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This chapter owes most of its impressiveness to the author’s deep humility. He confesses that humility in Proverbs 30:1-1 Samuel :. From this position he shows both his abhorrence of arrogance in all its forms and his fascinating, frank description of his perception of the world and its ways. The groups of people and animals he describes teach us lessons without imposing them. The dominant attitude is that of sharp and often happy interest, which invites us to look again at our world with the eye of a man of faith who is a characterful word artist and observer.
The Speaker and the Addressees
We don’t know who has been “Agur”. We do know that he is “the son of Jakeh”, but we don’t know Jakeh either. The fact that his father is named may mean that he is a wise son who has listened to his father’s education. That he is a wise son is clear from the wise words we have of him in this chapter. His father will have rejoiced over his wise son. We have seen this father-son relationship several times in the previous chapters. This relationship forms the basis for the teaching of this book.
The fact that Agur is only mentioned here and is otherwise unknown to us, may mean that it is not so much about his person, but about his “words”. Together with that, he at the same time, is an example to us. We all have a name, but who knows us? Only a few know us. But if our name is linked to our wise words, our name will continue to exist because of our wise words.
The words that Agur has spoken are not just words either. These are words called “the oracle” or “burden”. “Oracle” is a word we often encounter with prophets (Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 14:28Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1Isaiah 19:1; Habakkuk 1:1). Agur’s words contain a prophetic message which God’s Spirit has placed on his heart as a burden. He feels the weight of it. He experiences what he writes. This makes him a prophet who speaks to our hearts and our consciences (cf. John 4:17-Psalms :).
He speaks as “the man”. There is no pomp in him. The arrogant claim ‘that’s how the LORD speaks’ that people sometimes make in order to focus attention on themselves alone, is missing with him. He takes the modest place of a human being, because he knows himself in the presence of God. At the same time, it makes clear that this man is speaking through the Spirit (cf. Numbers 24:3; 2 Samuel 23:1).
We also don’t know more about Ithiel and Ucal than the names mentioned here. It is possible that they are his children he teaches in the knowledge of Divine things. They can also be students he wants to teach wisdom. In any case, he had to deal with these two people on the basis of personal involvement.
It is striking that he speaks to “Ithiel, Ithiel and Ucal”. He mentions the name of Ithiel twice. As an application it can be seen in this way that he has dealt with questions that were only asked by Ithiel and with questions that were put together by Ithiel and Ucal. His attention is focused on personal questions and on common questions.
The Confession of Agur
When Agur starts his teaching, he does not speak from a high position, from the position of someone who thinks he knows everything and has an answer to everything. He starts by saying of himself that he is more unintelligible than anyone else (Proverbs 30:2). He also acknowledges that he lacks insight. In Proverbs 30:4 we see that he comes to this conclusion because he looks up and around and thinks of God. In the light of Who God is and the ways He goes, his mind and his insight are nothing at all. In that light, he assumes that others have more understanding than he does. This is the proof of true understanding and insight.
Whoever recognizes his own inability toward Who God is and what He accomplishes, has the right mind and attitude to teach others. It does not mean that Agur lacked intellectual abilities, but that he acknowledges that he is completely ignorant in relation to the spiritual understanding of life and the questions of life. Only God is perfect in His knowledge and understanding of life, and He alone can communicate it to people.
The psalmist Asaph comes to the same conclusion as Agur in another way: “Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was [like] a beast before You” (Psalms 73:22). This is the state in which all mankind finds itself. Yet there are only a few who realize this. It is only those who are connected to God by faith and live in a living connection with Him, as we see in Agur and Asaph. Whoever shares in their awareness, feels it so intensely personal, that in his own eyes he seems more ignorant than all other people.
In line with Proverbs 30:2, he speaks in Proverbs 30:3 of “wisdom” he did not learn and of “the knowledge of the Holy One” he did not possess. Here he says that the human teaching he has received has not given him wisdom in divine things and in God Himself. By “the Holy One” God is meant.
God is only fully revealed in the New Testament as the triune God. Agur and Solomon did not know that at their time. Yet they may already have felt something of it through the Spirit (see the words “Us” and “Our” in Genesis 1:26). We see this in Agur’s question at the end of Proverbs 30:4 about “His Name” and “the Name of His Son”.
What he says proves the effect of the Spirit of God in his heart. By this he realizes who he is in himself and what he knows out of himself. He belonged to the darkness in which the mind of man is darkened. For a man with a darkened mind, the insight into what life is, is nothing more than to wander around in the darkness. Therefore it was not possible to learn wisdom or to learn anything from the knowledge of the Holy God.
What he says is that God’s wisdom is so great that in comparison with it he has learned nothing from it. The deeper a person penetrates into the mystery of wisdom, that is in Who God and Christ are, the more he becomes aware of how little he knows. It is wisdom to know the limits of reason and wisdom. As believers we may know the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, while at the same time there is the deep awareness that that love “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-Psalms :).
