Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,
1. This is the title of this chapter (see Introduction).
the prophecy—literally, "the burden" (compare Isa 13:1; Zec 9:1), used for any divine instruction; not necessarily a prediction, which was only a kind of prophecy (1Ch 15:27, "a song"). Prophets were inspired men, who spoke for God to man, or for man to God (Ge 20:7; Ex 7:14, 15, 16). Such, also, were the New Testament prophets. In a general sense, Gad, Nathan, and others were such, who were divine teachers, though we do not learn that they ever predicted.
the man spake—literally, "the saying of the man"; an expression used to denote any solemn and important announcement (compare 2Sa 23:1; Ps 36:1; 110:1; Isa 1:24, &c.). Ithiel and Ucal were perhaps pupils.
Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
2-4. brutish—stupid, a strong term to denote his lowly self-estimation; or he may speak of such as his natural condition, as contrasted with God's all-seeing comprehensive knowledge and almighty power. The questions of this clause emphatically deny the attributes mentioned to be those of any creature, thus impressively strengthening the implied reference of the former to God (compare De 30:12-14; Isa 40:12; Eph 4:8).
I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.
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?
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
5. (Compare Ps 12:6; 119:140).
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
6. Add … words—implying that his sole reliance was on God's all-sufficient teaching.
reprove thee—or, "convict thee"—and so the falsehood will appear.
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:
7-9. A prayer for exemption from wickedness, and the extremes of poverty and riches, the two things mentioned. Contentment is implied as desired.
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
8. vanity—all sorts of sinful acts (Job 11:11; Isa 5:18).
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.
9. be full … deny—that is, puffed up by the pride of prosperity.
take the name … vain—This is not (Hebrew) the form (compare Ex 20:7), but "take" rather denotes laying violent hold on any thing; that is, lest I assail God's name or attributes, as justice, mercy, &c., which the poor are tempted to do.
Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.
10. Accuse not—Slander not (Ps 10:7).
curse … guilty—lest, however lowly, he be exasperated to turn on thee, and your guilt be made to appear.
There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.
11-14. Four kinds of hateful persons—(1) graceless children, (2) hypocrites, (3) the proud, (4) cruel oppressors (compare on Pr 30:14; Ps 14:4; 52:2)—are now illustrated; (1) Pr 30:15, 16, the insatiability of prodigal children and their fate; (2) Pr 30:17, hypocrisy, or the concealment of real character; (3 and 4) Pr 30:18-20, various examples of pride and oppression.
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.
There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:
15, 16. horse leech—supposed by some to be the vampire (a fabulous creature), as being literally insatiable; but the other subjects mentioned must be taken as this, comparatively insatiable. The use of a fabulous creature agreeably to popular notions is not inconsistent with inspiration.
There are three … yea, four—(Compare Pr 6:16).
The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.
The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.
17. The eye—for the person, with reference to the use of the organ to express mockery and contempt, and also as that by which punishment is received.
the ravens … eagles … eat—either as dying unnaturally, or being left unburied, or both.
There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
18-20. Hypocrisy is illustrated by four examples of the concealment of all methods or traces of action, and a pertinent example of double dealing in actual vice is added, that is, the adulterous woman.
The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.
Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
20. she eateth … mouth—that is, she hides the evidences of her shame and professes innocence.
For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:
21-23. Pride and cruelty, the undue exaltation of those unfit to hold power, produce those vices which disquiet society (compare Pr 19:10; 28:3).
For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;
For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.
23. heir … mistress—that is, takes her place as a wife (Ge 16:4).
There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:
24-31. These verses provide two classes of apt illustrations of various aspects of the moral world, which the reader is left to apply. By the first (Pr 30:25-28), diligence and providence are commended; the success of these insignificant animals being due to their instinctive sagacity and activity, rather than strength. The other class (Pr 30:30, 31) provides similes for whatever is majestic or comely, uniting efficiency with gracefulness.
The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;
The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;
26. conies—mountain mice, or rabbits.
The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;
The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces.
28. spider—tolerated, even in palaces, to destroy flies.
taketh … hands—or, uses with activity the limbs provided for taking prey.
There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:
A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;
A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.
If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.
32. As none can hope, successfully, to resist such a king, suppress even the thought of an attempt.
lay … hand upon thy mouth—"lay" is well supplied (Jud 18:19; Job 29:9; 40:4).
Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.
33. That is, strife—or other ills, as surely arise from devising evil as natural effects from natural causes.