Proverbs 30:1
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spoke to Ithiel, even to Ithiel and Ucal,
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(1) The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy.—Jewish interpreters have seen in these titles (but apparently without a shadow of reason) a designation of Solomon himself, the “convener” and instructor of assemblies (Ecclesiastes 1:1; Ecclesiastes 12:11), son of the “obedient” man after God’s own heart. But they in all probability belong to some otherwise unknown sage, whose utterances were thought not unworthy of being joined with those of the wise King of Israel himself. In support of this view 1Kings 4:30 may be adduced as a proof of the estimation in which the wisdom of foreign nations was at this time held. The book of Job also, which possibly now was added to the canon of Scripture, is certainly of foreign, probably of Arabian, origin. Some light may be thrown upon the nationality of Agur by the words translated in the Authorised version “the prophecy” (massâ). This is the term constantly employed to express the “utterance,” or, more probably, the message which a prophet “boreto his hearers, often one of gloomy import (Isaiah 13:1, etc.). But the term is not very appropriate to the contents of this chapter, nor to the “words of King Lemuel,” in Proverbs 31, and the expression, “the prophecy,” standing quite alone, with no other words to qualify it, is very singular. For these reasons it has been proposed to translate the beginning of the verse thus: “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh the Massan,” i.e., a descendant of the Massa mentioned in Genesis 25:14 as a son of Ishmael. This would place his home probably in North Arabia, and Lemuel would be king of the same tribe.

The man spake.—The word translated “spake” is most frequently used of the revelation of God to prophets, rarely (Numbers 24:3 and 2Samuel 23:1) of the utterances of inspired prophets; never of the words of ordinary men.

Unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal.—These most probably were disciples of his. As their names may mean “God with me,” and “I am strong,” a fanciful delineation of their characters, in the style of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” has been attempted by some writers. And a mystical interpretation of them, “You must have God with you, if you are to be strong,” may be found in Bishop Wordsworth’s Commentary. It has been proposed also, as is possible with a slight change in the pointing, to translate these words thus: “I am weary, O God, I am weary, and am weak,” or, “have made an end,” and to make them an introduction to Proverbs 30:2, which supplies the reason for this weariness, “For I am more brutish,” etc. Thus is described, it has been thought, the sinking at heart of one who has sought after God, and the more he has realised the divine excellence, has become the more conscious of his own nothingness. But this rendering is unnecessary, as the Authorised version gives a good sense.

Proverbs 30:1. The words of Agur — Who this Agur was no one has ever yet been able to show: it is probable, however, that both he and Jakeh, his father, were well known in Israel at the time this chapter and the next were added to the preceding parts of the proverbs. Jakeh is thought to have lived either in Solomon’s time or soon after, and to have been famous in his generation for wisdom and piety; even the prophecy — The prophetical instruction; for as prophets were public preachers as well as foretellers of things to come, so their sermons, no less than their predictions, are commonly called their prophecies. Ithiel and Ucal — Two friends and cotemporaries of Agur, who desired his instructions.30:1-6 Agur speaks of himself as wanting a righteousness, and having done very foolishly. And it becomes us all to have low thoughts of ourselves. He speaks of himself as wanting revelation to guide him in the ways of truth and wisdom. The more enlightened people are, the more they lament their ignorance; the more they pray for clearer, still clearer discoveries of God, and his rich grace in Christ Jesus. In ver.See the introduction to Proverbs. According to the different reading, there noted, the inscription ends with: "the man spake," and the words that follow, are the beginning of the confession, "I have wearied myself after God and have fainted."

Spake - The Hebrew word is that commonly used of the utterance of a divine oracle.


Pr 30:1-33.

1. This is the title of this chapter (see [648]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.Agur’s prophecy, Proverbs 30:1; wherein he acknowledgeth his own ignorance, Proverbs 30:2,3. The purity of God’s word, with the happiness of them that trust in him, Proverbs 30:5. He dehorts from adding to the Scriptures, by the danger of it, Proverbs 30:6. The two points of his prayer, with their reason, Proverbs 30:7-9. Four wicked generations, Proverbs 30:10-14. Four things insatiable, Proverbs 30:15,16. Parents not to be despised, Proverbs 30:17. Four things hard to be known, Proverbs 30:18,19. The way of an adulterous woman, Proverbs 30:20. Four things intolerable, Proverbs 30:21-23. Four things little, but wise, Proverbs 30:24-28. Four things stately, Proverbs 30:29-31.