God Reveals Himself in His Son
Agur makes it clear through six questions that he – and this applies to every human being – is indeed totally ignorant of God and the Divine things. These questions emphasize the actions of God and show that it is absurd for a mortal to think that he can explain God’s work or compare himself to God. They prove the exaltedness of God and the complete inability of man (cf. Isaiah 40:12; Deuteronomy 30:11-2 Chronicles :; Romans 10:6-Judges :; Ephesians 4:9).
It is undeniable that “heaven” is there, above us, and that man’s interest has been in heaven since time immemorial. The journey to the moon shows his longing for knowledge. His investigation of heaven, which he carries out from earth, gives him the awareness that he scribbles only at the hem of the universe. And going to heaven to take a look at it, is a lot different. Whoever did that? Or who came down from it to tell something of its secrets?
We know that Christ ascended into heaven. This happened after He had completed the work of redemption on the cross, had been in death, and had risen. From there He sent the Holy Spirit. In the Spirit He comes down to tell what is in heaven (John 14:18; John 16:13-Ezra :). When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He could say: “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man“ (John 3:13). He Who, after His work on the cross, was to ascend to heaven, was when He was on earth at the same time in heaven. That was so because He is the only begotten Son of God. He is the answer to the questions of Agur.
When we look under heaven, here on earth, we see things there too that man cannot grasp or control. The invisible “wind” is elusive and its power irresistible, but not to Him. In spiritual application the wind represents difficulties that enter in our lives. We have no influence on this, but we may know that Christ also has the wind in our lives in His hand.
The same applies to the tangible “waters”, over which man has no control at all. Waters speak of trials that may come into our lives and in which we feel we are drowning. But He is with us in the waters of trial (Isaiah 43:2). And what to think of “all the ends of the earth”, who “determined” it, or gave it stability? Here too He is the answer. He gives our life stability.
The atmosphere (wind), the liquid (waters) and the solid (ends of the earth), everything is beyond man’s control. Yet they are controlled. Agur asks for the Name of Him Who does this and for the Name of His Son. The “Name” and the “Name of His Son” are rightly written in capital letters, for Agur speaks of God. But God is still so incomprehensible to him, so inimitable, so full of secrets. To ask for the Name is to ask for the Being, for His features and attributes. Who will be able to know it fully?
He also asks for the Name of His Son. If God is so exalted and so incomprehensible, is there perhaps Someone Who can represent Him? Is there perhaps someone who can speak for God, or explain Him? His question does show that he lives very close to God and feels that there may be a Son who shares in the attributes of God because He is His Son. We must remember that the Son does not speak for God, but that He speaks as God, for He is God.
God “has spoken to us in [His] Son in these last days” (Hebrews 1:1-Exodus :). The prophets were people through whom God addressed Himself to His people. But the Lord Jesus, the Son, is not a means through whom God speaks. The speaking of the Lord Jesus is the speaking of God Himself! The prophets spoke on behalf of God. The Lord Jesus did not speak on behalf of God, but in His capacity as God. Certainly He did so as Man on earth, but that Man is God the Son. God Himself speaks as the Divine Person and that Person is the Son.
As remarked above, the truth of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is only fully revealed in the New Testament. Here, in the Old Testament, that is still hidden. We know that the Lord Jesus is the eternal Son to whom God has not transferred certain qualities, but Who is completely one with Him and has revealed Him completely on earth: “The only begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, Who has explained [Him]” (John 1:18). At the same time, for us too, it remains an unfathomable mystery of Who the Son really is, for “no one knows the Son except the Father” (Matthew 11:27).
For us, the questions of Proverbs 30:4 have been answered in the New Testament. There we see that they are about God and His revelation in the Son. Wherever God reveals Himself, He does so in the Son. We also see that the Son is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (John 1:1-Leviticus :; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). Everything is under His control and He brings creation to the goal He has set Himself. God will once submit everything to His feet (Hebrews 2:8) because He has accomplished the work of salvation.
God Reveals Himself in His Word
From his questions about God in relation to creation, Agur switches to the words of God, to what God has said (Proverbs 30:5). God reveals Himself in creation and He reveals Himself in His Word. Agur knows that God’s Word contains the answers to the questions he has just asked. God can only be known by His Word, for therein He reveals Himself fully, while in creation He only shows His eternal power and Divinity (Romans 1:20).
With Agur there is no doubt whatsoever about anything God has said. “Every word” God has spoken, without one exception, “is tested”, it is pure, immaculate (Psalms 12:6). Tested means that it has endured every test of fire and that its uncontaminated purity has been demonstrated. It also means that the whole Word of God is reliable. Nothing in it is deceitful or false, whether it is history, commandments, promises, or threats.
The second half of the verse gives the enormous value of the Word for our daily lives. Whoever is convinced of the value of the Word will “take refuge in Him”. Here we see the identification of the Word with the Person of the Son. We also see this identification in Hebrews 4, where we read that no creature is invisible to the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :). For those who take refuge in the Word, which is in the Son, the Word is, He is, a shield. If we are tested in our faith, God’s Word and His promises will prove to be a shield and protection. It is safe to hide in Him, what we do when we read and keep His Word (Psalms 18:30).
