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Go to Bible: Proverbs 30
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“I ask from you.” The “you” changes to God here. This is the only prayer in Proverbs.(top)
“provide to me my portion of bread.” This is very similar in meaning to the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3; cp. Matt. 6:11). It seems very likely that Jesus was using this line from the only prayer in Proverbs (see commentary on Prov. 30:7) as a basis for the line he spoke in his prayer. Thus, the idea of praying to God to have enough in life, but not too much, is both the wisdom of the Old Testament and the wisdom of the New Testament.(top)
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“slander.” The Hebrew word can also mean “criticize, disparage.”
“held guilty.” The Hebrew word is asham (#0816 אָשַׁם), and it means to be guilty. But that guilt extended to having to pay or suffer the consequences for what you had done, which is why some versions translate it something like “and you have to pay the penalty.” However, the more literal meaning of the word is “be held guilty.”(top)
“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.(top)
“generation.” See commentary on Proverbs 30:11, “generation.”
“excrement.” The Hebrew word is tsoah (#06675 צוֹאָה), and it means excrement or filth. In this context it most literally means “excrement,” referring to our human bodily waste, as we can see from verses such as 2 Kings 18:27 and Isaiah 36:12, combined with the fact that the “generation” includes both men and women (in Isa. 4:4 tsoah refers to menstrual blood; in Isa. 28:8 it refers to vomit). Further evidence that in this verse tsoah refers to human excrement is that the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 250 BC, translated tsoah as exodos, “a going out,” which in this context would refer to excrement.
In biblical times there was no really effective way to cleanse oneself after going to the bathroom. Toilet paper and similar products did not exist, nor did sinks with running water, nor did truly effective soap. Often a person just had to use his or her hand to clean up and then wipe off their hand in the best way possible in their circumstances, and this was the dominant reason that people only ate with their right hand, and cleaned themselves with their left hand (see commentary on Matthew 25:33). When a person with an unclean hand touched his body and clothes, he became much more unclean and covered by excrement than he was aware of. Thus often, just as Proverbs 30:12 says, people who thought they were pure in God’s eyes actually were unwashed and unclean from their excrement.
A number of versions think “excrement” is a hyperbole to exaggerate the impurity that people have before God, and translate the verse a little less extreme, using “filth” or a similar word. While the use of “excrement” in Proverbs 30:12 may be somewhat exaggerated for emphasis, it is also true that in God’s eyes people who are pure in their own eyes but not pure in the sight of God are not just “filthy” in the sense that it would be nice if they took a bath, they have excrement on them and are in dire need of God’s cleansing to be pure and holy in His sight. Of course, the way to be washed in the sight of God is to live a righteous life, and when we sin, repent and confess our sin (1 John 1:9).(top)
“generation.” See commentary on Proverbs 30:11, “generation.”(top)
“generation.” See commentary on Proverbs 30:11, “generation.”(top)
“leech.” The Hebrew word is aluqah (#05936 עֲלוּקָה), and although it only occurs this one time in the Bible, it is quite clear from the Aramaic, Arabic, and Ethiopic cognate words that it refers to the horseleech; also the Septuagint and Vulgate read “horseleech.”
There are different species of leeches, but Proverbs 30:15 almost certainly refers to the variety of leech referred to as the “horseleech.” That is why many older versions read “horseleech” (cp. ASV; English Revised Version; Geneva Bible; KJV). The horseleech was commonly found in Palestine and gets its name from the fact that it attached itself in the noses and mouths of horses that came to drink (it would also attach to humans who put their face in the water). They have such a powerful bite that they are not used in medicine to draw blood like other leeches. Also, they have two suckers, which may be the “two daughters” that Proverbs 30:15 speaks about who say, “Give. Give.”(top)
“the barren womb.” The Hebrew reads, “the closed womb” but in this context it is referring to a woman who has never had a baby, not to someone who has naturally stopped having children.(top)
“An eye.” This verse specifically mentions the eye, which is the figure of speech synecdoche of the part, where a part is put for the whole. In this case, the part, the eye, is put for the whole person who mocks and disobeys. The eye is likely being emphasized because for unrighteous people, the eye was associated with being haughty or prideful (Prov. 30:13), with greed (Prov. 23:5-6; 28:22), and with evil doings (Prov. 6:13; 10:10). The evil person has a greedy eye, but his desire will not be fulfilled, instead his lamp will go out in a time of darkness (Prov. 20:20).
“ravens of the valley.” This phrase has the subtle overtone that besides being completely rejected by his family and mankind, perhaps this person who rejected his family turned out to be a criminal. Ravens are found all over Israel, in fact, over Europe and parts of Asia as well; they don’t roost or live only in “the valley,” so the fact that they are referred to as “ravens of the valley” has specific meaning. In this context, the valley was a river valley or wadi, which sometimes referred to valley with a perennial stream, but more often was a valley that only had water in it during the rainy season. These wadis often were quite deep with steep sides and harbored wild animals and dangerous men, and it is one of these that is called the “valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). It would not be uncommon to throw an unwanted dead body into one of these wadis, where it would not pollute the farmland and would soon be devoured by animals and carrion birds.
For example, the valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem, was infamous because of the people who were killed there (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31-32; 32:35). It became the garbage dump of Jerusalem in New Testament times and was known by the Greek word “Gehenna,” a Hellenized form of the Hebrew ge Hinnom, the “valley of Hinnom.” All kinds of garbage, dead animals, and perhaps even some dead bodies were thrown in Gehenna. [For more on Gehenna, see commentary on Matthew 5:22, “Gehenna”].
“the offspring of a vulture.” The Hebrew word we translate “vulture” is nesher (#05404 נֶשֶׁר), and it was used to refer to both eagles and vultures. In this case, the verse shows us the translation should be “vulture.” The phrase “the offspring of a vulture” is more literally in Hebrew, “the sons of a vulture,” which is an idiomatic way of saying vultures (some commentators think it refers to young vultures, but the Hebrew does not demand that interpretation).
Although some versions, especially older ones such as the King James (1611), ASV (1901), and Rotherham (1902) read “eagles,” the bird being referred to is a vulture. Vultures are well known for eating dead bodies, and the fact that this verse shows them coming as a group, as “the sons of a vulture,” is typical vulture behavior. In contrast, eagles are usually loners when it comes to eating.
The picture being painted in the text is of a person who rejected his father and mother and thus was rejected by his family. So when he died, perhaps even as a criminal (see commentary on “ravens” in this verse), he was not even buried but was being picked at and eaten by a group of vultures. In a culture when family tombs and burial plots were common and it was a great curse to not be buried. Most people believed (falsely, but it was a very universal belief) that a proper burial was important for a comfortable existance in the afterlife. Thus, this verse was a horrifying threat of unspeakable loneliness and rejection.(top)
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