Proverbs 30:26
The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) The conies are but a feeble folk, being only about as big as a rabbit, with nails instead of claws, and weak teeth. Its Hebrew name (shāphān) signifies a “hider,” from its habit of living in clefts of the rocks; its scientific name is Hyrax Syriacus. The translation “coney,” i.e., rabbit, is a mistake. In general appearance it resembles a guinea-pig or marmot.

30:24-28. Four things that are little, are yet to be admired. There are those who are poor in the world, and of small account, yet wise for their souls and another world. 29-33. We may learn from animals to go well; also to keep our temper under all provocations. We must keep the evil thought in our minds from breaking out into evil speeches. We must not stir up the passions of others. Let nothing be said or done with violence, but every thing with softness and calmness. Alas, how often have we done foolishly in rising up against the Lord our King! Let us humble ourselves before him. And having found peace with Him, let us follow peace with all men.Conies - See the marginal reference note. 26. conies—mountain mice, or rabbits. In rocky ground, or in the holes of rocks, for their safety against their too potent enemies. The coneys are but a feeble folk,.... Or "rabbits"; though some think these creatures are not intended, because they are not so little as those with which they are ranked, the ant, the locust, and spider; and because of the places in which they burrow and make their houses, which though in holes and caverns of the earth, yet not in rocky but sandy places; rather therefore it is thought that the mountain mouse, or bear mouse (o), as Jerom calls it, is meant; of which, he says (p), there were great numbers in Palestine, and which had their habitations in the holes of rocks; though if Spain has its name from as some say, because of the multitudes of coneys in it; and hence that part of Spain called Celtiberia is called by Catullus (q) Cuniculosa; the coney may be thought to be meant by this word, and so it is translated in Leviticus 11:5; the only places where it is elsewhere used; and the word may be derived either from to "cover", by a change of the letters and or from which has the signification both of breaking, and of hiding and covering, Genesis 3:15; and this creature breaks the earth and hides itself in it (r);

yet make they their houses in the rocks; it is usual with other writers to call the receptacles of any creatures, beasts, birds, or insects, their houses so we read of the house of the ant, and of the tortoise and snail (s); and which, because it carries its house era its back, it is called by Cicero (t) "domiporta"; see Psalm 104:17; the coneys make theirs in the rocks, to cure themselves from their more potent enemies; and thus what they want in strength is made up in sagacity, and by their wise conduct they provide for their safety and protection. These are an emblem of the people of God, who are a weak and feeble people, unable of themselves to perform spiritual duties, to exercise grace, to withstand the corruptions of their nature, resist the temptations of Satan, bear up under afflictive providences, and grapple with spiritual enemies, or defend themselves from them: but such heavenly wisdom is given them, as to betake themselves for refuge and shelter to Christ, the Rock of Israel; the Rock of salvation, the Rock that is higher than they; a strong one, on which the church is built, and against which the gates of hell cannot prevail: and here they are safe from the storms of divine wrath, and the avenging justice of God; from the rage and fury of men, and the fiery darts of Satan; here they dwell safely and delightfully, and have all manner of provision at hand for them; they are the inhabitants of that Rock, who have reason to sing indeed! see Isaiah 33:16.

(o) , Sept. "choerogryllii", Vatablus; "mures montani", Junius & Tremellius, Cartwright; "arctomyes", Schultens. (p) Epist. ad Sun. & Fretelli, fol. 30, C. tom. 3.((q) Cuniculosa Celtiberia, Epigram. ad Contubernales, 35. v. 18. (r) Gaudet "in effossis habitare cuniculus antris", Martial. Epigr. l. 13. Ephesians 58. (s) Phaedri Fab. 37, 80. (t) De Divinat. l. 2. c. 64. and so by Hesiod and Anaxilas in Athenaei Deipnosoph. l. 2. c. 22. p. 63.

The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. The conies] The Heb. word means the hiders, so called from their “making their houses,” hiding themselves, “in the rocks.”

