Proverbs 30

The Sayings of Agur[a]

The sayings of Agur, son of Jakeh, from Massa:[b]

This is my statement: I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.

Like Job[c]

2 I count myself among the most stupid of men,
and I am bereft of human understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
nor do I have any knowledge of the Most Holy One.
4 Who has ever gone up to heaven and come down again?
Who has cupped the wind in the hollow of his hands?
Who has wrapped the waters in the fold of his garment?
Who has established all the boundaries of the earth?
What is his name or the name of his son?
Do you know it?[d]
5 Every word of God has proved to be true;
he is a shield to those who trust in him.[e]
6 Add nothing to his words,
lest he reprove you and expose you as a fraud.

Like Solomon[f]

7 Two things[g] I ask of you;
do not deny them to me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lying far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but simply provide me with the food that I need.
9 For if I have too much, I may deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
And if I am destitute, I may begin to steal
and profane the name of my God.

People with Neither Faith Nor Law[h]

10 Do not slander a servant to his master,
lest he curse you and you will be held guilty
11 There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers.[i]
12 They regard themselves as pure
and yet have not been cleansed of their filth.
13 They have eyes that are haughty[j]
and glances that reveal their disdain.
14 They have teeth that are swords
and jaws that are knives.
They devour the poor of the earth
and the needy from among men.

VIII: Numerical Proverbs[k]

Insatiable Things[l]

15 The leech has two daughters,
each of whom demands, “Give! Give!”
There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say “Enough!”:
16 The netherworld and the barren womb,
the earth that is thirsty for water,
and fire that never says “Enough!”

Woe to the Wicked Son

17 The eye that mocks a father
or shows scorn to an aged mother
will be plucked out by the ravens of the valley
and eaten by the vultures.[m]

The Astounding Mystery of Generation

18 There are three things too wonderful for me to comprehend,
four that are beyond my understanding:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake over a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.[n]

“I Have Done Nothing Wrong”[o]

20 This is the way of an adulteress:
she eats, then wipes her mouth
and says, “I have done nothing wrong.”

The Insolence of the Newly Successful

21 There are three things that cause the earth to tremble,
indeed four things that it cannot endure:
22 a slave crowned as a king,
a fool gorged with food,
23 a hateful woman when she snares a husband,
and a servant girl when she supplants her mistress.

The Resourceful Little Ones[p]

24 There are four creatures among the tiniest on the earth
who are nevertheless exceedingly wise:
25 the ants, a species without strength,
yet they gather their food in the summer;
26 the rock-badgers, a species without power,
yet they make their home in the rocks;
27 the locusts, a species without a king,
yet they all march forth in formation;
28 the lizards, a species you can catch in your hands,
yet they are found in the palaces of kings.

The King, Majestic among Other Animals[q]

29 There are three creatures that are stately in their stride,
four that are stately as they walk:
30 the lion, the mightiest of wild animals,
who retreats from nothing;
31 the strutting rooster, the he-goat,[r]
and a king at the head of his army.

Silence Is Golden, Especially in Time of Anger

32 If you have been foolish enough to exalt yourself[s]
or if you have devised evil,
put your hand over your mouth.
33 For as churning the milk produces curds
and twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife.

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 30:1 This is a short collection of the sayings of a foreigner, one of the “sons of the East” whose wisdom was greatly esteemed (1 Ki 5:10; Jer 49:7), men such as Lemuel (see Prov 31:1-9) or Job and his friends. Agur may be an imaginary personage, but bringing him on the scene is evidence that wisdom transcends the borders of the chosen people. Wisdom is universal and must welcome the truth wherever it is found. Agur is a simple man, amazed by the mystery of nature, who humbly prays for perseverance.
  2. Proverbs 30:1 The second part of this verse presents translation difficulties. Both the Vulgate and the Septuagint have different interpretations. Massa: an Ishmaelite tribe north of Arabia, in the eastern part of Palestine (see Gen 25:14).
  3. Proverbs 30:2 In this dialogue with God, the sage loses all his assurance; he is no longer the man who knows everything. The mystery of God is divined in creation, but who could attain such knowledge! Can human beings do anything else but respectfully embrace his word, i.e., the Law and the Prophets and perhaps the teachings of the sages?
  4. Proverbs 30:4 See the similar use of rhetorical questions to express God’s greatness in Job 38:4-11; Isa 40:12. Do you know it?: see Job 38:4.
  5. Proverbs 30:5 This verse is very close to Ps 18:31.
  6. Proverbs 30:7 In a humble prayer, human beings can ask for a good heart and, for the rest, their share of bread: what is necessary suffices (see Mt 6:11). Indeed, if wretchedness leads to the edge of revolt, wealth easily leads to contempt for God.
  7. Proverbs 30:7 Two things: these sayings are fond of using lists (see vv. 15, 18, 21, 24, 29). See note on Prov 6:16-19.
  8. Proverbs 30:10 After verse 10, there is a diatribe against falsehood and violence, i.e., the crime of those who wish to dominate by despising others.
  9. Proverbs 30:11 See note on Prov 20:20.
  10. Proverbs 30:13 Eyes that are haughty: see note on Prov 6:17.
  11. Proverbs 30:15 These are termed “numerical proverbs” because they use numbers: There are three things . . . four . . .; these figures stand for a quantity that cannot be exactly counted. They propose a truth in a witty way that constitutes their charm (see also note on Prov 6:16-19). Some proverbs of another kind (vv. 17-20, 32-33) have slipped in like intruders in this short collection.
  12. Proverbs 30:15 Here we see presented the leech, model of the parasite. Then the proverb evokes the power of a desire that is never fulfilled. The netherworld is the abyss of death that ceaselessly swallows up human generations.
  13. Proverbs 30:17 See verse 11 and note on Prov 20:20.
  14. Proverbs 30:19 The way of a man with a maiden: an obscure saying that may mean how a man is born of a young woman (see Ps 139:13-18), or how the affection that draws a man to a young woman is awakened in him.
  15. Proverbs 30:20 A reader who has misunderstood the poetry in the preceding verses has added this reflection, which is closer to his moralizing preoccupations: the adulteress is cunning enough to camouflage her offense.
  16. Proverbs 30:24 The labor of the ant has already been cited, e.g., in Prov 6:6-8. The rock-badger, a small mammiferous savage, shows how to find shelter even if one is not among the powerful. In evoking the lizard, one is undoubtedly thinking of the courtesan of modest state who comes to sneak into the palace where she does nothing but gild herself in the king’s sunshine.
  17. Proverbs 30:29 Here we have a bit of popular irony before a ceremonial parade. True majesty is something else.
  18. Proverbs 30:31 He-goat: goats were used to lead flocks of sheep (see Jer 50:8; Dan 8:5).
  19. Proverbs 30:32 Exalt yourself: see condemnation of pride in Prov 8:13; 11:2; 16:18. Devised evil: see Prov 6:14; 16:27. Put your hand over your mouth: i.e., cease your plotting (see Job 21:5; 40:4).

You Might Also Like