness,” in-either case the meaning is not: “One enrages, provokes the other” (Stier and in like manner Bertheau), but: One stimulates the other, polishes himself by mutual spiritual contact and friction with his fellow, contributes by such an interchange of one’s own peculiarities with those of his fellow to the spiritual development of both (compare especially Elster and Hitzig on the passage). [“Conference hath incredible profit in all sciences,” observes Trapp. “A man by himself,” says Muffet, “is no Prayer of Manasseh, 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 comfortable, skilful, and better than he was when he was alone. “So most of our commentators, while Stuart, and Noyes with a qualification, would find the idea of provocation, not as though anger were even indirectly commended, but “if men must enter into contest, let the antagonists be worthy of the strife” (S.); an exposition far weaker as well as more unnatural than the ordinary one.—A.].

Proverbs 27:18. With the general proposition in a comp. Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 28:19.—And he that hath regard to his master is honored. The honor which the master (i.e, any master whatever, and not God especially, the master of all, as Stier holds) confers upon his faithful servant resembles the fruit which the fig tree yields to the proprietor or tenant who carefully cultivates it. “To regard one,” colere aliquem, as in Psalm 31:7; Hosea 4:10.

Proverbs 27:19. As (in) water face (answereth) to face, so the heart of man to man. כַּמַּיִם, an accusative of place: “as in water,” Ewald, § 221. The meaning will be like that of Proverbs 27:17, somewhat such as this: “As the mirror of the water reflects the likeness of one’s own face, so one’s heart is mirrored in that of his fellow, if one only has courage and penetration enough to look deeply into this ” (Ewald; comp. Stier and Bertheau). There is contained in this at the same time an admonition to the wise testing and examination both of one’s own heart and that of our fellow-men; or, the recommendation of a comprehensive knowledge of men, to be gained by thorough knowledge of one’s self. The Vulgate already gives essentially the right idea: “Quomodo in aquis resplendent vullus respicientium, sic corda hominum manifesta sunt prudentibus;” while several other ancient expositors, whom Elster to some extent follows, find expressed in the passage a relation too exclusively ethical, viz, that of arousing by love a reciprocal love, or that of the practical maxim, “Si vis amari, ama” [“Love if you would be loved”].—Hitzig thinks that clause a כְּמוּם must be the reading instead of כַּמַּיִם: “What a mole on the face is to the face, that is man’s heart to Prayer of Manasseh,viz, his disfiguring mole, his dark spot, his partie honteuse in the sense of Genesis 8:21 (?). [Among our English expositors the mirror and the mirrored object have been somewhat variously understood; some retain while others dismiss the specific idea of reflection that is suggested by clause a. Muffet and Holden, e.g, make a man’s own heart the mirror in which he may truly know himself; Wordsw. makes the mirror the hearts of others on whom we act; while the great majority make the reflected object the oneness, especially the moral oneness of human nature, as discoverable from any heart into which we may look (so e.g, Bp. Hall, Trapp, Lawson, Bridges, S. and M.)—A.].

Proverbs 27:20. Hell and destruction are never full [i.e, not the world of the lost, but the world of the dead]. The meaning of clause b as indicated by this parallel in a cannot be doubtful. It relates to the really demoniacal insatiableness of human passion, especially the “lust of the eyes;” comp. 1 John 2:16; James 3:6; and in particular Proverbs 30:16; Ecclesiastes 1:8.

Proverbs 27:21. With a compare the literally identical language in Proverbs 17:3 a.But man according to his glorying, i.e, one is judged according to the standard of that of which he makes his boast (the noun to be taken not in a subjective, but in an objective sense, of the object of one’s glorying). If his boast is of praiseworthy things, then he is recognized as a strong, true Prayer of Manasseh, etc.; if he glories in trivial or even of evil things, he is abhorred; comp. above Proverbs 27:2. Thus Ewald, Bertheau, Hitzig, [K.], while the majority (the LXX, Vulg, Luther, etc, also Umbreit, Stier, Elster, etc.), translate the second clause: “so is man for the mouth of his praise,” i.e, for the mouth of the one that praises him [testing the nature and worth of the praise that is bestowed]—to which the figure in clause a can be made to correspond only by a considerably forced interpretation. [Here again among the English expositors who adopt this general idea, making the praise objective, there is diversity in carrying out the details. Is man the crucible or is he the object tested? N. and W. take the former view, according to which man tests or should test with careful discrimination the praise bestowed upon him; H, S. and M. take the other view, by which the praise is represented as testing him and disclosing his real character in the effects which it produces upon him.—A.].

Proverbs 27:22. Though thou bruise a fool in a mortar among grain (“grains of wheat;” the word is used only here and in 2 Samuel 17:19), with a pestle, etc. The meaning of this proverb, which has at least its humorous side, is plain; lack of reason is to such a degree the very substance of the fool, is so intertwined in his inward and outward nature, that one might divide him into atoms without eradicating thereby this fundamental character of his. This idea is not so clearly connected with the preceding verse by its substance as by the similarity of the figures employed in the two (the crucible and the mortar); comp. Hitzig on the passage.

5. Proverbs 27:23-27. Admonition to a prudent and frugal economy in connection with agricultural possessions.—Thou shalt know well (Z. “make thyself well acquainted with”) the face of thy sheep. “The look of the sheep” (comp. Genesis 30:40), i.e, its condition and thrift.

Proverbs 27:24. For riches are not foreverviz, the supply of subsistence, on the abundant presence of which the good appearance of the flock depends above all things else.—And doth the crown endure forevermore? The question introduced by this interrogative (וְאִם) expresses the idea of a very strong negation, standing as a climax to “the preceding: and even the crown, the royal diadem, has no perpetual existence. The נֵצֶר seems not to designate the metal of itself that composes the king’s crown, but the kingly dignity and authority represented by it; the expression “from generation to generation” plainly indicates this. Hitzig’s rendering is as trivial as it is contrary to the usus loquendi: that נֵצֶר means “grass, fodder” (because it sometimes signifies the hair of the head, and may therefore designate the herbage as a hairlike ornament to the earth!).

Proverbs 27:25. The grass disappeareth, etc.; a reason for the admonition contained in the preceding verse, that one should be intent upon laying up ample supplies of nourishment for the flocks. The discourse passes over in Proverbs 27:25-27 to a richly diversified description of the beauty and abundance of rural nature, reminding us of Psalm 65:10-13, but in its present connection having this aim,—to show how God’s creation liberally rewards the labor bestowed upon it by the active and industrious landlord. Neither this concluding picture, nor the entire passage from Proverbs 27:23 onward can be interpreted in some allegorical way (with various ancient expositors, Schultens and Stier), and be applied to the conduct of the spiritual, pastoral office of the teacher of wisdom. As the utmost that is admissible this conception may have a place under certain conditions in the practical and homiletic treatment of the passage. [Wordsw. characteristically makes much of the secondary import of these verses.—A.].

Proverbs 27:26. And goats (as) price for the field; i.e, goats of such value that for each one a piece of arable land might be exchanged.

Proverbs 27:27. Abundance also of goat’s milk … for subsistence for thy maidens. וְחַיִּים (with which we must repeat לְ from the preceding) “and life” is here equivalent to “substance, nourishment.“ Female servants, maidens, waiting women, were wanting in no large household among the Hebrews, not even in the royal palace and the temple; comp. 2 Samuel 4:6; 1 Samuel 2:22 sq. Here we must naturally think first of shepherdesses, milkmaids, etc.


Modesty, contentment and prudence are the central ideas about which we may group the practical instructions of the section just expounded, if not in all their items at least in large measure. Especially may we throw under these categories what is said of the necessity of avoiding all vain self-praise, and of boasting in an inconsiderate extravagant way neither of our own prosperity nor of our neighbor’s ( Proverbs 27:1-2; Proverbs 27:14; Proverbs 27:21); in like manner that which relates to the duty of moderation in ill temper and jealousy, in sensual enjoyments, in love of restless wandering and of sight-seeing ( Proverbs 27:3-4; Proverbs 27:7-8; Proverbs 27:20); and not less, finally, the admonition which recurs in manifold transformations to a general prudence in life, as it should be exhibited in social and business intercourse with others, and in the diligent discharge of the domestic duties of one’s calling ( Proverbs 27:11; Proverbs 27:13; Proverbs 27:17-19; Proverbs 27:23-27). If so inclined we might reckon among those commendations of an all-embracing practical wisdom even the warning against the contentiousness of a bad woman ( Proverbs 27:15-16), as well as the encomiums upon a genuine, unfeigned friendship, in Proverbs 27:5-6; Proverbs 27:9-10; and in these especially, and above all in the command ( Proverbs 27:10): to regard the love of a true friend more highly than the bonds of relationship of blood,—an injunction which reminds us of expressions in the New Testament, such as Matthew 10:37; Matthew 12:48-50, we might see the very climax, and the main theme of the discourse of wisdom which constitutes this chapter. Over against this counsel, to give to the love of a true friend the preference above all vain passions and selfish interests, we have presented in a significant way the evidence which establishes the sad truth, that the fool is not disposed at any price to let go his selfish, vain, arrogant nature ( Proverbs 27:22), in connection with which fact allusion is made to the natural corruption of human hearts in general and to the necessity for their being given up to the delivering and renewing influences of divine grace (comp. Proverbs 27:11).

Homily on the chapter as a whole: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” ( 1 Timothy 6:6).—Or, boast neither of thy prosperity, nor of thy deeds, nor of any earthly and human advantages whatsoever, but only of the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 1:31).—Stöcker: Of conceit and vain presumption as a first and main hinderance to the progress of true wisdom (comp. besides comments on chapters28,29).—Calwer Handbuch: Of the means of attaining true honor.

Proverbs 27:1-6. Melanchthon (on verse1): That which is necessary and first demanded by our duty we must do before all else, conscientiously, and with appeals for divine help, lest in reliance upon our own strength or on foolish hopes we undertake needless and futile things.—Starke: He walks the more cautiously who always considers that to-day may be the day of his death ( James 4:13 sq.; Ecclesiast7:40).—Comp. the New Year’s Sermon by Röhr (Sonntagsfeier, 1844, No15): “The high and weighty import that each year of life has for us.”—[J. Edwards: Not depending on another day, is a different thing from concluding that we shall not live another day. We ought not to behave ourselves in any respect as though we depended on another day.—Arnot: This proverb contains only the negative side of the precept; but it is made hollow for the very purpose of holding the positive promise in its bosom. The Old Testament sweeps away the wide-spread indurated error; the New Testament then deposits its saving truth upon the spot.—A. Fuller (on verse2): A vain man speaks well of himself; and Paul speaks well of himself. The motive in the one case is desire of applause; in the other justice to an injured character, and to the Gospel which suffered in his reproaches.—Bp. Hopkins: The tongue is of itself very apt to be lavish when it hath so sweet and pleasing a theme as a man’s own praise].—Tübingen Bible: Self-praise is a sign of great pride, and must be in the highest degree offensive to the wise man when he has to hear it.—Geier. (on verses3, 4): If even the pious man may easily transgress in his anger, how much more easily the ungodly!—Lange (on Proverbs 27:5-6): He who truly loves his neighbor is bound, when the occasion presents itself, to persuade, admonish and warn him; Psalm 141:5; Galatians 6:1.—Wohlfarth (on Proverbs 27:5-6; Proverbs 27:9-10): Moral perfection the highest aim and blessing of true friendship.—Von Gerlach: A rebuke before the whole world is better than a love that proves itself by nothing, that only flatters in connection with a neighbor’s faults.—[Lord Bacon: This proverb rebukes the mistaken kindness of friends who do not use the privilege of friendship freely and boldly to admonish their friends as well of their errors as their dangers.]

Proverbs 27:8 sq. Melancthon (on Proverbs 27:8): Solomon here warns against our forsaking our lawful calling from weariness; Ephesians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 7:20.—Luther (marginal comment on Proverbs 27:8): Let no assault drive thee from thy calling; hold fast, and God will make thee prosper.—Lange: By discontent with one’s position and calling one only doubles his need, and sins grossly against God’s holy providence.—[Muffet: The wandering person is hated and despised by all; none honoreth his kindred, none regardeth his beauty, none careth for him, and none feareth to hurt him.—John Howe (on Proverbs 27:10): If it be an indecency, and uncomeliness, and a very unfit thing, that Isaiah, contrary to the precept of studying whatsoever is lovely, and thinking of those things, to forsake my friend and my father’s friend, how much more horrid must it be to forsake my God and my father’s God!]—Starke (on Proverbs 27:9-10): God is the best of all friends; strive with great care, that thou mayest obtain God’s favor and friendship, and thou mayest never lose them.—Von Gerlach: Union of spirit with an old family friend from the father down is to be much preferred to mere relationship of blood.—[T. Adams (on Proverbs 27:12): The fool goes, he runs, he flies; as if God that rides upon the wings of the wind should not overtake him, Haste might be good if the way were good, and good speed added to it, but this is the shortest way out of the way. He need not run fast: the fool may come soon enough to that place from whence he must never return].

Proverbs 27:14. sq. Luther (marginal comment or Proverbs 27:14): He who reproves much praises, and he who praises much censures; for they are not believed because they go too far.—Tübingen Bible: Too much praised is half censured. Trust not the flatterer who praises thee to excess.—[Bp. Hopkins: Let all thy reproofs be given as secretly and privately as throu canst; otherwise thou wilt seem not so much to aim a thy brother’s reformation, as at his shame and confusion.—Lord Bacon: Moderate praise used with opportunity, and not vulgar, is that which doeth the good.—Arnot (on Proverbs 27:17): One half of the human faculties are framed for maintaining intercourse with men, and one half of the divine law is occupied with rules for regulating it].—Melancthon: Let us recognize our weakness, and see that the individual man is ignorant of much, errs and stumbles, and. … that God has furnished us men with the power of speech chiefly for this, that one may befriend another with counsel and instruction.—Zeltner: The pious should arouse one another, and stimulate to all good works ( Hebrews 10:24), and that too in all circumstances.—Geier (on Proverbs 27:18): Faithful labor and diligence find at length their rich reward—if not from men, at least from God; Hebrews 6:10.

Proverbs 27:19 sq. Luther (marginal comment on Proverbs 27:19): As the outline in water trembles and is uncertain, so also are hearts. The lesson is: Trust not!—[Bp. Hopkins: In the world we see our own hearts unbowelled; and there we can learn what ourselves are at the cost of other men’s sins].—Luther (on Proverbs 27:21): He who loves to hear himself praised is easily deceived: for he proves thereby that he is a reckless man who values his honor above all right.—Starke (on Proverbs 27:21): If thou art praised, let it serve thee as a test, a humiliation, and a profit.—Lange (on Proverbs 27:22): The urging and chastisement of the law makes no one pious, and does not change the heart. The power of the Gospel must change and renew the hard heart.—Von Gerlach: No outward cure helps at all where the inward part is obstinately corrupt.

Proverbs 27:23-27. Starke: Let every one labor diligently in his calling, let him indeed bring everything to counsel, and be thoroughly systematic in his actions.—Geier: If it be important carefully to guard and to cherish silly sheep, oh, how much more Christ’s sheep, the souls which He has redeemed with His precious blood! Acts 20:28.—Wohlfarth: The husbandman’s prosperity (a sermon for a harvest thanksgiving).—Von Gerlach: To persevere is as needful as to acquire in every kind of possession.—[Lawson: God’s bounty is a great encouragement to our industry].

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

HERE THE SUBJECT matter is completely changed. No longer is the outside opposition of the enemy found, but any dangers now considered are those arising from the state of our own hearts. This third section therefore is that of the sanctuary, though the language here may veil this somewhat; yet it is the inner state of the soul with its proper refuge in the presence of God that is here indicated. This is plainly the Leviticus section, where the holiness of God's presence leads to honest, real self-judgment and rejoicing in that which is good.

"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."

How common is this spirit of procrastination! We so easily neglect what ought to be done now, assuring ourselves (or others) that we shall do it without fail in the future. But tomorrow comes and goes, and it is still undone. The honest energy of faith is needed to strike sharply at this lax indolence, to put us on our feet; to have done now what ought to be done. Only the present is ours: the future we know nothing about: let us act while we have the time.

Certainly we know this is of supreme importance in regard to the salvation of the soul. The child puts it off: as a young man he puts it off: in the middle age the same: in old age he is hardened beyond concern, in great numbers of cases. But if we neglect but one day, how can we know what may transpire to render our case hopeless? What of the Lord's coming; or death; or the possibility of incurable illness which could leave the mind unable to make such decisions? This then is a case where one must take himself firmly in hand, and at least rule in the sanctuary of his own heart.

"Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips."

This verse has close connection with the first, both of which deal with the matter of a man's proper self-control. These two verses form the first section of the chapter, and may be characterized as integrity or singleness of heart. A single heart does not exalt self, but the Lord. Even gross unbelievers are contemptuous of a braggart. Let us not trust ourselves to talk about our own accomplishments: they are certainly no more than we ought to have done. If they are worth advertising, usually there will be someone else to do it; but at any rate, the believer is to live as under the eye of God, not as answerable to men. If the charred wick of the lamp is not trimmed, its once-bright light will become dim and smoky.

