Introduction to the Words of Agur
Vs. 1 – The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal
1. In chapter 30, we enter into a new section of the book of Proverbs.
2. The author identifies himself as “Agur.”
a. Agur is unknown; there is no record in the Bible or in history.
b. And he is the son of Jakeh, about whom we also know nothing.
c. He is writing to Ithiel and Ucal: two other completely unknown men.
3. Some believed that Solomon was the author and was going by another name, Agur. (Solomon did go by the name Jedediah in the Scriptures. Having two names is not unusual.)
4. The ancient rabbis interpreted these names allegorically.
a. Hebrew names had meaning. Thus, some believed that Solomon wrote these chapters using an allegorical name for himself.
b. One commentator (John Philips) wrote that Agur meant “gatherer,” indicating that Solomon was a gatherer of proverbs.
c. He said that Jakeh meant “obedient or pious” and referred to David, his father.
d. Ithiel means “God is with me” and Ucal means “I shall be able.”
e. That view interprets as meaning that the author was a “gatherer or proverbs” who wrote proverbs because God was with him and thus he was able to do so.
f. That seems like a bit of a stretch and it requires using a different method of Bible interpretation.
5. It is far better to take the Scriptures at face value and acknowledge that this section of Proverbs was written by an unknown man.
a. We really don’t know for sure all the authors of Scripture.
b. Nor do we need to know the author. What Agur wrote (through inspiration) is far more important than who he was.
c. In fact, what Agur writes in the next few verses makes this very point: he is nothing; but God, the Revealer of truth is to be exalted.
Vs. 2 – Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
1. Agur sees himself as “more brutish” than any other man.
a. Defined: Senseless; stupid; lacking understanding; stubborn; beast-like.
b. Used in Ps. 73:22 – “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” Asaph saw himself in the same way.
c. Ps. 92:6 – “A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.”
d. The brutish man is linked to a fool, an ignorant person, and a beast.
3. Agur is obviously using self-deprecating language concerning himself.
a. He sees himself as a man who realizes how brutish (foolish; ignorant; senseless) he really is.
b. Isaiah saw himself as being “unclean” when he stood before God and got a glimpse of God’s glory (Isa. 6:5).
c. In a sense, this is like the apostle Paul referring to himself as the “chief of sinners.” Certainly there were other men who were more sinful than the apostle, but Paul was so acutely aware of his sin, that he didn’t see it that way. To him, his sin was the worst of all—because of his sensitivity to sin.
d. Evidently, in a similar sense, Agur also saw himself as the “chief of ignorant men.” Of course, there were many other men more ignorant and brutish than he was, but that’s not how he saw himself. He was acutely aware of how far short of the glory of God he fell.
e. Some may think of these expressions as hyperbole (an exaggeration to drive home a point). In a sense, of course it was. But I think these men really believed it… because of their sensitivity to God and spiritual things.
f. The closer our communion with Christ, the more sensible we become of our failures, ignorance, and sin.
g. This is true humility.
4. Agur also stated that he had “not the understanding of a man.”
a. This is another way of saying that he was brutish – ignorant, stubborn, and foolish as a beast… an animal… less than a man.
b. He states that he is more brutish than any man; and that he has less understanding than any man.
c. He saw himself as the bottom of the barrel when it came to wisdom and understanding.
d. There may have been a twinge of irony (and sarcasm) in Agur’s words as well.
• He had probably heard many men making grandiose claims of divine wisdom and supernatural knowledge.
• False prophets claimed that all the time. So did the pagan wizards and soothsayers.
• Agur did not have the innate wisdom and knowledge that others claimed to have.
• He had less understanding than such men.
• He realized how little wisdom he really had.
e. When you stop and think of it, what Agur states here is actually a sign of wisdom and understanding.
• Fools claim to have all the answers. Ignorant men think they know it all.
• But wise men are aware of how much they DON’T know. They are sensitive to their ignorance.
• Teenagers think they know more than their parents. By the time they hit 30, they realize that there really is a lot that they don’t know… and that their parents were not so foolish as they used to think.
