Proverbs 17

The comparison of the life of the godly and the life of the ungodly continues. The right focus in life is —on the Lord. We now see the right features in life: contentment and character.[1]

“Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it Than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). 

One of my greatest desires is to experience jolly tranquility around the table. Feeling “a peaceful, harmonious environment” while supporting one another through sweet fellowship notwithstanding the meagerness of the meal. Chuck Swindoll so skillfully explains the significance of this verse:

The image of a “dry crust” (NIV) is a word picture any ancient traveler could appreciate. Without the benefit of preservatives for their food, travelers subsisted on bread or dried meat similar to beef jerky.  They were definitely roughing it. And even at home during lean economic times, old bread and dried meat might have sufficed for dinner.

The proverb compares this spartan meal to “a house of sacrifice” (literal meaning). According to Old Testament law and tradition, a priest was allowed to take home to his family some portions of meat not completely consumed on the alter (Leviticus 10:12-14). This is how a man who dedicated his life to ministry supported his household. The term for the ritual killing of an animal was sometimes used in the sense of preparing for a feast, for a sumptuous table, covered with delectable meat, vegetables, bread, and wine.

For the sage, the quality of the meal takes second place to the emotional environment of the house. He contrasted “quiet” with “strife.” The word, quiet, however, doesn’t refer to silence; it describes a setting characterized by tranquility, ease, and security. The Hebrew term is closely related to shalom. The proverb describes a peaceful, harmonious household where people are free to be themselves without fear of rejection. There is a sense of ease among the people because strife—disputes, quarrels, and hostility—are not to be found or felt.

The writer of this particular proverb found contentment in most meals because he found far greater satisfaction in harmonious relationships than the most expensive meals money can buy. He might not have been able to control the flow of cash into the family bank account, but he could maintain wholesome relationships under his roof ().[2]

How are you at maintaining wholesome relationships under your roof?

As silver and … gold are purified under intense heat (cf. 27:21), so a believer’s heart is purified by the heat of trials which the Lord brings (17:3; James 1:2–3; 1 Peter 1:7).[3] 

Presently, what trial are you bearing? You can be sure that a purification of the heart is taking place while developing your character and “will bring you much praise and glory and honor” at the proper time.

Do you have the right focus? Are you maintaining the right features?

               [1] John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs 1–19: An Expository Commentary, vol. 1, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2009), Pr 17:1–28.

               [2] Charles Swindoll, Living the Proverbs: Insight for the Daily Grind (Brentwood: Worthy, 2012), 109-110.

               [3] Sid S. Buzzell, “Proverbs,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 942.

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