Proverbs 30

CHAPTER XXX

Agur's confession of faith, 1-6.

His prayer, 7-9.

Of wicked generations, 10-14.

Things that are never satisfied, 15, 16.

Of him who despises his parents, 17.

Three wonderful things, 18-20.

Three things that disquiet the land, 21-23.

Four little but very intelligent animals, 24-28.

Four things that go well, 29-31.

A man should cease from doing foolishly, and from strife,

32, 33.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXX

Verse 1. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh] The words Agur,

Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal, have been considered by some as proper

names: by others, as descriptive characters. With some, Agur is

Solomon; and Jakeh, David; and Ithiel and Ucal are epithets

of Christ.

The Vulgate translates, Verba congregantis filii vomentis:

visio, quam locutus est sir, cum quo est Deus, et qui Deo secum

morante confortatus, ait. "The words of the collector, the son of

the vomiter: the vision of the man who has God with him, and who

is fortified by God dwelling with him, saith."

COVERDALE makes the following words a title to the chapter:

"The wordes of Agur the sonne of Jake.

"The prophecie of a true faithfull man, whom God hath helped;

whom God hath comforted and nourished."

The whole might be thus translated, keeping near to the letter:-

"The words of the epistle of the obedient son." Or,

"The words of the collector, the son of Jakeh. The parable which

haggeber, the strong man, the hero, spake unto him who is God

with me; to him who is God with me, even the strong God."

The visioun that a man spake with whiche is God, and that God

with him, wonyng confortid.-Old MS. Bible.

From this introduction, from the names here used, and from the

style of the book, it appears evident that Solomon was not the

author of this chapter; and that it was designed to be

distinguished from his work by this very preface, which

specifically distinguishes it from the preceding work. Nor can the

words in Pr 30:2, 3, 8, 9, be at all applied to Solomon: they

suit no part of Solomon's life, nor of his circumstances. We must,

therefore, consider it an appendix or supplement to the preceding

collection; something in the manner of that part which the men of

Hezekiah, king of Judah, had collected. As to mysteries here, many

have been found by them who sought for nothing else; but they are

all, in my view of the subject, hazarded and precarious. I believe

Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal, to be the names of persons who

did exist, but of whom we know nothing but what is here mentioned.

Agur seems to have been a public teacher, and Ithiel and Ucal

to have been his scholars; and what he delivers to them was done

by prophesy. It was what the prophets generally term massa,

an ORACLE, something immediately delivered by the Holy Spirit for

the benefit of man.

Verse 2. Surely I am more brutish] These words can in no sense,

nor by any mode of speech, be true of Solomon: for while he was

the wisest of men, he could not have said that he was more brutish

than any man, and had not the understanding of a man. It is saying

nothing to the purpose, to say he was so independently of the

Divine teaching. Had he put this in, even by innuendo, it might be

legitimate: but he does not; nor is it by fair implication to be

understood. Solomon is not supposed to have written the Proverbs

after he fell from God. Then indeed he might have said he had

been more brutish than any man. But Agur might have used these

words with strict propriety, for aught we know; for it is very

probable that he was a rustic, without education, and without any

human help, as was the prophet Amos; and that all that he knew now

was by the inspiration of the Almighty, independently of which he

was rustic and uneducated.

Verse 3. I neither learned wisdom] I have never been a scholar

in any of those schools of the wise men, nor have the knowledge of

the holy, kedoshim, of the saints or holy persons.

The Septuagint give this a different turn: θεοςδεδιδαχεμε

σοφιανκαιγνωσιναγιωνεγνωκα; "God hath taught me wisdom, and

the knowledge of the saints I have known."

This may refer to the patriarchs, prophets, or holy men, that

lived before the days of Solomon. That is, the translators might

have had these in view.

Verse 4. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?] Calmet

paraphrases this passage thus: "Who hath descended, &c. In order

to show the truth of what he was about to say, he observes: I have

not the science of the saints; for how could I have acquired it?

Who is he who could attain to that? Who has ascended to heaven to

learn that science, and who has descended in order to publish it?

Is the science of salvation one of those things that can be

apprehended only by study? Is it not a pure gift of the goodness

of God? Moses, after having shown to the people the will of God,

said to them: 'This commandment which I command thee this day is

not hidden from thee; neither is it far off. It is not in heaven,

that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and

bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?' De 30:11, 12.

The person whose words we are here examining speaks a knowledge

more sublime than that contained in the simple laws of the Lord,

common to all the people of Israel. He speaks of the sublime

science of the designs of God, of his ways, and of his secrets;

and in this sense he affirms he has no knowledge."