The trust mentioned in Proverbs 30:5 is followed by a warning in Proverbs 30:6 not to add anything to the words of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:18-Psalms :). This tendency is all too often present. The Word does not need to be checked for errors or completeness. It is faultless and complete. What has been proven to be pure becomes impure again through an addition.
Whoever adds is conceited and attributes divinity to himself. Every addition of foreign elements makes it impure. Whoever does so, proves that he is a liar, someone who is not in the truth. Additions we see, for example, when human writings about the Bible are in practice given the same authority as the Scriptures or even prevail over the interpretation of the Bible. Of the latter, the (theistic) theory of evolution is an example.
The Prayer of Agur
After God’s revelation in creation (Proverbs 30:4) and in His Word (Proverbs 30:5-Joshua :) comes prayer (Proverbs 30:7). Word and prayer always go together. Agur has expressed his absolute trust in God’s Word. Now he turns to God in prayer. He lives with the God Whom he trusts and with Whom he hides. Through his prayer he takes up the position of someone who is dependent on God. He has no confidence in himself, but all confidence in God. In this trust he prays a short and powerful prayer.
He asked for “two things”. He will call them shortly, but first he asks if God doesn’t want to keep him from these two things before he dies. “Before I die”, means for as long as I live. By saying it, Agur shows that he lives in the awareness that life on earth is finite, and also that it comes down to perseverance until the end. The thought of dying also means that he will have to account for what he has done in his life. Agur wants to live for the glory of God and not to be condemned by Him.
What Agur says in Proverbs 30:8-1 Samuel : shows great self-knowledge. He was aware of the dangers of sin. First of all, he recognized the danger of “falsehood” in his heart and “false language” in his mouth (Proverbs 30:8). Here it is about the mind, the interior, the motives. It is about sin and lies through which sin is expressed, about forgery in thinking and lies in speaking.
His prayer is that God will keep it far from him. He told his children or pupils Ithiel and Ucal in Proverbs 30:6 that they should not add anything to God’s Word so that they would not prove to be liars. Now he himself acknowledges his weakness and tendency to sin and asks God not to lead him into temptation, but to keep him from evil and his influences (Matthew 6:13). Whoever warns others must pray that he himself will be saved from the evil for which he warns others.
Agur acknowledges that only God’s grace can save him from it. He knows that he is capable of falsehood and lies and that he has no strength in himself to resist this. But with God this power is present. Thus he finds peace in God with regard to these dangers.
But there are other dangers as well, dangers that lie more in the circumstances in which the motives or the character may be in danger (Proverbs 30:8). He wants balance in his material circumstances. He does not seek great things in life. In concrete terms, he asks if God does not give him poverty nor wealth. What he wants is that God will feed him with the “the food that is my portion”.
The portion is the daily bread, which is needed daily. It corresponds to what the Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). More is riches, less is poverty (cf. 1 Timothy 6:8). Agur does not mind about poverty or riches in itself, for God can make rich and poor, but about what is connected with it, where it can lead to. He speaks about this in Proverbs 30:9.
Agur desires the happiest way of life. Poverty and riches both have their dangers. He wants to be free from the worries of poverty and he does not want to be vulnerable to temptations associated with riches. Being kept from both dangers is the best way to serve God.
He does not prescribe as if this is the only way a person can be happy and serve God. God can make someone rich. Then such a person may serve God with his riches. If God makes someone poor, he may trust in God in his circumstances. Paul has learned to deal with both circumstances (Philippians 4:12).
In Proverbs 30:9 he says what the dangers of both wealth and poverty are. If he were to end up in either of these dangers, it could lead him to sin. As a result, his life would no longer produce fruit for God. He then resembles seed sown between the thorns, about which the Lord Jesus says in the parable of the sower: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). “The deceitfulness of wealth” is found in “full”, and “the worry of the world” is found in “in want”.
Agur recognizes that if he has too much, he is in danger of becoming independent of God, of no longer needing Him and thereby denying Him (Deuteronomy 8:11-2 Chronicles :). If he did deny Him, he would do so as if he were a rebellious unbeliever like the Pharaoh, who also said, “Who is the LORD?” (Exodus 5:2). The challenging question “Who is the LORD?” means that someone does not feel obliged to Him, can live without Him and has enough in himself. Agur’s desire not to have too much is related to his contact with the LORD. His thinking is about God.
The danger associated with poverty lies more in doing what is wrong. Poverty implies the great temptation to be dishonest and to steal. What would you do if you have a gnawing hunger and see something edible somewhere that belongs to someone else? You can also tell yourself that the other person can do without it and you need it to stay alive. Maybe it is even for your children who are hungry. Then it seems justified in every way. But stealing can never be justified, how much it can sometimes be understood in case of hunger (Proverbs 6:30-Obadiah :).
Why is Agur afraid to steal? Because he would end up in prison? No, he is afraid to steal because it would affect the Name of God. Agur was known as a faithful, God-fearing believer. What insult would he cast upon the Name of God if he were to steal? He emphatically calls God “my God”, which indicates that he lives in a personal and living relationship with Him. Therefore, he cannot bear the thought that he would violate his confession of that Name by a sinful act. That is why he asks God not to put him in such a situation of poverty. As with the danger of riches, we see that the danger of poverty is about God in his thinking.
