Proverbs 30:18-19

Four Incomprehensible Things

There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.


1. This proverb comes to us in the way of a riddle, of sorts.

2. Agur mentions four things that are “too wonderful” to know.

3. The riddle is to figure out what these four things have in common.

4. Verse 20 is connected to this riddle – and is a specific application of the riddle; however, the riddle stands on its own.

5. Again, it is designed to make us think.

There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:

1. Again, Agur uses the same poetic format as in vs. 15-16 – “three things and four…” In the previous section what the four things had in common was the fact that they are never satisfied.

2. In vs. 18-19 that which they have in common is twofold:

a. They are “too wonderful.”

b. They are “incomprehensible.”

3. “Too wonderful”

a. Wonderful: Beyond one’s power; too difficult to do; wondrous because of the difficulty; surpassing; extraordinary; surprising; astounding.

b. To highlight just how wonderful—this is one of the names of God in Isaiah 9:6 – His name shall be called “Wonderful!” God is so beyond our capacity to comprehend, all we can do is stand in wonder and awe!

c. The term is used in Genesis 18:14 – “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” In other words, is anything too extraordinary for God? Is anything too amazing for Him? No! God can do anything.

d. The term is also used in Judges 13:19-20 of the Angel of the Lord that appeared to Manoah and his wife: “So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. 20For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.”

e. They just witnessed the Angel (the Lord!) ascending up into heaven in a flame off the altar! What they saw amazed them. They stood in awe and wonder.

4. The four things Agur lists are things which cause us to stand in wonder and awe.

5. “Which I know not”

a. This term means: to be made aware; revealed; to show; to find out.
• Lev. 4:23a – “Or if his sin, wherein he hath sinned, come to his knowledge; he shall bring his offering…”
• The term speaks of having information revealed, shown, come to one’s knowledge, to become familiar with; etc.

b. First Agur described these four things as amazing and extraordinary. Now he describes them as beyond his ability to comprehend: “I know not.”

c. He does not understand how such things could be. It has never come to his knowledge; no one has ever explained such a thing.

d. How does it work? How does it happen? It seems to defy logic and explanation.

e. There was no textbook explaining how these things work. The science behind it seemed elusive. And to a certain degree remains elusive to this very day!

Four Amazing Things

A. The way of an eagle in the air

1. Try to put yourself back in time before science had advanced to what it is today. There were certain everyday occurrences that seemed perplexing.

2. We like to think of ourselves as advanced scientifically and technologically.

a. But even though scientist have discovered the “mechanics” behind that which perplexed men in ages past, they have also discovered new things that cause scientists to marvel today.

b. Today we have far more things that perplex scientists and those who made scientific observations of the world around us.

c. The creation is STILL full of wonder and amazing things to behold that baffle the most brilliant scientists of our day.

3. Agur stood amazed at how an eagle could soar through the sky.

a. We continue to stand amazed at flight.

b. The creatures of earth that fly often have very different means of flight too – from the eagle, to the hummingbird, to the white and fluffy dandelion seeds, to the flying squirrel.

B. The way of a serpent upon a rock

1. Agur was also amazed at how a snake moves across a rock.

2. The snake has no legs. He doesn’t seem to “inch” along like an inchworm either.

3. The snake moves his body one way and moves in the other direction.

C. The way of a ship in the midst of the sea

1. The next amazing thing Agur contemplated was the ship sailing through the vast ocean.

2. It has no engine; no one is rowing; it consumes no fuel; and often the wind is blowing in contrary direction, yet the ship continues to sail where it wants to go.

3. Of course men in Agur’s day did understand much of the science behind it. Men invented the sail and knew how to use the wind for his advantage. They also understood about the water currents that help move vessels along in the ocean.

4. However, it is still a wonderful thing to watch – to see boats sailing in the sea.

D. The way of a man with a maid

1. This seems to be the most wondrous thing of all!

2. The “way” of a man with a maid (virgin) speaks of a courtship.

3. How a young man and young woman get together and just “click” still amazes us.

4. We have yet to learn the chemistry and science behind that—and probably never will.

5. Yet (as in the other cases), in spite of the fact that we don’t understand HOW it happens, it does happen!

6. And when it happens, we stand amazed at the creation of God.

What These Amazing Things Have in Common

Agur chose four very different things of wonder.
• At first glance, there seems to be nothing in common between a bird, a snake, a boat, and a young couple.
• But upon further reflection (that is the purpose of this proverb) there are similarities that come to mind.

