Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.XVII.
(1) A house full of sacrifices.—Possibly the same as the “peace offerings” of Proverbs 7:14 (where see note). The consumption of these may have at times degenerated into licence (comp. 1Samuel 1:13), and quarrelling have ensued.
A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.(2) A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame. . . .—This was strikingly exhibited in the case of Ziba, who by his timely succour to David (2 Samuel 16), first gained all the property of his master, Mephibosheth (i.e., the “man of shame”), and was later confirmed in the possession of half of it. Slaves, especially those “born in the house,” often rose to a position of great trust. (Comp. Genesis 24:2; Genesis 39:4-6.) Eliezer would have been Abraham’s heir had not Isaac been born (Genesis 15:3).
The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.(3) The fining pot is for silver.—See above on Proverbs 2:4.
The Lord trieth the hearts.—By allowing sorrows and temptations to assail them, in order that they may come out of the trial as pure gold (Revelation 3:18; 1Peter 1:7; 1Corinthians 3:13; Malachi 3:3), purged of earthly infirmities.
Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.(5) Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker.—See above on Proverbs 14:31.
He that is glad at calamities.—Of enemies. (Comp. Proverbs 24:18; Job 31:29.)
Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.(6) Children’s children are the crown of old men.—Comp. Psalms 127, 128.
The glory of children are their fathers.—And, as such, to be honoured by them. For the blessing which parents bring to children, comp. 1Kings 11:13; 1Kings 15:4; Jeremiah 33:21.
Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.(7) Excellent speech becometh not a fool.—Rather, perhaps, Superfluous or pretentious words become not a vile person (nābhāl), such as is described in Isaiah 32:6. (Comp. 1Samuel 25:25.)
Much less do lying lips a prince.—Or, liberal person (Isaiah 32:8): noblesse oblige.
A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.(8) A gift is as a precious stone . . .—A description of the influence of bribery:—A bribe is as a jewel in the eyes of him that receives it; whithersoever he turns he prospers: all his energies are called out by the prospect of gain, so that he carries out successfully all that he sets his hand to. The constant warnings against this form of corruption, from the time of Moses (Exodus 23:8) to that of the prophets (Amos 5:12; Isaiah 1:23, &c), show the prevalence of the evil in Israel.
He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.(9) He that covereth a transgression seeketh love—i.e., one who does not notice, but rather conceals and excuses, anything done against him; that man “follows after charity” (1Corinthians 14:1). (Comp. Proverbs 10:12.)
He that repeateth a matter, who is always returning to old grievances, “alienates (even his) chief friend.”
An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.(11) An evil man seeketh only rebellion.—Or. A rebellious man (literally, rebellion; comp. Ezekiel 2:7) seeketh only evil.
A cruel messenger.—Such as the “chief of the executioners” (margin of Genesis 37:36), who was always ready to carry out the bidding of an Oriental king. (Comp. 1Kings 2:34; 1Kings 2:46.) The ministers of the Divine wrath against impenitent sinners appear as “tormentors” in Matthew 18:34. (For the office of the angels in the same work, comp. Revelation 8:6, sqq.)
Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.(12) A bear robbed of her whelps.—Proverbially dangerous then (2Samuel 17:8; Hosea 13:8). (See also 1Kings 2:24.)
A fool (khesîl).—Comp. Proverbs 1:32.
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.(14) The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water.—The drops which ooze through a tiny hole in the bank of a reservoir soon swell into an unmanageable torrent; so from insignificant beginnings arise feuds which cannot be appeased. Solomon constructed large pools (Ecclesiastes 2:6) beyond Bethlehem, and is supposed to have brought the water from these by an aqueduct into Jerusalem.
Before it be meddled with.—The same expression is used at Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3. It probably means before (men) show their teeth, a metaphor from an angry dog.
He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.(15) He that justifieth the wicked—i.e., acquits. The perversion of justice was a fruitful source of evil in Israel, and a constant topic of reproach in the mouth of the prophets (1Samuel 8:3; Psalm 82:2; Isaiah 5:7).
Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?(16) Wherefore is there a price . . .—He will still remain a fool, though he has paid high for instruction, if he has no capacity for taking it in.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.(17) A friend loveth at all times . . .—Rather, The (true) friend loveth at all times, and (as) a brother is born for adversity.
A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.(18) In the presence of his friend.—Or, With his neighbour. (For the same warning, comp. Proverbs 6:1, sqq.)
He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.(19) He that exalteth his gate.—Builds himself a sumptuous house.
He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.(20) He that hath a froward heart, findeth no good.—For he is an abomination to God (Proverbs 11:20), and so gains no blessing from Him.
He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.(21) He that begetteth a fool (khesîl).—See above, on Proverbs 1:32.
The father of a fool (nābhāl).—See above, on Proverbs 17:7.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.(22) A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.—Or rather, Makes good a recovery., (For the duty of religious gladness, in gratitude for the love of God towards us, comp. Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4.)
A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.(23) A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom.—Or rather, receives it. “From the bosom” signifies the folds of the dress in which the bribe was concealed, ready to be slipped into the judge’s hand whose favour was to be bought.
Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.(24) Wisdom is before him that hath understanding—i.e., he can easily find her.
But the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.—He is looking for her everywhere, while all the time she lies straight before him. (For the thought, comp. Deuteronomy 30:11-14.)
Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.(26) Also.—Among other evil things. The subject of perversion of justice is again taken up.
To punish.—Especially by fining.
To strike—i.e., scourge. (Comp. Deuteronomy 25:1-3.)
For equity—i.e., when they have acted uprightly.
He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.(27) He that hath knowledge . . .—This verse will better be rendered, He that restrains his words hath knowledge, and one who is cool of temper is a man of understanding. The avoidance of rash speech and hasty temper is here advised.