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Proverbs 30b-31a – On Spiders, Lizards, Greyhounds and Roosters

Several proverbs in Proverbs 30 use animals to make a point.  Some of these animals have been easily identified by scholars and linguists due to their use elsewhere in Scripture or comparative languages (i.e. the leech – 30:15; the vulture – 30:17).  However, if you’re comparing translations, you might run into a few interesting alternatives as you go.

            During the sermon, I mentioned the “rock badger” (ESV) in 30:26, also translated “hyraxes” (NIV), “conies” (KJV) and “shephanim” (NASB; this last option is a transliteration, not a translation – it takes the sounds of the Hebrew and brings them to English).  I also mentioned the “lizard” of verse 28, translated as such by most modern translations (but KJV has “spider”).  The difficulty with this word is that it’s only used here in Scripture, and the ancient versions and commentaries translate it as either spider or lizard.

            But one I didn’t mention was “the strutting rooster” (ESV) in 30:31.  KJV has “a greyhound.”  Others have suggested a warhorse, a zebra or even a raven!  How is it that we have such varied translations for this animal?

            The Hebrew reads, literally, “girded of loins.”  It seems to be describing an animal based on its characteristic walk or stately appearance.  Greyhounds have narrow bodies with a wider chest.  Roosters exude a strange sort of confidence strutting around, puffing out their chest (roosters are also suggested due to the Greek translation of the Hebrew).

            Whatever the specific referent, the meaning of the proverb is fairly clear: the king with his army is compared to these animals who give the appearance of courage and nobility.


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