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Paul Koptak: Running through a melange of sayings about families (households) and larger communities are the twin themes of strife and unity. Proverbs about speech habits like gossip and quarreling are intertwined with proverbs about handling money (bribes and pledges) to show their connection with wisdom’s goals of justice and harmony.

Lindsay Wilson: Chapter 17 has little observable structure (Murphy 1998: 127 calls it ‘a hodgepodge of sayings’). Even Heim concedes that ‘there is a greater variety of themes in Proverbs 17 than in previous chapters, and obvious links are missing’ (Heim 2001: 204). Yet verses 4–16 are predominantly about various kinds of fools and evildoers, with the exception of verse 6 and perhaps verse 10. The remainder of chapter 17 still has a focus on fools and wrongdoers, but there are more pictures of positive characters.


A.  (:1-6) Examples of Foolish Behavior

  1. (:1)  Strife Isn’t Worth It

Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it

Than a house full of feasting with strife.

Richard Clifford: It is peace and fellowship that make a true feast, not the food. For a similar sentiment, see 15:16–17 and 16:8.

Paul Koptak: The irony is plain: If the goal of harmony is not met, what good is a sumptuous table?

Allen Ross: Abundance often brings a deterioration of moral and ethical standards and an increase in envy and strife.

Charles Bridges: The allusion is to the Jewish ordinance of feasting at home on the remains of the sacrifices.  A house full of feasting was therefore a house with ample provisions.  Yet when the spirit of love does not rule, self predominates, and this becomes a source of much strife and confusion.

Ponder every thought that may disturb contentment.  If you have fewer comforts than you used to have, or fewer comforts than other people have, or fewer comforts than you desire, do you not still have more than you deserve?  If you had more of them, would you not be tempted to forget God and to live in a worldly way?  Does not the memory of the earthly lot that your Savior chose turn every thought about being discontented into adoration and gratitude?  Do not forget that there is great gain in contentment.

  1. (:2)  Shameful Behavior Nullifies Family Rights

A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully,

And will share in the inheritance among brothers.

Richard Clifford: Virtuous and shrewd behavior opens doors, even providing access to the privileges and wealth customarily reserved for family members. . .   Wisdom can transcend natural boundaries and expectations.

Tremper Longman: The consequence of insight over disgrace (which implies a lack of insight) is that the servant will be treated like a son when it comes to inheritance. The purpose of this proverb may be to warn sons to pay close attention to their filial duties and to act in such a way that their reputations bring honor and not shame on the family.

Paul Koptak: This saying is also about life in a household, so it might be paraphrased, “Better a wise servant than a shameful son.” Status, like material prosperity, means little if it is not matched by wise character. Servants and sons alike can be shameful (10:5; 14:35), and in this saying neither is privileged.

Derek Kidner: Ability outruns privilege

Privilege, as an obstacle or a support, looms larger in most people’s minds than in God’s, in things both spiritual (Amos 9:7; Matt. 8:11, 12) and temporal. Solomon’s proverb was to be strikingly borne out in the careers of his servant and his son (1kg 11:28ff.).

Charles Bridges: Folly leads to shame, while wisdom leads to honor.  The son, the heir of the family, may bring shame on his family by his behavior, instead of bringing glory to his family.  A wise servant, although he has only temporary interest in the home, may be promoted to rule over a disgraceful son.

George Mylne: This verse gives parents a proper hint about the distribution of their estates, and directs those who have the disposal of places of trust, to pay a greater regard to wisdom and integrity than to high birth, or great estates, or the connections of friendship and kindred.

How excellent is wisdom, which raises the slave from grinding at the mill, and the beggar from the dunghill to places of distinction, and to the truest honors, because they are the pure fruits of goodness! How miserable a thing is folly, which degrades the high, and brings misery upon the latter days of those who flourished like green bay-trees in the prime of their life!

  1. (:3)  Sin Revealed by Divine Testing

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,

But the LORD tests hearts.

Richard Clifford: A crucible is a container used for refining metal by separating out impurities or for testing whether there is impurity in precious metal. The process provides an analogy to God’s testing human hearts as in Pss. 26:2; 66:10; Jer. 9:6.

Paul Koptak: If there are no precious metals, the crucible will show it; if there are no characteristics of wise character, the test will show that also.

