Proverbs 30:28
The spider takes 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. It is now not at all necessary to rack one's brains over the grounds or the reasons of the arrangement of the following proverb (vid., Hitzig). There are, up to this point, two numerical proverbs which begin with שׁתּים, Proverbs 30:7, and שׁתּי, Proverbs 30:15; after the cipher 2 there then, Proverbs 30:18, followed the cipher 3, which is now here continued:

21 Under three things doth the earth tremble,

     And under four can it not stand:

22 Under a servant when he becomes king,

     And a profligate when he has bread enough;

23 Under an unloved woman when she is married,

     And a maid-servant when she becomes heiress to her mistress.

We cannot say here that the 4 falls into 3 + 1; but the four consists of four ones standing beside one another. ארץ is here without pausal change, although the Athnach here, as at Proverbs 30:24, where the modification of sound occurs, divides the verse into two; מארץ, 14b (cf. Psalm 35:2), remains, on the other hand, correctly unchanged. The "earth" stands here, as frequently, instead of the inhabitants of the earth. It trembles when one of the four persons named above comes and gains free space for acting; it feels itself oppressed as by an insufferable burden (an expression similar to Amos 7:10); - the arrangement of society is shattered; an oppressive closeness of the air, as it were, settles over all minds. The first case is already designated, Proverbs 19:10, as improper: under a slave, when he comes to reign (quum rex fit); for suppose that such an one has reached the place of government, not by the murder of the king and by the robbery of the crown, but, as is possible in an elective monarchy, by means of the dominant party of the people, he will, as a rule, seek to indemnify himself in his present highness for his former lowliness, and in the measure of his rule show himself unable to rise above his servile habits, and to pass out of the limited circle of his earlier state. The second case is this: a נבל, one whose mind is perverted and whose conduct is profligate - in short, a low man (vid., Proverbs 17:17) - ישׂבּע־לחם (cf. Metheg-Setzung, 28), i.e., has enough to eat (cf. to the expression Proverbs 28:19; Jeremiah 44:17); for this undeserved living without care and without want makes him only so much the more arrogant, and troublesome, and dangerous. The שׂנוּאה, in the second case, is not thought of as a spouse, and that, as in supposed polygamy, Genesis 29:31; Deuteronomy 21:15-17, as fallen into disfavour, but who again comes to favour and honour (Dathe, Rosenmller); for she can be שׂנואה without her own fault, and as such she is yet no גּרוּשׁה; and it is not to be perceived why the re-assumption of such an one should shatter social order. Rightly Hitzig, and, after his example, Zckler: an unmarried lady, an old spinster, is meant, whom no one desired because she had nothing attractive, and was only repulsive (cf. Grimm, under Sir. 7:26b). If such an one, as כּי תבעל says, at length, however, finds her husband and enters into the married relation, then she carries her head so much the higher; for she gives vent to ill-humour, strengthened by long restraint, against her subordinates; then she richly requites her earlier and happily married companions for their depreciation of her, among whom she had to suffer, as able to find no one who would love her. In the last case it is asked whether כּי־תירשׁ is meant of inheriting as an heiress (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, the Targ., Jerome, the Venet., and Luther), or supplanting (Euchel, Gesenius, Hitzig), i.e., an entering into the inheritance of the dead, or an entering into the place of a living mistress. Since ירשׁ, with the accus. of the person, Genesis 15:3-4, signifies to be the heir of one, and only with the accus. of peoples and lands signifies, "to take into possession (to seize) by supplanting," the former is to be preferred; the lxx (Syr.), ὅταν ἐκβάλῃ, appear to have read כּי־תגרשׁ. This גּרשׁ would certainly be, after Genesis 21:10, a piece of the world turned upside down; but also the entering, as heiress, into the inheritance, makes the maid-servant the reverse of that which she was before, and brings with it the danger that the heiress, notwithstanding her want of culture and dignity, demean herself also as heiress of the rank. Although the old Israelitish law knew only intestate succession to an inheritance, yet there also the case might arise, that where there were no natural or legal heirs, the bequest of a wife of rank passed over to her servants and nurses.

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