A Proverb for Today — Proverbs 1:17

“Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” (Proverbs 1:17).

This proverb stands in the middle of a warning passage, and really can’t be understood in isolation (unlike many of the proverbs in the last half of the book).  So let’s look at the context, verses 10-19:

10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.
11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:
12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:
13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:
14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:
15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:
16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.
18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

If we look at verses 10-16, leading to our text in question (verse 17), I find it helpful to break the statements down into three voices. 

The wise father says:

  • Don’t consent to go with sinners (verse 10).
  • Don’t even go in their direction (verse 15).
  • They are violent (verse 16).

The sinners say of their victims:

  • We’ll kill them without cause (verse 11).
  • We’re going to completely destroy them (verse 12).
  • We’ll get rich at their expense (verse 13).

The sinners say to their prospective partners:

  • Come with us, be our partner (verse 11).
  • We’ll make you rich (verse 13).
  • We’ll share everything with you (verse 14).

Verse 17 has had a lot of different interpretations, but in context, the sense is pretty clear.  A bird is smart enough not to fly into a trap when it has been put out right in front of him.  My son, be as smart as the bird.  Those who would entice you to destroy others will destroy you as well.  Or, to use another expression, they talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Will you be their partner, and give them no cause to hate you?  They’ve already told you how they treat people who have given them no cause to do evil.  Will you share finances equally with them?  They’ve told you how honest they are in their financial dealings.  Open your eyes.

As my daughter said when discussing this in family devotions today, “Be a bird-brain,” as wise as the birds.  Those who deal treacherously with others will deal treacherously with you.  You can see the net as they spread it.  They’ve told you exactly who and what they are.  They are evil, violent, greedy, and treacherous.  Don’t step in their net when you can see them spreading it.

The wise father goes on to say that the violent and the greedy destroy themselves as well.  They will destroy you, for they are treacherous, they will destroy themselves, and if you become like them you will also be self-destructive.

There are many applications.  If a person gossips to you, they will gossip against you.  Don’t trust them.  You can see the net being spread. 

If a person wants to cheat on his spouse, he’ll cheat on you, too.  It’s amazing to me how many people, having had an affair with a married person, encouraged a divorce, and married the adulterer, are then shocked and amazed when he cheats on them, too.  You know exactly how much integrity he (or she) doesn’t have.  You can see the net, and you walked into it?  Oh, of course, it wouldn’t happen to you, would it, because HE is different.  Some people walk into the net even when they see it….

If a person wants to be selfish with you, he’ll be selfish towards you.  If he wants to be malicious towards others with you, he’ll be malicious towards you.  If he wants you to join him in fraud, he’ll defraud you.  You can see the net being spread — will you walk into it?

Not everyone who wants to be on the same side as you is on your side.  Those who won’t walk in the way of the Lord are never on your side, really.  Don’t take their way.  Open your eyes, and see if the net is being spread.  If it is, then you know.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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14 Responses to A Proverb for Today — Proverbs 1:17

  1. To the young man seeking a wife — If she disrespects and is unsubmissive to her father (the male authority in her life now), she will do the same to her husband (to you, if you marry her).

    To the young woman seeking a husband — If he disrespects and is unloving toward his mother (the female priority in his life now), he will do the same to his wife (to you, if you marry him).

    • Jon Gleason says:

      So true.

      And just let me say that I very greatly appreciate comments, especially on the Proverbs, that add sound applications that I haven’t mentioned. There is no way that I could think of every application, even if I meditated on it for weeks, and there are many who could profit from the wisdom of others, as in this post.

      • Jonathan says:

        Today as was reading proverbs being 1 feb 22 this verse 1:17 how usless to spread a net where every bird can see it
        I Was lacking understanding and was searching for the meaning found the answer here in mindrenewers to my superise it is excalty 10 years now as it was recorded on 1fed 12 ×

      • Jon Gleason says:

        I’m glad you found it helpful! I do hope to begin blogging again occasionally before long, hopefully I can do more on the Proverbs.

  2. Diane says:

    I was thinking of this just yesterday. It seems the new attraction via Netflix is a BBC production called “Downton Abbey”. There are numerous Christian “friends” on my Facebook list that are singing the praises of this thing. I was contemplating checking it out, as our oldest daughter and I enjoy watching some of the period pieces, like Masterpiece Theater. I was spared the effort when a friend posted that in the very first episode there are two gay men, kissing. So, why are these people continuing to watch it? There’s the “net” blatantly and obnoxiously in front of their noses. If the very first episode begins by introducing that agenda, you don’t expect to walk deeper and deeper into it with subsequent ones? (And it goes on into extra marital affairs etc. from what I understand). Ugh.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Surely you aren’t telling me that the BBC produced something with ungodly themes?

      When will Christians decide that watching immorality (and things that condone immorality) is not a good form of entertainment? At least some of these characters engaging in ungodly behaviour will have been portrayed sympathetically, so as to get you emotionally “on their side” — but they aren’t on your side.

  3. Patrick Heeney says:

    In the work place, when telling the truth is deemed “not convenient”, I like to mention that anyone that will lie FOR you, will lie TO you. You really have no justification for your anger when it happens, if you have encouraged and/or participated in the behaviour. And yes, we had a young woman working that had an affair with a married man, that was married to his previous adultress, after divorcing his previous previous adultress. She is like number 3 or 4, “but it won’t happen to me.” What a bunch of foolishness.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Integrity matters, and you never really profit by someone else’s lack of integrity on your behalf. It will hit you eventually.

      You know, sometimes it “won’t happen to you,” because people DO change, but change involves repentance, and there was obviously no repentance in the case you described. Very sad, and it happens over and over again.

  4. Lazarus osei papa says:

    Would like you to send me more lessons on book of proverb.am studying from chapter one

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I don’t have a lot more in Proverbs 1 at this point. If you look at the sidebar on the blog, below “Navigation Helps” there are a couple things there that would help. You can search for “Proverbs” in the search box. Or you can click in the Category box, and it will pull down a list of categories. About half-way down is a category called “Daily Christianity” and beneath it is one called “A Proverb for Today”. If you click on that, it will give a list of articles on Proverbs.

      It will give a page of seven articles, and if you want to look at more of them, at the bottome of the page there will be something that says “older posts” — if you click that, it will pull up seven more. There are currently 47 articles in the category.

      I hope to put up a menu page for my Proverbs articles, similar to the other Series Summary pages on the sidebar, but that is going to take some time to get done.

      I hope that helps a little. May the Lord bless your studies in Proverbs.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        This comment is obsolete. Instead, on the right hand sidebar, there are a number of series summaries, and “Posts on Proverbs” is one of them.


    The verse is well elaborated3

  6. Jonathan says:

    Today as was reading proverbs being 1 feb 22 this verse 1:17 how usless to spread a net where every bird can see it
    I Was lacking understanding and was searching for the meaning found the answer here in mindrenewers to my superise it is excalty 10 years now as it was recorded on 1fed 12

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