"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Wisdom Regarding Riddles
INTRODUCTION 1. In the prologue of Proverbs, among the purposes of the book stated is this one... a. "To understand a proverb and an enigma," b. "The words of the wise and their riddles." - Pr 1:6 2. According to the Preacher's Commentary... a. "Proverbs that begin with clusters of questions may be classified as riddles or their offspring (see Pr 23:29-30; 30:4)" b. "As may be some of the numerical sayings in chapters 6 and 30." 3. Among the more picturesque riddles are the numerical sayings of King Agur... a. Containing observations of common things in groups of four or more - Pr 30:1,11-31 b. Shedding light on human behavior and conveying moral truth - Roy Harbison [In this study, we shall consider the numerical sayings of King Agur, first posing them in the form of actual riddles. For example...] I. WHAT ARE FOUR CLASSES OF EVIL DOERS? A. THOSE THAT DESPISE THEIR PARENTS... 1. Who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers - Pro 30:11 2. Whose end is graphically depicted later in this chapter
- Pro 30:17; cf. also 20:20 B. THOSE THAT ARE BLIND TO THEIR FAULTS... 1. Who are clean to their own eyes, but not washed of their filth - Pr 30:12 2. Who may justify themselves, but will be judged by the Lord - Pr 21:2 C. THOSE WHO ARE ARROGANT... 1. With lofty eyes, who lift their eyelids high - Pr 30:13 2. Clearly condemned elsewhere in Proverbs - Pr 6:17; 21:4 D. THOSE WHO CONSUME THE POOR... 1. With teeth like swords, and fangs like knives - Pr 30:14 2. Who will themselves come to poverty - Pr 22:16 [Such conduct is indicative of an evil generation, and evidenced by some living in the "last days" (2Ti 3:1-5). Continuing with the numerical sayings, we ask in the form of a riddle...] II. WHAT THINGS ARE NEVER SATISFIED? A. THE LEECH... 1. Who has two daughters: Give and Give! - Pr 30:15 2. The leech depicts those filled with insatiable greed, they are never satisfied - cf. Ec 5:10 B. THE GRAVE... 1. The grave (Sheol, the Hebrew word for the dead) can never be filled - Pr 30:16 2. And so covetousness is insatiable like Hell (Sheol) and Destruction - cf. Pr 27:20 C. THE BARREN WOMB... 1. The woman who desperately wants to conceive and give birth- Pr 30:16 2. Like Rachel said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!" - cf. Gen 30:1 D. THE EARTH... 1. The dry earth that absorbs rain, soon wanting more - Pr 30:16 2. Another illustration of insatiable greed E. THE FIRE... 1. Which consumes as long as combustible matter is available - Pro 30:16 2. The final example of things never satisfied [These five images appear designed to illustrate covetousness and greed. Now for another "riddle"...] III. WHAT THINGS ARE A WONDER TO BEHOLD? A. THE WAY OF AN EAGLE IN THE AIR... 1. The grace and speed of an eagle in flight - Pr 30:18-19 2. Soaring high in the sky, but then leaving no evidence behind B. THE WAY OF A SERPENT ON A ROCK... 1. The slithering of a serpent - Pr 30:19 2. Who leaves tracks on the sand, but not on a rock C. THE WAY OF A SHIP IN THE SEA... 1. The sailing ship, tacking back and forth - Pr 30:19 2. Progressing forward, but whose waves soon dissipate D. THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A VIRGIN... 1. The mystery of courtship - Pr 30:19 2. The exchange of affection and attraction between them E. THE WAY OF AN ADULTEROUS WOMAN... 1. How she can commit adultery, and then claim innocence - Pro 30:20 2. Note: "This is the way..." - tying this verse with the proceeding verses 3. Thus she maneuvers, toying with affection and attraction like a man and a virgin, but like the eagle, serpent, and ship, believing she leaves nothing of substance behind [These five images illustrate the ultimate wonder of adultery that claims innocence. The next "riddle" might be expressed in this way...] IV. WHAT THINGS CAUSE TURMOIL? A. A SERVANT WHEN HE REIGNS... 1. It normally is not fitting - Pr 30:21-22; cf. 19:10 2. He becomes arrogant and overbearing, drunk with his new position - Believer's Bible Commentary (BBC) 3. Like Jeroboam, such is the rule - Joseph was the exception B. A FOOL WHEN HE IS FILLED WITH FOOD... 1. Having all that he desires to eat - Pr 30:22 2. His prosperity causes him to be more insolent than ever - BBC C. A HATEFUL WOMAN WHEN SHE IS MARRIED... 1. Who finally succeeds in getting married - Pr 30:23; cf. 21:9, 19 2. Her wretched disposition would normally have kept her single, but by some fluke, she lands a husband. Then she becomes imperious and haughty, taunting those who are still unmarried.- BBC D. A MAID SERVANT WHO SUCCEEDS HER MISTRESS... 1. Who now rules over those who were once her equals - Pr 30:23 2. She doesn't know how to act with refinement and grace, but is coarse, rude, and vulgar - BBC [These scenarios contribute to social chaos. Our next "riddle" reveals examples of wise behavior...] V. WHAT THINGS ARE LITTLE BUT WISE? A. THE ANTS... 1. They are not strong, but they prepare their food in the summer - Pr 30:24-25 2. A lesson for all, especially the sluggard - Pr 6:6-8 3. The lesson: plan ahead B. THE ROCK BADGERS... 1. They are feeble, but they make their homes in the crags (cliffs) - Pr 30:26 2. Where they are able to escape animals of prey or human hunters - Ps 104:18 3. The lesson: make wise choices C. THE LOCUSTS... 1. They have no king, yet all advance in ranks - Pr 30:27 2. Like a well-drilled army - cf. Joel 2:7-11,25 3. The lesson: work in unison with others D. THE SPIDER (LIZARD)... 1. Skillfully grasps with its hands, and is in kings' palaces - Pr 30:28 2. Newer translations have "lizard"; probably like a gecko 3. The lesson: skillfully persevere [Much wisdom can be gleaned from observing God's creation, even its smallest creatures. Finally, we ask again in the form of a riddle...] VI. WHAT THINGS ARE MAJESTIC? A. A LION... 1. Mighty among beasts, turning away from none - Pr 30:29-30 2. Majestic and unruffled as it walks - BBC B. A GREYHOUND (STRUTTING ROOSTER)... 1. The Hebrew is uncertain (lit., "girded at the loins") - Pro 30:31 2. Whether greyhound or strutting rooster, both are stately in their walk C. A MALE GOAT... 1. "a picture of noble bearing as it strides at the head of a flock" - BBC 2. "which marches in the head of the flock in grave and stately manner, conducting them with great courage and resolution, and being ready to fight for them, either with beasts or men that oppose him" - Poole D. A KING WITH HIS TROOPS... 1. "against whom there is no rising up" (KJV) - Pr 30:31 2. How foolish then, to lift up oneself, to think evil, or to be angry (against such a king?) - cf. Pr 30:32-33 CONCLUSION 1. These "riddles" that we've considered are not always easy to understand... a. The Hebrew word actually means "dark saying, hard question"
- cf. KJV, ASV b. Scholars vary quite a bit in their interpretation and application of these riddles 2. But for the most part, the riddles offer illustrations and lessons providing wisdom... a. On human behavior b. On moral truths Such is the nature of the book of Proverbs. Like the Old Testament as a whole, it was written for our learning and admonition (cf. Ro 15:4; 1Co 10:11). I hope this study has increased your appreciate for Proverbs, which like all Scripture... "...is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2Ti 3:16-17