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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 30

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 30:1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, [even] the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,

Ver. 1. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh.] The Vulgate renders, Verba Congregantis filii Vomentis, taking these proper names for appellatives, as if the penman of this chapter meant to tell us that he would here give us his sacred collectanies or miscellanies, such as he had taken up from the mouths of wisest men, who had vomited or cast them up, in a like sense as that painter in Aelian drew Homer vomiting, and all the other poets licking it up. (a) This Agur, whether he lived in Solomon’s days or Hezekiah’s, was an excellent man, as the word Gheber here used imports; Vir bonus et prudens, minus tamen clarus (as one saith of Jesse, David’s father), a godly, wise man, though nothing be elsewhere spoken of him in Scripture. Some think that, being requested by Ithiel and Ucal, two of his disciples, to give them a lesson, Socrates-like he answered, Hoc unum scio, quod nihil scio: This one thing I know, that I know nothing: "Surely I am more brutish than any man," sc., of myself, further than taught of God; for every man is a brute by his own understanding, as Jeremiah hath it. [Jeremiah 10:8] But I rather incline to those that take Ithiel and Ucal for Christ, whose goodness and power - those two pillars of a Christian’s faith, as Jachin and Boaz were of Solomon’s temple - are by these two names deciphered, and whom he propounds as the matter of his prophecy. Now, because sense of misery must precede sense of mercy, neither can any be welcome to Christ, but "the weary and heavy laden"; therefore he first bewails his own brutishness - fetching it up as low as Adam fallen, [Proverbs 30:2] and aggravating it in that he had not yet acquired better abilities. [Proverbs 30:3] Next he flees to Ithiel and Ucal, by the force of a particular faith - Ithiel, God with me, and Ucal, God Almighty, through whom I can do all things. This, this was the right ready way of coming to Christ; and him that thus cometh he will in no wise cast out. [John 6:37] There is a good interpreter, (b) that, paralleling this text with Jeremiah 9:23-24, reads it thus: A gathering together of the words of Agur, the son of Jakeh. Let the excellent man say, ‘Let God be with me, let God be with me, and I shall prevail.’


Verse 2

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

Ver. 2. Surely I am more brutish than any man.] Or, Surely I have been brutish since I was a man. See how this good man vilifies, yea, nullifies himself to the utmost. This was true humility, that like true balm ever sinks to the bottom, when hypocritical, as oil, swims on the top. Humilitas, ab humo, because it lays a man flat on the ground. Agur had seen Ithiel and Ucal; hence he seeth so little by himself: "Now mine eyes have seen thee; wherefore I abhor myself." [Job 42:5] "Woe is me! for I am undone," saith Isaiah; "for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." [Proverbs 6:5] He that looks intently upon the sun hath his eyes dazzled; so he that beholds the infinite excellencies of God, considers the distance, cannot but be sensible of his own naughtiness, nothingness. It is fit the foundation should be laid deep, where the building is so high. Agur’s humility was not more low than his aims lofty: "Who hath ascended up into heaven?" It is a high pitch that he flies, for he knew well that godliness, as it begins in the right knowledge of ourselves, so it ends in the right knowledge of God.

And have not the understanding of a man.] Or, Neither is there in me the understanding that was in Adam. Man, when he came first out of God’s mint, shone most glorious in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Socinians feign him silly, and therein betray their own silliness. (a) He had a large measure of objective knowledge, both in natural things and supernatural; which we have lost in him. [1 Corinthians 2:14] This we should, with Agur here, sit down and bewail, as those in Ezra did the burnt temple. [Ezra 3:12]


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. I neither learned wisdom.] As he had it not by nature, (a) so neither had he attained unto it by any pains or skill of his own. "There is a spirit indeed in man" - a reasonable soul and a faculty of reasoning - "but the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding." [Job 32:8] Not that Agur neglected the means of knowledge, or put off the study of it (as Solomon’s fool, Proverbs 24:7), from a conceit of the impossibility of reaching to it. Neither yet was he of their mind of whom Augustine makes mention that they cast off the care of knowledge, because knowledge puffeth up; and so would be ignorant that they might be humble, and want knowledge that they might want pride. This was to do as the philosopher that plucked out his eyes to avoid the danger of uncleanness. Sed nihil aliud egit quam quod fatuitatem suam urbi manifestam fecit, saith Tertullian, (b) wherein he proclaimed his own folly to all the country. But holy Agur here assures us that flesh and blood never revealed these high things that follow unto him, but as Paul was an apostle, so was he a prophet "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father," [Galatians 1:1] even "the Father of lights." [James 1:17] In nature’s school nothing is to be learned concerning Ithiel and Ucal. St Augustine, though much taken with Cicero’s "Hortensius," yet because he found not the name of Christ in it he could not so heartily affect it. (c) The philosophers much magnify the mind of man as full of divine light and perspicacy, when the truth tells us that it is

Mens oblita Dei, vitiorumque oblita caeno.

