Daily Proverbial, 17 February 2012

“The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry. “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!:’ the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’ Proverbs 30, verses 15 and 16.

Full disclosure here: on my own, I had exactly no clue what this means, or how to put it in the context of living in 21st century America. You know that I sometimes research other translations. Here’s another time when that came in handy.
After reviewing a number of them, I think the New Life version says it in the most understandable way: “The one who lives by the blood of another has two daughters, “Give,” “Give.” There are three things that are never filled, four that never say, “Enough”: The place of the dead, the woman who cannot have children, the earth that is always thirsty for water, and fire that never says, “Enough.”

Do you hate it when people suck the life out of you? You know them: they’re life-suckers. They are always gloomy, or they don’t have much good to say about anyone or anything. Being around them is a downer. It can be draining. And when you ask what’s on their minds, you immediately regret it because they steal your joy. News flash: we all have a little bit of the life-sucker in us. It’s something I know I have to watch, especially when I get to ranting about politics (and in this year, that’s no easy task). Another news flash: they need God in their lives just like you do, and it’s part of our mission every day to help with that where we can.

But think about the rest of the verses. We all pay a death for the life we are given. Only one person has ever said He would come back from death and did so; you and I aren’t Him. No matter how much money he has or how many ways he shields that prodigious income, Warren Buffett will still die some day. No matter how many face-lifts she has, Phyllis Diller will still be in the grave some day. No matter how many times I argue with my friends on the other side of the aisle, we will all be dead one day. None of us can escape death, whether we’re joyful or a life-sucker.

In Bronze Age Mesopotamia a childless woman was considered desperate, even a pariah. In that time, all income was tied, in one way or another, to producing from the land. And, just like today, a fire could destroy everything you own in an instant. How did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? It was with fire. Keeping in mind when the verse was written, these statements make sense even all these years later.

And we’re reading them much later. Knowing that, just what does this set of verses really mean? They’re vivid allegories, and they’re sobering. If you take them in the context of the verses around them, you see they’re appropriate commentary on the people of the day (and still us today as well). The author is discussing the depraved nature of mankind and how, left to our lonesome, we act despicably. Put lipstick on a pig and you still have a pig; put new technology and time between our day and that when the verses were written and you still have people who act in despicable ways.

In fact, maybe they were better off because they didn’t have Jersey Shore.

What’s a God to do? Have mercy, that’s what. He’s God and He has mercy on a bunch of people who don’t deserve it. Left alone, we would be hopeless, living lives of hopeless depravity, sucking the life out of every moment that could have been otherwise good. Without mercy, we would be bound for the grave and bound for the fire. That simply wouldn’t do. The writer knew that his God was a god of saving, love, and mercy, and that God was the antidote to the human condition that just never changes. Thousands of years later, nothing much has changed because God is still the antidote to the predicament we bring on ourselves.

You don’t need a different translation to see the sense in that.


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