Proverbs 30:6

Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
– Proverbs 30:6

Verse 5 begins the two-part wisdom saying about the reliability of God’s word with the use of covenantal terminology, and verse 6 finishes the saying with a relevant admonition. The first line of the verse echoes the deuteronomistic warning Moses gave the second generation of Israel before entering the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 4:2.

The context of Deuteronomy 4:1-8 informs the intertextual use in Proverbs 30:6. In that context, Moses is rehearsing the covenant to that second generation, emphasizing their need to “hearken” and “do them” in order to possess the land promised to their fathers (Deuteronomy 4:1). They were to keep all of the Lord’s “statutes and … judgments” (Deuteronomy 4:1, 5, 8) without adding to them or taking away from them (Deuteronomy 4:2). Moses even called their keeping and doing of God’s commands “your wisdom and your understanding” (Deuteronomy 4:6). Statutes and judgments corresponds to the plural “words” in Proverbs 30:6, giving the warning not to add the same effect. Moses repeated the warning in Deuteronomy 12:32 and we have it again in another form in Joshua 1:7, where adding or subtracting is depicted through walking off path to the right or left.

The admonition here is about faith and obedience. The saying assures us God’s word cannot be improved. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were guilty of breaking this command and added and subtracted from God’s word by their own vain traditions (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:8-9, 13). Agur warned that when God reproves, or judges against his words, violators like the Pharisees will be proved liars. This is exactly what Jesus charged the Pharisees with in John 8:44, 55.

Proverbs 30:5

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5

Verses 5-6 form a wisdom saying about the trustworthiness of God’s word. This verse echoes a Davidic psalm line that was a part of David’s praise of Yahweh for fulfilling his word and delivering David from his enemies (2 Samuel 22:31). The line also appears in Psalms, such as Psalms 12:6 & 18:30.

The saying uses four terms that are frequent in the Psalms, sometimes all appearing together or in various combinations—word, pure, shield, and trust. Any combination of the terms, and especially a full combination, has strong covenantal implications. The word for word means an utterance, or anything spoken. It appears in all the references cited above. In all these uses, the term refers to the covenant promises of God. The word for pure is more often translated tried and literally means to smelt, refine, or test metal. The meaning is clear in uses such as Psalm 12:6 & Proverbs 25:4. The word for shield can refer to large or small shields, but is often used to speak of God’s encircling protection of those in covenant relationship with him (Psalm 3:3; Proverbs 2:7). The word for trust means to take refuge in and is a figure of the covenant relationship with God, being under his protection (Psalm 2:12; 5:11).

The saying means that God’s covenant promises are trustworthy because they have been tested and found free of any duplicity. Human covenants are often ambiguous and laced with loopholes, but it is not so with God’s covenants. Because his words are so reliable, he is a complete protection and refuge for those who trust in him. It’s worth noting that this verse and other similar verses, like the ones referenced above, are often used as prooftexts for Bible translations. However, none of these verses have anything to do with Bible translations

Proverbs 30:4

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?
– Proverbs 30:4

Agur asks six questions and most commentators have asked a lot more. The questions echo passages like Job 38, where the loftiness of God above humans is highlighted. The questions ask of might works, like Proverbs 8:24-29, which are creative acts of divine power and so, separate from men. Opinions vary about the “son” mentioned in the last line. Ultimately, Agur writes that wisdom belongs to God alone and comes down to earth in his Son.

Proverbs 30:3

I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
– Proverbs 30:3

Learning wisdom means gaining knowledge of God (Proverbs 9:10). Agur’s confession points to the human deficit of wisdom and the need for humble, reverent submission to acquire wisdom.

Proverbs 30:2

Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
– Proverbs 30:2

The word for brutish means stupid and can refer to animals as opposed to humans. Agur begins confessing he is more like a dumb beast than a human being in terms of wisdom. Beasts are without spiritual insight or concern, and are rather driven by animal needs such as safety and food (Psalm 73:21-22). The wisdom of Proverbs generally tends to humility (Proverbs 3:5-7; 26:12; 28:26). It could be said that wisdom is unattainable without it.

Proverbs 30:1

Introduction

The book of Proverbs ends with three collections of sayings that cap the book similarly to the beginning in chapters 1-9. Chapter 30 is the collection known as, “The words of Agur.” This collection of sayings is unique in ways form the other wisdom collections in the book. It is more autobiographical and not as generalized. In this regard, the collection reminds us of Ecclesiastes more than other proverbs. These sayings are called a “prophecy,” or oracle. It also contains the only prayer in the book (Proverbs 30:7-9). These sayings also clearly reflect the old covenant law, as there are clear references to four out of ten of the commandments.

The dominant theme of this chapter is the limits of human understanding and the human search for wisdom. Agur seems to acknowledge the noetic effects of the fall on human beings. Agur acknowledges that God’s wisdom had to be brought down to man. He also makes us of Psalms covenantal language for protection and deliverance.

The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
– Proverbs 30:1

This collection opens with several proper names we have no information about, Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, and Ucal. Various scholars have tried to find some connection to Solomon, or have sought to take the names as words rather than names. We know there were wisdom sages besides just Solomon (1 Kings 4:30-31), so it’s unnecessary to try to make every wisdom saying somehow coded to Solomon. The attempts at interpreting the names as words has yielded some interesting results, but no coherent translation.

The word for prophecy is most often translated burden. It refers to an oracle from God and is most often used in connection with the prophets. This means the sayings in this collection were given to Agur by revelation.