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The Mysterious Sayings of Agur

30 These are the collected sayings of the prophet Agur, Jakeh’s son[a]
    the amazing revelation[b] he imparted to Ithiel and Ukal.[c]
God, I’m so weary and worn out,
    I feel more like a beast than a man.
    I was made in your image,[d]
    but I lack understanding.
I’ve yet to learn the wisdom
    that comes from the full and intimate knowledge of you,
    the Holy One.

Six Questions

Who is it that travels back and forth
    from the heavenly realm to the earth?[e]
    Who controls the wind[f] as it blows and holds it in his fists?
    Who tucks the rain into the cloak of his clouds?
    Who stretches out the skyline from one vista to the other?
    What is his name?
    And what is the name of his Son?
    Who can tell me?

A Pure Heart Is Filled with God’s Word

Every promise from the faithful God
    is pure and proves to be true.
    He is a wraparound shield of protection for all his lovers
    who run to hide in him.
Never add to his words,
    or he will have to rebuke you and prove that you’re a liar.
God, there are two things I’m asking you for before I die, only two:
Empty out of my heart everything that is false—
    every lie, and every crooked thing.
    And give me neither undue poverty nor undue wealth—
    but rather, feed my soul with the measure of prosperity
    that pleases you.
May my satisfaction be found in you.
    Don’t let me be so rich that I don’t need you
    or so poor that I have to resort to dishonesty
    just to make ends meet.
    Then my life will never detract from bringing glory to your name.
10 Never defame a servant before his master,
    for you will be the guilty one
    and a curse will come upon you.
11 There is a generation rising that curses their fathers
    and speaks evil of their mothers.
12 There is a generation rising that considers themselves
    to be pure in their own eyes,[g]
    yet they are morally filthy,[h] unwashed, and unclean.
13 There is a generation rising that is so filled with pride,
    they think they are superior and look down on others.
14 There is a generation rising that uses their words like swords
    to cut and slash those who are different.
    They would devour the poor, the needy, and the afflicted
    from off the face of the earth!
15 There are three words to describe the greedy:
    “Give me more!”
    There are some things that are never satisfied.
    Forever craving more, they’re unable to say, “That’s enough!”
    Here are four:
16 the grave, yawning for another victim,
    the barren womb, ever wanting a child,
    thirsty soil, ever longing for rain,
    and a raging fire, devouring its fuel.
    They’re all insatiable.
17 The eye that mocks his father and dishonors his elderly mother[i]
    deserves to be plucked out by the ravens of the valley
    and fed to the young vultures![j]

Four Mysteries

18 There are four marvelous mysteries
    that are too amazing to unravel[k]
    who could fully explain them?[l]
19 The way an eagle flies in the sky,[m]
    the way a snake glides on a boulder,[n]
    the path of a ship as it passes through the sea,[o]
    and the way a bridegroom falls in love with his bride.[p]
20 Here is the deceptive way of the adulterous woman:[q]
    she takes what she wants and then says,
    “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Four Intolerable Things

21 There are four intolerable events
    that[r] are simply unbearable to observe:
22 when an unfaithful servant becomes a ruler,
    when a scoundrel comes into great wealth,
23 when an unfaithful woman marries a good man,
    and when a mistress replaces a faithful wife.

Four Creatures Small and Wise

24 The earth has four creatures that are very small but very wise:[s]
25 The feeble ant has little strength,
    yet look how it diligently gathers its food in the summer
    to last throughout the winter.[t]
26 The delicate rock-badger isn’t all that strong,
    yet look how it makes a secure home, nestled in the rocks.[u]
27 The locusts have no king to lead them,
    yet they cooperate as they move forward by bands.[v]
28 And the small lizard[w] is easy to catch
    as it clings to the walls with its hands,
    yet it can be found inside a king’s palace.[x]

