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.

Proverbs 29:27

An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.
– Proverbs 29:27

This verse ends the collection of Solomon’s proverbs collected by Hezekiah’s men, which began in 25:1. A thematic contrast between the righteous and the wicked has ran through this collection and finds an appropriate conclusion in this last verse.

The word for abomination speaks of something abhorrent and detestable. It is usually applied to what God hates (Proverbs 3:32; 6:16; 11:1 et al). In this saying, the word describes the intense incompatibility between the righteous and the wicked. This saying then also contributes to the wisdom theme of the two way featured so prominently in chapters 1-9.

A brief survey of this collection of proverbs reveals Solomon’s practical wisdom in touching on family, neighbors, friends, citizens, kings, rulers, etc. This, of course, demonstrates that the way of wisdom, the way of righteousness, not separated from mundane daily concerns, but rather the way lies through them. Of course, the way of wisdom in society gives a foretaste of the glories of Christ’s kingdom where wisdom reigns over all the earth.

Proverbs 29:26

Many seek the ruler’s favor; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.
– Proverbs 29:26

The word for favor literally means face and comes from a root meaning to turn. Favor is the dynamic equivalence of the term, for the sense is seeking favor. The contrast in the second line is judgment, or justice, coming from God. The contrast is further demonstrated between many seeking human favor and every man receiving justice from God. The saying contributes to understanding the folly of relying on men for justice rather than God (Proverbs 19:6).

Proverbs 29:25

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
– Proverbs 29:25

Fearing man is contrasted with trusting the Lord in this saying. The snare is a picturesque word from the hunting and trapping of birds or small game. The wicked and the fool are taken in snares (Proverbs 12:13; 18:7) but wisdom and fear of the Lord delivers from snares (Proverbs 13:14; 14:27). Fear of man seems safe but is a trap.

The word for trust means to take refuge and when Yahweh is the refuge, it typically indicates a covenantal relationship (Psalms 4:5; 9:10; 13:5; Proverbs 3:5). The refuge motif continues with the word for safe. It means a high place, or lofty place, and indicates security like being in a high, unassailable tower. The word is also used commonly for the protection of Yahweh’s covenant for all who trust in him (Psalms 20:1; Proverbs 18:10).

Proverbs 29:24

Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.
– Proverbs 29:24

The word for partner alludes to dividing the spoil, as it is used in Proverbs 16:19. A thief is obviously one who steals and is not a sympathetic case as in Proverbs 6:30. Proverbs opens with a warning against such a partnership (Proverbs 1:10-19). To join in with such evil doers is to hate your own life and to be taken in a snare (Proverbs 26:27; 29:6). It puts one in company with great fools (Proverbs 6:32; 8:36; 15:32; 20:2).

The cursing in the second line refers to swearing an oath. It appears only here in Proverbs, though it is used in the law to show that remaining silent when called to witness is a false witness (Leviticus 5:1). The word bewrayeth is an old word out of use today, but it and the underlying Hebrew word mean to expose, or make known. Such a fool has multiplied sin by dividing the spoil with the wicked and bearing false witness.

Proverbs 29:23

A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.
– Proverbs 29:23

Following a saying on anger is this saying on pride. The saying is similar to Proverbs 11:2 and 16:18. Pride leads to destruction and honor requires humility beforehand (Proverbs 18:12). The word for humble means low, or lowly. God rewards the lowly (Proverbs 3:34; 16:18-19) and hates pride (Proverbs 6:17).

Proverbs 29:22

An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
– Proverbs 29:22

Anger and fury here describe the disposition of the man who seeks strife and transgression. The saying describes one whose practiced habit is anger. The word for transgression means revolt, or rebellion. The word is often used to describe rebellion against God. Love for this sort of rebellion is coupled with a love for strife (Proverbs 17:19). The eagerness of such a man to stir up strife is captured by the saying that speaks of a man wringing blood from the nose (Proverbs 30:33). He loves strife so much, he will wring it out and force it if he has to.

Proverbs 29:21

He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at length.
– Proverbs 29:21

The word for bringeth up means to pamper. The saying seems to intend a negative consequence and would be paired with verse 19. The word for son only appears here in the Hebrew Bible and the meaning is uncertain. It is generally though to intend a negative outcome such as, grief, or weak. If the negative gloss is correct, the saying gives a warning for lack of discipline and proper training of a servant from childhood.

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