Proverbs 30 – The Wisdom of Agur
A. Agur the man.
1. (1) The words of Agur.
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, his utterance. This man declared to Ithiel—to Ithiel and Ucal:
a. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh: Proverbs 30 is a collection of wisdom from a man known only to this chapter of the Bible. When the men of Hezekiah gathered additional material for Proverbs (Proverbs 25:1), they added these words of Agur. We have no other mention of Agur the son of Jakeh.
i. Solomon wasn’t the only man of wisdom in his day or afterward. Other men of wisdom beside Solomon are described in 1 Kings 4:30-31.
ii. Some think that Agur is another name for Solomon (Ross says the Jewish Midrash asserts this) but this is unlikely. “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…I believe Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal, to be the names of persons who did exist, but of whom we know nothing but what is here mentioned. Agur seems to have been a public teacher, and Ithiel and Ucal to have been his scholars.” (Clarke)
iii. “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.” (Bridges)
b. His utterance: This has the sense of a prophetic word, inspired by God. Like Solomon earlier in the book (Proverbs 2:6), Agur understood that his words here came from God.
i. The wisdom of Agur in Proverbs 30 is filled with observations on life and the natural world. Agur is one “inviting us to look again at our world with the eye of a man of faith who is an artist and an observer of character. Cf. the words of the Psalmist: ‘I muse on the work of thy hands’ (Psalm 143:5, AV).” (Kidner)
c. This man declared to Ithiel: These proverbs are wisdom sayings that Agur spoke to two other men, Ithiel and Ucal. Again, we have no other mention of these men in the rest of the Bible.
i. Some interpreters (such as Trapp) have thought that the names Ithiel and Ucal were symbolic, hidden references to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. This is unlikely. “Ithiel, which signifies God with me, and answers to Immanuel, which is God with us; and Ucal, which signifies power or prevalency. But if he had meant this of Christ, why should he design him such obscure and ambiguous names, as if he would not be understood?” (Poole)
2. (2-3) Agur’s humble introduction.
Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And do not have the understanding of a man.
I neither learned wisdom
Nor have knowledge of the Holy One.
a. Surely I am more stupid than any man: Many previous proverbs teach that humility is an essential aspect of wisdom. Here, with poetic exaggeration, Agur declared his own limitations when it comes to understanding and wisdom. David said, I was like a beast before you (Psalm 73:22). Job spoke of man, who is a worm (Job 25:6).
i. I neither learned wisdom: “I have not been taught in the schools of wisdom, as the sons of prophets were, but must own myself to be an unlearned man, as the prophet Amos was, Amos 7:14,15.” (Poole)
ii. “Philosophy had failed him, and revelation was his sole confidence.” (Spurgeon)
b. Nor have knowledge of the Holy One: Agur was also careful not to boast of his spiritual knowledge. He brings his lesson to us with great humility, not from a position of superiority.
i. “Earthbound mortals cannot find transcendent wisdom apart from the transcendent Lord. Real wisdom must find its starting point in God’s revelation; in his light, we see light.” (Waltke)
B. Agur’s wisdom
1. (4) Man’s humble place before God.
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name,
If you know?
a. Who has ascended into heaven: In a section that sounds much like Job 38-39, Agur called men and women to understand their limitations in understanding God and His creation. The wise and humble answer to each of these questions is, God, and not man.
i. “Where is there a man that can do this? And none but he who made and governs all the creatures can know and teach these things.” (Poole)
b. What is His name, and what is His Son’s name: After challenging his readers regarding the natural world, Agur finished with a challenge regarding man’s limitations in spiritual knowledge. One can only know what is His name (God’s nature, character) and His Son’s name by God’s own revelation. In all these things, we humbly depend on God’s revelation for our knowledge.
c. His Son’s name: Agur knew there was something special about the Son of God. We don’t know to what extent he prophetically anticipated the Messiah, God the Son, Jesus Christ – but Agur knew that God had a Son, and the Son had a name.
i. “The Christian interpreter, however, cannot but think of the Son of God here and recall that he came down from above to reveal the truth to his people (John 3:31–33). Also, since ‘God’ is the only possible answer to the questions here, it is striking that the text speaks of his ‘son.’” (Garrett)
2. (5-6) The purity, strength, and integrity of God’s word.
