Proverbs chapter 30

English Standard Version

2Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. 3I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. 4Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! 5Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. 7Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. 10Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be held guilty. 11There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers. 12There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth. 13There are those—how lofty are their eyes, how high their eyelids lift! 14There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind. 15The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”: 16Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.” 17The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. 18Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: 19the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin. 20This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.” 21Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: 22a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; 23an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress. 24Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: 25the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; 26the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; 27the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; 28the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. 29Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride: 30the lion, which is mightiest among beasts and does not turn back before any; 31the strutting rooster, the he-goat, and a king whose army is with him. 32If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. 33For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

2I am certainly more stupid than any man, And I do not have the understanding of a man; 3Nor have I learned wisdom, Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One. 4Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son’s name? Surely you know! 5Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 6Do not add to His words Or He will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar. 7Two things I have asked of You; Do not refuse me before I die: 8Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9So that I will not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the Lord?' And that I will not become impoverished and steal, And profane the name of my God. 10Do not slander a slave to his master, Or he will curse you and you will be found guilty. 11There is a kind of person who curses his father And does not bless his mother. 12There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness. 13There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance. 14There is a kind of person whose teeth are like swords And his jaw teeth like knives, To devour the poor from the earth And the needy from among mankind. 15The leech has two daughters: 'Give' and 'Give.' There are three things that will not be satisfied, Four that will not say, 'Enough': 16 Sheol, the infertile womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, 'Enough.' 17The eye that mocks a father And scorns a mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it. 18There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand: 19The way of the eagle in the sky, The way of a snake on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a virgin. 20This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, 'I have done no wrong.' 21Under three things the earth quakes, And under four, it cannot endure: 22Under a slave when he becomes king, And a fool when he is satisfied with food, 23Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, And a female servant when she dispossesses her mistress. 24Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: 25The ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer; 26The rock hyraxes are not a mighty people, Yet they make their houses in the rocks; 27The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks; 28The lizard you may grasp with the hands, Yet it is in kings’ palaces. 29There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: 30The lion, which is mighty among animals And does not retreat from anything, 31The strutting rooster or the male goat, And a king when his army is with him. 32If you have been foolish in exalting yourself, Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. 33For the churning of milk produces butter, And pressing the nose produces blood; So the churning of anger produces strife.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

What does Proverbs chapter 30 mean?

A small number of scholars suggest that the name "Agur" was another title for Solomon. However, most believe this is a different person. His words are described as an "oracle:" as a crucially important message from the Lord. Less clear is the meaning of the first words of his message. Depending on how the Hebrew letters are divided, it could be an address to two particular men. Or, it might be a reference to personal weariness.(Proverbs 30:1).

Agur's message begins with an extreme level of humility. The idea is so pronounced that some commentators believe it is sarcastic. This would suggest that Agur was responding to someone—such as a critic—by satirically calling himself "stupid" and his detractor "understanding." He makes note of his own limitations, compared to God, and uses the same rhetorical device the Lord used when questioning Job (Job 38:4–5). Whether this is purely sincere, or derisive, or some combination of both, Agur's other teachings will reinforce the need to know one's limitations (Proverbs 30:2–4).

Part of Agur's text is a prayer for God's guidance away from certain errors. He proclaims the sufficiency of God's revealed truth, warning not to tamper with that message. He prays for God to protect him from dishonesty. He also asks that God keep him from the extremes of poverty and luxury. Agur realizes that both conditions pose their own temptations. He then denounces various sins, such as rebellion, arrogance, and abuse of the weak (Proverbs 30:5–14).

The final section of Agur's lessons frequently use a technique seen often in Scripture (Proverbs 6:16; 30:15, 18, 21, 24, 29; Job 5:19; Amos 1:3). This involves naming a number, then that number plus one, to suggest completion in the message. He explains that greed never leads to satisfaction, only to more desire. A rebellious attitude leads to disaster, exemplified by the person who curses their parents (Proverbs 30:15–17).

One of Agur's paragraphs mentions four concepts which seem hard to connect. These are a bird's flight in air, a snake's path over rock, a ship's travel by sea, and "the way of a man with a virgin." It's possible these are references to things which happen despite seeming inexplicable. Most likely, his point is that these are all mysterious; none leaves an immediate trace. Adultery, perhaps the final example, is not a sin which leaves obvious evidence. Agur's next statement seems to reinforce that interpretation, as he notes how a person may sin without feeling guilt (Proverbs 30:18–20).

The next segment notes four examples of disruption caused by an out-of-place person. Agur's lesson is not that people should never seek to improve their lives. Rather, it's to note that suddenly thrusting a person into new circumstances can lead to disaster. Installing a slave as king means a ruler with no experience or context for that responsibility. Ungodly people whose needs are met are even more likely to ignore God. Scorned, mistreated people may bring vengeance or bitterness into a marriage. And putting a young girl in charge of her former mistress' home is unwise (Proverbs 30:21–23).

Four examples are given of lowly creatures who succeed at impressive feats. This seems to teach that God's creative power allows Him to achieve His will using weak, unimportant instruments. Also, it speaks to His providence. Ants are tiny, yet they find food and survive the seasons. Rock hyraxes—similar to groundhogs—cannot fight, yet they live in the cliffs men seek out as fortresses. Locusts lack leaders, but "march" and conquer like an army when they swarm. Lizards are not hard to catch, but they manage to sneak into the most secure places (Proverbs 30:24–28).

The last numbered lesson given by Agur involves the idea of things which are "stately" in their movement. This implies something confident, assured, powerful, and calm. The term is used as the proper impression to be given by kings and leaders. The ultimate example of this is the lion: unchallenged as the mightiest predator in his terrain. The final example is the king who knows his armies are loyal (Proverbs 30:29–31).

Agur ends his lessons with a warning about natural consequences. Whether one intends to, or not, thrashing milk will turn it into butter. Punching someone in the nose will make them bleed. And provoking others to anger results in anguish and controversy. For that reason, a person who realizes they've been acting like a fool should take steps towards self-control: even if it means clamping a hand over their own mouth (Proverbs 30:32–33).
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