Agur the son of Jakeh; a person so called, as appears from the designation of his own and his father’s name, who lived either in Solomon’s time, or rather afterwards, and was famous in his generation for wisdom, and piety, and prophecy; and therefore his proverbs were thought fit to be added to those of Solomon, either by those men of Hezekiah, mentioned Proverbs 25:1, or by some other. But that this should be meant of Solomon may easily be supposed, but cannot be proved; nor is it probable, as being contrary both to the style of the whole chapter, and to the matter of some part of it, as Proverbs 30:7-9, which agrees not to Solomon; and to the laws of good interpretation, one of which is, that all words should be taken in their most natural and proper sense, when there is no evidence nor necessity of understanding them improperly and figuratively, which is the present case.

The prophecy; the prophetical instruction; for as the prophets were public preachers as well as foretellers of things to come, so their sermons, no less than their predictions, are commonly called their prophecies.

Unto Ithiel and Ucal; two friends, or disciples, and contemporaries of Agur, called by those names, who having a great and just opinion of his wisdom, desired his instructions. Others, concerning Ithiel and Ucal; which they understand of Christ, called

Ithiel, which signifies God with me, and answers to Immanuel, which is God with us; and

Ucal, which signifies power or prevalency. But if he had meant this of Christ, why should he design him such obscure and ambiguous names, as if he would not be understood? Why did he not call him by the name of Shiloh or Messiah, or some other Scripture title belonging and ascribed to him? Besides, this interpretation agrees not with the contents of this chapter, wherein there is only a short and occasional mention of Christ, but the chapter consists in a manner wholly of counsels and sentences of a quite other kind.

The words of Agur the son of Jakeh,.... Here begins, according to Aben Ezra, the fourth part of this book; though, according to others, it is the fifth; See Gill on Proverbs 22:17; Who this Agur was is a matter of doubt; some of the Jewish writers, as Jarchi and Gersom, and likewise some Christian writers (f), take him to be Solomon himself, who calls himself Agur, which is said to signify "a gatherer"; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "the words of the gatherer, the son of the vomiter"; just as he calls himself Koheleth, or "the caller", or "preacher", Ecclesiastes 1:1. The reason given of this name is, because he gathered wisdom and the law (g); or, as Jarchi, he gathered wisdom, and vomited it; that is, delivered it out to others; so he did, he sought after and attained to more wisdom than any before him, for he was wiser than all men; and it may be added, that he "gathered" silver and gold, and the treasure of kings, and increased in riches more than any before him, Ecclesiastes 1:13. But then all this does not agree with the person whose words these are; for he speaks of himself as being very ignorant, and as not having learned wisdom, Proverbs 30:2; and desires neither poverty nor riches, Proverbs 30:8; besides, the word "Agur" signifies not "a gatherer", but "gathered", as Hillerus (h) renders it; and so Cocceius, who thinks also that Solomon is meant, yet not for the above reasons, but translates the clause thus, "the words of the recollected son of the obedient"; as if it described Solomon the son of David, the obedient one, the man after God's own heart, when he was restored by repentance; but it seems better, with Aben Ezra, to understand this of some very good, knowing, and worthy man, who lived in those times, either before the times of Solomon, or in the same, whose pithy sayings and sentences he had a great regard for, and joined them to his own; or who lived in the times of Hezekiah, or before, whose proverbs were collected by his men, and added to those of Solomon's they had copied in the preceding chapters; see Proverbs 25:1;

even the prophecy; or "burden" (i), as many of the prophecies are called; it designs something received from the Lord, taken up and carried to others; so Balaam is said to "take up his parable", Numbers 23:7. Here it does not design a prediction of future events, unless it can be thought that there is in the following words a prophecy of the Messiah; but an instruction, a declaration of things useful and profitable; so preaching in the New Testament is called prophesying often, 1 Corinthians 14:1. This is a part of the word of God, of the prophecy which came not by the will of man, but by the inspiration of God, 2 Peter 1:19; which prophecy

the man spake, this excellent good man Agur, who was divinely inspired; see Numbers 24:3;

unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal; who were either the children of Agur, whom he instructed in the knowledge of divine things; or they were, as Aben Ezra, either his companions with whom he conversed about sacred things, or his disciples who inquired of him about these things, and learned them of him. Some think (k) these are titles of God himself, to whom Agur directs his speech, and acknowledges his ignorance of the divine Being, whom he might justly call Ithiel and Ucal, that is, "God with me", and "the mighty One"; and certain it is that Agur does direct a prayer to God, Proverbs 30:7; And some read these words themselves as a prayer, "let God be with me, and one shall prevail" (l), that is, over all mine enemies; for, if God is on the side of his people, who shall be against them? or, "I shall be able" to do all things through the Lord's strength, Romans 8:31; But I rather think the words should be read, as Jarchi observes, "concerning Ithiel and Ucal" (m); that is, concerning the Messiah, to whom these names agree. Ithiel, or "God with me", is very similar to a phrase used by Christ himself in the days of his flesh, John 8:29. God was with him as the eternal Word, and his only begotten Son, from all eternity, which denotes his co-existence, nearness of union, equality of nature, and distinction of persons; he was with him as Mediator before the world began, in the council of peace, which was between them both; in the covenant of grace made with him, in which all things were agreed upon respecting the salvation of his people; he was with him in the beginning of time down to his incarnation; he was with him in the creation of all things, in the sustentation of them; in the works of providence, and in the government of the church; he was with him during his state of humiliation; in his infancy, to protect him from the malice of Herod; he was with him when disputing with the doctors in the temple, to direct him; he was with him at his baptism, transfiguration, and other times; he was with him throughout his public ministry, from the beginning to the end of it; he did good and healed all manner of diseases, and wrought amazing miracles, God being with him, John 3:2, Acts 10:38; and he was with him in his sufferings and at his death; and so he is with him in his exalted state; he raised him from the dead, set him at his own right hand, and ever attends to his prevalent intercession; and will be with him in raising the dead and judging the world. "Ucal", which has the signification of being able, strong, mighty, and powerful, agrees with Christ, who is the mighty God the most mighty, the Almighty; and which appears by the works he did before his incarnation, as the creation of all things out of nothing, the preservation of all things, and the several wonderful events in which he was; concerned, as the confusion of languages, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, the conducting the children of Israel through the wilderness, with others; also what he did when here on earth, the mighty works and miracles done by him, and especially the great work of man's redemption, and also the raising of himself from the dead: moreover, what he now does and will do for his people show him to be the mighty One; taking the care of all the churches and providing for them; supplying all the wants of his people, bearing all their burdens, supporting them under all their temptations, and delivering them out of them; strengthening them for his service, protecting them from their enemies, keeping them from falling, raising their dead bodies, and bringing all the sons of God to glory: or if the word should be rendered, as it may, "eaten" or "consumed" (n), it is true of Christ, whose zeal ate him up, Psalm 69:9; and who is the antitype of the sacrifice consumed by fire.

(f) De Dieu, Cocceius, Teelman. Specimen. Explicat. Parabot. p. 378. (g) Jelammedenu apud Buxtorf. Lex. Rab. Colossians 26. (h) Onomastic. Sacr. p. 39. (i) "onus", Mercerus; "prophetia gravis", Tigurine version. (k) Jermin in loc. (l) See Trapp in loc. (m) So Junius & Tremellius, Aamama, Calovius, Cartwright. (n) Vid. Teelman. Specimen. Expliicat. Parabol. p. 391.

The words of {a} Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spoke to Ithiel, even to {b} Ithiel and Ucal,

(a) Who was an excellent man in virtue and knowledge in the time of Solomon.

(b) Who were Agur's scholars or friends.

1. the prophecy] Lit. the burden, as the word is frequently rendered (e.g. Zechariah 9:1; Malachi 1:1, where see notes in this Series). It may mean either burden from its weighty character, as a Divine announcement, or oracle, or prophecy, as being “taken up” (comp. Numbers 23:18) by the speaker.