But the second section (verses 3 to 6) speaks of conflict and of help.

"A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both."

The child of God must expect such opposition, but it cannot but weigh upon him, as did the oppression of Egypt upon Israel. Notice that here it is the effect of a fool's wrath upon others that is considered. By means of this a believer may find out what his real, inward state is. Persecution will bring out what is actually in us. Like the stone or the sand, is it just too heavy to bear? Or do we find the strength of God sufficient to enable us to bear it?

But verse 4 goes yet a little further:

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous: but who is able to stand before envy?"

It is fully admitted that wrath is cruel. and anger outrageous, though this gives no excuse for retaliation in the same spirit: in such a case we should lower ourselves to the same sinful level. We ought to be able to stand in the face of this. But who does not know that envy is a greater aggravation? Who is able to stand before it? Who can restrain himself at such a time from impatience and self-righteous indignation? But let us observe that it is not said that no one can stand: rather it is posed as a question. Certainly one who is in real communion with the Lord will not he caught by this subtle attack of the enemy; but mere confidence in the flesh will always be defeated. Envy will assume countless forms of opposition. more underhand than wrath and anger, and so persistent as to weary its victims. Therefore, only constant communion with God will protect us.

"Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."

When wrong is present, wisdom will seek to bring the help that meets the wrong. Secret love may wink at the evil, but this is not the true love of God: it is no help to the guilty party. Candid open rebuke in a spirit of kindness, not of mere censure, is both honesty and goodness. It may wound to some degree, even when done in a lowly, friendly way, but even the offender should recognize faithfulness in this, and if he rightly takes it to heart, his wounds will heal well. Moreover, it may lead him to love the wise reprover. Again, this kind of work, to be rightly done, requires true self-judgment and communion with God.

The third section of the chapter (verses 7 to 12) is that of sanctification, and it will be seen that motivating influences are most prominent here.

"The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet."

Naturally, this is so evident and elementary an observation, that it should direct us to expect a far more important spiritual significance. Reprovingly, the apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, "Now ye are full, now ye are rich" (1 Corinthians 4:8). They were satiated with earthly advantages, pride, self-complacency. It is the very spirit of Laodicea - "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). No longing of the heart for an absent Lord and Master, but such a feeding upon the trash of this world that the precious, sweet ministry of the Spirit of God is loathed. But, "blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). This is the true character of the Child of God in a barren world. And when it is so, "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" ( Psalms 107:9).

Moreover, "every bitter thing is sweet." Is it not true that when the soul hungers and thirsts after God, then even the bitter trials and experiences of the wilderness are turned into sweetness? Wonderful indeed are the ways of God. The very judgments of God, bitter to the belly, yet because fulfilling the truth of prophecy, are sweet to the taste of the man of God (Revelation 10:8-10).

"As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place."

The hungry soul will not be a wanderer from God's place for him, for he thirsts for the Living God with a singleness of heart that will not turn aside after other interests. But wandering feet follow a wandering heart. If we depend on material reasoning, we may think that farther fields look greener, and thus by following our own thoughts may easily wander as a bird from the explicit truth of the Word of God, which sets every believer in the body of Christ, as He pleases. How much better to know His mind, and firmly stand where He has set us! This is a true "sanctuary of strength."

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: and the sweetness of one's friend is the fruit of hearty counsel" (New Trans.).

We are so created that fragrant odors have a peculiarly pleasing effect upon us, and this is certainly intended to teach us that the Creator Himself takes delight in that which is spiritually fragrant. Ointment is plainly symbolic of the worship of the heart, as Mary's anointing of the feet of the Lord Jesus shows (John 12:3). Moses was commanded to make an ointment of precise amounts of various ingredients. It was not to be poured upon man's flesh, nor was it to be imitated in any way (Exodus 30:22-33 ). Its use was for the anointing of the priests and the vessels of the tabernacle, that sphere in which was expressed the worship of Jehovah alone. This is followed by instructions as to the making of perfume, and this too was entirely for God: it was not to be imitated. God can neither share His glory with man, nor can He allow anything similar to worship to be accorded to any creature (Exodus 30:34-38). The spices whether in the ointment or the perfume speak of the many fragrances of the Person of Christ, delightful to the heart of God. The oil added for the ointment speaks of the living operation of the Spirit of God. In our verse then, worship is the subject of the first part. Is this not followed by communion? "The sweetness of one's friend is the fruit of hearty counsel." Candid whole-hearted taking counsel together will have effects that are sweet. How deeply true in reference to communion with God, and true also where there is honest, hearty confidence among the saints of God.

"Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off."

True friendship does not change. Personal feelings will often ruin a friendship when such feelings are allowed to dominate. But let us not be guilty of forsaking a friend if he should leave, at least let us not cause a separation. How precious a character is constancy, fidelity, faithfulness! In this case, while a brother spoken of here is of course a natural relative, the "friend" speaks not of natural relationship, but of another relationship willingly assumed, and therefore applicable to spiritual fellowship. Shall we dare to forsake saints whose fellowship God has given us, just because of personal feelings, irritations, jealousies? - or merely because we desire easier circumstances or more congenial fellowship? But unwavering stability will require proper self-judgment and exercise of soul: it is not natural nor mechanical.

Moreover, if calamity should befall us, wisdom does not look for comfort from a mere natural relative, "a brother far off." we all know the tendency for families to draw apart, so that in time any proper understanding between brothers is lost. This painful fact is how strong a witness that merely natural relationships are not stable, nor lasting. "A neighbor that is near

" is better, - that is, of course, when one has the proper character of a neighbor. Compare Luke 10:36-37. Certainly this is intended to teach us the nearer relationship of those who are born of God, whose comfort, help, encouragement is on a basis of faith and of true understanding; just as the Lord Jesus acknowledged no relationship but that of "these which hear the Word of God, and do it" (Luke 8:21). Of course, if a brother is also a "brother in the Lord," this makes all the difference.

"My son,be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me."

The child of God surely hears a higher voice than that of his natural parent in this admonition; and if, naturally, the conduct of the child reflects upon the parent, who feels it according to its character, how evidently so for the child of God and his Father in Glory! John could say, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth" (3 John 1:4). Paul urges Timothy, "Thou therefore my child, he strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). If men dare to reproach God, as indeed they do, taking advantage of every failure of His children, to do so; how good if a wise, consistent walk on our part, is a clear answer to such charges!

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished."

The wisdom of true sanctification is apparent here; but it is the Word of God that is able to make wise (2 Timothy 3:16). It warns the sinner of impending judgment, and if he is wise he will take refuge in the blessed shelter of Divine grace, the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, the only shelter from the wrath of God against sin. And as to the dangers of the Christian path, the snares of Satan, threats against personal faith and godliness, cunning attacks upon the truth of the Church of God, the child of God ought not to be ignorant, but by acquaintance with Scripture should foresee the grave dangers that threaten him and take refuge in the truth provided of God.

"The simple" here are those unaware because ignorant, and punishment is the result of this ignorance. For it is our fault if we neglect the Word of God, which would enlighten us. Ignorance is no excuse when God has given us His Word, and we have ignored it. Have we no heart to listen when our God and Father speaks? If so, we can only expect to reap the results of not listening.

Now verses 13 to 16 form the fourth section, dealing with testing in a strange and contentious world.

"Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman."

If we are deceived by a stranger, we must be prepared to bear the responsibility for being deceived. If one is willing to be surety for a stranger, then we are told here that we ought to be sure that he bears the consequences if the stranger proves unreliable. He who gives a letter of commendation must be held fully responsible for it.

The garment speaks of the character or reputation of the individual, and hence in commending another I must be prepared to involve my own reputation in so doing. And lest it should be thought we should be more lenient where a woman, the weaker vessel, is concerned, we are just as strongly warned as to "a strange woman." She may be as false and deceitful as any man and first appearances are never to be trusted. This is certainly no less true in spiritual matters than in temporal affairs.

"He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him."

To rise early in the morning in order to spend time quietly in prayer and communion with God, is of deepest blessing; but to disturb others by loud, unbecoming flattery of a friend will bring a curse. If, in verse 13, we are not to be deceived by strangers, in verse 14 it is not the business of the Christian to advertise his friends.

"A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike."

This has been considered to be a dropping through a leaking roof, which is not uncommon in a land of flat roofs if rain should be unusually heavy. Only those who have experienced it know how irritating and wearying this can be. But such is the character of an argumentative woman. She is out of her place, not displaying the godly qualities of submission and of a meek and quiet spirit. This kind of contention is to have no place in the assembly of God: it is of the world. Timothy is strongly warned against allowing any such spirit among the saints of God.

"Whosoever will restrain her restraineth the wind, and his right hand encountereth oil" (New Trans.).

It is no small matter to restrain one who is contentious: mere human power is not sufficient for it, but if we make use of the power of God, He can surely restrain even the wind. This is good work which can be done only by the living presence of the Spirit of God. The right hand is the hand of power and the encountering of oil is the proving of the power of the Spirit of God (the oil) in a living way through these severe testings of the wilderness path. How much better is this, and how much more sound and real than the emotional excitement and entrancing experiences of ecstatic joy that many today avidly seek as though this were the filling of the Spirit of God! Let us not be deceived by this empty froth, but enjoy the sound, solid, blessed energy and liberty of the Spirit in practical living for God. When filled with the Spirit, Paul solemnly silenced the unholy contentions of Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:6-12); and Stephen, facing the contentious, angry Jewish council, bore most blessed witness to the glory of the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-60).

The fifth section of our chapter is confined to verses 17 and 18, and speaks of recompenses, the reaping of what is sown.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Fellowship will always have results. Just as an iron file sharpens an iron cutting edge, so the interchange of thoughts between friends will sharpen the other in a way that will show in his countenance. It is true in mere natural knowledge: the more it is exercised, the more it will bring results. Let it be so then among Christians in regard to the knowledge of God and the truth of His Word. True Christian fellowship in exchange of the truths we have learned from God will sharpen saints in keener, more sensitive joy in the Lord and usefulness in service to Him. If we desire results, we must practise what brings results.

"Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honored."

The fig tree speaks of the nation Israel; and a Jew whose love for the nation led him to seek the blessing of his nation, would himself be blessed through this. Just so, if the child of God today cares for the church, the body of Christ, and for its proper interests, he himself will reap proper spiritual benefit. This is good service to our Master, in reference to His interests, "waiting on the Master," and it cannot but result in honor for the servant. Seeking our own honor will on the other hand result in our dishonor.

Verses 19 to 22 form the sixth section, so necessary just at this point as a precautionary warning against any confidence in the labor of mere man; for while all true labor for the Lord brings results, yet confidence must be consistently in the Lord and not in man's achievements. The section then is a simple and candid exposure of man and his vanity.

"As in Water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

Water will act as a mirror to reflect a man's face just as it is. The Word of God is likened to water (Ephesians 5:26) and in this I see the reflection of my own heart, answering to the heart of all mankind. The deceitful motives and ways of men as exposed in Scripture are but a true reflection of my own heart, and every heart of man.

"Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."

Elsewhere we are told, "the eye is not filled with seeing." Covetousness seems to be continually awakened by what the eye sees, and it requires stern self-judgment to restrain this natural impulse of our hearts. It is a disease of all mankind, and here likened to the insatiable devouring of mankind by sheol and destruction, - sheol being the state of the disembodied spirit after death. As death continually feeds on mankind, with never an intermission, laying the body low in destruction and dismissing the spirit into the realms of the unseen, with only mourning and depression, so man's eyes feed on all they can see, with never a satisfying, living, vital result. All is transient and vain. How transcendently above and beyond all this is the blessed revelation of God in the Person of His Son, concerning which the child of God can say with a full heart: "As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." But this is not the subject of the section we are considering.

"The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; so let a man be to the mouth that praiseth him" (New Trans.).

As silver and gold is tried by intense heat, so a man is tried by means of being praised by men's lips. Let him remember the two previous verses, and human praise will not puff him up. We shall not be deceived bymere flattery if we remember the simple honest fact of what we are. In silver being mentioned, is there not here the reminder of our being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, a work for us infinitely precious; while gold symbolizes the glory of God, which, if it delights our hearts, will drive from us all desire for our own glory.

Verse 22 sums up the hopelessness of man's condition, if he chooses to remain a fool, ignorant of the grace of God, a stranger to new birth.

"Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him."

The mortar was a vessel in which wheat was pounded with a pestle, to remove the husks to make it edible. The true child of God is likened to wheat (Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:38) and the wheat must be sifted, the Lord allowing even Satan to do this work sometimes (Luke 22:31). But if a fool is put in company with the saints of God, and pounded with the trials that ought to remove all dross, this will still not remove his folly from him. Environment and training will not decide an issue like this.

"Ye must be born again." Only a real work of God in the soul will accomplish true and permanent results.

The seventh section is in every way a contrast to the sixth, for its subject is sufficiency and rest. Is it not simply because only the number one is added, - that is, God? His work accomplishes the complete change.

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds."

Because mere man's work is vanity is no reason to be slothful in the Lord's work. Faith in the Living God and diligence go together, for in this there is no vanity: "your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Pastoral, shepherd care is implied in our verse, of course, and however feeble the day in which we live, the need of souls should draw out the unflagging labor and concern of our own hearts.

"For riches are not forever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?"

Time for labor in natural things is limited, and natural wisdom takes advantage of the present. How true, too, in the things of God! We have only the present to labor for the Lord, to acquire for Him what will please Him in the day of rewards. "Occupy till I come," He says, for then there will be no delaying of the account.

"The hay is removed, and the tender grass showeth itself, and herds of the mountains are gathered in" (New Trans.).

This too shows the evanescence of the present, that though our lives are but as a vapor, come and gone, as the grass and the hay, yet there is something gathered, and fruit that is brought forth for the Lord in this brief span of our lives here, will be of lasting value long after the history of our lives is past. "Your fruit shall remain" (John 15:16). Blessed indeed that the believer's life is not all vanity and vexation of spirit. God's work in his soul will bear much fruit.

"The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of a field."

Care for souls, young and tender as they may be, will work for our own benefit, as the wool of the lambs is clothing for the shepherd, and as the price of goats sufficient to buy property. There is of course here the reminder of sacrifice, the lamb a type of the Lord Jesus in His quiet submission in death for us, the real means of clothing us in the eyes of God. The goat speaks of Him in substitution for us, a propitiation "for the whole world," that is, "the field," which has been purchased by His death. Compare Matthew 13:44; 1 John 2:2. Not that the world is redeemed, but redemption is available for it, and all who receive the Lord Jesus receive the eternal benefits of this great work.

"And there is goats' milk enough for the food of thy household, and sustenance for thy maidens" (New Trans.).

The goats' milk of course speaks of the sufficient nourishment, as a result of the sacrifice, for the individual, for his household, and for other dependents, - serving maidens. For faith cannot but consider the welfare of others: and here the calm confidence of faith and the devoted energy of faith are beautifully combined. It is a scene of tranquil prosperity and rest.

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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.

Wells of Living Water Commentary

Making the Most of Life

Proverbs 27:1-27


God has given to each of us a life freighted with many privileges and with many opportunities. There is a little verse in the New Testament which reads: "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." We need to know how to redeem every moment, and to make the best of each day, as it is passing by. We have five observations taken from the opening verses of today's chapter.

1. The brevity of life. Proverbs 27:1 tells us, "Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." There are many Scriptures which suggest to us the shortness of life. One Scripture speaks of life as "the grass * * which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven."

Life may be compared to a passing cloud, which flits across the horizon, above our heads, and then disappears.

Life may again be compared to a dream, or a summer's day. For a little while it seems full of joy and of gladsome visions, and then we wake up but to find it gone.

Life is like a ship on sea. It starts on its way, when it leaves port, while every day it hastens to its destiny. If life is short, we certainly need to use it as it passes.

2. The uncertainty of life. This is suggested for us in the latter half of our verse. "Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." We can only see one step ahead. No man knoweth what the future may hold. We know neither the sorrow nor the joys, the pains nor the pleasures, around the next shore line. There may be accidents, or diseases or what not. Surely, our vision at best is brief. The whole world sometimes wakes up to find itself suddenly thrust into war. The storm breaks unannounced. The earthquake comes unexpected.

3. Buying up the time. If life is short, we want to occupy while we may. We have no time to waste in idle lounging. When a certain king was dying, he offered the doctor fabulous wealth for a few more days of life. This, the doctor had no power to give. Life seems very precious when it is gone. Some one has pictured "opportunity" as a fleeing man, bald upon the back of his head, and with but a tuft of hair upon his forehead. In other words, you must take opportunity as it appears if you would grasp it.

4. Men who put off their salvation are not wise. We can remember how Felix said, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." Agrippa afterward said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Neither the one nor the other, so far as the records go, ever came to Christ.

He who puts off his salvation may never find the time to be saved. The truth is God only calls us one time; and now is that time. It is written, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation"!