1. There is something mysterious about all four.

a. The eagle
• There is something mysterious and wonderful about watching birds fly.
• It is especially amazing to watch a large bird fly. It seems like they should fall out of the sky by the draw of gravity—but they don’t.
• It is part of the wondrous creation of God.

b. The serpent
• The serpent moving on a large flat rock also is mysterious.
• I’m sure that most of us have stopped to watch them move at one time or another and stood amazed.
• Again – God’s design in His creation causes onlookers to stand amazed.

c. The ship
• Watching sailboats glide over the water is another wonderful thing to watch.
• It’s a great way to spend a lazy hour or two at the beach on your day off.
• And perhaps you have seen the windsurfers or para-surfers. They too zip back and forth across the water with the greatest of ease.

d. The young couple
• And note what he includes last: the way of a man with a maid… courtship.
• This too is mysterious how John and Jane just seem to click. This isn’t something that fits into a neat formula.
• Science cannot predict which two people will come together and cause just the right kind of chemistry to occur.
• There is something supremely mysterious and wonderful about this—and yet it happens every day.

2. They leave no trace behind.

a. The eagle
• When planes fly, they leave behind a trail of smoke and burnt fuel.
• When the eagle leaves nothing in its wake.

b. The serpent
• The serpent slithers over a rock and does not leave any foot prints behind… or no slime like a worm or slug.

c. The ship
• The ship passes through the sea, and the ocean is unaffected by it.
• By observing, you could not go backwards and trace where they came from. They leave no trace behind.

d. The young couple
• When the chemistry occurs between a young man and woman, there are no residuals. It’s not like an explosion.
• They leave no residue behind for a scientist to trace out and study.

3. They need no road or pathway.

a. The eagle
• The eagle flies through the sky—but he doesn’t follow a road.
• There are no pathways for eagles to follow.
• There are no guard rails up there—there are no passing lanes—there are no superhighways.

b. The serpent – The snake slithers across the rock and gets where he wants to go without any roads either.

c. The ship – The ship sails through the sea and doesn’t follow any visible road or pathway.

d. The young couple – And so with the young couple.
• There is no pathway that we can see that led them together.
• There was no scientific way to determine with any accuracy that this man and this woman would be attracted to each other.
• For the believer, God leads along—but we see no pathway. They don’t always follow the same route.
• There is no easy formula to follow that leads a couple together…— notwithstanding!

4. They seem instinctively to know what to do.

a. The eagle – The young eagle on his very first flight instinctively knows what to do.

b. The serpent – The serpent is born with the ability to slither.

c. The ship – The ship also (when designed properly) instinctively functions as designed.

d. The young couple
• And so too with the young couple.
• There is something very instinctive about how they come together – about them being drawn together.
• It’s not really learned behavior.

5. They make something exceedingly complex look very simple.

a. The eagle
• Birds soaring through the air are an amazing complex activity scientifically.
• It took centuries for man to duplicate it… and even then, our “copy” is very clumsy, awkward, and bulky compared to a bird.
• The bird soars gracefully and with the greatest of ease.

b. The serpent – there is much complex science behind a snake’s motion. But the snake makes it look so easy! It moves so seamlessly.

c. The ship also sails with grace and ease.

d. The young couple
• The final point – that which draws a young man and woman together is infinitely complex.
• It is a physical, mental, social, spiritual kind of magnetism that defies description. It is beyond science.
• But when it happens, it seems like the most natural and simple thing in the world!
• We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

6. Agur wants his readers to stand amazed at God’s marvelous design in creation.

a. It is good to meditate on God’s creation and to ponder its marvels. It is a good spiritual exercise.

b. And in this spiritual exercise, the scientist has no advantage over a shepherd or a fisherman.

c. God made everything – and all of creation is fearfully and wonderfully made.

d. God knows how to make things work… and work well.

e. And He also knows how we humans were designed to function.
• In fact He wrote a book on the subject.
• We would do well to follow the instructions in His Word.

f. There are many marvels in the world that are mysterious to us. But that’s ok. We don’t have to know how everything works.

g. We just have to trust and obey—and function as God designed us to function…

h. And with all the other things we don’t understand, we can just stand in awe of who God is and praise Him for the great things that He has made.

i. The whole earth shows forth His handiwork.