Proverbs 17

<Link to Proverbs 17>

A few selected proverbs from today’s reading:

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
    than a house full of feasting, with strife.”
(Proverbs 17:1 NIV)

A “dry crust” refers to a piece of toasted bread with no butter or jam.  A “house full of feasting” refers to a religious holiday, where everyone got together for a meal, with lots of food.

Solomon is comparing the attitude and atmosphere of the gathering, rather than the amount of food.  He is prioritizing the value of peace vs. strife in the house.  He is saying dry bread and water with peace in the house is better than a huge banquet with everyone yelling at each other and all kinds of disagreements and arguments.

Solomon shared similar thoughts in Proverbs 15:16-17.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
    but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9 NIV)

Solomon identifies one of the tests of love – our ability and willingness to forgive another person for their sin.  This is not to absolve them of their wrong-doing; only Christ can do that.  This is to forgive them for the sin as it affects us.

We have two choices when someone close to us offends us.  We can forgive them and keep our friendship, or we can go tell everyone how we were hurt by that person’s actions and lose the friendship.  We are not responsible for the other person’s transgression, but we are responsible for our response to it.

Solomon referred to both parts of this proverb in two other previous proverbs (Proverbs 10:12 and Proverbs 16:28)  The new Living Translation paraphrases this proverb well:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
    but dwelling on it separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9 NLT)

“A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
(Proverbs 17:17 NIV)

Solomon uses a different grammatical construct here.  Instead of the typical two-line comparison and contrast, he uses synonymous parallelism – where the second line or phrase says the same thing as the first, with a slight variation.

And why do we care about this grammar lesson?  Because it helps us understand the text and what Solomon is telling us.

Solomon is saying that friends and family rally around us during times of hardship, calamity, and need.  Solomon is telling us that we can have friends that are just like family, who come along side us and help us through thick and thin, good and bad, in joy and sorrow.

If we don’t pay attention to the grammatical details, we completely mis-interpret this passage and come to the wrong conclusion.  If we ignore the grammar here, we can easily (and wrongly) conclude that Solomon is saying that friends are loyal and faithful and can be trusted, but family will always have sibling rivalry, and can’t be counted on or trusted.  This is exactly the opposite of what Solomon was saying.

There are many examples in Scriptures of friends being as close as family:  David to Jonathan, Ruth to Naomi, Jesus to His disciples, Paul to Timothy.  And not to forget the most important friendship – Jesus calling all those who follow Him and obey His commands His friends (John 15:15).

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
(Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

Solomon reminds us of previous proverbs (Proverbs 14:30 and 15:13) that tie our physical well-being to our emotional well-being.  As goes our mind, so goes our body.

In this proverb, Solomon reminds us that a happy, healthy outlook on life is good for our body.  Conversely, when we are beaten down by life’s circumstances (a crushed spirit), that state of mind takes a toll on our bodies (our physical being).

We can have joy despite our circumstances.  We will have trouble in certain seasons of life, but how we choose to react and respond to those circumstances shows our heart and mind.  May we be like Paul and Silas, who after being beaten and thrown in prison, stayed up and sang praises to the Lord (Acts 16:16-ff).

My issues are so little compared to Paul’s, but yet, I complain like he had a right to, instead of praising the Lord, like he chose to.

May we keep our eyes on Jesus and focus on His goodness, and not our circumstances, however great or small.

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”
(Proverbs 17:27 NIV)

And with that sage advice from Solomon, I will sign off for today.  ‘Nuff said.