Proverbs 30:28
The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) The spider taketh hold with her hands.—The lizard, rather than the spider, seems to be here intended. As each first line of these four verses is an expression of weakness, it has been proposed to translate thus: “The lizard thou canst catch with the hands, and yet,” etc. (Comp. for this praise of wisdom, Ecclesiastes 9:14 sqq.)

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.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. 28. spider—tolerated, even in palaces, to destroy flies.

taketh … hands—or, uses with activity the limbs provided for taking prey.

The spider taketh hold of the thread which she spins out of her own bowels with her hands; with her legs, which he calls hands, because they serve her for the same purpose, to do her work, to weave her web, and to catch gnats or flies, &c.

Is in kings’ palaces; is not only in poor cottages, but many times in palaces also, where she makes a shift to keep her abode, notwithstanding all the care and pains which is taken to sweep and cleanse it.

The spider taketh hold with her hands,.... On the thread she spins, or on the flies and bees she catches in her web. This is a small creature, yet very wise; what a curious thread does she spin! what a fine web does she weave! with what exactness and proportion is it framed! as if she understood the rules of mathematics and architecture;

and is in kings' palaces; as well as in the houses of poor people, and in temples also; we read (y) of one in the temple of Ceres, which drew its web over the face of the image: and though her webs are oftentimes destroyed, especially in kings' palaces; yet such is her constancy and assiduity, and her unwearied application to business, that, as fast as they are destroyed, she attempts to restore them. This creature is an emblem of diligence in things temporal and spiritual; which those that use in the former sense shall stand before kings, and not before mean men; and in the latter sense shall have the presence of the King of kings, and dwell in his palace here and hereafter: also of worldly minded men, who labour to be rich; spend their time, and take a great deal of pains for mere trifles; weave curious webs, and, after all, only catch flies; and those they cannot hold, uncertain riches, which make themselves wings and fly away. Likewise this creature may resemble hypocrites, whose hope and trust are as the spider's web, built upon their own righteousness, spun out of their own hearts; a fine, thin, slender thread, which cannot bear one stroke of the besom of divine justice; such as these are in the palaces of Christ the King, are in his churches, hypocrites in Zion; see Job 8:13. Aben Ezra interprets it of the ape: the same David de Pomis (z) observes, and Mr. Weemse (a), who seems to incline to this sense; and this creature King Solomon, no doubt, had in his palace, since his navy brought many of these, every three years, from those parts to which it was sent, 1 Kings 10:22; and to these hands more properly belong than to spiders, and are taken into king's palaces for their pleasure and diversion; but to these there is one objection, that this creature is not a little one. Others understand it of the "lizard", that sort which is called "stellio"; but it is a question whether this is to be found in king's palaces. Bellonius (b) makes mention of a kind of lizard, which creeps into walls and catches flies, and is called by the Greeks "samiamiton", a name very near the Hebrew word here used: and Pliny (c) speaks of the "stellio", or lizard, as being in doors, windows, and chambers; and as a very fraudulent and deceitful creature to men, none more so; and also as poisonous, as this creature in the text by its name seems to be: and Austin (d) makes mention of the lizard as a domestic animal; which catches flies as the spider, with whom he joins it. The Targum, Jarchi, and Gersom, take it to be the spider, as we do; which may be thought most likely, since the creature here meant seems to have its name from the Arabic word "sam", which signifies poison (e); though it is affirmed (f) the spider is not poisonous; as is well known by persons who have frequently swallowed them, without any more harm than happens to hens, robin red breasts, and other birds, who make them their daily food; and so men have been bit by them, without any ill consequence: wherefore it is still thought by some that the lizard is more probably meant; since some sorts of them are poisonous (g), though not all, for some are eatable; See Gill on Leviticus 11:30.

(y) Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 12. c. 57. (z) Lexic. fol. 216. 1.((a) Exercitat. l. 1. exercitat. 4. p. 31. (b) Apud Dieteric. Antiqu. Biblio. p. 470. (c) Nat. Hist. l. 3o. c. 10. (d) Confess. l. 10. c. 35. (e) Golius, col. 1208. Hottinger. Smegin Oriental. l. 1. c. 7. p. 199. (f) Philosoph. Transact. abridged, vol. 2. p. 800. and vol. 5. part. 1. p. 24. (g) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 22. c. 25. & l. 29. c. 4.

The spider taketh hold {o} with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.

