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in the way is abomination to the wicked. (G)
THE words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal;
2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found à liar.
7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: 8 Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty. 11 There is
(G) Observations on government, and on certain virtues and vices.-Solomon often inculcates the importance of wisdom, integrity and justice in magistrates and rulers. The national happiness depends upon it, and the people rejoice when such men are elevated to distinction; whereas "when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn." This is particularly the case as to the poor for "the righteous consider eth their cause," while the wicked regard not to know it." Their object is, not to investigate the merits of the case before them; but to secure the presents, or bribes, by which judges are too generally influenced in arbitrary countries, where their will is the only law.
"Scornful men, haughty and angry in their temper, inflame a whole city, whereas wise men seek to preserve peace, and avert wrath. But in contending in judgment with the perverse and obstinate, even a wise man stands little chance of success; for whether the former be in a vein of passion or of ridicule, he will not be pacified; and however the latter may have
a generation that
the advantage in argument, the fool will often carry his point by dint of violence and noise it is useless to reason with a fool in power. When, however, the poor man and the oppressor shall meet together before their Maker, (chap. xxii. 2.) then the Lord will" enlighten both their eyes;" and they will see that there is "a God that judgeth righteously," and will reward them both according to their works.
With one important verse which we have passed over, (ver. 18.) we shall conclude our observations on this chapter: "Where there is no (prophetic) vision," no divine revelation, there the people become corrupt, and "perish." This we remark, not merely to recollect our own obligations to the word of God; but also to excite our zeal in communicating that word to others. Always, however, let us recollect, and press on others, this important maxim, that no religion is useful that is not practical: "He that keepeth the law, happy is he!" "If ye know these things (said our Lord to his disciples) happy are ye if ye do them!" (John xiii. 17.)
CHAP. XXX. Ver. 1. Agur. -This name does not occur elsewhere; but we read of one Ithiel, in Neh. xi. 7-The prophecy-Heb. Massa; literally, “the burden ;"' i. e. a weighty and important saying, er discourse, delivered by divine authority, and in the prophetic style: an oracle. So Bp. Lowth.
Ver. 2. Brutish-Like a dumb brute, unintelligent and untaught. See Ps. xlix. 10.-xcii. 6.Xeir, 8, &c.
Ver. 3. Nor have (Heb. “know") the knowledge of the holy-those educated for the sacred offices.
Ver. 4. Who hath ascended? &c.-- Deut. xxx. 12. -Who hath gathered the wind? → Job xxxviii.
4, &c. His name.-See Expos. on Gen, vi. 3.His son's name.-Compare Ps. ii. 7.
Ver. 5. Pure Heb. "Purified;" i, e. tried. Ps. xii. 6
Ver. 6. Add thon not.-See Deut. iv. 2.
Ver.9. Deny thee-Heb. "Belie thee;" reproach, calumniate.
Ver. 10. Accuse not-Heb. "Hurt not with thy tongue."
curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
15 The horse-leech hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: 16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
[Omit, and pass to Ver. 21.]
18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know 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. 20 Such is the wad wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have way of an adulterous woman; she eateth,
done no wickedness.
21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it can
not bear :
22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the
26 The conies are but a feeble
NOTES-Chap. XXX. Con.
Ver. 14. Whose teeth are as swords.-Ps. lvii. 4. Ver. 15. The horse-leech-A creature remarkable for its blood-thirsty nature. The original word, which occurs only here, Mr. Holden remarks, thus signifies in Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldee; and is generally so understood by commentators. Say not it is enough!-Heb. Say not," Wealth! riches! i. e. they are never satisfied.
Ver. 16. The earth that is not filled-or saturated; which seems to refer particularly to the sandy soil of
Ver. 17. The eye that mocketh.-See Levit. xx.9. Ver. 19. The way of a man with (Heb. Beth," in") a maid. Though we consider passages of this kind better to be omitted in family reading, we do not wish to pass them by without explanation. It is evident that the point in which the first three objects agree is, that they leave no trace behind them. The air and sea close immediately as the eagle or the ship pass through them; nor does the serpent make any impression on the rock over which it winds: so is it with an adulteress; "she wipes her mouth,” and says, with an affectation of innocence and simplicity," I have done no wickedness;" and if there was no witness of her guilt, how is she to be convicted? The fourth case, therefore, ought to be similar; but it cannot be said that the illicit connexion of " a man with a maid" leaves no proof of the connexion; and this, therefore, cannot have been Agur's meaning. Many expositors explain this transaction between the sexes, as referring to the season of courtship, which is, with us, often a time of" cunning and sleights," as Bp. Patrick expresses it: but it is a much simpler business in the East. A young man having seen a young woman who takes his fancy, as was the case with Samson, (thongh sometimes this is scarcely allowed) reports it to his parents; if all parties consent, they are betrothed and at a certain time, the young man marries and brings her home; but no opportunity is allowed for
forming any intimacy, as with us, previous to the marriage. So that this, also, cannot be here intended.
