The Book of Proverbs
We now begin our study of Proverbs Chapter 17. As we begin, I want to remind you of the significance of numerology, especially related to the Scriptures. Please keep in mind that chapter and verse numbering are not divinely inspired, and came well after the original writings. But I find it very interesting when they complement Biblical numerology, as we see here. As you know, we have just completed Chapter 16, which is made up of the number 10 that means “Divine Order”, and the number 6 that means, “materialism and is the number of man.” As you recall, Chapter 16’s theme was the “Sovereignty of God,” that spoke of God’s Divine order / sovereignty over mankind.
Now turning to Chapter 17, we focus on the number 17, which is the seventh of the prime numbers, (1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17), and made up of 10 plus 7. Seven speaks to “spiritual perfection” in Scripture. Therefore, 17 speaks of perfect Divine order plus spiritual perfection, and thus means, “the perfection of spiritual order.”
Two great examples of 17 in Scripture include Rom 8:35-39 and Heb 12:18-24. In Rom 8:35-39 we are given a list of 7 questions regarding the world, followed by 10 answers regarding God’s great provision and protection that “set forth the spiritual and eternal perfection of the believers standing in Christ,” (E.W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture). Also in Heb 12:18-24 we see the change over from the old dispensation, (the Age of Israel / the Law), to the new one, (the Age of Grace / the Church), where the first seven described the old covenant and the following list of 10 in vs. 22-24, ushers in the new covenant. Also keep in mind that ten is made up of 2 x 5, the doubling of Grace.
So with that in mind, we now venture into Chapter 17, where we are given more words of wisdom designed to lead us into “the perfection of spiritual order” within our lives. We will see both the “do’s and don’ts”, the positive exhortations and negative admonitions, that are customary in this book. And finally, these Proverbs teach the wise how to cope with the aggravations the fool can cause in their life.
1. Vs. 1-10, Examples of the excellent spiritual life that results in being crowned with glory, “gray head,” divided into two parts; Part 1, Prov 16:31-17:5; Part 2, Prov 17:6-11.
2. Vs. 11-15, Five examples of dangerous men, against whom we have to be on guard.
3. Vs. 16-20, Begins with the heartless and ends with the perverse of heart, with vs. 17 that exhorts true AGAPE love.
4. Vs. 21-28, the pains of the foolish son, versus and joys of the wise son, Part 1, Prov 17:21-24, Part 2, Prov 17:25-28 (or even 18:2).
1. Vs. 1-10, Examples of the excellent spiritual life that results in being crowned with glory, “gray head,” divided into two parts; Part 1, Prov 16:31-17:5; Part 2, Prov 17:6-11.
Part 1, Prov 16:31-17:5:
Many commentators include vs. 31-33 of Chapter 16 in this section, since it begins with the phrase ATARAH, עֲטָרָה that means, “crown, diadem or garland,” and TIPERETH, תִּפְאֶרֶת that means, “glory, splendor, adornment or ornament,” for the “gray headed man,” just as does vs. 6 for the “old man,” i.e., father and grandfather. We begin with Prov 17:1, since we have already noted Prov 16:31-33.
Prov 17:1, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife.”
Like Prov 16:8, 16, 19, 32, this is another “better than” verse, showing us a comparison of the life that has wisdom from having Bible doctrine in the soul, compared to a life that does not have Bible doctrine in the soul. It brings us back to the lessons of Prov 15:16-17.
Prov 15:16-17, “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it. 17Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.”
In our passage it is “better,” TOB, to have “a dry morsel,” CHAREB PATH, used of a piece of bread as part of an offering, and probably meaning here “a small meal”, cf. Prov 28:21; Gen 25:29-34; 1 Sam 2:36, with “quietness,” SHALWA שַׁלְָוה, that means, “ease or security,” i.e., to be at peace.
Just as Prov 16:32 told us, it is better to have control over our emotions and old sin nature, (i.e., to have control over your human spirit), than to have all the military might in the world; so too it is better to have spiritual peace and quiet, (i.e., a RMA – Relaxed Mental Attitude), within your home with a little food, than to give a great banquet and yet have strife.
“Feasting,” in our verse is the Hebrew noun ZEBACH, זֶבַח that literally means, “sacrifice” and usually is associated with the “Peace Offering.” With any animal sacrifice comes the slaughtering of the animal, of which at times a portion is kept by the family for a feast, Lev 7:15-18. That is why it is translated “feasting” here.
Its other uses in Proverbs, (7:14; 15:8, 21:3, 27), represent the false offerings of the adulteress and wicked, which the Lord rejects. So we have the double entendre of the great feast plus false offerings to the Lord, compared to the “dry morsel” that is part of an acceptable offering to the Lord.
“Strife” is the Noun RIYB that means, “contention or lawsuit.” In Prov 20:3 it is quarreling. So it means when two parties have a fight, argument, disagreement, or conflict.
Therefore we could say, “a piece of bread is better than meat,” in that it is better to give a small offering to the Lord and be at peace with Him and within your soul, than to give a large offering begrudgingly or under compulsion.
It speaks to having right motivation that leads to right actions in order to serve and please God.
“A peaceful life is both a goal and reward of wisdom. Peace is thus always better than turmoil, even if its price is poverty rather than the wealth that can afford sacrifice. Contentment is great gain, especially if the price of advancement (financial, social or professional) is turmoil.” (Complete Biblical Library)
Prov 17:2, “A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully, and will share in the inheritance among brothers.”
Continuing with the theme of the lowly righteous, this Proverb extols “the slave / servant who acts with understanding”, SAKAL, that means, “to act with insight, to be prudent, to give insight, to teach, to prosper, to consider, to ponder, to understand, to act prudently, or to act with devotion” This is the believer who applies Bible Doctrine on a consistent basis.
He will “rule,” (which is MASHALL once again, that means, “to speak a proverbs or to rule”), “over a son,” BEN. In other words, this believer will teach and train others in the Word of God. They will be a living and speaking example of the righteousness of God.
Unfortunately this “son” is one “who acts shamefully,” BOSH, meaning he does not learn or apply God’s Word in his life.
As a result, the servant will receive the foolish son’s “inheritance,” NACHALAH, that is to be “shared among the son’s brothers,” CHALAQ ACH, where CHALAQ is also a word used for verbal communication and means, “divide.”
This reminds us of Mat 25:14-30, especially vs. 28, where the Lord takes away rewards and blessings set aside for the worthless servant, and gives them to another.
Being paired with Prov 16:32, our verse tells us that leadership depends more on character than on natural birth and that wisdom prevails over folly without regard for socio-economic standing or cultural expectations.
Prov 17:3, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.”
“Refining Pot” is the Noun MATSREPH, מַצְרֵף used only here and in Prov 27:21. It is derived from the verb TSARAPH that means, “to smelt.” It means a “crucible,” the instrument of refining. It is linked with “silver,” KESEPH.
“Furnace” is the Noun KUR, כּוּר, used nine times in Scripture, referring to a furnace which is used exclusively to process metallic ores. It is linked with “gold,” ZAHAB.
These instruments are used metaphorically by “the Lord” YHWH, to “test hearts,” BACHAN LEB, cf. Psa 17:3; 26:2; 66:10; 139:23-24, with trials and tribulations.
