I’m eager to share what I see in the following passage, but I want to hear your ponderings, whatever they are, first. As you look, consider what the four items in verse 19 have in common, culminating in the way of a man with a maiden. Also, note the contrast of beauty in verse 19 with the ugliness of verse 20. Part of learning to see in Scripture is being unafraid to ask questions, even if those questions seem foolish. Share your questions, insights, and then I will too. Let’s be like iron sharpening iron!
There are three things that are too amazing for me,
Four that I do not understand;
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a snake on a rock
The way of a ship on the high seas,
And the way of a man with a maiden.
This is the way of an adulteress:
She eats and wipes her mouth
And says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a snake on a rock
The way of a ship on the high seas,
And the way of a man with a maiden
The thing I see in all 4 examples is the creativity of God. He fashioned each with a purpose and design. I’m not sure how it relates to marriage, though. I am excited to see your insight.
Great observation, Michelle! I want to gather several more before I reply. Thanks for being brave. Love the creativity of God and a purpose and a design.
An eagle soars heavenward, its wings playing with the wind, tilting here and there to maintain its balance. The eagle flies higher and is stronger than other birds. In Native American spirituality eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit. The eagle reminds us that through the Holy Spirit we can go and remain above the troubles of the world. As the eagle soars, he watches for his prey. When the time is right, he swoops and strikes. The eagle calls us to patiently wait for the right moment.
For me, that translates to a covenant marriage where sex can, by the power of Holy Spirit, take a committed couple out of the troubles of the day allowing them to soar heavenward, patiently waiting until the moment is right for each of them before they “swoop and strike.”
A snake, being a cold-blooded creature, comes out of hiding in the dark and into the sun to rest on a warm rock and raise its body temperature. Sometimes our days are rather cold-blooded and dark. A covenanted couple can serve as a rock for each other as they come together in sexual intimacy, warming each other after a long cold day.
A ship on the sea keeps from capsizing by having the appropriate ballast to keep enough of the ship under water so that it doesn’t bob up and down and tip over. The covenant of marriage has God as the ballast, keeping us on an even keel. Sex in such a marriage is balanced, weighted by a Godly desire to please each other.
It is a mystery how the air holds the soaring eagle, how the rock absorbs the sun, how the water cradles the ship, and how a covenant makes sex holy. These things are strange and beautiful. On the other hand, sex for the sake of sex is a selfish act that turns a beautiful thing ugly.
Janet — I so appreciate your thoughtful response and eloquence. I particularly loved your last paragraph!
WOW. AMAZING INTERPRETATION.
thanks Dee for thought provoking verse
I was going to say something similar as Michelle as in that’s the way God created & purposed these things. There’s an order to God’s ways yet a freedom to continue to marvel/grasp & capture the understanding/wonderment of God’s ways & see the richness of God’s freedom. As in the covenant of sex in marriage is freeing & sacrificial? at times, the word says we must just give one toward the other as husband or wife because it is the need of the other but it still builds on the relationship but the freedom we have like the eagle soaring enables us (as husband & wife)to enjoy the gift of sex/intimacy in which no else can share & hopefully glorifying God in our faithfulness to each other.??
Good thoughts, Elizabeth. Like your tapping into the wonderment, freedom, and soaring.
So thankful for the good and thoughtful ponderings. You’ve been looking at the comparisons, which is key to getting at what God is really saying. You are being like the man in Psalm 1, meditating, pondering, turning it over — and it’s beautiful we are doing it together.
Let me ask a few more questions to stir you to ponder even more.
1. In verse 19, Agur prefaces the four comparisons with what comment?
2. In verse 19, how do each of the four pairs need each other to soar?
3. How do each of the four pairs become one?
4. How does the first agent (eagle, snake, ship, man) penetrate the second?
5. What phrase gives you the hint that verse 20 is connected to 19 as a contrast?
6. To what is the sexual act of the adulteress compared in verse 20 and what is God telling us through this?
7. What contrasts do you see between the adulteress to the soaring couple?
8. What else can you see in the passage?
I appreciate each of you being brave and giving your prayerful input!
Dee, thanks for the particular way you are handling this blog. Most will just share their insight or teaching, but here you are forcing us to study! I love that.
He prefaces vs. 19 with saying the way of the eagle, snake, and ship are too AMAZING for him, and then the 4th (the way of a man with his woman) he doesn’t UNDERSTAND. The examples Agur gives all have God’s keen balance and design (as God’s inventions) in common. Agur’s mind can’t comprehend the ability of God to invent such creations, but even more so, not just the creation of such things but their WAY. Yes, God creating the eagle and the snake is amazing itself, but the WAY of an eagle in the sky, and the WAY of a snake on a rock. Not only did God create the eagle and the snake, but the way they maneuver and fulfill a purpose is even more astounding. Not only did God create man and woman, but the WAY of a man with his maiden, who can understand?
The eagle and the snake are opposites! I mean what a contrast! An eagle’s domain is the sky. The snakes domain is the lowest ground. But what they have in common is that they occupy each domain in such a unique way. The second couple,(ship with sea & man with his maiden), I draw from that how they ship and the waves become one like a marriage. They blend. I almost can find humor: the ship is the man, and the sea is the maiden. The woman is so complicated and unique, with crashing waves one moment (emotions 🙂 and calm like even glass the next! The ship is strong. It is built to embrace the sea.
Going on to vs. 20 (the adulteress) what pulls this passage in with the concept and flow of vs. 19 is that Agur still uses the “WAY” of an adulteress. She eats (commits the act), wipes her mouth (puts her clothes back on) and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” This WAY is perverted. It is not God’s intended order. The ship is no longer strong… the waves crashed over it and pulled it to the deepest sea.
I think that the WAY of a man with a maiden is pure. It is in the order of God’s purpose, that’s why it is combined with the the eagle,snake, and ship… the adulteress, however is in a separate verse on her own.. her way is not God’s intended order.
What a joy, it is quite humbling to read such amazing insights into God’s word, especially verses I’ve never noticed before. Thank you all.
I was thinking of the contrast between adulteress & soaring couple; it shows such a stark contrast to the ways of a rebellious heart “I’ve done no wrong” which shows an appetite which will never be satisfied. Where as ‘the soaring couple’ glorify God in their oneness,soaring , it shows a completeness/ wholeness purely for God’s glory & blessing for the couple. There’s no justification need for the soaring couple they’re reflecting God’s purpose for them. God is glorified in his purposes.
I think there’s that wondrous mystery, that sense of awe of The Father’s thoughts toward us for every area of our lives being beyond comprehension . v20 is startling in it’s contrast,it is so blunt that you just prayer to guard my heart & soar as an eagle & live in awe of the Creater of it all.
People are telling me I have the most thoughtful responses on this blog and I am amazed. I am so thrilled with all of you and the way you are pondering, sharing, and expressing yourself. Don’t feel like you have to be as articulate as the above women have been to share, for the beauty of the body of Christ is that He makes the simple wise, and together we are stronger than any one of us alone. I am learning truths from you.
Here is another question on the above passage:
The verse that is repeated four times about marriage includes “leaving, cleaving, and becoming one.” Do you see this in the above or am I stretching? I certainly see the becoming one with all four, culminating in the way of a man with a maiden. I also think it is interesting that Paul tells us in Ephesians that the leaving, cleaving, and becoming one refers to the mystery of Christ and his church. Is it possible that the “too amazing” which is a literary device (three, no four; six, no seven means that it is building) is “too Amazing” because union in marriage points to an even more mysterious union? Luci Shaw said God gives us two great books: the book of Creation and the book of Scripture, and they speak about each other.
Tim Keller at http://www.redeemer.com has some amazing sermons on sexuality. A few that have amazed me are: The 7th Commandment; Sexuality and Homosexuality, and Sexuality. MP3’s are 2.50, but it goes to support ministries of Redeemer. He is bold and clear and opens layers in the Word that I often had not seen before. He tackles the above proverb beautifully. Concerning just the above passage in Proverbs:
The purpose of sex
God invented sex as a way for one person to say to another person:
I belong completely and permanently and exclusively to you. – since sex is an analogy of that ultimate unitive act by which the human soul cleaves to God in complete fidelity and complete faith, and as a result, the nature of God penetrates us – Him and Him alone – no other gods
Following is my summary of some of his thoughts on above:
When you try to divorce your body from your soul, sex becomes appetite, as with the adulteress in this verse. But you cannot divorce your body from your soul. It is intended to happen within the safety of a covenant marriage, to renew that covenant, to become one with that person. Then it is beautiful. In above proverb, the eagle, the snake, and the ship all penetrate, all ride, all become one — point to a man with a maiden — which points to the ultimate beauty, Christ and His Bride.