5. Christians who delay service. There is another little Scripture which reads, "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone." If we have any word to say, any warning to utter, let us do it now. One day we entered the office of an outstanding lawyer and we saw the three words, "Do It Now," in a beautiful frame upon his desk. He told us that they were his motto.

When we went to South America there were two words that we heard so frequently. The words were "Ha amanha." The words translated, are, "There is a tomorrow." It seemed to us that this was a reminder that they would never do anything today, that they could do tomorrow. They forgot that tomorrow may never come.

I. WOUNDS VS. KISSES (Proverbs 27:6 )

Our verse reads: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."

1. The blessings of the rod. The Bible says, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son." Proverbs 27:5 in our chapter says, "Open rebuke is better than secret love." When a friend wounds another, he does not do it to destroy. He does it to aid.

We have read of how God did tempt, or test Abraham. However, God's testings to Abraham, were sent in order that he might mount higher.

The temptations of Satan are given to cast us down, to overwhelm us, and lay us low. The temptings of a friend are always given to lead to something better. We all know that, "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." True love does not fail to see the faults of a friend.

2. The curses of vain praise. Our verse says that "the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Our minds go immediately to Judas and his kiss. His kiss was a kiss of betrayal. Under the guise of affection, he sought to deliver his Lord into the hands of His enemies.

Sometimes young people approach others with fullsome praise, for no other reason than to lead them to their ruin. When Caesar saw Brutus, his trusted and familiar friend, drawing a dagger to slay him, it quite vanquished him.

We need to weigh carefully and wisely the plaudits of this world. It is far better to have one that we love to stand, with his arm around us, and wound our pride; than to have one who despises us, talk glibly but vainly with praise.

The world will put on its best face when it seeks to lead some unsuspecting life into its clutches. The woman of sin, who has no other purpose save the destroying of some youth, will approach him with fair words.

This is the way the Word of God puts it: "Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner. So she caught him, and kissed him." A little further we read, "With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him." It is of this that the Spirit warns us when He says in our verse, "The kisses of an enemy are deceitful."

II. PLENTY AND PENURY (Proverbs 27:7 )

"The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." The words bring before us two phases of life: the one, that of a soul hungry and famishing; the other, of a soul filled with every good thing.

1. The bane of abundance. There are many, of course, who have the idea that money is the root of every blessing. God, however, says that "the love of money is the root of all evil." Then God adds, "Which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

The difficulty with those who have riches lies in the fact that they expect their riches to satisfy them. However, "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." More than that, the rich are, somehow, in danger of turning away from the Lord.

The rich young ruler went off rejecting the Son of God, for the simple reason that his heart's affections were set upon his wealth. The farmer whose barns were overfilled said: "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; * * eat, drink, and be merry." Down from the blue, God spoke saying, "Thou fool"!

2. The blessings of hunger. We would hardly go to the empty larder in order to find blessings. We would hardly think that hunger would be a steppingstone to plenty; and yet, so it often is. Did not Jesus say, "Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation."

Here is another expression; "Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep." The Lord also said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Again he said, "Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the Kingdom of God." "Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."

The Laodicean Church boasted its riches, saying, "I * * have need of nothing." The Lord said quickly, that they were "miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." If hunger will drive us unto God, unto His fullness, unto His riches that never fail, then let that hunger come.

III. THE WANDERER (Proverbs 27:8 )

Here is a striking verse: "As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place." There is much in the Bible about the backslider. The Book of Jeremiah particularly emphasizes the one who wanders away from God. The story is given in part as follows: "Thou hast * * scattered thy ways to the strangers, under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed My voice, saith the Lord."

Thus it was that Jeremiah thundered forth his Lamentation, and wrote, "How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people?" The Prophet says of backsliding Israel, "She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks. * * Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper."

There is nothing sadder than the story of a youth who wanders away from his home. We are all familiar with the Prodigal Son. It was the love of the world that caught him. He went out into the far country to get pleasure but he got pain. He went out to live riotously, and he fed the swine. He went out full, but came back empty.

God pity the wanderer. When David turned aside and went after Bath-sheba, did he rejoice? Nay, for two years his bones waxed old with their roaring all the day. When Peter wandered from the Lord he went out, and wept bitterly.

There is no pleasure when a bird wandereth from her nest, or when a man wandereth from his place. Home is the place of security, and of safety, as well as joy and pleasure.

IV. TRAPS BY THE WAY (Proverbs 27:12 )

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished."

1. The snares which are set for the downfall of youth. The Bible says "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, * * should shine unto them."

The trap, or snare which Satan places to catch the youth, are never seen, but lie hidden away under the pleasures of this world, under the deceitfulness of riches, under the praise and the flattery of human lips.

It is written, "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace." The devil is too wise to set forth the dangers of his pathway. He paints them with rosy hues, and delightful colors. Satan goes about as a wolf in sheep's clothing. He is but deceiving us, for he is, in truth, "a roaring lion, * * seeking whom he may devour."

The Bible speaks of those "who are taken captive by him at his will." The man or the woman who allows himself or herself to become ensnared by the devil, is called "simple," by the wise man. The "prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself."

Abraham looked afar off. He saw, with the eye of faith, the burning of Sodom. Lot, on the other hand, had a circumscribed vision, and walked into Satan's snares. He pitched his tent toward Sodom, and there he was soon entrapped.

2. The great deliverance. If any young man, reading these words, finds himself in Satan's traps, let him lift up his voice unto Jesus Christ. Of Him it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me * * to preach deliverance to the captives, * * to set at liberty them that are bruised."


"Whosoever keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured."

1. An example in farming. The expression, "keepeth the fig tree," carries with it the idea of faithful husbandry. If you go by the farm of the sluggard, you will find his walls are falling down, his hedges are broken; while the weeds, destroy his planting. No farmer expects to reap a harvest unless he tills the soil. There is, however, not alone the sowing of the seed, and the cultivating of plants.

We can pass from the life of the farmer, to any other sphere. Take for instance, the shepherd. Proverbs 27:23 says: "Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds." We dare not leave everything to take care of itself, We must be faithful. Have you not read, "Seest thou a man diligent in business? he shall stand before kings." Have you not read that a good soldier should; endure hardness?

2. The example applied to spiritual living. Does not God seem to be using the natural and true laws of harvest, to set forth the spiritual laws of increase and rewards? Christ has said, "Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

He who took his talent, and wrapped it in a napkin, shall receive nothing of the Lord. The Apostle Paul said, "So run, that ye may obtain." The incorruptible crown shall be given only to those, who have laid aside every weight; who have kept their bodies under and brought them into subjection.

Let us, from this hour, forget the things behind, and press unto the things which are before. Let us begin now to lay up for ourselves treasures in Heaven.

The Apostle John speaks of some who will be ashamed from before the Lord, at His Coming.

The Apostle Peter urges that we give diligence to add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; and etc. His call for this "adding" is that we may obtain an abundant entrance unto the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul stretched every nerve, as he pressed toward the prize of the up-calling of God in Christ Jesus. Shall we not follow the examples of these early saints? If we would have fruit in abundance in our eternal inheritance, We must "keep our fig tree."

VI. THE FOLLY OF RICHES (Proverbs 27:24 )

"For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?" Relative to riches we wish to present two lines of thought.

1. The riches which perish. Our key text says very plainly, "Riches are not for ever." We suppose that most of the readers are familiar with the words of Ecclesiastes. This Book describes everything that a man may have under the sun. It particularly sets forth the vanity of riches under the story of Solomon's own accumulations. None other was as rich as he. He made great works, he builded houses, he planted vineyards, he made paradises and orchards.

Solomon instituted his own irrigation system. He had servants and maidens in abundance. He had great possessions in every way. He gathered silver and gold, and the peculiar treasures of kings and provinces. Solomon had his own theatricals; his own singers and musicians. These men played on musical instruments of all sorts. The truth is that there was no joy which wealth could afford that was kept from Solomon.

However, when he looked on all that his hands had wrought, he cried, "There is no profit under the sun." He even said, "I hated all my labour * * because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me."

The richest man of the world stood viewing all of his wealth, and said, "As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hands." Do you marvel that our key verse says, "For riches are not for ever; and doth the crown endure to every generation?" Do you marvel that Solomon, who in the Spirit wrote these words, bitterly despaired of his own life? The truth is that everything he had, was left behind.

2. The riches which live forevermore. There is another side to the story of riches, which we wish to present. Jesus Christ told us how we could lay up our treasures in Heaven. In order to do this, of course, we must be able to place them here where they will make friends to receive us into everlasting habitations. Riches kept by the owners thereof, will be kept to their hurt. Riches squandered in riotous living, will bring nothing but sorrow and loss; riches, however, employed in the propagation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, or, in the caring for of the needy and impoverished, will be riches safeguarded unto the ages of the ages.

He who is rich toward himself may be poor toward God. He who is poor toward himself, and rich toward God, will meet his riches beyond the skies. If we save our life we will lose it; if we lose it for Christ's sake, we will find it.

VII. HELL'S CAPACITY (Proverbs 27:20 )

"Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."

1. Hell is the end of an ungodly life. We have been speaking thus far about how to make the most of life. We have brought out God's warning about squandering life, and God's blessings that protect and seal life.

We slipped beyond the present world, and have discovered the rewards that lay beyond this life for the obedient and faithful. Now we come to the other side, under the expression, "Hell and destruction are never full."

Does the man who follows after sin and sinful pleasures realize that he is being led, blindfolded, toward the pit of the abyss? Does he realize that he is going after the goddess of pleasure, or of riches straightway, "as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks"?

Does the wicked stop to consider that he is "as a bird hasteneth to the snare, and knowest not that it is for his Hie"? Does he not know that the gaping mouth of hell is open to receive him, and that hell is never full? God has written, "the wicked shall be turned into hell."

2. Once more we see that hell is the end of a misspent life. A sinner who lives carelessly, thoughtlessly, in his sins, is like a ship driven on a wild and stormy sea rushing on to its destruction. Hell is like a ravenous beast, devouring its prey. It is like the mighty deep swallowing up its victims. Hell is a bottomless abyss.

Even now you can call to mind the story of the two sirens, who, with their beautiful music and enchantments, allured the seamen who passed their way into the meshes of despair. Satan is ever alert, the world is ever awake, the flesh is ever ready to call young men and young women from the paths which lead to God. The broad way and the wide gate always lead to destruction.


Let us who would make the most of life, beware lest we live for self:

Some people find it very hard to see over their own doorstep with the naked eye. The real story of their lives is this:

"I had a little tea party

This afternoon at three

'Twas very small

Three guests in all

Just I, Myself, and Me.

Myself ate up all the sandwiches,

While I drank up the tea.

'Twas also I who ate the pie

And passed the cake to Me."

Their interest is pretty much confined to what happens within their own four walls, in their own little town or their own church. Now to be interested in one's church is a good thing. But one who is interested in his own church only is never able to do very much for that church. He is worth far more to his own local church when his interest extends beyond it, when he has something like the feeling which Jesus had when He looked out over the multitudes and was filled with compassion for them. "The light which shines farthest shines brightest at home" and the man whose heart is filled with interest and sympathy for people at a distance from him has a heart all the more ready to take upon it the burdens of things nearest. The Continent.

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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Living Water".

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.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 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.

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

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

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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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

. A collection of aphorisms on various subjects.

Proverbs 27:3. cf. Sirach 22:14 f. The comparison suggests that "vexation" is out of place. It is the fool that is a bore, not his anger.

Proverbs 27:4 a Lit. "ruthlessness of wrath, torrent of anger," or "wrath is ruthlessness, anger a torrent."

Proverbs 27:6. profuse: a doubtful translation of an obscure Heb. word, although Matthew 26:49 (viz. the force of κατὰ in κατεφίλησεν) is quoted in support. AV "deceitful" depends upon an emendation following the Lat.

Proverbs 27:8. Cheyne finds a reference to the Exile. Toy allows only a general reference to home-sickness.

Proverbs 27:9 b. The Heb. is untranslatable. It may be a scribal corruption of Proverbs 27:7 b. The LXX reads "but the soul is rent by misfortunes," which yields a better sense than Toy grants, if Proverbs 27:9 a be taken as a description of the pleasures of prosperity.

Proverbs 27:10. Three unconnected lines. It is impossible to restore the original form.

Proverbs 27:12. cf. Proverbs 22:3.

Proverbs 27:13. cf. Proverbs 20:16.

Proverbs 27:14. Probably an ironical reference to fulsome public flattery as more injurious than beneficial to its object.

Proverbs 27:15. cf. Proverbs 19:13.

Proverbs 27:16. Corrupt. RV connects it with the preceding couplet. The force of Proverbs 27:16 b is that the woman of Proverbs 27:15 is as difficult to restrain as slippery oil. This is the traditional Jewish exegesis. The LXX disconnects it from Proverbs 27:15, and renders "The north wind is a bitter wind, but by its name is called well-omened."

Proverbs 27:19 a. The lit. rendering, "As water face to face," gives no sense. LXX has "As faces do not resemble faces, so do not the minds of men." Probably we should read, "As face to face, so mind to mind"—i.e. possibly an Oriental equivalent of "quot homines tot sententiæ."

Proverbs 27:20. cf. Proverbs 15:11.

. A short poem of five couplets dealing with the value of cattle to the farmer; cf. a somewhat similar fragment of agricultural wisdom in Isaiah 28:23-29.

Proverbs 27:25. cf. Amos 7:1 f. The stages indicated are: (a) the regular hay harvest (in Amos appropriated for taxation), (b) the after growth, (c) the produce of the mountain pastures, which was also stored by the careful farmer.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


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."



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.


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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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me. A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished. Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman. He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him. A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured. As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise. Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not forever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

There are many charming things spoken of through these verses, and which, if explained upon gospel principles, have a gracious tendency. But it will be better for the Reader to have them opened to his understanding by the Holy Ghost, whose infallible teaching will secure from the possibility of error. Jesus hath said concerning him, that he shall guide into all truth: and it is he which shall take of the things of Jesus and shew unto his people. John 16:13-14.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

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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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

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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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

Proverbs 27:1. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Let us never boast of future days and years, or what we mean to do when we come to any age, or what shall be our position when we grow gray. Let us never boast of anything in the future, for we cannot tell what even a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:2. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

For he who praises himself writes himself down a fool in capital letters.

Proverbs 27:3. A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.

One might endure almost any sort of labour sooner than have to live with one who is perpetually and foolishly angry.

Proverbs 27:4. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

Envy is a snake in the grass. Christians, beware of envy. You will, perhaps, be tempted to have it in your heart when you see another Christian more useful than you are, or when some Christian brother seems to have more honour than you have. Ah, then! cry to God against it. Never let this venomous reptile be spared for a single moment. The best of men will find envy creeping over them at times; it may be envy of the wicked who are rich. We must seek to overcome that at once. And even envy of the best of men, what is it but covetousness and hatred, and a breach of two commandments? God save us from it!

Proverbs 27:5. Open rebuke is better than secret love.

That I should love my fellow-man is a good thing; but to have love enough to be able openly to rebuke his faults, is a very high proof of affection, and far better than secret love that is silent when it ought to speak. And yet, how many persons there are who are very angry with you if you give them an open rebuke, and how many there are who are foolish enough to prefer secret love to open rebuke, though they have Solomon’s wisdom to teach them better! Our Lord Jesus Christ has a secret love to his people, yet he never spares them the open rebuke when he knows that it will be good for them.

Proverbs 27:6. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Beware of the flattering world, believer; beware of the flattering devil, and of the cozening of the flesh. When things go smoothly with you, there may be the greatest danger. Whatever you do in times of storm, keep a good look-out when the sea is calm and the sky is clear.

Proverbs 27:7. The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

“The full soul loatheth” (even that luscious thing) “an honeycomb.” No true preaching will go down with him who is full of himself, full of his own importance. Unless there shall be many of the flowers of rhetoric in the discourse, he will not listen to sound doctrine. “But to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Happy hunger is it when the soul hungereth and thirsteth after righteousness. Then there are no hyper-critical observations about the minister’s delivery, and no carping at words and phrases. It is spiritual food that the soul seeks, and if it can get that, though it may not be to its taste in every respect, there will be a sweetness in it that will make it like a honeycomb.

Proverbs 27:8-9. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

The Orientals were wont to smear their faces, and especially their hair with ointment and perfume, and those who came near them were pleased with the scent. When you can get a little conversation, especially upon points that help towards godliness, with those of a like frame of mind with you, when you can have sweet communion and fellowship with the people of God, then it is that your hearts are rejoiced as with ointments and perfumes.

Proverbs 27:10. Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not;

Have but few friends, but stick closely to them. Above all, cleave closely to that “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” If he be thine own Friend, and thy father’s Friend, never forsake HIM. Forsake all the world for him, but let not all the world induce thee to forsake him.

Proverbs 27:10. Neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

It is very sad that it should be so; but, sometimes, our nearest relatives are the farthest off, and those who ought to help us the most help us least. Many a man has had kindness shown to him by his neighbour, who was but a stranger, when he has had little or no kindness from his own relatives. But there is one Brother into whose house we may always go. So near of kin he is to us, and so loving of heart, that he never thinketh a hard thought of us; but, the more we ask of him, the more delighted he is with us, and is only grieved with us because we stint ourselves in our prayers.