Psa 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. 24And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
Here we see that the Lord tests the hearts, (right lobes of the soul), of humans in a fashion similar to the refining of silver and gold in a crucible or furnace. “God strips bare all pretensions and tests all human hearts to determine their genuineness and purity.” (Waltke, NIC).
The idea is that as heat purifies the crude ore, it creates a precious metal; therefore, the Lord transforms the coarse, unrefined or scar tissue laden heart of the unbeliever or reversionistic believer, by allowing times of testing to come. Combined, these two instruments speak of the trials and tribulations of life that the Lord uses to refine our souls.
Interestingly, the melting point of silver is 1,763 degrees Fahrenheit or 961.8 degrees Celsius, and gold is 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,064 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the two are combined to speak of the sometimes needed intensification of trials and tribulations by God in order to accomplish the desired refining of our hearts.
Another form of testing is described in Prov 27:21, “the praise of men.”
Therefore, just as the right amount of heat applied by a skilled metalworker always reveals any impurities in the metal, so too does the inter-workings of the Lord in our lives, Isa 48:10.
Isa 48:10, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Heb 12:5-8 tells us that part of the blessing of being God’s children includes the process and experience of being tried and tested, cf. Job 23:10; Psa 11:5; Jer 20:12; 1 Cor 4:3-5; 1 Peter 1:7.
1 Peter 1:7, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Job 23:10, “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Our next two verses both have double negatives, telling us what not to do and what to avoid in order to continue walking in the purity of God’s righteousness.
Prov 17:4, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.”
This is the person who listens to the gossiper, maligner, slander, and liar; the one speaking with a “destructive tongue,” HAWWAH, הַָוּה, LASHON.
HAWWAH means, “calamity, destruction, lustful craving or simply wickedness,” the latter sense is more prominent, but they all apply.
If you listen to those who commit all kinds of verbal sin, e.g., Prov 1:10-14, it will lead you down the same path of destruction that they are on. The one who listens to lies is himself a liar. Therefore, we are to have discernment and avoid or disassociate with that type of person.
As Waltke quotes Kidner, “Evil words die without a welcome; and the welcome gives us away.”
Prov 17:5, “He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker; he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.”
The “mocker” or scoffer, LA’AGH, of the “poor,” RUSH, “taunts,” CHARAPH, חָרַף, “his Maker,” ASAH.
LA’AGH means, “mocker or scoffer, to treat another with ridicule, contempt and derision as an enemy.”
CHARAPH means, “to reproach, taunt or abuse verbally.” The idea of placing blame or scorn on someone is noted in this word. In the intensive active Piel Perfect, it means this person has continually and aggressively used verbal abuse against others.
This is doubly emphasized in the second half of this passage, where we see the emotional revolt of the soul as this person, “rejoices,” SAMEACH, “at calamity or distress,” EYD, that they inflict on others, cf. Prov 14:31a.
“The arrogant rich person having no sympathy for the poor person’s unfortunate situation of being without friends and financial security, regards him as an enemy he vanquished and treats his economic ruin with contempt.” (Waltke, NIC)
In relation to Chapter 16, the arrogant mocker supplants God’s sovereign control with his superiority over his hapless victims; the poor and less fortunate. When they mock others for their circumstances or rejoice in their trouble, they only reveal their ignorance and arrogance, Prov 24:17f; cf. 12:10.
But rest assured, “they will not go unpunished,” LO NAGAH, or literally, “they will not go free or be innocent.” In other words, God will bring about His Divine sovereign justice against such mockers; cf. Prov 14:21; 15:25; 22:16, 22-23, 28; 23:10-11; 30:14.
In contrast, the words of the wise man filled with Bible Doctrine, bring healing and comfort, not distress, to those in need or less fortunate, cf. Prov 10:11; 12:18; 15:4.
Respect and compassion, which are required by God’s Word, Lev 19:14, 18; cf. Deut 27:18; Luke 10:25-37, characterize the wise. They understand that because God is the Maker of all, Prov 22:2, humble and gracious comfort is the only proper response to others, regardless of their condition.
Part 2, Prov 17:6-10
We now turn to the second part of the first section in regard to “examples of the excellent spiritual life that results in being crowned with glory.”
This begins a new part, because of the repeated subject matter of the “old man being crowned in glory,” just as in Prov 16:31.
Prov 17:6, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.”
“Grandchildren” is the doubling of the Plural Noun BEN for “son,” BENE BANIM.
“Crown of old men” is ATARAH for “crown” with the Adjective ZAQEN, זָקֵן meaning, “old, old man or elder.”
As in Prov 16:31, the elderly man is exalted, here indicated by the fact that he has lived to see his grandchildren. It pictures the grandchildren gathered around the elder parent like a crowning diadem.
“Ancient Israel regarded children as a mark of divine blessing and reckoned them among the things that gave a man weight and influence in the community, Psa 127:3-5; 128:3-4; 144:12-15. If gray hair by itself crowns a person by displaying he has lived a righteous life, cf. Psa 92:14; Prov 20:29, how much more his children to the third and fourth generations, to whom he has successfully passed on the family’s testament and secured its heritage into the foreseeable future.” (Waltke, New International Commentary).
Therefore, this passage indicates that he has been blessed by God with “length of days” and a “years of life,” as a result of going forward inside of God’s Plan for his life by means of the intake and application of Bible Doctrine / wisdom, as Prov 3:2, 16; 9:11; 10:27 taught us, cf. Psa 21:4; 34:12; 91:16.
Then in the second half of this verse we see that “the glory of sons is their fathers,” meaning fathers, grandfathers, etc. “Glory” is TIPERETH once again that means, “adornment, splendor, ornament, or glory.” In this reversal, we continue to see the elderly man exalted in that he is the glory of his sons, which also indicates a great family heritage in the application of God’s Word towards their lives.
Therefore, just as the son is the glory of the father, so is the father the glory of the son. We see this analogy between Jesus Christ and God the Father, just as it applies to the believer and God, cf. Rom 8:18, 21; 16:27.
Prov 17:7, “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool; much less are lying lips to a prince.”
Here we see the application of Bible Doctrine / wisdom that leads one to “long life” or “length of days,” resulting in the crowns of gray hair and grandchildren.
“Excellent speech” is SAPHAH for “speech” and YETHER, תֶר for “excellent” that means, “remainder, excess or excellence.” It speaks of an abundance of good speech.
“Is not fitting” is LO NA’WEH, ָנאוֶה an Adjective that means, “beautiful, lovely or seemly.” NA’WEH is used to announce something that is appropriate and in accord with nature, that is, the way things ought to be. But here with the negative LO, it means inappropriate or not in accordance with nature; unnatural.
Because this is also linked with the “fool,” NABAL that means, “a fool or foolishness” with the emphasis of a “godless” person or behavior, it means inappropriate things or behavior, cf. Prov 19:10; 26:1. Therefore, it tells us that speaking from the basis of Bible Doctrine in the soul is not the norm for the fool or godless person. It is foreign to them.
