Proverbs 17:11
An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.
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(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.)

Proverbs 17:11. An evil man seeketh only rebellion — Seeketh nothing but his own will; and being so refractory that he hath shaken off all reverence for God and his governors, he is wholly bent upon mischief, and cannot be reclaimed; therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him — Some dreadful judgment or other, as a messenger from God; angels, God’s messengers, shall be employed as ministers of justice against him, Psalm 78:49. Satan, the angel of death, and the messengers of Satan, shall be let loose upon him. His prince shall send a sergeant to arrest him, and an executioner to cut him off. He that kicks against the pricks is waited for of the sword.

17:8. Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts! 9. The way to preserve peace is to make the best of every thing; not to notice what has been said or done against ourselves. 10. A gentle reproof will enter, not only into the head, but into the heart of a wise man. 11. Satan, and the messengers of Satan, shall be let loose upon an evil man. 12. Let us watch over our own passions, and avoid the company of furious men. 13. To render evil for good is devilish. He that does so, brings a curse upon his family. 14. What danger there is in the beginning of strife! Resist its earliest display; and leave it off, if it were possible, before you begin. 15. It is an offence to God to acquit the guilty, or to condemn those who are not guilty. 16. Man's neglect of God's favour and his own interest is very absurd. 17. No change of outward circumstances should abate our affection for our friends or relatives. But no friend, except Christ, deserves unlimited confidence. In Him this text did receive, and still receives its most glorious fulfilment. 18. Let not any wrong their families. Yet Christ's becoming Surety for men, was a glorious display of Divine wisdom; for he was able to discharge the bond.The proverb expresses the reverence of the East for the supreme authority of the king. The "cruel messenger" is probably the king's officer despatched to subdue and punish. The Septuagint renders it: "The Lord will send a pitiless Angel." 11. Such meet just retribution (1Ki 2:25).

a cruel messenger—one to inflict it.

An evil man seeketh only rebellion; it is the constant study and business of wicked men to rebel, either,

1. Against men in authority. But this is not universally true, for many most wicked persons are not guilty of that sin. Or rather,

2. Against God. For,

1. Thus it is true of all wicked men.

2. This word is used of rebellion against God, Deu 31:27 Ezekiel 2:5,6 3:9, &c.

3. This word being put alone, without any addition of the object, seems most probably to be meant of the highest and worst kind of rebellion, according to the common rule of interpretation in such cases. A cruel messenger; or, a cruel angel; the angel of death, the devil, or some bloody men employed by God to avenge his quarrel; or some dreadful punishment; it being very usual in Scripture to represent things under the notion of persons, as Ro 8, and elsewhere.

An evil man seeketh only rebellion,.... For he seeks nothing but what is evil; and all sin is rebellion against God, a contempt of his laws, and a transgression of them; a trampling upon his legislative power and authority; an act of hostility against him, and a casting off allegiance to him. Or rather the words may be rendered, "rebellion", that is, "the rebellious man", so the Targum, the abstract for the concrete, "verily" or "only seeketh evil" (m); a man that is rebellious against his prince, that is of a rebellious disposition, is continually seeking to do mischief in the commonwealth; he is continually plotting and contriving destructive schemes, and stirring up sedition, and causing trouble; and so a rebel against God is always seeking that which is sinful, which is evil in its own nature, and contrary to the law and will of God; and in the issue brings the evil of punishment on himself;

therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him: if a rebel against his lawful sovereign, a messenger shall be sent by him to take him into custody, who will show him no mercy; or an executioner to dispatch him, who will not spare to perform his orders: and if a rebel against God, some judgment of God shall fall upon him in a very severe manner; or his own conscience shall accuse him, and shall be filled with dreadful apprehensions of divine vengeance; or Satan, the angel of death, shall be let loose upon him, to terrify or destroy him; or death itself, which spares none. The Septuagint and Arabic versions ascribe this to God as his act, rendering it, "the Lord shall send", &c. and so Aben Ezra; who also refers the former clause to him, and gives it as the sense of it; that he shall seek to do the rebellious man evil, inflict on him the evil of punishment for the evil of sin.

(m) "profecto rebellio quaeret malum", Montanus; so Schultens, Piscator, Tigurine version, Cocceius.

An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel {e} messenger shall be sent against him.

(e) By the messenger is meant such means as God uses to punish the rebels.

11. rebellion] This, in its highest reference, is an anticipation of the divine philosophy of St John, “sin is lawlessness” (ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία). “Sin is lawlessness. Sin and lawlessness are convertible terms. Sin is not an arbitrary conception; it is the assertion of the selfish will against a paramount authority. He who sins breaks, not only by accident or in an isolated detail, but essentially, the law which he was created to fulfil,” Westcott on 1 John 3:4.

a cruel messenger] The stern, implacable minister of the rebel’s doom. Comp., for illustration, 1 Kings 2:25; 1 Kings 2:34. The LXX. refer the sending of the merciless messenger, whether human or angelic, to Jehovah, against whom ultimately all rebellion is aimed: ὁ δὲ κύριος ἄγγελον ἀνελεήμονα ἐκπέμψει αὐτῷ.

