Proverbs 30:16

The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
– Proverbs 30:16

Verse 16 lists the four mentioned in the previous verse that are never satisfied. The common link is insatiability, or persistent hunger that is never satisfied. The grave refers to the place of the dead, which never turns a corpse away because it is full (Proverbs 27:20; Isaiah 5:14; Habakkuk 2:5). The barren womb cannot be satisfied apart from bearing children, which it cannot do (Genesis 30:1). In a dry land, the rain is never enough, and fire will burn as long as it has any fuel at all.

The saying forms a warning against uncontrolled appetites, echoing the many wisdom warnings in the book (Proverbs 11:28; 15:27; 20:21; 28:22, 25). The connection with verse 15 and the previous generation sayings also gives the warning to reject the greed of the previous generation. This sort of warning is echoed in the prophets in their warnings to Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 16:44-45).

Proverbs 30:15

The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:
– Proverbs 30:15

Verses 15-16 return to the numerical sayings of this collection, with five of the six sayings contained in verses 15-31. These sayings present mostly in the form of three, then three plus one, or four. This numerical device is a compositional structure that gives a representative rather than exhaustive list. The listed items may seem to be unrelated, but they share some important connection.

The saying opens with a figure of the leech, or particularly the horseleach, that has two daughters. The precise meaning of this figure has been debated for centuries. Why two daughters? Does two indicate twins? Is Give, give the names of the daughters or what they say, since there is no word for crying in the underlying Hebrew Masoretic text? Sometimes, wisdom sayings work by ambiguities and trying to button up every detail could miss the point.

The second part of the saying makes the point of the figure clear. The point is to illustrate never being satisfied, never having enough. The leech is a parasite that consumes insatiably and does not produce. We also see a subtle connection to the generation sayings previous to this one, because the figure is not just a leech, but the daughters of a leech. The sayings prior to this have condemned pride and greed within generations, and here the warning goes both ways. We can be quick to point out the faults of the younger generations to us, but wisdom bids us remember that the older generations produced the younger, and so they are a reflection. To the younger generation, the warning is to be aware and careful not to repeat the follies of the older generations.

Proverbs 30:4

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?
– Proverbs 30:4

Agur asks six questions and most commentators have asked a lot more. The questions echo passages like Job 38, where the loftiness of God above humans is highlighted. The questions ask of might works, like Proverbs 8:24-29, which are creative acts of divine power and so, separate from men. Opinions vary about the “son” mentioned in the last line. Ultimately, Agur writes that wisdom belongs to God alone and comes down to earth in his Son.

Proverbs 30:3

I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
– Proverbs 30:3

Learning wisdom means gaining knowledge of God (Proverbs 9:10). Agur’s confession points to the human deficit of wisdom and the need for humble, reverent submission to acquire wisdom.

Proverbs 30:2

Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
– Proverbs 30:2

The word for brutish means stupid and can refer to animals as opposed to humans. Agur begins confessing he is more like a dumb beast than a human being in terms of wisdom. Beasts are without spiritual insight or concern, and are rather driven by animal needs such as safety and food (Psalm 73:21-22). The wisdom of Proverbs generally tends to humility (Proverbs 3:5-7; 26:12; 28:26). It could be said that wisdom is unattainable without it.

Proverbs 29:3

Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.
– Proverbs 29:3

This saying echoes a long line of wisdom sayings pertaining to sons who acquire wisdom blessing their fathers (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20; 23:15, 24-25; 27:11). The second line gives the contrasting parallel for the foolish sons (Proverbs 5:8-10; 6:26; 21:17, 20; 28:7, 19). The contrast is between loving and pursuing wisdom or loving and pursuing folly. Wisdom and folly are personified as women in Proverbs (Proverbs 9:1-18), and so loving wisdom is pictured through finding a virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:10-31) and folly through chasing prostitutes (Proverbs 5:1-23; 7:1-27). Jesus told of such a foolish son, who went on to forsake folly for wisdom (Luke 15:11-32).

Proverbs 28:26

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
– Proverbs 28:26

This saying begins with a contrast from the last phrase of the previous verse. The very essence of folly is trusting in one’s own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The fool follows his own way and walks by the suggestions of his own mind (Proverbs 14:12, 15; 15:14; 17:24). The first phrase emphasizes wisdom is from outside of us and must be received. To walk wisely is not to trust in oneself. Those who walk wisely will find safety (Proverbs 3:5-6; 28:18; 29:25).

Proverbs 28:11

The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
– Proverbs 28:11

Being wise in one’s own eyes is a characteristic of a fool, regardless of the particular avenue the fool walks down (Proverbs 3:7; 12:15; 26:5, 12, 16). The foolish rich find false security in wealth (Proverbs 18:11) and here, they take credit for their situation in life. The saying contrasts the foolish rich man with the poor man who has wisdom, understanding. Wisdom looks past the facade of riches and success.

Proverbs 27:27

And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
– Proverbs 27:27

This verse ends the saying and the consideration of the reward for diligence. The word for maintenance means alive and has the idea of lively, or active. It speaks of health. The general picture of the faithful farmer-shepherd is a vibrant estate, well supplied.

 


 

 

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