Proverbs 30 – Words of Agur to His Son, Children, and Wisdom

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

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.

Proverbs 29 – Turning Away Anger, Authority, Children, and Prophecy

  1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

“being often reproved hardeneth his neck” – Eli’s sons died because of their stubbornness  (see 1 Sam 2:25; cf, Deut 9:6, 13).

”Shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” – cf, the fate of the mockers in 1:22-27.

2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

“when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” – see 28:12; see also Jdg 2:18.  The Israelites groaned in Egypt (Ex 2:23-24).

3 Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.

“he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance” – wastes his money (see 5:10; 6:26).

4 The king by Judgmen t establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

“The king by Judgment stablisheth the land” – the king brings stability through the practice of justice (see 16:12).

5 A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.

6 In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.

7 The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

8 Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.

9 If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.

“Whether he rage  or laugh” – the fool will go from anger to ridicule in his attempt to disrupt justice.

”rage” – like an angry bear (17:12) or the tossing sea (Is 57:20-21).

10 The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.

“The bloodthirsty hate the upright” – their schemes are described in 1:11-16; cf, Ps 5:6).

11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

“uttereth all his mind” – says whatever he feels when losing his temper (see v 9; 14:16-17).

12 If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.

13 The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes.

14 The king that faithfully Judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.

15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

16 When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall.

17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

“Correct they son” – teach him and train him (see 13:24).

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

“vision” – a message from God given through a prophet; a prophetic vision (see 1 Sam 3:1; Is 1:1; Amos 8:11-12).

”perish” – Lit, “are unrestrained.”  The people act without the moral restraint of God’s Word; possibly an allusion to the sinful actions of the Israelites while Moses was on mount Sinai (see Ex 32;25).

19 A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.

“will not be corrected by words” – servants, like sons (vv 15, 17), must be disciplined.

20 Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

21 He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

“delicately bringeth up his servant” – pampers his servant.

”Shall have him…son at the length” – the Hebrew lit. reads, “the end shall be trouble.”  The word translated “trouble” appears only here.

22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.

24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.

“cursing” – the swearing of an oath in the courtroom to tell the truth.

”and be wrayeth it not” – he will be held responsible for failing to testify against his partner in crime (cf Lev 5:1).

25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

26 Many seek the ruler’s favor; but every man’s Judgment cometh from the LORD.

“every man’s Judgment cometh from the LORD” – God controls a king’s actions and defends the cause of the poor and the just (cf, Job 36:6).

27 An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.

Proverbs 17 – Peace, Feasting, Heart Purity, Children, Coverup, and Money

1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

2 A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.

3 The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.

“The fining pot…the furnace” – silver and gold were refined to remove their impurities.

4 A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.

5 Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

“he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished” – the people of Edom in particular were condemned for gloating over the collapse of “brother” Israel (“Jacob,” Obad 110; see Ez 32:12, 15; see also Prove 24:17).

6 Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

“crown of old men” – cf, the “hoary head” of 16:31.  To live to see one’s grandchildren was considered a great blessing (see Gen 47:7; Ps 128:5-6).

7 Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince.

For the structure of this verse, cf 19:19; 26:1.

“lying lips a prince” – his right to rule depends on honesty and justice (see 12:22; 16:12-13).

8 A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.

“A gift is as a precious stone” – greed brings people under the influence of bribery a sad commentary on human behavior (see 18:16; 21;14; Ecc 10:19).  Elsewhere, bribes are condemned (see v 23; 15:27; 28:16; Deut 16:19; 1 Sam 12:3; Ecc 7:7; Is 1:23; Amos 5:12; 1 Tim 6:0).

9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

 10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

“reproof entereth more into a wise man” – one only has to speak to get the attention of a wise person.

“a hundred stripes into a fool” – fools deserved and received flogging.

11 An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.

“cruel messenger” – cf, the dispatching of Abishai and Joab to end Sheba’s rebellion against David (2 Sam 20:1-22; see 1 Kgs  2:25, 29, 46; Prov 16:14).

12 Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.

“bear robbed of her whelps” – sure to attack you and rip you open (see 2 Sam 17:8; Hos 13:8; cf the raging of the fool in 29:9).

13 Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.

“rewardeth evil for good” – like Nabal, who refused to pay David’s men (1 Sam 25:2; see Ps 109:5; Rom 12:17-21).

“Evil shall not depart from his house” – the fate of David’s family after his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah (2 Sam 12:10; cf, Jer 18:20-23).

14 The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

15 He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

“justifieth the wicked” – perhaps because of a bribe.

16 Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?

“price in the hand of a fool” – perhaps to pay the fee for his schooling.

17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

“friend loveth at all times” – Cf, David’s friendship with Jonathan (2 Sam 1:2; see 18:24; Ruth 1:16; 1 Cor 13:4-7).

18 A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.

19 He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.

“He loveth transgression that loveth strife” – A hot-tempered man commits many sins (29:22).  Or “gate” (Lit “opening”) in this context may be a figure for the mouth (‘he who opens his mouth wide”), meaning “he brags too much” and so “seeketh destruction,” including his own.

20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.

21 He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.

22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

23 A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of Judgment.

“taketh a gift” – receives a bribe.

24 Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.

“are in the ends of the earth” – he chases fantasies and is interested in everything except wisdom (see 12:11; cf, Deut 30:11-14).

25 A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

26 Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.

“punish the just” – see v 15.

“strike princes” – cf the beating and disgrace endured by Jeremiah (Jer 20:2; see v 10).

27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

“spareth his words” – see 10:19.

“an excellent spirit” – not a “hot-tempered” person.

28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

“a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise” – a fool who keeps quiet does not expose his lack of wisdom.  Cf, Job’s sarcastic comment in Job 13:5.