Some expositors have therefore proposed a different rendering, sanctioned by several ancient versions, and critics of the first eininence, (as Schultens, Parkhurst, &c.) namely, "the way of a man in his youth." To countenance this it may be remarked, 1. That this preserves the strict meaning of the preposition, (Beth) which is rendered in, with reference both to the air and sea, in the same verse. 2. The character of the young men of that age, as represented by Solomon, in the first chapter of this book, explains their youthful conduct in a way which elucidates this expression. It seems that the bandits which attended Saul, and David too, (in bis persecution) used to harbour in the caverns of that country, (some of which were very large) and they were particularly careful to avoid being traced in their predatory adventures, 1 Sam. xxiii. 22, 23. 3. The term here used for man, (Geber) implies strength and vigour, and applies well to persons of this character, who were all bardy adventurers. 4. The whole of the passage thus explained, applies to an adulterous woman, who is as difficult to trace and to arrest in her crimes, as is an eagle in the air, a ship in the sea, a serpent on the rock, or a hardy bandit in his adventures; for we are told, "her ways are moveable;" (ch. v. 6.) she is continually shifting her haunts, and changing her stratagems, to avoid detection; and, as to her own consciousness, has no sense of either crime or shame.
Ver. 22. A servant when he reigneth.-See chap.
folk, yet make they their houses in and a king, against whom there is no the rocks; rising up.
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; 28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.
29 There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: 30 A lion, which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; 31 A greyhound; an he goat also;
32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife. (H)
(H) The proverbs (or prophecy) of Agur. -Who this Agur was, neither Scripture nor tradition give us any account. Some Rabbins, ambitious to be wise above what, is written, will needs have Agur to be Solomon; and some Christians explain the names Ithiel and Ucal of Jesus Christ. As, however, we wish to avoid this mysti cal trifling with the Scriptures, which we think both irreverent and dangerous, we shall content ourselves with taking up the apothegms in this chapter, as the sayings of a writer unknown; but whose charac. ter is sufficiently authenticated by his proverbs being placed in the sacred canon; and at the same time, probably, with the last five chapters of Solomon's. All we can ascertain of Agur is, that he was a teacher, (probably in the schools of the prophets) and that Ithiel and Ucal were his disciples.
From the humiliating language in which this man speaks of himself, it has been supposed that, like Amos, he had no regular education; yet this deficiency cau hardly be inferred from his own language, since it is well known that men of the least pretensions are often men of the most knowledge. So Socrates modestly affirmed, "This only I know, that I know nothing.' Our translators, however, have used a term (brutish) which, in the language of
the present day, implies not only iguorance, but the want of civilization, which the original could hardly intend, but the want of eloquence and of science; his sense of which deficiency led him to compare himself to a dumb animal, as being destitute alike of language and of learning. If we explain this, however, of his want of human instruction, the proverbs before us will show that he was divinely taught; for the very next verse, and indeed the whole of the chapter, discovers a depth of inquiry and a sublimity of ideas that would not have disgraced even Solomon himself.
He begins with speaking of the Deity as omnipotent and omnipresent; and the question, "What is his name, and his son's name?" seem to imply not only a deep sense of the mysterious nature of God, but some knowledge also of a plurality in the divine Being. It appears to us, that though Agur might not have gone through the regular studies of the prophetic schools, he was well read in the Holy Scriptures, for which he appears to have had the highest reverence; and therefore says, "Every word of God is pure.
Add not thou unto his words, lest he reprove thee," &c.
Agur then discourses on prayer, in a manner that shows a pious, devoted, and elevated mind. He prays against the
have been by many taken for rabbits, but which, it seems, are scarcely known in Judea; nor is the Hebrew term so rendered by any of the ancient verMons. Bockart explains it of the Jerboa, or jumping monse, a very sagacious little animal, well answering to the description. Dr.Shaw explains it of the Daman Israel, another sagacions little animal, abounding in mount Lebanon, and not unlike a rabbit; but Mr. Bruce is confident that it must mean the Ah koko, which abounds in the same region, and resembles a rat without a tail; it is never seen but in the
Tucks, or seated upon great stones. But the deription would accommodate to either of these an:mals. See Dr. Harris's Nat. Hist. in Cony.
Ver. 27. The locusts.... go forth by bandsHeb. All gathered together. See Joel ii. 6, &c. Ver. 28. The spider.This is a very different Word from what is used for the spider in Job viii, 14.
and Isa. lix. 5. And this interpretation is objected to, since the spider has no hands, and builds rather in hovels than in palaces. Bochart and others therefore explain it of a small species of lizard, abounding in Egypt and Turkey, and there held sacred. They seek refuge in houses, where they are encouraged, for their utility in catching flies, and other insects upon the walls and ceilings, where they crawl without difliculty.
