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Proverbs 30:15

Context

30:15 The leech 1  has two daughters: 2 

“Give! Give!” 3 

There are three things that are never satisfied,

four 4  that never say, “Enough” 5 

Proverbs 30:18

Context

30:18 There are three things that are too wonderful for me, 6 

four that I do not understand:

Proverbs 30:21

Context

30:21 Under three things the earth trembles, 7 

and under four things it cannot bear up:

Proverbs 30:24

Context

30:24 There are four things on earth that are small, 8 

but they are exceedingly wise: 9 

Proverbs 30:29

Context

30:29 There are three things that are magnificent 10  in their step,

four things that move about magnificently: 11 

1 sn The next two verses describe insatiable things, things that are problematic to normal life. The meaning of v. 15a and its relationship to 15b is debated. But the “leech” seems to have been selected to begin the section because it was symbolic of greed – it sucks blood through its two suckers. This may be what the reference to two daughters calling “Give! Give!” might signify (if so, this is an implied comparison, a figure known as hypocatastasis).

2 sn As one might expect, there have been various attempts to identify the “two daughters.” In the Rabbinic literature some identified Alukah (the “leech”) with Sheol, and the two daughters with paradise and hell, one claiming the righteous and the other the unrighteous; others identified Alukah with Gehenna, and the two daughters with heresy and government, neither of which is ever satisfied (Midrash Tehillim quoted by Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040-1105, and in the Talmud, b. Avodah Zarah 17a). J. J. Glueck suggests that what is in view is erotic passion (and not a leech) with its two maidens of burning desire crying for more (“Proverbs 30:15a,” VT 14 [1964]: 367-70). F. S. North rightly criticizes this view as gratuitous; he argues for the view of a leech with two suckers (“The Four Insatiables,” VT 15 [1965]: 281-82).

3 tn The two imperatives הַב הַב (hav hav, “give, give,” from יָהַב, yahav) correspond to the two daughters, and form their appeal. This would then be a personification – it is as if the leech is crying out, “Give! Give!”

4 sn There is a noticeable rhetorical sequence here: two daughters, three things, four (see W. M. Roth, “The Numerical Sequence x / x +1 in the Old Testament,” VT 12 [1962]: 300-311, and “Numerical Sayings in the Old Testament,” VT 13 [1965]: 86). W. McKane thinks the series builds to a climax with the four, and in the four the barren woman is the focal point, the other three being metaphors for her sexual desire (Proverbs [OTL], 656). This interpretation is a minority view, however, and has not won widespread support.

5 tn Throughout the book of Proverbs הוֹן (hon) means “wealth”; but here it has the nuance of “sufficiency” (cf. TEV, CEV, NLT “satisfied”) or “enough” (BDB 223 s.v.).

6 tn The form נִפְלְאוּ (niflÿu) is the Niphal perfect from פָּלָא (pala’); the verb means “to be wonderful; to be extraordinary; to be surpassing”; cf. NIV “too amazing.” The things mentioned are things that the sage finds incomprehensible (e.g., Gen 18:14; Judg 13:18; Ps 139:6; and Isa 9:6[5]). The sage can only admire these wonders – he is at a loss to explain them.

7 sn The Hebrew verb means “to rage; to quake; to be in tumult.” The sage is using humorous and satirical hyperbole to say that the changes described in the following verses shake up the whole order of life. The sayings assume that the new, elevated status of the individuals was not accompanied by a change in nature. For example, it was not completely unknown in the ancient world for a servant to become king, and in the process begin to behave like a king.

8 tn Heb “Four are the small things of the earth.” TEV has “four animals,” though in the list of four that follows, two are insects and one is a reptile.

9 tn The construction uses the Pual participle with the plural adjective as an intensive; these four creatures are the very embodiment of wisdom (BDB 314 s.v. חָכַם Pu).

10 tn The form מֵיטִיבֵי (metibe) is the Hiphil participle, plural construct. It has the idea of “doing good [in] their step.” They move about well, i.e., magnificently. The genitive would be a genitive of specification.

11 tn The construction uses the Hiphil participle again (as in the previous line) followed by the infinitive construct of הָלַךְ (halakh). This forms a verbal hendiadys, the infinitive becoming the main verb and the participle before it the adverb.



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