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
a. Every word of God is pure: Agur valued and explained the purity of God’s word. It is all good and all helpful, being completely pure. Because it is pure it can and should be trusted.
i. Every word of God is pure: “A metaphor taken from the purifying of metals. Every thing that God has pronounced, every inspiration which the prophets have received, is pure, without mixture of error, without dross. Whatever trials it may be exposed to, it is always like gold: it bears the fire, and comes out with the same lustre, the same purity, and the same weight.” (Clarke)
ii. “Nothing is learned solidly by abstract speculation. Go to the Book. Here all is light and purity. While the secret things belong to the Lord our God, yet the things that are revealed are our holy directory.” (Bridges)
b. He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him: In the context of writing about God’s word, Agur explained that God is a shield. The sense is that God gives His pure word to protect His people if they will use the wisdom and encouragement of His word to put their trust in Him. Additionally, a shield is something we trust, and if we wisely trust God and His revelation of Himself in His word, He will protect us.
i. It isn’t enough to know every word of God is pure if you don’t take the next step and trust Him as your shield. “Notice (5b) that the aim of revelation is to promote trust, not bare knowledge, and trust that goes behind the words to the Speaker.” (Kidner)
c. Do not add to His words: God’s word needs no addition or improvement from us. We don’t need to take away from His words or add to His words (as in Revelation 22:18-19). If we do, we are targets of God’s rebuke and will be exposed as liars. If we say something different than God’s word, then He is right and we are wrong. He tells the truth and we will be found a liar.
i. “The temptation is to improve on the text if not by actually adding new material then by interpreting it in ways that make more of a passage’s teaching than is really there. It is what Paul called ‘going beyond what is written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6).” (Garrett)
ii. “Such add to God’s word as wrest it and rack it; making it speak that which it never thought; causing it to go two miles where it would go but one; gnawing and tawing it to their own purposes, as the shoemaker taws upper leather with his teeth.” (Trapp)
iii. “Such a practice is apt to make one a popular Bible teacher since people think that the teacher has profound insight into the text and can find hidden truths. Sooner or later, however, such superinterpreters will be shown to be wrong.” (Garrett)
iv. “How amply has this been fulfilled in the case of the Romish Church! It has added all the gross stuff in the Apocrypha, besides innumerable legends and traditions, to the word of God! They have been tried by the refiner’s fire. And this Church has been reproved, and found to be a liar, in attempting to filiate on the most holy God spurious writings discreditable to his nature.” (Clarke)
3. (7-9) A prayer for integrity.
Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
a. Two things I request of You: These verses contain a wise and humble prayer from Agur. He earnestly asked God for two things, and he wanted to receive them on this side of eternity (Deprive me not before I die).
i. “The author recognizes his weaknesses, both in his tendency to forget God when life is too easy and to turn in desperation away from God when life is too hard.” (Garrett)
b. Remove falsehood and lies far from me: Agur first asked for personal integrity. He wanted to be a man marked by truth, and not by falsehood and lies. Knowing God is a God of truth (Proverbs 30:5-6), he didn’t want such deception anywhere near him.
i. “The ‘falsehood and lies’ of v. 8 are the deceptiveness of both wealth and poverty. The former convinces one that God is not necessary; and the latter, that either he is of no help or that his laws are impossible to keep.” (Garrett)
c. Give me neither poverty nor riches: Agur’s second request was to have neither great poverty nor great riches. He wanted to be satisfied with God’s provision in his life (feed me with the food allotted to me).
i. Feed me with the food allotted to me: “But there is other food which is needful. The daily bread of love, of hope, of holy thought, and fellowship. There is other hunger than that of the body. But this also will be provided, according as each day requires.” (Meyer)
d. Profane the name of my God: Agur wanted neither poverty nor riches out of concern that either extreme might lead him to profane the name of God. He did not want to arrogantly deny God because he felt he was so rich he didn’t need God. He did not want to be so poor that he would use poverty as an excuse to sin (lest I be poor and steal). Either path would profane the name of God.
i. If a wise man like Agur was tempted to allow riches to profane the name of my God, we must also be on guard. “Even an Agur full fed may grow wanton, and be dipping his fingers in the devil’s sauce; yea, so far may he forget himself, as to deny the Lord.” (Trapp)
ii. And profane the name of my God: We instinctively want to honor and even protect the name of our God, even if our god is an idol. This statement of Agur showed that “In sum, the glory of God, not his personal need, motivates Agur’s requests.” (Waltke)
4. (10) Speaking ill of others.