It is now generally agreed that the animal in question is not, as the name coney, by which it is called also in Leviticus 11:5; Psalm 104:18, implies, a rabbit, but belongs to a different species, being “in its anatomy a true pachyderm, allied to the rhinoceros and the tapir, inferior to them as it is in size.” “It is about the size of a well-grown rabbit, with short ears, round head, long plantigrade feet, no tail, and nails instead of claws. With its weak teeth and short incisors, there seem few animals so entirely without the means of self-defence. But the strong rocks are a refuge for the conies (Proverbs 30:26, Psalm 104:18), and tolerably secure they are in such rocks as these (near Ain Feshkah) on the shore of the Dead Sea. No animal ever gave us so much trouble to secure.” Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 250. Speaker’s Comm. on Leviticus 11:5. See also Smith’s Dict. of Bible, Art. Coney.Verse 26. - The conies are but a feeble folk. The term "coney" (cuniculus) is applied to the rabbit, but this is not the animal here intended; and indeed rabbits are not found in Palestine. The word shaphan designates the Hyrax Syriacus, called by some the rock badger (see Hatrt, 'Animals of the Bible,' pp. 64, etc.). The coney, says Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land and Bible,' 2:90), "abounds in the gorge of the Kedron, and along the foot of the mountains west of the Dead Sea. It is of the size of the rabbit, but belongs to a very different order of animals, being placed by naturalists between the hippopotamus and rhinoceros. Its soft fur is brownish-grey over the back, with long black hairs rising through this lighter coat, and is almost white on the stomach; the tail is very short. The Jews, who were not scientific, deceived by the motion of its jaws in eating, which is exactly like that of ruminant animals, fancied it chewed the cud, though it did not divide the hoof, and so they put its flesh amidst that which was forbidden. It lives in companies, and chooses a ready-made cleft in the rocks for its home, so that, though the conies are but a 'feeble folk,' their refuge in the rocks gives them a security beyond that of stronger creatures. They are, moreover, 'exceeding wise,' so that it is very hard to capture one. Indeed, they are said, on high authority, to have sentries regularly placed on the look out while the rest are feeding; a squeak from the watchman sufficing to send the flock scudding to their holes like rabbits. The coney is found in many parts of Palestine, from Lebanon to the Dead Sea." In the rocks. This fact is noticed in Psalm'civ. 18. The Septuagint calls them χοιρογρύλλιοι here and Psalm 104:18, also in Leviticus 11:6 and Deuteronomy 14:7. This notion of the animal as a kind of little pig is not more accurate than that of St. Jerome, who renders the term by lepusculus. The following proverb, again a numerical proverb, begins with the eagle, mentioned in the last line of the foregoing:

18 Three things lie beyond me,

     And four I understand not:

19 The way of the eagle in the heavens,

     The way of a serpent over a rock,

     The way of a ship on the high sea,

     And the way of a man with a maid.

20 Thus is the way of the adulterous woman:

     She eateth and wipeth her mouth, and saith:

     I have done no iniquity.