Four Stately Things

29 There are four stately monarchs[y]
    who are impressive to watch as they go forth:
30 the lion, the king of the jungle, who is afraid of no one,
31 the rooster strutting boldly among the hens,[z]
    the male goat out in front leading the herd,
    and a king leading his regal procession.[aa]
32 If you’ve acted foolishly by drawing attention to yourself,
    or if you’ve thought about saying something stupid,
    you’d better shut your mouth.
33 For such stupidity may give you a bloody nose!
    Stirring up an argument only leads to an angry confrontation.[ab]

Footnotes

  1. 30:1 This section of Proverbs is attributed to Agur, who gave these oracles to his protégés Ithiel and Ukal. Agur means “to gather a harvest.” He was the son of Jakeh, which means “blameless” or “obedient.” Jakeh could be another name for David, Solomon’s father. Many Jewish expositors believe that Agur was a pseudonym for Solomon. Nothing more is mentioned about Agur in the Bible than what we have here, which is typical for other prophets mentioned in the Scriptures. Some believe he could be the “master of the collection of sayings” referred to in Eccl. 12:11.
  2. 30:1 Or “mighty prophecy.”
  3. 30:1 The name Ithiel can mean “God is with me” or “God has arrived.” This was fulfilled by Christ, for his birth was the advent, the arrival of God to the earth in human form. Ukal means “I am able” or “I am strong and mighty.” When placed together, the meaning of these Hebrew names could read “Gather a harvest of sons who are blameless and obedient. They will have God with them, and they will be strong and mighty.” This chapter contains some of the most mystical and mysterious sayings found in Proverbs, with hints of revelation from the book of Job.
  4. 30:2 Implied in the text, which is extraordinarily difficult to translate with certainty.
  5. 30:4 Jesus solves this riddle in John 3:13. Only Jesus Christ is the master of heavenly knowledge and wisdom. See also Eph. 4:7–10.
  6. 30:4 The Hebrew word ruach (wind) is also the term used for the Holy Spirit.
  7. 30:12 See Judg. 21:25.
  8. 30:12 The Hebrew uses the word excrement.
  9. 30:17 As translated from the Septuagint.
  10. 30:17 This is a figure of speech for demonic powers that will remove their vision. Ravens and vultures are unclean birds associated with demonic powers in Hebrew poetry.
  11. 30:18 The Hebrew uses a poetic style of saying there are three mysteries, then saying there are four in order to emphasize their great importance. There could be within this poetic device a pointing to the fourth as the key, or the most important.
  12. 30:18 Notice that each of these four examples have to do with movement and mystery.
  13. 30:19 This is a picture of the overcoming life that soars above its problems and limitations with the wings of an eagle. It could also be a hint of the prophetic revelation that comes to God’s servants mysteriously and supernaturally. See Isa. 40:31 and 1 Cor. 2:9–13.
  14. 30:19 The snake becomes a picture of our sin that was placed on the Rock, Jesus Christ. See Num. 21:6–9; John 3:14–15; 2 Cor. 5:21.
  15. 30:19 This is a picture of the way our lives, like a ship, sail on the high seas of mystery until we reach our destiny. Our lives contain mysteries, such as where God decided that we were to be born, how we were raised, and the companions who join us until we reach our desired haven. See Ps. 107:23–30.
  16. 30:19 The Hebrew word translated “bride” can also mean “virgin,” pointing to a wedding, thus implying the use of “bridegroom” instead of “man.” (Consider Ruth and Boaz.) More important, this is a beautiful metaphor for the mystery of the love of our heavenly Bridegroom (Jesus), who romances his bride and sweeps us off our feet. Love is a mystery. See also 2 Cor. 11:2 and Eph. 5:32.
  17. 30:20 The adulterous woman of Proverbs is a metaphor for the corrupt religious system. See Rev. 17–18.
  18. 30:21 See the first footnote for v. 18. These four events each depict a promotion undeserved, a displacing of one who is virtuous with one who is corrupt. Each promotion indicates that they will carry their corruption with them. The unfaithful servant will likely become a tyrant. The fool who becomes wealthy will squander his wealth. The unfaithful woman (or “hated woman”) will continue her immorality even after she’s married. The girlfriend who replaced the faithful wife will likely find another man one day.
  19. 30:24 Or “They are the epitome of wisdom.”
  20. 30:25 To prepare for the future is a mark of true wisdom.
  21. 30:26 This becomes a picture of the believer. Though feeling weakness at times, we can make our home in the high place, inside the cleft of the Rock. See John 14:1–3.
  22. 30:27 The locust army points us to Joel 1–2. There is an awakening army coming to devour the works of the enemy. Their King, though invisible, guides them from on high as one army.
  23. 30:28 Or “spider.”
  24. 30:28 Though we may see ourselves as insignificant (like the small lizard), God can place us in significant places where we can be used for him.
  25. 30:29 See the first footnote on v. 18.
  26. 30:31 As translated from the Septuagint.
  27. 30:31 Or “a king surrounded by his band of soldiers.” The Hebrew text is abstruse.
  28. 30:33 Or “Churning milk makes butter, and punching the nose brings blood, so stirring up anger produces quarrels.” The Hebrew contains a word play with the word anger, which is almost identical to the word for “nose.”