Agur is the rare example of someone who knows his weakness and openly confesses it. He pronounces that he does not trust himself. We are well able to talk in general terms and say that man cannot be trusted. But it is something else to say: ‘I don’t trust myself.’ Agur did not trust himself, but he did trust God.
We have seen Agur acknowledging his own ignorance (Proverbs 30:2-Leviticus :) and calling upon God’s Word for safety in life (Proverbs 30:5-Joshua :). We have also seen him praying that God will keep him from falling in temptation (Proverbs 30:7-1 Samuel :). He has spoken of his ignorance, but his appeal to God’s Word and his prayer bear witness to great wisdom and knowledge. In this he is much wiser and has much more knowledge than man in general. He recognizes the danger of poverty and he knows the serious dangers of wealth, on which man so easily relies, forgetting that he owes everything to God.
This prayer is reminiscent of that of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10), but as an opposition. Perhaps we should admit that we are more inclined to pray the prayer of Jabez than this prayer of Agur.
Do Not Slander a Slave to His Master
The life of a slave who does not already have privileges, should not be made even harder by accusing him to his master of things he has not done, with the hope that he will suffer even more. The master will not thank anyone like that for that. He will revenge the one who tried to do this evil. He will let it return on his own head in the form of a curse and declare him guilty of slander.
In spiritual application, this verse fits in well with Agur’s prayer. He has prayed for himself before God without at the same time denouncing others who are not like him. It is not for him to judge someone else’s relationship with his Lord. Paul points out to the believers in Rome the personal relationship that each had with the Lord (Romans 14:4). Judging the slave of another means stepping into the rights of his lord, which for us means: the exclusive rights of the Lord Jesus. We do not have to accuse our fellow slaves before the Lord Jesus (cf. Philemon 1:10-1 Kings :; cf. Deuteronomy 23:15-Nehemiah :).
Four Apostate Generations
Agur lists four things six times in Proverbs 30:11-Obadiah :. With this he draws the world as it functions after the fall. He begins with four generations that have the characteristics of the devil, their father. Every verse of Proverbs 30:11-2 Chronicles : begins with the Hebrew word dor, which is “generation”, that is, a class of people characterized by certain characteristics.
Agur observed the characteristic features of the people around him. Generations are therefore not successive descendants. They can, so to speak, take place in the life of one person. In the four generations he describes, we see a gradual increase in depravity. It goes from bad to worse:
1. Revolt against authority, no respect for parents (Proverbs 30:11).
2. Blindness regarding their real moral condition and their sinful life (Proverbs 30:12).
3. Arrogance and pride (Proverbs 30:13).
4. Aggressiveness and oppression of the poor (Proverbs 30:14).
The first characteristic of a generation that does not recognize God is the contemptuous rejection of parental authority (Proverbs 30:11). They are people who do not fear God and do not care about the authority given by Him. On the contrary, they curse it. They have no natural love for their parents, there is no respect for them.
They curse their father who conceived them. Their mother, who has carried and tenderly cared for them, does not receive a single word of thanks from them. “Does not bless” is a soothing expression, which also means ‘cursing’. It is one of the characteristics of the last days that children disobey their parents (2 Timothy 3:1-Deuteronomy :). We see the actuality of it around us.
Sin begins in the family, in the attitude towards the parents. The beginning of all deviation is the renunciation of God’s authority in family relationships. We are commanded to honor our parents because they have been God’s instruments to create us. Without them, we would not exist. Not recognizing that we owe our lives to our parents and that as a result we are obligated to honor them means that we do not recognize God as our Creator Whom we are obligated to praise. In our world full of disrupted families and broken families, this saying sounds like a destructive condemnation.
A generation that has renounced God’s authority by the parents sees itself as pure (Proverbs 30:12). This is the second characteristic of a generation that does not recognize God. The cause is that they have not been washed from their filth. That means they see their filth as purity. How foolish and blind is such a generation. “Filthiness” often refers to physical impurity, but here it is moral defilement (cf. Zechariah 3:3-Numbers :). This filthiness is neither physical nor can it be washed away by any human means (Job 9:30-Obadiah :; Jeremiah 2:22). The filthiness of sin can only be washed away by the blood of the Lamb and the Name of the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of God (Revelation 7:14; 1 Corinthians 6:11).
These people are proud to perceive the outward religious rituals, but not to pay any attention to the inner purification (Luke 11:39). They are busy with a clean exterior, but blind to their corrupt inner self. Everyone sees the filthiness except they themselves. They are clean in their own eyes and completely blind to their own shortcomings (Luke 18:11). But God sees the filthiness from outside and inside.
It is the generation that claims that filthiness is no longer filthiness, but clean. The open promotion, proclamation, and acceptance of homosexual expressions and connections, such as through the gay pride, is one of the most obvious examples. If God and His Word disappear from view because they are removed, the standard by which everything should be measured has disappeared. We must have the original to see the deviations. Only the Holy Spirit can convince us of sin.