There is nothing great in the earth but man, nothing in man but his mind. Si eousque scandis, coelum transcendis, said Favorinus the philosopher; If you get up thither you ascend beyond heaven. But Agur "had not so learned Christ." He talks of natural blindness and other evils born with him. Erras si tecum vitia nasci putes; supervenere, ingesta sunt. You are out, Agur, saith Seneca, if you talk on that manner; blindness is not natural to you, but adventitious. Agur bewails his loss in Adam; this nature’s eye never saw, and therefore heart never rued. Those that were born in hell knew none other heaven, as the proverb is. Agur tells us here that he never learned true wisdom from any man, but must thank God for that measure thereof that he had attained to. On the contrary Cicero (d) tells us that, inasmuch as every man acquires to himself that virtue that he hath, no wise man ever yet gave God thanks for it. And Seneca saith, It is of the gods that we live, but of ourselves that we live well and honestly. (e) How different are the saints in Scripture from the world’s wizards!

Nor have the knowledge of the holy.] That is, Of the angels [Daniel 4:13; Daniel 4:17; Daniel 8:13] whom Jacob saw ascending and descending. [Genesis 28:12, compared with Proverbs 30:4 John 1:51] Moses made them looking intently into the mercy seat. [Exodus 25:18-19] Peter sets them forth as stooping down to look wishtly and earnestly (f) into the mystery of Christ [1 Peter 1:12] which was hid from them till the discovery, and ever since, that they are great students in it. [Ephesians 3:10] But how should Agur, or any man else that cannot tell the form and the quintessence of things, that cannot enter into the depth of the flower, or the grass he treads on, that cannot understand the nature and properties of so small a creature as an ant or bee - Pliny (g) tells of one that spent eight and fifty years in learning out the nature of the bee, and yet had not fully attained unto it - how is it possible, I say, that the wisest naturalist should have the wit to enter into the deep things of God? "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," &c. [1 Corinthians 2:9]


Verse 4

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?

Ver. 4. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?] Who but the Son of man which is in heaven? [John 3:13] who but the holy angels upon that Son of man, the ladder of life? [John 1:51] who but those that have, in some measure, the knowledge of those holy ones, [Proverbs 30:3] the knowledge of God in Christ, which is life eternal, [John 17:3] heaven aforehand? Holy Agur holds it out to us here that to "know heavenly things" is to "ascend into heaven." Even Aristotle (a) saith that a little knowledge, though but conjectural, about heavenly things, is to be preferred above much knowledge, though certain, about inferior things, and yet he knew no heaven beyond the moveable heavens, neither acknowledged any body, or time, or place, or vacuum there. The truth is, no natural knowledge can be had of the third heaven, nor any help by human arts, for it is neither aspectable nor moveable. As no man hath seen God at any time, so, nor heaven, the throne of God, only "the only begotten Son of God which is in the bosom of the Father," he hath declared both him and heaven, [John 1:18] as that there are many mansions, crowns, sceptres, kingdoms, glories, beauties, angelical entertainments, beatific visions, sweetest varieties, felicities, eternities. And yet all this, or whatsoever more can be said of heaven’s happiness, is not the one half, as she said of Solomon’s magnificence, of what we shall find in that city of pearl. To express it is as impossible as to compass the heavens with a span, or contain the ocean in a nutshell. Let there be continual ascensions thither in our hearts; let us lift up hearts and hands to God in the heavens, and he will shortly send his chariots for us, as Joseph did for his father, fetch us riding upon the clouds, convoy us by his angels through the air, as through the enemy’s country, and puts us into that panegyries, that general assembly, and solemn celebrity of holy and happy souls. [Hebrews 12:23] As in the mean space, how should we every day take a turn or two with Christ upon Mount Tabor? - get up to the top of Pisgah with Moses, and take a prospect of heaven? - turn every solemnity into a school of divinity? Say, as Fulgentius, when he saw the nobility of Rome sit mounted in their bravery, Si talis est Roma terrestris qualis est Roma coelestis? If Rome be such a glorious place, what is heaven? What music may we think there is in heaven? said another good soul, when he sat and heard a good concert of music. This, this is the principal end and most profitable use of all creatures, Cum scalae nobis et alae fiant, When they become ladders and wings to us to mount up to heaven.

Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? &c.] None but God, the great wonder worker, the right Aeolus, that "bringeth the winds out of his treasures," [Psalms 135:7] and bids them at his pleasure "Peace, be still." We read of a whirlwind raised by the devil, [Job 1:19] and of a tempest, laid by the magicians (Herodotus, in Polymnia). But it cannot be said {as 1 Kings 19:11} that "God was not in that wind"; for he hath the royalty of all the creatures, though he suffer the devil to play rex sometimes, for ends best known to himself.