Tremper Longman: The proverb sets up a comparison between God, who refines hearts, and the refining of two precious materials. Metalworkers separate silver and gold from impurities by a process of heating the metal until the dross can be poured off. In the same way, God puts his people into difficult situations that will reveal their sin (the impurity of their hearts). Since the crucible does not only expose but also gets rid of dross, the implication may be that he not only evaluates hearts in this way but also helps people get rid of their sin. For other texts that use the refining metaphor, see Ps. 12:6; Isa. 1:24–26; Jer. 9:7 [6 MT]; Zech. 13:8–9.

Allen Ross: Divine Omniscience –

The Lord examines every thought and every motive. The imagery is of silver and gold being purified, parallel to the Lord’s “testing” (bōḥēn) human hearts. Such examinations are always constructive; they are designed to improve the value of what is purified.

  1. (:4)  Speech that Is Wicked Should Not Gain a Hearing

An evildoer listens to wicked lips,

A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

Richard Clifford: A common theme in Proverbs is that fools’ words are destructive. This saying shifts the perspective: those who take in evil words themselves become evil.

Paul Koptak: A good heart will discern, but evil persons will accept anything as long as it is in line with their own purposes. The pungent metaphors of evil lips and malicious tongue suggest that you can tell how someone will speak by noting what he or she chooses to listen to. In other words, if a person finds gossip delicious, it’s a good bet that such an individual will spread it just as quickly. Kidner paraphrases, “Evil words die without a welcome.”

Allen Ross: Leviticus 19:17 warns people to rebuke those with malicious words and not to bear evil with them. Plaut, 186, explains that people who listen to gossip are just as guilty of it as those who spread it.

Charles Bridges: Here is a dark but true picture of human nature.  A wicked man is not content with his own evil desires.  He has such an appetite for sin that he seeks outside stimulants to increase his activities.  “There would not be so many open mouths if there were not so many willing ears to entertain them” (Bishop Hall).  Remember that the listening ear shares the responsibility of the malicious tongue.  Both are involved in the treason and are directly or indirectly acquainted with the plot.

George Mylne: He is a wicked man who gives heed to evil lips. Wicked men have a great treasury of evil in their hearts and yet have not enough to satisfy their own corrupt dispositions. They are like covetous men, in whom their large possessions only increase their lust of having, and therefore they carry on a trade with other wicked men, who are able to add to their store of iniquity, by flattering and counseling them in sin. Their heart gathers iniquity to itself, not merely by its own corrupt imaginations and contrivances but by hearing the devilish lessons of those who have made a greater proficiency in that wisdom which comes from below. They are blessed who hunger and thirst after righteousness but cursed are those who add drunkenness to thirst in the service of sin, for they shall be filled with their own devices.

  1. (:5)  Scoffing at the Poor Leads to Certain Punishment

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker;

He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.

Richard Clifford: The dignity of each human being comes from being created by God. Contempt toward anyone insults the person’s maker. The example of a poor person, the type perhaps least likely to gain respect, is used to dramatize the point. Every human being, irrespective of wealth, is worthy of respect. Cf. 14:31.

Paul Koptak: Evil lips are at work when the poor are ridiculed or someone’s misfortune becomes an occasion to “gloat” (lit., “rejoice”). Is this one of the wicked messages that verse 4 has in mind? Attitude is an action waiting to happen, and so the way we view others determines the way we will treat them.

B.  (:6) Special Honor in Family Relationships 

Grandchildren are the crown of old men,

And the glory of sons is their fathers.

Tremper Longman: This remarkable statement shows the importance of family. It is also an observation on how families are interconnected. The assumption is that all the family members are wise and not doing things that bring shame on themselves and the family (10:1). The actions of family members reflect either glory or shame on others who are connected to them. That the elderly have grandchildren at all is testimony to their long lives and their fertility and thus the rewards (“crown”) of godliness. Parents may be the glory of their children since godly parents help their children by directing them in the right path.

Allen Ross: The synonymous parallelism here focuses on this point from two sides—grandchildren are a crown to the aged, and parents are an honor to children. This idea comes from a culture that places great importance on the family in society; the older folks have preeminence in the family and receive the appropriate respect.

C.  (:7-9) 3 Types of Folly

  1. (:7)  Verbal Folly – Lying Lips

Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool;

Much less are lying lips to a prince.

