22:17 Incline your ear 2 and listen to the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my instruction. 3
24:23 These sayings also are from the wise:
To show partiality 4 in judgment is terrible: 5
30:1 The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh; an oracle: 7
This 8 man says 9 to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ukal: 10
31:1 The words of King Lemuel, 11
an oracle 12 that his mother taught him:
1 sn A new collection of sayings begins here, forming the fourth section of the book of Proverbs. This collection is not like that of 1:1–9:18; here the introductory material is more personal than 1:1-7, and the style differs, showing great similarity to the Instruction of Amenemope in Egypt (especially the thirty precepts of the sages in 22:17–24:22). Verses 17-21 form the introduction, and then the sayings begin in v. 22. After the thirty sayings are given, there are further sayings in 24:23-34. There is much literature on this material: see W. K. Simpson, ed., Literature of Ancient Egypt; ANET 412-425; and A. Cody, “Notes on Proverbs 22:21 and 22:23b,” Bib 61 (1980): 418-26.
2 sn To “incline the ear” means to “listen carefully” (cf. NCV); the expression is metonymical in that the ear is the instrument for hearing. It is like telling someone to lean over to hear better.
3 tn Heb “knowledge” (so KJV, NASB); in this context it refers to the knowledge that is spoken by the wise, hence “instruction.”
4 tn Heb “to recognize faces”; KJV, ASV “to have respect of persons”; NLT “to show favoritism.”
5 tn Heb “not good.” This is a figure known as tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement to emphasize a worst-case scenario: “it is terrible!”
6 sn This chapter has a title (30:1), Agur’s confession and petition (30:2-9), and a series of Agur’s admonitions (30:10-33).
7 tn The title הַמַּשָּׂא (hammasa’) means “the burden,” a frequently used title in prophetic oracles. It may be that the word is a place name, although it is more likely that it describes what follows as an important revelation.
8 tn The definite article is used here as a demonstrative, clarifying the reference to Agur.
9 sn The word translated “says” (נְאֻם, nÿ’um) is a verbal noun; it is also a term that describes an oracle. It is usually followed by the subjective genitive: “the oracle of this man to Ithiel.”
10 tn There have been numerous attempts to reinterpret the first two verses of the chapter. The Greek version translated the names “Ithiel” and “Ukal,” resulting in “I am weary, O God, I am weary and faint” (C. C. Torrey, “Proverbs Chapter 30,” JBL 73 : 93-96). The LXX’s approach is followed by some English versions (e.g., NRSV, NLT). The Midrash tried through a clever etymologizing translation to attribute the works to Solomon (explained by W. G. Plaut, Proverbs, 299). It is most likely that someone other than Solomon wrote these sayings; they have a different, almost non-proverbial, tone to them. See P. Franklyn, “The Sayings of Agur in Proverbs 30: Piety or Skepticism,” ZAW 95 (1983): 239-52.
11 sn Nothing else is known about King Lemuel aside from this mention in the book of Proverbs. Jewish legend identifies him as Solomon, making this advice from his mother Bathsheba; but there is no evidence for that. The passage is the only direct address to a king in the book of Proverbs – something that was the norm in wisdom literature of the ancient world (Leah L. Brunner, “King and Commoner in Proverbs and Near Eastern Sources,” Dor le Dor 10 : 210-19; Brunner argues that the advice is religious and not secular).
12 tn Some English versions take the Hebrew noun translated “oracle” here as a place name specifying the kingdom of King Lemuel; cf. NAB “king of Massa”; CEV “King Lemuel of Massa.”