Then we have “just as” or “much less,” APH, conjunction of comparison, where “lying lips,” SHEQER SAPHAH means, “lying or deceitful speech,” which is not the norm for a “prince,” (the noun NADIYB, נָדִיב that is used to indicate “one of noble birth”).
This nobility is speaking about believers, who all are members of the family of God. Our royalty is by association with God, being his children, and especially the Church Age believer, who is part of the Royal Family of God, based on our union with and position in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, our comparison tells us that it is unnatural or foreign to a foolish person to speak in terms of Bible doctrine and Divine view point, because they most likely do not have any doctrine in their soul, just as it should be unnatural or foreign for a believer, a member of the Royal Family of God, to speak with perversity, e.g., telling lies.
Prov 17:8, “A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers.”
“A bribe” is SHOCHAD, שֹׁחַד, meaning a “gift or bribe,” Cf. Prov 6:35, which is a sin and an act of perversion in Prov 17:23.
“A charm” is the Noun EBEN that means, “stone,” and CHEN that means, “grace or favor.” So we literally have “stone of favor.” This is a stone that has some value to it and is given as a gift; jewel or jewelry stone. It’s “a charm” because of what we have in the second half of this verse, where the stone will be used as a bribe to prosper the one who gives it away. This also reminds us of the stones in the bag that were used to weigh the value of silver or gold and determine the value of merchandise, Prov 11:1; 16:11.
“In the sight of its owner,” (BA’AL – master or lord), is speaking of the one who has a bribe to give to another, and “in the sight of” denotes the fool’s state of self-delusion and reliance upon his own opinion, wealth and actions, cf. Prov 12:15; 16:2; 21:2; 26:5, 12, 16; 28:11; 30:12.
Then we have “wherever he turns, he prospers” that uses one of our words for “wisdom,” SAKAL for “prospers,” but SAKAL also means, “to succeed or to understand.” So we could say, “he thinks he will succeed,” i.e. prosper from his action of giving bribes to others.
This is not saying that this is true, but only that the fool thinks this to be true. That is, he thinks that by giving bribes he will enact other actions that will cause him to benefit and prosper, thereby giving him extra finances and resources that will make his life better and even more prosperous.
So we see the self-deception of the wicked, wealthy manipulator who uses brides to illicitly gain.
Prov 17:9, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.”
Here we have a contrast in speech that affects relationships.
The positive aspect is the believer with wisdom who “covers or conceals, (KASAH), the transgressions or sins (PESHA)” of the others.
This believer does so because he is “seeking” (BAQASH) “love,” (AHABAH , a powerful, intimate love between a man and a woman, Gen 29:20; Song 2:4-7 or love between friends, 2 Sam 1:26).
In other words, because of the love that he has from Bible doctrine in his soul, he is demonstrating that love by not making an issue of another’s sins, or making a public spectacle of their sins. He is showing the grace and love of God who covers all of our sins, cf. Prov 10:12b; James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8.
1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
The negative contrast, “he who repeats a matter,” (SHANAH DAVAR), is the fool who goes around telling everyone about someone’s sins and failures; airing their dirty laundry, as we say. As a result, he “separates intimate friends,” (PARAD ALLUPH), i.e., he causes strife and schisms between others who are close friends. This separation may also be between the one spreading the rumors and the one the rumors are about who may have previously been good friends. This is the perverse and worthless man of Prov 16:27-28.
So we see the detrimental effect that spreading rumors or lies, or gossiping, maligning and judging, can have on relationships. That is why the Lord condemns, Prov 6:19, this category of verbal sins, because “talebearing” destroys the trust that is the necessary foundation of close relationships, e.g., Prov 6:28; 20:19; 22:10; 25:23; 26:20 ff.
Prov 17:10, “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”
This “more than” comparative verse speaks to the affect discipline has on the lives of the positive versus the negative believer.
The positive, “a rebuke, (GE’ARH), goes deeper, (NACHATH, נָחַת, “to descend or penetrate”), into one who has understanding, (BIN).” This is the humble believer who learns from the verbal correction from others, even though at times they may be harsh.
Eccl 7:5, “It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than for one to listen to the song of fools.”
Therefore, we see that the wise person does not gossip about other people’s sins, but personally rebukes a discerning wrongdoer in love, with the hope that they will learn, cf. Prov 27:5-6, 9, 19. This is a verbal form of discipline, and the discerning respond positively to simple rebuke, since they value correction and recognize its value.
The Contrast: “than a hundred, (MEAH, מֵאָה), blows, (NAKAH, נָכָה, “to strike”), into a fool, (KESIYL).”
This is hyperbole, as it describes more than twice the 40 lashes the Law allowed for the worst crimes, Deut 25:1-3, but, nevertheless, tells us that the stubborn and arrogant fool will not learn from the discipline he receives as a result of his actions. Proverbs warns that the folly of fools often leads them into behavior or words that make them prone to “blows,” Prov 10:13; 18:6f. It is amazing that some people can learn by just a word, yet others can be beaten physically over and over again, where the arrogance of their soul will not accept the teaching, cf. Prov 19:25.
Prov 23:13f mandates that we discipline our children with physical striking, if necessary, so that they learn corrective behavior. This type of discipline will teach and train the child so that they avoid a multitude of sins in the future. Therefore, spanking your child is a type of covering a multitude of sins, vs. 9; cf. Prov 13:24; 20:30.
Waltke notes, “Bridges illustrates the proverb: “A word was enough for David (2 Sam. 12:1-7; 24:13, 14). A look entered more in Peter’s heart (Luke 22:61, 62), than an hundred stripes into Pharaoh (Exod. 9:34, 35), Ahaz (2 Chron 28:22), Israel (Isa 1:5; 9:13; Jer 5:3).” (NIC)
2. Vs. 11-15, Five examples of dangerous men, against whom we have to be on guard.
Our next section, vs. 11-15, as titled by the Keil and Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testament, gives us 5 examples of dangerous men whom we should be on guard against; and I’m not talking about, Barry, Steve, Kevin, Vinny, or Brad from our congregation … lol. But these are 5 examples of unrighteous characteristics that the man of God should not emulate.
Prov 17:11, “A rebellious man seeks only evil, so a cruel messenger will be sent against him.”
What is funny about the word “rebellious” here is that it is the Hebrew Noun MERI, מְרִי, (merry).
So I guess you could say we are talking about that “merriest” of men in our folklore, Santa Claus…. Lol. And I guess in a way he is a man of rebellion, because his story has completely drowned out the reason why we celebrate Christ-mas in the first place.
But all kidding aside, this type of person is the one who is constantly “bucking against authority,” one who rejects authority and thinks that they are above it.
The root for MERI is MARAH that means bitter or bitterness. So we see the genesis of this person’s rebellion is that they have bitterness stored up in their soul, and as a result reject the various types of authority in their lives, especially the authority of the Sovereign God and His Sovereign Word. Of the about 100 occurrences of MERI in Scripture, it refers to people’s willful, angry, defiant rebellion against God. But it applies to rebellion against parents and nations among others too. So this is the man of insurrection and sedition, which is punishable by death, which must be avoided. At the same time, this person, or their behavior, grieves the Holy Spirit, Isa 63:10.
Isa 63:10a, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.”
