Text: Proverbs 17:1-28


(Proverbs 17:1-6)

It is better to have little in a peaceful house than much in a house full of strife. The Hebrew word behind “feasting” is literally the word for sacrifices and is probably referring to the peace offerings and fellowship offerings where the worshiper partakes of the offering (Leviticus 7:15-18). Contrasting the feasting of the peace offering with actual peace in a home makes for strong irony. Similar proverbs are Proverbs 15:16-17; 16:8.

Slaves in the Hebrew culture were not permanently slaves. A particularly good servant might even be adopted by his master. Thus, how a person acts is more important than bloodlines. A son who badly embarrasses is father may be put under the watchful eye of a wise servant. Consider that Joseph ended up running Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:1-5).

Silver is refined by melting it and then scraping off the dregs that float to the top. Gold is refined by coating the gold with an acid flux and then heating it until just before its melting point. Impurities more to the surface where they are scrapped off. Thus, God uses the difficulties of trials to test the hidden thoughts of the heart, bringing the flaws to the surface where they can be dealt with (Psalms 66:10; 105:19; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 9:7; Ezekiel 22:20-22; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3).

Those who are evil tend to listen to people like themselves (II Timothy 4:3-4). Thus, a person’s heart is revealed by the type of person he listens to.

Mocking people who are poor is a disrespect of God. Being happy about the misfortune of others will be punished by God (Ezekiel 25:6-7). God requires that we have compassion for the less fortunate (Leviticus 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:18; Matthew 25:40; Luke 10:25-37). Similar to Proverbs 14:31.

Grandchildren are a glory and delight for old men (Psalms 128:6), while fathers are the glory of their children.

For discussion:

  1. Contrast Proverbs 17:3 and Proverbs 17:4. How are the righteous made more righteous versus how the wicked become more wicked?

Societal Ills

(Proverbs 17:7-13)

One does not expect fine, refined speech from a fool. It is a absurd concept. In the same way, lying rulers should upset the normal moral order of society.

Proverbs 17:8 explains why bribery exists in society. A person with money thinks he can get whatever he wants with enough cash. They see money as a magical talisman or charm to prosper them wherever they go. This should not be seen as promoting bribery or that the view of the person with a bribe is accurate.

The next proverbs looks at the motivation behind gossiping. A person who doesn’t let a matter die doesn’t have love. His constant gossiping about matters will divide even the closest friends. But person who truly forgives out of love, buries the past difficulties. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (I Corinthians 13:5 NIV). And often we are better served to ignore the small wrongs that others might do against us without thinking. A similar proverb is Proverbs 16:28.

A fool never learns regardless of how much punishment he receives. A discerning man learns more than you might expect from a rebuke because he deeply considers what is being said.

An evil man is set on rebellion, and so action will be taken against him. Examples are Solomon’s handling of Adonijah (I Kings 1:5-10, 49-53; 2:19-25) and Jeroboam (I Kings 11:40). God, too, takes steps against the rebellious (Psalms 78:40,49).

A fool involved in foolishness is a dangerous man (Proverbs 8:35-36). A person would be safer with a mother bear robbed of her cubs. In her anger a mother bear attacks the first person she meets in the assumption that he stole her cubs. In the same way, a fool doesn’t control who his foolishness affects – you can easily become collateral damage.

Some people return evil even though good was done for them. Such people will have their whole family facing evil for the rest of their lives. People forget they set examples for others, especially for people in their own household.

For discussion:

  1. What is the difference between Proverbs 16:28 and Proverbs 17:9?
  2. Using Proverbs 17:10, compare Pharaoh’s reaction to Moses’ rebukes to Nathan’s rebuke of King David.

Bad and Good Relationships

(Proverbs 17:14-18)

The start of a disagreement is like a leak in a dam. At first it is a slow trickle, but if nothing is done, it soon becomes an overwhelming flood. The best solution is to avoid a disagreement, if possible (Proverbs 15:1). What starts out with a seemingly minor disagreement can quickly escalate to a major battle (Matthew 5:25-26; Ephesians 4:26-27).

God find particularly disgusting people who invert morality by justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous. This is particularly true of those who represent God in government (Psalms 82:1-2; Isaiah 5:20; Romans 13:3-4).

Previously we learn that wisdom is extremely valuable and ought to be “purchased” (Proverbs 4:5-8; 16:16). The price of wisdom is heeding and obeying (Proverbs 4:1-5). Some fools think they can pretend to heed without sincerity – without heart. It just won’t work (Proverbs 1:27-32).

True friendship is consistent, but often family stays at your side even when everything goes wrong (Ruth 1:16). A mark of a truly special friend is his remaining with you through trials; that friend becomes your brother.

A person without sense will co-sign a loan; thus, explaining why people get themselves into these bad situations (Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15). It is short-sighted and done without careful thought of the consequences.

For discussion:

  1. Looking at Proverbs 17:17, what would indicate someone is a false friend? How can you know before you put your trust in someone?
  2. Why is Proverbs 17:18 after Provers 17:17?


(Proverbs 17:19-21)

Verses 19-21 form a list of attitudes and behaviors that lead to consequences you might not expect:

He who loves transgression loves strife;
He who raises his door seeks destruction.
He who has a crooked mind finds no good,
And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.
He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow,
And the father of a fool has no joy.

The person who loves sin also loves strife because sin typically involves causing harm to a neighbor (Romans 13:9).

When you put a fancy door on your house, you are declaring to the world that you are rich and, thus, you end up making yourself a target for thieves and bandits. By implication, a person who exalts himself also makes himself a target.

A person who is devious in thought ends up finding problems for himself. He plots what he thinks will bring an advantage to himself, but in the end it will turn and bite him.

A person who is not straightforward in his words ends up in trouble. Deviousness does not lead to good relationships.

To raise a foolish child will bring the parent no happiness in his life. Thus, it is important to raise a child right, no only for the child’s sake, but also for the parents’ peace of mind.

Dealing with Others

(Proverbs 17:22-28)

A positive, happy attitude improves the health of a person, but depression ruins a person’s health. When dealing with other people, we should strive to be upbeat. This proverb is similar to Proverbs 15:13 and Proverbs 15:30.

The wicked is willing to receive a quiet bribe to twist the ways of justice (I Samuel 8:3). Because of this, a person should not expect justice from a person who looks for bribes (Exodus 23:8).

A discerning man has wisdom right in front of him where he can see it. He is always ready to use it. A fool can’t see wisdom, so he looks to the ends of the earth and never finds it. This proverb is similar to Proverbs 14:6.

A foolish son is a source of vexation and bitterness to his parents. Thus, effort should be expended not to raise foolish children and children need to realize that their choices reflect back on their parents. This proverbs is similar to Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 17:21.

Righteousness should not be punished by fines or beatings (Deuteronomy 25:1-3). Society needs to encourage righteous behavior, especially in its governing officials.

When you know the truth, you don’t have to say much. When you are able to reason well, you can remain calm. Even a fool can appear to be wise and prudent by simply remaining quiet. People assume that someone who doesn’t speak much knows more. It should be remembered, though, that fools have a strong tendency to babble (Proverbs 10:8,10).

For discussion:

  1. Why do you suppose there are so many statements about foolish sons causing his parents grief?