Agur the Wise
I’m not a wise guy1This is a message from Agur, son of Jakeh of Massa.
Here’s the message: I’m exhausted. Wiped out.
2I’m too dumb to qualify as a human.
I don’t have any common sense.
3I haven’t studied wisdom.
I don’t know a thing about the Holy One.
4I’d like to know, has anyone gone to heaven and come back?
Has anyone ever grabbed the wind and held it?
What about water, can anyone wrap it in cloth?
And another thing, who set the boundary limits of the earth?
Who did all of this? What’s his name, and the name of his son? If you know, tell me.
God is truth5Every word of God is 100% pure truth.
He’s a shield when people go to him for protection.
6When you quote him, don’t add words.
He’ll have to scold you for that, and people will discover you’re a liar.
Keep me honest7Before I die, I’d like you to do two things for me.
8Keep me honest so I don’t become a liar.
And don’t let me get poor or rich.
Just give me the food I need each day.
9Otherwise, I might eat my fill and then say, “The LORD? Who’s he?”
Or I might get so hungry that I steal, which would dishonor God’s name.
MYOB10Don’t badmouth a slave to the slaver owner.
That could get you cussed out and in trouble.
Some people feed on the helpless11Some people cuss out their dads
And do nothing to make their moms happy.
12They think they’re good and pure.
But they’re good and filthy.
13They have such high regard for themselves
In arrogance, they look up to themselves.
14Teeth of sword and fang of knife,
They devour the most vulnerable people on earth:
The poor and the helpless.
Never satisfied15A greedy leech has two kids: Gimme and Gimme.
Three things never get enough.
No, four are never satisfied.
16The grave. An infertile woman.
Land thirsty for water.
And fire. It never says, “Enough!”
Mean eyes17If you look at your dad and make fun of him
And disrespect your mom,
Birds in the valley will pluck those eyes out of your head.
Vultures will feed on them.
Mystery of love18There are three things I don’t understand.
No, four things I don’t get.
19How an eagle soars in the sky.
How a snake maneuvers across rocks.
How a ship stays afloat in the middle of the sea.
How a man falls in love with a woman.
Cheating wife20Here’s what an unfaithful wife does.
She eats. She wipes her mouth.
She says, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Too much to handle21Three things shake up the earth.
No, there are four things it just can’t handle.
22A slave who rises to power as a king.
A fool full of food.
23A hateful, unlovable woman who gets married.
A slave woman who replaces a wife.
Small but wise24There are critters in the world that are small in size,
But giants of wisdom.
25Ants are critters that look puny.
But they manage to gather and store enough food for winter.
26Badgers seem weak,
But they live among rocks.
27Locusts have no king,
But look at how they swarm in unison.
28Lizards are easy enough to catch in your hands.
But they live among kings, in palaces.
Army makes king look good29There are three things that look regal when they walk.
No, four that look elegant when they move.
30The lion, king of animals.
It doesn’t back down for anything.
31Then there’s the strutting rooster, the guy goat,
And the king—with the army beside him.
Stop causing trouble32If you’ve been arrogantly bragging about yourself,
Or up to no good,
Shut your mouth and stop what you’re doing.
33If you churn milk, you’ll make butter.
If you punch a nose, you’ll draw blood.
If you feed anger, you’ll cause trouble.
Agur is a mystery sage, apparently from a land outside the Jewish homeland, scholars say. His message reads like a counterpoint to much of the rest of Proverbs, which praises wisdom. Agur downplays wisdom and puffs piety and humility, neither of which requires an advanced education.
Scholars are divided over what to do with “Massa.” Is it a man, since there’s no “of” in the original Hebrew? There’s a North African tribe by that name in Genesis 25:14. Is it a place, since Proverbs 31:1 seems to refer to a king from there: King Lemuel of Massa? Or does it mean “oracle,” a message inspired by God, as many Bible translators conclude? The words that follow, literally “The man declares,” is a rare Hebrew phrase that announces messages from God. It shows up in the story of a sage named Balaam and his talking donkey in Numbers 24:3, 15. And it shows up in a speech by King David in 2 Samuel 23:1.
Scholars debate how to translate the strange Hebrew text that is given here as “Here’s the message: I’m exhausted. Wiped out.” The original Hebrew text is like double talk. Some Bibles translate it as “to Ithiel, and to Ithiel and Ucal.” But some scholars say those are likely fake names in a phrase that makes no sense. As in, What’s up with two Ithiel’s? The Casual English Bible paraphrase joins translators guessing that the letters got jumbled along the way and needed to be put back in proper order. This is one guess about how the words may have been intended.
It’s hard to tell from the Hebrew who is cussing or putting a curse on the man: slave or slave owner.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.