For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 30:21-23. For three things the earth — That is, the inhabitants of the earth; is disquieted — By their insolence and impudence they cause great disturbances in the places where they live; for four it cannot rest — They are intolerable in human societies. For a servant when he reigneth — When he is advanced to great power and dignity; for such a one is ignorant and unfit for his place, and therefore commits many errors; he is poor, and therefore insatiable; he is proud and imperious, and usually injurious and cruel; and a fool — A conceited fool, or an obstinately wicked man; when he is filled with meat — When he is over fed, his meat and drink heating his blood, and stirring him up to many insolences: or, when he abounds in wealth, which, in that case, is like a sword in a madman’s hand, being an instrument and occasion of many acts of wickedness and mischief. For an odious woman — Proud and perverse, and full of other offensive qualities; when she is married — For then she displays all those ill humours which before she concealed. And a handmaid that is heir — Which great and sudden change transports her beside herself, and makes her insufferably proud and scornful.The earth is disquieted; either,
1. The earth itself trembleth and is moved; so it is an hyperbole. Or rather,
2. The inhabitants of the earth. They do by their insolence and impudence cause great and dreadful disturbances in the places where they live.
Which it cannot bear; which are intolerable in human societies. For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. For] “or Under,” R.V. marg.
21–23. Four things that are intolerable.
Two of them are drawn from each sex, and in each case they are unbearable because they are out of place, in a false position.Verses 21-23. - Then follows a proverb concerning four things which are intolerable, examples of incongruous associations or positions - two in the case of men, two in the case of women. Verse 21. - For three things the earth is disquieted; better, under three things the earth doth tremble, as if oppressed by an overwhelming borden. The form of expression does not allow us to think of an earthquake. "The earth" is equivalent to "the inhabitants thereof." And for four which it cannot bear; or, under four it cannot stand (comp. Amos 7:10). These four evils destroy the comfort of social life, uproot the bonds of society, and endanger the safety of a nation. Proverbs 30:11-14 closes, and there follows an apophthegma de quatuor insatiabilibus quae ideo comparantur cum sanguisuga (C. B. Michaelis). We translate the text here as it lies before us:
15 The ‛Alûka hath two daughters: Give! Give!
Three of these are never satisfied;
Four say not: Enough!
16 The under-world and the closing of the womb;
The earth is not satisfied with water;
And the fire saith not: Enough!
We begin with Masoretic externalities. The first ב in הב is Beth minusculum; probably it had accidentally this diminutive form in the original MSS, to which the Midrash (cf. Sepher Taghin ed. Bargs, 1866, p. 47) has added absurd conceits. This first הב has Pasek after it, which in this case is servant to the Olewejored going before, according to the rule Thorath Emeth, p. 24, here, as at Psalm 85:9, Mehuppach. The second הב, which of itself alone is the representative of Olewejored, has in Hutter, as in the Cod. Erfurt 2, and Cod. 2 of the Leipzig Public Library, the pausal punctuation הב (cf. קח, 1 Samuel 21:10), but which is not sufficiently attested. Instead of לא־אמרוּ, 15b, לא אמרוּ, and instead of לא־אמרה f, 16b, לא אמרה are to be written; the Zinnorith removes the Makkeph, according to Thorath Emeth, p. 9, Accentuationssystem, iv. 2. Instead of מים, 16a, only Jablonski, as Mhlau remarks, has מים; but incorrectly, since Athnach, after Olewejored, has no pausal force (vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 37). All that is without any weight as to the import of the words. But the punctuation affords some little service for the setting aside of a view of Rabbenu Tam (vid., Tosaphoth to Aboda zara 17a, and Erubin 19a), which has been lately advocated by Lwenstein. That view is, that ‛Alûka is the name of a wise man, not Solomon's, because the Pesikta does not reckon this among the names of Solomon, nor yet a name of hell, because it is not, in the Gemara, numbered among the names of Gehinnom. Thus לעלוּקה would be a superscription, like לדוד and לשׁלמה, Psalm 26:1; Psalm 72:1, provided with Asla Legarmeh. But this is not possible, for the Asla Legarmeh, at Psalm 26:1 and Psalm 72:1, is the transformation of Olewejored, inadmissible on the first word of the verse (Accentuationssystem, xix. 1); but no Olewejored can follow such an Asla Legarmeh, which has the force of an Olewejored, as after this לעלוקה, which the accentuation then does not regard as the author's name given as a superscription. עלוּקה is not the name of a person, and generally not a proper name, but a generic name of certain traditional signification. "One must drink no water" - says the Gemara Aboda zara 12b - "out of a river or pond, nor (immediately) with his mouth, nor by means of his hand; he who, nevertheless, does it, his blood comes on his own head, because of the danger. What danger? סכּנת עלוּקה," i.e., the danger of swallowing a leech. The Aram. also designates a leech by עלוּקא (cf. e.g., Targ. Psalm 12:9: hence the godless walk about like the leech, which sucks the blood of men), and the Arab. by 'alaḳ (n. unit. 'alaḳat), as the word is also rendered here by the Aram. and Arab. translators. Accordingly, all the Greeks render it by βδέλλη; Jerome, by sanguisuga (Rashi, sangsue); also Luther's Eigel is not the Igel erinaceus [hedgehog], but the Egel, i.e., as we now designate it, the Blutegel [leech], or (less correctly) Blutigel. עלוּקה is the fem. of the adj. עלוּק, attached to, which meaning, together with the whole verbal stem, the Arab. has preserved (vid., Mhlau's Mittheilung des Art. 'aluka aus dem Kamus, p. 42).