If we hold the Platonic view of sex, that the body is evil, we cannot understand the true beauty and purpose of sex.
Would love your comments on his insights!
Thanks so for participating.
I really love the wording of Keller of “you cannot divorce your body from your soul” – proof of how strong the Lord has put those two things together. Loving this study and the insight coming out of it. This passage is one I’ve never completely understood.
Just one comment: While we are all soaring in the creative wonder of sexual intimacy, let us not forget that God was also cleaver enough to create sex as a means to reproduce humankind. Our God is quite practical, too.
I had a good question come into my contact e-mail asking what a covenant marriage was. I explained I was trying to differentiate between living together or entering into marriage without regard for God. A covenant marriage is one in which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to ther other, before God, for better or for worse. Maybe that will be helpful if you have thoughts!
I think the writer is in wonderment of the creative gifts that God has given each of these – the gift of the eagle to soar, of the snake to slither seemingly effortlessly up the rock, the way a ship survives on the open sea and the way of a man with a maiden. Each has been given a gift from God, to enjoy life, to employ the gift he has been given, in the way he was created to be. The adulteress in contrast steps out of the boundaries of what she was created to be, in error and ignorance she proclaims, “I have done no wrong!”
I totally agree. You simplified what I said in my second comment! Good to know we are seeing some of the same things. 😀
Well put, Mary. Last night I listened to a message differentiating:
Consumer sex (like the adulteress, like those who are doing it for the thrill without commitment)
Patriarchal (in cultures where the women are seen as property to meet the man’s needs)
Mutual (may be married or not, but seeking to give to the other and to receive)
Covenantal Christian (rather than giving to the other, giving to the marriage — both putting the marriage above either individual, and seeing it as an opportunity to renew the covenant they made before God of giving totally, completely, exclusively to their spouse before God)
Speaking of the different types of relationships, recently I saw a exerp from the movie, “The stoning of Soraya M”, which made me want to go and rescue women so brutally abused. The movie is based on a true story of a woman who was stoned in Iran in 1986. Her husband had accused her of adultery, because he wanted to get out of his marriage to go with a 14 year old girl. It was terribly sad and heart wrenching. God’s ways are truly the best – His ways are liberating and life giving! We need to share the “light” of the gospel in such dark places!
That’s a perfect example of patriarchal sex. Yes — I have been afraid to see the movie because I’ve heard it’s so hard to watch. But you recommend it?
Dee, I haven’t even seen the whole movie, only an exerp from it, and even that was hard to watch! I have talked to others who have seen it, and they agree it is hard to watch. Personally, I am going to try and see it, if only to allow God to place a burden on my heart to pray. I don’t think we can close our eyes to the horror around us – who knows what God may want to do through us.
You are right. Not exactly what I wanted to hear — but you are so right. 🙂
I think there is value in reading deeply into any poem of this nature. But I think there’s also value in identifying its more literal meanings. When I ponder the lines of these two verses, the theme I see is the mystery of movement by flight, land, and sea; I think the author is amazed that the atmosphere is able to hold a bird as it travels in flight, that a snake can move without any type of appendage as it travels on land, and that water is capable of withstanding the weight of a ship as it travels by sea. Then, when the author considers the ways of a man with a maiden he see’s this as an even greater mystery. Without becoming too graphic, since the theme of these verses so far has been “movement,” the author could very well be referring to a man’s rhythmic movements during intercourse. I’m not sure why the author included the adultress lines, but he could be underscoring the sanctity of sex within marriage by implying that sex outside of marriage is ugly, and therefore against God’s intention for it. I think the author is also implying that sex within marriage is beautiful, since the examples that lead up to this final example all include beautiful images.
