There are things that make society shake. This may seem a little shocking to us, because as Americans we are taught to cheer for the little guy. But this is not about the little guy - it is about situations that should not happen - and when they do - the earth shakes under it and can bearly bear up under it.
There is such a thing as decorum - and the proper way things should be done. In each of these situations something improper happens. That is why the earth quakes in each of these situations. The Bible is not putting the little man down in saying these things. Instead, what is happening is that when one of these four people gains access to these situations, the earth itself and society upon it, feels opressed - and often is because when it does happen, too often it is also ushered into a kind of "payback" situation as well.
One thing we can learn from this is the whole concept of winning or ascending to a position with grace and with class. Too often when one does rise up - they do so with an attitude that they are going to make all those pay who oppressed them. Let's look at these four and see what we learn from them.
The first situation is when a slave becomes king. The problem here is that Proverbs 19:10 speaks of this - and that this slave is probably considered a fool. It is not fitting for a fool to rule over princes. There are several situations where this might happen - but most of those would be ruled out by the fact that representative democracy did not exist when this was written. The only way a slave would become king in this time period would be by either murder or insurrection. Slaves did NOT become kings. But this slave did - and when he did there was treachery afoot. The problem with this is that when people overthrow governments - and especially when slaves and servants do so - the result is often a major disruption of society. The one in power due to deception and treachery will only rule according to the same standards by which he or she ascended to the throne.
The end of this scenario is oppression and domination of the public. It is a sad thing to watch someone in power abuse that power to remain there. When I think of all the governments that have begun with a slave or common man rising to power through military power and intrigue, none of the nation states over which they rule are blessed. It is not that I support the oppression of any people by monarchy either, but too often when the slave comes to the throne - his attitudes and actions do far more to oppress the poeple than liberate them.
The second situation is when a fool is satisfied with food. The fool here is the one who does not have any intention to work or to doing any kind of gainful employment. He is lazy and undisciplined - ungodly and unconcerned with adding anything to society. Thus, when he is fed, he simply continues to be a drain on society - and spreads his laziness. Anyone who has watched a welfare state in action knows that the world trembles and quakes under such a situation. I have no qualms with society taking care of the truly needy and those who cannot work, but that is not what is said here. What is happening is that a fool is being underwritten in his foolishness. He is fed, fat, and happy - and intends on staying that way without the thought of any kind of labor. In fact, what happens historically is that the fool becomes discontent with his provisions by the government - and complains for more. While he continues doing little of nothing - he causes great damage to society because of his drain upon it. Ben Franklin commented on the English system of welfare and was horrified by how it caused many in England to become lazy, undisciplined, and ungodly. The Bible clearly states that the workers appetite works for him - and that a principle is that if a man will not work - we should not let that man eat. Let him become hungry and he will get up and begin doing something to provide food for himself. Sadly, we see that attitude as cruel - when it actually is best for the person and for society as well.
The third situation under which the earth quakes is when an unloved woman gets a husband. Now here is one that seems out of place. Wouldn't it be a great thing for this unloved woman to get a husband? What is being said here?
The word for "unloved" here is a little too tame. The Hebrew word is "sane" and it means to hate. The King James does a better job of translating this word when it says "odious." That word fits better. Several other ways this is translated is as repugnant, hateful, bitter or hated woman. This gives us a much better picture of the woman who is getting married here. This lady is NOT going to make a good wife. In fact, Proverbs has much to say about her - and none of it is good. When you meet a man married to such a woman - or experience her children and friends - you come to understand why Proverbs says the earth cannot bear up under this. She is skilled at making those who love her as miserable as they can be. Such a woman does not need a husband - she needs a moral and social makeover!
The last is when the mistress takes the place of her master's wife. Here we have an example in Scripture, when Abaham mistakenly followed the bad advice of Sarah in taking her maidservant, Hagar as a wife. This was to have her bear children to fulfill God's promise - but this was not how the Lord intended to fulfill His promise. This situation brings jealousy to its most ugly manifestations. If this was the way it was between Sarah and Hagar - imagine the carnage when the situation is a man who begins committing adultery with his maidservant and allows her to supplant her mistress. Unfortunately we see this again and again in our society - maybe not with slave girls, because we've moved past slavery. Our problem is with secretaries and with woman who work in our offices and plant floors. A woman works her way into a man's heart (by the way, with very little protest from the whore-mongering man) at work and then becomes his mistress or wife by supplanting his current wife. The world quakes when this happens - and often the earthquake continues for years as the children are broken to pieces by the divorce and subsequent marriages that result.
Well . . . what seemed to be out of place at the start of this passage seems to be perfectly in order. God desires for us to avoid the social earthquakes that come with sinful social situations. He knows that the fall of man brought with it much social baggage. By following the wise and sage counsel of our God we can avoid picking up bags that we were never meant to carry - and in so doing - keep our lives much more harmonious as a result.