This MERI man “seeks,” (BAQASH), “only evil” (RA). In fact the Hebrew reads “Only rebellion an evil man seeks.” This means that the things that they do and are occupied with, are counter to the Word and Will of God, and that is why we need to be on our guard when we are around such a person. Otherwise, we too will begin to have bitterness within our souls and reject authority, (one of the Problem Solving Devices), in our lives.
The other reason we need to steer clear of these types is because God’s judgment or discipline will come into their lives as noted in the phrase, “a cruel messenger will be sent against him”. And if you are associated with that person, it could negatively affect you too.
“Messenger” is the Hebrew Noun MALAK once again that can be translated as “messenger,” or even “angel.” Here it is a “cruel,” AKZARIY, messenger or angel. This cruel messenger may be speaking of one of God’s angels, either elect or fallen, that may be sent to bring about punitive judgment against the rebellious man who seeks only to do evil, Cf. Prov 16:14; Psa 35:5f; 78:49
Therefore, Satan Claus better be looking over his shoulder, because he’s about to get it… lol
Prov 17:12, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”
The second man we are to be on guard against when around is the “fool in his folly.” Here we see the discipline side first and then the description of the one to avoid.
The one to avoid is the fool in the process of his folly, which means, in the times when he is functioning or operating in sin. That is when we are to especially avoid this person, because they are not thinking right or straight and are irrational, emotional and led by their sin nature. And if you try to witness to them, when they are in the height of their sinning, it is not going to end well for you.
As this proverbs says, “let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, but not a fool and his folly.” As you know, nobody gets between a mama bear and her cubs. That is the time when she is most dangerous and ferocious, and the time of encountering a bear when your life is most in jeopardy. Most people with an once of common sense would never willing come between a mama bear and her cubs. That same common sense needs to be applied when the fool is in the process of folly. Do not go near him, and do not try to reason with him. It will not work and only means trouble for you too. Wait until the time of folly is over and then you will have a better chance of witnessing to him.
Prov 17:13, “He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.”
The third man we are to be on guard against when around is the “evil pay backer.”
“Returns evil” literally means, “to cause someone or something to turn in the opposite direction.” The opposite direction is God’s Divine good works performed by the believer operating in God’s righteousness.
This is the person that no matter how much you do for him, he never appreciates it, and only does harm back to you! This person also takes advantage of the good that you do for them, to your detriment.
The warning for those who pay back the good that was done to them with evil, is that evil, (sin and corruption), itself, will not depart their house, i.e., family. It means that sin and evil will now be their house guest. Here we see that seeds sown of unrighteousness within a family will bear fruit of unrighteousness, potentially for generations to come.
But the wise believer seeks only the well-being of others. They not only return good for good, but good for evil, Prov 20:22; 24:29; 25:21f, knowing that they too face judgment, Prov 11:31.
Prov 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”
The fourth man we are to be on guard against when around is the quarrelsome man. This is the person who loves to argue about everything. They feel they have to debate every topic or subject matter in a conversation. Nothing said by others is right or good in their opinion, and they have to let you know it.
As this proverb tells us, “quarreling,” RIYB, “strife, controversy, dispute, contention, etc.” is the beginning of “strife,” MADON, “strife or contention.” That is, arguing, debating and constant contention will tear people apart. The analogy for the affects of quarreling is “letting out water,” that means, “to let flow freely,” because once water is released from its container, you do not know where it is going to go, and it seems to go everywhere. In other words, quarreling affects everyone involved, and you do not always know how much or how bad it is going to affect someone.
Therefore, the beginning of strife between people comes from quarreling or arguing. And as this proverb exhorts us, “abandon,” the Qal Imperative of NATASH that means, “to leave, to forsake or to abandon,” before the argument even gets started.
That means if you are a quarreler, have some humility in your soul and forget about debating every point. It is not that important! Just let is go!
If you are the recipient of quarrels, remove yourself from the presence of a quarreler when you see them getting started, have humility and do not think you need to prove your counter point. It is a no win situation because quarrelers are just seeking after their own desires, Prov 18:1, so get out of there, or change the subject, before the argument begins. If you do, you will have more peace in your own life, and peace with the one who is prone to quarrelling.
Prov 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.”
The fifth man we are to be on guard against when around is actually two men. So here not only do we have the fifth man, but we have the sixth man…… Interesting!
The fifth man is one that keeps making excuses for the “wicked,” RASHA. The language used here is legal vernacular in that “justifies” is the Verb TSADAQ that means, “to be innocent or to be righteous.”
In other words, this is saying that bad is good. These people defend the evil or sinful actions of the wicked person and pronounce them to be good or righteous, and they vindicate or pronounce innocence of any wrong doing for the one who commits a crime. This is a perversion of justice, and renders the one who pronounces innocence is an evil doer himself.
The sixth man is the one who pronounces an innocent or righteous person as guilty or sinful. In other words, this is saying that good is bad. These people truly pervert justice in that they pronounce the righteous as sinners and evil. They also malign and slander the righteous so that others think them to be evil or bad.
As the second half of this passage tells us, both the fifth and sixth man are an abomination to God. That means that God detests both categories of perversion, saying bad is good and good is bad. God detests these because both are counter to true righteousness and justice.
God desires that we operate consistently in His righteousness and justice which means that we judge bad to be bad, that is, sin to be sin, or evil to be evil, and that we judge good to be good, that is, righteousness to be righteous and justice to be just. Otherwise, God detests our judgments.
In our previous section, vs. 11-15, we noted five characteristics of evil men that we are to guard ourselves against, which included:
1. The rebellious man, vs. 11.
2. The foolish man in the height of his folly, vs. 12.
3. The “evil pay-backer,” i.e., the man who pays back good with evil, vs. 13.
4. The quarreling / argumentative man, vs. 14.
5. The men who pervert justice and righteousness, calling evil good and good evil, vs.15.
Next we are going to see what the heartless man, (the man without Bible Doctrine in his life), is, does and ends up with.
3. Vs. 16-20, Begins with the heartless and ends with the perverse of heart; in between are supportive proverbs identifying characteristics of those with no Bible Doctrine in their heart, (right lobe of the soul), with the exception of vs. 17, that exhorts true Personal Love for God, (one of the Problem Solving Devices).
Prov 17:16, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense?”
“Price” is the Noun MECHIYR, מְחִיר that means, “price, wages or cost.” It refers to the value of a transaction, a market price or the equivalent value in goods. It is first used in Deut 23:18 for the wage of a “hired dog,” a euphemism for a male prostitute. So we see the derogatory language noted in our verse for the “fool”, KESIYL, who thinks they can purchase the “wisdom”, CHOKMAH, of Bible Doctrine. To the fool it is just like hiring a prostitute to use as he pleases; take it and leave it, in comparison to the believer who consistently loves God and His Word.
Job 28:15 tells us, you can not put a price on the Word of God, it is invaluable.
Job 28:15, “Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price.”
Then we have “when he has no sense,” which is ‘AYIN LEB, meaning, “there is no heart.” Having “no heart” or being “heartless” means you have no Bible doctrine stored in the right lobe of your soul. As some commentators say, “he has no brain.”