Richard Clifford: Noble words cannot have as their source a foolish heart, nor can foolish words issue from a noble heart. Cf. Matt. 7:17: “Every good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit” (see also Matt. 12:33 and Luke 6:43–44).

Derek Kidner: Be what you profess –

Fool is nābāl (as in 17:21b; 30:22): the overbearing, crudely godless man as in Psalm 14:1 or 1 Samuel 25:25. The contrast between him and the prince (nādîb) or, better, ‘nobleman’, is clarified in Isaiah 32:5–8, where both words occur, and nobility is made a title to be lived up to.

Allen Ross: A dishonest leader is worse than an arrogant fool. . .  The lesson is that if fools should not speak lofty things, then certainly honorable people should not lie.

Matthew Henry: Two things are here represented as very absurd:

  1. That men of no repute should be dictators. What can be more unbecoming than for fools, who are known to have little sense and discretion, to pretend to that which is above them and which they were never cut out for? A fool, in Solomon’s proverbs, signifies a wicked man, whom excellent speech does not become, because his conversation gives the lie to his excellent speech. What have those to do to declare God’s statutes who hate instruction? Ps. 50:16. Christ would not suffer the unclean spirits to say that they knew him to be the Son of God. See Acts 16:17, 18.
  2. That men of great repute should be deceivers. If it is unbecoming a despicable man to presume to speak as a philosopher or politician, and nobody heeds him, being prejudiced against his character, much more unbecoming is it for a prince, for a man of honour, to take advantage from his character and the confidence that is put in him to lie, and dissemble, and make no conscience of breaking his word. Lying ill becomes any man, but worst a prince.
  1. (:8)  Financial Folly — Bribery

A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner;

Wherever he turns, he prospers.

Paul Koptak: Just as the noble should not lie, neither should a judge or any other authority be vulnerable to a “bribe.”

Derek Kidner: Gift (AV, RV) is here bribe (RSV; šoḥad, never used of a disinterested gift).  Precious stone (AV, RV) is lit. ‘stone of favour’; hence RSV hazards magic stone, as procuring favour. The saying’s general sense is clear: it describes the briber’s confidence in the versatile usefulness of his tool. ‘Money talks.’ But God’s view is given in verses 15 and 23.

  1. (:9)  Relational Folly — Gossip

He who covers a transgression seeks love,

But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.

Paul Koptak: The observation leads to the general truth that it is better to forgive and forget.

Charles Bridges: A forbearing spirit is a fine manifestation of this heavenly grace.  Our motives are often misconstrued.  We meet in a world of selfishness and cold reserve instead of glowing confidence.  Prejudice builds a wall against Christian fellowship.  Wounded pride seeks to return an unkindness with contempt.  Resentment stirs up recrimination.  Disappointment kindles morbid suspicion.  But a disciplined tongue is a gracious mercy to the church.

Tremper Longman: Don’t keep bringing up the faults of others if you want to enjoy an intimate relationship with that person. The repeating of a transgression may also involve gossip if the story is told to third parties.

Allen Ross: Love shown by discretion –

How people respond to the faults of others reveals whether or not they have compassion. This proverb is an antithetical statement, showing the contrast between “he who covers over an offense” of a friend and the one who “repeats” the news about it; the former promotes love and the latter separates friends. There can be no friendship without such understanding and discretion. Plaut, 188, says such friendship requires the ability to forget; harping on the past has destroyed many friendships and marriages. The point is that for the sake of love, the true friend buries the wrong done; Mckane, 508–9, describes the antithesis this way:

“On the one hand the person who believes that love is better served by a charitable silence than by a campaign of exposure and, on the other, the person who breaks up friendships—other men’s friendships, not his own—by scandalous gossip. Even if this is done with a kind of zeal for the welfare of the community, the means are not justified by the end, for it is an activity which will destroy love and trust and so destroy what it sets out to preserve. And those who begin as crusaders will be degraded by what they supposed to be their mission in life and will become common informers and persecutors.”

George Mylne: But he who follows the contrary method of behavior seeks hatred, and alienates the affections of the most cordial friends from one another. The censorious man, the tale-bearer, the person that revives old quarrels is a mortal enemy to love; a faithful servant of the accuser of the brethren; an enemy to him who is our peace with God and with one another. If such dreadful punishments are threatened to those who are destitute of love then what shall be the portion of those who scatter the seed of enmity and discord through a whole town, by the stories they tell, and by the lies and misrepresentations which they mingle with their idle tales!