(o) If man is not able to compass these common things by his wisdom, we cannot attribute wisdom to man, but folly.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. the spider] Rather, the lizard. The Heb. word occurs here only.

taketh hold with her hands] If this rendering be retained, the reference may be to the animal “taking hold of,” catching its prey (“Quid, cum me domi sedentem stellio, muscas captans vel araneas retibus suis implicans, sæpe intentum fecit?” August. Confess, 10. 35). But it is better to understand it of the marvellous power of “taking hold of,” adhering to, the surfaces over which it glides. “Many members of this family of Saura are characterised by a peculiar lamellated structure on the under surface of the toes, by means of which they are enabled to run over the smoothest surfaces, and even in an inverted position, like house-flies on a cieling.” Smiths Dict. of Bible, Art. Lizard.

The alternative rendering, thou canst seize with thy hands (R.V. marg.) brings out, as in the other three examples in this quatrain, the weak point as a foil to the wisdom exhibited: you can catch the lizard with your hands, and yet she makes her way into king’s palaces. But this is done sufficiently by the former rendering: the lizard has nothing better to rely on than its agility, and yet it gains an entry by it into kings’ palaces.

Verse 28. - The spider taketh hold with her hands. Semamith or shemamith is some sort of lizard, probably the gecko. Καλαβώτης, Septuagint; stellio, Vulgate. The Authorized Version alludes either to its fanlike foot, which enables it to run up walls and to cling to ceilings, or to its power of exuding from its feet a certain poisonous humour by which it catches flies and other insects. But the above translation, as well as that of the Septuagint and the Vulgate manibus nititur, is incorrect, The first line, in accordance with the method pursued in the three cases previously, ought to give some expression denoting weakness or littleness, whereas by the above rendering it is rather strength and activity that are signified. The translation therefore should run, as in the Revised Version margin, "The lizard thou canst seize with thy hand," and yet it is in king's palaces. Small as it is, and easy to catch and crush, it is agile and clever enough to make its way into the very palace of the king, and to dwell there. Septuagint, "And the lizard, supporting itself by its hands, and being easy to catch (εὐάλωτος), dwelleth in kings' strongholds." This combines the two interpretations given above. St. Gregory takes the lizard as the type of the simple, earnest man, who often succeeds better than the clever. "Many that are quick-witted, while they grow slack from carelessness, continue in bad practices, and the simple folk, which have no wing of ability to stand them in stead, the excellency of their practice bears up to attain to the walls of the eternal kingdom. Whereas, then, 'the lizard climbeth with his hands,' he 'is in kings' palaces;' in that the plain man, by earnestness of right practice, reaches that point whereunto the man of ability never mounts" ('Moral.,' 6:12, Oxford transl.). The ancient expositors see in these verses a presentation of the Church of God, weak on its human side and despised by men, yet exceeding wise (1 Corinthians 1:27) - like the ant, laying up treasure in heaven, providing for death and eternity; like the coney, making the Rock her refuge; like the locusts, moving forward a mighty army in battle array; like the lizard, active in movement, holding the truth tenaciously, and dwelling in the palace of the great King. Proverbs 30:28In this verse the expression wavers in a way that is with difficulty determinable between שׂממית and שׁממית. The Edd. of Opitz Jablonski and Van der Hooght have 'שׂם, but the most, from the Venetian 1521 to Nissel, have 'שׁם (vid., Mhlau, p. 69). The Codd. also differ as to the reading of the word; thus the Codd. Erfurt 2 and 3 have 'שׂם, but Cod. 1294 has 'שׁם. Isaak Tschelebi and Moses Algazi, in their writings regarding words with שׁ and שׂ (Constant. 1723 and 1799), prefer 'שׂם, and so also do Mordecai Nathan in his Concordance (1563-4), David de Pomis (1587), and Norzi. An important evidence is the writing סממית, Schabbath 77b, but it is as little decisive as סריון [coat of mail], used by Jeremiah 44:4, is decisive against the older expression שׁריון. But what kind of a beast is meant here is a question. The swallow is at once to be set aside, as the Venet. translates (χελιδών) after Kimchi, who explains after Abulwald, but not without including himself, that the Heb. word for (Arab.) khuttaf (which is still the name given to the swallow from its quickness of motion), according to Haja's testimony, is much rather סנוּנית, a name for the swallow; which also the Arab. (Freytag, ii. p. 368) and the modern Syriac confirm; besides, in old Heb. it has the name of סוּס or סיס (from Arab. shash, to fly confusedly hither and thither). In like manner the ape (Aben Ezra, Meri, Immanuel) is to be set aside, for this is called קוף (Indian kapi, kap, kamp, to move inconstantly and quickly up and down),

