Four Generations
Dr. Joe Temple


Turn with me, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God that we are studying together at the present time. We are going to continue our consideration of chapter 30. You will keep in mind that we have been following the natural divisions into which the book falls. With that thought in mind, we call to your attention, as we come to chapter 30, that we are looking at the first of two supplements with which the book of Proverbs ends—supplement number one in chapter 30 and supplement number two in chapter 31, the book of Proverbs actually coming to an end, as far as body content is concerned, in chapter 29.

In our last lesson, we suggested to you that this particular supplement was called The Words of Agur . We spent some time identifying Agur and his disciples, and we then offered an analysis of this chapter so that even though we were not able to think about it all at one time, we might know where we are headed and progress according to direction.

I would like for you to notice the analysis of the paragraph so that you might in your reading (I do hope you anticipate us and read on ahead.) be able to follow a sensible interpretation of the passage. In verses 2-4, we have Agur's Confession , which we noticed together when Agur confessed that he was horribly ignorant, from a human standpoint, of the things of God. We discovered in the four questions which Agur answered that though they could not be answered through the knowledge of man, they were answered through the revelation that is given in the New Testament. Then we were able to come to the same conclusion to which Agur came when he concluded that every Word of God is pure and is a shield unto them who put their trust in God.

Following that is a prayer in verses 7-9. In verses 11-14, there is a discussion of four generations. There are four insatiable things in 15-16, four wonderful things in verses 18-20, four intolerable things in verses 21-23, four little things in verses 24-28, and four comely things in verses 29-31. Then the supplement closes with an admonition, as God always does, presenting truth first and then our responsibility in the light of the truth gleaned.

Agur's Prayer

Let's read the prayer which is recorded in verses 7-9:

Proverbs 30:

7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.

Agur prayed this prayer. It is a very sensible prayer for any believer to pray. Don't pray to be rich. Don't think there is any virtue in being poor, but pray that God will feed you with food convenient for you, recognizing that what is convenient for you may not necessarily be convenient for me at all. I may get along on much less than you are able to get along on or I may need a lot more to get along than you do. Let's don't judge one another in the light of our own needs. Let's leave it with the Lord and let Him take care of our needs, as He most certainly will. That is all that we are going to say about the prayer which Agur prayed.

I would like for us to look at what the Word of God has to say concerning the series of four, which are introduced by a discussion of four generations. We read, beginning with verse 11:

Proverbs 30:

11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.

If you are using the King James text from which I am reading, you will notice that each of these verses begins with words that are printed in italics. As we have pointed out to you at other times, that indicates that they are not in the original text. They are placed there by the editors of our translation to make euphony in reading and they make do, but literally, in the original text, there is simply a generation which curses their fathers, a generation pure in their own eyes—oh, how lofty are their eyes—a generation whose teeth are swords.

The idea is that sometime on the earth there will be a generation characterized by these things. I suppose that in a very general way there is a sense in which there has always been such people. That is the reason some translators of the text translate the original Hebrew word from which we get our English word generation by the word class , and their rendering is: “There is a class of people who curseth their father.”

As far as practicality is concerned, there is nothing wrong with that rendering because, as I repeat, this has always been true: a class of people who are characterized by these particular things. But I like to stay with the King James rendering because the word generation comes from the Hebrew word dowr , which simply means “a revolution of time,” “ a complete cycle.” Everywhere in the Word where you find this Hebrew word dowr , you will find it translated by our English word generation .

The reason I am interested in staying with the King James rendering of this Hebrew word is that I believe we fail to realize the full meaning of the verses if we don't because I am firmly convinced, in the light of other Scriptures, that there is a prophetic import to each one of these four verses. So God is not speaking in a general way of a class of people who is characterized by these things; He is prophesying that there will come a time when a generation will exist of whom these things are true. The sense of the text in the original is that these generations will all exist at the same time so that we might say, without doing any violence to the Scripture whatsoever and following the rules of correct exegesis, that we are really talking about one generation which is characterized by the things which are suggested in the text.

A Generation Characterized by Parental Disrespect

I would like for us to think about each of these generations as they are described in these individual verses with the prophetic import in mind. Look again at verse 11:

Proverbs 30:

11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

I am going to suggest to you that verse 11 describes for us a generation which is characterized by parental disrespect. Let me suggest to you again that ever since there have been parents and children, there have been children who have shown disrespect for their parents; but the thrust of this verse is that there will be a generation come upon the earth who will be characterized by an unusual amount of disrespect for their parents. This parental disrespect is shown by the words that are used in the text. Look gain at verse 11:

Proverbs 30:

11 There is a generation that curseth their father…

Usually when we use the word curse , we are thinking of profanity. That is not necessarily involved in the Word. It may be, but not necessarily so, for the word curseth comes from the Hebrew word qaial , which is a word translated by our English word contempt . When a child shows contempt for his parents, he is cursing the Father in the sense that is suggested in the Scripture. Not only is the idea of contempt involved in the word, but the idea of despising father is involved as well. It is not sufficient for you to just take my word for what has been said, so I am going to ask you to turn with me where this same word qaial , translated by the word curse in our present day, is translated by the word contempt and by the word despise .

