Saturday, December 04, 2010

Proverbs 30:13-15

Prov. 30:13 There is a generation -- oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up.

This proverb links to the previous one with the word “eyes.” “These generation” cannot see themselves, and therefore they cannot see others around them either. They cannot see the fact that they are covered in their own excrement, and this is because they are proud and greedy.

Here, the pride is underlined. As we have noted many times, eyes are the organs of judgment, and when people only do what is right in their own eyes, they set themselves up as the standard and the judge and are sure to quickly fall into folly. The reason people cannot see their own sins is frequently not because of pure ignorance but because of vigorous systems of self-justification, lowering the bar and reformulating the standards to make ourselves fit. We frequently do this through comparisons: well, I’m not as bad as so and so. But the standard is always Christ. The law is the law of love.

Jesus warns against “evil eyes” and “bad eyes” (Mt. 6:22-23, Mk. 7:22, Lk. 11:34) which according to the law is refusing to be generous to the poor (Dt. 15:9) and the flip side of this is greed (Prov. 28:22). The parable of the laborers in the vineyard uses this expression in the same way (Mt. 20:15). But the difference between good eyes and bad eyes is the difference between wisdom and folly (Eccl. 2:14).

Eyes can be lifted up to the Lord in faithfulness (Ps. 121:1, 123:1, Is. 40:26, etc.). But lifted up eyes are also idolatrous and this is connected with injustice and oppression of the poor (Ez. 18:6, 12, 15, 23:27, 33:25). This contrast suggests some sense of dependence, hope, refuge sought in wherever the eyes are lifted toward. And anything other than God and His provision is clearly arrogant and proud.

But this also adds another dimension to the healing of blind eyes. To open eyes and restore sight is to restore the ability to see our own sin and poverty and the ability to see the needs around us. To open the eyes of the blind is to transform graspers into givers (Is. 42:7). When our eyes are lifted to the God of heaven, we see His provision and inheritance which is far more than we need and this makes us generous (Acts 28:16). But John says that greed and pride has a spiral effect: hating a brother is itself darkness and a blinding of the eyes (1 Jn. 2:11). And hatred is not merely active assault. Hatred is the lack of active love and mercy in actions and deeds and in truth (1 Jn. 2:16-18).

Prov. 30: 14 There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men.

And just in case we did not catch what Agur meant by “lifted up eyes,” it becomes more explicit in this next proverb where the oppression of the poor is central.

This proverb hinges on the main verb “devour/eat” which makes the swords and butcher knives more graphic. This generation feasts on the poor and the needy, and this generation chews them with their teeth and fangs. The language of cutting and chopping with fangs and teeth is beastly and savage. Literally, they consume the needy from Adam which underlines the image of God in these human beings. This generation devours the poor like beasts, but they are like predators of human beings. They are like beasts hunting and devouring people. In other words, the poor are more human than the rich and powerful (cf. Dt. 32:24).

We noted in back in 30:12 the sacrificial/ceremonial connotations of this generation considering themselves “pure.” They are covered in shit, but they think they are ceremonially clean and appropriate for worship. They justify themselves and lift up their eyes in prayer and worship, and here they are ironically offering sacrifice as well.

Throughout the sacrificial system, worship of Yahweh with sacrifice included meals, eating before God, and even the fire of the offering “consumes” the pieces of the animal symbolizing God’s own “consumption” of His people. But here, this arrogant generation is feasting on the poor and the needy. They are dismembering the poor and the needy and eating them up.

This is why David prays that God would break the teeth of the wicked (Ps. 3:7, 58:6), and this is why God broke Israel’s teeth in the exile, making her harmless to the poor and needy that she was devouring (Lam. 3:16). Micah suggests that when people are chewing up the poor, they do not do it with diabolical laughter, but they are frequently talking about peace and listening to the preachers and prophets (Mic. 3:5).

These generation’s greed and selfishness is aptly summarized by the following verse:

Prov. 30:15: The leech has two daughters – Give and Give!

The leech is a bloodsucker that is never satisfied. This is what “this generation” is like, and it flows out of the “three things that are never satisfied, four that never say ‘enough!’” Waltke says that this is probably a reference to the “horse leech” which has two sucking organs, one to attach itself to its host and the other to suck blood with. The leech is a parasite; it lives off the life of others. And this is exactly the opposite of love. This is hatred of neighbors, living without care or concern for how our actions may affect others.

This underlines the greed of the “this generation” again. And it may be more helpful to think of “this generation” as a culture, a culture that trusts the provision of Yahweh, or a culture that demands to be its own god, its own provider. Think of Israel in the wilderness. The beastly empires that Daniel seas in his vision have “huge iron teeth” to devour everything in their way (Dan. 7:5, 7, 19, cf. Joel 1:6). Thus, "generation" is not merely people born in particular century or decade, but in this context "generation" is a way of life, a culture, an empire.

This kind of arrogant greed starts with dishonoring parents because parents are one of God’s first provisions of us. Long before we "woke up" in this world, God was generously providing for all of our needs through our parents, but rejection of parents’ provision and wisdom occurs because of pride and selfishness, and this necessarily results in the oppression of the poor and defenseless.

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