What does Proverbs 30:24 mean?
ESV: Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise:
NIV: "Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:
NASB: Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise:
CSB: Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise:
NLT: There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise:
KJV: There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
NKJV: There are four things which are little on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise:
Verse Commentary:
Agur continues his list of numbered things. The four examples given in this section (Proverbs 30:25–28) are labeled as "wise." In the Book of Proverbs, "wisdom" is typically associated with God's will and the capacity to act on that knowledge (Proverbs 1:7, 22). However, it can also refer to something like common sense or sound judgment. Each of the four instances Agur lists accomplishes something impressive, despite being "small," or lowly, in the eyes of the world. The Hebrew root word qātān is also used to mean "insignificant" or "unimportant." The various animals mentioned are individually insignificant, but they perform tasks worthy of human notice.

This statement strengthens the biblical idea that "wisdom" is ultimately superior to raw physical strength, or massive wealth, or political power. The story of David and Goliath illustrates this truth. David was young when he defended God's honor against the giant Goliath. King Saul warned, "You are not able to go against [Goliath] to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth" (1 Samuel 17:33). Nevertheless, young David defeated the mighty giant (1 Samuel 17:45–49) using the practical techniques he'd learned as a shepherd. He trusted that God would give him the victory and told Goliath that the victory would be "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lᴏʀᴅ saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he will give you into our hand" (1 Samuel 17:46–47).

Similarly, God uses things the world considers weak or cheap to accomplish His will (1 Corinthians 1:27–28). Through the despised death of Jesus, God triumphed over the skewed wisdom of the world.
Verse Context:
In Proverbs 30:15–31 Agur (Proverbs 30:1) gives several numerical observations. He lists four things which never lead to satisfaction, only increased desire. Another four ideas are said to be "wonderful," here meant in the sense of being hard to grasp. Next are four examples of the dangers of putting people in sudden positions of power. Then, four seemingly humble animals who achieve great tasks. The last is a series of examples showing the "stately" nature of confidence.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains the teachings of Agur, who is only known through this passage. Humility and a sense of one's own limitations are key themes in this section. Agur prays for God's providence and warns about the sins of arrogance, greed, and rebelliousness. He marvels at how the ungodly can sin without care, not realizing their fate. He then notes the way some insignificant animals accomplish great things and comments on the effects of confidence. The chapter ends with a reminder that stirring up anger leads to trouble.
Chapter Context:
This chapter falls between a collection of Solomon's wise sayings (Proverbs 25—29) and King Lemuel's proverbs (Proverbs 31). Chapter 30 contains the wise sayings of Agur, who is otherwise unknown. He may have been the son of Jakeh. His teachings are called an oracle: a weighty message from God. Humility and warnings about arrogance are recurring themes in this chapter.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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