The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle.
The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal:
2 Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And I do not have the understanding of a man.
3 Neither have I learned wisdom,
Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!
There is only one God Who knows all, Who has made everything, Who is in control of everything, and Who has the power to both descend to earth and ascend back again. The Lord God is the only Being with all knowledge, power, strength, and wisdom. Man apart from Christ has no wisdom, but in Christ he can learn wisdom and grow in knowledge so that his otherwise stupid, blind, and foolish heart can be trained in righteousness and honor (Romans 12:1-2). Agur recognizes his weakness apart from God and how small his understanding is against the backdrop of God’s omniscience. He is not proud of his intellect, but he trusts in God to give him wisdom worth sharing.
5 Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Every word of God is given by inspiration of the Spirit and profitable for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteousness in order to make the Christian ready, equipped, and able to do what God has asked of him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and His Word is sure. It will sanctify (John 17:17) and rightly judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Those who follow His Word will find it to be a shield and a refuge to them, keeping them from doing so much harm and destruction that sin would otherwise do (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word has never failed or been proven wrong, and it will endure forever.
6 Do not add to His words
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.
God has preserved His Word (Matthew 5:18), for it will endure forever (1 Peter 1:25). A curse awaits any who add to or take away from the Scriptures (Revelation 22:18-19). Scripture stands alone above all other literature because it is God-breathed, pure, true, and authoritative, the very Word of God to man. It is imperative that believers study the Word diligently so that they can share it and teach it rightly (2 Timothy 2:15).
7 Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Two great prayers, desires, and ambitions are given here. First, he prays that God would keep deceit and lies far from his heart and mind. Lying is very often the first step into a multitude of sins, and it is imperative for those who wish to be sanctified to start speaking truthfully with others and being truthful with themselves. Second, he prays that he would have just what he needs. He is concerned that if he has too much that he might deny God because of pride and a false feeling of self-sufficiency. He also doesn’t want to be so poor that he is tempted to steal and profane God’s name. A life that is devoted to the truth and to honesty as well as one that has found contentment and isn’t enslaved to any of the lusts of the world is a noble ambition and something wise to pray for.
10 Do not slander a slave to his master,
Or he will curse you and you will be found guilty.
Speaking ill of a servant to his master is absolutely unloving, demeaning, and insulting to a fellow human being. It is indicative of a lack of love and compassion in the heart. It could endanger the life of the servant if believed, and if not believed, it could lend punishment to the liar. Either way, it is dangerous, harmful, and destructive behavior and not something becoming of a Christian. (for more on proper servant-master relationships see Proverbs 29:21)
11 There is a kind of man who curses his father
And does not bless his mother.
12 There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes,
Yet is not washed from his filthiness.
13 There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes!
And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.
14 There is a kind of man whose teeth are like swords
And his jaw teeth like knives,
To devour the afflicted from the earth
And the needy from among men.
Here he describes four different kinds of wickedness that all have pride in common. The first type of person isn’t respectful to his parents and violates the command of God to honor one’s father and mother. The second type of person is so blinded by pride and arrogance that he cannot see the reality of his filthiness and sin. The third type looks down on others and exalts himself. He doesn’t bow before God but scoffs at Him and mocks Him. The look of his eyes with the raised eyelids speaks of elitism, condescension, and extreme arrogance. The fourth type is a person who will do anything and everything by word and deed to steal, kill, and destroy for his own gain. He would just assume see the “worthless eaters” be gone off the earth so that he can have more to himself. He has no compassion for the poor and weak, for he is full of pride, arrogance, and haughtiness. Pride manifests in different ways, but it is fundamental to all sin (1 John 2:16).
15 The leech has two daughters,
It is not good to be a leech and always try to take from others while never seeking to give in return. Christians should be generous and cheerful givers, not greedy takers.
There are three things that will not be satisfied,
Four that will not say, “Enough”:
16 Sheol, and the barren womb,
Earth that is never satisfied with water,
And fire that never says, “Enough.”
Here he lists four things that are never satisfied and which will never stop begging for more or say “enough”. The place of the dead and the fire of hell will never be quenched or have an end. The barren womb will cry out in great distress for children, but a conception just won’t happen. Water is poured out on the ground and is absorbed like it was never even there. Lastly, fire that keeps on burning and destroying everything in its path will also never say “enough”. The teachable point here is that nature and the created order gives many illustrations of things that cannot be fixed, stopped, and that will keep going on and on. These are a shadow of the power of death which all men will face. All will one day die and then face the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The fire of hell is more eternal and longer lasting than any earthly fire, and it must be taken seriously.
17 The eye that mocks a father
And scorns a mother,
The ravens of the valley will pick it out,
And the young eagles will eat it.
A heart that is never trained by discipline and that never learns humility, the fear of God, or the path of wisdom will likely end up never obeying God by faith and being destroyed by sin. God will metaphorically pluck out the eye that looks at Him and others in a haughty, prideful manner, and wrath will come to that person. Sin brings with it its own adversity, and the eternal consequences for sin are eternal pain and destruction.