נפלאוּ ממּנּי, as relative clause, like 15b (where Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion rightly: τρία δέ ἐστιν ἃ οὐ πλησθήσεται), is joined to שׁלשׁה המּה. On the other hand, ארבע (τέσσαρα, for with the Kerı̂, conforming to 18a, ארבּעה, τέσσαρας) has to be interpreted as object. accus. The introduction of four things that are not known is in expressions like Job 42:3; cf. Psalm 139:6. The turning-point lies in the fourth; to that point the other three expressions gravitate, which have not an object in themselves, but are only as folie to the fourth. The articles wanting after הנּשׁר: they would be only the marks of the gender, and are therefore unnecessary; cf. under Proverbs 29:2. And while בּשּׁמים, in the heavens, and בלב־ים, in the sea, are the expressions used, עלי צוּר is used for on the rock, because here "on" is not at the same time "in," "within," as the eagle cleaves the air and the ship the waves. For this same reason the expression, "the way of a man בּעלמה," is not to be understood of love unsought, suddenly taking possession of and captivating a man toward this or that maid, so that the principal thought of the proverb may be compared to the saying, "marriages are made in heaven;" but, as in Kidduschin 2b, with reference to this passage, is said coitus via appellatur. The ב refers to copula carnalis. But in what respect did his understanding not reach to this? "Wonderful," thus Hitzig explains as the best interpreter of this opinion elsewhere (cf. Psychol. p. 115) propounded, "appeared to him the flying, and that how a large and thus heavy bird could raise itself so high in the air (Job 39:27); then how, over the smooth rock, which offers no hold, the serpent pushes itself along; finally, how the ship in the trackless waves, which present nothing to the eye as a guide, nevertheless finds its way. These three things have at the same time this in common, that they leave no trace of their pathway behind them. But of the fourth way that cannot be said; for the trace is left on the substrat, which the man דּרך, and it becomes manifest, possibly as pregnancy, keeping out of view that the עלמה may yet be בתולה. That which is wonderful is consequently only the coition itself, its mystical act and its incomprehensible consequences." But does not this interpretation carry in itself its own refutation? To the three wonderful ways which leave no traces behind them, there cannot be compared a fourth, the consequences of which are not only not trackless, but, on the contrary, become manifest as proceeding from the act in an incomprehensible way. The point of comparison is either the wonderfulness of the event or the tracklessness of its consequences. But now "the way of a man בתולה" is altogether inappropriate to designate the wonderful event of the origin of a human being. How altogether differently the Chokma expresses itself on this matter is seen from Job 10:8-12; Ecclesiastes 11:5 (cf. Psychol. p. 210). That "way of a man with a maid" denotes only the act of coition, which physiologically differs in nothing from that of the lower animals, and which in itself, in the externality of its accomplishment, the poet cannot possibly call something transcendent. And why did he use the word בעלמה, and not rather בּנקבה [with a female] or בּאשּׁה [id.]? For this reason, because he meant the act of coition, not as a physiological event, but as a historical occurrence, as it takes place particularly in youth as the goal of love, not always reached in the divinely-appointed way. The point of comparison hence is not the secret of conception, but the tracelessness of the carnal intercourse. Now it is also clear why the way of the serpent עלי צור was in his eye: among grass, and still more in sand, the trace of the serpent's path would perhaps be visible, but not on a hard stone, over which it has glided. And it is clear why it is said of the ship בלב־ים [in the heart of the sea]: while the ship is still in sight from the land, one knows the track it follows; but who can in the heart of the sea, i.e., on the high sea, say that here or there a ship has ploughed the water, since the water-furrows have long ago disappeared? Looking to the heavens, one cannot say that an eagle has passed there; to the rock, that a serpent has wound its way over it; to the high sea, that a ship has been steered through it; to the maid, that a man has had carnal intercourse with her. That the fact might appear on nearer investigation, although this will not always guide to a certain conclusion, is not kept in view; only the outward appearance is spoken of, the intentional concealment (Rashi) being in this case added thereto. Sins against the sixth [ equals seventh] commandment remain concealed from human knowledge, and are distinguished from others by this, that they shun human cognition (as the proverb says: אין אפיטרופוס לעריות, there is for sins of the flesh no ἐπίτροπος) - unchastity can mask itself, the marks of chastity are deceitful, here only the All-seeing Eye (עין ראה כּל, Aboth ii. 1) perceives that which is done. Yet it is not maintained that "the way of a man with a maid" refers exclusively to external intercourse; but altogether on this side the proverb gains ethical significance. Regarding עלמה (from עלם, pubes esse et caeundi cupidus, not from עלם, to conceal, and not, as Schultens derives it, from עלם, signare, to seal) as distinguished from בּתוּלה, vid., under Isaiah 7:14. The mark of maidenhood belongs to עלמה not in the same way as to בתולה (cf. Genesis 24:43 with 16), but only the marks of puberty and youth; the wife אשּׁה (viz., אושׁת אישׁ) cannot as such be called עלמה. Ralbag's gloss עלמה שׁהיא בעולה is incorrect, and in Arama's explanation (Akeda, Abschn. 9): the time is not to be determined when the sexual love of the husband to his wife flames out, ought to have been ודרך אישׁ בּאשׁתּו ne. One has therefore to suppose that Proverbs 30:20 explains what is meant by "the way of a man with a maid" by a strong example (for "the adulterous woman" can mean only an old adulteress), there not inclusive, for the tracklessness of sins of the flesh in their consequences.

This 20th verse does not appear to have been an original part of the numerical proverb, but is an appendix thereto (Hitzig). If we assume that כּן points forwards: thus as follows is it with the... (Fleischer), then we should hold this verse as an independent cognate proverb; but where is there a proverb (except Proverbs 11:19) that begins with כּן? כן, which may mean eodem modo (for one does not say כּן גּם) as well as eo modo, here points backwards in the former sense. Instead of וּמחתה פּיה (not פּיה; for the attraction of that which follows, brought about by the retrogression of the tone of the first word, requires dageshing, Thorath Emeth, p. 30) the lxx has merely ἀπονιψαμένη, i.e., as Immanuel explains: מקנּחה עצמה, abstergens semet ipsam, with Grotius, who to tergens os suum adds the remark: σεμνολογία (honesta elocutio). But eating is just a figure, like the "secret bread," Proverbs 9:17, and the wiping of the mouth belongs to this figure. This appendix, with its כן, confirms it, that the intention of the four ways refers to the tracklessness of the consequences.

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