Proverbs 26:17
He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears.
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(17) Meddleth with strife.—Rather, that is excited with strife. If quarrelling and taking revenge on our own account are forbidden (Romans 12:18-19), how much more is the mixing up of ourselves in the disputes of other persons.

Like one that taketh a dog by the ears.—Who deserves to be bitten for his pains, the usual result of interfering in quarrels.

Proverbs 26:17. He that passeth by — Who is going on the way about his business; and meddleth with strife, &c. — In which he is not concerned, nor any way obliged to meddle; is like one that taketh a dog by the ears — Exposes himself to great and needless hazard, as a man that unnecessarily provoketh a mastiff dog against himself.26:2. He that is cursed without cause, the curse shall do him no more harm than the bird that flies over his head. 3. Every creature must be dealt with according to its nature, but careless and profligate sinners never will be ruled by reason and persuasion. Man indeed is born like the wild ass's colt; but some, by the grace of God, are changed. 4,5. We are to fit our remarks to the man, and address them to his conscience, so as may best end the debate. 6-9. Fools are not fit to be trusted, nor to have any honour. Wise sayings, as a foolish man delivers and applies them, lose their usefulness. 10. This verse may either declare how the Lord, the Creator of all men, will deal with sinners according to their guilt, or, how the powerful among men should disgrace and punish the wicked. 11. The dog is a loathsome emblem of those sinners who return to their vices, 2Pe 2:22. 12. We see many a one who has some little sense, but is proud of it. This describes those who think their spiritual state to be good, when really it is very bad. 13. The slothful man hates every thing that requires care and labour. But it is foolish to frighten ourselves from real duties by fancied difficulties. This may be applied to a man slothful in the duties of religion. 14. Having seen the slothful man in fear of his work, here we find him in love with his ease. Bodily ease is the sad occasion of many spiritual diseases. He does not care to get forward with his business. Slothful professors turn thus. The world and the flesh are hinges on which they are hung; and though they move in a course of outward services, yet they are not the nearer to heaven. 15. The sluggard is now out of his bed, but he might have lain there, for any thing he is likely to bring to pass in his work. It is common for men who will not do their duty, to pretend they cannot. Those that are slothful in religion, will not be at the pains to feed their souls with the bread of life, nor to fetch in promised blessings by prayer. 16. He that takes pains in religion, knows he is working for a good Master, and that his labour shall not be in vain. 17. To make ourselves busy in other men's matters, is to thrust ourselves into temptation. 18,19. He that sins in jest, must repent in earnest, or his sin will be his ruin. 20-22. Contention heats the spirit, and puts families and societies into a flame. And that fire is commonly kindled and kept burning by whisperers and backbiters. 23. A wicked heart disguising itself, is like a potsherd covered with the dross of silver.Seven - The definite number used for the indefinite (compare Proverbs 24:16).

Reason - Better, a right judgment.

17. meddleth—as in Pr 20:19; 24:21; as either holding a dog by the ears or letting him go involves danger, so success in another man's strife or failure involves a useless risk of reputation, does no good, and may do us harm. He that passeth by; who is going upon the way, and about his business. But this word is by some referred to the last clause, is like

one that taketh a dog by the ears as he is passing by him, without any thought of doing him harm; which agrees very well both with the order of the words in the Hebrew text, and with the matter of the other clause, to which this similitude is referred.

Belonging not to him; in which he is not concerned, nor any way obliged to meddle.

Is like one that taketh a dog by the ears; exposeth himself to great and needless hazards, as a man that causelessly provoketh a mastiff dog against himself. He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him,.... One that going along the streets, and passing by the door, where two or more persons are quarrelling, and he thrusts himself in and intermeddles in the affair he has no concern in; and interests himself in the cause of the quarrel he has nothing to do with, on account of acquaintance, relation, or office; and especially when, instead of being a mediator and peacemaker, he takes on one side, and acts the angry part, as Aben Ezra interprets the word rendered "meddleth"; blows things up into a greater flame, and enrages the one against the other. Such a man

is like one that taketh a dog by the ears; which are short, and difficult to be held, and tender; and therefore cannot bear to be held by them, especially to be pulled and lugged by them, and which is very provoking; and as such a man has work enough to do to hold him, so he is in danger of being bitten by him, at least when he is forced to let go his hold: and so it is with a man that interferes in a quarrel in a furious manner; it is much if one or other of the contending parties do not fall upon him and abuse him. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "as he that holdeth the tail of a dog."

