Proverbs 24:17

ESV Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
NIV Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
NASB Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,
CSB Don't gloat when your enemy falls, and don't let your heart rejoice when he stumbles,
NLT Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.
KJV Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:

What does Proverbs 24:17 mean?

This echoes the lesson of an earlier proverb (Proverbs 17:5). Human beings are so prone to celebrate when others suffer that psychology has a specific label for that urge: schadenfreude. The prior statement condemned those who sneered and gloated over the poor, as well as those who celebrated when someone else suffered tragedy. The New Testament commands that believers are to forgive (Matthew 18:21–22), indicating those who refuse to forgive don't understand their own need for forgiveness (Matthew 6:14–15; 18:23–35). The same basic attitude is reflected in how one responds to the suffering of enemies. Even God avoids expressing glee over the ruin of evil people (Ezekiel 33:11).

We are commanded not to "rejoice" or "gloat" or "smirk" when an enemy suffers or falls. This does not prohibit praising God for bringing judgment (Psalm 7:6). Nor does it mean we should not recognize when someone suffers well-deserved consequences (Psalm 37:20; Proverbs 12:28). What is forbidden is a superior, sneering attitude which presumes they deserve to fall, while we do not (Romans 3:23). Humility expressed through love towards one's enemies is not a natural impulse. It is among the most challenging aspects of Christianity.

Our sin nature is what tempts us to find pleasure in the damage wicked people bring on themselves; Scripture says any such impulses are evil, themselves. That is true regarding earthly suffering, so it should be even more obvious when considering someone's eternal fate. We should never wish for someone to be damned—to want that person to suffer an eternity apart from God. Instead, we should weep over them and try to "snatch them out of the fire… hating even the garment stained by the flesh" (Jude 1:23). Though He knew Jerusalem would reject Him as Messiah, Jesus showed compassion, not vindictiveness. Matthew 23:37–39 records His lament over that city. He exclaimed: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37).
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