The principle here is that wisdom builds upon wisdom, that is, Bible Doctrine builds upon Bible Doctrine. If you do not have some doctrine in your soul, you can not gain more of it. That is what “having no heart” means; you have nothing to build upon within your soul. Therefore, in order to gain wisdom you have to have some wisdom in your soul.
The wisdom all believers begin with is the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and from there you can build up your soul with more doctrine. As we call it, you can build up the Edification Complex of Your Soul, Eph 4:12-16.
But if you do not have the gospel, you have nothing to build upon, 1 Cor 2:13-16, and therefore, you can not learn and know, nor even purchase wisdom. So the unbeliever must first come to know and believe upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then they can know the greater wisdom that is found in God’s Word.
Likewise, the foolish believer who is in reversionism, for them the scar tissue that has built up on their soul has rendered their soul almost completely useless in the ability to learn Bible doctrine. But if they would apply the Rebound technique of 1 John 1:9 with repentance from their sinful lifestyle, and get back into learning Bible Doctrine, then God’s Word will surgically remove the scar tissue from their soul, Heb 4:12, so that they are able to learn it and apply it once again, thereby acquiring wisdom.
As you know, the believer is told to purchase wisdom from God, as we have noted, in Prov 4:5, 7; 16:16; 23:23; Rev 3:18. Wisdom’s price is submission and obedience, having a servant’s heart, Prov 1:7; 4:1-7, which is an attitude that fools have rejected in their rebellion, Prov 1:22.
Prov 4:7, “The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.”
Prov 1:22, “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?”
So for the fool, he does not desire wisdom to glorify God with his life. Instead he sees this wisdom as a means for some perverted gain for his life, that is, to impress people, win them over, manipulate them, etc.
And even if wisdom could literally be bought, and the fool could meet the asking price, which he can not, they would not benefit from it anyway and it would be an unusable tool in their hands Prov 26:7.
Prov 26:7, “Like the legs which hang down from the lame, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”
Therefore, it is useless for the fool who has not rebounded and recovered to endeavor to purchase it for a worldly price. No price can purchase wisdom if the heart is not set on the desire to know God and serve Him, from having the motivation of Personal Love for God.
A fool may grasp certain principles or precepts of knowledge through study and intellectual application, but this is very different from having a love for God that desires to know Him more and more each day. And the fact is, we only know truth as we walk in it. But if you have love for God, you can know Him and the wisdom of His Word intimately, as the next verse tells us.
Prov 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
This passage continues the discussion of vs. 16 regarding the intake and application of Bible Doctrine. It begins with the intake of Bible Doctrine.
The first half of this passage reminds us of some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples, in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
We are motivated to know God’s Word because we love Him, and through love for Him, the friend of God knows His Word.
Jesus also said in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Doing what the Word of God commands us means, we are consistently applying the Bible Doctrine we have learned. Therefore, when we consistently apply God’s Word, we are “friends” of Jesus and God.
So the “friend” of God “loves” Him “at all times,” because the friend is consistently seeking and acquiring, (i.e., purchasing), His Word.
Then the second half of this verse speaks to the application of Bible Doctrine in your soul as, “a brother is born for adversity.”
Continuing to speak of the intimate relationship between God and the believer who has acquired Bible Doctrine in their soul, we see that Bible Doctrine, “a brother,” “is born for adversity.” In other word, the reason God created, (“gave birth to,” YALAD, יָלַד), Bible Doctrine was to give us the strength, power and resources necessary to endure and overcome the “adversities,” TSARAH, of life. But that power is useless if you do not apply it.
So we see our motivation to learn Bible Doctrine is Personal Love for God, and the power that it has for us: to overcome adversity, distress and afflictions.
Then in the next three verses we have characteristics of the fool who has no sense, and resultant consequences.
Prov 17:18, “A man lacking in sense pledges and becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor.”
We first see that the man “lacking in sense,” (CHASER LEB that means, “lacking in heart,” i.e., who has no doctrine in his soul), ends up pledging himself to others. “Pledges” is TAQA KAPH that literally means to clap hands, and here means, to “shake hands”; whereby, you seal a contract with someone.
The contract made is to “become surety” ARAB ARUBBAH, “in the presence of his neighbor,” LE PANIM REA, meaning, “face to face with a neighbor.” In other words, this person has taken on the debt of another in the presence of a third party witness.
Therefore, the first form of affliction the fool receives in these passages is to take on the debt of another.
There are six passages that discuss co-signing loans, Prov 6:1-5; 11:15; 20:16; 22:26f; 27:13, and this is the only one that explains why someone would do such a thing; because he lacks the wisdom and discernment from Bible Doctrine in his soul to know better. This verse also implies that the original debtor is incapable of paying back the loan, and therefore the guarantor is left “holding the bag” i.e., with the bill / debt and is now responsible for paying it back.
The wise person, one with Bible Doctrine in their soul ready for application, considers what might happen and, having considered it, refuses to take part in the contract. Even though, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” that does not mean that you acted foolishly and irresponsibly, and cause harm to yourself or your family knowingly or ignorantly.
“It is not wise to pledge security for another unless one is quite prepared to lose and can well afford it. Paul pledged the security for Onesimus, as Judah did for Benjamin; but each had counted the cost and was ready to pay to the last penny. (Philemon 18-19; Genesis 42:37; 44:32).” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary, Proverbs.)
Prov 17:19, “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction.”
This verse emphasizes why the fool is a fool, because he loves sin and evil. Waltke notes, “verse 19 continues the theme of neighbors that moves from the good (v. 17), to the stupid (v. 18), to the violent (v. 19).” (New International Commentary)
The fool here “loves” things that are in contrast to God’s Word. And because he does not love the Word of God, he instead loves:
1) “Transgression” which is PESHA, פֶּשַׁע once again, that means, “rebellion, offense or trespass.”
2) “Strife” is MATSHAH, מַצָּה which too we have previously noted, meaning, “strife, contention, debate, or quarreling.”
Therefore, this fool loves anarchy and causing problems between other people. He enjoys creating interpersonal conflicts because he enjoys sinning, and hates wisdom and righteousness.
He does so by “raising his door,” which is either a derogatory euphemism for opening the mouth and means he runs others down with his mouth, or it can mean “one who makes his doorway high,” i.e., to exalt his mansion above his lowly neighbor whom he seeks to exploit, cf. Prov 16:18; 18:12.
In either case, we have the arrogance complex of sins running rampant throughout the fool’s soul, leading him to live by means of his Old Sin Nature, rather than by means of Bible Doctrine, as he “seeks,” BAQASH, the “destruction” SHEBER, of the others. He seeks to ruin others in his love of rebellion against God, but in reality he is seeking his own destruction. So this condemns the arrogance that leads to troubling others, and shattering relationships. It is the opposite of having a personal relationship with God.
Prov 17:20, “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.”
Here we have two more characteristics of the antagonistic fool. It begins with his perverted mental attitude that leads to overt sinning.
“He who has a crooked mind,” is IQQESH LEB, meaning, “distorted or perverted of heart,” cf. Prov 2:2; 11:20, which is an abomination to the Lord.
