8.THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON END HERE. THE REST OF THE BOOK IS COMPOSED OF THREE APPENDICES: (a) THE WORDS OF AGUR; (b) THE WORDS OF KING LEMUEL; AND (C) THE PRAISE OF A GOOD WIFE (Proverbs 30, 31).
(1) The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy.—Jewish interpreters have seen in these titles (but apparently without a shadow of reason) a designation of Solomon himself, the “convener” and instructor of assemblies (Ecclesiastes 1:1; Ecclesiastes 12:11), son of the “obedient” man after God’s own heart. But they in all probability belong to some otherwise unknown sage, whose utterances were thought not unworthy of being joined with those of the wise King of Israel himself. In support of this view 1 Kings 4:30 may be adduced as a proof of the estimation in which the wisdom of foreign nations was at this time held. The book of Job also, which possibly now was added to the canon of Scripture, is certainly of foreign, probably of Arabian, origin. Some light may be thrown upon the nationality of Agur by the words translated in the Authorised version “the prophecy” (massâ). This is the term constantly employed to express the “utterance,” or, more probably, the message which a prophet “bore” to his hearers, often one of gloomy import (Isaiah 13:1, etc.). But the term is not very appropriate to the contents of this chapter, nor to the “words of King Lemuel,” in Proverbs 31, and the expression, “the prophecy,” standing quite alone, with no other words to qualify it, is very singular. For these reasons it has been proposed to translate the beginning of the verse thus: “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh the Massan,” i.e., a descendant of the Massa mentioned in Genesis 25:14 as a son of Ishmael. This would place his home probably in North Arabia, and Lemuel would be king of the same tribe.
The man spake.—The word translated “spake” is most frequently used of the revelation of God to prophets, rarely (Numbers 24:3 and 2 Samuel 23:1) of the utterances of inspired prophets; never of the words of ordinary men.
Unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal.—These most probably were disciples of his. As their names may mean “God with me,” and “I am strong,” a fanciful delineation of their characters, in the style of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” has been attempted by some writers. And a mystical interpretation of them, “You must have God with you, if you are to be strong,” may be found in Bishop Wordsworth’s Commentary. It has been proposed also, as is possible with a slight change in the pointing, to translate these words thus: “I am weary, O God, I am weary, and am weak,” or, “have made an end,” and to make them an introduction to Proverbs 30:2, which supplies the reason for this weariness, “For I am more brutish,” etc. Thus is described, it has been thought, the sinking at heart of one who has sought after God, and the more he has realised the divine excellence, has become the more conscious of his own nothingness. But this rendering is unnecessary, as the Authorised version gives a good sense.
Who hath bound the waters in a garment?—Stretching out the clouds as a “curtain” (Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22), to keep the rain from falling upon the earth. (Comp. Job 26:8.)
What is his name?—We may call Him the Self-existing (Jehovah), Powerful (Shaddai), Strong (El). Awful (Eloah) Being; we may describe Him as merciful, gracious, etc. (Exodus 34:5 sqq.), but no words will describe Him adequately, for not till the next life shall we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2), and He has been pleased to reveal Himself only partially to us.
What is his son’s name?—See the description of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22 sqq., and the notes there.
Before I die—i.e., while life lasts.
Food convenient for me.—Literally, bread of my portion, such as is apportioned to me as suitable by the care of the heavenly Father. Comp. “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) in the sense of “proper for our sustenance.”
And take the name of my God in vain.—Literally, handle it roughly, irreverently; particularly in finding fault with His providence.
And thou be found guilty before God of having wronged him, and so have to bear the punishment.
A fool (nābhāl).—See above, on Proverbs 17:7. It is only when he has to work hard for his living that he will behave himself decently; if he gets a little money, it will soon be wasted in idleness and self-indulgence.
An handmaid that is heir to her mistress, and who is nervously anxious to preserve her newly-acquired dignity.
A king, against whom there is no rising up.—Who marches with resistless force, trampling on his conquered foes. (Comp. the description of the march of the Assyrians, Isaiah 37:24 sqq.; comp. also Isaiah 63:1 sqq. and Joel 2:2 sqq.) It has been proposed to translate these words also as “a king with whom is [i.e., followed by] his people,” in much the same sense.