Proverbs 30:12

There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
– Proverbs 30:12

Verses 12-14 of this group, beginning with verse 11, all use metaphoric references—eyes, eyelids, teeth, and jaw. The generation, or group, in this saying are guilty of self-justifying pride (Proverbs 20:9; 21:2). The word for pure means clean and can refer to cleanness in a physical, moral, or ceremonial sense. The word for filthiness is a strong word that can refer to excrement (2 Kings 18:27). The saying depends on a contrasting parallel of people proclaiming their own cleanness while they are covered with dung. The imagery is shocking and even disgusting, but it reflects the true view God has of our own cleanness (Proverbs 16:2; Isaiah 64:6).

Proverbs 30:11

There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
– Proverbs 30:11

Verses 11-14 are a group of sayings with the general theme of pride and arrogance. The word for generation can refer to an age, as in a period of time, or the people living in that age. Here it refers to a class or group of people characterized by dishonor to parents, or rebellion. The saying uses parallelism to state the sinful folly negatively and positively. Cursing and not blessing are the sins of commission and omission, both prohibited by the law (Exodus 20:12; 21:17; Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 27:16) and wisdom (Proverbs 19:26; 20:20; 28:24; 30:17). The Pharisees neglected this command in their parents’ old age by teaching the practice of Corban (Mark 7:9-13). Paul later wrote that such a one denied the faith (1 Timothy 5:4, 8).

Proverbs 30:10

Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.
– Proverbs 30:10

Verse 10 begins the more proverbial section of Agur’s words. Consistent with wisdom sayings, Agur focuses on the tongue and is rooted in Dueteronomic code (Deuteronomy 5:11-21). The word for accuse can range from neutral to malicious, and here the idea is of slander. The law did provide protections for slaves, such as in Deuteronomy 23:15-16. The result of such slander will be a curse and punishment for being guilty.

This wisdom saying has two primary applications. We are not to despise someone of inferior station, as if false accusation doesn’t matter when against the lowly. Also, we are not to meddle in the affairs of others, such as the business between a slave and master. Paul applied wisdom this way to the churches in Rome in Romans 14:4 over the matter of judging one another in areas of Christian liberty. Paul also applied such Torah wisdom to the church at Corinth and their divisive judging and comparing of preachers (1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Proverbs 30:9

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.
– Proverbs 30:9

Verse 9 finishes Agur’s prayer. The prayer echoes the model prayer request for leading not into temptation (Matthew 6:13). Agur’s concern is for the dangers associated with being full or being poor. Fullness could lead to self-reliance and forgetting, or denying God. Israel was warned against this very reality (Deuteronomy 8:12-17). Such denial could manifest in forgetting God, Who is the Lord? Though not necessarily denying God’s existences outright, such a mindset relegates God to irrelevance in one’s life (Job 21:14-15; Psalm 10:4-11; 14:1).

The second danger comes with emptiness, lack, and want. It seems the biblical evidence would point to prosperity as the greater danger (Matthew 19:23), but severe poverty also presents temptation. A loss of faith, and patience coupled with a hungry belly could prompt him to steal. Such an act would give opportunity for mockers to blaspheme the God he professed (2 Samuel 12:14).

Proverbs 30:8

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
– Proverbs 30:8

This verse continues Agur’s prayer. He prays for daily bread and to be kept from falsehood and uselessness. In asking for neither poverty nor riches, he seeks a balance to his possessions and contentment.

Proverbs 30:7

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
– Proverbs 30:7

Verses 7-9 bring Agur’s opening to a close with the only prayer in the book of Proverbs. The word for require means to ask or request. It can mean demand, but probably is not that forceful here. The request is given for the timeframe of his mortal life—before I die. His concern is to end his life well and with wisdom. From the following verses of the prayer, wisdom entails controlling speech and natural desires (Proverbs 15:16; 19:1, 22).

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.

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