D.  (:10-13) 4 Consequences of Folly

  1. (:10)  Impervious to Rebuke

A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding

Than a hundred blows into a fool.

Richard Clifford: The wise learn from mere hints, whereas fools do not learn even from many blows.

Paul Koptak: One can confront a wise person and expect a change in behavior, but not from the fool, for whom a hundred blows are not persuasive enough.

George Mylne: It is good to have tender hearts susceptible of impressions from reproof, and from the providence of God. As a lively faith will enable the Christian to bear the greatest trials, so a tender conscience will enable him to derive spiritual improvement from the gentlest afflictions which are not to be despised, because they come to us with a message from God.

  1. (:11)  Destined for Calamity

A rebellious man seeks only evil,

So a cruel messenger will be sent against him.

Paul Koptak: While a wise person will appease that wrath, here the evil person only provokes it. One can seek reconciliation or one can seek rebellion; the choice is clear.

Derek Kidner: Playing with fire

Subject and object should be reversed here, as the Heb. suggests. So Moffatt, succinctly: ‘Rebels are out for mischief.’ That is to say, since rebellion scorns moderation, the rebel need expect none, for what we seek, we find. See also verse 13.

Allen Ross: The formal parallelism lines up a cause-and-effect relationship. The cause is that evil people seek rebellion, and its effect is that retribution will be sent in the form of a “merciless official” (mal ʾāk ʾakzārî). This expression could refer to a pitiless messenger the king would send; but it also could refer to storms, pestilence, or any misfortune that served as God’s messenger of retribution.

  1. (:12)  Driven by Rage

Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,

Rather than a fool in his folly.

Richard Clifford: Hyperbole is used here for humorous effect. Bears were regarded as exceedingly dangerous and as instruments of Yahweh’s wrath (e.g., 2 Kings 2:23–24, where bears attack and kill the children ridiculing Elisha). A dangerous animal in a state of rage poses less danger than a fool.

George Mylne: The most furious of beasts are men whose passions rule their reason, and make use of the understandings they have, to enable them to behave more brutishly than natural brute beasts can do. Alas! that rational creatures, made after the image of God, should debase themselves to such a degree, that the savage animals should not furnish sufficient emblems to represent their folly!

  1. (:13)  Legacy of Evil

He who returns evil for good,

Evil will not depart from his house.

Richard Clifford: Returning evil for good ensures that the evil will remain within one’s own house. The paradox is that inflicting evil upon another does not get rid of it but ensures it will stay with the perpetrator.

E.  (:14-15) 2 Foolish Dangers to Avoid

  1. (:14)  Avoid Escalating Strife

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,

So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

Paul Koptak: Just as water cannot be brought back under control once it is released, so a quarrel has a life of its own that can escalate beyond anyone’s expectation. The solution is to leave things as they are, to let a matter go (cf. 17:9). If the image is that of a sluice gate for irrigation (11:25; cf. Isa. 58:11), the life-giving effects of getting one’s responses under control is underscored.

Matthew Henry: The danger that there is in the beginning of strife.

One hot word, one peevish reflection, one angry demand, one spiteful contradiction, begets another, and that a third, and so on, till it proves like the cutting of a dam; when the water has got a little passage it does itself widen the breach, bears down all before it, and there is then no stopping it, no reducing it.

George Mylne: But it is still better to leave off contention before it is started. The banks of rivers are more easily preserved, than repaired after a breach is made. To keep ourselves out of this snare of the devil, it is our duty to mortify every selfish disposition, to keep every passion under the government of sanctified reason, to avoid everything that may give offence, to be hesitant in conceiving offences against others; and in our dispositions, words, and actions, to observe that great rule of doing to others as we wish that others should do to us.

  1. (:15)  Avoid Bad Judgments

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous,

Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.

Tremper Longman: It is so wrong to misjudge people at the fundamental level of righteousness and wickedness. God hates seeing the righteous considered or treated as if they are wicked and vice versa. Judging correctly would be especially important in a legal context, and perhaps that background is specifically in mind. Deuteronomy 25:1 directs judges to judge the righteous as righteous and the wicked as wicked.