The righteous have nothing crooked or perverted come from their mouth, Prov 8:8.
The perverse heart leads to “finding no good,” MATSA LO TOB, meaning there is not experiential righteousness within his life, and therefore, no blessings from God.
In the second half, “perverted” is HAPHAK, הָפַךְ that means, “turned or overthrown.” It means that the Old Sin Nature (OSN) has overthrown his soul. Rather than the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the Human Spirit controlling the soul, the Old Sin Nature (OSN) is in full control.
As a result his “language,” LASHON, “tongue or speech,” is full of sin. In other words, his speech is full of verbal sins, i.e., gossip, maligning, slander, flattery, lies, insults, coarse jesting, etc.
As a result of OSN control of the soul that is rampant with verbal sins, “he will fall into evil,” NAPHAL RA’AH, meaning his actions will be evil and counter to God’s Word and Will, causing disaster within his life.
“There are those who delight in contention and are impatient of restraint, demonstrating their love for their own ways. In their haughtiness, they build up their gates, thus inviting destruction; for by exalting themselves, they are near to a fall. Having a wicked heart, they find only evil. Their perverse tongues continually stir up mischief. Hanun, proud and defiant, proved this fully, as narrated in 2 Samuel 10.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary)
- The foolish of heart, (those who lack Bible Doctrine in their soul), can not buy God’s Word for their elicit use, vs. 16.
- The righteous man is near and dear to God at all times, and has the power of God to overcome adversities, vs. 17.
- The fool puts himself in the bondage of others, especially Satan and his cosmic system, vs. 18.
- His arrogance complex of sins leads him to raise himself above others by rebellion and causing adversity for others, vs. 19.
- The perverted of heart, who has wrong motivation from his Old Sin Nature and verbal sins, will ultimately lead to further corruption within his soul and disaster within his life, vs. 20.
4. Vs. 21-28, The pains of the foolish son, versus the joys of the wise son, Part 1, Prov 17:21-24, Part 2, Prov 17:25-28 (or even 18:2).
We now begin the fourth and final section of Proverbs Chapter 17. It is broken down into two parts, as we have a similar exhortation in vs. 21 & 25, as headings for the passages that follow.
Keil and Delitzsch in their commentary believe Prov 17:21 begins a fourth part of the “Old Solomonic Book of Proverbs,” as Part 1 comprised of Prov 10-12; Part 2, Prov 13:1-15:19; Part 3, Prov 15:20-17:20; and now Part 4 beginning with Prov 17:21. The breaks are noted at verses that speak to the wise or foolish “son.”
Prov 17:21, “He who sires (begets) a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.”
Similar to Prov 10:1, 17:25 & 19:13, this proverb speaks to the mental pain, hurt and anguish a foolish son or daughter causes his or her parents.
Using the same Hebrew word as in vs. 17, for “born, sires or begets, YALAD, we see the contrast with the “brother who is born for adversity,” which spoke of Jesus Christ and His Word resident within your soul. Here we have in contrast the “fool,” (KESIYL), who brings “sorrow,” (TUGHAH, תּוּגָה that means, “sorrow or grief”). We noted TUGHAH in Prov 10:1, as well as in 14:13. The only other time this word occurs in Scripture is Psa 119:28.
Sorrow or grief in itself is not really a form of mental or physical pain, but it is a way of reacting or responding to the experiences of pain, suffering or affliction; and in this case, the pain and suffering caused by the wayward foolish son or daughter.
The second half of this verse reiterates the pain caused by the foolish son or daughter in telling us that “the father, (AB), of a fool, (NABAL, “foolish, godless fool” that is one having no Bible doctrine in his soul), has no joy, (LO SAMACH).”
The opposite of sorrow is joy, and if there is sorrow in your life, then there is no joy, inner peace, happiness, or the +H of God that leads to the outward expression of rejoicing.
Children do not realize the emotional toll they put on their parents until many times they become parents themselves. This verse is given to both the child and the parents. It is first given to the child to encourage them to walk in righteousness and accept the discipline that their parents provide for their benefit of learning self-discipline and wisdom that will enable them to live wisely. And it is given to the parents to encourage them not to withhold the necessary discipline in their child’s life, so that the parent is more likely to avoid the heartache and suffering that the wayward child brings to them, cf. Prov 3:11f; 13:24.
Prov 23:15-16, “My son, if your heart is wise, my own heart also will be glad; 16And my inmost being will rejoice, when your lips speak what is right.”
Prov 23:24-25, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. 25Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you.”
Prov 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”
This verse gives us a comparison of the impact the wise and foolish son has on their parents. It speaks of the psychosomatic effects of vs. 21.
In the first half we see the results that the wise child, who has learned Bible Doctrine and self-discipline, has on his parents. This son brings a “joyful (SAMEACH) heart (LEB)” to his parents that is “good medicine” (YATAB GEHAH) for them.
YATAB for “good” means, “to be good, to be well, or to be pleasing.”
GEHAH for “medicine” means, “a cure, healing or medicine.” It is only used here in all of Scripture.
It means, as modern medicine has shown, that when someone has peace and happiness within their soul, they avoid many illnesses and sickness, as well as, recovering faster from illnesses or surgeries. Therefore, the son or daughter who does not cause their parents grief and sorrow will have a positive effect on their overall health.
The second half of this verse gives us the contrast that is tied to vs. 21. Therefore, “a broken (NAKA, נָכֵא), spirit, (RUACH), dries up, (YABESH, יָבַשּׁ), bones, (GEREM, גֶּרֶם).”
NAKA for is used for “broken” here and literally means, “dejected or the defeated spirit.” This defeated spirit is caused by the vexation that the wayward son or daughter causes their parents and corresponds with the physical well-being of the parents, cf. Prov 15:13; 18:14.
Prov 15:13, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”
Prov 18:14, “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, But as for a broken spirit who can bear it?”
Then we have two Hebrew words that have not been used previously in this book; YABESH and GEREM.
YABESH used for “dries up” is in the Piel Imperfect and has the causative force of “to make dry or to dry up.” It means that a downcast spirit adversely affects one’s health, as noted in the next word.
GEREM used for “bones” literally means bones, but is also used figuratively for “strength,” and here meaning your health. We have previously seen the English word “bones” used in Proverbs, but the Hebrew was ESTEEM in those verses. Here for the first time the synonymous word GEREM is used that may also allude to the hardness of the bone; therefore, indicating that even the most firm and powerful, (i.e., spiritually mature), perish if they become depressed.
So we see that the foolish son or daughter, (much like the shameful wife of Prov 12:4; or passion, jealousy or anger of Prov 14:30), causes emotional sorrow that can result in physical illness, or even death to their parents.
Yet, the child who goes forward in God’s Plan for their life, learning and applying God’s word in Prov 3:8, (like the “good news” of Prov 15:30, or the “pleasant words” of Prov 16:24,) causes “healing to their bones.”
As Waltke notes, “Grief and joy are matters of death and life. The proverb admonishes the disciple to live in such a way that he experiences joy that revives and not depression that kills.” (New International Commentary)
Prov 17:23, “A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.”
Here we have an example of the types of behaviors the foolish son emulates.
“Wicked” is the noun RASHA, the ethical equivalent of a fool.