• I take Agur’s words as an expression of humble wisdom as opposed to arrogant folly expressed by other men.
5. It is also possible that “I have not the understanding of a man” means that he cannot know what is IN man, namely, in his heart.
a. Therefore, how much less could he know the mind and heart of God… without revelation.
b. This would be similar in meaning to the words of Paul in I Cor. 2:11 – “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (Paul quoted Isa. 64:4)
c. In this passage, Agur clearly abases himself, and according to Prov. 11:2b: “with the lowly is wisdom.”
Vs. 3 – I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy
1. In verse three, Agur is speaking about wisdom and knowledge.
a. However, he is speaking about a particular kind of wisdom and knowledge – DIVINE wisdom and knowledge.
b. This is wisdom that comes down from above. (Jas. 3:17) This stands in contrast to wisdom from below which is earthly, sensual, and demonic. (Jas. 3:15)
c. This is a knowledge of the Holy One, namely, the knowledge of God… who He is… His Word… and His ways.
d. This kind of knowledge comes only through supernatural revelation from God Himself.
2. I take the words of verse three as a claim that Agur does not have any special knowledge or wisdom about God IN HIMSELF.
a. This is actually a claim of divine inspiration.
b. It is not that Agur has no wisdom or knowledge in the absolute sense, but rather, whatever wisdom and knowledge he has did not come through natural means.
c. He did not “learn” it in a book somewhere. No man taught him these things. He wasn’t trained in a school where he gained this knowledge of God.
d. This is Agur’s way of saying that the wisdom and knowledge he is about to share is (to use the words of James) “from above.”
e. They are “words of God” – words that came from God through divine inspiration (see verse 5).
3. Agur’s words in Prov. 30:3 are parallel in thought to what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9-10a – “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”
a. The deep things of God that Paul recorded were not truths that originated in Paul.
b. His eyes did not observe these truths through scientific observation.
c. His ears never heard these words spoken at a conference or seminar.
d. Neither did these truths originate in his own heart or mind. They didn’t just pop into his mind.
e. Rather, they were REVEALED to Paul by the Spirit of God.
4. This seems to be parallel to what Agur was saying. The wisdom he was about to record was not anything he “learned” at a seminar put on by the wise men of his day.
a. They were not truths that he instinctively knew.
b. Agur introduced this thought by means of self-abasement.
c. He was nothing special. He was a nobody. He didn’t have any special insight into life that he learned or observed.
d. In fact, he was more brutish than other men. He wasn’t claiming to be personally brilliant.
e. Though he was the human “pen” God used to record this wisdom, he was not the source of the wisdom.
5. This thought is also parallel to the words of Peter in II Pet. 1:20-21.
a. Vs. 20 – no prophecy of Scripture (Agur referred to his words as prophecy – a burden from God) is of any “private” interpretation (unloosing).
b. In other words, no portion of Scripture was recorded as a result of the prophet’s own personal or private “interpretation” of life. Prophecy did not originate with the prophet.
c. Vs. 21 – Prophecy did not come about by the will of man (the prophet), but rather by God – who gave revelation from above for the prophet to record.
d. God’s spokesmen spoke and wrote not out of their own insight and personal observation, but they wrote as they were moved and directed by the Spirit of God.
e. Prophecy (and all Scripture) did not originate with the prophet, but came down from above – from the Spirit of God.
6. Agur introduces his writings (what he calls prophetic burden) by stating in the most emphatic way by stating that he himself was no one special.
a. The wisdom and knowledge of God he records did not originate with him, but (by implication) it originated with God.
b. His wisdom and knowledge would be worthless.
c. But “every word of (from) GOD is pure…” (vs.5)
d. This humble, self-deprecating man bends over backwards to make sure no one misses this point: what he is about to say is worth listening to because it came straight from God.
e. It doesn’t matter who the human author is.
f. In the verses following this introduction (after abasing himself) Agur exalts the Lord and lifts him up. This too is the way of wisdom.