Proverbs 30:1 ¶ The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
Ironside: “Some commentators have supposed Agur to stand for Solomon and Jakeh for David; but the most straightforward explanation is that Agur was an inspired man of whom we have no record elsewhere in Scripture. His father’s name gives no clue to his family or tribe in Israel. Ithiel, which is translated “God is with me” and Ucal, “able,” are apparently his companions, or possibly persons who received instruction from him.”
Clarke: “From this introduction, from the names here used, and from the style of the book, it appears evident that Solomon was not the author of this chapter; and that it was designed to be distinguished from his work by this very preface, which specifically distinguishes it from the preceding work. Nor can the words in Proverbs 30:2, Proverbs 30:3, Proverbs 30:8, Proverbs 30:9, be at all applied to Solomon: they suit no part of Solomon's life, nor of his circumstances.”
Guzik quoting Bridges: “Nothing definite is known about the writers, and it is vain to speculate where God is silent. It is much better to give our full attention to the teaching than to indulge in unprofitable speculation about the writers.”
Proverbs 30:2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
Proverbs 30:3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
I agree with Clarke in that this doesn’t sound at all like Solomon; he was famous throughout the ancient world for his wisdom. This man Agur is basically calling himself stupid and lacking discernment. He also claims no knowledge of God or sacred things (from the Hebrew for “holy”). As we move forward in this chapter, this seems to me to be his way of expressing his humility in light of all that He doesn’t know and understand in comparison to what he does know and understand.
Ironside: “Agur was a plain, simple man, of little natural ability, perhaps even below average in human intelligence. Yet the Lord opened his understanding, revealing to him great and precious things; and He gave him the wisdom to impart these truths to not only Ithiel and Ucal, but untold thousands who are still profiting from his words.”
Proverbs 30:4 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?
I think it is obvious that these questions are rhetorical. The LORD God is the obvious answer. I think he was quite familiar with the scripture.
Psalm 139:1 “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me….If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there….”
Jeremiah 10:10 “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God….and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.”
Job 26:8 “He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.”
Isaiah 40:28 “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?”
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Proverbs 30:6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
The first part of verse 5 is an inspired statement of the infallibility of God’s word. It is because of that infallibility that God can be trusted to protect and take care of those that put their faith in Him. God’s word is full of promises to this effect. We should be careful, however, not to add to what God has said. To do so is to be subject to His reproof and identified as a liar. Moses warned of this very thing.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
John also repeats this warning in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 22:18–19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
These verses both encourage me as I seek to share my studies of the scripture with others, while also giving me a healthy fear of misrepresenting the truth of His word. I try to be very careful to note that I am sharing the truth as I understand it, but that I am always subject to correction and/or further enlightenment. I know that I am accountable to God, and I so want to rightly represent Him.
Ironside: “In each age there have been visionaries and enthusiasts, as well as frauds and charlatans, who have sought to supplement the Bible with revelations and compilations of their own, claiming divine authority. But when compared with these writings, the Holy Scripture shines forth like a diamond of beauty and value surrounded by worthless bits of glass and paste. The Bible alone is truth. All imitations are lies that deceive the one who believes and follows them.”
Proverbs 30:7 ¶ Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
Proverbs 30:9 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.
I can certainly identify with the writer’s thoughts in these verses. He is asking God to cleanse him of all idolatry, immorality (from the Hebrew for “vanity”) lying and unclean speech (from Hebrew for “lying”) and to keep him in a position of dependence upon Him until he dies. He doesn’t want to be so rich that he is tempted to think he is self-sufficient, and he doesn’t want to be so poor that he is tempted to steal or to use God’s name irreverently.
Obviously, there are times when I wish I had more money; however, I am so thankful that I am in a position of daily dependence upon the LORD. As His child, I know that He wants what is best for me and would never withhold anything that is good from me.
Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
Matthew 7:11 “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
And in Luke, the LORD clarifies that all good gifts come through the Holy Spirit.
Luke 11:13 “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Proverbs 30:10 ¶ Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.
Agur warns against speaking slander against a servant to his master, or he will treat you with contempt and seek to punish you for it. I can read the “he” as referring to either the servant or the master, though the immediate antecedent is the master. Slanderous accusation is by definition a false accusation with intent to harm. Neither the servant or the master will respect you once the truth is known.
Proverbs 30:11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
Proverbs 30:12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
Proverbs 30:13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
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.
The writer seems to be identifying four different groups of people with the implication that you don’t want to be identified with any of them.
Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother….”
I couldn’t help but think of the LORD’s words to the church at Laodicea.
Revelation 3:17–18 “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
This is the exact opposite of the LORD’s will.
Leviticus 25:35 “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.”
I am reminded of the words of James, warning us of the power of the tongue.
James 3:5–8 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
Ironside: “This generation of people is typified in the New Testament by the Pharisees. Outwardly they were cold and proud, correct and pious, while secretly they devoured widows’ houses and did not heed the cry of the poor.”
