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Chapter 17

Better a dry crust with quiet
    than a house full of feasting with strife.[a]
A wise servant will rule over an unworthy son,
    and will share the inheritance of the children.[b]
The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold,
    but the tester of hearts is the Lord.
The evildoer gives heed to wicked lips,
    the liar, to a mischievous tongue.
Whoever mocks the poor reviles their Maker;
    whoever rejoices in their misfortune will not go unpunished.(A)
Children’s children are the crown of the elderly,
    and the glory of children is their parentage.
Fine words ill fit a fool;
    how much more lying lips, a noble!
A bribe seems a charm to its user;
    at every turn it brings success.[c]
Whoever overlooks an offense fosters friendship,
    but whoever gossips about it separates friends.[d]
10 A single reprimand does more for a discerning person
    than a hundred lashes for a fool.[e]
11 The wicked pursue only rebellion,
    and a merciless messenger is sent against them.[f]
12 Face a bear robbed of her cubs,
    but never fools in their folly![g]
13 If you return evil for good,
    evil will not depart from your house.[h](B)
14 The start of strife is like the opening of a dam;
    check a quarrel before it bursts forth!
15 Whoever acquits the wicked,(C) whoever condemns the just—
    both are an abomination to the Lord.
16 Of what use is money in the hands of fools
    when they have no heart to acquire wisdom?[i]
17 A friend is a friend at all times,
    and a brother is born for the time of adversity.(D)
18 Those without sense give their hands in pledge,
    becoming surety for their neighbors.(E)
19 Those who love an offense love a fight;(F)
    those who build their gate high[j] court disaster.
20 The perverse in heart come to no good,
    and the double-tongued fall into trouble.[k]
21 Whoever conceives a fool has grief;
    the father of a numskull has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is the health of the body,
    but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.(G)
23 A guilty person takes out a bribe from the pocket,
    thus perverting the course of justice.[l]
24 On the countenance of a discerning person is wisdom,(H)
    but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.[m]
25 A foolish son is vexation to his father,
    and bitter sorrow to her who bore him.(I)
26 It is wrong to fine an innocent person,
    but beyond reason to scourge nobles.
27 Those who spare their words are truly knowledgeable,
    and those who are discreet are intelligent.(J)
28 Even fools, keeping silent, are considered wise;
    if they keep their lips closed, intelligent.[n]


  1. 17:1 A “better than” saying, stating the circumstances when a dry crust is better than a banquet. Peace and fellowship give joy to a meal, not the richness of the food. For a similar thought, see 15:16 and 16:8.
  2. 17:2 Ability is esteemed more highly than ties of blood.
  3. 17:8 An observation on the effect of the bribe upon the bribe-giver: it gives an intoxicating feeling of power (“seems”). In v. 23 the evil effects of a bribe are noted.
  4. 17:9 A paradox. One finds (love, friend) by concealing (an offense), one loses (a friend) by revealing (a secret). In 10:12 love also covers over a multitude of offenses.
  5. 17:10 A wonderful comment on the openness and sensitivity of the wise and the foolish. One type learns from a single word and for the other one hundred blows are not enough.
  6. 17:11 The irony is that such people will meet up with what they so energetically pursue—in the form of an unrelenting emissary sent to them.
  7. 17:12 Humorous hyperbole. An outraged dangerous beast poses less danger than a fool.
  8. 17:13 The paradox is that to pay out evil for good means that the evil will never leave one’s own house.
  9. 17:16 The exhortation to acquire or purchase wisdom is common in Proverbs. Fools misunderstand the metaphor, assuming they can buy it with money. Their very misunderstanding shows they have no “heart” = mind, understanding. Money in the hand is no good without such a “heart” to store it in.
  10. 17:19 Build their gate high: a symbol of arrogance.
  11. 17:20 The saying employs the familiar metaphors of walking = conducting oneself (“fall into trouble”), and of straight and crooked = right and wrong (“perverse,” “double-tongued”).
  12. 17:23 A sharp look at the sly withdrawing of a bribe from the pocket and a blunt judgment on its significance.
  13. 17:24 Wisdom is visible on the countenance (i.e., mouth, lips, tongue) of the wise person; its ultimate source is the heart. Fools have no such source of wisdom within them, a point that is nicely made by referring to the eye of the fool, roving over the landscape.
  14. 17:28 Related to v. 27. Words provide a glimpse into the heart. In the unlikely event that fools, who usually pour out words (15:2), were to say nothing, people would not be able to see their folly and would presume them intelligent. Alas, the saying is contrary to fact.