“Receives” is the Qal Imperfect of LAQACH that means “to take, grasp or seize.”
“Bribe” is the noun SHOCHAD once again that we noted in vs. 8. There it was used for the one who gives a bribe to others, and here it is used for the one who receives the bribe. Both are wicked and foolish.
“From the bosom” is MIN CHEYQ, where CHEYQ means, “bosom, lap or fold.” It refers to the chest, or to the folds or pockets in a garment located above the belt near the chest. It represents something that is cherished and here represents the person of vs. 8 who gives the bribe. Bosom is used to indicate that the briber kept this thing that has value to him concealed and secret so as not to be seen in an open court with witnesses. So it is a secret bribe.
Therefore, the wicked foolish son in this verse is epitomized as one who accepts bribes from others and continues the warnings and exhortation of Prov 15:27.
Prov 15:27, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.”
Unfortunately, this son loves to take bribes and profits illicitly. As a result he does so “to pervert, (NATAH – turnaround), the ways, (ORACH), of justice, (MISHPAT).”
It tells us that the corrupt official defies God, Deut 27:25, who has placed him over the community to protect the righteous and innocent.
Just as a crooked man will bribe someone to influence them away from determining a just sentence, so too does Satan try to lure us away, so that we no longer walk in the will and plan of God.
Just as the crooked man will take a bribe to enact injustice, so too will the reversionistic believer lust after and take the things of Satan’s cosmic system to the determent of their daily walk with God. Those that do, think they are hidden from God’s sight in their corruption, but remember that God knows our true heart, Prov 15:11; 16:2; 17:3; 21:14.
Prov 17:24, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.”
The first half of this verse tells us that the application of Bible Doctrine, i.e., “has understanding,” (BIN), is an indication that you have God’s Word within your soul, “wisdom,” (CHOKMAH).
The contrast is that the “fool (KESIYL), has his eyes, (AYIN), on the ends of the earth, (BE QATSEH, קָצֶה, ERETS).”
“Ends” being QATSEH, is first used in Gen 8:3 for the end of the one hundred and fifty day period when the waters that flooded the earth in Noah’s day began to decrease. The earth was flooded because of the “corruption” in the earth and man, Gen 6:11. Therefore, due to the corruption of the earth at the hands of Satan and his cosmic system, the earth was destroyed.
So here, as “the fool has his eyes on the ends of the earth,” it means that he is living inside of Satan’s cosmic system. He is living with the absence of God’s Word in his soul; living by his corrupt nature, i.e., his old sin nature and not by the Word of God. Therefore, he has NO intake of Bible Doctrine (wisdom) and certainly NO application of Bible doctrine, (understanding), as demonstrated by his lust of and chasing after the things of this world.
As a result, he causes grief and sorrow to his parents, vs. 21; that results in their various illnesses and sicknesses, or even death, vs. 22; because the son is as corrupt himself as one who perverts the justice of God by taking the bribes of Satan’s cosmic system, vs. 23; because he lusts for the things of this world, vs. 24.
The late Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Group, who was part of the Nixon administration in the 1970’s wrote, “Popular literature rides the wave with best selling titles that guarantee success with everything from making money to firming flabby thighs. This not so magnificent obsession to “find ourselves” has spawned a whole set of counterfeit values; we worship fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We want to “live for success” as we “look out for number one,” and we don’t mind “winning through intimidation.”
However, this “self” conscious world is in desperate straits. Each new promise leads only to a frustrating paradox. The 1970’s self-fulfillment fads led to self-absorption and isolation, rather than the fuller, liberated lives they predicted. The technology created to lead humanity to this new promised land may instead obliterate us and our planet in a giant mushroom cloud. Three decades of seemingly limitless affluence have succeeded only in sucking our culture dry, leaving it spiritually empty and economically weakened. Our world is filled with self-absorbed, frightened, hollow people…
And in the midst of all this we have the church—those who follow Christ. For the church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people; the church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate that there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of Truth.
BUT, the church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices.
Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the church’s message. The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to his man’s success, replied without hesitation, “We give the people what they want.” This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today: the what’s in-it for me gospel.” (Charles W. Colson, Loving God (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1983), 13-14.)
4. Vs. 21-28, The pains of the foolish son, versus the joys of the wise son, Part 1, Prov 17:21-24, Part 2, Prov 17:25-28.
The series of proverbs, vs. 25–28, is very similar to the preceding series, vs. 21-24. It speaks to the negative effects the wayward child has on the soul of his parents, and exhorts them to not act in certain ways, as well as how to act in others, so that their parents can instead receive the +H of God within their souls.
Prov 17:25, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him.”
Much like vs. 21, this verse also warns parents to raise their children well in the wisdom of the Word of God, so that the “grief” (KA’AS) of the “foolish son” (KESIYL BEN), may be avoided.
In vs. 21, the foolish son was the cause of “sorrow” and “no joy” in the soul of the parents, where we had:
1. The Hebrew word TUGHAH, תּוּגָה that means, “sorrow or grief,” as in Prov 10:1; 14:13, which is the emotional response to an outward crisis in life.
2. The Hebrew words LO SAMACH, which represent the lack of joy, inner peace, happiness, or the +H of God in your life.
But here it is escalated, having a new word for “grief,” and adding the mother to the storyline, “her who bore him,” YALAD, as well as the “bitterness” the parents may suffer.
The word for “grief” is KA’AS, כַּעַס that means, “anger, provocation, vexation, (annoyed, confused and worried), or grief.” KA’AS is sometimes used for the anger of God, Ex 32:19, 27, but can also be found within contexts containing words for anxiety, sorrow, pain and sickness. In addition, it often means that which produces tears; cf. Psa 31:10; 112:10, as it does here.
KA’AS is linked in this passage with the word “bitterness,” MEMER, מֶמֶר that is only used here in all of Scripture. It is a derivative of the word MARAR that is the root word for “bitter.” In our passage it does not mean being resentful or intensely antagonistic, but instead it is bitterness in the sense of a grievous or distressful emotion or feeling. It describes the bitter taste of the tears of the father and mother who have a heavy heart for their wayward / foolish child.
So once again we see that children do not realize the emotional toll they put on their parents until many times they become parents themselves. This verse is given for the benefit of both the child and the parents.
It is given to the child to encourage them to walk in righteousness and accept the instruction and discipline their parents provide for their benefit of learning self-discipline and wisdom that will enable them to live wisely and walk in God’s fellowship and righteousness.
It is given to the parents to encourage them to instruct and discipline their child in the ways of the wisdom of God’s Word, so that the parents can avoid the heartache and suffering that the wayward child brings to them, cf. Prov 3:11f; 13:24.
Prov 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”
Prov 17:26, “It is also not good to fine the righteous, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.”
Like vs. 15 & 23, this verse describes one of the many characteristics that define the foolish child, but in terms of their adulthood occupation.
Here again we see the perversion of true righteousness and justice, which is an abomination to the Lord.
“Fine” is the active Qal Infinitive of the Verb ANASH, עָנַשׁ that means, “to impose a fine or to punish.” It is used regarding a court of law to enact a civil punishment, e.g., Ex 21:22; Deut 22:19.