Proverbs 27:11. My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.

A good son is his father’s honour. If any say of such-and-such a man that he is a bad man, yet, if his children walk orderly, he can answer the slander without speaking a word. Would a bad man have brought up his children in that way? Would they be walking in the fear of God if he had not walked in that way himself? So the sons of God ought to seek, by their consistency, to keep the name of their Father clear of reproach. The consistency of our conduct should be the best answer to the accusations of the infidel.

Proverbs 27:12-13. A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished. Take his garment that is surety for a stranger,

He that taketh surety is sure, but he that goeth surety for another, and especially for a stranger, will smart for it, perhaps to the day of his death.

Proverbs 27:13-14. And take a pledge of him for a strange woman. He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

There are some men who always use such sweet words; they are so fond of you that they are up early in the morning to give you their praise, and they continue all day pouring out their flattering unction. Such blessings as these are a curse, and the wise man will loathe these parasitical people who will see no faults, or pretend that they do not see any, but will always be extolling mere trifles as though they were the sublimest virtues. A sensible man is not to be overcome by this flattery.

Proverbs 27:15. A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.

When there is a little leak in the roof, and the rain keeps dropping through, it is very uncomfortable; but it is ten times more comfortable than it is to have to dwell with a contentious woman.

Proverbs 27:16. Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.

That is to say, if a man put sweet ointment on his hand, the smell of it would soon be perceived; so, if a woman be of a contentious, angry, quarrelsome disposition, her contentiousness will be discovered, there is no hiding it.

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

Hence the usefulness of Christian association, and hence also the evil of sinful company, for one sinner sharpens another to do mischief, just as one saint encourages another to righteousness.

Proverbs 27:18-19. Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured. As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.

If I look into water, I see the reflection of my own face, not another man’s; and if I look into society, I shall probably see men like-minded with myself. How is it that a drunken man always finds out drunken men? How is it that lascivious men always have a bad opinion of the morality of other people? How is it that hypocrites always think other people hypocrites? Why, because they can see the reflection of their own faces. When a man tells me that there is no love in the Church of God, I know it is because he sees his own face, and knows that there is no love in it. You will generally find that men measure other people’s corn with their own bushels. They are sure to mete out to others according to their own measure; and they thus unconsciously betray themselves.

Proverbs 27:20-21. Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.

Many a man, who can bear adversity, cannot bear prosperity. The world’s censures seldom do a Christian any harm, but it is the breath of applause that often gives us the scarlet fever of pride.

Proverbs 27:22. Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.

No troubles, no afflictions, can of themselves make a fool into a wise man. The sinner remains a sinner, after all providential chastisements, unless sovereign grace interposes.

Proverbs 27:23. Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.

Be not slothful in business; and, above all, let the Christian be diligent to know the state of his own heart.

Proverbs 27:24-27. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass showeth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

Those who are diligent generally prosper, and they who are diligent in spiritual things shall have all that their souls need. They shall be clothed with the robe of righteousness, they shall be well fed, and shall be satisfied. May the wisdom of these proverbs be given to us in daily life, that we may be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; but, above all, may heavenly wisdom be given to us in all spiritual things, to the praise of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

The Biblical Illustrator

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The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 27:17

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


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.)


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.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 27:17". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Expositor's Bible Commentary



"Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day will bring forth."- Proverbs 27:1

"The grave and destruction are never satisfied; and the eyes of men are never satisfied"; and LXX adds, "An abomination to the Lord is he who sets his eye, and undisciplined men uncontrolled in tongue."- Proverbs 27:20

"Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof, so he that waits on his Lord eats of the honor."- Proverbs 27:18

HERE is a wholesome lesson for us. We are to trust no future, however pleasant; we are to dwell in no past, however honorable. Life consists of a present, given to us day by day; this is our whole wealth; squandered, it cannot be recovered; neglected, it withers as a leaf. Titus, the Roman Emperor, would say in the evening, when he had omitted his duties or failed in his purposes, Perdidi diem, "I have lost a day";-yes, that lost day is lost forever; other days may come, but not that one; the duties of that day may be performed afterwards or by other hands, but still the day is lost, because it passed away empty. The thief which cheats us of our days, and beggars us of our wealth, is the specious thought that tomorrow belongs to us. The illusion is as old as the world, but is today as fresh and powerful as ever. We have to shake ourselves free of a spell, and awake out of a dream, to see that when tomorrow comes it is already today.

We only begin to live in any true and satisfactory sense when we have learnt to take each day by itself, and to use it as if it were our last, and indeed as if it were our all; dismissing the thought of tomorrow as a mere phantom which forever evades our grasp. Life is a mosaic, a large work shaping on the wall or in the dome of some vast cathedral which eye hath not yet seen; and it can only be effectually wrought if, with minute and concentrated care, the little piece of colored glass which we call Today is duly fixed into its bedding and fitted exactly to its immediate neighbors. "Why do you work with such intensity?" the great artist was once asked; "Because I work for eternity," was the answer. And that is why each day is of such importance: that is why each day demands all our thought and care: eternity is made up of days, and the present day is all of eternity that we can ever possess.

It is well for us then each morning to take the day fresh from God’s hands, and at once to throw our whole soul into it, and to live it with a pure intensity, a sense of solemn and joyful responsibility.

"Oh, Day, if I squander a wavelet of thee,

A mite of my twelve-hours’ treasure,

The least of thy gazes or glances

(Be they grants thou art bound to or gifts above measure),

One of thy choices or one of thy chances

(Be they tasks God imposed thee or freaks of thy pleasure), -

My Day, if I squander such labor or leisure,

Then shame fall on Asolo, mischief on me."

But it may be said, Is not this the life of a mere butterfly? Is it not the mark of a prudent man to work with his eye on the future, -"Prepare thy work without, and make it ready for thee in the field, and afterwards build thine house". [Proverbs 24:27] Is it not just what we have to complain of in the foolish man that he ignores tomorrow, -"A prudent man seethe the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and suffer for it?" [Proverbs 22:3,, Proverbs 27:12]

Here is an apparent contradiction which requires reflection. And the difficulty increases when we remember that most worthy works are the labor of years: an architect lays his plans for a great building which he can hardly hope to see finished in his own lifetime; an author spends days and months and years in the preparation of materials, and must depend on the uncertain future for a time to shape them into a book: a statesman, in proportion as he is wise, avoids what is called a hand-to-mouth policy, and lays his plans with his eye on distant possibilities, well knowing that his immediate actions are liable to misunderstanding, and may prove to be a complete failure unless the opportunity is accorded him of realizing his far-reaching schemes. And, in the same way, youth is spent in education which derives all its value from the expected years of manhood, and all the days of a good life are necessarily a preparation for that which is to come after: we must study in order that we may teach; we must train ourselves for duties which will come upon us, as we may reasonably suppose, in some distant future. Yet our tomorrow is unknown; we are not to boast ourselves of it; we cannot tell what a day may bring forth, and must therefore live only to bring forth, and must therefore live only in today.

Now the solution of this difficulty leads us to one of the profoundest of all spiritual truths. It is this: No life can be worth anything at all apart from the Eternal God, and faith in Him. Life cannot be really lived if it is merely "a measure of sliding sand" taken "from under the feet of the years." Our swift days cannot be effectually and wisely used unless we are linked with Him who embraces in Himself the past, the present, and the future. Our work, whatever it may be, cannot be rightly done unless we are, and know ourselves to be, in the great Taskmaster’s sight. The proper use of each day can only be made if we are confident that our times are in His hands; only in this quiet assurance can we have composure and detachment of spirit enough to give our whole strength to the duty in hand. We must be sure that the Master Artist knows the whole mosaic, and is ordering all the parts, before we can surrender ourselves to the task of putting today’s piece into its place; we must have complete faith in the Architect who is designing the whole structure, before we can have our mind at leisure from itself to chip our block of stone or to carve our tiny gargoyle. We can only live in the present, making the most of that which is really ours, on condition that we have God as our Future, relieving us of all anxious care, and assuring to us just strength for today.

Thus our text has an implied contrast, which we may draw out in this way: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth"; but boast thyself in God all the day long, [Psalms 44:8] for thou knowest that He will bring forth righteousness, wisdom, and love continually.

Now let us follow out some of the consequences of this spiritual attitude. Examine the condition of these restless human hearts all around us without God. They are all toiling for tomorrow. Here is one making money, as it is called; he is looking forward to laying aside so many thousands this year; in a few more years he hopes to realize a round sum which will relieve him from the necessity of toil and of further money-making. His eye is set upon that goal. At last he reaches it. Now his desire should be satisfied, but no, "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and the eyes of man are never satisfied." [Proverbs 27:20] He does not stay a night at the desired goal; he is off before sunset.; all the strain and the fret must be faced over again. Or look at the boundless ambition which possesses godless men; honors achieved only whet their appetite for more. We need not assume that the ambition is unworthy; all we have to notice is its insatiability; in politics, in literature, in art, in social distinction, it is like Sheol and Abaddon, -a maw that ever opens; a gulf that can swallow anything and everything, yet never be filled. The LXX addition seems to regard this uncontrolled desire as the mark of deficient culture; and, spiritually speaking, no doubt it is. Men without God are always uncultured; they have not found the center of their being, they have not procured the keystone to their accumulated knowledge, and it is, in consequence, not an arch through which they can travel to any goal, but a confused pile which blocks the way. These desperate strivings and loud-tongued, undisciplined desires are an abomination to the Lord, because they mar His mighty plan and introduce disorder where He intended order, discord where He intended harmony, deformity where He intended beauty. They are the work of egoism instead of theism.

It is needless to dwell upon the heart-sores and the disappointments which fall to the lot of the people whom we are thinking of. What ghastly mockery the morrows on which they counted prove to be! In some lonely and rocky island, girdled by the moaning of the dreary seas, and cut off from all the interests which gave to life its excitement, egotism ends its days. Or it is on some restless couch, surrounded by all the outward trappings of wealth and power, that the dying spirit cries, "My kingdom for an inch of time!" The man who by his brilliant genius has drawn all his generation after him passes, bearing "through Europe the pageant of his bleeding heart," to a hopeless grave. The woman who has achieved the end of her ambition, ruling the courts of fashion, the acknowledged queen of salons, ends her days with a sense of frustration, cynical in her contempt for the world which was foolish enough to follow and admire her.

But, on the other hand, here is one who boasts himself in God.

"Lord, it belongs not to my care,"

is the language of his spirit,

"Whether I die or live;

To love and serve Thee is my share,

And that Thy grace must give."

The first thing that strikes you in him is his perfect peace. His mind is stayed on God. The future has no terrors for him, nor has it any joys. God is all in all to him, and God is his now. His treasure is in possession, and moth and rust do not corrupt it, nor can thieves break through or steal. To say that he is contented seems too mild a term for so positive and joyous a calm. But in contrast with the discontent which prevails everywhere outside of God, it is worthwhile to dilate on this passive virtue of contentment. That endless worry about little things has ceased; he is not annoyed because someone fails to recognize him; he is not affected by the malicious or scandalous things which are said about him; he is not anxious for human recognition, and is therefore never distressed because others are more courted than he is: he knows nothing of that malignant passion of jealousy which is worse than the cruelty of wrath arm the flooding of anger; [Proverbs 27:4] he does not want wealth and he does not dread poverty. He says:-

"Some have too much, yet still do crave; I little have, and seek no more:

They are but poor though much they have, And I am rich with little store:

They poor, I rich; they beg, I give;

They lack, I leave; they pine, I live."

When we have entered into this Divine content and are made by our absolute trust in God free from care for the future, it is wonderful how quick we become to see good in apparent evils. To the world this is so incredible that it suspects insincerity, but there is nothing more sincere and more real. A poor child who was blind found the greatest blessing in the affliction, saying, "You see, I can give more to the Missionary Society than the other children, because I can knit in the dark, and have not to spend money on candles." You go to one of God’s children expecting to find him broken down and rebellious under some great and undeserved calamity, but you find that he has discovered a blessing in the loss before you get there, and is actually rejoicing, or at any rate he is replying to all provocations, "The Lord gave and the Lord took away: blessed be the name of the Lord." He is afflicted, but you cannot think of him as afflicted, for "all the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a cheerful spirit hath a continual feast." [Proverbs 15:15]

Yes, it is that illusive and imaginary morrow that robs us of our peace; it is the misgiving, the anxious care, the dark foreboding. But when we put God our Father in place of the morrow, and know that He comprehends and sees all that we have need of, the peace which passes all understanding settles down upon our spirit, and steals into our eyes, and breathes on our lips, and men perceive even in us why our Father is called "the God of Peace."

The second thing which strikes us in those who have learnt to make their boast in God rather than in the morrow is the service which they render to their fellows. This is not only because they are able to turn their undivided attention to the duty which lies nearest, and to do with all their heart what their hand finds to do, but the very spirit of serenity in which they live is a constant help and blessing to all who, are around them. It may have been given to, you to come into contact with such a soul; in his presence your restlessness dies away, it seems as if your burning brow had been touched with a soothing hand; perhaps "with half-open eyes you were treading the borderland dim twixt vice and virtue," and that quiet spirit seemed like a clear shaft of the dawn revealing where you trod; perhaps you were heartbroken with a great sorrow, and the restfulness and confidence of that strong soul gave you an indefinable consolation, hope broke into your heart, and even joy. In receiving that help from what the man was rather than from what he gave, you became aware that this was the highest service that any human being can render to another. It is a great thing to succor the physical and material sufferings of men; it is a greater to bring them clear truths and to give them some stimulus and guidance in the intellectual life; but it is greatest of all to communicate spiritual sustenance and power, for that means to bring souls into actual and conscious contact with God.

One of the noblest examples of this service to humanity is furnished in the life and the writings of St. Paul. His personal presence became the new creation of that ancient heathen civilization, and countless individual souls were, through the inner life which he presented, brought to a complete change and made new creatures in Christ. His writings have been, ever since he died, a constant source of life and strength to many generations of men. He has been misunderstood, "the ignorant and unstedfast have wrested" what he wrote, but none the less he has been to the Church a perpetual regenerator, and, as a great writer of our own day has declared, "The doctrine of Paul will arise out of the tomb where for centuries it has lain covered; it will edify the Church of the future; it will have the consent of happier generations, the applause of less superstitious ages." Now what is the secret of this power? It is given in his own words, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." [Philippians 1:21] He was able to fling himself with that passionate temerity into the present duty, he was able to preach the word with that victorious vigor in season and out of season, just because the whole burden of the unknown future was rolled away from him, and he, more than any man that ever lived, understood what it is to live just for today.

Every Christian may possess the same secret; it is the open secret of the Sermon on the Mount; as our gracious Lord told us, we may be as the lilies of the field and as the birds of the air, without anxiety or misgiving, knowing that our Heavenly Father cares for us. It is not given to us all to be great philanthropists, great reformers, great preachers, but it is put within the reach of all to render to others the sweet service of abiding always in trustful and loving submission to God’s will, and of shedding upon all the light of our peace.

And this leads us to notice one last feature of this true spiritual life. It has an honor of its own, though it is not an earthly honor; it has a, reward, though it is not a material reward, "Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof, and he that waiteth on his master eats of the honor." [Proverbs 27:18] That is a saying which can only apply in a very modified degree to earthly service and human masters. How many loyal servants of kings have been deserted by their lords at the critical moment, and left to eat the fruit of disgrace and ignominy! But the saying applies in its fullness to our Master Christ and His service. Think of the Christian life under this simple figure: it is like the careful cultivation of the fruit tree. He is the Vine. Our sole concern is to keep in touch with Him, to sit at His feet, to watch for His fruit, to see that no other concern disturbs the quiet relation of perfect loyalty and devotion to Him. Our aim is not to do our own business or seek our own ends, but to be sure that we are always awake to His purposes and obedient to the demands which He makes upon us. It is not ours to reason why, but it is ours to do at all costs whatsoever He bids us do today. We have nothing to do with tomorrow; we have no responsibility for the fruit, for no fruit-bearing power lies in us. All we have to do is to keep the fig tree. Now when we abide in this concentrated and whole-hearted devotion to our Master, -when for us to live is Christ, -then honor comes to us unsought, but not unwelcome. The fruit of service is to the taste of the true servant the highest honor that he can imagine. We need no apocalyptic vision to assure us. His word is enough, confirmed as it is by a constant and growing experience. The servants of our Lord already stand before Him, holding in their hands the talents which they have gained for Him; already they hear His gracious "Well done," and the sound of it is more musical in their ears than all the acclamations of their fellow-creatures. This is their honor; what could they have more? They are counted one with Christ; they shared His travail, and now they share His satisfaction and his joy.

And thus those who make their boast in God, and do not boast of the morrow, find that the morrow itself becomes clear to them in the light of His countenance; they do in a sense know what it will bring forth: it will bring forth what they desire, for it will bring forth their Father’s will; it will bring forth the victory and the glory of Christ. "Henceforth ye shall see Him coming in the clouds of heaven." Is not that enough? When our hearts have learnt to hanker only after God’s will, to desire only Christ’s victory, they may boast themselves even of tomorrow; for tomorrow holds in its bosom an assurance of blessing and joy.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


Proverbs 27:1-6

These verses are grouped in pairs, each two being connected in subject.