Charles Bridges: Judicial iniquity is a dreadful abuse of God’s authority.  The judge or magistrate is God’s minister (Romans 13:4).  We appeal to him for justice, for hie represents God (Deuteronomy 25:1).


Caleb Nelson: Proposition: The wise son responds to folly and the sorrow and injustice it causes with friendship, joy, and self-restraint.

I.  Friendship, the Antidote to Ignorant Folly, vv. 16-20

  1. The Fool
  2. No Mind to Learn, v. 16
  3. No Love for Peace, v. 19
  4. Corrupt Heart, v. 20a
  5. Perverse Tongue, v. 20b
  6. The Friend
  7. Loves peace all the time, v. 17
  8. Uses his tongue to help when he can, v. 18


II.  Joy, the Antidote to Sorrow and Injustice, vv. 21-26

  1. The Sorrow of Fathering a Fool, vv. 21, 25
  2. The Injustice Done by the Wicked
  3. Taking bribes, v. 23
  4. Fining the righteous, v. 26a
  5. Flogging upright nobles, v. 26b
  6. The Good Medicine of a Joyful Heart, v. 22


III.  Self-Restraint, the Antidote to Ignorant Folly, vv. 27-28

  1. The wise keep their tongue in check, vv. 27a, 28
  2. The wise keep their cool, v. 27b

Paul Koptak: Wisdom, Always Close at Hand (17:16–28)

  1. Fools and money, brothers and friends (17:16–20)
  2. Suffering fools in secret (17:21–24)
  3. Fools thought wise when silent (17:25–28)

A.  (:16-20) Friends vs. Fools

  1. (:16)  Fools Squander Their Resources

Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom,

When he has no sense?

Paul Koptak: The point of this satiric proverb is two-sided: It is folly to think one can buy wisdom since it is a gift of God and must be acquired through study (2:1–6), and even if wisdom could be bought, the fool lacks the sense (lit., “heart”) to know what to do with it. The sharp juxtaposition of having money and lacking sense makes it clear that heart, both as “desire” and “mind” (NRSV), is the prerequisite for learning wisdom. Some see a dunce showing up at the door of a teacher with fee in hand, but evidence for this in Israel is lacking. Rather, we see a fool who does not know what to do with good things like money, responsibility, or even a proverb (26:6–9)!

Charles Bridges: Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?

George Mylne: Does he not know that wisdom is infinitely more precious than land or gold? No, this is the reason of his carelessness. He has no heart or desire for wisdom he knows not its value, and has no relish of its pleasures. That which is more precious than rubies is to him more worthless than a pebble. That which is more sweet than honey is as tasteless as the white of an egg to him.

  1. (:17)  Friends Should Remain Faithful in Adversity

A friend loves at all times,

And a brother is born for adversity.

Richard Clifford: The saying does not identify true love with family relationships as such but, more generally, with constancy in difficult times. Cf. 18:24 and Sir. 37:5.

George Mylne: Adversity is commonly reputed the touchstone of friendship. That is the season when our hollow friends forsake us but a real friend then acts the part of a brother, and reveals his friendship more than ever.

Paul Koptak: Here concerns of household and community are drawn together (cf. 17:13). The saying implicitly rebukes those who claim friendship but are nowhere to be found when they are needed.

Charles Bridges: We must look to our Lord for the best example in this matter.  We see the Son of God taking on our nature so that he might be our friend and brother (Hebrews 2:14).  The mystery of this friendship is beyond our imagination.  His love is constant, even in death.  “Here is a brother born for adversity.  Trust him, oh, you trembling believers at all times and in all places.  You will then possess the happy art of living beyond the reach of all disappointment” (Howell).  “Though solitary and unsupported and oppressed by sorrows unknown and undivided, I am not without joyful expectations.  There is one Friend who loves at all times: a Brother born for adversity; the help of the helpless; the hope of the hopeless; the strength of the weak; the riches of the poor; the peace of the disquieted; the companion of the desolate; the friend of the friendless.  To him alone will I call, and he will raise me above my fears” (Hawkes).

  1. (:18)  Financial Decisions Must Be Prudent

A man lacking in sense pledges,

And becomes surety in the presence of his neighbor.