Who hath gathered the wind in his fists?] It is as difficult for

a mortal man to acquire this Divine science by his own reason and

strength, as to collect the winds in his fists. And who can

command the spirit of prophecy, so that he can have it whensoever

he pleases?

What is his name?] Show me the nature of this Supreme Being.

Point out his eternity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence;

comprehend and describe him, if thou canst.

What is his son's name] Some copies of the Septuagint have η

τιονοματοιςτικνοιοαυτου; "Or the name of his sons;" meaning, I

suppose, the holy angels, called his saints or holy ones,

Pr 30:3.

The Arabic has, What is his name? [Arabic] and what is the name

of his father? him who begat him. But the Chaldee, the Syriac,

and the Vulgate, read as the Hebrew.

Many are of opinion that Agur refers here to the first and

second persons of the ever-blessed TRINITY. It may be so; but

who would venture to rest the proof of that most glorious doctrine

upon such a text, to say nothing of the obscure author? The

doctrine is true, sublimely true; but many doctrines have suffered

in controversy, by improper texts being urged in their favour.

Every lover of God and truth should be very choice in his

selections, when he comes forward in behalf of the more

mysterious doctrines of the Bible. Quote nothing that is not

clear: advance nothing that does not tell. When we are obliged to

spend a world of critical labour, in order to establish the sense

of a text which we intend to allege in favour of the doctrine we

wish to support, we may rest assured that we are going the wrong

way to work. Those who indiscriminately amass every text of

Scripture they think bears upon the subject they defend, give

their adversaries great advantage against them. I see many a

sacred doctrine suffering through the bad judgment of its friends

every day. The Godhead of Christ, salvation by faith, the great

atoning sacrifice, and other essential doctrines of this class,

are all suffering in this way. My heart says, with deep concern,

Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis,

Tempus eget.

When truth is assailed by all kinds of weapons, handled by the

most powerful foes, injudicious defenders may be ranked among its

enemies. To such we may innocently say,

"Keep your cabins; you do assist the storm."

Verse 5. Every word of God is pure] col

imrath eloah tseruphah, "Every oracle of God is purified." A

metaphor taken from the purifying of metals. Every thing that God

has pronounced, every inspiration which the prophets have

received, is pure, without mixture of error, without dross.

Whatever trials it may be exposed to, it is always like gold: it

bears the fire, and comes out with the same lustre, the same

purity, and the same weight.

He is a shield unto them] And this oracle among the rest. "He

is the defence of all them that put their trust in him."

lechol, to all, is added here by nineteen of Kennicott's and De

Rossi's MSS.; for instead of lachosim, to the trusters,

they read lechol hachosim, "to EVERY ONE of them that

trust." Where the preposition and adjective are not only added,

but the noun is written more full, and more emphatic: but a

translation cannot well express it without paraphrase.

Verse 6. Add not thou unto his words] You can no more increase

their value by any addition, than you can that of gold by adding

any other metal to it. Take care that you do not any thing that

this word forbids, nor leave undone any thing that it commands:

for this is adding and diminishing in Scripture phrase.

Lest he reprove thee] Lest he try thy word by fire, as his has

been tried; and it appear that, far from abiding the test, the

fire shows thine to be reprobate silver; and so thou be found a

falsifier of God's word, and a liar.

How amply has this been fulfilled in the case of the Romish

Church! It has added all the gross stuff in the Apocrypha,

besides innumerable legends and traditions, to the word of God!

They have been tried by the refiner's fire. And this Church has

been reproved, and found to be a liar, in attempting to filiate on

the most holy God spurious writings discreditable to his nature.

Verse 7. Two things have I required of thee] These two petitions

are mentioned in the next verse; and he wishes to have them

answered before he should die. That is, he wishes the answer now,

that he may live the rest of his life in the state he describes.

Verse 8. Remove far from me vanity and lies.] 1. shav, all

false shows, all false appearances of happiness, every vain

expectation. Let me not set my heart on any thing that is not

solid, true, durable, and eternal. 2. Lies, debar

cazab, all words of deception, empty pretensions, false promises,

uncertain dependences, and words that FAIL; promises which, when

they become due, are like bad bills; they are dishonoured

because they are found to be forged, or the drawer insolvent.

From the import of the original, I am satisfied that Agur prays

against idolatry, false religion, and false worship of every kind.

shau is used for an idol, a false god. Jer 18:15:

"My people have forsaken me; they have burnt incense to VANITY;"

lashshav, "to an IDOL." Ps 31:6: "I have hated them that

regard lying VANITIES;" habley shave, "vain IDOLS." See

also Ho 12:11; Jon 2:8. And

cazab, a thing that fails or deceives, may well apply to the

vain pretensions, false promises, and deceptive religious rites

of idolatry. So Jer 15:18: "Wilt thou be unto me as a liar,"

kemo achzob, like the false, failing promises of the

false gods; "and as waters that fail;" lo neemanu, that

are not faithful; not like the true God, whose promises never fail.

