Proverbs 30:32
If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
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(32) Lay thine hand upon thy mouth—i.e., be silent. Agur deprecates two things which may easily lead to a quarrel, arrogance and malice. He explains this in the next verse.

Proverbs 30:32. If thou hast done foolishly — “If thy pride or thy passion hath engaged thee in some foolish action, whereby thou hast disgraced thyself; or made thee contrive and endeavour any thing that is unwarrantable, do not add one fault to another, by excusing it, or blaming any body but thyself for it, much less by quarrelling at those that admonish thee of it, and reprehend thee for it; but stop at the first motion to this, and silently acknowledge thy error.” — Bishop Patrick.

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.Lay thine hand upon thy mouth - The act expresses the silence of humiliation and repentance after the sin has been committed, and that of self-restraint, which checks the haughty or malignant thought before it has passed even into words. 32. As none can hope, successfully, to resist such a king, suppress even the thought of an attempt.

lay … hand upon thy mouth—"lay" is well supplied (Jud 18:19; Job 29:9; 40:4).

In lifting up thyself; either,

1. By rebellion or sedition against the king last mentioned. Or,

2. By anger or wrath, of which he speaks in the next verse. But this verse hath no necessary dependence either upon the foregoing or following verse. Or,

3. Through thy pride, which makes men carry themselves very foolishly, and scornfully, and injuriously, and is the root of contention, as was observed, Proverbs 13:10.

Thought evil, i.e. designed any mischief or injury against thy neighbour.

Lay thine hand upon thy mouth, to wit, to shut it. Be silent, as this phrase is used, Job 21:5 29:9. Restrain thyself, do not speak one word, much less do any thing tending to the accomplishment of it; do not open thy mouth to justify or excuse it, but silently and seriously consider the evil of it, and repent of it, and do so no more.

If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself,.... Against a king, against whom there is no rising up; by speaking evil of him, or rebelling against him; which is acting a foolish part, since it brings a man into troubles and difficulties inextricable; or by self-commendation, which is the height of folly, and the fruit of pride; or carried it in such a haughty and overbearing manner to others, as to provoke to wrath and anger;

or if thou hast thought evil; purposed and designed it, and contrived the scheme of doing it, though not yet put in execution; though folly is not actually committed, yet since the thought of it is rain, care should be taken to prevent it;

lay thine hand upon thy mouth: think again before the thing resolved on is done; as studious and thoughtful men put their hand to their mouth, when they are deeply considering any affair before them: or put a stop to the design, let it go no further; what has been thought of in the mind, let it never come out of the mouth, nor be carried into execution; stifle it in the first motion: or if this respects a foolish action done, as it also may, since it stands connected with both clauses, then the sense is, be silent; do not pretend to deny the action, nor to excuse it; nor to say one word in the defence of it; nor to lay the blame upon others; and much less to calumniate and reproach such who faithfully reprove for it; take shame to thyself in silence, and repent of the iniquity done. Aben Ezra thinks these words are said to Ithiel and Ucal; but rather, to any and everyone, to all that should hear and read these proverbs. The Targum is,

"do not lift up thyself, lest thou be foolish; and do not stretch out thine hand to thy mouth.''

If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thy hand {p} upon thy mouth.

(p) Make a stay and continue not in doing evil.

32. done foolishly … thought evil] Whether the evil has passed already into outward exhibition, or is still only in thought, check it promptly.

Lay thine hand upon thy mouth] Comp. Job 21:5; Job 29:9; Job 40:4, in all which places it denotes “a gesture of awe-struck silence.” Here it rather denotes severe self-restraint.

32, 33. The oracle of the sage closes with a practical admonition against strife and contention.

Verses 32, 33. - Agur's last proverb, exhorting to discreet demeanour. Verse 32. - If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself (Numbers 16:3). If thou hast had the folly to be arrogant, proud, and overbearing in conduct. Or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth. The verb zamam, though possibly used in a bad sense, "to devise evil," is more suitably rendered "to meditate," "purpose;" so here it is the thought of lifting up one's self that is censured, the act and the thought being contrasted. Hast thou acted arrogantly, or even only meditated doing so, restrain yourself, keep silence (Job 21:5; Job 40:4). St. Jerome gives a different rendering, enforcing another lesson, "There is one who shows himself a fool after he is raised to high position; if he had had understanding, he would have laid his hand on his mouth." Septuagint, "If thou give thyself up to mirth, and stretch forth thy hand in a quarrel, thou wilt be dishonoured." Insensate mirth and a quarrelsome disposition alike lead to disgrace. St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 30:10) applies the Vulgate rendering to antichrist, "For he in truth will be lifted up on high, when he will feign that he is God. But he will appear a fool when lifted up on high, because he will fail in his very loftiness through the coming of the true Judge. But if he had understood this, he would have laid his hand on his mouth; that is, if he had foreseen his punishment, when he began to be proud, having been once fashioned aright, he would not have been raised up to the boastfulness of such great pride" (Oxford transl.). Proverbs 30:32Another proverb, the last of Agur's "Words" which exhorts to thoughtful, discreet demeanour, here follows the proverb of self-conscious, grave deportment:

32 If thou art foolish in that thou exaltest thyself,

     Or in devising, - put thy hand to thy mouth!

33 For the pressure on milk bringeth forth butter,

     And pressure on the nose bringeth forth blood,

     And pressure on sensibility bringeth forth altercation.

Lwenstein translates Proverbs 30:32 :

Art thou despicable, it is by boasting;

Art thou prudent, then hold thy hand on thy mouth.

But if זמם denotes reflection and deliberation, then נבל, as its opposite, denotes unreflecting, foolish conduct. Then בּהתנשּׂא ne by boasting is not to be regarded as a consequent (thus it happens by lifting thyself up; or: it is connected with boasting); by this construction also, אם־נבלתּ must be accented with Dechi, not with Tarcha. Otherwise Euchel:

Hast thou become offensive through pride,

Or seems it so to thee, - lay thy hand to thy mouth.

The thought is appropriate,

(Note: Yet the Talmud, Nidda 27a, derives another moral rule from this proverb, for it interprets זמם in the sense of זמם equals חסם, to tie up, to bridle, to shut up, but אם נבלת in the sense of "if thou hast made thyself despicable," as Lwenstein has done.)


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