Keep a marker here in Proverbs, chapter 30, and turn back to chapter 18, and notice verse 3:

Proverbs 18:

3 When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.

You see the word contempt there. It is the translation of this Hebrew word qaial. Did you notice the association the Spirit of God makes in this verse?

Proverbs 18:

3 When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.

When there is moral degeneration in a nation, one of the first areas it is noticed is in the parent/child relationship. When there is unrestrained immorality—I am not thinking primarily of sex at the moment—it shows itself with a contemptuous attitude on the part of children for parents. That is why, in the generation in which we live, there is so much emphasis upon a generation gap. Personally, I think that phrase was born in Hell to keep people constantly under the dominion of fear, that somehow or other, we folk who have lived longer than some other folk are out of it. We simply don't know how to communicate. I do not believe there is any reason for a generation gap. I believe it is fostered by wicked men who train young people to show contempt and disrespect for their parents.

I am not going to ask you to turn to Genesis, chapter 16, verse 4, though you may want to jot it down. The reason that I am not going to ask you to turn there is that we would need to read the entire context in order to get the full thrust of the verse, so I am just going to tell you about it.

You will recall that Abraham had two wives: Sara and Hagar. Sara was unable to give birth to children. Hagar, concubine instead of wife literally, was able to give birth to a child, and when Hagar gave birth in chapter 16, verse 4, it is recorded that her mistress, Sara, was despised in her eyes. That word despised is a translation of this Hebrew word qaial , which should give us an indication of what God had in mind when He chose to use the word curse , when He said: “There is a generation who curses its father.” A generation whose young people curse the fathers, a generation of young people—thank God not all of them, but some of them—which is characterized by a contempt for their father and by constantly despising them in their own eyes.

I am not dealing with the fact that some fathers have acted in such a fashion that the contempt is a natural thing. I am not dealing with those fathers who might well be despised as far as earthly reasoning goes. Notice what I am saying—as far as earthly reasoning goes, not as far as the Scripture—for the Scripture gives an injunction which cannot be denied; nor has it been disannulled. That injunction is: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” It does not say, “Honor thy father and thy mother if they are worthy of that honor.” You honor them because this is God's order, and anything that is out of God's order bodes no good for the individuals who are disobedient to God's plan.

Look at the verse again, as we go back to Proverbs, chapter 30, because not only is the father involved in the discussion, but the mother is involved as well. Verse 11:

Proverbs 30:

11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

I would like for you to notice the phrase, “does not bless their mother.” There again you may wonder what exactly is involved. Surely it doesn't mean going around saying, “God bless you, Mother.” Surely it doesn't mean empty words that have no real action back of them. You are quite right; it doesn't. The word bless comes from the Hebrew word barak , which speaks of kneeling, showing respect to the person involved.

I am not suggesting that you go about kneeling before your mothers every time you see them because the Word of God is not suggesting that; but I am suggesting that God expects you to respect your mother, and anytime that you do anything that indicates a lack of respect for your mother, be it in word or in action, you are typing yourself as being a member of the generation that God said would be characterized by parental disrespect.

I have suggested a prophetic import in connection with this statement as with the others, and for purposes of illustration, I would like for you to turn to Paul's second letter to Timothy to see the prophecy involved in the portion of the Word that we are considering at the moment. Paul is writing to Timothy concerning a time that is future as far as he was concerned. That time, I believe, is no longer future as far as we are concerned. That time, I believe, is upon us, not in its entirety, for all things related to the last days have not yet been fulfilled; but I believe that we are living in the generation of which Paul spoke when he wrote to Timothy and said:

II Timothy 3:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

We are interested, at the moment, in the phrase that is found in verse 2: “…disobedient to parents…” This is where disobedience involves the cursing of which the wise man speaks. I suggest to you that the generation of which Agur spoke is upon us. We are a part of it, for if there is one thing that characterizes the generation in which we live, it is parental disrespect.

Notice the last statement of the paragraph. You young people who have been properly trained and oriented in the things of God and grounded in the Scripture should notice what is said in the very last statement: “…from such turn away.” We may be living in a generation with the characteristics to which we have made reference, but there is no reason we need to be part of that generation.

