Proverbs 30:16 Commentaries: Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, "Enough."
Proverbs 30:16
The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that said not, It is enough.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) The grave.—See above, on Proverbs 15:11, where it is translated “hell.”

Proverbs 30:16. The grave, and the barren womb — As the Israelitish women did generally and vehemently desire to have many children, for divers reasons elsewhere mentioned, so those who were barren among them were most eager in those desires, as we see in Rachel, Genesis 30:1. And, as in all other cases, persons most prize and thirst after those good things which they want. The earth — Which, when it is dry, thirsts for rain, and in a little time sucks up great quantities of water, and gapes for more. And the fire — Which continually burns, as long as there is any combustible matter left for it. “Some commentators compare certain vices with these four insatiable things: the desire of revenge to the grave; libidinous desires to the barren womb; covetousness, or rather drunkenness, to the thirsty earth; and ambition to the devouring fire. It is easy to show how fitly all these are resembled to the horseleech; it being the vulgar saying, that harlots, for instance, are the horseleeches of young men; and the servant in Plautus, when he was about to rob the chests of two old men, says, Jam ego me vertam in hirudinem, &c. ‘Now will I turn myself into a horseleech, and suck out their very blood.’” — Dodd.30:10 Slander not a servant to his master, accuse him not in small matters, to make mischief. 11-14. In every age there are monsters of ingratitude who ill-treat their parents. Many persuade themselves they are holy persons, whose hearts are full of sin, and who practise secret wickedness. There are others whose lofty pride is manifest. There have also been cruel monsters in every age. 15-17. Cruelty and covetousness are two daughters of the horseleech, that still cry, Give, give, and they are continually uneasy to themselves. Four things never are satisfied, to which these devourers are compared. Those are never rich that are always coveting. And many who have come to a bad end, have owned that their wicked courses began by despising their parents' authority. 18-20. Four things cannot be fully known. The kingdom of nature is full of marvels. The fourth is a mystery of iniquity; the cursed arts by which a vile seducer gains the affections of a female; and the arts which a vile woman uses to conceal her wickedness. 21-23 Four sorts of persons are very troublesome. Men of low origin and base spirit, who, getting authority, become tyrants. Foolish and violent men indulging in excesses. A woman of a contentious spirit and vicious habits. A servant who has obtained undue influence. Let those whom Providence has advanced from low beginnings, carefully watch against that sin which most easily besets them.The grave - Hebrew שׁאול she'ôl. The "Hell" or Hades of Proverbs 27:20, all-consuming yet never full. 15, 16. horse leech—supposed by some to be the vampire (a fabulous creature), as being literally insatiable; but the other subjects mentioned must be taken as this, comparatively insatiable. The use of a fabulous creature agreeably to popular notions is not inconsistent with inspiration.

There are three … yea, four—(Compare Pr 6:16).

The barren womb; for as the Israelitish women did generally and vehemently desire many children, for divers reasons elsewhere mentioned; so those who were barren amongst them were most eager in those desires, as we see in Rachel, Genesis 30:1, and as in all other cases persons most prize and thirst after those good things which they want.

The earth; which when it is dry thirsts for rain, and in a little time sucks up great quantities of water, and gapes for more.

The fire; which continually burns as long as there is any combustible matter left for it. The grave,.... Which is the first of the four daughters, or insatiable things, which resemble the horse leech: the grave is the house appointed for all living; it stands ready for them, it is open to receive them when dead; and though such multitudes have been put into it, since death reigned in the world, yet it is not full, it waits for more; nor will its mouth be shut till the last enemy, death, is destroyed; see Proverbs 27:20; This is an emblem of a covetous man, who enlarges his desire as hell or the grave; and is never satisfied with gold, silver, and increase of substance he has, but is always craving more;

and the barren womb; the second daughter, that cries, Give, give, as Rachel, "give me children, or I die", Genesis 30:1, barren women are oftentimes impatient for children, as she was; and importunate, as Hannah; and as the Israelitish women were before the coming of the Messiah, each hoping he might be born of them; especially before it was so clearly known that he should be born of a virgin: though it may be rather the barren womb of harlots is here meant, and who are generally barren, and whose lust is insatiable; and this may be an emblem of lust, which is never satisfied; whether it be a lust of riches, or of honour, or of uncleanness, or of sensual pleasures;

the earth that is not filled with water; which is dry and parched, and opens and gapes; and though large quantities of rain may fall upon it, which it greedily drinks in; yet is not seen, nor is it filled with it, but it thirsts for more: this may be an emblem of good men, that have received abundance of the grace of God; and though they thirst not after sin, as they before did, and others do; yet thirst after God, more knowledge of him, and communion with him, and for more grace, like the dry and thirsty land, and cannot have enough of it; see John 4:13; or rather of wicked men, who drink up iniquity like water, and yet never have their fill of it to their satisfaction. This is the third thing, and the fourth follows:

