Proverbs 11:17
The merciful man does good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubles his own flesh.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) The merciful man.—Rather, one who shows love. (See above on Proverbs 3:3.) Our good and evil deeds return to us in blessings or curses. (Comp. Proverbs 11:25.)

Proverbs 11:17. The merciful man — Who is compassionate toward persons in distress, bountiful to such as are in want, and kind to all; doth good to his own soul — That is, to himself, because his mercy and liberality shall turn to his own infinite advantage, both in this life and the next. But he that is cruel — That is, hard-hearted, and uncharitable to others; troubleth his own flesh — Either, 1st, His own children and kindred, for whose sakes he is thus covetous and uncharitable, in order that he may lay up for them; but, as these words imply, they shall have nothing but disappointment, trouble, and vexation with what they receive. Or, 2d, Himself, denominated here from his flesh, or body, as in the former clause, from his soul; perhaps to intimate, that the mischievous effects of his covetousness shall not only fall upon his soul, which he despises, but upon his flesh, or outward man, which is the only thing he fears or regards.11:1 However men may make light of giving short weight or measure, and however common such crimes may be, they are an abomination to the Lord. 2. Considering how safe, and quiet, and easy the humble are, we see that with the lowly is wisdom. 3. An honest man's principles are fixed, therefore his way is plain. 4. Riches will stand men in no stead in the day of death. 5,6. The ways of wickedness are dangerous. And sin will be its own punishment. 7. When a godly man dies, all his fears vanish; but when a wicked man dies, his hopes vanish. 8. The righteous are often wonderfully kept from going into dangerous situations, and the ungodly go in their stead. 9. Hypocrites delude men into error and sin by artful objections against the truths of God's word. 10,11. Nations prosper when wicked men are cast down. 12. A man of understanding does not judge of others by their success. 13. A faithful man will not disclose what he is trusted with, unless the honour of God and the real good of society require it. 14. We shall often find it to our advantage to advise with others. 15. The welfare of our families, our own peace, and our ability to pay just debts, must not be brought into danger. But here especially let us consider the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in becoming Surety even for enemies. 16. A pious and discreet woman will keep esteem and respect, as strong men keep possession of wealth. 17. A cruel, froward, ill-natured man, is vexatious to those that are, and should be to him as his own flesh, and punishes himself. 18. He that makes it his business to do good, shall have a reward, as sure to him as eternal truth can make it. 19. True holiness is true happiness. The more violent a man is in sinful pursuits, the more he hastens his own destruction. 20. Nothing is more hateful to God, than hypocrisy and double dealing, which are here signified. God delights in such as aim and act with uprightness. 21. Joining together in sin shall not protect the sinners. 22. Beauty is abused by those who have not discretion or modesty with it. This is true of all bodily endowments. 23. The wicked desire mischief to others, but it shall return upon themselves. 24. A man may grow poor by not paying just debts, not relieving the poor, not allowing needful expenses. Let men be ever so saving of what they have, if God appoints, it comes to nothing. 25. Both in temporal and spiritual things, God commonly deals with his people according to the measure by which they deal with their brethren. 26. We must not hoard up the gifts of God's bounty, merely for our own advantage. 27. Seeking mischief is here set against seeking good; for those that are not doing good are doing hurt, even to themselves.Or, "The gracious woman wins and keeps honor, as (the conjunction may be so rendered) strong men win riches." 17. merciful—kind to others; opposed to cruel. Such benefit themselves by doing good to others (compare Pr 24:5), while the cruel injure themselves as well as others.

flesh—that is, his body, by penuriousness (Col 2:23).

To his own soul, i.e. to himself, because his liberality shall turn to his own infinite advantage, both in this life and in the next. Cruel; hard-hearted and uncharitable to others.

His own flesh; either,

1. His own children or kindred, who are commonly expressed by this very word, for whose sakes he is thus covetous and uncharitable, that he may hoard it up for them; but they, saith the wise man, shall have nothing but trouble and vexation, and God’s curse with it. Or,

2. Himself, denominated here from his flesh or body, as in the former branch from his soul. But he may seem to mention his flesh rather than his soul, to intimate that the mischiefs of his covetousness shall not only fall upon his soul, which he despiseth, but upon his flesh or outward man, which is the only thing that he feareth. The merciful man doeth good to his own soul,.... Or "to himself": a man of mercy or grace, a liberal bountiful man, he comfortably enjoys what God has given him, Ecclesiastes 5:18; and he does good to others with it, and thereby does good to himself also; as well as he is solicitous in a spiritual sense for the good and welfare of his immortal soul;

but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh; a sordid avaricious man withholds from himself that which is meet, will not allow himself the necessaries of life, nor will he provide that which is fit and convenient for his family; he hides himself from his own flesh, and will not communicate to the wants of his nearest friends and relations, and shuts up his bowels of compassion against his own brother; all which may be called a troubling his own flesh; see Isaiah 58:7. R. Levi Ben Gersom interprets this of such who place religion in afflicting and macerating the body by fasting, which the law does not require; and it may fitly be applied to the Papists, who do this by penances and fastings, and whippings and scourgings; and which the apostle calls a neglecting of the body, not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh, Colossians 2:23.

The merciful man {k} doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.

(k) Rewards both himself and others.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 17. - The merciful man; the kind, loving man. Septuagint, ἀνὴρ ἐλεήμων. His own soul; i.e. himself. His good deeds return in blessings upon himself. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7) Troubleth his own flesh; brings retribution on himself. Some commentators, comparing Ecclus. 14:5 ("He that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good?"), translate, "He who does good to himself is a kind man to others, and he who troubles his own body will be cruel to others." The sentiment is quite untrue. Self-indulgence does not lead to regard for others; and a severe, ascetic life, while it encourages stern views of human weaknesses, does not make a man cruel and uncharitable. The Vulgate takes "his own flesh" to mean "his neighbours," as Judah calls his brother Joseph "our flesh" (Genesis 37:27). But the parallelism confirms the Authorized Version. 11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,

     But by the mouth of the godless it is broken down.

This verse is related, in the way of confirming it, to Proverbs 11:10. The lxx, which omits Proverbs 11:4, here omits 10b and 11a, and combines 10a and 11b into one proverb (vid., Lagarde). The meaning is clear: "by the benedictions and pious prayers of the upright a city rises always to a higher eminence and prosperity; while, on the contrary, the deceitful, arrogant, blasphemous talk of the godless brings ruin to it" (Fl.). The nearest contrast to "by the blessing of the upright" would be "by the cursing of the wicked," but not in the sense of the poet, who means to say that the city raises itself by the blessing of the upright, and on the contrary, when godless men are exalted, then by their words (whose blessing is no better than their curse) it comes to ruin. קרת ( equals קריה) occurs only four times in Proverbs, and in Job 29:7.

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