Who hath bound the waters in a garment?] Those above the firmament, in clouds - through which they distil and drop down, as water would do if bound up in a garment - those below, in channels and bottles, as the Psalmist hath it. Water is naturally above the earth, as the garment above the body, and would, but for the providence of God, prove as the shirt made for the murdering of Agamemnon, where the head had no issue out, &c. {See Trapp on "Genesis 1:7"}

What is his name?] God is above all name, to speak properly. When Manoah inquires after his name, the answer is, "It is Wonderful"; that is, I am called as I am called; but such is thy weakness that it passeth thy conception; this ocean will not be measured by thy musselshell. Multa nomina et lumina sibi finxerunt infideles. The heathens had many names for their dunghill deities; but the Africans called an "unknown god" whom they worshipped, Amen, that is, Heus tu quis est? Hark, who art thou? as Plutarch relateth. (b)

And what is his son’s name?] Christ hath many names in Holy Scripture, as Isaiah 9:6-7. So "Jehovah, our righteousness"; "Messiah the Prince," [Daniel 9:25] whereunto answereth in the New Testament, "the Lord Christ"; but "who can declare his generation?" [Isaiah 53:8] whether that eternal generation, or that in the fulness of time, the mystery whereof was beyond words? Our safest eloquence here will be our silence, our greatest knowledge a learned ignorance. Only we have here a clear testimony of the distinction of the persons, and that the Son is coequal and consubstantial with the Father, since he is also, as the Father, above all name and notion.

If thou canst tell.] But so can none: "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither doth any man know the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." [Matthew 11:27] The Son is so like the Father here, that if you know the one, ye cannot but know the other. [John 14:7-9] Milk is not so like milk. Non tam ovum ovo simile. He is "the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person." [Hebrews 1:3] {See Trapp on "Hebrews 1:1-14; Hebrews 3:1-19"} And if we desire a glass wherein to behold the face of God the Father, and of his Son, here is one held forth in the next verse.


Verse 5

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God [is] pure: he [is] a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

Ver. 5. Every word of God is pure: he is a shield.] Albeit all the sacred sentences contained in this blessed book are pure, precious, and profitable; yet as one star in heaven outshineth another, so doth one proverb another, and this is among the rest, velut inter stellas luna minores, an eminent sentence often recorded in Scripture, and far better worthy than ever Pindar’s seventh ode was to be written in letters of gold. (a) Every word of God is pure, purer than "gold tried in the fire," [Revelation 3:18] purer than "silver tried in a furnace, and seven times purified." [Psalms 12:6] Julian, therefore, that odious apostate, is not to be hearkened to, who said there was as good stuff in Phocylides as in Solomon, in Pindar’s odes as in David’s psalms. Nor is that brawling dog Porphyry to be regarded, who blasphemously accuseth Daniel the prophet, and Matthew the evangelist, as writers of lies, Os durum! harsh speech. The Jesuits, some of them, say little less of St Paul’s epistles, which they could wish by some means censured and reformed, as dangerous to be read, and savouring of heresy in some places. (b) Traditions they commonly account the touchstone of doctrine and foundation of faith; the Scriptures to be rather a Commonitorium , as Bellarmine calls it, a kind of storehouse for advice, than cor et animam Dei, the heart and soul of God, as Gregory (c) calls them, - a fortress against errors, as Augustine. (d) The apostle calleth concupiscence sin - at non licet nobis ita loqui; but we may not call it so, saith Possevine, the Jesuit (e) The author to the Hebrews saith, "Marriage is honourable among all men"; but the Rhemists, on 1 Corinthians 7:9, say that the marriage of priests is the worst sort of incontinence. Christ saith the sin against the Holy Ghost hath no remission. Bellarmine (f) saith that it may be forgiven. The Council of Constance comes in with a non obstante against Christ’s institution, withholding the cup from the people at the sacrament. And a Parisian doctor (g) tells us, that although the apostle would have sermons and service celebrated in a known tongue, yet the Church, for very good cause, hath otherwise ordered it. Bishop Bonner’s chaplain called the Bible, in scorn, ‘his little pretty God’s book,’ and judged it worthy to be burnt, tanquam doctrina peregrina, as strange doctrine. Gilford and Raynolds said it contained some things profane and apocryphal. Others have styled it the ‘mother of heresy,’ and therefore not fit to be read by the common people, lest they suck poison out of it. Prodigious blasphemy! Of the purity and perennity of the holy Scriptures, see more in my True Treasure, pp. 85, 139.

He is a shield to them that put their trust in him.] See Genesis 15:1 {See Trapp on "Genesis 15:1"} Proverbs 29:25.


Verse 6

Proverbs 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Ver. 6. Add thou not unto his words.] As the Jews at this day do by their traditions, which they arrogantly call mashlamnutha, completio, perfectio, (a) because they think that thereby the law is completed and perfected, as the Artemonites, and after them the schoolmen, corrupted the Scripture out of Aristotle and Theophrastus, turning all into questions and quillets. (b) As Mahomet joined his Alfurta, his service book, a horrible heap of all blasphemies, to the three parts of holy Scripture, as he divides them, the law, psalms, and gospel. As the Papists add their human inventions and unwritten verities, which they equalise unto, if not prefer before, the book of God, as appears by that heathenish decree of the Council of Trent. And when at the Council of Basil the Hussites denied to receive any doctrine that could not be proven by Scripture, Cardinal Cusan answered that Scriptures were not of the being of the Church, but of the well being, and that they were to be expounded according to the current rite of the Church, which, if it change its mind, the judgment of God is also changed. (c) Lastly, Such add to God’s word as wrest it and rack it; making it speak that which it never thought; causing it to go two miles where it would go but one; gnawing and tawing it to their own purposes, as the shoemaker taws (d) upper leather with his teeth. Tertullian calls Marcion the heretic, Mus Ponticus, of [from] his arroding and gnawing the Scripture, to make it serviceable to his errors.

Lest he reprove thee.] Both verbally and penally - both with words and blows. Lest he severely punish thee, as one that adds to his will, or imbaseth his coin.

And thou be found a liar.] As all Popish forgers and roisters at this day are found to be. God hath ever raised up such as have detected their impostures, and vindicated the purity and perfection of the sacred Scriptures.


Verse 7

Proverbs 30:7 Two [things] have I required of thee; deny me [them] not before I die:

Ver. 7. Two things have I required of thee.] Two special requests he had among many, for our present condition is a condition of singular vanity and indigence. We get our living by begging, and are never without somewhat to be required of God; never without our wants and ailments and suits for supplies.

Deny me them not.] See here both his familiarity with God in prayer and his importunity; for a lazy suitor begs a denial. Agur therefore re-enforceth his request: it was honest, else he would never have begun it; but being so, he is resolved to follow it. So doth David with his "one thing" which he did desire, and he would desire, [Psalms 27:4] he would never give it over. So Jacob would have a blessing, and therefore wrestles with might and slight; and this he doth in the night and alone, and when God was leaving him, and upon one leg. He had a hard pull of it, and yet he prevailed. "Let me go," saith God: no, thou shalt not go, saith Jacob, till I have my request. It is not unlawful for us to be unmannerly in prayer, to be importunate, and after a sort impudent. [Luke 18:8] (a) Was not the woman of Canaan so? [Matthew 15:22] She came for a cure, and a cure she would have; and had it too, with a high commendation of her heroic faith. Christ was no penny father; he had more blessings than one, even the abundance of the Spirit for them that ask it. When poor men make requests to us, we usually answer them as the echo doth the voice, the answer cuts off half the petition: if they ask us two things, we think we deal well if we grant them one. Few Naamans, that when you beg one talent will force you to take two. But God heaps mercies upon his suppliants, and blames them for their modesty in asking. "Hitherto you have asked me nothing"; nothing to what you might have done, and should have had. "Ask, that your joy may be full." "Thou shouldst have smitten five or six times," said the prophet to the king of Israel, that smote thrice only - "then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it." [2 Kings 13:18-19]

Before I die,] q.d., I intend to be a daily suitor for them while I live; and when I die I shall have no more to do in this kind. Every one as he hath some special grace or gift above others, and as he is dogged with some special temptation or violent corruption, so he hath some great request. And God holds him haply in hand about it all his lifelong, that he may daily hear from him, and that a constant intercourse may be maintained. Thus it was with David, [Psalms 27:4] and with Paul. [2 Corinthians 12:8-9] In this case we must resolve to give God no rest, never to stand before him but ply this petition; and yet take heed of prescribing to him, of "limiting the holy one of Israel." Say with Luther, Fiat voluntas mea: Let my will be done; but then he sweetly falls off with, mea voluntas, Domine, quia tua: My will, Lord, but because it is, and no further than it is, thy will too.


Verse 8

Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

Ver. 8. Remove far from me vanity and lies,] i.e., All sorts of sins, those lying vanities that promise much happiness to those that pursue them, but perform little enough; "shame" at the best, but usually "death." [Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23] Free me both from the damning and from the domineering power of sin; both from the sting and stain of it; from the guilt and filth; from the crime and curse; from the power and punishment. Let my person be justified, and my lusts mortified. "Forgive me my trespasses, and deliver me from evil."

Give me neither poverty nor riches.] So that God must give to be poor as well as to be rich. He makes holes in the money bag, [Haggai 1:6] and he stops the secret issues and drains of expense at which men’s estates run out, they know not how nor when. Agur would have neither poverty, for the many inconveniences and discomforts that attend it, nor yet riches, for the many cares, cumbers, and other evils not a few that follow them; but a mediocrity, a competence, a sufficiency without superfluity. A state too big, he knew, is troublesome, as well as a shoe too big for the foot. They say it is not the great cage that makes the bird sing; sure we are it is not the great estate that brings always the inward joy, the cordial contentment. Glass keeps out wind and rain, but lets in the light, and is therefore useful in building. A moderate estate is neither so mean as to expose a man to the injuries, nor so great as to exclude a man from the influence of heaven. A staff may help a traveller, but a bundle of staves may be a burden to him; so may too great an estate to a godly man.

Feed me with food convenient for me.] Heb., With food of mine allowance, or which thou seest fit to allow me: so much as my demensum comes to; the piece that thou hast cut for me; the portion that belongs unto me; the bread of the day for the day; give me daily bread that I may in diem vivere, live on today, as Quintilian saith the birds do, the little birds, that have their meal brought in every day by their dams without defeatment. And hereunto the original here seems to allude. Pomponius Atticus thus defineth riches, Divitiae sunt, ad legem naturae composita paupertas, Riches are such a poverty or mediocrity as hath enough for nature’s uses. If I may have but offam et aquam, a morsel of meat, a mouthful of water, and convenient clothing, I shall not envy the richest Croesus or Crassus upon earth. {See Trapp on "Matthew 6:11"} {See Trapp on "1 Timothy 6:8"}


Verse 9

Proverbs 30:9 Lest I be full, and deny [thee], and say, Who [is] the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God [in vain].