and the fire that saith not, It is enough; but let what fuel will be cast into it, it devours it, and still wants more: by the Egyptians, as Herodotus (r) relates, fire is reckoned an animated beast, which devours all it can lay hold on; and when it is filled with food, it dies with that which is devoured by it. Such is the fire of divine wrath, hell fire, in which sinners are, as thorns and briers; and which is unquenchable, everlasting, burns for ever and ever; the Tophet, ordained of old, deep and large, the pile thereof is fire and much wood, kindled by the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, Isaiah 30:33. These are the four daughters of the horse leech which resemble that in its insatiableness. Jarchi makes mention of some that interpret the horse leech of "sheol", or the state of the dead; and the two daughters, of paradise and hell; the one says, "Give me the righteous"; and the other says, "Give me the wicked." Aben Ezra applies these four to the four generations before spoken of; the grave, into which are cast the generation of those that curse their father, and die before their time; the barren womb, the generation of those that are not washed from the filthiness of whoredom, and have no children; the earth not filled with water, the proud and haughty, who are humbled by famine; and the fire is that which descends from heaven, to consume the generation that destroy the poor and oppress the needy, as fire came down upon them in the days of Elijah. Jarchi takes notice of a Midrash, which applies these four things to the four monarchies; as it does also all the four things after mentioned.

(r) Thalia sive, l. 3. c. 16.

The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. the grave] Sheol or Hades. See Proverbs 27:20.Verse 16. - The four insatiable things are now named: first, the grave, sheol (Proverbs 27:20), which can never be filled with its victims. Horace talks of a man as -

"Victima nil miserantis Orci."
(Carm.,' 2:3, 24.) And Hesiod ('Theog.,' 456) of Hades as -

Νηλεὲς ῆτορ ἔχων
"A heart possessing that no pity knows." The second thing is the barren womb; "the closing of the womb," as Genesis 20:18; Isaiah 66:9. The burning desire for children, characteristic of an Israelitish wife, is here denoted, like the passionate cry of Rachel to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die" (Genesis 30:1). The barren woman, says Corn. a Lapide, " concubitus magis est avida quam ceterae tum propter desiderium habendae prolis, tum quod foecundae et gravidae naturaliter non appetant concubitum." The third insatiable thing is the earth that is not filled (satisfied) with water; the parched and thirsty soil which no amount of water can satisfy, which drinks in all that is poured upon it and is not benefited, what Virgil ('Georg.,' 1:114) calls "bibula arena." The fourth is the fire that saith not, It is enough; the "devouring element," as the newspapers term it. The more you heap on fire, the more material you supply, the fiercer it rages. Septuagint, "Hades, and the love of woman, and earth not satisfied with water, and water, and fire, will not say, It sufficeth." Cheyne and others quote from the Sanscrit 'Hitopadesa,' "Fire is never satisfied with fuel; nor the ocean with rivers; nor death with all creatures; nor bright-eyed women with men." 10 Calumniate not a servant with his master,

     Lest he curse thee, and thou must atone for it.

Incorrectly Ewald: entice not a servant to slander against his master; and Hitzig: "Make not a servant tattle regarding his master." It is true that the Poel לושׁן (to pierce with the tongue, lingu petere) occurs twice in the sense of to calumniate; but that הלשׁין means nothing else, is attested by the post-bibl. Hebrew; the proverb regarding schismatics (בּרכּת המּינים) in the Jewish Schemone-Esre (prayer of the eighteen benedictions) began with ולמלשינים, "and to the calumniators" (delatoribus). Also in the Arab. âlsana signifies pertulit verba alicujus ad alterum, to make a babbler, rapporteur (Fleischer). That the word also here is not to be otherwise interpreted, is to be concluded from אל with the causative rendering. Rightly Symmachus, μὴ διαβάλῃς; Theodotion, μὴ καταλαλήσῃς; and according to the sense also, Jerome, ne accuses; the Venet. μὴ καταμηνύσῃς (give not him); on the contrary, Luther, verrate nicht [betray not], renders הלשׁין with the lxx, Syr. in the sense of the Aram. אשׁלם and the Arab. âslam (tradere, prodere). One should not secretly accuse (Psalm 101:5) a servant with his master, and in that lies the character of slander (לשׁון הרע) when one puts suspicion upon him, or exaggerates the actual facts, and generally makes the person suspected - one thereby makes a man, whose lot in itself is not a happy one, at length and perhaps for ever unhappy, and thereby he brings a curse on himself. But it is no matter of indifference to be the object of the curse of a man whom one has unrighteously and unjustly overwhelmed in misery: such a curse is not without its influence, for it does not fruitlessly invoke the righteous retribution of God, and thus one has sorrowfully to atone for the wanton sins of the tongue (veaschāmta, for ve-aschamtá as it is would be without pause).

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