Proverbs Chapter 17

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PROVERBS CHAPTER 17 Blessed Tranquillity 17:1 Compare with 15:17. The word “feasting”, is literally “strife offerings”. In the OT a family feast often consisted of a peace-offering (Deut. 12:11,12,21). But man has a way of even ruining the most solemn celebrations. Compare today with how much strife and arguing is found at some family weddings, funerals and even the dinner table. “Harmony in one’s relationships is to be desired over a sumptuous supply of food” (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 942). This verse should also remind us that happiness isn’t found in striving to keep up with the Jones, getting ahead at all costs, or sacrificing your relationships for material gain. “The same point might be made about neighborhoods; better to live in a small house with friendly neighbors than in a palace with hostile ones all around. The lesson also applies to jobs; better to receive less pay in a fulfilling atmosphere than more pay under cutthroat conditions” (Alden p. 132). Peace and getting by is far more important than prosperity with problems. Keep this in mind when you are tempted to feel sorry for your children because you can’t provide them with the latest and the best. “Abundance often brings a deterioration of moral and ethical standards as well as an increase in envy and strife” (Gaebelein p. 1013). Note, this wasn’t said about a man trying to find happiness in his poverty. This isn’t a case of sour grapes. Rather this statement was said by Solomon—an extremely wealthy man.

Ability Outruns Privilege 17:2 Ability and character can overcome whatever supposed disadvantages one is born into. Our society argues so much about “rights”, but God is more concerned about responsibility and the exercising of one’s abilities (Matthew 25:14ff). “It is much better that the power and wealth go to those who are most like the ones who gained it in the first place—an ideological rather than a biological dynasty” (Alden p. 132). Wealthy parents having foolish children isn’t something new.

The Crucible


17:3 The comparison with the refining pot, infers that God allows us to be tested by adversity (1 Peter 1:6-9; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Such trials can always be constructive and beneficial—if we so choose. They are designed to bring about greater dependence upon God, purified motives, the right priorities, and so on (Psalm 119:71). But we are given the choice concerning if such trials help us or hinder us. “When things reveal their relative worth under ‘fiery trial’, it is our part (since we are not inert metal) to pick out, with Him, the precious from the worthless"”(Kidner p. 123). We should be thankful for such trials, because the person with wrong motives will find themselves excluded from eternal life (1 Corinthians 13:1-4). Better to be exposed now—with the chance to change, than later with no hope for improvement.

Guilty Listener 17:4 “Evil words die without a welcome; and the welcome gives us away” (Kidner p. 123). What we like to hear reveals the true condition of our heart. We are most attracted to people like our true selves. “Perhaps the lesson here suggests we look more closely at people around us to see if they reflect what we ought to be” (Alden pp. 132-133). People are just as guilty of slander and gossip if they listen to it. If we find gossip appealing, then we have a problem.

Heartlessness 17:5 “To grow into this monster one has only to stay long enough a spoilt child” (Kidner p. 123). Remember God is the maker of the poor man also—to despise or ridicule him is to despise the God who made him. The verse also suggests that for many people it is easier to rejoice over calamity than over seeing others prosper. Love doesn’t rejoice when bad things happen to people (1 Corinthians 13:6), neither does love gloat over seeing people end up lost. The verse also infers that there are poor people who through no fault of their own end up in poverty. Not every instance of poverty can be traced to selfishness, immorality or laziness.

Mutual Appreciation 17:6 Or, there is to be no generation gap among the righteous. “True piety exists when parents and children in each generation honor and respect the other” (Alden p. 133). Something is morally wrong when the aged resent the young and the young have no respect for the aged. The text also demonstrates that good kids not only respect their parents, but actually glory in them. A family in which such mutual appreciation is lacking is in a state of immaturity. “A neglected crop, riddled with mutual antipathy, is seen in Isaiah 3:5; Micah 7:6 and 2 Timothy 3:2-4” (Kidner p. 123). Grandchildren should be a reminder to


every grandparent that their golden years—far from being a time when society no longer needs them, is a period when they are needed more than ever!

Be What You Profess 17:7 “Excellent”-can either mean here faithful or arrogant. Side ref., NASV, “a lip of abundance”, i.e. a big talker. A fool no more has the right to be boastful than a prince has the right to lie. “Much less”-“how much worse”. A “prince” is a gentleman, a man of honor, to whom truthfulness should be second nature. “Persons of honor and responsibility should make no space for lying in their lives” (Garrett p. 159). This verse admonishes citizens not to accept the common excuse that to be a politician one must be dishonest or corrupt. The Bible argues the exact opposite, if there is any place where lying is truly out of place it should be among those who lead in any given society.