Ver. 31. A greyhound - Marg. "A horse." The Hebrew Zirzir, which occurs only here, signifies "girt in the loius," and gives a very good description of the greyhound, which Bochart and most others consider as the animal intended; but some apply it to the horse, harnessed (or girt about). See Zech. x. 4.
Ver. 32. Lay thine hand-See Job x1. 4.
The instructions of a]
[mother to her royal son.
is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
8 Open thy mouth for the dumb, in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil..
12 She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and
EXPOSITION-Chap. XXX. Continued.
temptations peculiar to both the higher and the lower classes of society; prefers the golden mean, and, as we are taught to pray, that he might receive his "daily bread." (See Matt. vi. 11.) His prayer shows a deep sense of his own frailty, and the necessity of divine direction to preserve him, both from sin and ruin.
He then divides his observations in threes and fours, as we may see instances in the patriarch Job, and the prophet Amos. (See Amosi. 6, 9, 11, 13.) He severely reprobates disobedient children, selfrighteous hyprocrites, the proud, and the slanderers. He next adverts to the horseleech and her two daughters, to which he compares four insatiable things the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, and the devouring flame; neither of which ever say, "It is enough."
Four things are enumerated, which disturb the peace of mankind: "a servant" (or slave) when he assumes the reins of government, and a rich and pampered fool, who lives only to gratify his vulgar propensities. Also "an odious," ill-tem
pered woman, or an artful female slave, who supplants her mistress in the affections of her master; either of which is sure to tyrannize over all who are sub jected to her control.
Four creatures are then brought for ward, insignificant in size, but remarkable for sagacity; the ant, the cony, the locust, and the spider, or perhaps lizard; and four others, remarkable for strength and dignity of carriage. It is somewhat singular that a king should be made the last of these animals, and is only to be accounted for from an idea that the several virtues of these creatures all go to form the character of a great and wise prince; as, for instance, the industry of the ants, the ingenuity of the conies, the associated power of the locusts, the domestic character of the spider, or lizard; the strength of the lion, the activity of the greyhound, and the portly dignity of the he-goat, which, in the prophet Daniel, (chap, viii.) is considered to be an emblem of Alexander the Great, against whom there was indeed "no rising up."
CHAP. XXXI. Ver. 1. The words of king Lemuel. This line is so perplexing, that some learned men have concluded there must be some error in the text; and Dr. Boothroyd, by a change of one letter only, reads, "The words of his mother to the king" But then we have Lemuel again, ver. 4, and those who reject the name in the first line, are obliged to make another conjecturai emendation, to which we fcel ourselves very averse. Who this Lemuel was, however, can only be conjectured. Most suppose it to have been Solo...on, and the address given him by his mother, Bathsheba. But this also is mere supposition. Where we know nothing, it seems wisest to be silent.
Ibid. The prophecy - Not a prediction, but an
worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her houshold, and a portion to her maidens.
16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time
26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She looketh well to the ways of her houshold, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (I)
(1) The instructions of a mother to her royal son.--From the principle of monopolizing to their own nation the wisdom of all others, some Rabbinical writers have attributed these two last chapters to Solomon, under the names of Agur and Lemuel, but we conceive without the least authority. Of Agur we have already professed our ignorance, and Lemuel is to us equally unknown. All we can ascertain is, that his mother was a virtuous and intelligent woman, and that her son was a king, though at this time, probably, a minor. The words here delivered, are not preteuded to be his own, though written down by him; but those which his mother taught him. The address begins with an animated apostrophe, "What, my son," &c. meaning," What shall I say?" "What
important instruction shall I now address to thee?" She then cautions him against intemperance, in either women or wine, as liable to make him forget the law, or pervert equity in giving judgment. The great use of wine, she tells him, is medicinal; to support the strength of those who were sinking under their afflictions, or to cheer the heart of those who were overwhelmed with grief. She next admonishes him to open his mouth, and plead the cause of the oppressed, who were unable to defend themselves.
What follows is a beautiful portrait of the virtuous woman and the faithful wife. We may reasonably infer, that in this she unintentionally portrayed her own character. To dilate it by an exposition, would only weaken its effect; and it needs no comment; " her own words, as well as works, shall praise her."
Ver. 18. She perceiveth — Heb. "Tasteth.”— Her candle-Heb. "lamp."
Ver. 20, She stretcheth-Heb." Spreadeth." Ver. 21. Clothed with scarletMarg. "With dunble garments," So Holden, &c. Ver. 22. Silk-Holden, "Fine linen." He supposes silk then unknown.
Ver. 23. Known in the gates-that is, he is a magistrate,
Ver. 29. Many daughters (i. e. of Israel) have done virtuously, &c.-This, and perhaps the following verses, may be considered as the commendation of her husband
Ver. 21. Praise her in the gates-that is, her husband, who is well known in the gates, being clothed by her industry, this excites the commendation of his associates of the higher classes.
END OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.