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
17. meddleth] Rather, vexeth himself, R.V. See Proverbs 20:2, where the same word is rendered, provoketh to anger, A.V. and R.V. text, or angereth himself against, R.V. marg. Of course in this place the “meddling” is implied as the consequence of his “vexing himself.” He is provoked to interfere.

By neglecting the Heb. accents the word rendered passeth by is transferred in R.V. margin to the dog: “a passing dog.” But the force of the proverb lies in the fact that the man who is provoked to interfere is a mere passer by; the strife in no way belongs to him.

the ears] The LXX. substitute, the tail: ὁ κρατῶν κέρκον κυνός. The meaning in either case is, he deserves to be bitten for his pains. “The Latin proverbial phrase, ‘auribus lupum tenere,’ may be noticed for its curious parallelism.” Speaker’s Comm.Verses 17-28. - A series of proverbs connected more or less with peacefulness and its opposite. Verse 17. - He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him. "Meddleth with strife" should be "vexes, excites himself, with a quarrel." Is like one that taketh a dog by the ears, and thus needlessly provokes him to bark and bite. Regarding the position of the two participles in this verse, without any connecting link, Delitzsch takes "passing by" as attributed to the dog, thus: "He seizes by the ears a dog passing by, who is excited by a strife that concerns him not." The stray dog corresponds to the quarrel with which one has nothing to do. The present accentuation does not support this view; otherwise it is suitable and probable. Septuagint, "As he who lays hold of a dog's tail, so is he who sets himself forth as champion in another's cause." Ecclus. 11:9, "Strive not in a matter that concerns thee not." Says a Greek gnome -

Πολυπραγμονεῖν τὰλλότρια μὴ βοῦλου κακά Our English proverb says, "He that intermeddles with all things may go shoe the goslings." The Telugu compares such interference to a monkey holding a snake in his paw; it is hard to hold, dangerous to let go (Lane). The series of proverbs regarding fools is continued:

Like a dog which returneth to his vomit,

Is a fool who cometh again with his folly.

שׁב is like שׁונה, particip.; only if the punctuation were כּכּלב, ought "which returneth to his vomit" to be taken as a relative clause (vid., under Psalm 38:14). Regarding על as designating the terminus quo with verbs of motions, vid., Khler under Malachi 3:24. On קא equals קיא, cf. Proverbs 23:8. Luther rightly; as a dog devours again his vomit. The lxx translate: ὥσπερ κύων ὅταν ἐπέλθῃ ἐπὶ τὸν ἑαυτοῦ ἔμετον; the reference in 2 Peter 2:22 : κύων ἐπιστρέψας ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον ἐξέραμα, is thus not from the lxx; the Venet. is not connected with this N.T. citation, but with the lxx, if its accordance with it is not merely accidental. To devour again its vomit is common with the dog.

(Note: Vid., Schulze's Die bibl. Sprichwrter der deutschen Sprache, p. 71f.)

Even so, it is the manner of fools to return again in word and in deed to their past folly (vid., regarding שׁנה with ב of the object. Proverbs 17:9); as an Aram. popular saying has it: the fool always falls back upon his foolish conduct.

(Note: Vid., Wahl's Das Sprichwort der heb.-aram. Literatur, p. 147; Duke's Rabbin. Blumenlese, p. 9.)

He must needs do so, for folly has become to him a second nature; but this "must" ceases when once a divine light shines forth upon him. The lxx has after Proverbs 26:11 a distich which is literally the same as Sir. 4:21.

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