Bribery 17:8 ”charm”-lit., a “stone of favor”. The point is that bribery often “works”, or as people today say, “money talks”. There are many people in society that will sell out for money, and the person who offers bribery finds that such money works like a charm. Verse 23 and other verses condemn the use of bribes (Exodus 23:8; Deut. 16:19).

Peacemaker, Troublemaker 17:9 Compare with 10:12. Covering a transgression means that such a transgression has been acknowledged and can be forgiven (Matthew 18:15). Forgiving sin promotes love between people while harping on a matter, gossiping about it, etc…can lead to separation between even the closest friends. How we respond to the confessed sins of others will reveal whether or not we are motivated by love or hatred. An “intimate friend”, is a single word in the Hebrew, denoting a bosom companion.

The Will To Improve 17:10 A man of understanding is a man with a sensitive heart, someone who is very receptive to instruction and realizes their own short-comings. “Those who are wise will be humbled by a rebuke and learn from it; but not even a hundred lashes will make such an impression on the fool" (Gaebelein p. 1016). “The wise are sensitive and learn readily, but a thickheaded fool is unresponsive even after extreme measures of correction” (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 942). Remember, according to the law one could only be beaten with 40 lashes (Deut. 25:2-3). There are some people who can’t even learn the hard way. 3

Playing With Fire 17:11 Our society has tended to glorify the “rebel”. But rebellion isn’t harmless, trendy or cute. The rebel isn’t misguided, rather he or she is out to commit evil. An evil person will insist on being rebellious…Eventually he is brought to justice and punished by a merciless official. “Those who cannot (will not) submit themselves to governmental authority will soon come to regret it. They are more than socially outcast by the community; they receive judicial punishment from the community” (Garrett p. 161).

Fool On The Prowl 17:12 In a word, the fool is a menace, “at best, he wastes your time (14:7); and he may be a more serious nuisance. If he has an idea in his head, nothing will stop him…Give him a wide berth, for ‘the companion of fools shall smart for it’ (13:20)” (Kidner p. 40). Not all fools are equally dangerous, but, “Consider meeting a fool with a knife, or gun, or even behind the wheel of a car; a mother bear could be less dangerous” (Alden p. 134). I could add, a fool with alcohol, a fool with some illegal fireworks, a fool and a jet ski, etc…

Home To Roost 17:13 “house” here meaning more that just the home in which he lives, but his family, domestic relations and even successive generations. “Repaying evil for good is so insidious it creeps from one generation to the next” (Alden p. 134).

Anger’s Havoc 17:14 Arguments can quickly spin out of our control. “Opening such a sluice lets loose more than one can predict, control or retrieve” (Kidner p. 125). The verse should remind us that when we engage in sin, we can’t control the consequences or the extent of the damage which might be caused. Compare with what Jesus said in Luke 12:58. Starting a quarrel about something may seem like a minor matter, but often minor issues, in which neither party is willing to bend, end up destroying friendships. We should really think about this verse before we engage in a heated discussion with our mate or our brethren.



17:15 There are a good number of people in our society who are presently justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous. It is politically correct to defend the homosexual and condemn the Christian. Compare with Isaiah 5:20.

Wisdom Not For Sale

17:16 “he has no idea of a patient search for wisdom: he has not the concentration for it (17:24), but imagines it can be handed out to him over the counter” (Kidner p. 40). The fool may desire the reputation of the wise, but he will not live up to its demands. “Why pay out money for books and then not read, study, or use them? Why pay tuition fees to go to school when one does not really want to study and learn?” (Hunt p. 221). Alden writes, “Educators… preferring rather to talk about factors such as heredity, educational opportunities, peer pressure, individual maturation, or environment. Still, somewhere in all of this, either parents or the government must decide when more money for education is just plain poor stewardship because fools…are draining their funds” (p. 135).

Friend In Need 17:17 Compare with 18:24. The true friend is constant, and will tell you the truth, even when it hurts you or them. “And a brother is born for adversity”-True friends are faithful even in times of adversity. The verse might also infer that the price of friendship or being truly part of any family, is going through times of adversity with others.

Unlimited Liability 17:18 Compare with 6:1-5. “Being a reliable friend in times of adversity (17) is different from a foolhardy agreement to provide financial security for a highinterest loan” (Bible Knowledge Comm. p. 943). In addition, such a verse infers that friendship isn’t defined as doing something foolish or rash. Sometimes people try to take advantage of our friendship, by saying, “If you were really my friend you would….” Being a friend means doing what is in the best interest of our friend.

