The Book of Proverbs is viewed as a “one-stop-shop” for wisdom. Credit for the Book of Proverbs goes to King Solomon. The Bible tells us that Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. What is interesting about Proverbs is that it ends, Proverb 30, on the wise writings of someone other than Solomon. The collection of wisdom to save a world is wrapped up by a summary from Agur ben Jakeh. We know this because the proverb tells us this. Agur was an Arab sage and compiler of wise sayings. He probably lived in the 3rd century BC. His name means compiler or gatherer. Like all great books, the last chapter is typically a great summary and wrap-up. Let’s begin a journey to close out the Wisdom of the World.
(Proverbs 30:1-6 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance) 1NIV New International Version Translations“I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Surely, I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know! Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
In verses 1 through 4, Agur confesses his stupidity and lack of wisdom. In comparison to God and his Son, his knowledge is limited. Note that Agur believes God has a Son! Next in verses 5 through 6, Agur reminds us of the Truth of God’s Word. To go against God’s Word makes us a liar. We are called to hold to God’s Word above all other wisdom.
(Proverbs 30:7-8) – “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
In verses 7 through 9, Agur takes a turn and outlines for us his prayer, not a prayer for more things, but a prayer for integrity. It is most interesting that Agur is concerned about “false wisdom.” In our overly connected world today, we should be our concern too. Wisdom, both correct and incorrect (falsehoods) bombard us every day. His prayer shows that we will need God’s help to keep us grounded in the Truth of God. Then comes a caution that “either riches or poverty” can both stand in the way of our relationship to God. A similar request is made, “Give me only my daily bread.” Familiar, isn’t it? We are to strive to stay out of poverty and to also keep from embracing riches in a way that would make us forget God’s provisioning. This is also an indirect callout on Christ’s command to help the poor. Poverty can be used by Satan to effectively destroy lives. Agur closes these verses by asking God, give him enough, keep him humble, keep him from the dishonor associated with poverty, keep him from the lure of riches. Our world should not take these thoughts lightly.
(Proverbs 30:10-19) – “Do not slander a servant to their master, or they will curse you, and you will pay for it. “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind. The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry. There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’ The eye that mocks a father, that scorns an aged mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures. There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.”
Agur then gets personal. Verses 10 and 11 warn us not to slander or curse others. This is a lesson for our world today. Have you listened to the news? Civility is missing, just hatred for anyone with a different opinion. Verses 12 through calls us to look inside ourselves, make an honest assessment of who we are compared to God. The caution is never to think too highly of yourself and too lowly of others. Agur compares greed to leeches. In verses 15 through 16, he talks about the insatiable appetite of human desires. The only real satisfaction in life comes from God. It is also amazing how Proverbs supports the role of parenting and its importance in life. Anyone who thinks that the role of a nuclear family is wrong is against the very teachings of God. Verses 17 through 19 define one of the worst displays of disrespect as mocking your parents. Agur says it kills relationships.
(Proverbs 30:20-28) – “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’ Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: a servant who becomes king, a godless fool who gets plenty to eat, a contemptible woman who gets married, and a servant who displaces her mistress. Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”
Agur then sets a new tone on wisdom. He draws us back to the Creator who made everything remarkable. You don’t have to understand remarkable things, sometimes all you must do is appreciate them! There is a warning on adultery in verse 20. Too bad we still need this warning today after thousands of years. Then Agur goes directly to a warning on arrogance that is left unchecked (verses 21 through 28). We are to hold our arrogance in check and never, never underestimate anyone or anything that is in the hands of an Almighty God.
(Proverbs 30:29-33) – “There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king secure against revolt. If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”
The last four verses (29 through 33) close on the idea that nothing is arrogant or foolish that has been created by God. All God’s creations are noble. Be angry, vent your anger if you must but Agur simply says, stop the foolishness. Anger produces nothing of lasting value. It is interesting to note that Agur ends his thoughts of wisdom by mentioning a lion. There is nothing stronger than a lion, or more courageous and undaunted. The lion walks with great majesty, very slowly, step by step, and this without fear. As Aristotle confirmed, the lion does not turn its back to anything of danger. It is not by chance that we call Christ, the Lion of Judah! The lion is the symbol of righteous people, who are called to be as bold as a lion. They cannot be moved from their duty by anything they meet up with. This is the wisdom of Agur, of his Proverbs, of Scripture, of the Son of God, of our mighty God Himself! Take comfort, says Agur.
- What is wisdom?
- Ideas to Explore: Good advice? Things that are true? How do you know what is true? Things you learn from experience?
- What stands out to you?
- Ideas to Explore: The structure of Agur’s prayer? His reference to the “Son of God?” The risk of either wealth or poverty? Anything else?
- Where do you go for your “Wisdom?”
- Ideas to Explore: Church, the Bible, Family, Friends, the Internet, News, Government, etc.
- How do you know the Truth, God’s Truth when you hear what is presented as wisdom?
- Ideas to Explore: Experience, trusted friends, prayer, Biblical confirmation?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations