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What does it mean that the leech has two daughters (Proverbs 30:15)?

the leech has two daughters

Proverbs 30 includes numerical proverbs, which use numbers to illustrate the contrast between wisdom and foolishness. In this chapter are two things asked of God (verse 7), four things too amazing to understand (verse 18), four small but wise things (verse 24), etc. In this context Agur says, “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry” (Proverbs 30:15). The writer adds that there are three things that will not be satisfied, and four that will never have enough: the grave (Sheol), the barren womb, dry earth that continues to soak up water, and fire (Proverbs 30:16).

In his reference to the leech and her two daughters, the writer is condemning greed. In particular, the writer notes the kind of person “whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind” (Proverbs 30:14). This person seems to be never satisfied and is destructive to those around him. He is like a leech, sucking life from others.

The leech has two daughters, always crying, “Give, Give.” These “daughters” are things that resemble the leech in never being satisfied. The writer then lists not just two but three and even four insatiable things with voracious appetites:

• The grave is never satisfied. The grave is continually taking the living and will do so until death itself is dead (see Revelation 20:14).
• The barren womb is never satisfied. In ancient Hebrew culture, women desired many children, and the Bible records several instances of childless women asking for a child with importunity (see Genesis 30:1 and 1 Samuel 1:1–10).
• Dry earth is never satisfied. Parched ground, like what is found in the desert, can soak up great amounts of water without being flooded.
• Fire is never satisfied. A fire will burn everything in its path as long as it has oxygen and something to burn. An out-of-control fire is always ready to devour more and is hard to extinguish.

By invoking these images, Agur helps us understand the certainty of the path of greed. It has great appetite, is not satisfied, and causes destruction. The leech has two daughters, and neither is content. In order not to fall into this trap of greed, Agur asks the Lord to give him neither poverty nor riches (Proverbs 30:8). In wealth he might deny the Lord; in poverty he might resort to stealing (Proverbs 30:9). The proverb writer recognizes that the Word of God is tested and reliable and will guard the one who trusts in the Lord (Proverbs 30:5). He understands the consequences of greed and seeks God’s help to avoid its pitfall.

The apostle Paul similarly warns against greed: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: . . . evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Remarkably, Paul equates greed with idolatry. Greed wants what we do not (and often should not) have. In greed we begin to worship the object of our desire, pursuing that instead of pursuing God. Greed is so evil, in fact, that Ephesians 5:3 says that immorality, impurity, and greed should never even be named among believers.

Greed should be so far removed from us that no one would ever associate us with the leech or the leech’s two daughters. Instead, we ought to cultivate contentment with godliness, which is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Paul had learned the secret of being content and avoiding greed. Rather than pursue what he did not have, he understood that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Philippians 4:13).

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What does it mean that the leech has two daughters (Proverbs 30:15)?
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This page last updated: February 27, 2023