Ver. 9. Lest I be full and deny thee, &c.] Fulness breeds forgetfulness, saturity security Deuteronomy 32:14; {See Trapp on "Deuteronomy 32:14"} 1 Timothy 6:17 {See Trapp on "1 Timothy 6:17"} every grain of riches hath a vermin of pride and ambition in it. A man may desire them, as one desires a ship to pass over the sea from one country to another; but to many they prove hindrances to heaven, remoras to religious practices. Many in their low estate could serve God, but now resemble the moon, which never suffers eclipse but at her full, and that is by the earth’s interposition between the sun and herself. Even an Agur full fed may grow wanton, and be dipping his fingers in the devil’s sauce; yea, so far may he forget himself, as to deny the Lord (or as the Hebrew hath it, belie him), disgrace his housekeeping, and cast a slur upon his work and wages by his shameful apostasy; yea (as Pharoah-like), to ask, Who is the Lord? as if such were petty gods within themselves, and could by the help of their mammon do well enough without him. Solomon’s wealth did him more harm than his wisdom did him good. [Ecclesiastes 2:1-26] It was his abundance that drew out his spirits, and dissolved him, and brought him to so low an ebb in grace.

Or, lest I be poor and steal.] Necessity is a hard weapon; we use to say, Hunger is an evil counsellor, and poverty is bold or daring, as Horace calls it. (a) The baser sort of people in Swethland do always break the Sabbath, saying, that it is only for gentlemen to keep that day. And the poorer sort among us (some of them I mean that have learned no better) hold theft in them, petty larceny at least, a peccadillo, an excusable evil; for either we must steal, say they, or starve; the belly hath no ears; our poor children must not pine and perish, &c. And truly "men do not despise," - i.e., not so much despise - "a thief if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry," saith Solomon [Proverbs 6:30] in his argument that an adulterer is worse than a thief; though a thief be bad enough, shut out of heaven. [1 Corinthians 6:9] But if he steal for necessity - πεινωντι κλεπτειν εστ αναγκαιως εχον, saith the Greek proverb, there is no remedy but a harking stomach must be quieted - men do the more excuse him a tanto, though not a toto. But God saith flat and plain, "Thou shalt in no case steal." "Let him that stole steal no more," but let him labour with his hands, and depend upon God’s providence; let him prefer affliction before sin, and rather die than do wickedly. But want is a sore temptation, as Agur feared, and that good man felt, mentioned by Master Perkins, who being ready to starve, stole a lamb; and being about to eat of it with his poor children, and (as his manner was before meat) to crave a blessing, durst not do it, but fell into a great perplexity of conscience, acknowledged his fault to the owner, and promised restitution if ever able to make it.

And take the name of my God in vain.] He says not, Lest I, being poor, steal and be fined, burnt in the hand, whipped, &c. No; but "Lest I take thy name in vain"; that is, cause thy name to stink among the ungodly, open their mouths, break down the banks of blasphemy, by such a base sin, committed by such a forward professor. Good men take God’s name in vain no way so much as by confuting and shaming their profession by a scandalous conversation, such as becometh not the gospel of Christ; moreover, they count sin to be the greatest smart in sin, as being more sensible of the wound they therein give the glory of God, than of any personal punishment.


Verse 10

Proverbs 30:10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.

Ver. 10. Accuse not a servant unto his master.] Unless it be in an ordinance, for the benefit of both. Much less may we falsely accuse wives to their husbands - as Stephen Gardiner and other courtparasites did King Henry VIII his wives to him of adultery, heresy, conspiracy, &c.; children to their parents - as the Jesuits, the Pope’s bloodhounds, did Charles, eldest son of Philip, King of Spain, for suspicion of heresy, whereupon he was murdered by the cruel Inquisition; one friend to another; a sin that David could not endure; [Psalms 101:5] and Christ, the Son of David, as deeply disliked it in the Pharisees, those mischief makers, that by accusing his disciples to him one while, and him to his disciples another while, sought to make a breach in his family, by setting off the one from the other.

Lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.] Lest to cry quittance with thee he rip up thy faults, such as it will be for thy shame, -

“Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.”

He that speaketh what he should not, shall hear of what he would not. Put them in mind to speak evil of no man falsely and rashly, without cause and necessity. And why? "For we ourselves also" - even I Paul, and thou Titus - "were sometimes foolish, disobedient," &c., [Titus 3:1-3] and may haply hear of it to our shame and sorrow, if we irritate others thereunto by way of recrimination.


Verse 11

Proverbs 30:11 [There is] a generation [that] curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

Ver. 11. There is a generation that curseth their father.] An evil and an adulterous generation, doubtless; a bastardly brood, (a) as were those in the gospel; "a generation of vipers," (b) that make their way into the world by their dams’ death. These monsters of men are doomed to destruction. [Leviticus 20:9] Hell gapes for them, as also it doth for such as revile or denigrate their masters, magistrates, ministers, benefactors, ancients. There is a certain plant which our herbalists call Herbam impiam, or wicked cudweed, (c) whose younger branches still yield flowers to overtop the older. Such weeds grow too rife abroad; it is an ill soil that produceth them. But of this before.


