Sacred Texts  Bible  Bible Commentary  Index 
Proverbs Index
  Previous  Next 

Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Proverbs Chapter 30

Proverbs 30:1

pro 30:1

See the introduction to Proverbs. According to the different reading, there noted, the inscription ends with: "the man spake," and the words that follow, are the beginning of the confession, "I have wearied myself after God and have fainted."

Spake - The Hebrew word is that commonly used of the utterance of a divine oracle.

Proverbs 30:2

pro 30:2

A confession of ignorance, with which compare the saying of Socrates that he was wise only so far as he knew that he knew nothing, or that of Asaph Psa 73:22.

Proverbs 30:3

pro 30:3

He found, when he looked within, that all his learning was as nothing. He had heard of God only "by the hearing of the ear" Job 42:5, and now he discovered how little that availed.

The holy - The Holy One. Compare Pro 9:10.

Proverbs 30:4

pro 30:4

Man is to be humbled to the dust by the thought of the glory of God as seen in the visible creation.

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? - The thought is obviously that of the all-embracing Providence of God, taking in at once the greatest and the least, the highest and the lowest. The mysteries of the winds and of the waters baffle men's researches.

What is his son's name - The primary thought is that man knows so little of the divine nature that he cannot tell whether he may transfer to it the human relationships with which he is familiar, or must rest in the thought of a unity indivisible and incommunicable. If there is such an Only-begotten of the Father (compare Pro 8:30), then His nature, until revealed, must be as incomprehensible by us as that of the Father Himself.

Proverbs 30:5

pro 30:5

Out of this consciousness of the impotence of all man's efforts after the knowledge of God rises the sense of the preciousness of every living word that God has Himself revealed, whether through "the Law and the prophets" or through "wise men and scribes."

Proverbs 30:6

pro 30:6

Men are not to mingle revealed truth with their own imaginations and traditions. In speculating on the unseen, the risk of error is indefinitely great, and that error God reproves by manifesting its falsehoods.

Proverbs 30:7

pro 30:7

Two things - The limitation of man's desires follows naturally upon his consciousness of the limits of his knowledge.

Proverbs 30:8

pro 30:8

The order of the two requests is significant. The wise man's prayer is first and chiefly, "truth in the inward parts," the removal of all forms of falsehood, hollowness, hypocrisy.

Neither poverty ... - The evil of the opposite extremes of social life is that in different ways they lead men to a false standard of duty, and so to that forgetfulness of God which passes into an absolute denial.

Food convenient for me - literally, "give me for food the bread of my appointed portion." The prayer foreshadows that which we have been taught by the Divine Wisdom: "Give us, day by day, our daily bread."

Proverbs 30:9

pro 30:9

The special dangers of the two extremes. Wealth tempts to pride, unbelief, and a scorn like that of Pharaoh Exo 5:2; poverty to, dishonesty, and then to perjury, or to the hypocritical profession of religion which is practically identical with it.

Proverbs 30:10

pro 30:10

Accuse not a servant - The prayer in Pro 30:8 does not shut out, sympathy with those who are less favored. Even the slave has a right to protection against frivolous or needless accusation. Others, however, render the words Make not a slave to accuse his master, i. e., Do not make him discontented with his lot, lest he afterward curse thee for having made it worse than it was.

Proverbs 30:11

pro 30:11

As the teacher had uttered what he most desired, so now he tells what he most abhorred; and in true-harmony with the teaching of the Ten Commandments places in the foremost rank those who rise against the Fifth.

Proverbs 30:12

pro 30:12

The Pharisee temper (compare the marginal reference).

Proverbs 30:15

pro 30:15

Note the numeration mounting to a climax, the two, the three, the four (Amo 1:3 etc.). The word rendered "horseleach" is found nowhere else, and its etymology is doubtful; but there are good grounds for taking the word in its literal sense, as giving an example, in the natural world, of the insatiable greed of which the next verse gives other instances. Its voracious appetite is here represented, to express its intensity, as two daughters, uttering the same ceaseless cry for more.

Pro 30:16

The grave - Hebrew שׁאול she'ôl. The "Hell" or Hades of Pro 27:20, all-consuming yet never full.

Proverbs 30:18

pro 30:18

Another enigma. The four things of Pro 30:16 agreed in the common point of insatiableness; the four now mentioned agree in this, that they leave no trace behind them.

Pro 30:19

The way of a man with a maid - The act of sin leaves no outward mark upon the sinners.

Proverbs 30:21

pro 30:21

For four which it cannot bear - Better: four it cannot bear. Here the common element is that of being intolerable, and the four examples are divided equally between the two sexes. Each has its examples of power and prosperity misused because they fall to the lot of those who have no training for them, and are therefore in the wrong place.

Proverbs 30:23

pro 30:23

Odious woman - One in whom there is nothing loveable. Marriage, which to most women is the state in which they find scope for their highest qualities, becomes to her only a sphere in which to make herself and others miserable.

Proverbs 30:24

pro 30:24

Exceeding wise - Some prefer the reading of the Septuagint and Vulgate: "wiser than the wise." The thought, in either case, turns upon the marvels of instinct, which, in their own province, transcend the more elaborate results of human wisdom.

Proverbs 30:25

pro 30:25

See the marginal reference note. Note the word "people" applied here to ants, as to locusts in Joe 1:6. The marvel lies in their collective, and, as it were, organized action.

Proverbs 30:26

pro 30:26

Conies - See the marginal reference note.

Proverbs 30:27

pro 30:27

Compare Joe 2:7-8; the most striking fact in the flight of the locust-swarms was their apparent order and discipline, sweeping over the land like the invasion of a great army.

Proverbs 30:28

pro 30:28

Spider - Rather, the Gecko (or Stellio), a genus of the lizard tribe, many species of which haunt houses, make their way through crevices in the walls, and with feet that secrete a venomous exudation catch the spiders or the flies they find there.

Proverbs 30:31

pro 30:31

A greyhound - The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. The literal meaning is: "one with loins girded;" and some have referred this to the stripes of the zebra, others to the "war-horse" (compare Job 39:19, Job 39:25), as he is represented in the sculptures of Persepolis, with rich and stately trappings.

A king, against whom there is no rising up - i. e., A king irresistible. Others prefer, "a king in the midst of his people," and the sense, as giving a more vivid picture, is certainly more satisfactory.

Proverbs 30:32

pro 30:32

Lay thine hand upon thy mouth - The act expresses the silence of humiliation and repentance after the sin has been committed, and that of self-restraint, which checks the haughty or malignant thought before it has passed even into words.

Proverbs 30:33

pro 30:33

Churning ... wringing ... forcing - In the Hebrew text it is one and the same word. "The pressure of milk produces curds, the pressure of the nose produces blood, the pressure of wrath (i. e., brooding over and, as it were, condensing it) produces strife."

Next: Proverbs Chapter 31