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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 30:17 Eaten by vultures

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

17 “An eye that mocks a father, that scorns to obey a mother will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, and will be eaten by vultures.”

This verse teaches the Fourth Commandment in no uncertain terms. The Law of Moses demanded the death of a rebellious and disobedient child. “He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head” (Leviticus 20:9). In Deuteronomy, the procedure is given more fully: “If he will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town…. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 21:18-19,21).

When we read things like this, we most often think of little children, but it’s more likely that the Law of Moses was also speaking about grown children, teens at least (usually more rebellious), but adult children, too. In special cases of scorning such as Korah’s rebellion, the parents may already have been dead, and so the heads of the family (Aaron and Moses) were responsible. But the Lord handled Korah’s case in a special way and the ground opened up to swallow him, his followers, and most of their families (Numbers 16:31-33) except a humble remnant that kept their name, perhaps as a warning to Israel (“The Sons of Korah,” see the headings of Psalms 42-49 and 84-88).

To lose one’s eyes was a special curse. This happened to Samson when he was captured by the Philistines (Judges 16:21; see also 1 Samuel 11:2). It even comes up in the Korah account (Numbers 16:14). But the mention of vultures calls to mind the terrible punishment of anyone who is exposed after their execution. God said, “If a man is guilty of a capital offense (such as mocking or scorning a parent) and is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Longer exposure would invite the vultures, and there might be no body to bury.

There is no mistaking that this passage preaches the law. Who has not failed to obey a parent? Scorned their wisdom? Grumbled against them? Or secretly held anger or embarrassment for them in his heart? Everyone has sinned, and everyone who keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). If you only break one of my windows with a rock, you are guilty of breaking my house. If you break only one of my teeth, or only one of my bones, you have hurt my whole body. Whether you steal a kid or a nanny or the bellwether of my goats, you have damaged the whole herd. And when we sin in one small way against our parents or against the government, we have broken the Fourth Commandment, and we are as guilty and as worthy of death as any man who commits murders. This curse of the ravens and the vultures pecking at my rotting flesh makes me understand the depth of my sin: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! Father in heaven, send me a Savior! A Redeemer! We have the Savior who kept the law in our place. We have forgiveness through Jesus, whe condemned body was nailed to a tree, who bore the curse in our place. Because of Jesus, we have a place with our heavenly Father for all eternity.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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