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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Proverbs 30

Verse 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.

Verse 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 Psalms 73:22.

Verse 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 Proverbs 9:10.

Verse 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 Proverbs 8:30), then His nature, until revealed, must be as incomprehensible by us as that of the Father Himself.

Verse 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.”

Verse 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.

Verse 7

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

Verse 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.”

Verse 9

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

Verse 10

Accuse not a servant - The prayer in Proverbs 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 12

The Pharisee temper (compare the marginal reference).

Verses 15-16

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

Verses 18-20

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

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 25

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

Verse 26

Conies - See the marginal reference note.

Verse 27

Compare Joel 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.”

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 30". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.