According to this view of the subject, Agur prays, 1. That he may

be preserved from idolatry. 2. That he may put no confidence in

any words but those pure words of God that never fail them that

trust in him.

Give me neither poverty nor riches] Here are three requests: 1.

Give me not poverty. The reason is added: Lest, being poor, I

shall get into a covetous spirit, and, impelled by want, distrust

my Maker, and take my neighbour's property; and, in order to

excuse, hide, or vindicate my conduct, I take the name of my God

in vain; taphasti, "I catch at the name of God." Or, by

swearing falsely, endeavour to make myself pass for innocent.

Forswere the name of my God.-Old MS. Bible. Coverdale, "deny or

apostatize from him."

2. Give me not riches. For which petition he gives a reason

also: Lest I be full, and addict myself to luxurious living,

pamper the flesh and starve the soul, and so deny thee, the

Fountain of goodness; and, if called on to resort to first

principles, I say, Who is Jehovah! Why should I acknowledge, why

should I serve him? And thus cast aside all religion, and all

moral obligation.

3. The third request is, Feed me with food convenient for me,

hatripheni lechem chukki; the meaning of which

is, "give me as prey my statute allowance of bread," i.e., my

daily bread, a sufficient portion for each day. There is an

allusion made to hunting: "Direct so by thy good providence, that

I may each day find sufficient portion to subsist on, as a hunter

in the forest prays that he may have good speed." It is the

province of a preacher to show the importance and utility of such

a prayer, and dilate the circumstances, and expand the

reasons, after the commentator has shown the literal sense.

Verse 10. Accuse not a servant] Do not bring a false accusation

against a servant, lest thou be found guilty of the falsehood, and

he curse thee for having traduced his character, and in his turn

traduce thine. In general, do not meddle with other people's

servants.

Verse 11. There is a generation] There are such persons in the

world. In this and the three following verses the wise man points

out four grand evils that prevailed in his time.

The first, Those who not only did not honour, but who

evil-treated, their parents.

Verse 12. The second, Those who were self-righteous, supposing

themselves pure, and were not so.

Verse 13. The third, Those who were full of vanity, pride, and

insolence.

Verse 14. The fourth, The greedy, cruel, and oppressive, and,

especially, oppressive to the poor.

Verse 15. The horseleech hath two daughters, crying, Give,

give.] "This horseleech," says Calmet, "is COVETOUSNESS, and her

two daughters are Avarice and Ambition. They never say, It is

enough; they are never satisfied; they are never contented."

Many explanations have been given of this verse; but as all the

versions agree in rendering alukah the horseleech or

blood-sucker, the general meaning collected has been, "There are

persons so excessively covetous and greedy, that they will

scarcely let any live but themselves; and when they lay hold of

any thing by which they may profit, they never let go their hold

till they have extracted the last portion of good from it." Horace

has well expressed this disposition, and by the same emblem,

applied to a poor poet, who seizes on and extracts all he can from

an author of repute, and obliges all to hear him read his wretched

verses.

Quem vero arripuit, tenet, occiditque legendo,

Non missura cutem, nisi plena cruoris, HIRUDO.

DE ARTE POET., ver. 475.

"But if he seize you, then the torture dread;

He fastens on you till he reads you dead;

And like a LEECH, voracious of his food,

Quits not his cruel hold till gorged with blood."

FRANCIS.

The word alukah, which we here translate horseleech, is

read in no other part of the Bible. May it not, like Agur, Jakeh,

Ithiel, and Ucal, be a proper name, belonging to some well-known

woman of his acquaintance, and well known to the public, who had

two daughters notorious for their covetousness and lechery? And

at first view the following verse may be thought to confirm this

supposition: "There are three things that are never satisfied,

yea, four things say not, It is enough." the grave, the barren

womb, the earth, the fire. What an astonishing similarity there

is between this and the following institute, taken from the Code

of Hindoo Laws, chap. xx., sec. i., p. 203.

"A woman is never satisfied with the copulation of man, no more

than a fire is satisfied with burning fuel; or the main ocean is

with receiving the rivers; or death, with the dying of men and

animals." You can no more satisfy these two daughters of Alukah

than you can the grave, &c.

