In Proverbs 30, Agur (son of Jaketh) writes:
Under three things the earth quakes; under four it cannot bear up: under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food; under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she supplants her mistress. (NASB)
Well... maybe he writes that. As is common with translations of Hebrew into English, there are a few possible ways we can write and interpret these verses. Bible Hub gives us other ideas, and the subtle translation differences can change the meaning significantly.
However, I think Hebrew is a bit of a "loose" language for a reason: it accommodates a richness of meaning that our language (based on Greek logic) isn't always capable of. One of the results is that God's prophecies in one situation can be, and have been (e.g., by Gospel writers citing the Old Testament), applied to others.
Thus, I'd like to look at this prophecy, about things which destabilize society, in light of today's times... and our situation. Applying this prophecy to our sexualized culture is not an original idea, I'm borrowing it from Jim Anderson, author of Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault.
A slave when he becomes king
While, Agur may have been thinking of a man born into a low-esteemed social class, could his words not also be applied to an addict? After all, what's more personally enslaving than an addiction, especially an addiction based on one of the sins (a.k.a, snares) that God regularly warns his people about?
And there's a possibility Agur had something other than the "traditional" slave in mind. After all, the king he served was probably what we would today call a sex addict, and his sons were likely to follow suit. It is a frightening thing to live under the power of an addict. They have a mandate to protect and serve others, to make godly, selfless decisions, but this is constantly undermined by the pull of the addiction. The result: destabilisation of family and society, and a pull away from God towards sin.
A fool who is satisfied with food
Jim Anderson—going with the more commonly used sense of "satisfied" as meaning "sated" or filled up with"—sees in these verses some economic causes of societal destabilisation. For myself, what immediately came to mind when reading this was "dopamine vs. serotonin."
In the video interview below, Dr. Robert Lustig explains how today's children (and adults) are trading in the "happiness/serotonin"—found in relationship—for the "pleasure/dopamine" found in today's sugar-rich, Western-world diet. He goes on to talk about other sources of dopamine in a child's world including videogames, media and porn. When the bulk of our people would rather eat junk food, play games, consume media or masturbate to porn than have intimacy with God and others, society is in big trouble.
An unloved woman who gets a husband
This is one of the verses that the translators seem to disagree on the most. However, I like Jim Anderson's take on it. Much of Jim's book looks at the vulnerable position girls are put in when they are not well-loved by their fathers. Sexual exploitation and settling for a loveless marriage are not uncommon.
Jim—who explains that "unloved" varies in meaning from "opposed" to "hated"— writes, the unloved wife "knows, without a doubt, that her husband's heart is elsewhere. He has not shared himself with her or looked into her eyes to see what is in her spirit. She feels violated because he wants sex but is not meeting her relational and emotional needs. Such a violation of a woman's nature sets in motion some things that can cause the earth—marriage, families, societies—to shake."
How many PSAs feel loved by their husband while he is actively in the addiction (and often for some time after)?
A maidservant when she supplants her mistress
When a wife is "supplanted", i.e., replaced with a younger woman, possibly only a teenager, God's mandate has been perverted. God's plan for sexuality was for an oxytocin-based bonding to take place between husband and wife so that they "know" (i.e., experience intimacy with) each other not just "lie with" each other (i.e., have sex). The results are joy, peace and stability that blesses the family and the community.
Dr. Donald Hilton writes about the effects of infidelity on society saying:
"In 1934 Cambridge anthropologist Dr. J. D. Unwin published "Sex and Culture." In it he examined 86 cultures spanning 5,000 years with regard to the effects of both sexual restraint and sexual abandon. His perspective was strictly secular, and his findings were not based in moralistic dogma. He found, without exception, that cultures that practiced strict monogamy in marital bonds exhibited what he called creative social energy, and reached the zenith of production. Cultures that had no restraint on sexuality, without exception, deteriorated into mediocrity and chaos."
Today, many of us wives have been supplanted by a pixel-mistress that gains access to our husband through our technology servants (iPads, phones, computers). Chaos is already ensuing.
Fortunately, our God is the Faithful, Wise, Loving, Rightful King. His mandate is healing and restoration, so that our trembling world, at least our internal one, can be quieted.
When that happens, the PSA will again be able to "smile at her future." (Proverbs 31:25).
A song for my good friends and colleagues in Wales: