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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 30

 

 

Verses 1-33

Proverbs 30. The Sayings of Agur.—It is uncertain whether the title embraces the whole chapter or Proverbs 30:1-9, or Proverbs 30:1-4 only.

Proverbs 30:1. The title is extremely obscure, and has been much discussed. The VSS show a wide divergence in their interpretation. It is perhaps simplest to accept the title as referring to some sage of repute among the Wisdom circles in the Greek period.

Proverbs 30:1 b has been interpreted in many ways, the proper names being taken as significant words. The most interesting is that which represents the sage as saying (cf. mg.), "I have wearied myself, O God, I have wearied myself and have not succeeded." This offers a striking connexion with Proverbs 30:2-4. But it is too hypothetical to be adopted, and, as in Proverbs 30:1 a, it seems best to retain the proper names, either as those of fellow-sages or pupils.

Proverbs 30:2-4. A passage reflecting the attitude of the author of Job and Psalms 73 towards the problem of God's real nature and His government of the world. The sage declares his ignorance; like Socrates, he has discovered the knowledge of his ignorance, and feels that this marks him off from those who think they know. For "brutish" cf. Psalms 73:22, with its passionate confession of failure to understand God. Our passage is, of course, only a fragment, and is therefore difficult to compare with Job or Psalms 73, but we do not find in it the passion and yearning for God which underlies the apparent scepticism of the author of Job or of Psalms 73.

Proverbs 30:4 seems to imply an acquaintance with Job 38, and helps to fix the date of the passage and of the collection. "What is his name," etc., cannot refer to God. It is a sarcastic inquiry after the name of the man, or of his son, who has ascended up to heaven and returned with a knowledge of its secrets. Cf. the early Christian use of the idea in John 3:13, Ephesians 4:9 f.

Proverbs 30:5 f. It is not clear whether these two quotations form part of Agur's oracle. They are from Psalms 18:30 (cf. Psalms 12:6 also) and Deuteronomy 12:32 respectively. It is difficult to define the reference. The Sadducees regarded the Pharisees as innovators in doctrine, especially in their eschatological beliefs (cf. Exp., Oct. 1914, pp. 305f.).

Proverbs 30:7-33. Except Proverbs 30:10; Proverbs 30:17; Proverbs 30:32 f., this is a collection of numerical aphorisms, a literary form which appears quite early in Heb. literature (cf. Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:6).

Proverbs 30:7-9. A prayer for two things, sincerity and a modest competency.

Proverbs 30:11-14. Four evil "generations"—despisers of parents, self-righteous, proud, and extortionate.

Proverbs 30:15 f. Four insatiable things.

Proverbs 30:15 a is apparently a fragment of a lost proverb. MT is unintelligible, and no satisfactory emendation can be offered. The remainder gives the regular form of tetrad. The four things are: Sheol, the barren womb (LXX has "the love of woman"), the earth never satisfied with water, and fire. Malan compares the Indian proverb from the Hitopadesa: "Fire is not sated with wood, nor the ocean with the streams, nor death with all the living, nor women with men."

Proverbs 30:17. Possibly a fragment of a lost tetrad, or a gloss on Proverbs 30:11, just as Proverbs 30:20 is obviously a gloss on Proverbs 30:19 d.—to obey: purely conjectural, and based on a cognate Ass. form. LXX "old age" is probably the true text.

Proverbs 30:18-20. Four inexplicable things. This tetrad, like the two in Proverbs 30:24-31, is derived from observation of nature. For the ship and the eagle cf. Wisdom of Solomon 5:10 f.

Proverbs 30:21-23. Four intolerable things. Ironic observations on the vicissitudes of life.

Proverbs 30:23. odious: hardly the sense of the word in this connexion. It might almost be rendered in English idiom "an old maid," a woman unsought in marriage.

Proverbs 30:24-28. Four little wise things.

Proverbs 30:25. cf. Proverbs 6:6.

Proverbs 30:26. conies is erroneous. Render, as in Leviticus 11:5 (mg.), "the rock-badger." It is the hyrax, a small rock-dwelling animal, mentioned in Psalms 104:18, Leviticus 11:5, and Deuteronomy 14:7.

Proverbs 30:27. cf. the description of the locust armies in Joel 2.

Proverbs 30:28. Read mg.

Proverbs 30:29-31. Four majestic things.

Proverbs 30:31. Corrupt. The original cannot be recovered. RV "greyhound" is one of many guesses at the Heb. expression "compressed as to the loins" (cf. mg.). The LXX, with most VSS, reads "cock." It gives a fuller form for the last three, which is probably exegetical paraphrase rather than faithful representation of the original. The fourth clause also is very uncertain.

Proverbs 30:32 f. An aphorism, apparently in six-line form, against haste in speech or action. The text is obscure and uncertain.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/proverbs-30.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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