Tremper Longman: Proverbs is consistent in its advice not to put up security, whether for friend or stranger (cf. 6:1–5; 11:15; 20:16; 22:26; 27:13). It is indeed good to help another, but when a situation of need arises, then be generous (11:24; 28:27; 29:7, 14). However, people must avoid giving something that they need to get back. The expression “lacks heart” is used elsewhere in Proverbs and indicates a lack of character. It may emphasize faulty judgment, an absence of intelligence, or perhaps a lack of courage.

Charles Bridges: We may become popular through a thoughtless kindness.  But the principle, closely examined, will be found to be another form of selfishness.  There is no true benevolence in rash engagements that may involve our name and family in disgrace or ruin.

  1. (:19)  Fomenting Trouble

He who loves transgression loves strife;

He who raises his door seeks destruction.

Richard Clifford: To paraphrase, whoever dwells on an offense is asking for the quarrel that inevitably follows an unforgiven slight.

What does the metaphor of building found in colon B contribute to the saying? Isaiah 30:13 gives a hint (roots identical to those in our saying are italicized): “This iniquity shall be in you like a spreading breach in a high wall; all of a sudden its collapse will come.” The point of the saying is that harping on a fault risks an eruption like that from a poorly constructed wall.

3 Different Views of the significance of the phrase — “raises his door”:

Tremper Longman: Some people understand the word translated as “high” (gābah) to mean “arrogant” and to fit in with the idea that arrogance leads to a fall. That seems unlikely. More likely it refers to an architectural problem. Just as people who love to pick away at an offense or to offend others will naturally lead to the chaos of a fight, so those who build a doorway that is too high will certainly have that doorway collapse.

Allen Ross: Arrogant and contentious speech ends in destruction. The double focus is on the one who “loves a quarrel [maṣṣâ]” in v.19a and the one who “builds a high gate” in v.19b. Some have taken the latter expression literally and interpreted it to mean pretentious house building, but that would be an unusual expression in the OT. Probably it is figurative; the gate is the mouth, and so to make it high is to say lofty things—he brags too much (see 1Sa 2:3; Pr 18:12; 29:23).

Lindsay Wilson: The image of making your door, threshold or gate high is a way of saying that you are making it difficult for people to enter your home. This is a rejection of friendship or relationship and, like loving strife, leads to destructive consequences.

  1. (:20)  Finding Evil

He who has a crooked mind finds no good,

And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.

Tremper Longman: This proverb parallels “hearts” with “tongues,” not untypical of the book, which recognizes that people’s speech reflects their core personality (16:23 and especially 3:1). The proverb simply observes that the wicked will experience dire consequences.

Allen Ross: Wicked ways and words lead to trouble. The synonymous parallelism makes this verse fairly easy to understand. The wicked person has a “perverse” heart (i.e., he is morally crooked) and a “deceitful tongue” (i.e., he has turned away from the truth). All who are wicked in their plans and speech can expect only trouble ahead. The idea of “trouble” (rāʿâ) refers to calamity or adversity in this life; such people face a life without good (meaning prosperity in this life).

George Mylne: How foolish are the men whose wisdom lies in a skill to do evil! Their own feet cast them into a snare, and their own tongues, by which they hope to execute their wicked contrivances, fall upon themselves, and grind them to powder. Honesty and integrity is our best wisdom. Upright men walk on firm ground when the men who boast of their crooked arts fall into their own snares.

B.  (:21-26) Joy vs. Sorrow

  1. (:21)  Fools Cause Parents Sorrow

He who begets a fool does so to his sorrow,

And the father of a fool has no joy.

Paul Koptak: If verse 20 depicts the effects of folly on the person who practices it, this proverb reminds us that the effects spread throughout the family (17:2; cf. 10:5) and to others as well.

  1. (:22)  Link between Emotions and Health

A joyful heart is good medicine,

But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

Paul Koptak: Can we say that the rejoicing heart knows contentment and gratitude while the perverse heart schemes to gain more no matter how?

Tremper Longman: The proverb states that one’s emotional well-being has physical effects.

  1. (:23)  Bribes Pervert Justice

A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom

To pervert the ways of justice.

Richard Clifford: Gift-giving itself is not condemned, for in many societies it is a form of politeness. It is only evil when it perverts justice. Cf. 21:14.

Paul Koptak: Like the hidden heart that reveals its conditions in word, deed, and even the condition of the body, so a bribe given in secret does its damaging work; a perverse heart (17:20) works to pervert justice.