18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Four which I do not understand:
19 The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.
He speaks of four things that are too wonderful for him and beyond understanding, things that constantly move him to marvel at how the world is so much more than a cosmic accident and a freak result of impossible natural causations. God’s creative genius is on display in an eagle soaring through the sky, in a snake slithering on a rock, in a ship sailing along endless waters, and the romantic affection between a man and his lover. All of these reflect something more and a God Who created it all. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” With God, there is always more to marvel at and for which we can give Him praise and thanks.
20 This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wrong.”
The adulterous woman feasts on the life that falls for her advances, and her conscience is so defiled that she is not even bothered by what she has done. She feels no guilt or shame, and she enjoys her lifestyle. It brings her glory in her mind, and she lives for her own pleasure and ease. She has no fear of God, and she does not reflect upon the fire of hell or the devastation she is bringing to many souls.
21 Under three things the earth quakes,
And under four, it cannot bear up:
22 Under a slave when he becomes king,
And a fool when he is satisfied with food,
23 Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
And a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.
Here he lists four things have earth-shaking ramifications. The first is when a kingdom is turned upside-down as a new leader takes to the throne. Perhaps implied here is the captives retaking the kingdom, and the slaves becoming the new victors. A whole new social order is the result. Jesus came as a suffering servant, but He will return as conquering King. Perhaps there is some prophetic implication here. Second, a fool will never be satisfied because only Christ brings satisfaction. In order to enjoy the gifts of life, one has to have the presence of Christ (Ecclesiastes 2:25, Psalm 16:11). Only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will find satisfaction for their souls (Matthew 5:6). So if a fool is actually now satisfied with anything, even something as small as a meal, it is likely an eternally significant event in that he is no longer a fool but a follower of Christ (Ecclesiastes 5:18). Third, when an unloved woman who has spent most of her life being rejected by men or considered ugly or second-rate finds a man who loves her, it changes her entire life and fills her with hope and joy. Of course, the only way lasting satisfaction can be enjoyed in marriage is if both love Christ. But this may well be a picture of Christ loving we who were unloved and dying and demonstrating His love for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). We, the bride of Christ, have found in Him something life-changing and earth-shattering as we have found the kingdom of God. Fourth, another thing that has major effects is when a maidservant displaces her mistress. This seems to indicate that the husband divorced his wife and took the female servant as his new wife. Obviously, this is adultery and wrong, and it has severe consequences for all involved. One person becomes instantly poor, unloved, and destitute, while the other gets all the benefits of moving up from a servant to a wife. An entire family is turned upside down, and children are hurt deeply in the process. Sin always has devastating effects, and adultery is certainly no exception.
24 Four things are small on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
25 The ants are not a strong people,
But they prepare their food in the summer;
26 The shephanim are not mighty people,
Yet they make their houses in the rocks;
27 The locusts have no king,
Yet all of them go out in ranks;
28 The lizard you may grasp with the hands,
Yet it is in kings’ palaces.
Here he lists four of God’s creatures which are small, but their instincts demonstrate a God who has made them wise in their own animal ways. The ants are very small and can easily be stepped on, but they are intelligent enough to feed themselves when they are doing their hard work, and, if necessary, storing up food for the winter. The rock badgers know how to live in the rocks and survive harsh conditions. The locusts have an order about them as they work together to eat everything green even though they have no locust king to give them orders. The lizard is small enough to hold in one’s hands, meaning that it is vulnerable, yet it is able to sneak into king’s palaces which are heavily guarded by men. Each of these creatures in being who God made it to be and following its God-given instincts brings praise to Him by showcasing His creative genius. Man is a steward over creation, and thus he should be protective of God’s creatures and, if he has faith, see the wisdom of God at work in His creation. The creation declares God’s glory (Psalm 19:1-2), and man should, too (Roman 1:19-20).
29 There are three things which are stately in their march,
Even four which are stately when they walk:
30 The lion which is mighty among beasts
And does not retreat before any,
31 The strutting rooster, the male goat also,
And a king when his army is with him.
Here he lists four things that are stately in their march and walk. First is the lion which is mighty among beasts and doesn’t run from other animals. Then there is the rooster which struts proudly as does the male goat. A king also tends to act all proud when he is surrounded by his army. Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5), is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He doesn’t need to strut, for His power is clear in what has been made. He is the Lord of hosts, and He cannot be defeated. Thus, the believer’s confidence must be in Jesus, not in himself, not in an earthly army, and not just because he is proud of himself. All boasting must be in Jesus.
32 If you have been foolish in exalting yourself
Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth.
33 For the churning of milk produces butter,
And pressing the nose brings forth blood;
So the churning of anger produces strife.
Boasting that is not in Christ is characteristic of exalting oneself, and pride is sin. Those who have fallen into pride need to repent immediately, and those who have plotted evil need to be ashamed and stop what they have started. The end of sin is always going to be strife and destruction, and wisdom stops and turns the other way.