Verses 1–6

Some make Agur to be not the name of this author, but his character; he was a collector (so it signifies), a gatherer, one that did not compose things himself, but collected the wise sayings and observations of others, made abstracts of the writings of others, which some think is the reason why he says (Prov. 30:3), “I have not learned wisdom myself, but have been a scribe, or amanuensis, to other wise and learned men.” Note, We must not bury our talent, though it be but one, but, as we have received the gift, so minister the same, if it be but to collect what others have written. But we rather suppose it to be his name, which, no doubt, was well known then, though not mentioned elsewhere in scripture. Ithiel and Ucal are mentioned, either, 1. As the names of his pupils, whom he instructed, or who consulted him as an oracle, having a great opinion of his wisdom and goodness. Probably they wrote from him what he dictated, as Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah, and by their means it was preserved, as they were ready to attest it to be his, for it was spoken to them; they were two witnesses of it. Or, 2. As the subject of his discourse. Ithiel signifies God with me, the application of Immanuel, God with us. The word calls him God with us; faith appropriates this, and calls him “God with me, who loved me, and gave himself for me, and into union and communion with whom I am admitted.” Ucal signifies the Mighty One, for it is upon one that is mighty that help is laid for us. Many good interpreters therefore apply this to the Messiah, for to him all the prophecies bear witness, and why not this then? It is what Agur spoke concerning Ithiel, even concerning Ithiel (that is the name on which the stress is laid) with us, Isa. 7:14.

Three things the prophet here aims at:—

I. To abase himself. Before he makes confession of his faith he makes confession of his folly and the weakness and deficiency of reason, which make it so necessary that we be guided and governed by faith. Before he speaks concerning the Saviour he speaks of himself as needing a Saviour, and as nothing without him; we must go out of ourselves before we go into Jesus Christ. 1. He speaks of himself as wanting a righteousness, and having done foolishly, very foolishly. When he reflects upon himself he owns, Surely I am more brutish than any man. Every man has become brutish, Jer. 10:14. But he that knows his own heart knows so much more evil of himself than he does of any other that he cries out, “Surely I cannot but think that I am more brutish than any man; surely no man has such a corrupt deceitful heart as I have. I have acted as one that has not the understanding of Adam, as one that is wretchedly degenerated from the knowledge and righteousness in which man was at first created; nay, I have not the common sense and reason of a man, else I should not have done as I have done.” Agur, when he was applied to by others as wiser than most, acknowledged himself more foolish than any. Whatever high opinion others may have of us, it becomes us to have low thoughts of ourselves. 2. He speaks of himself as wanting a revelation to guide him in the ways of truth and wisdom. He owns (Prov. 30:3) “I neither learned wisdom by any power of my own (the depths of it cannot be fathomed by my line and plummet) nor know I the knowledge of the holy ones, the angels, our first parents in innocency, nor of the holy things of God; I can get no insight into them, nor make any judgment of them, further than God is pleased to make them known to me.” The natural man, the natural powers, perceive not, nay, they receive not, the things of the Spirit of God. Some suppose Agur to be asked, as Apollo’s oracle was of old, Who was the wisest man? The answer is, He that is sensible of his own ignorance, especially in divine things. Hoc tantum scio, me nihil scireAll that I know is that I know nothing.

