Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 30:16

Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, "Enough."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Hell;   Riddle;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fire;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Proverb, the Book of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Death, Mortality;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Hell;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Solomon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Agur;   Jakeh;   Massa;   Proverb;   Proverbs, Book of;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Horse-Leech,;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Fire;   Sheol;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Abyss;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Fire;  

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

The grave,.... Which is the first of the four daughters, or insatiable things, which resemble the horse leech: the grave is the house appointed for all living; it stands ready for them, it is open to receive them when dead; and though such multitudes have been put into it, since death reigned in the world, yet it is not full, it waits for more; nor will its mouth be shut till the last enemy, death, is destroyed; see Proverbs 27:20; This is an emblem of a covetous man, who enlarges his desire as hell or the grave; and is never satisfied with gold, silver, and increase of substance he has, but is always craving more;

and the barren womb; the second daughter, that cries, Give, give, as Rachel, "give me children, or I die", Genesis 30:1, barren women are oftentimes impatient for children, as she was; and importunate, as Hannah; and as the Israelitish women were before the coming of the Messiah, each hoping he might be born of them; especially before it was so clearly known that he should be born of a virgin: though it may be rather the barren womb of harlots is here meant, and who are generally barren, and whose lust is insatiable; and this may be an emblem of lust, which is never satisfied; whether it be a lust of riches, or of honour, or of uncleanness, or of sensual pleasures;

the earth that is not filled with water; which is dry and parched, and opens and gapes; and though large quantities of rain may fall upon it, which it greedily drinks in; yet is not seen, nor is it filled with it, but it thirsts for more: this may be an emblem of good men, that have received abundance of the grace of God; and though they thirst not after sin, as they before did, and others do; yet thirst after God, more knowledge of him, and communion with him, and for more grace, like the dry and thirsty land, and cannot have enough of it; see John 4:13; or rather of wicked men, who drink up iniquity like water, and yet never have their fill of it to their satisfaction. This is the third thing, and the fourth follows:

and the fire that saith not, It is enough; but let what fuel will be cast into it, it devours it, and still wants more: by the Egyptians, as HerodotusF18Thalia sive, l. 3. c. 16. relates, fire is reckoned an animated beast, which devours all it can lay hold on; and when it is filled with food, it dies with that which is devoured by it. Such is the fire of divine wrath, hell fire, in which sinners are, as thorns and briers; and which is unquenchable, everlasting, burns for ever and ever; the Tophet, ordained of old, deep and large, the pile thereof is fire and much wood, kindled by the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, Isaiah 30:33. These are the four daughters of the horse leech which resemble that in its insatiableness. Jarchi makes mention of some that interpret the horse leech of "sheol", or the state of the dead; and the two daughters, of paradise and hell; the one says, "Give me the righteous"; and the other says, "Give me the wicked." Aben Ezra applies these four to the four generations before spoken of; the grave, into which are cast the generation of those that curse their father, and die before their time; the barren womb, the generation of those that are not washed from the filthiness of whoredom, and have no children; the earth not filled with water, the proud and haughty, who are humbled by famine; and the fire is that which descends from heaven, to consume the generation that destroy the poor and oppress the needy, as fire came down upon them in the days of Elijah. Jarchi takes notice of a Midrash, which applies these four things to the four monarchies; as it does also all the four things after mentioned.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-30.html. 1999.

Scofield's Reference Notes

grave

Heb. "Sheol," (See Scofield "Habakkuk 2:5").

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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.
Bibliographical Information
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Proverbs 30:16". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/proverbs-30.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-30.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The barren womb; for as the Israelitish women did generally and vehemently desire many children, for divers reasons elsewhere mentioned; so those who were barren amongst them were most eager in those desires, as we see in Rachel, Genesis 30:1, and as in all other cases persons most prize and thirst after those good things which they want.

The earth; which when it is dry thirsts for rain, and in a little time sucks up great quantities of water, and gapes for more.

The fire; which continually burns as long as there is any combustible matter left for it.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-30.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.The grave, etc. — These four things are given as examples of insatiableness. The learner is left to apply them for himself, as for instance, to the miser, the drunkard, the glutton, the debauchee. This passage is reckoned among the hhidhoth (enigmas) of the book. Compare Proverbs 1:6. Barren womb — Miller renders, allowably, “The enclosure of the womb.” It is the same word elsewhere translated “prison,” as in Isaiah 53:8. He adds: “The idea of special insatiableness in the barren seems to be a physiological fancy. Moreover the Hindus have a proverb of just these particulars in which we have nothing of sterility.” Conant says, “The natural desire for offspring (compare the only too passionate expression of it in Genesis 30:1, Give me children, or else I die,’) is certainly all that is here meant by the unsatisfied craving of the barren womb. It is not just to the sacred writer to impute to him any other thought.”

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-30.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 30:16. The grave, and the barren womb — As the Israelitish women did generally and vehemently desire to have many children, for divers reasons elsewhere mentioned, so those who were barren among them were most eager in those desires, as we see in Rachel, Genesis 30:1. And, as in all other cases, persons most prize and thirst after those good things which they want. The earth — Which, when it is dry, thirsts for rain, and in a little time sucks up great quantities of water, and gapes for more. And the fire — Which continually burns, as long as there is any combustible matter left for it. “Some commentators compare certain vices with these four insatiable things: the desire of revenge to the grave; libidinous desires to the barren womb; covetousness, or rather drunkenness, to the thirsty earth; and ambition to the devouring fire. It is easy to show how fitly all these are resembled to the horseleech; it being the vulgar saying, that harlots, for instance, are the horseleeches of young men; and the servant in Plautus, when he was about to rob the chests of two old men, says, Jam ego me vertam in hirudinem, &c. ‘Now will I turn myself into a horseleech, and suck out their very blood.’” — Dodd.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-30.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Womb. Septuagint, "the love of a woman," (Haydock) a harlot, or rather Hebrew, "a barren woman." --- Enough. The more fuel, the brighter the flame. These four similitudes may denote cruelty, lust, avarice, and prodigality; (Calmet) or the first and last may be understood (Haydock) of envy and ambition. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-30.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

The grave = Sheol. App-35.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-30.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) The grave.—See above, on Proverbs 15:11, where it is translated “hell.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-30.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
27:20; Habakkuk 2:5
Reciprocal: Ecclesiastes 1:8 - the eye;  Ecclesiastes 5:10 - He that;  Ecclesiastes 6:9 - wandering of the desire;  Hosea 4:18 - her

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-30.html.