Some of the rabbins have thought that alukah signifies destiny,

or the necessity of dying, which they say has two daughters, Eden

and Gehenna, paradise and hell. The former has never enough of

righteous souls; the latter, of the wicked. Similar to them is

the opinion of Bochart, who thinks alukah means destiny, and the

two daughters, the grave and hell; into the first of which

the body descends after death, and into the second, the soul.

The Septuagint gives it a curious turn, by connecting the

fifteenth with the sixteenth verse: τηβδελληθυγατερεςησαν

αγαπησειαγαπωμεναικαιαιτρειςαυταιουκενεπιμπλασαναυτην

καιητεταρτηουκηρκεσθηειπεινικανον; "The horseleech had

three well-beloved daughters; and these three were not able to

satisfy her desire: and the fourth was not satisfied, so as to

say, It is enough."

After all, I think my own conjecture the most probable. Alukah

is a proper name, and the two daughters were of the description I

have mentioned.

Verse 17. The eye that mocketh at his father] This seems to be

spoken against those who curse their father, and do not bless

their mother, Pr 30:11.

The ravens of the valley] Those which frequent the places where

dead carcasses and offal are most likely to be found. The raven,

the crow, the rook, the daw, the carrion crow, and the

Cornish chough, appear to be all of the same genus. Some of them

live on pulse and insects; others, the raven in particular, live

on carrion.

The young eagles shall eat it.] The mother eagle shall scoop out

such an eye, and carry it to the nest to feed her young. Many of

the disobedient to parents have come to an untimely end, and, in

the field of battle, where many a profligate has fallen, and upon

gibbets, have actually become the prey of ravenous birds.

Verse 19. The way of an eagle] I borrow, with thanks, the very

sensible note of the Rev. Mr. Holden on this passage.

"The particle ken plainly shows that Pr 30:19, 20 are to

be taken in connection; consequently, it is a comparison between

the way of an adulterous woman, and the way of the things here

described.

"The adulterous woman goes about in search of her deluded

victim, like as the eagle takes its flight into the air to spy out

its prey. She uses every species of blandishment and insinuation

to allure and beguile, as the serpent employs its windings and

sinuous motions to pass along the rocks; she pursues a course

surrounded with danger, as a ship in the midst of the sea is

continually exposed to the fury of the tempest, and the hazard of

shipwreck; and she tries every means, and exercises all her

sagacity, to prevent the discovery of her illicit enjoyments, as a

man attempts to conceal his clandestine intercourse with a maid.

Such is the conduct of a lewd woman, marked by specious

dissimulation and traitorous blandishment; she eateth and wipeth

her mouth-she indulges her adulterous lust, yet artfully

endeavours to conceal it, and with unblushing countenance asserts

her innocence, exclaiming, I have done no wickedness."

CHAUCER'S January and May is an excellent comment on such wiles

and protestations.

The way of a man with a maid.] bealmah, with, or in a

maid; but one of De Rossi's MSS. has bealmaiv, in his

youth; and with this the SEPTUAGINT, εςνεοτητι, the VULGATE, in

adolescentia, the SYRIAC and the ARABIC agree; and so also my own

MS. Bible:-The weie of a man in his waxing youthe. Dr. Kennicott,

in a sermon preached at Oxford, 1765, p. 46, has defended the

reading of the versions, corroborating it by two MSS., one in the

Harleian, and the other in the Bodleian library, besides that

mentioned by De Rossi. See De Rossi's Var. Lect. Certainly the way

of a man in his youth contains too many intricacies for human

wisdom to explore. He only who searches the heart knows fully its

various corrupt principles, and their productions. The common

reading may refer to the formation of a child in the womb. But

some have understood it of the immaculate conception.

See Clarke on Mt 1:23, where the subject is largely considered.

If we take the four things which Agur says were too wonderful

for him, in their obvious sense, there is little difficulty in

them. 1. The passage which a bird makes through the air; 2. That

which is made by a serpent on a rock; and, 3. That made by a ship

through the sea, are such as cannot be ascertained: for who can

possibly show the track in which either of them has passed? And as

to the fourth, if it refer to the suspected incontinence of one

reputed a virgin, the signs are so equivocal, as to be

absolutely unascertainable. The existence of the hymen has been

denied by the ablest anatomists; and the signs of continence or

incontinence, except in the most recent cases, are such as

neither man nor woman can swear to, even to the present day; and

they were certainly not less difficult to Agur and his

contemporaries. I shall carry this matter no farther.

Verse 21. For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four

which it cannot bear] This is another enigma. Four things

insupportable to men. 1. A slave, when he becomes ruler. 2. An

overfed fool. 3. An ill-tempered woman, when mistress of a

family. And, 4. A servant maid, when the rule of the house is

committed to her.