The reading of R.V. marg. Jakeh of Massa, making Massa a proper name, is however preferred by some scholars. See Proverbs 31:1, note.

the man] a title of excellence (vir), used of himself as a prophet or teacher by Balaam, Numbers 24:3, and by David, 2 Samuel 23:1.

spake] or saith. The word is commonly used of Divine or oracular utterance, as in the frequent phrase, “saith, the Lord.”

lthiel and Ucal] He addresses himself to his favourite disciple, associating with him another scarcely less favoured, and through them to every one that has an ear to hear.Verses 1-33. - Part VII. FIRST APPENDIX TO THE SECOND COLLECTION, containing "the words of Agur." A short introduction, teaching that the Word of God is the source of wisdom (vers. 1-6), is followed by apothegms on different subjects (vers. 7-33). Cornelius a Lapide offers the following opinion concerning this appendix, which no one can hesitate to say is well founded, if he attempts to give it a spiritual interpretation, and to discern mysteries under the literal meaning: "Quarta haec pars elegantissima est et pulcherrima, aeque ac difficillima et obscurissima: priores enim tres partes continent Proverbia et Paraemias claras, ac antithesibus et similitudinibus perspicuas et illustres; haec vero continet aenigmata et gryphos insignes, sed arcanos et perdifficiles, turn ex phrasi quae involute est et aenigmatica, tum ex sensu et materia, quae sublimis est et profunda." Verse 1. - The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy. This seems to be the correct rendering of the passage, though it has been made to bear very different interpretations. It is plainly the tide of the treatise which follows Wire Agur and Jakeh were is utterly unknown. The Jewish interpreters considered that "Agur son of Jakeh" was an allegorical designation of Solomon - Agur meaning "Gatherer," or "Convener" (see Ecclesiastes 1:1; Ecclesiastes 12:11); Jakeh, "Obedient," or "Pious," which thus would indicate David. St. Jerome somewhat countenances the alle gorical interpretation by translating, Verba Congregantis, filii Vomentis, "The words of the Collector, son of the Utterer." But what follows could not apply to Solomon; he could not say, "I have not learned wisdom" (ver. 3), or ask blindly after the Creator (ver. 4). Many have endeavoured to find Agur's nationality in the word that follows, translated "the prophecy" (חַמַשָּׂא, hamassa). Massa "burden," is usually applied to a solemn prophetical speech or oracle, a Divine utterance (Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1, etc.), and as this designation was deemed inappropriate to the character of this appendix, it has been thought that allusion is here made to a land of Massa, so called after a son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:14), who dwelt in the country of Edom or Seir, and whose inhabitants were among those children of the East whose wisdom had become proverbial (1 Kings 4:30). Others find Massa in the Hauran, or on the north of the Persian Gulf. The Venetian Version gives, Λόγοι Ἀγούρου υἱέως Ἰακέως τοῦ Μασάου. But we have no satisfactory account of a country thus called, and its existence is quite problematical; therefore the ingenious explanations founded on the reality of this terra ignota need not be specified (see Introduction, pp. 21, etc.). Gratz has suggested that in place of hamassa should be read hammoshel, "the proverb writer;" but this is a mere conjecture, unsupported by any ancient authority. If, as seems necessary, we are compelled to resign the rendering, "of Masse," or "the Massan," we must fall back on the Authorized Version, and consider the term "oracle" as applied loosely and abnormally to these utterances of wisdom which follow. That they are not of the nature of Divine communications can be seen at once by consideration of their contents, which are mainly of human, and not of the highest type, and, though capable of spiritual interpretation, do not possess that uniqueness of purpose, that religious character and elevation of subject, which one expects in the enunciations of an inspired prophet. This view does not militate against their claim to be regarded as Holy Scripture; their place in the canon is secured by other considerations, and is not affected by our suspicion of the inappropriateness of the term applied to them; and, indeed, it may be that the very human element in these utterances is meant to be unsatisfying, and to lead one to look for the deep spiritual truths which underlie the secular surroundings. Agur is some poet or moralist, well known in Solomon's time, probably one of the wise men referred to in Proverbs 24:23 (see below). The rest of the paragraph is of greater obscurity than the former portion. The man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal. According to this rendering, the man is Agur, who is introduced as uttering what follows in ver. 2, etc., to Ithiel and Ucal, two of his sons, pupils, or companions. The name Ucal occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; Ithiel is found once, in Nehemiah 11:7, as the name of a Benjamite. Wordsworth regards the names as symbolical of the moral character of those whom the author designs to address, explaining the former as equivalent to "God with me," and the latter as denoting "consumed" with zeal, or "strong," "perfect." It is as if the writer said, "You must have God with you; yea, you must have God with you, if you are to be strong. You must be Ithiels, if you are to be Ucals." He refers to 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 4:13. That the Masorites regarded these words as proper names is evident; אֻכָל, indeed, can have no other application. The Syriac takes this view of the words; to the same opinion lean, more or less, the Jewish translators Aquila and Theodotion, Aben Ezra, Vatablus, Pagninus, and others, and it is the simplest and easiest solution of the difficulties which have been seen in the clause. But many modern commentators have declared against it; e.g., Hitzig, Zockler, Detitzsch, Bottcher, Nowack. The repetition of Ithiel seems unmeaning; one sees no reason why it should be repeated more than Ucal. The second verse begins with כִּי, which, as Hebraists agree, cannot stand abruptly at the commencement of a discourse, but rather establishes something that has preceded. But if we take the words in dispute as proper names, no statement to be confirmed has been made. We are, then, constrained to take them in another sense. St. Jerome translates them, writing, Visio quam locutus est vir, cum quo est Deus, et qui Deo secum morante confortatus. The LXX. (which in troduces vers. 1-14 of this chapter after Proverbs 24:23) gives, "Those things saith the man to those who believe God, and I cease;" τοῖς πιστεύουσι Θεῷ being the translation of the doubled Ithiel, equivalent to "God with me," and ואכל (παύομαι) being considered to be a formation from the root כלה. Ewald takes the two words to be the name of one man, equivalent to "God with me, so I am strong;" in his own language, Mitmirgott - sobinich stark; but his idea of a dialogue between the rich mocker (vers. 2-4) and the humble believer (ver. 5-14) is not well founded, though a late editor, Strack, agreeing, considers that the only possible interpretation of these verses (2-4) is to make the speaker utter them as the outcome of his unbelief and scoffing, to which Agur answers in ver. 5. Under all circumstances, it has seemed to many scholars best to surrender the notion of proper names, and, altering the vocalization, to interpret, "The oracle of the man, 'I have wearied myself, O God, I have wearied myself, O God,'" or, as others say, "about God." The utterance commences here, and not at ver. 2. The repetition forcibly expresses the laborious and painful investigation of the seeker after truth. The final word, vocalized וָאֵכִל, is rendered, "And I have withdrawn;" or, as Bickell, quoted by Cheyne, gives, v'lo ukal, "I have not prevailed." We arrive thus at this interpretation: first comes the superscription, "The words of Agur," etc., "the oracle of the man;" then begins the utterance, which opens with the melancholy avowal that, though he had longed and striven to know God, his nature, his attributes, his working, he had failed in this object, and expended his labour in vain. Both Agur, and Lemuel who is named in Proverbs 31:1, seem to have been persons not of Israelitish nationality, but dwelling in the neighbourhood of Palestine, and acquainted with the religion and sacred literature of the chosen people (see ver. 5). It is by no means unlikely that they were of the race of Ishmael, from which stock many wise men had risen, and where wisdom was so cultivated as to have become proverbial (see Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 1:8). In what follows Agur shows himself as a philosopher and a critic, but at the same time a firm believer. The following group begins with a proverb which rhymes by מדון, with מנון of the foregoing, and extends on to the end of this Hezekiah collection:

