Proverbs 30:16
The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that said not, It is enough.
Jump to: BarnesClarkeGillGSBJFBKADMHCSCO
30:10 Slander not a servant to his master, accuse him not in small matters, to make mischief. 11-14. In every age there are monsters of ingratitude who ill-treat their parents. Many persuade themselves they are holy persons, whose hearts are full of sin, and who practise secret wickedness. There are others whose lofty pride is manifest. There have also been cruel monsters in every age. 15-17. Cruelty and covetousness are two daughters of the horseleech, that still cry, Give, give, and they are continually uneasy to themselves. Four things never are satisfied, to which these devourers are compared. Those are never rich that are always coveting. And many who have come to a bad end, have owned that their wicked courses began by despising their parents' authority. 18-20. Four things cannot be fully known. The kingdom of nature is full of marvels. The fourth is a mystery of iniquity; the cursed arts by which a vile seducer gains the affections of a female; and the arts which a vile woman uses to conceal her wickedness. 21-23 Four sorts of persons are very troublesome. Men of low origin and base spirit, who, getting authority, become tyrants. Foolish and violent men indulging in excesses. A woman of a contentious spirit and vicious habits. A servant who has obtained undue influence. Let those whom Providence has advanced from low beginnings, carefully watch against that sin which most easily besets them.The grave - Hebrew שׁאול she'ôl. The "Hell" or Hades of Proverbs 27:20, all-consuming yet never full. Margin grave

Heb. "Sheol," See Scofield Note: "Hab 2:5".

The grave,.... Which is the first of the four daughters, or insatiable things, which resemble the horse leech: the grave is the house appointed for all living; it stands ready for them, it is open to receive them when dead; and though such multitudes have been put into it, since death reigned in the world, yet it is not full, it waits for more; nor will its mouth be shut till the last enemy, death, is destroyed; see Proverbs 27:20; This is an emblem of a covetous man, who enlarges his desire as hell or the grave; and is never satisfied with gold, silver, and increase of substance he has, but is always craving more;

and the barren womb; the second daughter, that cries, Give, give, as Rachel, "give me children, or I die", Genesis 30:1, barren women are oftentimes impatient for children, as she was; and importunate, as Hannah; and as the Israelitish women were before the coming of the Messiah, each hoping he might be born of them; especially before it was so clearly known that he should be born of a virgin: though it may be rather the barren womb of harlots is here meant, and who are generally barren, and whose lust is insatiable; and this may be an emblem of lust, which is never satisfied; whether it be a lust of riches, or of honour, or of uncleanness, or of sensual pleasures;

the earth that is not filled with water; which is dry and parched, and opens and gapes; and though large quantities of rain may fall upon it, which it greedily drinks in; yet is not seen, nor is it filled with it, but it thirsts for more: this may be an emblem of good men, that have received abundance of the grace of God; and though they thirst not after sin, as they before did, and others do; yet thirst after God, more knowledge of him, and communion with him, and for more grace, like the dry and thirsty land, and cannot have enough of it; see John 4:13; or rather of wicked men, who drink up iniquity like water, and yet never have their fill of it to their satisfaction. This is the third thing, and the fourth follows:

and the fire that saith not, It is enough; but let what fuel will be cast into it, it devours it, and still wants more: by the Egyptians, as Herodotus (r) relates, fire is reckoned an animated beast, which devours all it can lay hold on; and when it is filled with food, it dies with that which is devoured by it. Such is the fire of divine wrath, hell fire, in which sinners are, as thorns and briers; and which is unquenchable, everlasting, burns for ever and ever; the Tophet, ordained of old, deep and large, the pile thereof is fire and much wood, kindled by the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, Isaiah 30:33. These are the four daughters of the horse leech which resemble that in its insatiableness. Jarchi makes mention of some that interpret the horse leech of "sheol", or the state of the dead; and the two daughters, of paradise and hell; the one says, "Give me the righteous"; and the other says, "Give me the wicked." Aben Ezra applies these four to the four generations before spoken of; the grave, into which are cast the generation of those that curse their father, and die before their time; the barren womb, the generation of those that are not washed from the filthiness of whoredom, and have no children; the earth not filled with water, the proud and haughty, who are humbled by famine; and the fire is that which descends from heaven, to consume the generation that destroy the poor and oppress the needy, as fire came down upon them in the days of Elijah. Jarchi takes notice of a Midrash, which applies these four things to the four monarchies; as it does also all the four things after mentioned.

(r) Thalia sive, l. 3. c. 16.

The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.10 Calumniate not a servant with his master,

     Lest he curse thee, and thou must atone for it.

