Proverbs 17

CHAPTER XVII

Contentment. The wise servant. The Lord tries the heart.

Children a crown to their parents. We should hide our

neighbour's faults. The poor should not be despised.

Litigations and quarrels to be avoided. Wealth is useless to

a fool. The good friend. A fool may pass for a wise man when

he holds his peace.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVII

Verse 1. Better is a dry morsel] Peace and contentment, and

especially domestic peace, are beyond all other blessings.

A house full of sacrifices] A Hindoo priest, who officiates at a

festival, sometimes receives so many offerings that his house is

filled with them, so that many of them are damaged before they can

be used.-Ward.

Verse 3. The fining pot is for silver] When silver is mixed,

or suspected to be mixed, with base metal, it must be subjected to

such a test as the cupel to purify it. And gold also must be

purified by the action of the fire. So God tries hearts. He sends

afflictions which penetrate the soul, and give a man to see his

state, so that he may apply to the spirit of judgment and the

spirit of burning, to destroy what cannot stand the fire, to

separate and burn up all the dross.

Verse 4. A wicked doer giveth heed] An evil heart is disposed

and ever ready to receive evil; and liars delight in lies.

Verse 5. He that is glad at calamity] He who is pleased to hear

of the misfortune of another will, in the course of God's just

government, have his own multiplied.

Verse 7. Excellent speech becometh not a fool] This proverb is

suitable to those who affect, in public speaking, fine language,

which neither comports with their ordinary conversation, nor with

their education. Often fine words are injudiciously brought in,

and are as unbecoming and irrelevant as a cart wheel among

clockwork.

Verse 8. A gift is as a precious stone] It both enriches and

ornaments. In the latter clause there is an evident allusion to

cut stones. Whithersoever you turn them, they reflect the light,

are brilliant and beautiful.

Verse 10. A reproof entereth more] Though the rod, judiciously

applied, is a great instrument of knowledge, yet it is of no use

where incurable dulness or want of intellect, prevails. Besides,

there are generous dispositions on which counsel will work more

than stripes.

Verse 12. Let a bear robbed of her whelps] At which times such

animals are peculiarly fierce. See Clarke on 2Sa 17:8.

Verse 13. Whoso rewardeth evil for good] Here is a most awful

warning. As many persons are guilty of the sin of ingratitude, and

of paying kindness with unkindness, and good with evil, it

is no wonder we find so much wretchedness among men; for God's

word cannot fail; evil shall not depart from the houses and

families of such persons.

Verse 14. The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out

water] As soon as the smallest breach is made in the dike or dam,

the water begins to press from all parts towards the breach; the

resistance becomes too great to be successfully opposed, so that

dikes and all are speedily swept away. Such is the beginning of

contentions, quarrels, lawsuits, &c.

Leave off contention, before it be meddled with.] As you see

what an altercation must lead to, therefore do not begin it.

Before it be mingled together, hithgalla, before the

spirits of the contending parties come into conflict-are joined

together in battle, and begin to deal out mutual reflections and

reproaches. When you see that the dispute is likely to take this

turn, leave it off immediately.

Verse 17. A friend loveth at all times] Equally in adversity as

in prosperity. And a brother, according to the ties and interests

of consanguinity, is born to support and comfort a brother in

distress.

Verse 18. Striketh hands] Striking each other's hands, or

shaking hands, was anciently the form in concluding a contract.

See Clarke on Pr 6:1.

Verse 19. He that exalteth his gate] In different parts of

Palestine they are obliged to have the doors of their courts and

houses very low, not more than three feet high, to prevent the

Arabs, who scarcely ever leave the backs of their horses, from

riding into the courts and houses, and spoiling their goods. He,

then, who, through pride and ostentation, made a high gate,

exposed himself to destruction; and is said here to seek it,

because he must know that this would be a necessary consequence of

exalting his gate. But although the above is a fact, yet possibly

gate is here taken for the mouth; and the exalting of the gate

may mean proud boasting and arrogant speaking, such as has a

tendency to kindle and maintain strife. And this interpretation

seems to agree better with the scope of the context than the

above.

Verse 22. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine] Instead of

gehah, a medicine, it appears that the Chaldee and

Syriac had read in their copies gevah, the body, as they

translate in this way. This makes the apposition here more

complete: "A merry heart doeth good to the body; but a broken

spirit drieth the bones." Nothing has such a direct tendency to

ruin health and waste out life as grief, anxiety, fretfulness, bad

tempers, &c. All these work death.

Verse 23. A gift out of the bosom] Out of his purse; as in their

bosoms, above their girdles, the Asiatics carry their purses. I

have often observed this.

Verse 24. Are in the ends of the earth.] Wisdom is within the

sight and reach at every man: but he whose desires are scattered

abroad, who is always aiming at impossible things, or is of an

unsteady disposition, is not likely to find it.

Verse 26. Nor to strike princes for equity.] To fall out with

the ruler of the people, and to take off his head under pretence

of his not being a just or equitable governor, is unjust. To

kill a king on the ground of justice is a most dreadful omen to

any land. Where was it ever done, that it promoted the public

prosperity? No experiment of this kind has ever yet succeeded,

howsoever worthless the king might be.

Verse 28. Even a fool] He is counted wise as to that particular.

He may know that he cannot speak well, and he has sense enough to

keep from speaking. He is, as to that particular, a wise fool.

A man may be golden-mouthed and silver-tongued in eloquence; but

to know when and where to speak and to be silent, is better

than diamonds. But who that thinks he can speak well can refrain

from speaking? His tongue has no rest.

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