(Note: Nldeke has remarked, with reference to Mhlau's Monographie, that ‛aluḳa, in the sense of tenacious (tenax), is also found in Syr. (Geopon. xiii. 9, xli. 26), and that generally the stem עלק, to cleave, to adhere, is more common in Aram. than one would suppose. But this, however common in Arab., is by no means so in Syr.; and one may affirm that, among other Arabisms found in the Proverbs of Agur, the word ‛Alûka has decidedly an Arab. sound.)
But if, now, the ‛Alûka is the leech,
(Note: In Sanscrit the leech is called galaukas (masc.) or galaukâ (fem.), i.e., the inhabitant of the water (from gala, water, and ôkas, dwelling). Ewald regards this as a transformation of the Semitic name.)
which are then its two daughters, to which is here given the name הב הב, and which at the same time have this cry of desire in their mouths? Grotius and others understand, by the two daughters of the leech, the two branches of its tongue; more correctly: the double-membered overlip of its sucker. C. B. Michaelis thinks that the greedy cry, "Give! Give!" is personified: voces istae concipiuntur ut hirudinis filiae, quas ex se gignat et velut mater sobolem impense diligat. But since this does not satisfy, symbolical interpretations of ‛Aluka have been resorted to. The Talmud, Aboda zara 17a, regards it as a name of hell. In this sense it is used in the language of the Pijut (synagogue poetry).
(Note: So says e.g., Salomo ha-Babli, in a Zulath of the first Chanukka-Sabbats (beginning אין צוּר חלף): יקדוּ כּהבהבי עלק, they burn like the flames of hell.)
If ‛Alûka is hell, then fancy has the widest room for finding an answer to the question, What are the two daughters? The Talmud supposes that רשׁות (the worldly domination) and מינות (heresy) are meant. The Church-fathers also, understanding by ‛Alûka the power of the devil, expatiated in such interpretations. Of the same character are Calmet's interpretation, that sanguisuga is a figure of the mala cupiditas, and its twin-daughters are avaritia and ambitio. The truth lying in all these is this, that here there must be some kind of symbol. But if the poet meant, by the two daughters of the ‛Alûka, two beings or things which he does not name, then he kept the best of his symbol to himself. And could he use ‛Alûka, this common name for the leech, without further intimation, in any kind of symbolical sense? The most of modern interpreters do nothing to promote the understanding of the word, for they suppose that ‛Alûka, from its nearest signification, denotes a demoniacal spirit of the character of a vampire, like the Dakin of the Indians, which nourish themselves on human flesh; the ghouls of the Arabs and Persians, which inhabit graveyards, and kill and eat men, particularly wanderers in the desert; in regard to which it is to be remarked, that (Arab.) ‛awlaḳ is indeed a name for a demon, and that al‛aluwaḳ, according to the Kamus, is used in the sense of alghwal. Thus Dathe, Dderlein, Ziegler, Umbreit; thus also Hitzig, Ewald, and others. Mhlau, while he concurs in this understanding of the word, and now throwing open the question, Which, then, are the two daughters of the demoness ‛Alûka? finds no answer to it in the proverb itself, and therefore accepts of the view of Ewald, since 15b-16, taken by themselves, form a fully completed whole, that the line 'לעלוקה וגו is the beginning of a numerical proverb, the end of which is wanting. We acknowledge, because of the obscurity - not possibly aimed at by the author himself - in which the two daughters remain, the fragmentary characters of the proverb of the ‛Alûka; Stuart also does this, for he regards it as brought out of a connection in which it was intelligible - but we believe that the line 'שׁלושׁ וגו is an original formal part of this proverb. For the proverb forming, according to Mhlau's judgment, a whole rounded off:
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