Do not malign a servant to his master,
Lest he curse you, and you be found guilty.
a. Do not malign a servant to his master: This proverb has to do with harsh, unfair criticism (malign) spoken to another about a third party not present. It shouldn’t be done, and doing it without the knowledge of the one spoken against makes it even worse. If it is wrong to do this in regard to a servant, it is even worse to do it against someone else.
i. “Do not bring a false accusation against a servant, lest thou be found guilty of the falsehood, and he curse thee for having traduced his character, and in his turn traduce thine. In general, do not meddle with other people’s servants.” (Clarke)
ii. “Behind this injunction is a demand that one respect the person of the menial worker. His work relationship with his master is between the two of them; one should no more interfere here than one would interfere in a matter involving a superior or an equal.” (Garrett)
b. Lest he curse you: The one spoken against may rightfully speak a curse against the one who secretly maligns others. The curse may in fact come to pass if the one who maligns is found guilty of the offense.
i. “If the servant is innocent, his curse will count (cf. Proverbs 26:2), for there is a Judge.” (Kidner)
5. (11-15a) Foolish, sinful generations.
There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men.
The leech has two daughters—
Give and Give!
a. There is a generation that curses its father: The generation that disobeys God’s command to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2) puts its folly on full display. That generation sows seeds of conflict that will grow into a bitter harvest of personal and community strife.
i. “Many are the forms in which this proud abomination shows itself: resistance to a parent’s authority, contempt of his reproof, shamelessly defiling his name, needlessly exposing his sin, coveting his substance, denying his obligation.” (Bridges)
b. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes: The generation that is blind to their own sinful need will never be washed from its filthiness. When we ignore or cover our sin, it never gets resolved.
i. “Anyone who thinks he is pure apart from God’s divine cleansing conceals an unsuspected depth of depravity (Proverbs 3:7; 12:15). Jesus condemned the self-righteous Pharisees of murder and of belonging to this generation.” (Waltke)
ii. “There is a generation, a group of people, who may observe all outer ritual but pay no attention to inner cleansing (see Isa 1:16; Matt 23:27). Such hypocrisy is harmful in every walk of life.” (Ross)
c. There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes: The generation that walks in pride and arrogance will experience God’s resistance, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).
i. “Who are proud and insolent, advancing themselves, and despising all others in comparison of themselves, and showing the pride of their hearts in their countenances and carriages.” (Poole)
d. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords: The generation filled with greed devours everything as if their teeth were swords and their fangs like knives. They devour the poor from off the earth and, like the leech, can never be satisfied (give and give).
i. Devour the poor: “These cruel oppressors are marked by pitiful cowardice. They vent their wantonness only where there is little or no power of resistance as they devour the poor.” (Garrett)
ii. The leech has two daughters: “Personifies the blood-sucking horseleech, which had two sucking organs at each end (one to such blood, the other to attach itself to its host), as a mother of two (see v. 7) daughters. This leech could be found in all stale waters of Palestine and attached itself above all in nostrils and palate of drinking horses.” (Waltke)
iii. “Implicitly, just as the parasitical, loathsome leech must be quickly eliminated from doing more damage, so also the wise must either exercise precaution to avoid the greedy or take quick and decisive action to get rid of them and so preserve his life and health.” (Waltke)
6. (15b-16) Never satisfied.