Proverbs 27:1

Boast not thyself of tomorrow. He boasts himself (Proverbs 25:14) of tomorrow who counts upon it presumptuously, settles that he will do this or that, as if his life was in his own power, and he could make sure of time. This is blindness and arrogance. For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Our Lord gave a lesson on this matter in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:1-59.); and an analogous warning, based on our verse, is given by St. James (James 4:13, etc.). On this topic moralists and poets are always dilating. Very familiar are the words of Horace ('Carm.,' 4.7, 17)—

"Quis scit, an adjiciant hodiernae crastina summae

Tempora di superi?"

Euripides, 'Alc.,' 783—

οὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται

τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται

τὸ τῆστύχης γὰρ ἀφανὲς οἷ προβήσεται

κἄστ οὐ διδακτόν οὐδ ἁλίσκεται τέχνη

"Every day in thy life," says the Arab, "is a leaf in thy history." Seneca wrote—

"Nemo tam divos habuit faventes

Crastinum ut possit sibi pelliceri,

Res deus nostras celeri citatas

Turbine versat."

There is the adage, "Nescis quid serus vesper vehat." The LXX. has, as at James 3:1-18 :28, "Thou knowest not what the next day ( ἡ ἐπιοῦσα) shall bring forth." (For the expression, ἡ ἐπιοῦσα, comp. Acts 7:26; Acts 16:11.)

Proverbs 27:2

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; Septuagint, "Let thy neighbour ( ὁ πέλας) laud thee." A stranger; גָכְרִי, properly, "an unknown person from an unknown country;" but, like זר in the former hemistich, used indifferently for "another" (see on Proverbs 2:16). "If I honour myself," said our Lord (John 8:54), "my honour is nothing" And as St. Paul testifies (2 Corinthians 10:18), "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth."

υπὲρ σαευτοῦ μὴ φράσῃς ἐγκώμια

said the Greek gnomist; and

φίλων ἔπαινον μᾶλλον ἢ σαυτοῦ λέγε.

And a trite maxim runs, "In ore proprio laus sordet;" and an English one decides, "He who praises himself is a debtor to others." Delitzsch quotes a German proverb (which loses the jingle in translation), "Eigen-lob stinkt, Freundes Lob hinkt, fremdes Lob klingt," "Self-praise stinks, friends' praise limps, strangers' praise sounds."

Proverbs 27:3

A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; literally, heaviness of a stone, weight of the sand. The substantives are more forcible than the corresponding adjectives would be: the versions rather weaken the form of the expression by rendering, Grave est saxum, etc. The quality in the things mentioned is weight, heaviness, ponderosity; that is what we are bidden regard. A fool's wrath is heavier than them both. The ill temper and anger of a headstrong fool, which he vents on those about him, are harder to endure than any material weight is to carry. Ecclesiasticus 22:15, "Sand and salt and a mass of iron are easier to bear than a man without understanding." The previous verse asks, "What is heavier than lead? and what is the name thereof [i.e. of the heavier thing], but a fool?" Job speaks of his grief being heavier than the sand of the sea (Job 6:3).

Proverbs 27:4

Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous. Again substantives are used, as in Proverbs 27:3, "Cruelty of wrath, and overflowing of anger." Figure to yourself the fierceness and cruelty of a sudden excitement of anger, or the bursting forth of passion which, like a flood, carries all before it; these may be violent for a time, yet they will subside when they have spent themselves. But who is able to stand before envy? or rather, jealousy. The reference is not so much to the general feeling of envy as to the outraged love in the relation of husband and wife (see Proverbs 6:34, and note there). So Proverbs 8:6, "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very vehement flame." Such jealousy does not blaze forth in some sudden outbreak, and then die away; it lives and broods and feeds itself hourly with fresh aliment, and is ready to act at any moment, hesitating at no means to gratify itself, and sacrificing without mercy its victim. Septuagint, "Pitiless is wrath, and sharp is anger; but jealousy ( ζῆλος) submits to nothing."

Proverbs 27:5

Open rebuke is better than secret love. Love that is hidden and never discloses itself in acts of self-denial or generosity, especially that which from fear of offending does not rebuke a friend, nor speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), when there is good reason for such openness—such disguised love is worse, more objectionable, less beneficial, than the plain speaking which bravely censures a fault, and dares to correct what is wrong by well-timed blame. To hold back blame, it has been said, is to hold back love. "I love not my friend," wrote Seneca ('Ep.,' 25), "if I do not offend him." Plautus, 'Trinum.,' 1.2, 57—

"Sed tu ex amicis certis mi es certissimus.

Si quid scis me fecisse inscite aut improbe,

Si id non me accusas, tu ipse objurgandus."

Publ. Syr; 'Sent.,' 16, "Amici vitia si feras, facis tua," which Erasmus expounds by adding, "If you take no notice of your friend's faults, they will be imputed to you." Cicero ('De Amicit.,' 24, 25) has some sensible remarks on this subject: "When a man's ears are shut against the truth, so that he cannot hear the truth from a friend, the welfare of such a one is hopeless. Shrewd is the observation of Cato, that some are better served by bitter enemies than by friends who seem to be agreeable; for the former often speak the truth, the latter never … . As therefore both to give and receive advice is the characteristic of true friendship, and that the one should act with freedom, but not harshly, and that the other should accept remonstrance patiently and without resistance, so it should be considered that there is no deadlier bane to friendship than adulation, fawning, and flattery."

Proverbs 27:6

Faithful are the wounds of friend. This and the next verse afford examples of the antithetic form of proverb, where the second line gives, as it were, the reverse side of the picture presented by the first. The wounds which a real friend inflicts by his just rebukes are directed by truth and discriminating affection (see Psalms 141:5). But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. So St. Jerome, Fraudulenta oscula odientis. But the verb here used ( עתר) has the meaning, among others, "to be abundant or frequent;" hence it is better to take it in this sense here, as "plentiful, profuse." An enemy is lavish with his Judas kisses to hide his perfidy and hatred. Septuagint, "More to be trusted are the wounds of a friend than the spontaneous ( ἑκούσια) kisses of an enemy." "Non omnis qui parcia," wrote St. Augustine ('Ep.,' 48, 'ad Vincent.'), "amicus est, neque omnis qui verberat, inimicus."

Proverbs 27:7

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb. For "loathes" the Hebrew is literally "treads upon," "tramples underfoot," which is the expression of the greatest disgust and contempt; or it may mean that the well-fed man will not stoop to pick up the comb which may have dropped in his path from some tree or rock. But whichever way we take it, the same truth is told—Self-restraint increases enjoyment; over-iudulgence produces satiety, fatigue, and indolence. Horace, 'Sat.,' 2.2, 38—

"Jejunus raro stomachus vulgaria temnit."

But to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. So the prodigal in the parable would fain fill himself with the husks which the swine did eat. So we say, "Hunger is the best sauce;" the Germans, "Hunger makes raw beans sweet;" and the Portuguese. "Brackish water is sweet in a dry land."

Proverbs 27:8

As a bird that wandereth from her nest. Jerome's avis transmigrans conveys to us a notion of a migratory bird taking its annual journey. But the idea here is of a bird which leaves its own nest either wantonly or from some external reason, and thereby exposes itself to d so comfort and danger (comp. Isaiah 16:2). So is a man that wandereth from his place; i.e. his own home (comp. Ecclesiasticus 29:21, etc; and 36:28 in Vet. Lat; "Quis credit ei qui non habet nidum, et deflectens ubicumque obscuraverit, quasi succinctus latro exsil ins de civitate in civitatem?"). The proverb indirectly inculcates love of one's home and one's native land. To be "a fugitive and a vagabond" (Genesis 4:12) was a terrible punishment, as the Jews have learned by the experience of many centuries. Language and religion placed a barrier against residence in any country but their own (see Psalms 84:1-12.); and though at the time when this book was probably written they knew little of foreign travel, yet they regarded sojourn in a strange land as an evil, and centred all their ideas of happiness and comfort in a home life surrounded by friends and countrymen. The word "wander" may have the notion of going into exile. Septuagint, "As when a bird flies down from its own nest, so is a man brought into bondage when he is banished ( ἀποξενωθῇ) from his own place." Some have reasoned from this expression that the idea of exile had become familiar to the writer, and hence that this portion of the Proverbs is of very late origin (Cheyne)—surely a very uncertain foundation for such a conclusion. The love of Orientals for their native soil is a passion which no sordid and miserable surroundings can extinguish, and a man would consider even a change of home an unmixed evil, though such change was not the result of exile. Our view of the fortunes of one who is always shitting his abode is expressed in the adage, "A rolling stone gathers no moss."

Proverbs 27:9

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart. (For the use of unguents in the honourable treatment of guests, see Proverbs 7:16, etc.; Proverbs 21:17.) Similarly, perfumes prepared from spices, roses, and aromatic plants were employed; rooms were fumigated, persons were sprinkled with rose water, and incense was applied to the face and beard, as we read (Daniel 2:46) that Nebuchadnezzar ordered that to Daniel, in recognition of his wisdom, should be offered an oblation and sweet odours (see 'Dick of Bible,' and Kitto, 'Cyclop.,' voc. "Perfumes"). The heat of the climate, the insalubrious character of the houses, the profuse perspiration of the assembled guests, rendered this attention peculiarly acceptable (comp. So Daniel 3:6). The LXX; probably with a tacit reference to Psalms 104:15, renders, "The heart delighteth in ointments, and wines, and perfumes." So doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. This is rather clumsy; the Revised Version improves it by paraphrasing, that cometh from hearty counsel. The meaning is that as ointment, etc; gladden the heart, so do the sweet and loving words of one who speaks from the depths of his soul. The idea is primarily of a friend who gives wise counsel, speaking the truth in love, or shows his approval by discreet commendation. The LXX. has pointed differently, and translates, "But the soul is broken by calamities ( καταῤῥήγνυται ὑπὸ ( συμπτωμάτων);" Vulgate, "The soul is sweetened by the good counsels of a friend."

Proverbs 27:10

Another proverb, a tristich, in praise of friendship. It seems to be a combination of two maxims. Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not. A father's friend is one who is connected with a family by hereditary and ancestral bonds; φίλον πατρῷον. Septuagint. Such a one is to be cherished and regarded with the utmost affection. Neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity. The tried friend is more likely to help and sympathize with you than even your own brother, for a friend is born for adversity, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24, where see notes). The mere blood relationship, which is the result of circumstances over which one has had no control, is inferior to the affectionate connection which arises from moral considerations and is the effect of deliberate choice. We must remember, too, that the practice of polygamy, with the separate establishments of the various wives, greatly weakened the tie of brotherhood. There was little love between David's sons; and Jonathan was far dearer to David himself than any of his numerous brothers were. Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off. "Near" and "far off" may be taken as referring to feeling or to local position. In the former case the maxim says that a neighbour who is really attached to one by the bonds of affection is better than the closest relation who has no love or sympathy. In the latter view, the proverb enunciates the truth that a friend on the spot in time of calamity is more useful than a brother living at a distance; one is sure of help at once from the former, while application to the latter must occasion delay, and may not be successful. Commentators quote Hesiod, ἔργ. καὶ ἡμ; 341—

τὸν δὲ μάλιστα καλεῖν ὅστις σέθεν ἐγγύθεναίει

εἰ γάρ τοι καὶ χρῆμ ἐγκώμιον ἄλλο γένηται

γείτονες ἄζωστοι ἔκιον ζώσαντο δὲ πηοί

Proverbs 27:11

My son, be wise, and make my heart glad. The exhortation of a father to his son, or of a teacher to his pupil. Such address is not found elsewhere in this latter portion of the book, though common in previous parts. Delitzsch translates, "become wise." σοφὸς γίνου, Septuagint. Such development of wisdom delights a father's heart, as Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 23:15, Proverbs 23:24. That I may answer him that reproacheth me (Psalms 119:42; comp. Psalms 127:5; Ecclesiasticus 30:2). If the pupil did not show wisdom and morality in his conduct, the teacher would incur blame for the apparent failure of his education; whereas the high tone of the disciple might be appealed to as a proof of the merit and efficacy of the tutor's discipline. On the other hand, the evil doings of Hebrews often made the Name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles; just as nowadays the inconsistent lives of Christians are the greatest impediment to the success of missionary efforts in heathen countries. St. Jerome has, Ut possis exprobanti respondere sermonem. So Septuagint, "And remove from thyself reproachful words." But the first person is in accordance with the Hebrew.

Proverbs 27:12

A repetition of Proverbs 22:3. The sentence is asyndeton.

Proverbs 27:13

A repetition of Proverbs 20:16. The LXX; which omits this passage in its proper place, here translates, "Take away his garment, for a scorner passed by, whoever lays waste another's goods."

Proverbs 27:14

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning. What is meant is ostentatious salutation, which puts itself forward in order to stand well with a patron, and to be beforehand with other servile competitors for favour. Juvenal satirized such parasitical effusion ('Sat.' 5.19)—

"Habet Trebius, propter quod rumpere somnum

Debeat et ligulas dimittere, sollicitus, ne

Tots salutaris jam turba peregerit orbem,

Sideribus dubiis, aut illo tempore, quo se

Frigida circumagunt pigri surraca Bootae."

The "loud voice" intimates the importunate nature of such public trumpeting of gratitude, as the "rising early" denotes its inopportune and tactless insistency, which cannot wait for a convenient opportunity for its due expression. It shall be counted a curse to him. The receiver of this sordid adulation, and indeed all the bystanders, would just as soon be cursed by the parasite as blessed in this offensive manner, This clamorous outpouring of gratitude is not accepted as a return by the benefactor; he sees the mean motives by which it is dictated self-interest, hope of future benefits—and he holds it as cheap as he would the curses of such a person. The nuisance of such flattery is mentioned by Euripides, 'Orest.,' 1161—

παύσομαί σ αἰνῶν ἐπει_

βάρος τι κὰν τῷ δ ἐστὶν αἰνεῖσθαι λίαν.

"Duo sunt genera prosecutorum," says St. Augustine ('In Psalm.,' 69), "sciliet vituperantium et adulantium; sed plus prosequitur lingua adulatoris, quam manus prosecutoris." "Woe unto you," said Christ (Luke 6:26), "when all men shall speak well of you." "Do I seek to please men?" asked St. Paul (Galatians 1:10); "for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."

Proverbs 27:15-16

Proverbs 27:15 and Proverbs 27:16 form a tetrastich on the subject of the termagant wife.

Proverbs 27:15

The single line of the second clause of Proverbs 19:13 is here formed into a distich. A continual dropping in a very rainy day. "A day of violent rain," סַגְרִיר (sagrir), which word occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. And a contentious woman are alike. The word rendered "are alike" ( נִשְׁתָּוָה) is usually taken to be the third perf. nithp. from שׁיה; but the best established reading, according to Hitzig, Delitzsch, and Nowack, is נִשְׁתָּוָה, which is regarded as a niph. with a transposition of consonants for נְשְׁוָתָה. Septuagint, "Drops of rain drive a man out of his house on a stormy day." The ill-constructed roofs of Eastern houses were very subject to leakage, being flat and formed of porous material.

Proverbs 27:16

Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind. Whoever tries to restrain a shrewish woman, or to conceal her faults, might as well attempt to confine the wind or to check its violence. And the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. He might as well try to hide the ointment which signifies its presence by its odour. But there is no "which" in the original, which runs literally, "his right hand calls oil," or, "oil meets his right hand." The former is supposed to mean that he is hurt in the struggle to coerce the vixen, and needs ointment to heal his wound; but the latter seems the correct rendering, and the meaning then is that, if he tries to hold or stop his wife, she escapes him like the oil which you try in vain to keep in your hand. An old adage says that there are three things which cannot be hidden, but always betray themselves, viz. a woman, the wind, and ointment. The LXX. has read the Hebrew differently, translating, "The northwind is harsh, but by name it is called lucky ( ἐπιδέξιος);" i.e. because it clears the sky and introduces fine weather. The Syriac, Aquila, and Symmachus have adopted the same reading.

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpeneth iron. The proverb deals with the influence which men have upon one another. So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. So the Vulgate, Homo exacuit faciem amici sui. The action of the file is probably meant (1 Samuel 13:21); and the writer names iron as the sharpener rather than the whetstone, because he wishes to denote that one man is of the same nature as another, and that this identity is that which makes mutual action possible and advantageous. Some have taken the proverb in a bad sense, as if it meant that one angry word leads to another, one man's passion excites another's rage. Thus Aben Ezra. The Septuagint perhaps supports this notion by rendering, ἀνὴρ δὲ παροξύνει πρόσωπον ἑταίρου. But the best commentators understand the maxim to say that intercourse with other men influences the manner, appearance, deportment, and character of a man, sharpens his wits, controls his conduct, and brightens his very face. Horace uses the same figure of speech, 'Ars Poet.,' 304—

"Fungar vice cotis, acutum

Reddere quae ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secaudi."