Whoever is pure in his own eyes (Proverbs 30:12) looks down with despise on others (Proverbs 30:13), the third characteristic of this generation. This generation radiates pride, arrogance and brutality. They look down on their neighbor with contempt, while showing off like peacocks. They think they are stealing the show while making themselves despicable in God’s eye. It is a generation of proud people who pour out their contempt on anyone who resists them (cf. Psalms 131:1).
The fourth and last characteristic of that generation is cruelty (Proverbs 30:14). The pictures of the first half of the verse symbolize their cruel rampages. Their teeth are like swords and their jaw teeth like knives. The second part of the verse shows who their victims are. Like a voracious and insensitive beast, they open their ripping mouth to “devour the afflicted from the earth and the needy from among men” (Amos 8:4). Those who exploit and destroy other people are like animals.
It is a generation without compassion. The highly acclaimed tolerance they advertise is only a varnish. They demand it only for themselves. Everyone must accept them, but they themselves do not accept any other opinion. There is no trace of mercy in them, but only tearing brutality. We see this in the killing of children in the womb and the killing by euthanasia of the elderly or of those who are suffering ‘unbearably and hopelessly’.
Because of his belief in the theory of evolution, man thinks he is a higher developed animal. In reality he sinks deeper and deeper and decays to a behavior that can only be compared with that of the cruelest animals. He shows the characteristics of a ripping animal. He even surpasses that animal in cruelty, because he acts consciously and justifies his violent, cruel behavior by giving a twist to it that it is actually a good thing to act like that. It is the deepest form of depravity. The fact that man is the picture of the Creator who gives life and maintains it, has completely disappeared here. Every relation with Him is broken. The human being has changed into a predator with Satan as his model, who is a murderer from the beginning.
Four Insatiable Things
The four generations mentioned above (Proverbs 30:11-2 Chronicles :) are the leeches of Proverbs 30:15. The leech is the symbol of greed. He sucks blood through the suction cups at both ends of his body. Agur calls her “two daughters” here, one named “Give” and the other also named “Give”. The name “Give” is a “brand name” that you can stick on any form of greed. It is always about nothing but the satisfaction of a desire that in reality is never satisfied. Always the desire for more or different remains.
Satan is the great bloodsucker. He sucks life out of people. The instruments he uses for this are the ‘two daughters’ who are also leeches. The expression “three, ... four” (Proverbs 30:18; Proverbs 30:21Proverbs 30:29) is a Hebrew expression indicating that it is not something incidental, but something more common.
The “three things” are Satan and his ‘daughters’. This can be applied to the sinful desires of a human being, for they never say, “It is enough.” Satan and his daughters are insatiable leeches. To illustrate the dark nature of the sinful, insatiable desires of man, Agur uses “four” examples. So there are two daughters, three insatiable things, and four things that never say, “It is enough.”
The first example of what is insatiable is “sheol”, the realm of the dead (Proverbs 30:16; Habakkuk 2:5). The realm of the dead is like a house that is always open and where there is always room when someone has died. Numerous have preceded us since the fall. Never will the door close with a sign saying: Full. The door of that house closes only when eternity arrives and death and hades are thrown into the pool of fire (Revelation 20:14). This is not because sheol is full, but because there is no one left who can enter it.
The second example is “the barren womb”. She always takes up the seed again, but never gets the satisfaction she desires to give life to a child (Genesis 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:2-Ruth :). Her womb is thus equal to sheol.
The third example is the earth or a dry land. “Earth” that “is never satisfied with water”, will absorb water with the greatest eagerness, and will never say that it is enough (cf. Psalms 63:1-Exodus :). Poured out water is a symbol of the pouring out of life, which always continues (2 Samuel 14:14). In this way this example can also be linked to death.
The fourth example is “the fire”. The fire is never satisfied with what it can digest. It devours everything it encounters on its way and continues to do so insatiably as long as there is something that is flammable. Also everything that is thrown in is eaten up by the flames. Never do flames reach a point that they give back what was thrown in them because they have had enough. This is reminiscent of hell, the eternal fire, a fire that never comes to an end that always keeps burning and is not satiated forever.
Only the Creator can satisfy the deepest desires of a person, this is a life in communion with Him. Only He can fill the emptiness of the heart He created just to fulfill the desire for Him.
Mocking a Father and Scorning a Mother
It is not excluded that one who is not satiable may fall to the lowest sin, which is mocking and scorning the parents. As if they were to blame for the fact that his desires, which could not be satisfied, are not satisfied. Agur thus returned to the first characteristic of the generation in the midst of which he lives (Proverbs 30:11). Here he speaks of “the eye that mocks a father”. The eye reveals the inner attitude of the heart, and that eye is full of contempt. The contempt is deep. This is also evident from the scorn he has for “the mother” by not obeying her. God watches with which eyes a child looks at his parents.
The punishment is in accordance with sin. The eye that radiates so much mockery and scorn, will first be picked out by “the ravens of the valley”. Then it will be eaten by “the young eagles”. We can consider the picking out of the eye and eat it literally. It points to the dying of an early death, after which the body is not buried, but given to the birds of prey. God makes sure that these birds will pounce upon the eyes of this sinner. This judgment also confirms that such a person is blind to God as Creator. This severe punishment is applied to him who looks at his parents with such scorn.