There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”:
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”
a. Three things that are never satisfied, four never say “Enough!”: The thought of the generation that greedily devours everything made Agur consider that there were four things that could never be satisfied.
i. As was with the pattern back at Proverbs 6:16, the formula three and then four implies that the list is specific but not exhaustive.
b. The grave, the barren womb: The dead never seem to stop dying and the grave of humanity never seems to be filled. The barren womb feels the ache of its emptiness and what is often felt like an unfulfilled purpose.
i. “Barren women are most desirous of children, which yet are certain cares, but uncertain comforts. How impatient was Rachel! how importunate was Hannah!” (Trapp)
c. The earth that is not satisfied with water—and the fire: The earth seems to continually drink and absorb the water poured out upon it, and fire will burn as long as there is fuel to burn. These all are examples of things that never seem to say, “Enough!”
7. (17) The mocking eye.
The eye that mocks his father,
And scorns obedience to his mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.
a. The eye that mocks his father: This eye belongs to the fool, the one who mocks and disobeys father and mother. This upsets the social order and sets the generations in conflict.
i. “His eye reveals his inner cast of mind.” (Waltke)
b. The ravens of the valley will pick it out: Agur used a vivid poetic description to tell of the ruin waiting for the child who mocks and scorns their parents. The poetic image is doubled, sending multiple ravens and young eagles to do the terrible but fitting work. This fool was blind in his mocking and disobedience; this poetic image tells of a fit penalty for someone so morally and spiritually blind.
i. “The ravens of the valleys or brooks are said to be most ravenous; and the young eagles or vultures smell out carcases, and the first thing they do to them is to pick out their eyes.” (Trapp)
ii. The young eagles: “The mother eagle shall scoop out such an eye, and carry it to the nest to feed her young. Many of the disobedient to parents have come to an untimely end, and, in the field of battle, where many a profligate has fallen, and upon gibbets, have actually become the prey of ravenous birds.” (Clarke)
8. (18-19) Four amazing things.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand:
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the midst of the sea,
And the way of a man with a virgin.
a. Three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four: Agur gave no advice in the proverb, but reminded us all that there are things that are too wonderful for our complete understanding, things we should simply be amazed at and a bit humbled in the presence of. Agur gave his list of four amazing things.
i. It isn’t entirely clear what these four things have in common. There are many suggestions, and they can collectively be true.
· All four things are visible for a while, then hidden.
· All four things progress without leaving a trace.
· All four things have a mysterious means of progress or motivation.
· All four things move in the domain of something else.
ii. “The way of all four wonders move in and cleave to their appropriate and difficult environments according to an invisible course in an easy, intriguing, gracious, undulating manner, without leaving a trace and without being taught, and yet reaching their goals.” (Waltke)
iii. “It would be better sought in that of the easy mastery, by the appropriate agent, of elements as difficult to negotiate as air, rock, sea—and young woman.” (Kidner)
b. The way of an eagle in the air: The flight of a majestic eagle amazes us with its power, height, and grace.
c. The way of a serpent on a rock: The serpent suns itself on the rock, yet is ready to flee at the slightest disturbance – and can slither itself over hard and sharp rock without injury!
d. The way of a ship in the midst of the sea: A ship is so small in the midst of the sea, yet it virtually conquers the sea by using it as a road for travel and trade.
e. The way of a man with a virgin: The power of young love and its desire seems that it would overwhelm both a man and a virgin, but they marry and make a productive life together.
i. “This mystery might begin with the manner of obtaining the love of the woman but focuses on the most intimate part of human relationships. So the most intimate moments of love are at the heart of what the sage considers to be wonderful.” (Ross)
ii. “Using delicate imagery for love… his small poem sings implicit praise to God for the glories of creation, especially for sexual love.” (Van Leeuwen, cited in Waltke)
iii. “His awe of human ‘eros’ with a virgin stands in contrast to the adulteress’s who sees nothing wrong with demeaning her sexuality with another sexual partner to nothing more than eating a meal (v. 20).” (Waltke)
9. (20) The wickedness of the adulterous woman.