On the subject of mutual intercourse Euripides says, 'Androm.,' 683—

ἡ δ ὁμυλία

πάντων βροτοῖσι γίγνεται διδάσκαλος


Is that which teaches mortals everything."

Proverbs 27:18

Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof. He who watches, tends, and cultivates the fig tree will in due time have the reward of his labour in eating its fruit. The abundance of the produce of this tree makes it a good figure of the reward of faithful service. Septuagint, "He that planteth a fig tree shall eat the fruits thereof" (2 Timothy 2:6). So he that waiteth on his maser shall be honoured. He who pays attention, has loving regard to his master, shall meet with honour as his reward at his master's hands, and also from all who become acquainted with his merits. The gnome may well be applied to the case of those who do true and laudable service to their heavenly Master, and she shall one day hear from his lips the gracious word, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).

Proverbs 27:19

As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man; Vulgate, Quomodo in aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium, sic corda hominum manifesta sunt prudentibus. As in clear water the face of the gazer is reflected, so man finds in his fellow man the same feelings, sentiments, passions, which he has himself. He sees in others the likeness of himself; whatever he knows himself to be, he will see others presenting the same character. Self-knowledge, too, leads to insight into others' minds; "for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11). There is a solidarity in human nature which enables us to judge of others by ourselves. The difficulties in the construction and wording of the sentence do not affect the interpretation. They are, however, best met by rendering, with Delitzsch, "As it is with water, face corresponds to face, so also the heart of man to man." Septuagint, "As faces are not like faces, so neither are the thoughts of men;" which is like the saying of Persius, 'Sat.,' 5.52—

"Mille hominum species, et rerum discolor usus;

Velle suum cuique est, nec voto vivitur uno."

Proverbs 27:20

Hell and destruction are never full. "Hell" is sheol, the under-world, Hades, the place of the departed; "destruction" is the great depth, the second death, personified (see on Proverbs 15:11, where the terms also occur). These "are never satisfied," they are insatiable, all-devouring (comp. Proverbs 30:16; Isaiah 5:14; Habakkuk 2:5). So the eyes of man are never satisfied. The verb is the same in both clauses, and ought to have been so translated. The eye is taken as the representative of concupiscence in general. What is true of "the lust of the eyes" (1 John 2:16) is true of all the senses; the craving for their gratification grows as it is fed. Therefore the senses should be carefully guarded, lest they lead to excess and transgression. "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity," said the psalmist, "and quicken me in thy way" (Psalms 119:37). The LXX. here introduces a paragraph not in the Hebrew or the Latin Versions: "He that fixes ( στηρίζων) his eye [i.e. staring impudently] is an abomination to the Lord, and the uninstructed restrain not their tongue."

Proverbs 27:21

Fining pot, etc. (see on Proverbs 17:3; comp. also Proverbs 25:4). So is a man to his praise. The Hebrew is literally, The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold, and a man according, to his praise; i.e. as the processes of metallurgy test the precious metals, so a man's public reputation shows what he is really worth, as is stated in Proverbs 12:8. As the crucible brings all impurities to the surface, so public opinion drags forth all that is bad in a man, and he who stands this test is generally esteemed. Certainly praise is a stimulus to exertion, an incentive to try to make one's self worthy of the estimation in which one is held, especially if he purifies it from the dross and earthliness mixed with it, and takes to himself only what is genuine and just. But public opinion is very commonly false end is always a very unsafe criterion of moral excellence. Hence other interpretations have been proposed. Ewald renders, "and a man according to his boasting," that is, according to that which he most praises in himself and others. So virtually Hitzig, Bottcher, Zockler, and others. In this view the gnome denotes that a man's real character is best examined by the light cast upon it by his usual line of thought, what he most prides himself upon, what he admires most in other men. Plumptre, after Gesenius and Fleischer, has, "So let a man be to his praise," i.e. to the mouth which praises him; let him test this commendation, to see what it is worth, before he accepts it as his due. The explanation first given seems on the whole most suitable, when we reflect that the highest morality is not always enunciated, and that secondary motives are widely recognized as factors in action and judgment. There are not wanting men in modern days who uphold the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei. Septuagint, "The action of fire is a test for silver and gold, so a man is tested by the mouth of them that praise him." No surer test of a man's true character can be found than his behaviour under praise; many men arc spoiled by it. If a man comes forth from it without injury, not rendered vain, or blind to his defects, or disdainful of others, his disposition is good, and the commendation lavished upon him may be morally and spiritually beneficial. Vulgate, Sic probatur homo ore laudantis, "So is a man proved by the mouth of him that praises him." The following passage from St. Gregory, commenting on this, is worth quoting, "Praise of one's self tortures the just, but elates the wicked. But while it tortures, it purifies the just; and while it pleases the wicked, it proves them to be reprobate. For these revel in their own praise, because they seek not the glory of their Maker. But they who seek the glory of their Maker are tortured with their own praise, lest that which is spoken of without should not exist within them; lest, if that which is said really exists, it should be made void in the sight of God by these very honours; lest the praise of men should soften the firmness of their heart, and should lay it low in self-satisfaction; and lest that which ought to aid them to increase their exertions, should be even now the recompense of their labour. But when they see that their own praises tend to the glory of God, they even long for and welcome them. For it is written, "That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" ('Moral.,' 26.62, Oxford transl.). The LXX. adds a verse which is not found in the Hebrew, but occurs in some manuscripts of the Latin Version, "The heart of the transgressor seeketh out evils, but an upright heart seeketh knowledge."

Proverbs 27:22

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle. "To bray" is to pound or beat small. "Wheat," רִיפוֹת, riphoth (only in 2 Samuel 17:19), "bruised corn." Vulgate, In pila quasi ptisanas (barley groats) feriente; Aquila and Theodotion, ἐν μέσῳ ἐμπτισσομένων "In the midst of grains of corn being pounded." The LXX; reading, differently, has, "Though thou scourge a fool, disgracing him ( ἐν μεσῳ συνεδρίου) in the midst of the congregation." Of course, the process of separating the husks from the corn by the use of pestle and mortar is much more delicate and careful than threshing in the usual clumsy way; hence is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool (see on Proverbs 1:20). His foolishness will not depart from him. An obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become a second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity. There is, too, a judicial blindness, when, after repeated warnings wilfully rejected and scorned, the sinner is left to himself, given over to a reprobate mind "Whoso teacheth a fool," Siracides pronounces, "is as one that glueth a potsherd together, and as he that waketh one from a sound sleep" (Ecclesiasticus 22:7). Again, "The inner parts of a fool are like a broken vessel, and he will hold no knowledge as long as he liveth" (Ecclesiasticus 21:14). In Turkey, we are told, great criminals were beaten to pieces in huge mortars of iron, in which they usually pounded rice. "You cannot straighten a dog's tail, try as you may," says a Telugu maxim (Lane). There is a saying of Schiller's which is quite proverbial, "Heaven and earth fight in vain against a dunce." Horace, 'Epist.,' 1.10, 24—

"Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret."

Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 13.239—

"Tamen ad mores natura recurrit

Damnatos, fixa et mutari nescia."

Proverbs 27:23-27

A mashal ode in praise of a pastoral and agricultural life. The moralist evidently desires to recall his countrymen from the luxury of cities and the temptations of money making to the simple ways of the patriarchs and the pleasures of country pursuits—which are the best foundation of enduring prosperity.

Proverbs 27:23

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks. "State;" פנִים (panim); vultum, Vulgate; the face, look, appearance. The LXX. has ψυχάς, which may perhaps mean "the number"—a necessary precaution when the sheep wandered on the downs and mountains, and had to be collected in the evening and folded. These precepts are naturally applied to all rulers, and especially to Christian pastors who have the oversight of the flock of Christ (1 Peter 5:2-4). Ecclesiastes 7:22, "Hast thou cattle? have an eye to them; and if they he for thy profit, keep them with thee."

Proverbs 27:24

For riches are not forever; as Proverbs 23:5. Money and other kinds of wealth may be lost or wasted; it is therefore expedient to have the resources of agriculture, land and herds, to depend upon. Chosen (Proverbs 15:6), translated "riches," is "strength," "abundance," "treasure laid up." Delitzsch renders, "prosperity;" Septuagint, "A man has not strength and power forever;" Vulgate, Non habebis jugiter potestatem, i.e. "you will not always be able to tend your flocks; infirmity and old age will prevent you." And doth the crown endure to every generation? The crown or diadem, נֵזֶר (nezer), is the symbol of royal authority, or of the highest dignity of the priesthood (Exodus 29:6; Exodus 39:30). These positions are not secure from generation to generation; much less stable, in fact, than the possession of farms and cattle. St. Jerome, Sed corona tribuetur in generationem et generationem, where corona is the headship of the family. Septuagint, "Neither doth he transmit it (his strength) from generation to generation."

Proverbs 27:25

As Proverbs 27:23 commended the rearing of cattle, and Proverbs 27:24 supported the injunction by showing its comparative permanence, so this and the following verses discuss the material advantages of such occupation. The hay appeareth; rather, the grass passeth away, is cut and carried. This is the first stage in the agricultural operations described. And the tender grass showeth itself; the aftermath appears. And the herbs of the mountain are gathered; the fodder from off the hills is cut and stored. All these verbs are best taken hypothetically, the following verses forming the apodosis. When all these operations are complete, then crone the results in plenty and comfort. Septuagint, "Have a care of the herbage ( χλωρῶν) in the plain, and thou shalt cut grass, and gather thou the mountain hay."

Proverbs 27:26

The Iambs are for thy clothing. Thy sheep will provide thee with clothing by their skin and wool, and by the money which thou wilt obtain by the sale of them. The goats are the price of the field; the sale of thy goats and their produce will pay for thy field if thou wish to buy it (see on Proverbs 30:31). Septuagint, "That thou mayest have sheep for clothing; honour thy land that thou mayest have lambs."

Proverbs 27:27

Goats' milk. Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land and Bible,' 1.311) notes that in most parts of Palestine goats' milk in every form—sour, sweet, thick, thin, warm, or cold—makes, with eggs and bread, the main food of the people. And maintenance for thy maidens; who milk the goats, etc; and tend the cattle, and do the household work. There is no mention of the use of animal flesh as food. It was only on great occasions, as high festivals, or the presence of an honoured guest, that kids, lambs, and calves were killed and eaten. This picture of rural peace and plenty points to a time of security and prosperity, free alike from internal commotion and external danger. The famous passage in Cicero, 'De Senect.,' 15; on the pleasures and advantages of the agricultural life. will occur to all classical readers. So also Horace ('Epod.,' 2), "Beatus ille qui procul negotiis," etc. The LXX. makes short work of this verse, "My son, thou hast from me sayings mighty for thy life and for the life of thy servants."


Proverbs 27:1

Boasting of the morrow

I. ITS FOLLY. No man is a prophet. At the best we can but calculate probabilities. The man who has never had a day's illness may be suddenly laid low, struck down with paralysis, arrested by unsuspected heart disease, blood poisoned by a whiff of bad air from a drain, at death's door from pneumonia caught in an unheeded draught. The business which looks fair and prosperous may suddenly collapse. The trusted bank may break. Our life is dependent upon so many unseen sources, and is affected by so many complicated circumstances, that no man can unravel the tendencies or predict the results. Astronomy is a simple science compared with sociology. The movements of the solar system are altogether more intelligible than those of the homeliest soul. We cannot predict our own conduct, Moreover, there are other minds to be considered. Above all, there is the inscrutable providence of God.

II. ITS DANGER. "Boasting of the morrow" leads to carelessness. The man who is confident without warrant is likely to be off his guard. Believing that all is safe, he does not fortify himself against a possible surprise of mischief. He is just in the condition most favourable for attack. The wily tempter is aware of this. Therefore the danger is all the greater because it is ignored. Thus Peter, weakened through over confidence, fell into sin, even though he had been warned against it.

III. ITS SIN. This is not merely a question of prudence and personal welfare. It touches our relations with God. He who boasts himself of the morrow acts either atheistically, denying the Divine control of life, or presumptuously, assuming without reason that God will aid his plans. Such conduct reveals a guilty pride. It is opposed to the humility of one who would bow low before the inscrutable providence of the Almighty.

IV. ITS PUNISHMENT. Such boasting is certain to be punished by failure. It would not be well to let it proceed to success, for such a result would only confirm and aggravate the evil habit. Partial and temporary victory may be attained, but ultimate triumph cannot be won in this way. God casts down and humbles the boaster, and in his shame he has an opportunity of learning wisdom.

V. ITS ANTIDOTE. This is not to be found in a cowardly shrinking from the future, nor is it to be had in a habit of despair, ever painting the days to come in the blackest hues, with the melancholy motto, "Blessed is he that expecteth little; for he shall not be disappointed." The true antidote is to be discovered in a spirit of trust. God has indeed hung an impenetrable curtain between our vision and the land of the future. Even the very morrow dwells as yet in a land of darkness, and we vainly try to discern its features. But it is perfectly familiar to God, before whom all eternity is as a clear picture ever present. And God, who knows the future, controls it. Therefore we are safe when we trust; and, eschewing boastfulness, we can learn not to be anxious about the morrow, because we can trust our Father who holds the secrets of all the morrows in his hand.

Proverbs 27:2


I. SELF-PRAISE IS ILL FOUNDED. It may be true to fact, but we cannot be sure that it is.

1. Possibly it is insincere. So many motives of vanity and self-interest urge a person to pretend to be better than he is, that a certificate of merit given by himself on behalf of himself cannot be taken at a high value.

2. Probably it is delusive. Even when it is perfectly sincere it is likely to be perverted by unconscious misconceptions. It is very easy to be honestly mistaken as to one's own worth. We are the worst conceivable judges of our own characters and deserts. Even when we can calmly and fairly estimate our powers we are likely to be very wrong in valuing our use of them.


1. It reveals a self-regarding habit. If a man is given to expatiate on his own merits, he must be accustomed to turn his thoughts inwards; he must be familiar with the contemplation of himself. Now, this is not wholesome. The less a man thinks about himself the better for his own soul's health.

2. It implies a desire of self-aggrandizement. There is usually a motive behind the habit of self-praise, and, though this may be nothing worse than childish vanity, it carries with it a desire for exciting the admiration of others; it aims at reaping a harvest of laudation. But possibly the end sought is more far reaching, and the pretentious person indicts his own testimonials with a deliberate intention of securing some tangible advantage thereby. The self-praise is then just an ugly, glaring blossom of selfishness.

III. SELF-PRAISE PROVOKES JEALOUSY. It rarely secures the admiration that it seeks. On the contrary, it is generally received with suspicion; and even when it is honest and true, a large discount is taken off its claims.

1. Its defective authority is perceived. This is a point to which vanity is singularly blind. Yet all the weakness of the situation is apparent to every beholder; for it is universally recognized that a man is strongly tempted to make out a good case for himself, and that he is likely to be deceived into an inordinate estimate of his own value. Therefore self-praise is usually wasted.

2. It irritates the vanity of others. The tendency is for the hearer to imagine that the vain speaker desires to exalt himself at the expense of others. A comparison of merit seems to be challenged, and this at once rouses the jealousy of the audience. Thus self-praise does not win friends. What it may perhaps succeed in extracting in the form of admiration is paid for dearly by the dislike that it also creates.

IV. SELF-PRAISE IS CONTRARY TO CHRISTIAN HUMILITY. It represent, a wholly alien spirit. Doubtless it is a common weakness of men who are truly Christian and kind hearted, for no man is perfect; but still it is a weakness, and it is foreign to the genius of the religion under which it finds a shelter. The often repeated rule of Christ is that "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased;" "The first shall be last." The Due disciple is not to choose the upper seat in the synagogue. Humility, self-forgetfulness, the preference of others, are the Christian graces. Self-praise is useless before God.

V. SELF-PRAISE ONLY AIMS AT WHAT CAN BE BETTER ATTAINED WITHOUT IT. "Let another man praise thee." Self-praise silences the lips of admration from others. The truly humble man will not crave such admiration. But all men of right feeling must desire to stand well with their fellows. It is happy to feel that we have the respect and confidence of those whose opinion we value. Now, these encouragements are better secured by unpretentious merit, and humility in earnest, simple attempts to do right.

Proverbs 27:6

The wounds of a friend.

The principle implied in this verse is apparent at a glance. It is better that one who loves and truly considers the interests of another should wound him for his good than that a superficial flatterer should refrain from doing so for the sake of pleasing and winning continuous favour. The only difficulties lie in the practical application of the principle.

I. TRUE FRIENDSHIP WILL DARE TO WOUND. It is painful and difficult to do that which we know will grieve one who is greatly loved. Therefore if it is ready necessary it will put the love to the test.

1. True friendship considers the welfare of another. The chief thought is not on behalf of agreeable companionship, but as to what will really benefit one's friend.