Proverbs 30:15 ¶ The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:
Proverbs 30:16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
The writer references the insatiability of the leech and makes the comparison to four other things that are never filled to satisfaction—the grave, the barren womb, the desert’s need for water, the fire’s need for fuel.
I’m not sure what the application is. In light of the grave, I am reminded that death comes to all. In light of the barren womb, I think of the natural desire of a woman to have children, e.g., Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Elizabeth from scripture. In light of the desert needing water, it brings to mind that we are but dust in need of the streams of living water that only Jesus can provide. In light of the fire, I think of how we should burn with the desire to share the good news and the desire to become more like Jesus.
Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
I think the writer is painting a word picture of the terrible judgment that will be leveled against one who dishonors his parents through scorn and disobedience.
EBC Abridged: “The eye manifests the inner heart attitude—so the contemptuous look runs deep.”
Proverbs 30:18 ¶ There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
Proverbs 30:19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
In this set of verses the writer identifies four things that are amazing to him:
The implication seems to be that these are just some of the many things that are beyond his understanding.
Proverbs 30:20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
Adultery is the sin of a married partner being unfaithful. The adulterous woman is pictured as one that sees no wrong in satisfying her sexual appetite through unfaithfulness to her husband.
Ironside: “Hardened in conscience, she lives in her sin; but like the eater who wipes his mouth and removes all evidence of his eating, she hides her guilt and boldly says, ‘I have done no wickedness.’”
Proverbs 30:21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
Proverbs 30:22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
Proverbs 30:23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
The writer identifies four things that can cause the people on earth to quake with anger or fear.
Guzik: “When a fool is satisfied, it only rewards his folly and gives him the energy and the resources to be even more foolish.”
Ironside: “The Septuagint renders the clause ‘A handmaid when she hath supplanted her mistress.’ A home is completely destroyed when one employed as a servant wins the husband’s affections, alienating his wife and children.”
Proverbs 30:24 ¶ There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
Proverbs 30:25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
Proverbs 30:26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
Proverbs 30:27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
Proverbs 30:28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.
Agur makes note of some tiny creatures of nature with naturally wise instincts.
Obviously, the LORD created these animals to possess these “wise” actions as aids to their survival. There are certainly many more creatures with miraculous natural instincts throughout the world. Maybe the author singled these out to make an even more obvious contrast against the actions of foolish men; even these tiny creatures display more wisdom than such a person.
Smith: “From the ant we learn the wisdom of preparing for the future….The coney, the little hyrax, teaches us the wisdom of recognizing our own weakness and feebleness and to take shelter in that which is stronger than we are….that rock, Jesus Christ….The locust shows wisdom in his cooperative efforts. By himself, the locust can do no harm. As he goes forth in bands, he can be devastating. Oh, that the church would learn the lesson of working together, cooperative endeavors for the kingdom of God….And finally, the gecko shows its wisdom by taking hold with his hands and as the result, dwells in king's palaces. Even as we are to take hold of the promises of God as they of the Old Testament did, that we might dwell one day in the King's palace.”
Proverbs 30:29 ¶ There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:
Proverbs 30:30 A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;
Proverbs 30:31 A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.
In this set of verses, Agur identifies four creatures that walk in beauty with bold confidence and demand the respect of other creatures.
Ironside: “The lion is characterized by unflinching boldness; it represents that holy courage which should mark the Christian soldier as he contends earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints….As a girded animal does not rest until it reaches its prey or the goal to which it is running, so the saint is to press swiftly on, refusing to be turned aside by the attractions of this world….The Christian must walk on the high places; then like Habakkuk, he will be able to rejoice in the day of trouble and joy in the God of his salvation when everything of earth seems to fail (Habakkuk 3:17-19). From the soul of the climbing saint there will ever be melody. A heavenly-minded soul is lifted above all the mists of this poor world and enabled to view all from God’s standpoint….the king going forth in undisputed, majestic strength. It is the overcomer, the man of faith, made a king unto God; his dignity is never greater than when he walks in lowliness and meekness through this world, drawing his supplies from above not from below. Great is the honor conferred on all who have been redeemed. No longer children of the night, but of the day, they are called to overcome the world in the power of the truth revealed to them by faith.”
Proverbs 30:32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
Proverbs 30:33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.
I like the NLT: “If you have been a fool by being proud or plotting evil, don’t brag about it—cover your mouth with your hand in shame. As the beating of cream yields butter, and a blow to the nose causes bleeding, so anger causes quarrels.”
The converse is implied—The wise person that chooses to do good in obedience to God’s law will promote peace just as surely as a beautiful sunrise gives joy and the flight of the eagle provokes our awe.
Ironside: “It is so easy to provoke another to anger. To do so betrays a soul that is out of communion with God and a disobedient spirit.”