Asking For Trouble 17:19 If you love sin, then you love trouble or strife. Sin and trouble go hand in hand and you can’t have one without the other. “raises his door”-“This image may literally refer to people who show off their wealth by building huge homes with grand entrances, or may figuratively refer to the mouth of a braggart which pours out all kinds of proud words” (Alden p. 136). 5

Too Clever

17:20 A person with twisted and perverted motives will fail in their quest to find happiness. Good cannot be found by the perverted mind. What you have in your heart and on your tongue will determine what will happen to you, even in this life. Perverse hearts and deceitful tongues will only reap trouble and hardship, but so many people refuse to believe this.

Disappointing Son 17:21 Compare with 10:1; 15:20. “Some people, however, cannot disown him; it is their tragedy “(Kidner p. 40). The verse infers that parental training can only go so far. There are children, despite good training who insist on being foolish. Parental sorrow concerning such a child really never ends. Think of the sorrow that Cain brought to Adam and Eve, Absalom to David, and Hophi and Phinehas to their father Eli. A son or daughter may grow up and be very good at some secular task, but if they have turned their backs on God, such cannot relieve the sorrow experienced by godly parents. Nothing can make up for a lost soul.

The Best Medicine 17:22 Compare with 12:25; 15:13,15; 18:14. This book often hints at a connection between our spiritual and physical health. One’s inner life does affect one’s physical being. One example of a broken spirit is a father’s grief over a lost child; “the implication is that the greatest source of a crushed spirit is trouble in the family” (Garrett p. 162).

The Bribe 17:23 The purpose of a bribe is to pervert justice. We can never downplay the seriousness of such behavior and simply call it a gift. Both givers as well as receivers of bribes are guilty of perverting justice. “from the bosom”-infers that such a bribe is received in secret. Note, if we are tempted to take a bribe, then we are a wicked person. If there was corruption in the legal system that was found in Israel, then we cannot be so naïve as to believe that corruption isn’t found in our current legal system.

Eyes On The Goal


17:24 “Wisdom is in the presence”-in contrast to the fool in the second part of the verse, the wise man keeps his mind focused on the goal. In addition, the wise man sees wisdom right where he is. The foolish man’s sight is directionless. “The phrase might also mean the fool dreams a lot instead of making realistic plans. He might also make plans which are too idealistic or impractical, but in any case it takes a disciplined mind to make plans that work… The discerning man operates within boundaries while the fool does not” (Alden p. 137). “The fool misses the opportunities at hand and is always supposing that somewhere else, something else, is really better” (Hunt p. 225). One of the qualities of a fool is the inability to concentrate or fix your attention. Learning, tackling difficult subjects, thinking through a problem—is boring to the fool. Are we like the fool? Do we think that happiness and contentment are always found in another place? Do we spend too much time daydreaming? Are we turned off by subjects and questions that we do need to study and resolve? Various modern expressions are like this proverb, such as “The grass is always greener on the other side”.

Exasperating Son 17:25 “grief”-and not merely a disappointment, but a bitter sorrow. For a child to grow up and bring such grief to their parents, is for that child to completely fail as a human being. In view of such realities, one can see why God comes down so hard on rebellious children (Romans 1:30), and why in the OT, the defiant rebel was to be executed. A child that is bringing such pain to their parents shouldn’t be excused, rather they should be rebuked and shamed by the entire community.

Innocent Blood 17:26 “It is not good to fine the righteous”-To punish an innocent person is like bribery (17:23), it is also a perversion of justice. “Abuses such as punishing innocent men or whipping honest officials must have been common enough to prompt proverbs on the subject” (Alden p. 137). There is a great lesson here for our modern society. It appears that many people, including those in positions of power have bought into the idea that the rule of law isn’t that important. Governments which start persecuting godly individuals are in trouble. The proper role of government is to reward the righteous and punish the evildoer (Romans 13:3-4).


Think Before You Speak 17:27-28 The book of Proverbs spends so much time stressing the importance of words, because words serve as an index to the soul. By paying attention to what a person says, one can determine whether a person is wise or a fool. “It’s one thing to be a fool, another to broadcast that fact to the world” (Alden p. 137). “The dry advice of 28 is not purely ironical: the fool who takes it is no longer a complete fool” (Kidner p. 127). That is, the fool who has learned to keep silent has just made a step towards wisdom.


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