2. The welfare of another may require a painful treatment. There are so called "candid friends," who secretly delight in saying unpleasant things. With such people there is no merit in giving pain, nor is it likely that much advantage will result from their rough conduct. But it may be possible to point out a friend's mistakes, to warn him against temptation, to gravely deprecate his wrongful conduct, to make him feel his deterioration of character. Then, though the process must be keenly painful on both sides, love will attempt it.


1. The cost of thorn should be considered. If they do indeed come from a friend they show his genuine regard, his unselfish devotion. They also indicate how thorough is his confidence; for they show that he expects to be rightly understood, and that his painful action will not be resented. He risks a breach of the friendship for the sake of benefiting his friend. This is a generous action, and it should be generously accepted. But it needs magnanimity both to give and to take the wounds of friendship.

2. The value of them should be appreciated. The first impulse is to feel aggrieved, to resent the intrusion, to treat the well-meant rebuke as an insult, to justify, one's self, perhaps even to overwhelm the friend who wounds with rage and revenge. This is as foolish as it is ungrateful. If we only knew it, we should confess that we have no better friends than those who dare to wound us. It is just from such friends that we can learn wisdom. Flattery kisses and slays; friendship wounds and saves.

III. THE DIVINE FRIENDSHIP WOUNDS TO SAVE. The world flatters and promises only pleasant things to its slaves when it first enthralls them. God treats us in the opposite way, warning us of danger, rebuking our sins, even chastising us with heavy blows. But "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth."

1. God proves himself to be our Friend by wounding us. He might have left us alone to rot in our own wretched ruin. But in his great love he has interfered to save, though his advances are met with insult and anger. God loves enough to give pain.

2. It would be wise to receive God's wounding as that of a Friend. It is for our good; then the best course is to take it accordingly, to endeavour to profit by it. Christ lays a cross on his disciples, and saves them by leading them to follow in his Via Dolorosa, and to be crucified with him (Galatians 2:20).

Proverbs 27:8

A bird wandering from her nest

Let us consider first in what respects a man may be said to be wandering from his place, and then how the evil of this condition may be illustrated by the metaphor of a bird wandering from its nest.


1. He may leave the work he is suited for. There is no reason why a man should not endeavour to rise in the social scale. Christianity does not consecrate any system of caste. But there are works for which certain men have natural aptitude, or for which they have been trained, and other works for which they are not thus suited. Unhappily, our inclination does not always coincide with our capacity. To follow one's likings outside the range of one's powers is to wander from one's place.

2. He may forsake his duty. Every man's rightful place is at the post of duty. No danger, no difficulty, no disagreeableness, can justify any one in forsaking that place.

3. He may depart from God. Then indeed will he have wandered from his true place. For the home of the soul is with God. Absence from God is to be out of one's place,

4. He may renounce his human status.


1. He loses peace. The nest is typical of quiet and restfulness. To forsake it is to be at large in the noisy, tumultuous world. So one who is out of his place is cast adrift on a homeless waste. He sacrifices peace in pursuit of novelty.

2. He is removed from congenital companionship. The poor young bird leaves her fellows and flies into unknown regions, where she finds hers. If alone among strange creatures. A man who is out of his element will be equally alone and friendless. The very fact that he is in the wrong place implies that he cannot find true sympathy in his new sphere. Perhaps he has been foolishly aiming at entering some higher circle of life than one that he is fitted for. If so, he will only be supremely uncomfortable, perpetually regarded as an intruder or ridiculed as a blunderer. It is better to cultivate the affections of one's own home circle and true old friends.

3. He is not able to fulfil his mission. It may be that a mother bird is here thought of. In wandering from her nest she forsakes her young. So he who leaves his rightful place neglects his obligations. He fails to do his duty to those naturally dependent on him. Charity begins at home.

4. He is exposed to danger. The poor wandering bird may be lost in the forest; she may starve for want of food; birds of prey may pounce upon her in the darkness. There is no safety off the path of duty. Even unsuitable spheres are dangerous, because a man does not know how to behave himself in them. Away from God there is danger of ruin without hope of escape.

Proverbs 27:12

Foresight of evil

I. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO FORSEE ALL FUTURE EVIL. God, in his great mercy, has drawn a thick veil over the face of futurity. We can reason of probabilities; in some cases we can almost predict certainties; but taking the whole round of life, and the full reach of futurity, we have to recognize the fact that the evil to come as well as the good are largely hidden from our view. It would not be possible for us to bear the sight if all dark experiences were crowded into one horrible picture and presented before our imagination at once. We can take one by one the evils that would crush us if we beheld them all together in a mighty, terrible phalanx. When the trouble comes the strength may be given to bear it, but not before.

II. IT IS FOOLISH TO FRET OURSELVES WITH ANXIETIES ABOUT THE MORROW. This is the distinct teaching of Christ, based on various grounds.

1. We have enough to bear in the present. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

2. We cannot command the future. No man by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature or change the natural colour of his hair.

3. God is our Father. He feeds the wild birds and clothes the fields. Much more will he feed and clothe his own children.

4. We base higher considerations to absorb our allergies. "Seek first the kingdom of God. and his righteousness."

III. WE NEED TO MAKE A REASONABLE PROVISION FOR THE FUTURE. It may appear that the prudence of the Book of Proverbs is rebuked by teachings of Christ. No doubt our Lord does lift us into a higher atmosphere. But there is no contradiction between the two positions. Indeed, we are best able to banish needless care when we have made proper provision for the future. Thrift does not create anxiety. The man who has insured his house against fire does not dread the incendiary more than the man who has not provided himself against the contingency of a conflagration. He who is prepared for death need not fear death.


1. This obtains in secular pursuits. Ignorance is no excuse for not providing against a disaster when reasonable thoughtfulness would have foreseen it. The reckless general who burns the bridges behind him is guilty of the blood of his soldiers who are slaughtered after a great defeat.

2. This is most true in the spiritual world.

Proverbs 27:17

The advantages of society

I. OBSERVE IN WHAT THE ADVANTAGES OF SOCIETY CONSIST. We have ancient authority for the idea that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Man is naturally a gregarious being. Though some people are more sociable than others, no one can be healthy in perpetual solitude. The isolation of the hermit engendered the wildest hallucinations of fanaticism together with the narrowest conception of the world. Prisoners of the Bastille, in solitary confinement, were reduced to a condition of semi-idiocy. Robinson Crusoe made the best of his situation, yet he could not live without the companionship of animal pets, and he was glad of the humble friendship of a poor savage.

1. Society quickens a man's intelligence. Even Wordsworth was thought by some to have deteriorated mentally in his comparative seclusion at Rydal Mount, and yet there were other men of high mental power in his neighbourhood. Men's thoughts are stimulated and sharpened by conversation.

2. Society rouses a man's energy. Empty society of mere pleasure seekers only dissipates a man's powers in frivolity. But the society of earnest men stimulates by sympathy, emulation, and encouragement.

3. Society broadens a man's views. He is able to see how other men think and feel. They may not all have greater advantages than he possesses; but at least they are differently constituted and situated from himself. Thus he is lifted out of the narrowness of his own single vision. Such breadth gives strength when it is accompanied by an earnest love of truth and right.


1. They are dependent on a man's residence. Horace's old dispute between the town and the country mouse has never been settled. Cowper wrote, "God made the country, man made the town;" and no doubt there is to be seen a certain restfulness, a purity, and a quiet power in nature that those men miss who reside in the heart of a wilderness of houses, Nevertheless, there are compensations for the disagreeable pressure of population in great cities. The mind is quickened. Still, as evils also result from this manner of living, it is certainly important that those who are able to select their own residences should consider wholesome society to be as important as a pure water supply.

2. They can be found in sympathetic friendship. One good, true friend is more helpful than a score of mere acquaintances. It is in the close intercourse of genuine friendship that the best results of the mutual play of thought and feeling can be obtained. Hence the supreme importance of cultivating friendship with the wise and good.

3. They should be obtained in the Christian Church. Christ not only called disciples to himself, one by one; he founded the Church, and his apostles established local Churches wherever they could gather together a few converts. Christian companionship should be a help to Christian life and thought. There was a time when they who feared the Lord spake often one to another (Malachi 3:16). Above this earthly friendship the Christian finds a mental and spiritual quickening in the friendship of Christ (Luke 24:32).


Proverbs 27:1-6

Beastliness, jealousy, and hypocrisy


1. On the ground of our limited knowledge. The homely proverb says, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched." The future exists for us only in imagination. "Who knows," asks Horace, "whether the gods above will add tomorrow's time to the sum of today?" ('Od.,' Proverbs 4:7. 17); and Seneca, "None hath gods so favourable as that he may promise himself tomorrow's good."

2. On the ground of the Divine reserve of the secrets of destiny. To boast is to lift ourselves in effect out of that finite sphere of thought and feeling in which we have been placed by the Divine ordination. So says Horace again, "Shun to inquire into the future and the morrow; and whatever day fortune shall afford thee, count it as gain" ('Od.,' Proverbs 1:9, Proverbs 1:13). Common sense and religious humility unite to teach us to "live for the day."

II. SELF-PRAISE CENSURED. (Proverbs 27:2.) "Let another praise thee, and not thine own mouth." "Self-praise stinks," and "Not as thy mother says, but as the neighbours say," are Arabic proverbs. Every individual has a certain value; the sense of this is the foundation of all self-respect and virtue. But to show an over-consciousness of this worth by self-praise is a social offence, because it is an exaction of that which ought to be a free tribute, and betrays a desire of self-exaltation above others not easily forgiven.

III. THE PASSION OF THE FOOL INTOLERABLE. (Proverbs 27:3.) Whether it be envy, furious resentment of rebuke, or jealousy, it is a burden intolerable to the person himself and to those with whom he has to do. The pious may readily sin in their anger, how much more the ungodly!

"Ira furor brevis est; animum rege; qui, nisi paret,

Imperat; hunc froenis, hunc tu compesce catena.'

(Horace, 'Ep.,' 1.2, 62).

It is like a weight of stone or sand, being without cause, measure, or end (Poole).

IV. THE TERRIBLE FORCE OF JEALOUSY AND ENVY. (Proverbs 27:4.) It exceeds all ordinary outbursts of wrath in violence and destructiveness. Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of revenge and murder, the beginner of sedition, and the perpetual tormentor of nature (Socrates). It never loves to honour another but when it may be an honour to itself. "From envy … good Lord, deliver us!"

V. FALSE LOVE AND FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIP CONTRASTED. (Proverbs 27:5, Proverbs 27:6.) False love refuses to tell a friend of his faults, from some egotistic and unworthy motive. "If you know that I have done anything foolishly or wickedly, and do not blame me for it, you yourself ought to be reproved" (Plaut.,'Trinum.,' Proverbs 1:2, 57). "It is no good office," says Jeremy Taylor, "to make my friend more vicious or more a fool; I will restrain his folly, but not nurse it." "I think that man is my friend through whose advice I am enabled to wipe off the blemishes of my soul before the appearance of the awful Judge" (Gregory I). Christians should "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). If the erring one does not learn it from the lips of love, he will have to learn it from a harsher source and in ruder tones (comp. Job 5:17, Job 5:18; Psalms 141:5; Revelation 3:19; Proverbs 28:23). There cannot be a more worthy improvement of friendship than in a fervent opposition to the sins of those we love (Bishop Hall).—J.

Proverbs 27:7, Proverbs 27:8

The blessing of contentment

I. THE CONTENTED MIND. (Proverbs 27:7.) "Enough is as good as a feast;" "Hunger is the best sauce." To know when we are well off is the cure for the canker of envy and discontent. Deprivation for a time teaches us the need of common blessings. The good of affliction is that it brings us nearer to God; and of poverty of spirit, that it is never without food.

II. THE EVIL OF RESTLESSNESS. (Proverbs 27:8.) "The rolling stone gathers no moss." Rarely does the wanderer better his condition. Unstable as water, he doth not excel. Those who seek satisfaction for the soul out of God are like those who wander into far country, like the prodigal. "O my wandering ways! Woe to the soul which presumed, if it departed from thee, that it should find anything better! I turned on every side, and all things were hard, and thou alone wast my Rest. Thou hast made us for thyself, O God, and our heart is restless till it finds rest in thee."—J.

Proverbs 27:9, Proverbs 27:10

The praises of friendship

I. ITS SWEETNESS. (Proverbs 27:9.) It is compared to fragrant unguent and incense (Psalms 104:15; Psalms 133:2). It is more delightful to listen to the counsel of a dear friend than sternly to rely on self. It is in human nature to love to see itself reflected in other objects; and the thoughts we approve, the opinions we form, we recognize gladly on another's lips. Talking with a friend is better than thinking aloud.

II. TIME-HONOURED FRIENDSHIP SHOULD ABOVE ALL BE HELD DEAR. (Proverbs 27:10.) The presumption is that your own and your father's friend is one tried and approved, and may be depended upon.

"The friends thou hast and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel."

III. FRIENDSHIP IS FOUNDED UPON SPIRITUAL SYMPATHY. And this ranks before the ties of blood. The thought meets us in the proverbs of the ancient world in general. In the touching story of the friendship of Orestes and Pylades, e.g; it has its application. "This is what people say, 'Acquire friends, not relations alone;' since a man, when he is united by disposition, though not of kin, is better than a host of blood relations for another man to possess as his friend". And Hesiod says, "If aid is wanted, neighbours come ungirt, but relations stay to trek up their robes." Divine friendship is the highest illustration of this love.. Christ is above all the "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother."—J.

Proverbs 27:11-13

The need of prudence

I. PRUDENT CONDUCT REFLECTS CREDIT UPON ONE'S PARENTS. (Proverbs 27:11.) The graceless children of gracious parents are a special reproach, bringing dishonour even upon the Name of God (Genesis 34:30; 1 Samuel 2:17). The world will generally lay the blame at the parents' door. The Mosaic Law severely punished the sins of the priest's daughter for the disgrace brought upon the holy office (Le Proverbs 21:9).

II. THE NEED AND ADVANTAGE OF FORETHOUGHT. (Proverbs 27:12.) Prudence has been described as "the virtue of the senses." It is the science of appearances. It is the outward action of the inward life. It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical conditions, and health of mind by complying with the laws of intellect. It is possible to give a base and cowardly interpretation of the duty of prudence; that "which makes the senses final is the divinity of sots and cowards, and is the subject of all comedy. The true prudence admits the knowledge of an outward and real world." Thus true prudence is only that which foresees, detects, and guards against the ills which menace the life of the soul; for there is no profit in the prudence which seeks the world and risks the soul. Those are "simple" who, often with the utmost regard for their material interests, go on heedless of the moral perils which their habits incur.

III. THE FOLLY OF THOUGHTLESS SURETYSHIP. (Proverbs 27:13.) This, as we have seen, is often dwelt on in this book. It refers to a different condition of society from our own. We may generalize the warning. Prudence includes a proper self-regard, a virtuous egotism, so to speak. When good-natured people complain that they have been deceived, taken in, and turn sourly against human nature, do they not reproach themselves for having hacked this primary virtue of prudence? The highest virtues can grow only out of the root of independence (see Proverbs 20:16).—J.

Proverbs 27:14

Insincerity in friendship

The picture is that of one who indulges in the noisy ostentation of friendship, without having the reality of it at his heart.

I. EXCESS IN PRAISE OR BLAME IS TO BE GUARDED AGAINST. Luther shrewdly observes, "He who loudly scolds, praises; and he who excessively praises, scolds. They are not believed because they exaggerate." Too great praise is half blame. Language should be used with sobriety and temperance.

II. INSINCERITY IS SUBJECT TO A CURSE. It is odious to God and to man. One of the constant moral trials of life is in the observance of the golden mean of conduct in social relations—to be agreeable without flattery, and sincere without rudeness. Here, as ever, we must walk in the bright light of our Saviour's example, the All-loving, yet the All-faithtul.—J.

Proverbs 27:15, Proverbs 27:16

The quarrelsome wife

She is compared to the continual dropping of a shower; and the attempt to restrain her is like seeking to fetter the wind or to grasp at oil.

I. THE MONOTONY OF ILL TEMPER. It persists in one mood, and dyes all it touches with one colour, and that a dismal one.

II. THE CORRODING EFFECT UPON OTHERS' MINDS. Fine tempers cannot resist this perpetual wear and tear; the most buoyant spirits may be in time depressed by this dead weight.

III. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF ILL TEMPER. Alas! it is one of those things we are tempted to say cannot be mended. Nothing indeed but that Divine grace which can turn the winter of the soul into summer is able to remedy this ill. In reliance upon this, the exhortation may be given, "Purge out the old leaven!"—J.

Proverbs 27:17-22

Wisdom for self and for others

I. THE BENEFIT OF INTELLIGENT SOCIETY. (Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 27:19.)

1. The collision of mind with mind elicits truth, strikes out flashes of new perception. A man may grow wiser by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation. "Speech is like embroidered cloth opened and put abroad," said the mistochs to the King of Persia. In the collision of minds the man brings his own thoughts to light, and whets his wits against a stone that cuts not (Bacon).