This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wickedness.”
a. This is the way of the adulterous woman: Like Solomon, Agur presented his wisdom in proverbs to his son or a young man. Surely this proverb also applies to the adulterous man, but because of his audience he has first in view the way of the adulterous woman.
i. “The fifth, and unnatural, marvel (20) is that of a person utterly at ease and in her element in sin; an act of adultery is as unremarkable to her as a meal.” (Kidner)
b. She eats and wipes her mouth: Since this woman is characterized by her adultery, her eating here is a tasteful reference to her sin of adultery. She satisfies her hunger for adultery, then (according to this poetic picture) casually wipes her mouth and considers herself blameless (I have done no wickedness). This adulterous woman represents many who sin against God, their marriage, their family, their community, their partner in adultery, and their own bodies yet consider it no wickedness at all.
i. She eats: Once before in Proverbs, eating was used as a symbol of sexual activity (Proverbs 9:17).
ii. “The adulteress lacks any conscience against smashing the very foundations of an ordered society, because, for her, gratifying her sexual appetite is no different from gratifying her gastronomical appetite.” (Waltke)
iii. “Wiping her mouth after eating means that the adulteress treats sexual liaisons the same way she does eating: she just finishes up and goes home without a care and certainly without a sense of guilt.” (Garrett)
10. (21-23) Four unbearable things.
For three things the earth is perturbed,
Yes, for four it cannot bear up:
For a servant when he reigns,
A fool when he is filled with food,
A hateful woman when she is married,
And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.
a. For three things the earth is perturbed: Using the three-and-four phrasing once again (previously in Proverbs 30:15 and 18), Agur spoke of four things that trouble the earth, that are fundamentally not right. Agur gave his list of four unbearable things.
b. A servant when he reigns: Agur did not mean a man with a servant’s heart like Jesus would later perfectly display. He meant a man with a servile, debased mind, who thought and lived as a slave instead of a free man. It is unbearable when such a man reigns.
i. “A servant who gains authority over others has neither the training nor disposition to rule well.” (Garrett)
ii. “The proverb does not have in view a slave like Joseph who rose to power through wisdom (Genesis 41:41).” (Waltke)
c. A fool when he is filled with food: When a fool is satisfied, it only rewards his folly and gives him the energy and the resources to be even more foolish. This, Agur tells us, is unbearable.
i. “Can we wonder that he causes trouble and is a curse, since he gives full rein to his appetite and becomes even more devoid of understanding than before?” (Bridges)
d. A hateful woman when she is married: This is unbearable because the hateful woman should never be able to find a husband, and there seems to be a fundamental injustice when she does. It is also unbearable for her husband and her family, to live with a hateful woman.
i. A hateful woman: “Points to an odious, quarrelsome, unlovable woman whom society rejects, the opposite of a prudent wife.” (Waltke)
ii. “The implication may be that she is naturally unpleasant (AV, RV), or that she is merely old-maidish, and her success has gone to her head.” (Kidner)
e. A maidservant who succeeds her mistress: This case is similar to the previously described servant when he reigns. When the social order is upset and unworthy ones dominate the culture, it becomes unbearable.
i. “The tension from the threat of Hagar in Genesis 16:5 and 21:10 shows how unbearable this could be.” (Ross)
11. (24-28) Four small yet wise creatures.
There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.
a. There are four things which are little on the earth: Agur looked to the world of animals and noted four small animals (little on the earth), yet they are exceedingly wise. No human trained them in their wisdom; they are truly taught of God – and so we may also be.
b. They are exceeding wise: Size doesn’t determine wisdom. There are big fools and those who are small and not just wise, but exceedingly so. Agur listed these four examples which each teach a principle of wisdom.
i. “But they are wise uniquely uses ‘wise’ for animals to denote their skill to cope and their masterful cunning to survive in spite of their severe limitations that expose them to threats that endanger their very existence.” (Waltke)
c. The ants are a people not strong: Ants are small and don’t have much strength compared to a person or a large animal. Their wisdom is shown in that they prepare their food in the summer. They work in the time when work can be done, and aren’t lazy or procrastinators. Hard work can overcome individual weakness.
i. “A quickening sermon do these little insects preach to us as they prepare for the coming winter. What must be the thoughtlessness of men who make no provision for the coming eternity!” (Bridges)
d. The rock badgers are a feeble folk: The conies or rock badgers (also known as marmots) don’t have the speed or strength to stand against a large predator, especially one with sharp teeth. But they wisely make their homes in the crags and make the strength of the rock their own strength. Find refuge among the strong.