II. To advance Jesus Christ, and the Father in him (Prov. 30:4): Who ascended up into heaven, etc. 1. Some understand this of God and of his works, which are both incomparable and unsearchable. He challenges all mankind to give an account of the heavens above, of the winds, the waters, the earth: “Who can pretend to have ascended up to heaven, to take a view of the orbs above, and then to have descended, to give us a description of them? Who can pretend to have had the command of the winds, to have grasped them in his hand and managed them, as God does, or to have bound the waves of the sea with a swaddling band, as God has done? Who has established the ends of the earth, or can describe the strength of its foundations or the extent of its limits? Tell me what is the man’s name who can undertake to vie with God or to be of his cabinet-council, or, if he be dead, what is his name to whom he has bequeathed this great secret.” 2. Others refer it to Christ, to Ithiel and Ucal, the Son of God, for it is the Son’s name, as well as the Father’s, that is here enquired after, and a challenge given to any to vie with him. We must now exalt Christ as one revealed; they then magnified him as one concealed, as one they had heard something of but had very dark and defective ideas of. We have heard the fame of him with our ears, but cannot describe him (Job 28:22); certainly it is God that has gathered the wind in his fists and bound the waters as in a garment; but what is his name? It is, I am that I am (Exod. 3:14), a name to be adored, not to be understood. What is his Son’s name, by whom he does all these things? The Old-Testament saints expected the Messiah to be the Son of the Blessed, and he is here spoken of as a person distinct from the Father, but his name as yet secret. Note, The great Redeemer, in the glories of his providence and grace, can neither be paralleled nor found out to perfection. (1.) The glories of the kingdom of his grace are unsearchable and unparalleled; for who besides has ascended into heaven and descended? Who besides is perfectly acquainted with both worlds, and has himself a free correspondence with both, and is therefore fit to settle a correspondence between them, as Mediator, as Jacob’s ladder? He was in heaven in the Father’s bosom (John 1:1, 18); thence he descended to take our nature upon him; and never was there such condescension. In that nature he again ascended (Eph. 4:9), to receive the promised glories of his exalted state; and who besides has done this? Rom. 10:6. (2.) The glories of the kingdom of his providence are likewise unsearchable and unparalleled. The same that reconciles heaven and earth was the Creator of both and governs and disposes of all. His government of the three lower elements of air, water, and earth, is here particularized. [1.] The motions of the air are of his directing. Satan pretends to be the prince of the power of the air, but even there Christ has all power; he rebuked the winds and they obeyed him. [2.] The bounds of the water are of his appointing: He binds the waters as in a garment; hitherto they shall come, and no further, Job 38:9-11. [3.] The foundations of the earth are of his establishing. He founded it at first; he upholds it still. If Christ had not interposed, the foundations of the earth would have sunk under the load of the curse upon the ground, for man’s sin. Who and what is the mighty He that does all this? We cannot find out God, nor the Son of God, unto perfection. Oh the depth of that knowledge!

III. To assure us of the truth of the word of God, and to recommend it to us, Prov. 30:5, 6. Agur’s pupils expect to be instructed by him in the things of God. “Alas!” says he, “I cannot undertake to instruct you; go to the word of God; see what he has there revealed of himself, and of his mind and will; you need know no more than what that will teach you, and that you may rely upon as sure and sufficient. Every word of God is pure; there is not the least mixture of falsehood and corruption in it.” The words of men are to be heard and read with jealousy and with allowance, but there is not the least ground to suspect any deficiency in the word of God; it is as silver purified seven times (Ps. 12:6), without the least dross or alloy. Thy word is very pure, Ps. 119:140. 1. It is sure, and therefore we must trust to it and venture our souls upon it. God in his word, God in his promise, is a shield, a sure protection, to all those that put themselves under his protection and put their trust in him. The word of God, applied by faith, will make us easy in the midst of the greatest dangers, Ps. 46:1, 2. 2. It is sufficient, and therefore we must not add to it (Prov. 30:6): Add thou not unto his words, because they are pure and perfect. This forbids the advancing of any thing, not only in contradiction to the word of God, but in competition with it; though it be under the plausible pretence of explaining it, yet, if it pretend to be of equal authority with it, it is adding to his words, which is not only a reproach to them as insufficient, but opens a door to all manner of errors and corruptions; for, that one absurdity being granted, that the word of any man, or company of men, is to be received with the same faith and veneration as the word of God, a thousand follow. We must be content with what God has thought fit to make known to us of his mind, and not covet to be wise above what is written; for, (1.) God will resent it as a heinous affront: “He will reprove thee, will reckon with thee as a traitor against his crown and dignity, and lay thee under the heavy doom of those that add to his words, or diminish from them,” Deut. 4:2; 12:32. (2.) We shall run ourselves into endless mistakes: “Thou wilt be found a liar, a corrupter of the word of truth, a broacher of heresies, and guilty of the worst of forgeries, counterfeiting the broad seal of heaven, and pretending a divine mission and inspiration, when it is all a cheat. Men may be thus deceived, but God is not mocked.”