Proverbs 17:2

ESV A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
NIV A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family.
NASB A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully, And will share in the inheritance among brothers.
CSB A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and share an inheritance among brothers.
NLT A wise servant will rule over the master’s disgraceful son and will share the inheritance of the master’s children.
KJV A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

What does Proverbs 17:2 mean?

In the Old Testament era, a master's sons were treated very differently from servants (John 8:35; Galatians 4:7). Still, a father could leave an inheritance to anyone he chose. This proverb points out that blood relationships don't—or shouldn't—override all other concerns. A father might choose to leave a larger share to a loyal, hardworking servant than to a son who brings the family shame (Proverbs 19:26). Although Christians are Jesus' servants, they have become "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17).

This statement is a warning, an ideal, and an encouragement all at once. It warns arrogant sons that their actions still matter—their father is watching. It encourages those who faithfully serve, noting that such loyalty often results in reward. And it emphasizes the ideal of a man who values godliness, rather than ignoring sin in his own family. Others interpret this proverb to speak about a servant who acts as a teacher and mentor to the master's son, helping him overcome shameful attitudes and behaviors.

A complicated example of this proverb comes from David, Mephibosheth, and Ziba. Mephibosheth was the grandson of David's enemy, Saul, yet David treated him well (2 Samuel 9:6–8). As part of that care, David assigned Ziba and his family to be Mephibosheth's servants (2 Samuel 9:9–11). Mephibosheth was treated like one of David's own sons. Yet he seemed to turn against David during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 16:1–4). In response, and for Ziba's loyalty, David promised Ziba all Mephibosheth's wealth. Mephibosheth disputed this later, but David was only partly convinced, and split the fortune between the two men (2 Samuel 19:24–29).
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