2. The reflection of mind in mind. (Proverbs 27:19.) For we are all "like in difference," and never see so clearly what is in our own spirit as through the manifestation of another's. As we have not eyes in the back of our head, so is introspection difficult—perhaps, strictly speaking, impossible. Self knowledge is the reflection of the features of oilier minds in our own.


1. Diligent husbandry is rewarded. (Proverbs 27:18.) Whether we cultivate the tree, the master, the friend, our own soul, this law must ever hold good. Everything in this world of God's goes by law, not by luck; and what we sow we reap. Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them justly, and they will show themselves just, though they make an exception in your favour to all their rules of conduct.

2. The quenchless thirst of the spirit. (Proverbs 27:20.) Who can set a limit to the human desire to know, to do, to be? The real does not satisfy us; we are ever in quest of the ideal or perfect. Evil excesses and extravagances of vicious passion are the reverse of this undying impulse of an infinite nature. God is our true Good; our insatiable curiosities are only to be satisfied by the knowledge of himself.

3. The criterion of character. (Proverbs 27:21.) According to the scale of that which a man boasts of, is he judged. If he boasts of praise, worthy things, he is recognized as a virtuous and honest man; if he boasts of vain or evil things, he is abhorred. "Show me what a man likes, and I will show you what he is" (this according to what seems the true rendering of this proverb).

4. Folly in grain. (Proverbs 27:22.) In the East the husk is beaten from the corn by braying in a mortar. But from the fool the husk of folly will not depart. It is possible to despise the lessons of affliction, to harden one's back against the rod. Mere punishment cannot of itself correct or convert the soul. The will, the conscious spiritual activity, must cooperate with God. A great man speaks of "that worst of afflictions—an affliction lost"—J.

Proverbs 27:23-27

The man diligent in his business

I. ECONOMY AND FORESIGHT. (Proverbs 27:23-25.) He looks after the outgoings of his farm, well aware that there is in all things constant waste, that even the royal crown is a perishable thing. All knowledge is useful, and prudence applies through the whole scale of our being. Let the man, "if he have hands, handle; if eyes, measure and discriminate; let him accept and hive every fact of chemistry, natural history, and economy; the more he has, the less he is willing to spare any one. Time is always bringing the occasions that disclose their value. Some wisdom comes out of every natural and innocent action." To preserve and hold together are as necessary as to gain in every kind of riches.

II. THE FRUITS OF INDUSTRY. (Proverbs 27:26, Proverbs 27:27.) Joyous is the sight when man's toil united with the forces of nature, has been blessed with the abundant harvests and the rich flocks. Let a man keep the laws of God, and his way will be strewn with satisfactions. To find out the secret of "working together with God" in all the departments of our life is one of the deepest secrets of satisfaction and blessedness.—J.


Proverbs 27:1

Man in presence of the future: our greatness and our littleness

It is well to glance at—


1. There need be no bound at all to our hope and aspiration in respect of the future. We are warranted in looking forward to an endless life beyond, to an actual and absolute eternity of blessedness and glory. Whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ has everlasting life.

2. We can and we should prepare for a very long time to come. The legislator should devise his measures, the religious leader or organizer should lay his plans, the architect should make his designs, and the builder provide his materials with a view to the next century as well as to the next decade.

3. We should have regard to the coming years as well as to the passing days; teaching our pupils so that they will not only pass the approaching examination, but be ready for the battle of life; offering and enforcing truths and principles which will not only tide men over tomorrow, but carry them victoriously through all the vicissitudes of their course, and solace and strengthen them in their declining days. But the lesson of the text is—

II. OUR LITTLENESS IN REGARD TO THE FUTURE. We do not know what a day may bring forth.

1. How our purposes may be deranged, and all that we are proposing to do may have to be abandoned in favour of some more imperative duty (see James 4:13-15).

2. How our prospects may be affected; we may possibly rise from indigence to affluence, but we are much more likely to be suddenly and seriously reduced. Financial calamities are many, but "windfalls" are few.

3. How our circle of friendship may be narrowed, or how soon we may be called on to leave home and kindred.

4. How our hope of health or life may be extinguished. "Between the morning and the evening" (see Job 4:19-21, Revised Version) we may discover that we are afflicted with a disease which will complete its work in a few months at most, or we may be stricken down with a blow which will bring us face to face with death and eternity. With this uncertainty there are three lessons we should learn.

Proverbs 27:2, Proverbs 27:21

The praise of man

How far we should go in praising others, and in what spirit we should accept their praise, is a matter of no small importance in the conduct of life.

I. THE DUTY OF PRAISING OTHERS. "Let another man praise thee" can hardly be said to be imperative so far as he is concerned. But it suggests the propriety of another man speaking in words of commendation. And the duty of praising those who have done well is a much-forgotten and neglected virtue. I. It is the correlative of blame, and if we blame freely (as we do), why should we not freely praise the scholar, the servant, the son or daughter, the workman, etc.?

2. With many hearts, perhaps with moat, a little praise would prove a far more powerful incentive than a large quantity of blame.

3. To praise for doing well is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and of his apostles; it is to act as the most gracious and the most useful men and women have always acted.

4. It is to do to others as we would they should do to us. We thirst for a measure of approval when we have done our best, and what we crave from others we should give to others.

II. THE WISDOM OF ABSTAINING FROM SELF-PRAISE. The injunction of Solomon appeals to our common sense. Yet is it by no means unrequired. Many men are guilty of the unseemliness and the folly of praising themselves—their ingenuity, their shrewdness, their persuasiveness, their generosity, etc. Probably if they knew how very little they commend themselves by so doing, how very soon they weary their audience, how often their language becomes positively nauseous, they would abstain. Self-vindication under a false charge is a duty and even a virtue; a very minute modicum of self-commendation may be occasionally allowable; anything beyond this is, at least, a mistake.

III. THE NECESSITY OF TESTING PRAISE. "The ordinary interpretation makes the praise try the man, but the words … in the original make the man try the praise" (Wardlaw). What the fining pot is to silver, that a man should be to his praise—he should carefully and thoroughly test it. For praise is often offered some part of which should be rejected as dross. The simple minded and the unscrupulous will praise us beyond the bounds of our desert, and to drink too much of this intoxicating cup is dangerous and demoralizing to us.

IV. THE PRACTICAL PROOF OF PRAISE. The duties and the difficulties that are before us will be the best possible proof of the sincerity and of the truthfulness of the praise we receive. We shall either be approved as the wise men we are said to be, or we shall be convicted of being less worthy than we are represented to be. Therefore let us be

V. THE TEST WHICH PRAISE AFFORDS. We stand blame better than praise; though it is right to recollect that we cannot stand more than a certain measure of blame, and few people are more objectionable or more mischievous than the scold. But much praise is a great peril. It elates and exalts; it "puffs up." It too often undermines that humility of spirit and dependence on God which are the very root of a strong and beautiful Christian character.

1. Discourage all excess in this direction; it is dangerous.

2. Care more for the approval of an instructed and well-trained conscience.

3. Care most for the commendation of Christ.—C.

Proverbs 27:5, Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:9, Proverbs 27:10, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 27:19

Four services of friendship

(And see homily on "Friendship," Proverbs 13:20.) We have suggested in the nineteenth verse two conditions of friendship:

There can be no true friendship where one heart does not answer to another as the face reflected from a mirror answers to that which is before it. Men must be like minded in their principles and sympathies; and they must be sensitive enough to feel with one another and to give back the thoughts which are expressed by one or the other, if their intimacy is to be worthy of the sacred name of friendship. There are four services which this most precious gift of God secures for us.

I. CORRECTION. (Proverbs 27:5, Proverbs 27:6.) "Open rebuke is better than hidden love"—better than the love which hides from a friend its disappointment or its dissatisfaction with him. The wounds of friendship are faithful. Many are they whose character is seriously defective, and whose usefulness suffers considerable abatement from want of discipline; they are not told of their faults, they are allowed to go on deepening their roots and multiplying their fruits, because no wise and faithful friend is near to say, "Pluck out and prune." What no authority may dare to speak, love can say without fear and with excellent result.

II. REFRESHMENT. (Proverbs 27:9.) We who are weary travellers along the path of life often need that which refreshes our spirit and turns languor into energy, gloom into gladness of heart. For that we look to friendship; it is as "ointment and perfume" to the senses. We may be jaded and worn, but the look, the grasp, the words, of our friend reanimate and renew us.

III. CONSOLATIONS. (Proverbs 27:10.) We may do well to avoid the house of our kindred in the day of our calamity, especially if we have passed it by in the time of our prosperity; if our "brother" has been kept or has kept himself at a distance. But the "neighbour that is near," the friend that has been "sticking closer than a brother" will not shut the door of his heart against us. He is the "brother who is born for adversity;" he will claim the right of friendship to open his heart, to pour forth his sympathy, to offer his succour, to befriend us in every way in which affection can solace and strength can sustain us.

IV. INCITEMENT. (Proverbs 27:17.) It is the opportunity and the high privilege of friendship to urge to honourable achievement, to rekindle the lamp of holy aspiration when the light burns low; to sustain Christian devotedness when it is putting forth its strength, by every possible encouragement; to hold up the hands of that consecrated activity which is fearlessly speaking the truth and diligently building up the kingdom of Jesus Christ.—C.

Proverbs 27:7

Superabundance and scarcity

We have here—

I. A FAMILIAR FACT OF OUR PHYSICAL NATURE. Those who are well fed become very choice and dainty, while those who "lack bread" are thankful for the coarsest food. There are thousands of the sons and daughters of luxury whose appetite can hardly be tempted; for them cookery has to be developed into one of the fine arts, and nothing is palatable to their exquisite taste but delicacies. Living within five minutes' walk of their residence, and sometimes smelling the odours that come from their kitchens, are poor, pinched, struggling men and women, who will devour with great delight the first soiled crust that is offered them. There are thousands in our great cities that weigh long and seriously the question what nice beverage they shall drink at their table; and there are to be found those who would gladly quench their thirst in the first foul water they can find. Indulgence makes all things tasteless, while want makes all things sweet to us.


1. Superabundance tends to selfishness and ingratitude. We are apt to imagine that we have a prescriptive right to that which is continued to us for any time; and as soon as it is withdrawn we murmur and rebel. There are no more thankless, no more querulous hearts to be found anywhere than in the homes of the affluent, than among those who can command all that their hearts desire. They find no pleasure in what they have, and they give God no thanks for it.

2. On the other hand, scarcity is very frequently associated with contentment and piety. When our resources are not so large and full that we do not stop to ask ourselves whence they come, when some solicitude or even anxiety leads us to look prayerfully to the great "Giver of all," then we recognize the truth that everything we are and everything we have, the cup itself and all that it holds, all our powers and all our possessions, are of God, and our hearts fill with gratitude to our heavenly Father. And thus it is not exceptionally but representatively and commonly true that—

"Some murmur when their sky is clear

And wholly bright to view,

If one small speck of dark appear

In their great heaven of blue.

And some with thankful love are filled.

If but one streak of light,

One ray of God's good mercy, gild

The darkness of their night.

"In palaces are hearts that ask,

In discontent and pride,

Why life is such a dreary task,

And all good things denied.

And hearts, in poorest huts, admire

How love has, in their aid—

Love that not ever seems to tire—

Such rich provision made."



1. The peril of abundance. We are tempted to become indifferent to that which we can employ and enjoy at any time, and consequently to neglect it.

2. The compensation of scarcity. That which is often out of reach, of which we can only occasionally avail ourselves, we appreciate at its true worth. Hence, while persecuted Christians have been willing to walk many miles to take part in the worship of God, or to give large sums of money for a few pages if Scripture, those who live in the full light of privilege are negligent of the sanctuary and the Word of God. This will apply to prayer, to praise, to Christian work, to Christian fellowship.—C.

Proverbs 27:8

(See homily on Proverbs 27:23-27.)—C.

Proverbs 27:14

(See homily on Proverbs 25:20.)—C.

Proverbs 27:18

This reward of faithful service

This is a question which very intimately and importantly concerns us; for—

I. SERVICE CONSTITUTES THE GREATER PART OF HUMAN LIFE. We have to consider how large a proportion of our race is formally and regularly engaged in service as the occupation of their life. When we have counted domestic servants, agricultural labourers, and all orders of "workmen;" and when we have included all those who, in the press, or the pulpit, or the legislature, are the avowed and actual servants of the public, we have referred to a very large portion indeed of the whole population. So that "he that waiteth on his master," though he may (in the literal sense of the, phrase) he continued to a small section, yet actually stands for the majority of mankind. Indeed, we must be occupying a very strange position if we are not of those who are engaged in serving in some form or other.


1. God is requiring it of us. It is required by him that we who are stewards be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 3:22-25).

2. The best and noblest men, whose character and course we admire, were men "faithful in all their house" (see Hebrews 3:5).

3. We can only retain our self-respect by faithfulness. To do our work slowly or slovenly, in such wise that we should be ashamed to have it inspected by "the master", in such a manner that it will not stand the test of time, is to undermine all respect for ourselves, is to sink sadly and pitifully, if nut fatally, in our own esteem.

4. Faithfulness has a large and a sure reward. Careful culture of the fig tree is sure to be rewarded with the eating of its fruit in due time. Faithful service is sure to bring its due recompense.

"I will ask for no reward.

Except to serve thee still"

—and to serve thee better. But if it be said that, after all, human service is sometimes unappreciated and unacknowledged, that the labourer's hire is withheld and not paid, that the "master" does not render the honour that is due to him who has "waited on" him long and served him well—as it may sometimes be truly said—then let us retire to the truth that—

III. THERE IS ONE SERVICE IN WHICH THERE IS NO DISAPPOINTMENT. We are the servants of Christ. We delight to call him Master (John 13:13). We owe him everything, and we offer him the subjection of our will, the trust of our hearts, the service of our lives. He will not disappoint us. He will not forget our work of faith and our labour of love. The slightest service shall "in no wise lose its reward." He will generously regard what we do for his humble disciples as something rendered to himself. Here we shall possess his loving favour, and there his bountiful recompense.—C.

Proverbs 27:23-27

(and Proverbs 27:8)

A commendation of diligence

It is likely enough that Solomon, oppressed with the burdens and vexations, with the difficulties and dangers, of the throne, looked longingly toward those pastoral scenes which he here describes. But, keen and shrewd man that he was, he must have known that contentment does not always find a home in the homestead, and that there may be as much disquietude of heart in the fields of the beautiful country as there is in the streets of the crowded city. We look for something more than an ordinary "pastoral" in these verses. We recognize in them a royal commendation of diligence.

I. THERE IS NEED OF DILIGENCE IN EVERY SPHERE. "Be diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds." Pastoral prosperity demands the care and the labour of the shepherd or the herdsman, as well as do the transactions of princes and the affairs of state. It will be a poor season and a bad harvest if the farmer is dreaming all day long. It is true that kids and calves and lambs grow up "of themselves," and that "the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself" (Mark 4:28); but it is also true that without watchful care on the shepherd's part the flock will be sickly and small, and that without toil and skill on the part of the farmer the hay crop and the wheat crop will be quite disappointing. And so in everything. Whatever the sphere may be, diligence is the invariable condition of success. The man who will not take pains, who does not work and strive, who does not throw his strength and energy into his occupation, will soon find how great is his mistake.

II. DILIGENCE MUST BE CONCENTRATED IF IT IS TO BE REMUNERATIVE. (Proverbs 27:8.) A man that is everywhere but at home, who is interested in everybody's business but his own, who can tell his neighbours how to improve their estate while his own is neglected, who has a hand in a hundred activities, may be exceedingly busy and (in his way) diligent; but he is not a "man of business," and he does not show the diligence which yields a good result. Let a man know "his place" and keep it; and, while selfishness and narrowness of spirit are bad and blameful enough, it is needful for him to give his strength to his own sphere, his forces to his own fields.


1. It will procure domestic comfort (Proverbs 27:25-27).

2. It will lead to honour and reputation (Proverbs 22:29).

3. It will invest with power (Proverbs 12:24),

4. It will enrich with various kinds of human wealth (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 21:5).

Patient industry is the source of all the good which beautifies and brightens, which adorns and enlarges, human life.

IV. THERE IS A SERIOUS UNCERTAINTY AGAINST WHICH TO PROVIDE. (Proverbs 27:24.) You may be the son of a king, but the crown sometimes changes hands; dynasties are not immortal. You may have a large treasure at command, but the thief; who wears many guises and comes to us in many forms, may steal it away. Better depend on self-reliance than on such props as these; have the diligent hand at your side, and you will be able to defy the chances and the losses that come in the hour and in the way when we look not for them.

V. THERE IS ONE SPHERE IN WHICH DILIGENCE IS OF INESTIMABLE VALUETHE KEEPING OF OUR OWN HEART. With the most devout and the most sedulous care should we "keep" our spiritual nature, for from it flow the streams of life or death (see homily on Proverbs 4:23).—C.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
1 Samuel 13:20,21
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
Reciprocal: Job 16:5 - But I would;  Ecclesiastes 4:9 - are;  Luke 24:32 - Did;  John 11:29 - General

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

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 (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 , (yahhadh,) instead of , (hhadhadh:) his idea is not without plausibility.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.