Four Incomprehensible Things
Agur now looks at nature, where many things are wonderful and at the same time “too wonderful” or incomprehensible (Proverbs 30:18). Four times it is about “the way of” as an illustration of the ways God goes in creation and with people (Romans 11:33). Agur cites a few examples as an anthology. We know that God only includes in His Word what is important to us. So we may expect that we can learn lessons from these examples. Not that these lessons are always immediately clear to us, but that is typical of the book of Proverbs. We have to think about things, including things of which we have to say that they “are too wonderful for me” and of which we have to acknowledge “I do not understand”.
It is not easy to discover what the four things have in common (Proverbs 30:19). They are connected by the use of the word “way” and also by a sense of mystery and incomprehensibility. All four of them go a way that cannot be traced. When they have shown themselves, they disappear again without leaving a trace. Of the areas where they go their way, there are three geographical (air, land and sea) and one social (marriage relationship). The first three serve as illustrations of the fourth. The fourth is also the greatest miracle.
When we observe “the way of the eagle in the sky”, we are impressed. We can’t know in advance which way he is going. And when he has gone that way, we don’t see a trace of it again. The same goes for “the way of a serpent on a rock”. We can look at the fast and targeted movement of a reptile without feet. But we can’t predict what way he will take over the rock. When he crawls away in a crevice, he has left no trace of the way he has gone.
“The way of a ship in the middle of the sea” is just as unpredictable. There is no marked out path which makes it predictable which way the ship will go. When it has passed and the water behind it has calmed down, there is no trace left of the way it has gone. The movements of these three are beautiful to see. They focus our attention on the majestic and mysterious movements in the air, on the land and on the sea.
After covering the areas of air, land and sea, our attention is drawn to “the way of a man with a maid”. Herein we see the designation of the miracle of the attraction between a man and a woman and of unification in sexual intercourse. How a man gets love for a girl is a miracle that cannot be described in advance. And when the time comes for him to seek contact, it is also impossible to predict how that will go. Perhaps “the way of a man with a maid” is mainly about the most intimate part of the marriage relationship. That is completely cut off from any perception. It is the secret between two people, of which no one else knows anything.
We can make another spiritual application of the four “ways” described here. The way of the eagle in the sky can be connected to the coming of the Son of God from heaven to declare God on earth. It also shows His way back to heaven. This cannot be understood by the natural man (John 6:60-2 John :).
Also the way of the serpent on the rock is incomprehensible. What is the way chosen by the serpent, the devil (Revelation 12:9), to enter the creation created by the righteous God, Who is a Rock and free from deceit (see Deuteronomy 32:4)? And what is the way the serpent is constantly going and moving in God’s creation? How is it possible that the evil one can constantly come into God’s presence to accuse the brethren (Revelation 12:10; cf. Job 1:6-2 Kings :; Job 2:1-Joshua :)? We also see the way of the serpent on the rock in Satan’s attempts to tempt the Lord Jesus, the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 4:1-1 Kings :). He left no trace in Christ, for he found nothing in Him (John 14:30).
In the ship in the middle of the sea we can see the church among the nations of the world. The church has now sailed through the sea of nations (Isaiah 17:12-1 Chronicles :) for two thousand years. All this time the evil one has tried to destroy the church in order to make her suffer shipwreck. But she has been preserved in an inimitable way throughout all efforts (Matthew 16:18), for God leads her. God’s way with His church is in the sea (cf. Psalms 77:19-Proverbs :).
The way of a man with a maid leads us to the way of the Lord Jesus with His church. The way He has gone to possess her is inimitable. How did He take our hearts, how did we get the new life? We cannot verify this (John 3:8), we can only conclude. His love for us brought Him into the greatest suffering, into the anxieties of Gethsemane and the horrors of the cross, especially in the three hours of darkness, when He was made sin and His God had to leave Him. We can only worship Him for that.
We neither can verify how He is constantly engaged with and for His church. We know that He does so through His Word (Ephesians 5:25-Daniel :), but not in a way that we can perceive. Maybe He will tell us and show us when we are with Him. Then we will know as we have been known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Another way is described in Proverbs 30:20. This way is in stark contrast to the way of love of the previous verse. It is “the way of an adulterous woman”. She also doesn’t leave any trace of her unfaithfulness. Here again we find the opposition that goes through the whole Book of Proverbs, the opposition between Wisdom and folly, between the faithful woman and the unfaithful woman. This contrast is also found in Revelation, between the wife of the Lamb, the church, and the great Babylon, the great harlot, the mother of the harlots (Revelation 17:1-Joshua :; Revelation 19:1-Ruth :).
The latter indicates that we can also apply this verse spiritually. The verse shows that the love that Christ has revealed to the church is answered with unfaithfulness by the church. We see how Christianity, horrifyingly, is becoming increasingly unfaithful to Him Whom it confesses as its Lord. She connects herself in the most intimate way with the world by bringing in all kinds of worldly methods and adapting God’s Word to the vision of modern man.
