Small but Wise: The Spider
1. Here we have the third of three examples of things that are small but wise. (Cf. vs. 24)
2. This trio consists of the ant, the coney, and now the spider.
a. The ant is small, but wise enough to plan ahead for the winter.
b. The coney is small, but wise enough to make her home in the rocks.
c. The spider is small, but is found in a king’s palace.
1. This passage is short, but presents us with a couple of challenges.
a. First is the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “spider.”
b. Second is the expression “taketh hold with her hands.”
2. SPIDER: (sem·aw·meeth)
a. This Hebrew word is translated variously as either spider or lizard. It is not a textual issue. We know for sure what the Hebrew word is; but there is disagreement as to how to translate it. Some sources give the Hebrew word two meanings: spider or lizard.
b. Some believe that this name came from a root that means “poison, toxic, or stupefying”. (There are poisonous spiders and lizards.)
c. A precise identification of some of the insects and small creatures in the Bible from ancient names is an imprecise science. That is especially so of ancient Hebrew words that are used only once in the Bible – like the term for spider here.
d. But the exact species to which Agur refers is not the point.
e. We have all the information we need to accurately interpret the proverb.
3. The next challenge is the expression “taketh hold by hands.”
a. Again it is not a textual issue.
b. The problem in interpreting this is whose hands are taking hold… the spider’s or the onlooker?
c. Thus, it could mean that the spider (or spider/lizard) is so small that a person could catch one in his hand.
d. Or, it could mean that the spider/lizard uses his “hands” to take hold of walls to climb.
e. Since the point of the proverb is to demonstrate that the creature is small but wise (vs. 24) the KJV is best here because it describes a small creature AND shows its wisdom in the way it uses its “hands.”
f. Each hand (foot) has many hair-like fibers; and each of the fibers has many more fibers coming out of it. They have up to 600,000 fibers coming out of their feet, and these fibers cling to surfaces and enable them to climb even shiny surfaces.
g. The spider is small but wise in the way he is able to manufacture fine threads that he uses to transport himself wherever he wants to go… and to weave a web that catches his dinner. He weaves his web and then just waits for dinner to be delivered to him. That’s pretty wise. He doesn’t even have to go out hunting like the much larger and stronger animals.
4. Agur’s point is that this is a tiny, weak creature.
a. A person could easily kill it by stepping on it.
b. And if it was a poisonous creature, then it would certainly be hated by others. Nobody likes poison bugs or poison lizards.
c. But they are wise. The way they transport themselves is ingenious.
1. The second part of the proverb contains the main point. And thankfully there is no ambiguity in the wording.
2. Agur states that the spider, in spite of its relative weakness, and in spite of its relatively tiny size, can be found in the king’s palace.
3. Perhaps Agur had the opportunity to enter the king’s palace on a special occasion.
a. He, like Solomon, was a thinking man.
b. Most people who see a spider in a palace would simply view it as a pest that the servants need to attend to and clean out.
c. Who would take the time to stop and think from the spider’s perspective? Agur did.
d. Agur thought about that little spider.
• He thought: what a tiny, weak creature.
• It doesn’t have the strength to lift a hammer. It doesn’t have the size to lift up beams and large foundation stones.
• And yet, it lives in a royal palace… not a bad place to live!
• Comparing his own dwelling to the spider, Agur lived in what might be called a humble cottage; but the spider lived in a palace filled with gold, jewels, fine furniture, and all the best of everything.
• In fact, some spiders today still live in palaces and homes that are 100 times grander than your house or mine!
• We don’t live in a royal palace—but spiders do.
• In spite of all of man’s efforts to keep them out—they somehow are wise enough to get in. And they often live in homes much better than ours.
• So who’s the dummy now?
• The spider may be small and weak; but is wise.
a. God takes care of His creation. The lilies… the sparrows—even the spiders. If God can provide a palace for a spider, He will take care of you too.
b. Spiders are small, weak, and often hated, but they dwell in a palace fit for a king.
• In the world’s eyes, believers are small, weak, and despised by the world too.
• Eph. 2:4-6 – But we dwell in something that surpasses a king’s earthly palace; we dwell in heavenly places in Christ.
c. Spiders and their webs are constantly meeting opposition in the form of the home owner who is forever sweeping out spider webs and trying to remove these “pests.”
• But the spiders keep on weaving more webs… in spite of the opposition. They are diligent like the ant and they never give up.
• We too should follow this example. We may face opposition from foes that are much more powerful than we are.
• They may sweep away our little “webs”—the labor of our hands; but learn from the spider and weave another! Don’t quit.
d. All four of the “small but wise” creatures have lessons to teach us.
• They all teach us that our perceived disabilities (small; weak; etc.) need not be cause for defeat. If we use the abilities God has given us wisely, we can do quite well—in spite of our infirmities.
• The ant is small but stores food for the winter; their foresight and diligence makes up for their weakness.
• The coney is small and weak but lives in rocks which provide protection against larger and stronger predators; his wise choice of the rocks makes up for what he lacks in strength.
• The spider is small and generally hated—yet they reside in palaces. The spider can’t jump like a grasshopper; he can’t fly like a bird; but he does know how to make “rope” and uses it for his advantage. He is not big and strong but he does have a fascinating and effective means of transportation. He gets around quite well considering his so called disability.
• Prov. 22:29 – The spider is diligent and ends up in king’s palaces. We could learn from her diligence.
• All of these creatures do very well.
• They do not gripe, complain, or fret over the qualities they don’t have; instead they use to the fullest the qualities they do have.
• And as a result, they have plenty to eat; they are safe from their enemies; and they live in beautiful dwellings. They have food; shelter; and safety. They have all their needs met. What more could they want?
• God takes care of them. He will take care of us.
e. We would do well to learn from these little creatures.