Proverbs 30:18
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I know not:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Too wonderful for me.—The wonder in Agur’s eyes seems to be that none of the four leave any trace behind them. (Comp. Wisdom Of Solomon 5:10 sqq.) For a spiritual interpretation of these and other passages in this chapter, comp. Bishop Wordsworth’s Commentary.

Proverbs 30:18-19. There be three things too wonderful for me — The way whereof I cannot trace; the way of an eagle in the air — Either, 1st, The manner of her flight, which is exceedingly high, swift, and strong: or, rather, 2d, The way, or part of the air through which she passes, without leaving any print or sign in it. The way of a serpent upon a rock — Where it leaves no impression, nor slime, nor token which way it went. The way of a ship in the sea — In which, though at present it make a furrow, yet it is speedily closed again; and the way of a man with a maid — The various methods and artifices which young men sometimes use to slide into the hearts of young virgins, and win their love, that they may persuade them either to honourable marriage or to unlawful lust. “I would just observe upon this” last clause, says Dr. Dodd, “that some have understood it as a reference to the incarnation of the Word in the Virgin Mary.” The word עלמה, rendered maid, signifies a virgin, strictly speaking; and גבר, rendered a man, may signify the man, or great one, by way of eminence. But for more on this text the reader is referred to Schultens’s very accurate discussion of it. Houbigant thinks that the sacred writer here refers to the human conception; which is indeed truly miraculous and incomprehensible.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.Another enigma. The four things of Proverbs 30:16 agreed in the common point of insatiableness; the four now mentioned agree in this, that they leave no trace behind them.18-20. Hypocrisy is illustrated by four examples of the concealment of all methods or traces of action, and a pertinent example of double dealing in actual vice is added, that is, the adulterous woman. The way whereof I cannot trace or find out. There be three things which are too wonderful for me,.... Which were above his reach and comprehension; what he could not find out, nor account for, nor sufficiently admire;

yea, four things which I know not; the way of them; as follows.

There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. too wonderful] The wonder consists in these things leaving no trace behind them. Two of the four are used as illustrations of the transitoriness of a vicious life in Wis 5:10-11 (R.V.):

“As a ship passing through the billowy water,

Whereof, when it is gone by, there is no trace to be found,

Neither pathway of its keel in the billows:

Or as when a bird flieth through the air,

No token of her passage is found,

But the light wind, lashed with the stroke of her pinions,

And rent asunder with the violent rush of the moving wings, is passed through,

And afterwards no sign of her coming is found therein.”

18–20. Four things that are inscrutable.Verses 18-20. - A proverb concerning four inscrutable things, connected with the last by mention of the eagle. Verse 18. - There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not. The great point is the fourth, to which the three previous things lead up, all of them being alike in this, that they leave no trace. The facts are marvellous; Agur feels like Job, "I have uttered that which I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not" (Job 42:3). There now follows a Priamel,

(Note: Cf. vol. i. p. 13. The name (from praeambulum) given to a peculiar form of popular gnomic poetry which prevailed in Germany from the 12th (e.g., the Meistersinger or Minstrel Sparvogel) to the 16th century, but was especially cultivated during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its peculiarity consisted in this, that after a series of antecedents or subjects, a briefly-expressed consequent or predicate was introduced as the epigrammatic point applicable to all these antecedents together. Vid., Erschenburg's Denkmlern altdeutscher Dichtkinst, Bremen 1799.)

the first line of which is, by יקלל, connected with the יקללך of the preceding distich:

11 A generation that curseth their father,

     And doth not bless their mother;

12 A generation pure in their own eyes,

     And yet not washed from their filthiness;

13 A generation - how haughty their eyes,

     And their eyelids lift themselves up;

14 A generation whose teeth are swords and their jaw teeth knives

     To devour the poor from the earth and the needy from the midst of men.

Ewald translates: O generation! but that would have required the word, 13a, הדּור (Jeremiah 2:31), and one would have expected to have found something mentioned which the generation addressed were to take heed to; but it is not so. But if "O generation!" should be equivalent to "O regarding the generation!" then הוי ought to have introduced the sentence. And if we translate, with Luther: There is a generation, etc., then ישׁ is supplied, which might drop out, but could not be omitted. The lxx inserts after ἔκγονον the word κακόν, and then renders what follows as pred. - a simple expedient, but worthless. The Venet. does not need this expedient, for it renders γενεὰ τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ βλασφημέσει; but then the order of the words in 11a would have been דור יקלל אביו; and in 12a, after the manner of a subst. clause, דור טהור בעיניו הוא, one sees distinctly, from Proverbs 30:13 and Proverbs 30:14, that what follows דור is to be understood, not as a pred., but as an attributive clause. As little can we interpret Proverbs 30:14, with Lwenstein, as pred. of the three subj., "it is a generation whose teeth are swords;" that would at least have required the words דור הוא; but Proverbs 30:14 is not at all a judgment valid for all the three subjects. The Targ. and Jerome translate correctly, as we above;

(Note: The Syr. begins 11a as if הוי were to be supplied.)

but by this rendering there are four subjects in the preamble, and the whole appears, since the common pred. is wanting, as a mutilated Priamel. Perhaps the author meant to say: it is such a generation that encompasses us; or: such is an abomination to Jahve; for דור is a Gesamtheit equals totality, generation of men who are bound together by contemporary existence, or homogeneity, or by both, but always a totality; so that these Proverbs 30:11-14, might describe quatuor detestabilia genera hominum (C. B. Michaelis), and yet one generatio, which divide among themselves these four vices, of blackest ingratitude, loathsome self-righteousness, arrogant presumption, and unmerciful covetousness. Similar is the description given in the Mishna Sota ix. 14, of the character of the age in which the Messiah appeared. "The appearance of this age," thus it concludes, "is like the appearance of a dog; a son is not ashamed before his father; to whom will we then look for help? To our Father in heaven!"

continued...

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