Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 30:19

The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Adultery;   Eagle;   Lasciviousness;   Riddle;   Serpent;   Thompson Chain Reference - Serpents;   The Topic Concordance - Adultery;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Eagle, the;   Ships;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Proverb, the Book of;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Virgin;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Serpent;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Maid, Maiden;   Proverbs, Book of;   Song of Solomon;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Agur;   Jakeh;   Massa;   Proverb;   Proverbs, Book of;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Eagle;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Ship;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Eagle;   Maid;   Serpent;   Ships and Boats;   Way;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Serpent;   Titles of Hebrew Books;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The way of an eagle - I borrow, with thanks, the very sensible note of the Rev. Mr. Holden on this passage.

"The particle כן ken plainly shows that Proverbs 30:19; and Proverbs 30:20; 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 endeavors 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 - בעלמה bealmah with or in a maid; but one of De Rossi's MSS. has בעלמיו bealmaiv, in his youth; and with this the Septuagint, ev neothti, 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 Onsford, 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 my note on Matthew 1:23; (note), 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;
  • That which is made by a serpent on a rock; and,
  • 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.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Bibliographical Information
    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-30.html. 1832.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    The way of an eagle in the air,.... And so of any other bird; but this is mentioned, because it flies swiftest, and soars highest: but the way in which it goes is not known, nor can it be seen with the eye; it cuts the air, and passes through it, but leaves no track behind it which may be pointed to, and it may be said, that is the way the eagle took and flew towards heaven out of sight;

    the way of a serpent upon a rock; a smooth hard rock; and wonderful it is that it should creep up it without legs; and where it leaves no impression, no footsteps by which it can be traced, as it may in soft and sandy places;

    the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; it is marvellous that such a vessel should be supported upon the sea; that it should weather the storms and tempests of it; that it should be steered through the trackless ocean to distant countries; and, particularly, though it makes furrows in the waters, and divides the waves; yet these quickly close again, and there is no path to be seen in which it goes; there is no beaten road made by it, nor by the vast numbers which go the same way, which a man can see with his eyes or follow;

    and the way of a man with a maid; or "to a maid"F24בעלמה "ad virginem", Glassius, Gejerus, Noldius, p. 144. No. 678. ; the many artful ways and methods he uses to get into her company, who is kept recluse; and to convey the sentiments and affections of his heart unto her, to gain her love to him, and obtain her in an honourable way of marriage; or to decoy and deceive her, and draw her into impure and unlawful embraces: it may design the private and secret way of committing fornication with her; which sense seems to be confirmed by Proverbs 30:20. Some of the ancients, particularly AmbroseF25De Salomone, c. 2, 3, 4, 5. , interpreted the whole of this verse of Christ: "the way of an eagle in the air", of his ascension to heaven, with men his prey, taken out of the jaws of the enemy; and which is such as is beyond the comprehension of men, that one of so great majesty should vouchsafe to come down from heaven, or ascend thither: "the way of a serpent upon a rock" he understands of the temptations of Satan, the old serpent, with which he attacked Christ, the Rock; but could imprint no footsteps of his malice and wickedness on him; could find nothing in him to work upon, nor leave any sign behind him, as upon Adam: "the way of a ship in the midst of the sea" he interprets of the church; which though distressed with storms and tempests of persecution and false doctrine, yet cannot suffer shipwreck, Christ being in it: and the last clause he renders as the Vulgate Latin version does, "and the way of a man in youth"; which he explains of the journeys which Christ took, and the ways of virtue he pursued, to do good to the bodies and souls of men, which are so many as not to be numbered. But it may be better interpreted of the wonderful incarnation of Christ, his conception and birth of a virgin; which was a new and unheard of thing, and the way and manner of it quite inscrutable, and more hard and difficult to be understood than any of the rest; for the words may be rendered, "the way of a man in a maid" or "virgin"; that is, the conception of Geber, the mighty man, in the virgin; see Jeremiah 31:22. GussetiusF26Ebr. Comment. p. 195. gives the mystical sense of the whole, as referring to the ascension of Christ; his coming out of the stony grave; his conversation among the people, like the tumultuous waves; and his incarnation of a virgin.

    Copyright Statement
    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 30:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-30.html. 1999.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    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. ”

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-30.html. 1865-1868.

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    Proverbs 30:19. And the way of a man with a maid See Isaiah 7:14. I would just observe upon this passage, that some have understood it as a reference to the incarnation of the Word in the Virgin Mary. The word עלמה almah, rendered maid, signifies a virgin strictly speaking; and גבר geber, rendered a man, may signify the man, or great one, by way of eminence; but for more on this text the reader is referred to Schultens' very accurate discussion of it. Houbigant thinks that the sacred writer here refers to the human conception, which is, indeed, truly miraculous and incomprehensible.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/proverbs-30.html. 1801-1803.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    The way of an eagle in the air; either,

    1. The manner of her flight, which is exceeding high, and swift, and strong. Or rather,

    2. The way or part of the air through which she passeth, without leaving any print or sign in it, which though it be true of all birds, yet is here attributed to the eagle, of whom this is more true, because she flies out of sight, where neither her body nor any sign of it can be discerned.

    The way of a serpent upon a rock; where she leaves no impression, nor slime, nor token where she was, as she doth in softer bodies, and as birds leave their feathers there.

    The way of a ship in the midst of the sea; which though at present it make a furrow, yet is speedily closed again. The way of a man with a maid; either,

    1. The various methods and artifices which young men use to entice or persuade young virgins, either to honest love and marriage, or to unlawful lust and uncleanness. Or rather,

    2. The impure conversation of a man with one who goeth under the name of a maid, but is not so in truth, which is managed with so much secrecy and cunning that it can very hardly be discovered; which exposition agrees best with the foregoing. similitudes referred to it, and with the following verse.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-30.html. 1685.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Youth. Hebrew, "a virgin." The "conception of a mighty man (the Messias; Haydock) in a virgin," is fitly compared to the flight of an eagle in the air, which leaves no trace behind, and is the most difficult to comprehend. See Jeremias xxxi. 22.; Univ. Hist. iii. p. 144, note. Isaiah vii. 14.; Parkhurst in alm. (Haydock) --- Some of the Jews have admitted this explanation. (Cornelius a Lapide) --- Others understand that the marks of virginity are equivocal; (Bossuet, &c.) or, if we stick to the Vulgate and Septuagint, the difference betwixt a child and a young man is extremely great, and almost incomprehensible. (Calmet) --- Young people who follow their carnal appetite, can no more give an account of their actions than of the course of an eagle, &c. (Worthington) --- His wanderings are manifold. The Hebrew seems to contain a prophecy of Christ's conception.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-30.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    maid. Hebrew. "almah. See note on Genesis 24:43. Refers here probably to seduction.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-30.html. 1909-1922.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    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.
    way of an
    Job 39:27; Isaiah 40:31
    midst
    Heb. heart. and the.
    Exodus 22:16
    Reciprocal: Isaiah 7:15 - Butter

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
    Bibliographical Information
    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 30:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-30.html.