God’s Word for You
Proverbs 30:29-31 mirabilia
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 20, 2021
29 Three things have an impressive stride; four that walk impressively: 30 a lion, which is mightiest among wild animals and does not turn away from anything; 31 a strutting songbird, a he-goat, and a king with his army around him.
This is the last of the numeric proverbs. It serves as the introduction for the final comparison of the chapter (verses 32-33) leading to repentance and a humble attitude. A theme for the passage before us might be “mirabilia” (wonders, marvels). These things have a walk or stride described as mitivey, impressive; the sight of it makes you glad or feel impressed.
A lion doesn’t run away from anything. When the lion walks, he does it with confidence. It’s no accident that a group of lions is called a pride. There are a few different words for lion in Hebrew. This one is laish (two syllables, Isaiah 30:6; Job 4:11) and was also the name of the city of Laish that was captured and seized by the tribe of Dan (Judges 18:27-29).
The “strutting songbird” is my translation of zarzir matanayim, which literally means “girt of loins.” The loins are the hips and lower abdomen, and if we think of birds we recognize that almost all birds look like a man who has “girded his loins” (hiked up his robe into his belt, Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29) because the lower legs of birds are always showing. Different birds have been proposed based on similar languages like Arabic, especially starlings, but also ravens, blackbirds, magpies, grackles, and then roosters based on a medieval Jewish saying. Since some readers are less familiar with bird names than others, the idea of “songbird” seems to catch the intent of the writer well enough. Birds feeding out on the lawn in the early morning act as if they own the place; a marvelous thing to watch.
The male goat or he-goat has a unique confidence. In my summer spent as a goatherd I was startled more than once to see one walking on his hind legs, emerging like a menacing horned demon out of the morning mist as he fed on the lower branches of a pine tree. Then the monster would drop back down on all fours and playfully butt me with his head, just my old pal Billy once again.
We’re not used to kings or people of nobility of any kind in America. In fact, we’re forbidden from conferring titles of nobility under Article I of our Constitution (section 9, the so-called emolument clause). But a king with his army must have been a thrilling sight. One of the obligations of ancient kings, especially in their younger days, was to lead their armies personally. This was a way of solidifying their power, inspiring loyalty and confidence in their troops, and ensuring that their victories were always seen as their very own victories so that another commander would not take credit away from the king. Saul and David led their own armies, as did many of the kings we hear about in the ancient wars in Genesis 14:1-2.
Christ our King inspires all our confidence because he has won the greatest victory over the devil. His is the triumphal procession that means judgment and destruction for the devil and glorious everlasting life for us (2 Corinthians 2:14; Isaiah 60:11). The mirabilia of the resurrection is truly the greatest wonder, the spectacular miracle that God has in store for us all. We will let that be our application of this passage, remembering that there is another comparison yet to come…
Pastor Timothy Smith