Ten Christian Prooftexts:

The misuse of Hebrew Scriptures
to "prove" Christian claims, and the Jewish response

#9 PROVERBS 30:2-4

Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?


Christian missionaries will show Jews these verses, and ask them to answer the question at the end of verse 4.

Because the verse ends with the questions, 'What is his name and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?'then Christians will tell you that this is a reference to Jesus, the son of Gd, who, because he was Gd, can do all the things listed in these verses. Of course, this interpretation can only be valid for those who assume that Jesus was Gd.

This is not the Jewish interpretation of these verses. These verses are asking rhetorical questions. The Psalmist knows that no one, other than Gd, can 'gather the wind in his fists, bound the waters in a garment, or establish all the ends of the earth.' These verses are saying that there is no one other than Gd who can do these things, by asking 'who can do these things' in a rhetorical way. The Bible is clear, only Gd controls nature, and only Gd was the author of Creation. Since the answer is that no human can do it, then there is no name of any human who can do it, and since there is no one who can do it, there is no son of this non-existent person, either.

The text then asks what is the name of the son of Gd, since it is only Gd who controls and creates nature. The Bible is clear, there are others besides the Christian Jesus who is called the first born son of Gd. One example is the Jewish people.

In the following verses, Gd is telling Moses what to tell Pharaoh. And here, Gd explicitly states that the People of Israel, the Jews, are Gd's firstborn son:

And the Etrnl said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Etrnl, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. [Exodus 4:21-23]

As I wrote in the beginning, there are other interpretations that are equally valid. Perhaps the son of Gd that Proverbs 30:4 is speaking of is King David, because we have the following biblical verses in Psalm 89 that say exactly that:

I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. [Psalm 89:20]

Or, perhaps, Psalm 30:4 is referring to King Solomon, whom Gd also calls His son, in I Chronicles 22:9

Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever. [I Chronicles 22:9]

So there are a few interpretations of this Proverb, however they do not require us to interpret the Bible in a way that is contrary to the Bible, like believing that Gd had a human son, just as Zeus had human sons.

Questions? Email Rabbi Stuart Federow

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