Verse 11. - An evil man seeketh only rebellion. So the Greek and Latin Versions; but, as Nowack intimates, a bad man seeks many other things which do not come directly in the category of rebellion; and it is better to take meri, "rebellion," as the subject, regarding it as put for the concrete, thus: "A rebellious man striveth only for what is evil." From the point of view of an Eastern potentate, this is true enough. Absolute government looks upon any rising against constituted authority, any movement in the masses, as necessarily evil, and to be repressed with a high hand. Hence the succeeding clause. Therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him. The "cruel messenger" (Proverbs 16:14) is the executioner of the king's wrath (comp. 1 Kings 2:29, etc.). He is called "cruel" because his errand is deadly, and he is pitiless in its performance. This seems to be the sense intended. The LXX. gives a different notion, derived from the ambiguous term malak, like the Greek ἄγγελος: "The Lord will send forth a pitiless angel against him." The verse then becomes a statement concerning the retribution inflicted by God on obstinate sinners, such as Pharaoh and the Egyptians. These are delivered over to "the tormentors" (Matthew 18:34), the angels that execute the wrath of God, as in Psalm 78:49 and Revelation 8:6, etc. As all sin is rebellion against God, it is natural to read into the passage a religious meaning, and for homiletical purposes it is legitimate to do so. But the writer's intention is doubtless as explained above, though his language may be divinely directed to afford a further application. Proverbs 17:11Five proverbs of dangerous men against whom one has to be on his guard:

11 The rebellious seeketh only after evil,

     And a cruel messenger is sent out against him.

It is a question what is subj. and what obj. in 11a. It lies nearest to look on מרי as subj., and this word (from מרה, stringere, to make oneself exacting against any, to oppose, ἀντιτείνειν) is appropriate thereto; it occurs also at Ezekiel 2:7 as abstr. pro concreto. That it is truly subj. appears from this, that בּקּשׁ רע, to seek after evil (cf. Proverbs 29:10; 1 Kings 20:7, etc.), is a connection of idea much more natural than בּקּשׁ מרי to seek after rebellion. Thus אך will be logically connected with רע, and the reading אך מרי will be preferred to the reading אך־מרי; אך (corresponding to the Arab. âinnama) belongs to those particles which are placed before the clause, without referring to the immediately following part of the sentence, for they are much more regarded as affecting the whole sentence (vid., Proverbs 13:10): the rebellious strives after nothing but only evil. Thus, as neut. obj. רע is rendered by the Syr., Targ., Venet., and Luther; on the contrary, the older Greek translators and Jerome regard רע as the personal subject. If now, in reference to rebellion, the discourse is of a מלאך אכזרי, we are not, with Hitzig, to think of the demon of wild passions unfettered in the person of the rebellious, for that is a style of thought and of expression that is modern, not biblical; but the old unpoetic yet simply true remark remains: Loquendi formula inde petita quod regis aut summi magistratus minister rebelli supplicium nunciat infligitque. מלאך is n. officii, not naturae. Man as a messenger, and the spiritual being as messenger, are both called מלאך. Therefore one may not understand מלאך אכזרי, with the lxx, Jerome, and Luther, directly and exclusively of an angel of punishment. If one thinks of Jahve as the Person against whom the rebellion is made, then the idea of a heavenly messenger lies near, according to Psalm 35:5., Psalm 78:49; but the proverb is so meant, that it is not the less true if an earthly king sends out against a rebellious multitude a messenger with an unlimited commission, or an officer against a single man dangerous to the state, with strict directions to arrest him at all hazards. אכזרי we had already at Proverbs 12:10; the root קש חש means, to be dry, hard, without feeling. The fut. does not denote what may be done (Bertheau, Zckler), which is contrary to the parallelism, the order of the words, and the style of the proverb, but what is done. And the relation of the clause is not, as Ewald interprets it, "scarcely does the sedition seek out evil when an inexorable messenger is sent." Although this explanation is held by Ewald as "unimprovable," yet it is incorrect, because אך in this sense demands, e.g., Genesis 27:3, the perf. (strengthened by the infin. intensivus). The relation of the clause is, also, not such as Bttcher has interpreted it: a wicked man tries only scorn though a stern messenger is sent against him, but not because such a messenger is called אכזרי, against whom this "trying of scorn" helps nothing, so that it is not worth being spoken of; besides, שׁלּח or משׁלּח would have been used if this relation had been intended. We have in 11a and 11b, as also e.g., at Proverbs 26:24; Proverbs 28:1, two clauses standing in internal reciprocal relation, but syntactically simply co-ordinated; the force lies in this, that a messenger who recognises no mitigating circumstances, and offers no pardon, is sent out against such an one.

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