1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
Verses 1-33 – the first of two chapters that serve as an appendix to Proverbs.
“Agur the son of Jaketh” – probably a wise man like Ethan and Heman (1 Kgs 4:31).
”prophecy” – usually the message of a prophet. If “prophecy” is taken as the place name “Massa” (that is, “Jaketh of Massa”), Agur would then be associated with an Ishmaelite people (cf, Gen 25:13-14).
”Ithiel…Ucal” – perhaps students of Agur.
2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
“I am more brutish than any man” – an exaggerated expression of his ignorance as an expression of humility. Paul described himself as the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim 1:16)
3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
“knowledge of the holy” – or of the “Holy One” (God). This phrase occurs elsewhere in Pro
verbs only in 9:10.
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?
The use of rhetorical questions to express God’s greatness as Creator occurs also in Job 38:4-11; Is 40:12.
”if thou canst tell” – “Do you know?” god similarly challenged Job (Job 38:4).
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
“Add thou not unto his words” – cf, Moses’ warning to the Israelites in Deut 4:2.
7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
“Two things” – the use of lists characterizes Agur’s sayings (see vv 15, 18, 21, 24, 29).
8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
“food convenient for me” – ration or portion of daily food. Cf, Job 23:12 and the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:11).
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.
“Lest I be full, and deny thee” – Moses predicted that Israel would forget God when their food was plentiful and their herds large (Deut 8:12-17; 31:20).
”Who is the LORD? ” – Why should I serve Him (see Job 21:14-16).
10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.
“thou be found guilty” – since the accusation is false, the servant’s curse will be effective (cf, 26:2) – do do not suppose you can take advantage of a servant’s lowly position.
11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
“curseth their father” – punishable by death (see Ex 21;7; Lev 20:9; cf, v 17).
12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
”pure in their own eyes” – like the Pharisees (see Lk 18:11; cf Is 65:5).
13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
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.
“whose teeth are as swords…as knives” – the wicked are like ravenous beasts that devour the prey (see Job 29:17).
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:
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 grave” – its appetite is never satisfied (Is 5:14; Hab 2:5).
”barren womb” – in ancient Israel, a wife without children was desolate, even desperate (cf, Gen 1:2; 30:1; Ruth 1:11-13, 20-21; 1 Sam 1:6, 10-11; 2 Kgs 4:14).
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.
“The eye” – haughty and disdainful (see v 13).
”The ravens…shall pick it out, and the young eagles” – the loss of an eye was a terrible curse (see the story of Samson in Jdg 16:21). Since vultures normally devoured the dead (see Jer 16:4; Matt 24:28), the meaning may be that the body of a disgraceful son will lie unburied and exposed.
18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
Verses 18-19 – it is difficult to understand the four “ways” because there are no tracks that can be readily followed.
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.
“way of an eagle” – soaring and swooping majestically (cf Job 39:27; Jer 48:40, 49:22).
”way of a man with a maid” – probably a reference to the mystery of courting and how it leads to consummation.
20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
“adulterous” – see 2:16.
”She eateth, and wipeth her mouth” – making love is compared to eating food also in 9:17.
21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
“an odious woman when she is married” – probably one of several wives, who is miserable because her husband does not love her (cf, Leah in Gen 29:31-32).
”handmaid that is heir to her mistress” – she replaces the wife in the affections of the husband, perhaps because she was able to bear a child, whereas the wife was barren (cf, Hagar and Sarah in Gen 16:1-6).
24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
“conies” – the hyrax, or the rock badger.
”in the rocks” – which provide a refuge for them (see Ps 104:18).
27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
“go they forth…by bands” – locusts are portrayed as a mighty army in Joel 2:3-9.
28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.
29 There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:
30 A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;
31 A greyhound; a he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.
“greyhound” – the Hebrew is uncertain. Some translators interpret it “rooster.”
”he goat” – goats were used to lead flocks of sheep (see Jer 50:8; Dan 8:5).
32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
“lifting up thyself” – pride is condemned in 8:13; 11:2; 16:18.
”thine hand upon thy mouth” – stop your plotting immediately (cf, Job 21:5; 40:4).
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.