The fact that this verse was placed immediately after Proverbs 30:19 supports the idea that the preceding verse is focused on sexual intimacy in marriage. The pictures that she eats and wipes her mouth are a covered indication of sexual activity (cf. Proverbs 9:17). What she does in her unfaithfulness is nothing more than a dinner for her. She removes all traces of the sin she committed and continues her daily activities as if nothing had happened.
It is astonishing that people can sin and then very easily shake off a sense of guilt or responsibility. This is only possible because there is a callous indifference to what the Lord’s will is for sexuality.
Four Things That Are Not to Bear
The common element in Proverbs 30:21-Isaiah : is what is unbearable. Agur gives four examples of this, which are equally divided between the two sexes. Each example indicates the abuse of power and prosperity obtained by persons who will take or receive a position that is inappropriate for them. They go against the order God has established. If God’s order is reversed, this will cause the earth to quake (Proverbs 30:21). They can’t bear up under that. It makes the whole of society unstable. The maintenance of God’s order brings stability and peace. In this way He wants everything in the church to happen “properly and in an orderly manner”, that is to say with His order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
The first example is that of “a servant when he becomes king” (Proverbs 30:22). For a servant to reign s not meant for him. If he gets that place anyway, it becomes a mess in the land, because he simply has no understanding of it. He who suddenly is elevated in his status, becomes an unbearable person. Everything starts to quake, because there is no clear government anymore. Such a change shakes the order of life. In the church everything also quakes when someone who is supposed to serve starts to rule (3 John 1:9-2 Samuel :).
The second example is that of “a fool when he is satisfied with food” (Proverbs 30:22). It is a lazy fool. The fool excludes God by definition. That makes him foolish. To feed such a man until he is completely full of it, turns the order of God upside down. Someone who does not want to work will not eat either (2 Thessalonians 3:10). If you do feed such a person, then he is not only feeling satisfied in his belly, but also full of arrogant self-satisfaction. Because he is satisfied, he doesn’t think about going to work. He spends his time proclaiming and performing follies. With such a person the chaos only gets worse.
The third person among whom the earth trembles is “an unloved woman, when she gets a husband” (Proverbs 30:23). An unloved woman means a woman who has nothing attractive, she has a bad character. That appears as soon as she is married. Then she takes control of the family. She does not use the power she has for good, but for evil. The relationships in the family are disturbed. Underneath that the earth quakes.
The fourth person is “a maidservant when she supplants her mistress” (Proverbs 30:23). She is similar to the servant who becomes king in Proverbs 30:22. The possessions she inherits suddenly give her a whole new life. She was a maidservant, but suddenly she feels like a mistress because of the inheritance. Instead of obeying, she now gives orders. This cannot be borne by those with whom she used to serve her mistress.
Four Little but Wise Animals
What the “four” which are “small on the earth” have in common is wisdom (Proverbs 30:24). The four little animals Agur mentions know how to deal with their natural disadvantages or limitations in order to survive. This instinct is placed in them by the Creator. He has made them “exceedingly wise”. How great is His wisdom! Man is naturally inclined to admire what is great, strong, and impressive. Here we see that this is not the case for God, not even in creation. We must not despise the weak things in creation, but learn from them. In God’s creation, God’s wisdom manifests itself in different ways. People can thus learn the value of wisdom (Job 12:7).
These little animals are “not a strong people” (Proverbs 30:25), “not mighty people” (Proverbs 30:26), they have “no king” (Proverbs 30:27), and without defense (Proverbs 30:28). The same goes for the church in the world. The church is weak, but in Christ all wisdom is available to her (1 Corinthians 1:26-Joel :; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
The wisdom exhibited in “ants” concerns their thinking ahead and their organizational ability to build up a food supply for later (Proverbs 30:25). The fact that ants are a people without strength is no excuse for them to be lazy. They know how to survive physically for the future. They are diligently preparing food in the summer, so they have something to eat in the winter.
They teach us to live in a future-oriented way (Proverbs 6:6). Just as ants gather food for their future needs, so should we read God’s Word as our spiritual food not only for today, but also for the future. Then at some point the Holy Spirit can use from that what is needed.
The rich fool had also gathered many goods for many years, but on earth. He never saw the future years for which he had gathered so much, because for him the future was only the earth (Luke 12:16-Ecclesiastes :).
We see the wisdom of the “shephanim” (badgers) in their ingenuity to find a place of safety and build their house there (Proverbs 30:26). They know how to survive in a hostile environment (Psalms 104:18). They seek their safety in the rocks. Their condition is extremely weak, but their position is very strong. It teaches us that our sense of weakness and inability must bring us to the rock, which is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), to build our house there (Matthew 7:24-Lamentations :).
The wisdom of the “locusts” consists in the orderly cooperation among them, which allows them to march on like a massive military division (Proverbs 30:27). He knows how to organize, he has a remarkable organizational talent. There is spontaneous unity and order. He does not have a king or queen like the bees, “yet all of them go out in ranks”, like a well-organized army. A single locust has no power, you can kill it just like that. But in swarms, locusts are invincible and all devastating (Exodus 10:13-Ezra :; Isaiah 33:4; Joel 2:25; Revelation 9:1-1 Kings :).
