Proverbs 17:11

ESV An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
NIV Evildoers foster rebellion against God; the messenger of death will be sent against them.
NASB A rebellious person seeks only evil, So a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
CSB An evil person desires only rebellion; a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
NLT Evil people are eager for rebellion, but they will be severely punished.
KJV An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

What does Proverbs 17:11 mean?

This verse states that those who insist on rebelling—against truth, sense, wisdom, or legitimate authority—are evil (1 Samuel 15:23). The prior proverb noted the difference between a person who accepts correction, versus the one who makes himself immune to it (Proverbs 17:10). Where the prior verse noted that the foolish person won't accept correction, no matter what they suffer, this one notes that the persistent rebel will eventually face consequences. That might come in the form of legal trouble, or simply as the consequences of sin (Proverbs 9:10–12).

Genesis 37:36 identifies a man named Potiphar as "the captain of the [Egyptian] guard." As Pharaoh's captain, Potiphar was likely the chief executioner. In Genesis 40:22 we read that Pharaoh "hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them." Potiphar was probably the one who carried out the sentence Pharaoh had imposed on the chief baker. This was due to some insult—or perceived error—against the ruler (Genesis 40:1). When the baker ran afoul of authority, he experienced the "cruel messenger" of punishment. Solomon predicts in this verse that a hardened, rebellious person can expect to fall into a similar situation, and experience a related result. Clear evidence exists today of the likely punishment that awaits a rebellious person. The English expression "learn the hard way" describes what happens when foolishness and rebellion finally catch up to someone.
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