The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 30:21-23

If a man who writes psalms is a “psalmist” is a man who writes or records proverbs a “proverbist”? Our proverbist, whether Solomon or Agur, is now in the midst of giving us groups of related thoughts. We won’t look at all of them – just the ones the Lord highlights for me.
Verse 21 – “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.” The word “disquieted” may mean something to you, but it might be something else to another person. To me it usually speaks of being upset – like a quiet evening disquieted by an upset stomach from too much spicy pizza for supper. The Hebrew word is used 41 times and has been translated with many different English words. Some of them are what I picture – “quake,” “move” and “shake.” But more often than these it is related to some sort of fear – “tremble,” “troubled,” and “afraid.” To “quake with fear” is common in literature. And then sometimes the word is translated “rage.”
“For three things the earth is [shaken and troubled], and for four which it cannot bear.” There are some things which are so unnatural they upset the system. There are things so unnatural that the world can’t stomach them and vomits them up. There are things so outrageous it makes the world angry to think about them. From the proverbist’s list, let’s start with the second verse – with the women. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.”
“For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.”
This is an “odious” woman – not “odoriferous” – which speaks of a distinct and usually awful smell. This is “odious” and means “hateful.” A hateful and despicable married woman disquiets the earth. An example who comes to my mind is Jezebel, the foreign wife of King Ahab of Israel.
Some people, both of men and women, don’t deserve to be married. And I suppose there could be a variety of reasons why they have become odious. Some are so proud of themselves they become scornful, or vengeful, or imperious – dictatorial. Wives, by God’s design, are supposed to be helpmeets – not despots. They are to see to it that their household runs as smoothly as possible. They are to raise their children to become the best possible citizens of both the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men. They are to assist their husbands in every possible way, not to become dictators of the family.
When they begin to take over – take control – bully their way in the world, they become odious and disquieting. The Bible is quite clear: Ephesians 5 – “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.” Colossians 3 – “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” I Timothy 3 – “Even so must (bishop’s) wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” I Peter 3 – “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”
Among other things which bossy women should not do, they should not be married; they disquiet the earth. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.”
“For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.”
In Proverbs 29:21 we have a statement which seems to contradict this verse. “He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.” Especially if a couple is childless, they may bring a child into their home as an employee or as a ward. And over time they begin to love that child as parents, eventually leaving the family wealth to their servant. What is wrong with that?
Why is that different from this disquieting situation when an handmaid becomes heir to her mistress? Because, implied in these words, the younger lady doesn’t become a daughter – but a wife. It is odious when a beautiful young woman works for a woman while plying her wiles upon the woman’s husband, and when the mistress dies, she inherits her bed.
Some might disagree with me, but I think that Genesis 16 describes an odious situation. “Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I Pray thee, go into unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram harkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived.” God had every intention, in His time, of giving Abraham a proper heir and son through Sarah, but she couldn’t see it and made Hagar her heir so-to-speak. Suffice it to say that it was a disaster – the family dynamics were disquieted. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.”
“For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat.”
As I read that statement yesterday something popped into my mind, but then I found that the experts were thinking differently. John Gill for example said that a servant who becomes king, or has some sort of rule, is usually unfit for the job. Since he has only been a servant, he doesn’t have the education necessary to govern. Gill said that the servant who grows up in poverty and abuse will become abusive and profligate when he ascends to the throne. He becomes mean to others; a bigot; self-gratifying; eventually becoming a glutton and drunk. A servant who becomes a king or governor disquiets the earth.
Gill didn’t mention it, but as I read his comments I thought of one of Jesus’ parables. The situation was not quite the same, but a servant owed his master a great deal of money. When it was demanded that the debtor and family be sold into slavery to pay the debt, the man pleaded for mercy and for time to put some money together to pay down what was owed. “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and FORGAVE him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him [only] an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.” When the servant was given a little grace and power, he instantly abused it in regards to others. For these sorts of things the earth is disquieted.
Maybe it was Gill’s English background, but I’m not afraid to have a former servant as my king. Rather than professional lawyers and politicians, I think that some of you might make a better president. Someone who has had to work for a living, better understands the needs of the common man. People sometimes say there is no royal class in America, but I disagree. People with money – the Trumps, the Clintons, the Fords, the Bloombergs – they are a kind of royalty. I think that we’d be better off with a servant upon the throne – depending on the servant of course.
And with that in the back of my head, my first thought about this verse was different from Gill. How many times have we seen a ruler who was still a servant to others? How many times have nations been governed by puppets rather than kings. The king was in debt and bankers dictated his domestic policy. The king was threatened by others and this dictated his foreign policy. The president was elected through the help of certain people and now he owes them his allegiance.
The verse doesn’t say anything about “former” servants reigning; it speaks simply of “servants.” And this directed my first thought toward people who were still servants. Gill in his commentary pointed to the Antichrist as good example for this verse, and I agree. Will not the Antichrist be “him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders”? The Antichrist will be one to take orders from the Devil. Just because a man may appear to be on the throne, it may be nothing but a facade. Wasn’t a recent American King Ahab actually been ruled by his Jezebel? Some American Presidents have been ruled by alcohol. Others were slaves to big business, or their own addiction to money. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.”
“For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat.”
Three Bible examples of fools arose to my mind as I thought about this part of the verse. Before he became king, David, had been living in the wilderness, serving his neighbors. One man, named “Nabal,” which by definition means “fool,” had been protected from theft and predators by David and his men. When it came time for Nabal to sheer his sheep and reap the profits of David’s protection, he refused to acknowledge David’s assistance. “And Nabal (the fool) answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take of my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” The earth did not bear that fool very long after that.
Another example is found in Daniel 5 – “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” – the earth could not bear him any longer.
A third example is that of Herod who at a party was drunk and full – ordering the death of John the Baptist.
The Biblical definition of a fool is one who knows not God. “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear.” For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.” Do you know the Lord?