God has put that moving up together into them. The lesson for us is that the feeling of weakness must keep us as members of the church together and that we must strengthen each other. We can experience this in a local church if the invisible Person, the Holy Spirit, can govern it. This was the case with the Colossians. Paul could say to them: “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5). Are there any local churches to which he can say this today?
The wisdom of the lizard is its ability to even enter the palaces of kings (Proverbs 30:28). The weak, defenseless lizard, who can be grasped easily, knows how to get into the most secure, but also the most important, homes, such as “the king’s palaces”.
Numerous Christians have been seized and killed in the course of church history without defending themselves, but they have a home with God. Those who are weak may know that they have a prominent and secure place in Christ. Believers have royal dignity and are “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). With the suction pads on its feet, the lizard can move on the smoothest surfaces. He sticks, as it were, to it. In this way faith may attach itself to the dwelling place of God.
Four With a Stately March
To prevent us to belief that the small things in the previous verses are always better than the big things, Agur gives four illustrations of stately creatures. They are all leaders (Proverbs 30:29). The contrast with the previous four is clear. They are not powerless beings with whom you can do whatever you want, but they impress. They possess leadership qualities. The way they move has something majestic. They are “stately in [their] march” and “stately when they walk”. First we get three examples from the animal world. They form the run-up to the fourth, the king who has warriors with him, which increases the impression of his majesty.
The first animal with a royal appearance is the lion, which is mighty among the animals (Proverbs 30:30). “And does not retreat before any.” On the contrary, everyone avoids him and gives him free rein. His way of moving incites awe. It radiates power. He will not accelerate his walk to flee, because he does not fear anyone. By his power and majesty, he illustrates Christ, “the ruler of the kings of the earth”, “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:5).
We also see in “the strutting rooster” (Proverbs 30:31) a royal radiation when he parades among the chickens. We find something of it in the Dutch proverb ‘he is the rooster in the hen house’ (= he wins the victory). The rooster crows when the sun rises, at the beginning of a new day. It is a sign of a new beginning. We see this at Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus. When the rooster crowed, he was as it were awakened and repented of what he had done (Matthew 26:75). That was the beginning of the way back.
We can therefore see the rooster as a symbol of the announcement of the coming of the King. Christ will appear in majesty as Judge to judge the world and establish His kingdom of peace.
The walk of “a male goat” is also stately. With his head up, he walks proudly in front of the herd (Jeremiah 50:8), he is at the head of it. The male goat is the animal par excellence that was used as a sin offering. It reminds us of the Lord Jesus Who went to Jerusalem with royal dignity to die as the sin offering. He intended to go that way and do that work, and no one could stop him in it (Luke 9:51). That work is the basis for His return to earth, for through that work He has regained the right to creation.
Christ comes back to earth as “a king [when his] army is with him”. A king with his army makes a great impression. Nobody dares to resist him and nobody can withstand him. This will happen when Christ returns as King with His whole army (Revelation 19:11-Ecclesiastes :). It is the people whom He has sanctified for Himself and for whom He has brought the sacrifice. That people may reign with Him.
Pressing Produces Something
Agur does not end with the dignity that has been presented in the previous verses. That would have been a beautiful ending. But he ends with a warning that is a last call to humility (Proverbs 30:32-Micah :). The examples in Proverbs 30:30-Obadiah : are about leaders. A fool can draw a wrong lesson from this and presume to be that and exalt himself (Proverbs 30:32). Therefore, the warning sounds against pride in the heart (“exalt”) and bad thoughts (“plotted”).
Let him in whom this is found quickly realize that this is folly, and let him not express his proud thoughts (Proverbs 30:32). So, put your “hand on your mouth” (cf. Job 40:4-Deuteronomy :). With Job it is his hand on his mouth before God. With Agur it is his hand on his mouth in mutual relationship. It is bad to think bad, it is even worse to pronounce that bad thing. When the latter happens, people give in to the bad thought and others are influenced by it.
Exalting oneself and plotting is not yet the act. Yet Agur says that when pride and bad thoughts are present, this means that someone is acting foolishly. Thoughts are equated to deeds. The Lord Jesus confirms it. He says that if anyone “looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Therefore not only wrong deeds should be condemned and confessed, but also bad motives and thoughts.
Proverbs 30:33 presents three equations of what the result is if the hand is not put on the mouth. We see it in the word “for” with which the verse begins. If he continues to carry out his arrogant thoughts, he only causes disagreement. In his moderate leadership, he puts pressure on others. Pressing on something has an effect.
When pressure is put on milk, when it is stirred vigorously, butter is produced. The original healthy drink is no longer drinkable. If pressure is applied to the nose, if someone gets a blow on his nose, blood comes out of the nose. The original function of the nose to absorb odors, is switched off. On the contrary, blood loss occurs. The last example of pressure is what it is all about. Someone can be put under such pressure that he becomes angry and subsequently quarrels arise.
The examples illustrate the purpose of this concluding advice. Agur encourages us to strive for peace and harmony through a spirit of humility and righteousness. He ends his proverbs with the same thought he began with.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 30". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany