Proverbs 17 Commentary

Friends and fools (17:1-28)

A peaceful family life, no matter how simple, is a great blessing, but a son may miss out on his family inheritance through his own folly (17:1-2). God’s dealings with his people are always for a good purpose, to make them better than they were before (3). To listen to evil talk is as bad as to speak evil oneself; to take pleasure in another’s troubles is as bad as to cause those troubles (4-5).

Other proverbs concern the appreciation that the old and the young should have for each other (6), the need for fitting speech (7), the prosperity so easily yet wrongfully gained through bribery (8), and the different attitudes of the peacemaker and the troublemaker (9).

Fools are dangerous because they are stubborn, rebellious, and not open to reason (10-13). Through them a minor disagreement can become a major conflict. They think that by paying fees to teachers they will get wisdom, but they do not have a mind to learn (14-16).


When in trouble a person can depend on a true friend for help, but help need not go so far that it brings the friend to ruin (17-18). When people through wrongdoing advance themselves in order to boast of their higher status, they invite disaster (19-20). Folly leads to grief, and that in turn leads to ill health. Cheerfulness, by contrast, helps keep a person healthy (21-22). Innocent people suffer unjustly because of corrupt officials, and a fool’s parents suffer because of their son’s folly. Fools wander aimlessly, but intelligent people consider all their actions wisely (23-26). A mark of wisdom is to think before speaking (27-28).

(The frequent references to bribery and false witnesses indicate that corruption of the courts was widespread in the days of the writer; see 14:5,25; 17:8,15,23,26; 18:5; 19:5,9,28.)

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