“The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough’: Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, ‘Enough.’” (Proverbs 30:15-16)
Let’s jump right into the picture of our leeches today in Proverbs 30:15. In the past, and to a limited extent today, leeches are used by physicians to suck excess blood from a person’s body and form reattachments. Although they are used very successfully in some micro-surgeries, the idea of a large, slithery worm that sucks blood is usually enough to repulse most patients. The writer of Proverbs 30 has a particular picture in mind, of a leech with two offspring. We are presented with an insatiable person who expects her offspring to suck the very life out of you. Give and Give must do it because their mother (or father) needs what they get for herself. But none of them are ever satisfied. The parent is sucking the life out of her daughters who must give and give without satisfaction to the parent leech.
In Genesis 30:1-2, Moses reported that Rachel was unsatisfied with her barrenness, while Leah was giving Jacob children, so Rachel demanded that Jacob also give her children. Of course, it was completely out of his power to resolve their infertility, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Rachel was acting like a leech, trying to get a child from Jacob and being determined to remain unhappy until she did. But Leah is also a leech, seeking as many children from Jacob as possible. Rachel and Leah were the sisters Give and Give who were never satisfied.
Leeches “are able to produce many chemicals in their spit that allow them to be for the most part undetected when they attach to a host. When attaching to a host, the leech will secrete an anesthetic from its anterior sucker so the host will not feel the bite.” (1) I think it is possible that we have many leech-like attachments to ourselves as we go through this life, without realizing it. Perhaps the writer of Proverbs 30:15-16 wanted his people to memorize this, because he gives us a handy tool: 1 leech, two children, 3 things that are unsatisfied, and 4 that can never get enough. Death claims everyone and returns no one, not being satisfied until all have died. Solomon recognized the advantage of knowing that we will one day die when he wrote Ecclesiastes, encouraging us not to become too attached to things “under the sun.” (2) Even the barren womb of a believer finds hope in the life to come where children are not the marker of self-fulfillment or success. Whenever someone asks me what I will do when I grow very feeble in my old age, (being single and childless), sit is an opportunity to express my gratitude for the end of all need for worldly comforts through death. In this life, we may feel drought-stricken, as if we need more and more to God’s reassurance to get through our trials and temptations. Our sin nature is like a fire that wants more and more fuel to keep burning.
But there is hope. John Gill says, “[the water] may be an emblem of good men, that have received abundance of the grace of God; and though they thirst not after sin, as they before did, and others do; yet thirst after God, more knowledge of him, and communion with him, and for more grace, like the dry and thirsty land, and cannot have enough of it.” (3) Jesus offers us the water of life. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
(2) Gibson, David, Living Life Backwards; How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End, Crossway, 2017.
(3) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-30.html