What does it mean by "when your enemies stumble/fall"?


Proverbs 24:17

NKJV - 17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.

Clarify Share Report Asked August 13 2015 Mini Justin brown

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
The verse being asked about is the first verse of a two-verse passage (Proverbs 24:17-18). Taken together, the two verses read as follows: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove, and turn His wrath away from them."

In other words, if someone is your enemy, or is otherwise seeking to do you harm, and something bad happens to that person (whether the bad event has the effect of thwarting the person's plans against you or not), do not rejoice at the person's misfortune.

It is similar to the sentiment expressed in Deuteronomy 32:35 (and also as quoted by Paul in Romans 12:19), when Moses (speaking the words of God concerning the fate of Israel's enemies) said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay."

The advice being given here recalls David's reaction in 2 Samuel 1 when he was informed of the death of King Saul. Even though Saul had made David his enemy without cause, and had tried to capture and kill David because he believed that David was a threat to the continuation of Saul's rule (and also to the rule of Saul's sons after him), David had been merciful to Saul by sparing Saul's life on multiple occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul. 

When Saul and three of his sons (including Jonathan, who had been David's close friend) were killed by the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, a man hurried to David with news of Saul's death (and, in fact, claiming that he himself had killed Saul as an act of mercy after Saul was wounded -- although the man was apparently lying, since 1 Samuel 31:4 says that Saul took his own life by falling on his sword, after Saul had been wounded by an arrow that had been fired by the Philistines). 

The man apparently anticipated that David would rejoice at the news, and would reward him as the bearer of good tidings. Instead, David wept and mourned because of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, and also then had the man who had brought the news put to death, because of the man's confession that he had killed Saul (even though the confession was untrue).

August 14 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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