Verse 12

Proverbs 30:12 [There is] a generation [that are] pure in their own eyes, and [yet] is not washed from their filthiness.

Ver. 12. There is a generation that are pure, &c.] As the ancient Puritans, the Novatians, Donatists, Catharists, Illuminates. Non habeo, Domine, cui ignoscas, said one justiciary: I have done nothing, Lord, that needs thy pardon. "Ye are those that justify yourselves," saith Christ to the Pharisees. "All these things have I done from my youth; what want I yet?" said one of them that far overweaned his own worth, and rated himself above the market. "In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me," saith guilty Ephraim; "that were sin," [Hosea 12:8] that were a foul business to find iniquity in Ephraim, whose iniquities were (yet) grown over his head, as appears throughout that whole prophecy. That man of sin, the Pope, will needs be held sinless, and sundry of his votaries say they can supererogate. And are there not among us, even among us, such sinners before the Lord, that stand upon their pantofles, and proudly ask, Who can say, black is their eye? There is a generation of these, that is, a continual succession of them. Such dust-heaps you may find in every corner.

And yet is not washed from their filthiness.] Either "of flesh or spirit"; [2 Corinthians 7:1] they wallow in sin like swine, and welter in wickedness, which is filth and blood, [Isaiah 4:4] the vomit of a dog, [2 Peter 2:22] the excrement of the devil, the superfluity or garbage of naughtiness, and the stinking filth of a pestilent ulcer, as the Greek words (a) used by St James, [James 1:21] do signify. The whole world lieth in wickedness, [1 John 5:19] as a lubber in a lake, as a carcase in its slime. Nil mundum in mundo; and yet who so forward to boast of their good hearts to Godward?


Verse 13

Proverbs 30:13 [There is] a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.

Ver. 13. Oh how lofty are their eyes.] The eyes are the seat of pride and disdain, which peep out at these windows. The Hebrews have a saying, that a man’s mind is soonest seen in oculis, in loculis, in poculis, in his eyes, expenses, cups. See Proverbs 6:17.


Verse 14

Proverbs 30:14 [There is] a generation, whose teeth [are as] swords, and their jaw teeth [as] knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from [among] men.

Ver. 14. There is a generation whose teeth, &c.] These are sycophants and greedy gripers, of whom before, often, in this book. In the year 1235, there were spread through England certain Roman usurers, called Caursini, quasi capientis ursi, devouring bears, quoth Paris, who had entangled the king, nobles, and all that had to do with them. These were called the "Pope’s merchants." (a)


Verse 15

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:

Ver. 15. The horseleech (a) hath two daughters.] That is, Two forks in her tongue, whereby she first pricketh the flesh, and then sucketh the blood. Hereunto Solomon seemeth to resemble those cruel cormorants spoken of in the former verse. By the horseleech some understand the devil, that great red dragon, red with the blood of souls, which he hath sucked and swallowed, [1 Peter 5:8] seeking whom he may ( καταπιη) let down his wide gullet, while he glut gluts their blood, as the young eaglets are said to do, [Job 39:30] by a word made from the sound, (b) By the horseleech’s two daughters they understand covetousness and luxury, whom the devil hath long since espoused to the Romish clergy.

“Cuius avaritiae totus non sufficit orbis,

Cuius luxuriae meretrix non sufficit omnis.”


Verse 16

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.

Ver. 16. The grave.] Which in Hebrew hath its name of craving. It is a sarcophagus, feeds on flesh, and it as little appears as once in Pharaoh’s lean kine; or as in those that having a flux, take in much, but are neither fuller nor fatter. The word here used may be rendered hell, called by the Latins Infernus ab inferendo, from the devil’s continual carrying in souls to that place of torment.

And the barren womb.] Barren women are most desirous of children, which yet are certain cares, but uncertain comforts. How impatient was Rachel! how importunate was Hannah! One hath well observed, that the barren women in Scripture had the best children, as being the fruit of their faith, and the product of their prayers. The Vulgate renders it, Os vulvae and Mercer, Orificium matricis, referring it not to barren, but to incontinent women, such as was Messala, and other insatiate punks, quarum libido non expletur virili semine vel coitu.

The earth that is not filled with water.] That can never have enough at one time to serve at all times. That is a strange earth or country that Pliny speaks of, ubi siccitas dat lutum, imbres pulverem, where drought makes dirt, and rain causeth dust. And yet so it is with us, saith a divine. The plentiful showers of God’s blessings rained down upon us, are answered with the dusty barrenness of our lives. The sweet dews of Hermon have made the hill of Sion more barren. Oh, how inexcusable shall we be!