Parents, I would like to emphasize to you that you must not abdicate your position. You must not abdicate the stand you have always taken and say, “Well, it is the times in which we live. It is the generation in which we live.” It is, but that is no reason for you to fold your tent and abdicate your position and say that there isn't anything you can do about it. You need to maintain your position, no matter how much contempt comes your way; you need to maintain your position no matter how many evidences there are of your being despised in the eyes of your children.

A Self-Righteous Generation

Go back to chapter 30, and notice the second characteristic of the generation to which we are making reference. Notice verse 12:

Proverbs 30:

12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

I suggest to you that this verse of Scripture speaks of a self-righteous generation. God said there would come a generation in the world which would be self-righteous. I use those terms because of the words of the text. Notice verse 12 again:

Proverbs 30:

12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes…

This is a self-estimation of their own purity. The word pure comes from the Hebrew word tahor , which speaks of purity in a moral sense. So we are talking about righteousness, and we are told in this passage of Scripture that there is a generation which will be pure, in a moral sense, in their own eyes. They will leave the standards of morality which have been laid down in the Word of God and will adopt their own standards of morality and do as they feel is right. They will make no apologies for it, even though there has been no real change in their lives.

The generation in which we live is tolerating a standard of morality that is contrary to the Scriptures, which would not have been countenanced a generation ago. It isn't because the parents are old fogies that it would not have been countenanced; it would not have been countenanced because the Word of God had more recognition a generation ago than it has in this generation in which we live.

I am emphasizing that there is a self-righteous attitude on the part of these individuals because they see no evil in what they do. It is not actions that count; it's not appearance that counts; it is a personal relationship with Jesus. I want to suggest to you that you be on your guard about accepting everything everybody says about a personal relationship with Jesus. As we learned from the text, there are a lot of people who have a personal relationship with Jesus, by their own words, who have not washed themselves from their own filthiness.

The word washed comes from a Hebrew word that is used consistently throughout the book of Leviticus concerning ceremonial cleansing. Whenever individuals brought offerings, according to the Levitical code, washing played a large part in the presentation of the offering. That word is used right here. Filthiness is a word always used in the Old Testament to describe spiritual uncleanness. It is not talking about filthiness that belongs to individuals because they have not bathed themselves with soap and water. It is the recognition of spiritual uncleanness from which folk have not cleansed themselves because they have a different standard of morality. They use all of the terms and follow all of the outward practices, but have had no real work of grace in their heart. One of the indications that we are living in the end of the age is found right there.

I am not going to ask you to turn back to II Timothy because our time does not permit. We were there a few moments ago, and I read with you in verse 5 the characteristic of the generation about whom we speak. They have a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. The generation in which we live, I believe, is the generation that Agur had in mind when he spoke of a generation of self-righteous people, self-righteous not in the sense that they are high and mighty, but in the sense that they have set up their own standards, their own codes. They ignore the plain teaching of the Word of God, substituting experience for the record of the Word. There are individuals who talk to you about loving Jesus and they sleep with men and women, as the case may be, without the benefit of the marriage bond. They say they are doing nothing wrong because love covers everything. This is a self-righteous generation which is denying the plain teaching of the Scripture.

You have perhaps been thinking and recognizing something that I am going to say to you—that there is a continuity between these suggestions about this generation. When there is a generation that is characterized by parental disrespect, you could expect it to be characterized by self-righteousness as well, for if individuals do not learn to respect their parents, they will not learn to respect God.

An Irreverent Generation

Self-righteous individuals would quite naturally be expected to be characterized by irreverence, and so we find in verse 13 an irreverent generation. Please notice the words:

Proverbs 30:

13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.

You may not see anything immediately in that verse that would suggest irreverence, but let's examine it a bit and recognize that the English word lofty is a translation of the Hebrew word ruwm , which may be translated by the word presumptuous. Here is a presumptuous generation. They are so presumptuous that they know more than their elders. They are so presumptuous that they know more than God, and that presumption leads to a lifting up of the eyelids.

This is a phrase that is not as characteristic as it might be, but we would suggest to you that it speaks of a spirit of disdain, a spirit of disdain of all that is reverent and right. We talk about what the Bible says. “Who cares about the Bible?” You quote a passage of Scripture. “Oh, that's crazy. Nobody believes that any more.” You say something about the obligations that are needed toward God and apt as not you will get the idea, “Oh, God doesn't expect that of you. Haven't you heard that God loves you?”

I am going to say something that some of you may not like, but I have done that before and lived through it, and you will live through it too. Something that disturbs me mightily in this generation in which we live is the loose phraseology concerning spiritual things. I don't like bumper stickers. We have a little joke at the Bible Book Store about it. One of the girls had one made for me after we got a new car. She said, “I think you will love this, and I saved it for you. I think it is beautiful, and the colors will look so pretty on that car.” Of course, it was all in fun, and after she made this speech, she unveiled it. It read “Honk if you love Jesus.” I don't like that. I don't like these people who, when I answer the phone, say, “Jesus loves you.”