1. A slave, when he comes to bear rule, is an unprincipled

tyrant. It has been often observed both in America and in the

West Indies, when it was judged necessary to arm some of the

most confidential slaves, that no regiments were used so cruelly

in the drill, &c., as those black regiments that had black

officers.

2. The overfed fool. The intellectually weak man, who has every

thing at his command, has generally manners which none can bear;

and, if a favourite with his master, he is insupportable to all

others.

3. An ill-tempered woman, when she gets embarrassed with

domestic cares, is beyond bearing.

4. A servant maid, when, either through the death of the

mistress, or the sin of the husband, she is in fact exalted to be

head over the family, is so insolent and impudent, as to be

hateful to every one, and execrated by all.

Verse 24. There be four things] Of which it is said, they are

very little but very wise. 1. The ants. 2. The rabbits. 3.

The locusts. 4. The spider.

1. The ants show their wisdom by preparing their meat in the

summer; seeking for it and storing it when it may be had; not for

winter consumption, for they sleep all that time; but for autumn

and spring. See Clarke on Pr 6:6. The

ants are a people; they have their houses, towns, cities, public

roads, &c. I have seen several of these, both of the brown and

large black ant.

2. The rabbits act curiously enough in the construction of their

burrows; but the word shaphan probably does not here mean

the animal we call coney or rabbit. It is most likely that this

is what Dr. Shaw calls the Daman-Israel; a creature very like a

rabbit, but never burrowing in the ground, but dwelling in clefts

and holes of rocks.

3. The locusts. These surprising animals we have already met

with and described. Though they have no leader, yet they go forth

by troops, some miles in circumference, when they take wing.

4. The spider. This is a singularly curious animal, both in the

manner of constructing her house, her nets, and taking her

prey. But the habits, &c., of these and such like must be sought

in works on natural history.

Verse 29. There be three things which go well] Here is another

set of emblems; four things which walk beautifully and with

majesty. 1. The lion. 2. The greyhound. 3. The he-goat. And,

4. A king.

1. Nothing can be more majestic than the walk of the lion. It is

deliberate, equal, firm, and in every respect becoming the king of

the forest.

2. The greyhound. zarzir mothnayim, the girt in

the loins; but what this beast is we do not distinctly know. It is

most likely that this was the greyhound, which in the East are

remarkably fine, and very fleet. Scarcely any thing can be

conceived to go with greater fleetness, in full chase, than a

greyhound with its prey in view: it seems to swim over the earth.

3. The goat, tayish. This is generally allowed to be the

he-goat; and how he walks, and what state he assumes, in the

presence of his part of the flock, every one knows, who has at all

noticed this animal. The ram also, which some suppose to be

intended, is both fierce and majestic at the head of the sheep.

4. And a king, against whom there is no rising up. That is, a

king whose court, counsels, and troops, are so firmly united to

him, as to render all hopes of successful conspiracy against him

utterly vain. He walks boldly and majestically about, being safe

in the affections of his people. But the Hebrew is singular; it

makes but two words; and these are they, umelech Alkum,

"and King Alkum." It is a doubt whether this may not be a proper

name, as Agur abounds in them; see Ithiel, Ucal, and probably

Alukah, Pr 30:15. But it is said, "We know nothing of a king

named Alkum." True; nor do we know any thing of Agur, Ithiel,

Ucal, to say nothing of Alukah. And this might have been some

remarkable chieftain, who carried his victories wherever he went,

and was remarkably fortunate. If, however, we separate the word

into al, "not," and kum, "he arose," we may make the

interpretation above given.

Verse 32. If thou hast done foolishly] And who has not, at one

time or other of his life?

Lay thine hand upon thy mouth.] Like the leper; and cry to God,

Unclean! unclean! and keep silence to all besides. God will blot

out thy offence, and neither the world nor the Church ever know

it, for he is merciful; and man is rarely able to pass by a sin

committed by his fellows, especially if it be one to which himself

is by nature not liable or inclined.

Verse 33. And the wringing] Who hugeli snytith drawith out

blood.-Old MS. Bible. This is well expressed in homely phrase.

The Septuagint have, "draw the milk, and you may have butter; if

you press the nostrils you may bring out blood; and if you draw

out your discourse to a great length, you may have strife and

contention." Avoid, therefore, all strong excitements and

irritations. Coverdale's translation of this verse is very simple:

"Whoso chyrneth mylck maketh butter; he that rubbeth his nose

maketh it blede; and he that causeth wrath bryngeth forth strife."

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