30:1 The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh; an oracle: 2
This 3 man says 4 to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ukal: 5
31:1 The words of King Lemuel, 6
an oracle 7 that his mother taught him:
1 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).
2 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.
3 tn The definite article is used here as a demonstrative, clarifying the reference to Agur.
4 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.”
5 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.
6 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).
7 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.”