Do you know what we are doing? We are developing, whether we know it or not, an irreverent generation. Face the fact that God doesn't love everybody. God hates sin, and God hates immorality. This business of going around patting everybody on the back, smiling with a silly grin on your face, saying, “God loves you, and all is right with the world,” is an irreverence that characterizes this generation, and I personally do not believe it pleases God. I think we ought to be more concerned about it than we are.

The Prophecy

Turn to Psalm 2. There are many Psalms which I could have referred to, but I have chosen this one because it says in few words what I think needs to be said. Many of the Psalms are prophetic. So often we think of the Psalms as being a devotional portion of the Bible, but many of the Psalms, by actual count most of them, have a prophetic import. Notice verse 1:

Psalm 2:

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

God looked down on the earth and asked, “What is all the commotion about down there?” The answer was forthcoming. Notice verse 2:

Psalm 2:

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed [the Lord Jesus Christ] , saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

“Let's get rid of the restriction.” That is the thought. That this is the characteristic of the generation about which we are thinking and the characteristic of the generation in the last days is indicated by the rest of the Psalm. The rest of the Psalm speaks of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His righteous reign upon the earth where men are going to bow their knee to the living Christ and show the proper reverence. They must, whether they have ever shown it before or not. The admonition of the last verse of the Psalm is worthy of your consideration:

Psalm 2:

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little…

That doesn't sound like Jesus loves you, does it? It doesn't sound like God loves everybody. God is mad with some folk, and the Psalmist said that you had better wake up and make peace while you can. “Kiss the Son.” That is an Oriental phrase indicating allegiance to a king. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.” His wrath is kindled a little now, but it is going to come out in full bloom by and by. Therefore, blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

Turn back to Proverbs, chapter 30, and notice what is recorded in verse 14:

Proverbs 30:

14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.

If you think that the poor and the needy in this passage of Scripture refer to those who are lacking in material goods, you would wonder if this generation would ever make its appearance, and you certainly would question what I have said to you thus far—that we are talking about the generation that will be living when the Lord Jesus Christ comes—for it seems as if nobody is devouring the poor and the needy. It seems as if the poor and the needy are being placed upon a pedestal, and anyone who is able to pay his own way ought to apologize for it. The only people who seem to be of any importance today are the people who are able to qualify for the dole in whatever manner the dole might be manifested.

A Generation of Persecutors

I would like to suggest to you that the poor and the needy are not referring to those who are poor materially, and that is why I am suggesting that verse 14 speaks of a generation of persecutors. There is a generation who is going to come upon the earth who are going to persecute the poor and the needy. This phrase, “poor and needy,” refers to spiritual individuals. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” It is that class of poor and needy that is described in this verse. When Agur said, “There is going to come a generation which will devour the poor and the needy, which will persecute the poor and the needy,” he was talking about the persecution of righteous people.

The persecution is described in the manner in which Agur describes it: teeth and jaw-teeth. In Psalm 57, which is prophetic in its import, we read David's cry concerning his own persecution and, speaking of his own persecution, prophetically of the persecution of the nation of Israel which is to come and which will climax the persecution of which we speak. Notice verse 4:

Psalm 57:

4 My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, [notice now] whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

Teeth and jaw-teeth are used figuratively in the Old Testament to speak of personal persecution of those who are God's own. A word about the prophetic import is presented, among other places, in Psalm 124. Turn there and notice the statement of Israel after many centuries of persecution, which will climax in persecution yet to come:

Psalm 124:

7 Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

Then notice verse 6:

Psalm 124:

6 Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.

Notice the word again, indicating the idea of persecution. At the moment righteous people are not unduly persecuted, but mark what I tell you. This age in which we live, if it is the age prior to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, which I firmly believe it is, will be marked by the persecution of righteous people. Thank God we have the hope that before the persecution becomes unbearable and we can carry on no further, the trump of God will sound, the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air because we have the promise that we shall be saved from the hour of trial which is coming to try the world.


Beloved, the Savior told His disciples before He left that they were in the world, but they need not be of the world, and that truth is applicable to this discussion.

We may be living in this generation marked by parental disrespect, marked by self-righteousness, marked by irreverence, marked by a spirit of persecution. We may be in it, but we don't have to be of it. But if we are not of it, we are going to have to guard our lives very carefully because we are living in an age that is the most brainwashed age that this world has ever known. The sad thing is, most folk are brainwashed before they know they are.

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