And the fire that saith not, it is enough.] Fire is known to be a great devourer, turning all corn bustibles into the same nature with itself. How many stately cities hath this untamable element turned into ashes? It is an excellent observation of Herodotus, that the sparks and cinders of Troy are purposely set before the eyes of all men, that they might be an example of this rule - that great sins bring great punishments from God upon the sons of men. (a) Scipio having set Carthage on fire, and beholding the burning, foresaw and bewailed the destiny of Rome: which, as it hath been often burnt already, so it shall be shortly to purpose - the kings, mariners, and merchants, standing aloof and beholding the smoke of her burning. [Revelation 17:16; Revelation 18:8-9] God will cast this rod of his wrath into the fire, burn this old whore, that hath so long burnt the saints for heretics, and refused to be purged by any other nitre or means whatsoever; therefore all her dross and trash shall pass the fire. This is so plain a truth, that even the Papists themselves subscribe to it. Hear what Ribera, a learned Jesuit, saith, Romam non solum ob pristinam impietatem, &c, (b) That Rome, as well for its ancient impiety as for its late iniquity, shall be destroyed with a horrible fire, it is so plain and evident, that he must needs be a fool that doth but go about to deny it.


Verse 17

Proverbs 30:17 The eye [that] mocketh at [his] father, and despiseth to obey [his] mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

Ver. 17. The eye that mocketh at his father.] As Ham did at Noah. "And despiseth to obey his mother," or ‘Despiseth the wrinkles of his mother,’ as some read it; that looks upon her with disdain, as an old withered fool.

The ravens of the valley shall pick it out.] God takes notice of the offending member, and appoints punishments for it. By the law such a child was to be put to death, and here is set down what kind of death - hanging upon a tree, which the Greeks also call a being cast, εις κορακας, to the crows or ravens. Thus the Scripture is both text and gloss; one place opens another; the prophets explain the law; they unfold and draw out that arras (a) that was folded together before. The ravens of the valleys or brooks are said to be most ravenous; (b) and the young eagles or vultures smell out carcases, and the first thing they do to them is to pick out their eyes: Effossos oculos voret atro gutture corvus. They are cursed with a witness whom the Holy Ghost thus curseth in such emphatic manner, in such exquisite terms. (c) Let wicked children look to it, and know that vultu saepe laeditur pietas, as the very heathens observed; that a proud or paltry look cast upon a parent is a breach of piety punishable with death, yea, with a shameful and ignominious death. Let them also think of those infernal ravens and vultures, &c.


Verse 18

Proverbs 30:18 There be three [things which] are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:

Ver. 18. There be three things which are too wonderful.] The wisest man that is cannot give a reason for all things; such as the ebbing and flowing of the sea, of the colours in the rainbow, of the strength of the nether chap, and of the heat in the stomach, which consumeth all other things, and yet not the parts about it. Agur here confesseth himself gravelled in four things at least, and benighted.


Verse 19

Proverbs 30:19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Ver. 19. And the way of a man with a maid.] That is, Either with a close and chaste virgin, that is kept close from the access of strangers, and goes covered with a veil; or else with a maid that, though deflowered, yet would pass for a pure virgin, and is so taken to be till her lewdness is discovered. It is expressly noted of Rebecca, to her commendation, that though fair to look upon, yet she was a virgin, neither had any man known her. [Genesis 24:16] There are those who pass for virgins, and yet it cannot be said of them that man never knew them.

Thesaurum cure virgo tuum vas fictile servet,

Ut fugias quae sunt noxia, tuta time. ”


Verse 20

Proverbs 30:20 Such [is] the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.

Ver. 20. So is the way of an adulterous woman.] The strumpet, when she hath eaten stolen bread, hath such dexterity in wiping her lips, that not the least crumb shall stick to them for discovery. So that Agur here shows it to be as hard to find it out as the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock, &c. Unless taken in the manner, she stoutly denies the action. And if so taken, yet

Nihil est audacius illis,

Deprensis, iram atque animos a crimine sumunt. ”

- Juvenal, Satyr. 6.


Verse 21

Proverbs 30:21 For three [things] the earth is disquieted, and for four [which] it cannot bear:

Ver. 21. For three things the earth is disquieted.] Such trouble towns are odious creatures; the places where they live, long for a vomit to spew them out. As they live wickedly, so they die wishedly; there is a good world’s riddance of them, as there was of Nabal, and of those in Job 27:23; Job 27:15, who were buried before half dead, being hissed and kicked off the stage of the world, as Phocas was by Heraclius.

And for four which it cannot bear.] The very axle of the world is even ready to crack under them, the earth to open and swallow them up.


Verse 22

Proverbs 30:22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;

Ver. 22. For a servant when he reigneth.] As Jeroboam, Saul, Zimri, Herod, Heliogabalus, Phocas. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:10"} Vespasian only, of all the emperors, is said to have been better for his advancement.

For a fool when he is filled with meat.] When his belly is filled with God’s "hid treasure"; [Psalms 17:14] when he prospers and hath what he will. Prosperity is hard meat to fools; they cannot digest it. (a) They grow giddy, as weak heads do after a cup of generous wine, and lay about them like madmen; the folly of these rich fools is foolishness with a witness. [Proverbs 14:24] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 14:24"}


Verse 23

Proverbs 30:23 For an odious [woman] when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.

Ver. 23. For an odious woman when she is married.] Such a one was Peninnah, who vexed good Hannah, "to make her to thunder," as the original hath it. (a) Such was Jezebel, Herodias, Messalina, wife to the Emperor Claudias, who was her agent to effect her sinful purposes, and her patient to sustain her lewd conditions. She compelled also other Roman ladies to be as lewd as herself, and those that would not she hated, and banished them from the court. (b)

And an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.] That succeeds her in the marriage bed; her good and her blood will rise together, as we see in Hagar. Hence that counsel of the Greek poet:

Mηποτε δουλευσασα γυνη δεσποινα γενοιτο

“Never make thy maid thy mistress.”