(Note: Vid., A Weber's Indische Studien, i. pp. 217, 343.)

and appears here admissible only on the ground that from בידים תתפשׂ they read that the beast had a resemblance to man. There remains now only the lizard (lxx, Jerome) and the spider (Luther) to be considered. The Talmud, Schabbath 77b, reckons five instances in which fear of the weaker pursues the stronger: one of these instances is אימת סנוניתעל הנשׁר, another אימת סממית על העקרב. The swallow, thus Rashi explains, creeps under the wings of the eagle and hinders it from spreading them out in its flight; and the spider (araigne) creeps into the ear of the scorpion; or also: a bruised spider applied heals the scorpion's sting. A second time the word occurs, Sanhedrin 103b, where it is said of King Amon that he burnt the Tôra, and that over the altar came a שממית (here with ש), which Rashi explains of the spider (a spider's web). But Aruch testifies that in these two places of the Talmud the explanation is divided between ragnatelo (spider) and (Ital.) lucrta (lizard). For the latter, he refers to Leviticus 11:30, where לטאה (also explained by Rashi by lzard) in the Jerus. Targ. is rendered

(Note: The Samaritan has, Leviticus 11:30, שממית for אנקה, and the Syr. translates the latter word by אמקתא, which is used in the passage before us (cf. Geiger's Urschrift, p. 68f.) for שממית; omakto (Targ. akmetha) appears there to mean, not a spider, but a lizard.)

by שממיתא (the writing here also varies between שׁ and שׂ or ס). Accordingly, and after the lxx and Jerome, it may be regarded as a confirmed tradition that שממית means not the spider, for which the name עכּבישׁ is coined, but the lizard, and particularly the stellion (spotted lizard). Thus the later language used it as a word still living (plur. סממיּות, Sifre, under Deuteronomy 33:19). The Arab. also confirms this name as applicable to the lizard.

(Note: Perhaps also the modern Greek, σαμιάμινθος (σαμιάμιδος, σαμιαμίδιον), which Grotius compares.)

"To this day in Syria and in the Desert it is called samawiyyat, probably not from poison, but from samawah equals שׁממה, the wilderness, because the beast is found only in the stony heaps of the Kharab" (Mhlau after Wetzstein). If this derivation is correct, then שׁממית is to be regarded as an original Heb. expression; but the lizard's name, samm, which, without doubt, designates the animal as poisonous (cf. סם, samam, samm, vapour, poisonous breath, poison), favours Schultens' view: שממית equals (Arab.) samamyyat, afflatu interficiens, or generally venenosa. In the expression בּידים תּתפּשׂ, Schultens, Gesenius, Ewald, Hitzig, Geier, and others, understand ידים of the two fore-feet of the lizard: "the lizard feels (or: seizes) with its two hands;" but granting that ידים is used of the fifteen feet of the stellio, or of the climbing feet of any other animal (lxx καλαβώτης equals ἀσκαλαβώτης), yet it is opposed by this explanation, that in line first of this fourth distich an expression regarding the smallness of the weakness of the beast is to be expected, as at 25a, 26a, and 27a. And since, besides, תפשׂ with ביד or בכף always means "to catch" or "seize" (Ezekiel 21:16; Ezekiel 29:7; Jeremiah 38:23), so the sense according to that explanation is: the lizard thou canst catch with the hand, and yet it is in kings' palaces, i.e., it is a little beast, which one can grasp with his hand, and yet it knows how to gain an entrance into palaces, by which in its nimbleness and cunning this is to be thought of, that it can scale the walls even to the summit (Aristoph. Nubes 170). To read תּתּפשׂ with Mhlau, after Bttcher, recommends itself by this, that in תּהפּשׂ one misses the suff. pointing back (תּתפּשׂנּה); also why the intensive of תפשׂ is used, is not rightly comprehended. Besides, the address makes the expression more animated; cf. Isaiah 7:25, תבוא. In the lxx as it lies before us, the two explanations spoken of are mingled together: καὶ καλαβώτης ( equals ἀσκαλαβώτης) χερσὶν ἐπειδόμενος καὶ εὐάλωτος ὢν... This εὐάλωτος ὢν (Symmachus, χερσὶν ἐλλαμβανόμενος) hits the sense of 28a. In היכלי מלך, מלך is not the genit. of possession, as at Psalm 45:9, but of description (Hitzig), as at Amos 7:13.

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