  1. (:24)  Focus Fosters Wisdom

Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding,

But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

Paul Koptak: This saying contrasts the person who keeps wisdom nearby and the fool who looks everywhere else for answers.

Tremper Longman: This proverb may speak of concentration on a goal. Wisdom is the focus of people with understanding, and that is why they have understanding. On the other hand, fools are distracted. Their focus is too broad and scattered. Qoheleth, the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, may be responding to the idea behind this proverb when he states: “‘I will be wise!’ But it was far from me. Far away is that which is, and deep, deep, who can find it?” (7:23–24)

Richard Clifford: In this contrast of two parts of the body (face and eyes) and of two types (a wise and a foolish person), wisdom is visible in the countenance, that is, the mouth, lips, and tongue (= word) of the wise person. Wise words come from a wise heart. Fools have no such source of wisdom close at hand. Their distance from the source of wisdom is nicely captured by their eye gazing on the distant horizon. This may be a reference to wisdom that is thought to be distant and inaccessible but is actually close at hand, as in Deut. 30:11–15.

Charles Bridges: “He who has understanding fixes his eyes on wisdom and is content with that object, whereas a fool’s eyes are constantly wandering everywhere, and his thought settle on nothing that may avail to his good” (Bishop Hall).  His eyes are on the ends of the earth, rolling and wandering from one object to another.  His thoughts are scattered.  He has no definite objective, no certain way of life.  Talent, cultivation of mind, and improvement of opportunity are all frittered away.  He cares about those things that are furthest form him and with which he has the least concern.

Allen Ross: Discipline, concentration on plans

The wise persist in following a course of wisdom. They comprehend the true issues of life and concentrate on the path of wisdom. The “fool” (kesîl), however, lacks any serious concentration and is unable to fix his attention on anything, so he drifts in the limitless sea of uncertainty (Toy, 351). McKane, 504, vividly depicts these distinctions when he says:

“The eyes of the mēbîn [‘discerning man’] are riveted on the teacher, for he is fascinated by her instruction and is a picture of unbroken concentration. The kesîl [‘fool’] has the wandering eye and the vacant distracted mind, and his condition is expressed by a hyperbole. As a student who is hearing nothing of what his teacher says might let his eyes rove to every corner of the classroom, so the fool who is inattentive to the instruction of Wisdom is said to have his eyes on the ends of the earth.”

  1. (:25)  Fools Cause Parents Sorrow

A foolish son is a grief to his father,

And bitterness to her who bore him.

Tremper Longman: The object of these proverbs may be in part to motivate parents to work hard at inculcating wisdom into their children. But such a proverb could also be addressed to children, to motivate them not to live in a way that would anger their parents.

  1. (:26)  Punishment Not Appropriate for the Righteous

It is also not good to fine the righteous,

Nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.

Richard Clifford: It is best to assume the saying is about the legal system, and it has the same sense as 17:15: It is wrong to inflict any punishment on an innocent person, and even more wrong to flog such a one.

Matthew Henry: In differences that happen between magistrates and subjects, and such differences often arise,

  1. Let magistrates see to it that they never punish the just, that they be in no case a terror to good works, for that is to abuse their power and betray that great trust which is reposed in them. It is not good, that is, it is a very evil thing, and will end ill, whatever end they may aim at in it. When princes become tyrants and persecutors their thrones will be neither easy nor firm.
  2. Let subjects see to it that they do not find fault with the government for doing its duty, for it is a wicked thing to strike princes for equity, by defaming their administration or by any secret attempts against them to strike at them, as the ten tribes that revolted reflected upon Solomon for imposing necessary taxes.

C.  (:27-28) Restraint of Words and Emotions

  1. (:27)  Confirms the Character of the Wise

He who restrains his words has knowledge,

And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

Paul Koptak: This saying presents two signs of a person who has gathered “knowledge”—that one moderates both words and temper. These conjure up the image of a person who knows when it is best to hold back words and control one’s response to anger. “Restraint” is to consider or give thought to one’s words. The even-tempered person is “cool of spirit” (NRSV).

  1. (:28)  Conceals the Perversion of Fools

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;

When he closes his lips, he is counted prudent.

Richard Clifford: If few words betoken a wise person (v. 27), total silence can make even a fool appear wise. Words reveal the heart. By their silence, fools can at least temporarily delay the discovery of their perverted heart. In 15:2 fools are said to pour out words.