1 The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.
The man declares, I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.
2 Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have not the understanding of a man.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
Surely you know!
5 Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6 Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:1-9 ESV
The closing chapters of the book of Proverbs are attributed to two different individuals whose identities remain a ministry. The first is Agur, the son of Jakeh. The second is referred to as King Lemuel. But we know nothing else about these men. Lemuel’s name does not appear anywhere in the list of the kings of Judah or Israel, found in the books of Kings or Chronicles. So, it is unclear where his kingdom was located. Some have speculated that Lemuel was a pen name for Solomon, but without evidence to back up their claim. The names Agur and Jakeh appear nowhere else in Scripture, so we have no way of knowing who they were or when and where they lived. But Agur and Lemuel were considered to be sages whose wise sayings were included in Solomon’s compendium of proverbs.
The first part of Agur’s collection of proverbs deals with man’s relationship with God. The author opens his list of three proverbial statements regarding God by speaking in the third person, describing himself as “weary and worn out” (Proverbs 30:1 NLT). He addresses his statements to God and makes a stunning confession:
I am too stupid to be human,
and I lack common sense. – Proverbs 30:2 NLT
Agur acknowledges that his lack of wisdom has left him unable to truly know and understand God.
I have not mastered human wisdom,
nor do I know the Holy One. – Proverbs 30:3 NLT
Agur is not declaring himself to be a fool, but he is simply acknowledging the transcendence of God. Agur’s wisdom is limited in scope and incapable of plumbing the depths of God’s character and nature. That is why Agur asks five probing questions that are intended to reveal man’s incapacity to fully know and appreciate the greatness of God.
Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?
Who holds the wind in his fists?
Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?
Who has created the whole wide world?
What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!
It’s almost as if Agur was familiar with the book of Job because he seems to mirror the questioning style found in chapters 38-42. In the book of Job, God confronts the main character with a series of questions that are designed to reestablish His own greatness and Job’s insignificance.
“Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.” – Job 38:2-3 NLT
And God precedes to expose Job’s unwarranted boldness to question His goodness and glory by asking a series of rhetorical questions.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” – Job 38:4 NLT
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” – Job 38:12 NLT
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
Have you explored their depths?” – Job 38:16 NLT
For two solid chapters, God levels question after question to Job. And when He is done, God asks Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (Job 40:2 NLT). To which Job humbly responds:
“I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?
I will cover my mouth with my hand.
I have said too much already.
I have nothing more to say.” – Job 40:4-5 NLT
Like Job, Agur understands that he has no right to question God. His wisdom is insufficient to comprehend the will and the ways of God. And he is worn out from attempting to gain enough wisdom to know and understand God.
But he has learned enough to know that God’s word is always true. Agur’s God is faithful and can be fully trusted.
In reading the book of Proverbs it would be easy to focus on what appear to be the main themes or topics of the book: Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. There is a natural tendency to make the gaining of these three things our sole or primary objective. After all, no one wants to be a fool, so it would make sense to pursue wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. But in doing so, we would miss the real objective of the book.
If you recall, in the very first chapter, Solomon stated that “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7 NLT). In other words, while wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are worthy objectives, they are only available through a right relationship with God. The Message paraphrases Proverbs 1:7 this way: “Start with God — the first step in learning is bowing down to God.”
It all begins with God. In Proverbs 30, Agur confesses, “I am weary, O God; I am weary and worn out, O God. I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense. I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One” (Proverbs 30:2-3 NLT). When we fail to start with God, and we neglect to get to know Him for who He is, we end up worn out, and lacking in the very things we need to survive and thrive in this world: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
Yet, when we make getting to know God our objective, we discover the true source of all wisdom. He is the creator of all things. His wisdom and knowledge are beyond our comprehension, yet He makes Himself known to us when we seek Him. He gives us His Word and it is completely reliable and true. Growing in our knowledge of God gives us a greater understanding of ourselves – our weaknesses, limitations, sinful tendencies, and our total dependence on Him.
Getting to know God gives us a new perspective on life. It changes our priorities, which is why Agur could say, “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord!’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name” (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT).
Growing in our knowledge of God refocuses our priorities and puts Him at the center of our lives. When we begin to understand just how much God hates pride, we will no longer desire to see it in our own lives. When we see it in others, we are turned off by it. We understand the danger of pride, arrogance, and over-inflated self-worth in our children. A growing knowledge of God will expose the ever-present danger of gluttony in our lives – in all its forms.
We are prone to discontentment and incessantly desire more and more of just about everything, including pleasure, food, attention, accolades, money, and power. Like the leech, we cry out, “More, more!” A person who has an intimate understanding of God is able to see through the facade of temptation and spot the dangers that lurk behind the lure. The fool is simply that person who doesn’t know God and, as a result, lacks wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and basic common sense. Like Agur, they end up weary from trying to live life in this world with nothing but their own human understanding to rely upon. That’s why it pays to start with God. The first step in achieving wisdom is learning is bow down before God. He is the key to life.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.