The point here, like vs. 23, is that a fine should not be levied against the innocent, (TSADDIQ – “the righteous” one). If one was, the court system would be corrupted, possibly due to the judge or witnesses receiving a bribe, as in vs. 23.
Then we have the escalation of the type of punishment of this perverted justice one can enact from mild to severe with, “to strike the noble,” where “strike” is the causative active Hiphil Infinitive of NAKAH, נָכָה that means, “to beat, strike, or wound.” It too can carry the connotation of a judgment against another, (cf. vs. 10, “the 100 blows”), and in this case against the “noble,” NADIYB, נָדִיב that means as a noun, “of noble birth.”
NADIYB is also used to indicate, “an attitude of the heart that consents or agrees, often readily, willingly and cheerfully, to a course of action that worships or glorifies God.” It is used for individuals of excellent moral character and integrity; cf. Prov 8:16: 17:7. It is the opposite of being a fool.
To punish or fine those who are walking in God’s righteousness on a consistent basis, (“uprightness,” YOSHER), is a perversion of God’s righteousness and justices, vs. 23b. Therefore, the characteristic of operating counter to God’s will and Word by wrongly punishing the innocent righteous believer is in view once again, which is the way of the fool.
Prov 17:27, “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
This verse then, like vs. 24a, exhorts the type of characteristics the wise and righteous son or daughter should have. Here, and in vs. 28, the object lesson is their speech.
“Restrains” is CHASAK that means, “to hold back or spare,” and is used in regard to what comes out of ones mouth, “words” EMER, as in Prov 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
The child who “has knowledge,” YADA DA’ATH meaning, “he knows knowledge, or skills, or has perception,” is the one who knows how to hold back the temptations of the sin nature so that they do not commit verbal sins. This is also the child who has “understanding,” TEBUNAH meaning, “insight, skill, or understanding.”
They both speak of the child’s personal attainment of the wisdom of God’s Word within their soul as demonstrated through the application of knowing what not to say in certain situations.
As you know, sometimes you just want to “give it” to people who provoke you and try to make you mad. But, the wise child has restraint and does not allow the provocations of others to negatively effect the mentality of their soul, so that they continue to operate in the righteousness of God as they demonstrate the wisdom to hold back the verbal sins that the Old Sin Nature in tempting them to commit.
The first half of the verse speaks to the child of God holding back the verbal sin temptations, while the second half speaks to controlling the mental attitude.
The “cool spirit” is QAR RUACH, where QAR as an Adjective is first used in Scripture in this verse, and means, “cold,” representing a calm and self-assured spirit because of the Bible Doctrine in your soul. It means to have the Relaxed Mental Attitude of the spiritually mature believer.
QAR is only used here and in Prov 25:25 and Jer 18:14, where it means “cold” and represents God’s Word as a cold or refreshing water.
Prov 25:25, “Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news, (the gospel of Jesus Christ), from a distant land, (the royal ambassador).” (Italic mine)
This also reminds us of our Lord’s desire for His Church in Rev 3:15, “I wish you were cold or hot.” There His desire is for the believer to witness His Word so that it would be like a refreshing cup of cold water for the thirsty soul, cf. Mat 10:42.
Mat 10:42, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
So we see that the “cool spirit”, speaks of our witness of the Faith-Rest Life having a Relaxed Mental Attitude (RMA) demonstrated through our words and actions when we are calm, self assured and knowledgeable of God’s Word. It is the result of reaching spiritual adulthood, especially the first stage of adulthood, Spiritual Self-Esteem.
Therefore, the wise child of God keeps his mouth shut when otherwise it would attack, offend or insult others in one of the forms of verbal sins, as he demonstrates the Faith-Rest Life with a RMA in his words and deeds, even when wrongly provoked by others.
Prov 17:28, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.”
This verse continues the same theme, but escalates from restrained speech to the value of silence.
Like Prov 11:12, “He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent,” this verse exhorts the believer, even the foolish ones, to “hold their tongue.”
The word for “keeps silent” is CHARASH, which we have seen throughout Proverbs, and has a dual meaning. First it means, “to plow” with the connotation of devising a plan. It also means, “to be silent or deaf,” as it does here. With the first connotation of devising a plan, we understand that in order to keep silent, it must originate from the mentality of your soul.
Interestingly, this behavior is associated with the “fool,” which here is EWIY, (evil), that means one who not only lacks sense, but is also morally corrupt. Therefore, we have an exhortation of contrasts.
If even the fool keeps his mouth shut, he is “considered wise;” the passive Niphal Imperfect of CHASHAB, that too means, “to think or devise,” but in the passive the fool receives the action of the verb and is “considered” CHAKAM, i.e., “wise.”
Since we know that the Word of God is better than refined gold, the one who applies this word and keeps his mouth shut in certain situations abides by the principle, “silence is golden.”
As Abraham Lincoln joked, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary notes, “Fools should be silent, because they have nothing to say that is worth hearing. They refuse to learn (18:2), and so speak only out of their own folly (10:14, 19).”
This principle is reiterated in the second half, “When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.”
“Closes” is the active Qal Participle of ATAM, אָטַם that means, “to stop up or close.” It is used for the “ears” in Isa 33:15; Psa 58:5; Prov 21:13, and as an uncertain architectural term for a closed, barred or small window, 1 Kings 6:4. Here it is used uniquely with “his lips,” SAPHAH once again, as the thing that is stopped up or closed.
Given its dual meaning regarding the “stopped up ears,” as well as the stopped up mouth, we note that the fool is one who does not take in the Word of God through the ear gate and as a result is foolish as he operates by his sin nature. But here he is exhorted to keep his mouth shut, and if he does, he must have removed the wax from his ears so that he could learn at least this doctrinal principle… lol
Therefore, if the fool keeps his mouth shut by restraining verbal sins from coming forth from his mouth, “he is counted prudent,” which is BIN in the passive Niphal that means, “to understand, perceive or discern.” In the passive he receives the action of the verb and is once again considered to be able to apply the Word of God, being prudent and having discernment.
We know that the fool does not do these things: otherwise, he would not be a fool. But the meaning here is an a-fortiori principle: if the fool is considered wise when he keeps his mouth shut, how much more will the wise be considered wise when they keep their mouth shut!
As Job railed against his foolish friends in Job 13:5, “O that you would be completely silent, and that it would become your wisdom!”
Therefore, these proverbs aim to admonish the disciple to hold his tongue when provoked, and to conceal his stupidity. The wise do not react rashly out of heated passions or emotional revolt of the soul, but speak and act deliberately in full control of their emotions, aiming to restore broken friendships, rather than defending themselves, even when wronged.
All of this goes back to our opening passage regarding the parents’ well being. The foolish son who perverts the righteousness and justice of God, vs. 26, or uses his speech for injustice and verbal sins, vs. 27-28, causes his parents vexation, sadness and sorrow. But if he would restrain both his mental attitude and speech, he would be considered a wise child, one with both knowledge and application of God’s Word, having a Relaxed Mental Attitude, and thereby providing inner peace, happiness and joy to his parents.
And the same goes for the impact you and I have on our Parent, as we are the children of God!