Incorrectly Ewald: entice not a servant to slander against his master; and Hitzig: "Make not a servant tattle regarding his master." It is true that the Poel לושׁן (to pierce with the tongue, lingu petere) occurs twice in the sense of to calumniate; but that הלשׁין means nothing else, is attested by the post-bibl. Hebrew; the proverb regarding schismatics (בּרכּת המּינים) in the Jewish Schemone-Esre (prayer of the eighteen benedictions) began with ולמלשינים, "and to the calumniators" (delatoribus). Also in the Arab. âlsana signifies pertulit verba alicujus ad alterum, to make a babbler, rapporteur (Fleischer). That the word also here is not to be otherwise interpreted, is to be concluded from אל with the causative rendering. Rightly Symmachus, μὴ διαβάλῃς; Theodotion, μὴ καταλαλήσῃς; and according to the sense also, Jerome, ne accuses; the Venet. μὴ καταμηνύσῃς (give not him); on the contrary, Luther, verrate nicht [betray not], renders הלשׁין with the lxx, Syr. in the sense of the Aram. אשׁלם and the Arab. âslam (tradere, prodere). One should not secretly accuse (Psalm 101:5) a servant with his master, and in that lies the character of slander (לשׁון הרע) when one puts suspicion upon him, or exaggerates the actual facts, and generally makes the person suspected - one thereby makes a man, whose lot in itself is not a happy one, at length and perhaps for ever unhappy, and thereby he brings a curse on himself. But it is no matter of indifference to be the object of the curse of a man whom one has unrighteously and unjustly overwhelmed in misery: such a curse is not without its influence, for it does not fruitlessly invoke the righteous retribution of God, and thus one has sorrowfully to atone for the wanton sins of the tongue (veaschāmta, for ve-aschamtá as it is would be without pause).

15, 16. horse leech—supposed by some to be the vampire (a fabulous creature), as being literally insatiable; but the other subjects mentioned must be taken as this, comparatively insatiable. The use of a fabulous creature agreeably to popular notions is not inconsistent with inspiration.

There are three … yea, four—(Compare Pr 6:16).

The horseleech hath two daughters, crying, Give, give - "This horseleech," says Calmet, "is Covetousness, and her two daughters are Avarice and Ambition. They never say, It is enough; they are never satisfied; they are never contented."

Many explanations have been given of this verse; but as all the versions agree in render ing עלוקה alukah the horseleech or blood-sucker, the general meaning collected has been, "There are persons so excessively covetous and greedy, that they will scarcely let any live but themselves; and when they lay hold of any thing by which they may profit, they never let go their hold till they have extracted the last portion of good from it." Horace has well expressed this disposition, and by the same emblem, applied to a poor poet, who seizes on and extracts all he can from an author of repute, and obliges all to hear him read his wretched verses.

Quem vero arripuit, tenet, occiditque legendo,

Non missura cutem, nisi plena cruoris,

Hirudo. De arte poet., ver. 475.

"But if he seize you, then the torture dread;

He fastens on you till he reads you dead;

And like a leech, voracious of his food,

Quits not his cruel hold till gorged with blood."


The word אלוקה alukah, which we here translate horseleech, is read in no other part of the Bible. May it not, like Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal, be a proper name, belonging to some well-known woman of his acquaintance, and well known to the public, who had two daughters notorious for their covetousness and lechery? And at first view the following verse may be thought to confirm this supposition: "There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough." The grave, the barren womb the earth, the fire. What an astonishing simiiarity there is between this and the following institute, taken from the Code of Hindoo Laws, chapter 20, sec. i., p. 203.

"A woman is never satisfied with the copulation of man, no more than a fire is satisfied with burning fuel; or the main ocean is with receiving the rivers; or death, with the dying of men and animals." You can no more satisfy these two daughters of Alukah than you can the grave, etc.

Some of the rabbins have thought that alukah signifies destiny, or the necessity of dying, which they say has two daughters, Eden and Gehenna, paradise and hell. The former has never enough of righteous souls; the latter, of the wicked. Similar to them is the opinion of Bochart, who thinks alukah means destiny, and the two daughters, the grave and hell; into the first of which the body descends after death, and into the second, the soul.

The Septuagint gives it a curious turn, by connecting the fifteenth with the sixteenth verse: Τῃ Βδελλῃ θυγατερες ησαν αγαπησει αγαπωμεναι, και αἱ τρεις αὑται ουκ ενεπιμπλασαν αυτην, και ἡ τεταρτη ουκ ηρκεσθη ειπειν· Ἱκανον; "The horseleech had three well-beloved daughters; and these three were not able to satisfy her desire: and the fourth was not satisfied, so as to say, It is enough."


Proverbs 30:15
Top of Page
Top of Page