The Sayings of Agur

30 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh contain this message.[a]

I am weary, O God;
    I am weary and worn out, O God.[b]
I am too stupid to be human,
    and I lack common sense.
I have not mastered human wisdom,
    nor do I know the Holy One.

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
    Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
    Who has created the whole wide world?
What is his name—and his son’s name?
    Tell me if you know!

Every word of God proves true.
    He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.
Do not add to his words,
    or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar.

O God, I beg two favors from you;
    let me have them before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
    Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

10 Never slander a worker to the employer,
    or the person will curse you, and you will pay for it.

11 Some people curse their father
    and do not thank their mother.
12 They are pure in their own eyes,
    but they are filthy and unwashed.
13 They look proudly around,
    casting disdainful glances.
14 They have teeth like swords
    and fangs like knives.
They devour the poor from the earth
    and the needy from among humanity.

15 The leech has two suckers
    that cry out, “More, more!”[c]

There are three things that are never satisfied—
    no, four that never say, “Enough!”:
16 the grave,[d]
    the barren womb,
    the thirsty desert,
    the blazing fire.

17 The eye that mocks a father
    and despises a mother’s instructions
will be plucked out by ravens of the valley
    and eaten by vultures.

18 There are three things that amaze me—
    no, four things that I don’t understand:
19 how an eagle glides through the sky,
    how a snake slithers on a rock,
    how a ship navigates the ocean,
    how a man loves a woman.

20 An adulterous woman consumes a man,
    then wipes her mouth and says, “What’s wrong with that?”

21 There are three things that make the earth tremble—
    no, four it cannot endure:
22 a slave who becomes a king,
    an overbearing fool who prospers,
23     a bitter woman who finally gets a husband,
    a servant girl who supplants her mistress.

24 There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise:
25 Ants—they aren’t strong,
    but they store up food all summer.
26 Hyraxes[e]—they aren’t powerful,
    but they make their homes among the rocks.
27 Locusts—they have no king,
    but they march in formation.
28 Lizards—they are easy to catch,
    but they are found even in kings’ palaces.

29 There are three things that walk with stately stride—
    no, four that strut about:
30 the lion, king of animals, who won’t turn aside for anything,
31     the strutting rooster,
    the male goat,
    a king as he leads his army.

32 If you have been a fool by being proud or plotting evil,
    cover your mouth in shame.

33 As the beating of cream yields butter
    and striking the nose causes bleeding,
    so stirring up anger causes quarrels.

Footnotes

  1. 30:1a Or son of Jakeh from Massa; or son of Jakeh, an oracle.
  2. 30:1b The Hebrew can also be translated The man declares this to Ithiel, / to Ithiel and to Ucal.
  3. 30:15 Hebrew two daughters who cry out, “Give, give!”
  4. 30:16 Hebrew Sheol.
  5. 30:26 Or Coneys, or Rock badgers.