22 A man of anger stirreth up strife;

     And a passionate man aboundeth in transgression.

Line first is a variation of Proverbs 15:18 and Proverbs 28:25. אישׁ and בּעל as here, but in the reverse order at Proverbs 22:24.

(Note: For אישׁ־אף (Lwenstein after Norzi) is to be written, with Baer (Thorath Emeth, p. 19), אישׁ אף ,)91. Thus also in Cod. Jaman.)

אף here means anger, not the nose, viz., the expanded nostrils (Schultens). In רב־פּשׁע the פשׁע is, after Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 28:16; Proverbs 20:27, the governed genitive; Hitzig construes it in the sense of פשׁע רב, Psalm 19:2, with יגרה, but one does not say גּרה פשׁע; and that which is true of רבּים, that, after the manner of a numeral, it can precede its substantive (vid., under Psalm 7:26; Psalm 89:51), cannot be said of רב. Much (great) in wickedness denotes one who heaps up many wicked actions, and burdens himself with greater guilt (cf. פשׁע, Proverbs 29:16). The wrathful man stirreth up (vid., under Proverbs 15:18) strife, for he breaks through the mutual relations of men, which rest on mutual esteem and love, and by means of his passionate conduct he makes enemies of those against whom he thinks that he has reason for being angry; that on account of which he is angry can be settled without producing such hostility, but passion impels him on, and misrepresents the matter; it embitters hearts, and tears them asunder. The lxx has, instead of רב, ἐξώρυξεν, of dreaming, כרה (Proverbs 16:27).

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