Proverbs 30 introduces a new author named Agur. We know basically nothing about him, his father (Jakeh), or the two people (Ithiel and Ucal) mentioned in verse 1. Some authors speculate that Agur was a contemporary of Solomon, while others say he wrote hundreds of years later Some say the two people this proverb was written to were those who sought Agur’s wisdom, while others say they were Agur’s sons. Bottom line, we don’t know, so we should focus on the proverbs themselves, and not speculate on the author.
Agur used a series of lists to communicate his truths. The lists are not meant to be exhaustive, but to be examples. We see this in Agur’s literary structure and style, as he calls out a number, then adds one item to it (example – v. 29 – “three things… even four…).
Agur begins his chapter with worship, using a bit of self-loathing, not in false humility, but to acknowledge his place under God. In verses 2 and 3, Agur says “I really don’t know anything at all, and I certainly don’t have God’s knowledge… but I know the One (God) who does”. This positioning of himself under God is reminiscent of Isaiah chapter 40 and Job chapters 40-41, where God asks mankind hard questions that only He can answer.
Agur then proceeds to brag on God (v. 4) and asks his audience five similar questions, each question leading his hearers to look to God for their wisdom and strength:
“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!”
(Proverbs 30:4 NIV)
If Agur had any detractors or scoffers, he shut them up quickly with these questions attributed to things that only God could do.
“Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5 NIV)
Following up from his worship in the form of questions in verse 4, Agur uses a metalsmith’s term (“flawless”) here, meaning that the God’s Word is refined, and has no impurities. It’s the real thing, no “fool’s gold” or other look-alikes. Therefore, Agur says, we can trust God and His Word (He is our shield) and find peace and safety (He is our refuge) in the Lord. Like King David in Psalm 23, Agur quietly concludes that God is his sufficiency, his security, and his salvation.
“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.”
(Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV)
After acknowledging God’s holiness, wisdom, and power, Agur comes before God with a simple prayer for his own life (verse 7 – 9). His two requests? to lead an honest life, and a life of dependence on the Lord.
Agur asked for an honest life, free from both false thoughts and intentions (“falsehood”) and false words (“lies”). He desired to live a life of integrity before the Lord, and honor God from his heart.
Agur also asked for a life of dependence on the Lord, where he would have neither riches and become self-sufficient, nor poverty, where he would be feel that God had abandoned him, and thus be tempted to steal to survive. Similar to the Israelites in the desert, Agur asked only for his daily portion of food to sustain him, and the faithful hand of God to feed him each day.
May we have Agur’s heart for the Lord, as well as his humility and priorities as we go about our day.