“generation.” The Hebrew word dor (#01755 דּוֹר) means “generation,” and that is its meaning here. A “generation” can sometimes mean all the people alive at a certain time, or what we more commonly think of as a “generation,” people of a certain age range that are alive at a certain time, just as we here in the USA refer to people being of the “Baby Boomer Generation,” “Generation X,” or “the Millennial Generation.” In certain contexts, dor can refer to a kind of people, and a number of translations go with that idea (cp. CJB; ESV; NASB; NIV; NRSV). However, both the Bible and history reveal to us that certain generations have very specific characteristics, and seems to be what God is trying to tell us here. Also, knowing that helps us understand the Bible, world history, and even our own circumstances. We must also understand, however, that although we today live in a very global world, where everyone is connected, in biblical times and likely today as well, a “generation” was not only specific in time, but in place. Just because the Israelite generation that left Egypt was ungodly did not mean that the American Indians alive at that same time were too. They would not be considered the same “generation.”
The Bible makes it clear that different generations had different characteristics, but of course we must remember that not every person in a generation follows the pattern of the generation. Although a generation will have a general characteristic, individuals in the generation will always differ somewhat. For example, there will always be believers in an unbelieving generation. The generation at the time of the Flood was wicked (Gen. 7:1). The generation of Israelites who left Egypt was unbelieving and evil (Num. 32:13; Deut. 1:35). The generation that conquered the Promised Land generally believed God, but the next generation that came along after Joshua’s time did not (Judges 2:10). European and American history also reveals the trend that generations distinctly differ. One generation might experience a great revival or hunger for God, and then the next generation have much less interest in God.
Given the scope of what God reveals about generations, Proverbs 30:11-14 is not just telling us something that we all know—that some kinds of people are godly and some kinds are evil, but rather it is giving us a picture of how history develops, with some generations being distinctly more godly than other generations, and some generations being very wicked. It is also possible that this section of Scripture about this very ungodly generation is ultimately pointing to the generation that will be alive on earth after the Rapture of the Church, when the people’s love will grow cold and the earth will experience great tribulation. At that time there will indeed be a generation that acts like Proverbs 30:11-14 portrays.