|<< Proverbs 17 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.
Sacrifices - The feast accompanied the offerings Proverbs 7:14. Part of the victims were burned upon the altar, the rest was consumed by the worshipper and his friends. The "house full of sacrifices" was therefore one abounding in sumptuous feasts.
2A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.
The "servant," it must be remembered, was a slave, but (as in such cases as Genesis 15:2; 2 Samuel 16:4) might succeed to the inheritance.
3The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.
Wonderful as is the separation of the pure metal from the dross with which it has mingled, there is something yet more wonderful in the divine discipline which purifies the good that lies hid, like a grain of gold, even in rough and common natures, and frees it from all admixture of evil. Compare Malachi 3:2; 1 Peter 1:7.
4A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
The two clauses describe two phases of the mutual affinities of evil. The evil-doer delights in lies, the liar in bad words.
5Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
He that is glad at calamities - A temper common at all times as the most hateful form of evil; the Greek ἐπιχαιρεκακία epichairekakia. The sins spoken of in both clauses occur also in Job's vindication of his integrity Proverbs 31:13, Proverbs 31:29.
6Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.
The reciprocity of good in sustained family relationships. A long line of children's children is the glory of old age, a long line of ancestors the glory of their descendants.
7Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.
The margin renderings are more literal and give greater emphasis. What is pointed out is not the unfitness of lying lips for the princely-hearted, but the necessity of harmony, in each case, between character and speech.
8A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A half-satirical description of the power of bribery in palaces and among judges. The precious stone (literally as in the margin) is probably a gem, thought of as a talisman, which, "wherever it turns," will ensure "prosperity" to him who, being the possessor, has the power to give it.
9He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.
Seeketh love - i. e., Takes the course which leads to his gaining it.
He that repeateth a matter - The warning is directed against that which leads a man to dwell with irritating iteration on a past offence instead of burying it in oblivion.
Separateth very friends - Better, alienateth his chief friend. The tale-bearer works injury to himself.
10A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.
11An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.
The proverb expresses the reverence of the East for the supreme authority of the king. The "cruel messenger" is probably the king's officer despatched to subdue and punish. The Septuagint renders it: "The Lord will send a pitiless Angel."
12Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.
The large brown bear of Syria, in her rage at the loss of her whelps, was to the Israelites the strongest type of brute ferocity. Compare 2 Samuel 17:8; 2 Kings 2:24.
13Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.
14The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
The figure is taken from the great tank or reservoir upon which Eastern cities often depended for their supply of water. The beginning of strife is compared to the first crack in the mound of such a reservoir. At first a few drops ooze out, but after a time the whole mass of waters pour themselves forth with fury, and it is hard to set limits to the destruction which they cause.
Before it be meddled with - literally, "before it rolls, or rushes forward."
15He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
People need to be warned against an unjust acquittal, no less than against unjust condemnation. The word "justifieth" has its forensic sense, "to declare righteous," to acquit.
16Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?
More literally: Why is there a price in the hand of a fool? Is it to get wisdom when he has no heart for it? No money will avail without the understanding heart.
17A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Some take the proverb to describe (as in Proverbs 18:24) the "friend that sticketh closer than a brother:" and render: At all times, a friend loveth, but in adversity he is born (i. e., becomes) a brother.
18A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.
Compare the marginal reference. Since nothing is nobler than the self-sacrifice of the true friend Proverbs 17:17, so nothing is more contemptible than the weakness which allows itself to be sacrificed for the sake of worthless associates.
In the presence of his friend - i. e., "On behalf of" or "to his friend for some third person."
19He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.
He that exalteth his gate - i. e., Builds a stately house, indulges in arrogant ostentation.
20He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.
21He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.
22A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Doeth good like a medicine - Better, worketh a good healing. Omit "like."
23A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
The words "out of the bosom," from the fold of the garment, rather than from the bag or girdle in which money was usually carried, possibly point to the stealthiness with which the "gift" (or, bribe) is offered to the judge.
24Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
Before him - Set straight before his eyes as the mark to which they look. Others, following the Septuagint and Vulgate, interpret the verse, Wisdom is seen in the clear, stedfast look of the wise man as contrasted with the wandering gaze of the fool.
25A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Compare Proverbs 17:21. Here is added a reference to the sorrow which the folly of a child brings especially to the mother.
26Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.
Nor to strike ... - Better, and to strike the noble (in character rather than in rank) is against right. Compare John 18:28.
27He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.
Better, A man of calm (or noble) spirit is a man of understanding.
28Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Is esteemed - Or, "is" (simply). The maxim would imply that silence is in any case good.