Proverbs 18:17

ESV The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
NIV In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
NASB The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.
CSB The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.
NLT The first to speak in court sounds right — until the cross-examination begins.
KJV He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.

What does Proverbs 18:17 mean?

As a wise judge, Solomon remarks on the importance of "due diligence." A person needs to hear both sides of a case before rendering a decision. Many claims and accusations seem plausible until scrutinized. What seems obvious, at first, may fall apart when looked at with a more critical eye. Of course, it might also prove true. This principle is extremely important—not only in daily life, but in spiritual matters. The Bible doesn't just endorse cautious skepticism (Acts 17:11), it commands it (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 4:1; Galatians 1:8).

Daily life is full of examples proving the wisdom of this proverb. Friends, neighbors, or coworkers might make accusations against each other, telling only one side of the story. But a person needs to hear from others involved, or at least learn all the relevant facts, before attempting to declare who is telling the truth. In the case of bickering church members, the same need for discernment applies. A church member may complain to the pastor about another member, but the pastor must hear from the accused before drawing a conclusion. A person may be very persuasive until his accuser tells his side of the story.

In a famous incident, Solomon demonstrated a creative method of seeking more information. He showed good judgment in the case of two women, each claiming to be the mother of the same infant. Solomon's ploy was to suggest the baby be cut in half, with half given to each woman. The real mother strongly objected, while the other was willing. This made it clear which was the real mother and which was acting in spite. After "examining" the two claims, it was obvious who was the baby's real mother (1 Kings 3:16–27).
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