Laura — lovely reflections on the mystery of movement! Nature resounds with God’s wisdom, helping me trust. Thanks so much.
LAURA — I hope you will let us hear from you more. I was just telling some friends over dinner about your lovely insights. Thank you!
Thank you for your comments. I was a little concerned that you and others might consider my response to be too literal and flat. I awoke today thinking more about those same verses and was convinced that there had to be more to them than just the literal. Then the following occurred to me, which adds an additional layer to my earlier comment; I think the author is also saying that he is AMAZED at the totality of God’s creation, as represented by sky, land, and sea. Then he places God’s creation of sex and sensuality–the ways of a man with a maiden–as even higher than all God created in the physical world; and this the author considers to be BEYOND amazing; he considers it a glorious MYSTERY. Perhaps he includes the example of the adultress at the end, as a reminder that only sex within marriage is worthy of being considered a glorious mystery.
Laura — love to hear about your pondering the Word in the night — like Psalm 1. Would like you and our other good ponderers to continue this by taking it a step further. Paul takes this glorious MYSTERY a step further in Ephesians 5:31-32. What reflections do you have on this?
This is a scripture that I have pondered for many years. In the description that precedes the adulteress part, the beauty, wonder and mystery of all that is natural and pure and functioning within its God ordained boundaries is spoken of. From the fresh pure air and high perspective the eagle travels in so effortlessly, to a kingly sailing ship traversing the seas, to the serpent travelling across a rough piece of mountain stone as though he’s oiled and finally to the pure man wooing a virgin and taking her to be his wife, all is a picture of a world where its the way God made it to be. I can almost hear a deep ” Ahhhhhh” of satisfaction, peace and security. Until this grotesque thing that doesn’t belong comes on the scene. One of these things is NOT like the others!
While the way of a man with a maiden involves honor and following the prescribed rules o honor and righteousness in securing a bride and waiting to enjoy the raptures of love and the first night of intimacy together, the adulteress does not wait. She does not follow nor respect. She does not honor ancient boundaries. The man approaches the virgin maiden drawn to her strongly by the mix of her purity, femininity and meek grace, and knows immediately he must master himself lest he dishonor her and himself and in the process bring God’s hot displeasure upon himself. Nor does he wish to subject the object of his love to dishonor or shame. The adulteress approaches boldy, and immediately brings seduction and flattery to bear upon the other. Her wants overcome any concern for godliness. While the man with the maiden exercises self control for righteousness sake, the adulterness must have what she wants now. The man waits for permission from the girls family and elders to assure he has a right to take her as his wife. The adulteress takes whether she has a right or not and doesn’t wait to find out.
I see re: the food, that food sustains life. Those who seek in God’s ways, honor that the food or life comes from Him. The adulterous person wants life right now, on their terms and is willing to dishonor God and another person in order to have that. Their needs and wants are the governing principle of their lives. Often the need or want itself is right, which leaves them completely blind to how wicked and godless their way of getting it actually is. They can never have the enjoyment of stolen fruit though, because it might taste good at first but it sours and becomes bitter on the way down. The work of their hands is cursed; maggots in the kneading trough.
It is right to want to be loved. It is wrong to steal someone else’s husband to have love. Having a lovely farm and house and a creative homemaker as a wife is a good desire. Being willing to seduce your boss’s wife in order to take what he has as your own is evil. Wanting security is not wrong. Stealing other’s security by wrongly insinuating yourself into someone else’s marriage rather than trusting God is sinful. Not for nothing does the bible use adultery and idolatry almost interchangably. There’s room for only one in the Holy of Holies whether we are referring to marriage or to Christ. The wiping of the mouth and insisting that she has done nothing wrong, speaks to me of how blinded she is by her own needs. Wiping the mouth amounts to hiding the evidence from oneself, an attempt to clean up the stain of guilt from view through self effort. Another form of trying to hide our sin from ourselves and others. It doesn’t work.
I enjoyed reading all of the comments… I always knew there was more to that passage than it meets the eye.
I so appreciate your insights to this passage.
Eagle refers to God.
Rock refers to the Jew.
Ship refers to the Gentiles of the world.
Maid refers to the Church.