i. “It shall be our wisdom to work ourselves into the rock Christ Jesus, where we shall be safe from hellish hunters.” (Trapp)
e. The locusts have no king: The locusts don’t seem to have any kind of appointed leadership or structure. Yet they have the wisdom to advance in ranks, overwhelming anything that is in their way. If the locusts fought against themselves, they would get nowhere. They fight against the vegetation that they consume. Teamwork can win the day.
i. “They are well know for their amazing ability to form gigantic swarms that can wreak devastation of a scale almost beyond imagination. Highly reliable eyewitness accounts of modern locust plagues border on the incredible.” (Waltke)
f. The spider skillfully grasps with its hands: The spider isn’t loved, but it wisely uses its skill and unique abilities to go anywhere it wants to, even in king’s palaces. Using your gifts and unique skills can take you anywhere.
i. Waltke (along with Ross and Kidner) suggests that spider may actually be gecko here, a “wall-lizard.”
ii. “If we take it for the spider, she doth her work painfully and curiously, spins a finer thread than any woman can do, builds a finer house than any man can do, in manner and form like to the tent of an emperor. This base creature may teach us this wisdom, saith one, not to be bunglers or slubberers in our works, but to be exact in our trades, and labour so to excel therein, that our doings may be commendable and admirable.” (Trapp)
12. (29-31) Four examples of majesty.
There are three things which are majestic in pace,
Yes, four which are stately in walk:
A lion, which is mighty among beasts
And does not turn away from any;
A male goat also,
And a king whose troops are with him.
a. There are three things which are majestic in pace: For the fourth time in his brief collection of proverbs, Agur used the three-and-four structure to explain four wonderful things, four examples of majesty.
b. A lion, which is mighty among beasts: The first example is given a brief explanation. A lion has respect from all other animals, moves swiftly, and never retreats (does not turn away from any). Courage displays majesty.
c. A greyhound, a male goat also, and a king whose troops are with him: The last three examples are given without explanation. Yet when we consider the speed and grace of a greyhound, we see majesty. When we think of the stubborn persistence of the male goat, we see majesty. When we think of the power and determination of a king whose troops are with him, we see majesty. Each of these moves with majestic pace, swiftly, stubbornly, or powerfully.
i. Waltke (along with Kidner) has strutting rooster instead of greyhound.
ii. “It is most likely that this was the greyhound, which in the East are remarkably fine, and very fleet. Scarcely any thing can be conceived to go with greater fleetness, in full chase, than a greyhound with its prey in view: it seems to swim over the earth.” (Clarke)
iii. Male goat: “How he walks, and what state he assumes, in the presence of his part of the flock, every one knows, who has at all noticed this animal.” (Clarke)
13. (32-33) The foolishness of self-exaltation.
If you have been foolish in exalting yourself,
Or if you have devised evil, put your hand on your mouth.
For as the churning of milk produces butter,
And wringing the nose produces blood,
So the forcing of wrath produces strife.
a. If you have been foolish in exalting yourself: Agur personally expressed his own humility in the beginning of this chapter (Proverbs 30:1-4). Here he advises his readers to not be foolish in exalting yourself. Instead, follow what James wisely told us to do: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10). If you start to exalt yourself, put your hand on your mouth.
i. “A humble heart will repress the sparks of this unholy fire.” (Bridges)
b. If you have devised evil: If you use the power and resources of your mind to devise evil, then stop. It is better to put your hand on your mouth and not say another word.
c. The forcing of wrath produces strife: This is the result of self-exaltation and the plotting of evil. As surely as the churning of milk produces butter and as surely as wringing the nose produces blood, so the expressions of wrath will make for conflict and strife. The wise man or woman knows a better way.
i. “Churning… wringing… forcing (AV, RV) all translate one recurring word, pressing (RSV) or squeezing.” (Kidner)
ii. “Those who make trouble get into trouble… Hidden in the second simile, however, is the warning that those who make trouble are liable to get punched in the nose!” (Garrett)
iii. “So the intent of this concluding advice is to strive for peace and harmony through humility and righteousness.” (Ross)
iv. “Too much stirring in an offensive matter bringeth forth brawling, lawing, warring, fighting.” (Trapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission