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He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.
– Proverbs 18:17
The second phrase pushes the proverb further. We need not get hung up on the neighbor in the text. The word can mean fellow, or even just another person. The word for searcheth is from the Hebrew chaquar, which means to penetrate, to search, to search out, or to examine. The word is used to speak of mining in the earth (Job 28:1-3), searching and exploring a land (Judges 18:2), and tasting and trying drink (Proverbs 23:20). William Wilson said of this word, “The general import seems to be, to examine with pains, care, and accuracy, in order to make a full and clear discovery, or a complete, exact calculation” (Old Testament Word Studies, p. 373).
The law stipulated when one was accused of a crime, the accused and the accuser had opportunity to state their case, were subject to cross-examination, and the judges were required to make “diligent inquisition” to ensure the matter thoroughly examined and established (Deuteronomy 19:15-21). This proverb is broader than the law, though relying on the principle of righteousness. We should hear a man out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is right. We should also be willing to be searched out whenever we make any sort of claim.