Such hens will be apt to crow, such wives to breed disturbance in the family.


Verse 24

Proverbs 30:24 There be four [things which are] little upon the earth, but they [are] exceeding wise:

Ver. 24. There be four things.] Made up thus in quaternions (as the 119th Psalm is in octonaries, and those in an alphabetical order), for help of memory.

Which are little upon the earth, but exceeding wise.] God is maximus in minimis, very much seen in the smallest creatures. In formicis maior anima quam in elephantis, in nanis quam in gigantibus, The soul is more active in ants than elephants, in dwarfs than in giants. "Who hath despised the day of small things?" [Zechariah 4:10]

“A cane non magno saepe tenetur aper.” - Ovid.

The creatures, next to the Scriptures, are the best layman’s books, whereby we may learn to know God and ourselves savingly. "Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee, and the fowls of the heaven, and they shall tell thee." [Job 12:7]


Verse 25

Proverbs 30:25 The ants [are] a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;

Ver. 25. The ants are a people not strong.] A feeble folk, but notable for their forecast. See Proverbs 6:6-7. Let us be so, but specially in spirituals.


Verse 26

Proverbs 30:26 The conies [are but] a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;

Ver. 26. The conies are but a feeble folk.] But what they want in strength they have in wisdom; while they work themselves holes and burrows in the earth. Gaudet in effossis habitare cuniculus antris, (a) secures herself in the rocks and stony places. It shall be our wisdom to work ourselves into the rock Christ Jesus, where we shall be safe from hellish hunters.


Verse 27

Proverbs 30:27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;

Ver. 27. The locusts have no king.] They are all belly, which is joined to their mouths, and endeth at their tails; hence they make such havoc where they come in those Eastern countries. See Joel 2:11, where they are called "God’s great army." For though they have no king to command them, yet they go forth by bands, and march all in a company, to teach men concord and combination in lawful affairs and attempts. For,

Coniuncti pollent etiam vehementer inertes.

Those locusts in the Revelation (whereby is meant the Popish clergy), have their king Abaddon, the Pope, [Revelation 9:11] to whom they appeal from their lawful sovereign; yea, the rebellion of a clergyman against his prince is not treason, saith Sa the Jesuit, quia non est principi subiectus, because he is the Pope’s subject. And when the English clergy whipped King Henry II for a penance for Becket’s death, one of the Pope’s legates said unto him, Domine, noli minari, &c.: Sir, never threaten us, for we fear no menaces of men, as being of such a court as use to command kings and emperors. (a)


Verse 28

Proverbs 30:28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.

Ver. 28. The spider taketh hold with her hands.] Some render it the ape, and the Hebrew semamith is somewhat like the Latin simia, a creature that is very witty, active, and imitative, taking hold with his hands (such as they are) and doing strange feats; being therefore much in king’s palaces, who delight to look upon them, as Solomon did, for recreation. If we take it for the spider, she doth her work painfully and curiously, spins a finer thread than any woman can do, builds a finer house than any man can do, in manner and form like to the tent of an emperor. This base creature may teach us this wisdom, saith one, not to be bunglers or slubberers in our works, but to be exact in our trades, and labour so to excel therein, that our doings may be commendable and admirable.


Verse 29

Proverbs 30:29 There be three [things] which go well, yea, four are comely in going:

Ver. 29. There be three things that go well.] And all for our learning, to teach us in our several stations to deport ourselves in all gravity, maintain our dignity, and show our magnanimity. "Only let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ," saith Paul. [Philippians 1:27] There is a το πρεπον, a comeliness and suitableness of carriage belongs to every calling, and this must be carefully kept. Vellem si non essem imperator, said Scipio to one that offered him a harlot: I would, if I were not a general. And remember that thou art a king’s son, said Menedemus to Antigonus; that will be a retentive to thee from unseemly practices. "Should such a man as I flee?" [Nehemiah 6:11] - et Turnum fugientem haec terra videbit? It is a pusillanimity to yield so much to men. The lion will not alter his gait though he die for it. We should learn regnum in pectore gerere, to be of noble resolutions. It is a common saying among us, Such a man understands himself well; that is, he understands his place, worth, dignity, and carries himself accordingly.


Verse 32

Proverbs 30:32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, [lay] thine hand upon thy mouth.

Ver. 32. Lay thy hand upon thy mouth.] That is, Better examine thyself, commune with thine own heart and be still. Repent thee, as Job did in like case. [Job 42:1-6] Quem poenitet peccasse, pene est innocens. (a) It is not the falling into the water that drowns one, but the lying in it.


Verse 33

Proverbs 30:33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.

Ver. 33. So the forcing of wrath.] Too much stirring in an offensive matter bringeth forth brawling, lawing, warring, fighting. Patientia laesa sit furor. The most patient person may be put beyond all patience if much provoked. Abner bare long with Asahel, but sped him at length. Abused mercy turns into fury. See Proverbs 15:1.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-30.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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