Proverbs 17:20

ESV A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
NIV One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.
NASB One who has a crooked mind finds nothing good, And one who is corrupted in his language falls into evil.
CSB One with a twisted mind will not succeed, and one with deceitful speech will fall into ruin.
NLT The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble.
KJV He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.

What does Proverbs 17:20 mean?

This teaching uses the same root word as Proverbs 2:15, Proverbs 8:8, and Proverbs 11:20. It will be repeated in Proverbs 19:1, Proverbs 22:5, and Proverbs 28:6. That term is iq'qēs, often translated as "crooked" or "perverse," and it carries a sense of manipulation. Such people aren't inclined to look for good, so they don't find it. That includes their approach to life, and their view of others. It also means they aren't seeking God (Proverbs 1:7).

Solomon insists in this verse that a man whose heart is crooked—inclined away from God—does not find good (Psalm 10:3–11). Because his motives and morals are bad, he cannot expect blessing from God. Furthermore, his lips dispense lies. Ultimately this corrupt, deceitful person will find trouble. Wicked people may think they are faring well and able to blaspheme God without incurring His judgment, but they are mistaken (Proverbs 10:9). God will punish them, perhaps not today, but when He chooses.

Asaph the psalmist describes evil people of his own era. He poetically depicts them wearing pride like a necklace and violence as a garment, scoffing and speaking with malice, threatening oppression, and setting their mouths against the heavens (Psalm 73:6–9). Asaph struggled with this, only to remember that wicked, blasphemous people will fall under God's hand of judgment. He writes that God will "make them fall to ruin" (Psalm 73:18). He exclaims: "How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms" (Psalm 73:19–20).
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