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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Proverbs Chapter 17

Proverbs 17:1

pro 17:1

Sacrifices - The feast accompanied the offerings Pro 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.

Proverbs 17:2

pro 17:2

The "servant," it must be remembered, was a slave, but (as in such cases as Gen 15:2; Sa2 16:4) might succeed to the inheritance.

Proverbs 17:3

pro 17:3

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 Mal 3:2; Pe1 1:7.

Proverbs 17:4

pro 17:4

The two clauses describe two phases of the mutual affinities of evil. The evil-doer delights in lies, the liar in bad words.

Proverbs 17:5

pro 17:5

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 Pro 31:13, Pro 31:29.

Proverbs 17:6

pro 17:6

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.

Proverbs 17:7

pro 17:7

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.

Proverbs 17:8

pro 17:8

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.

Proverbs 17:9

pro 17:9

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.

Proverbs 17:11

pro 17:11

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."

Proverbs 17:12

pro 17:12

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 Sa2 17:8; Kg2 2:24.

Proverbs 17:14

pro 17:14

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."

Proverbs 17:15

pro 17:15

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.

Proverbs 17:16

pro 17:16

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.

Proverbs 17:17

pro 17:17

Some take the proverb to describe (as in Pro 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.

Proverbs 17:18

pro 17:18

Compare the marginal reference. Since nothing is nobler than the self-sacrifice of the true friend Pro 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."

Proverbs 17:19

pro 17:19

He that exalteth his gate - i. e., Builds a stately house, indulges in arrogant ostentation.

Proverbs 17:22

pro 17:22

Doeth good like a medicine - Better, worketh a good healing. Omit "like."

Proverbs 17:23

pro 17:23

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.

Proverbs 17:24

pro 17:24

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.

Proverbs 17:25

pro 17:25

Compare Pro 17:21. Here is added a reference to the sorrow which the folly of a child brings especially to the mother.

Proverbs 17:26

pro 17:26

Nor to strike ... - Better, and to strike the noble (in character rather than in rank) is against right. Compare Joh 18:28.

Proverbs 17:27

pro 17:27

Better, A man of calm (or noble) spirit is a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:28

pro 17:28

Is esteemed - Or, "is" (simply). The maxim would imply that silence is in any case good.

Next: Proverbs Chapter 18