and I do not have human understanding; 4
30:3 I have not learned wisdom,
Who has gathered up the winds in his fists? 8
Who has bound up the waters in his cloak? 9
Who has established all the ends of the earth? 10
What is his name, and what is his son’s name? 11 – if you know!
30:6 Do not add to his words,
lest he reprove you, and prove you to be a liar. 15
do not refuse me before I die:
do not give me poverty or riches,
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I become poor and steal
and demean 22 the name of my God.
1 tn The particle כִּי (ki) functions in an asseverative sense, “surely; indeed; truly” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 73, §449).
2 tn The noun בַּעַר (ba’ar) means “brutishness”; here it functions as a predicate adjective. It is followed by מֵאִישׁ (me’ish) expressing comparative degree: “more than a man” or “more than any man,” with “man” used in a generic sense. He is saying that he has fallen beneath the level of mankind. Cf. NRSV “I am too stupid to be human.”
3 tn Heb “than man.” The verse is using hyperbole; this individual feels as if he has no intelligence at all, that he is more brutish than any other human. Of course this is not true, or he would not be able to speculate on the God of the universe at all.
4 tn Heb “the understanding of a man,” with “man” used attributively here.
5 sn The construction uses repetition to make the point emphatically: “I do not know the knowledge of the Holy One.” Agur’s claim to being “brutish” is here clarified – he is not one of those who has knowledge or understanding of God. C. H. Toy thinks the speaker is being sarcastic in reference to others who may have claimed such knowledge (Proverbs [ICC], 521).
6 tn The epithet “the Holy One” is the adjective “holy” put in the masculine plural (as in 9:10). This will harmonize with the plural of majesty used to explain the plural with titles for God. However, NRSV takes the plural as a reference to the “holy ones,” presumably referring to angelic beings.
7 sn To make his point Agur includes five questions. These, like Job 38–41, or Proverbs 8:24-29, focus on the divine acts to show that it is absurd for a mere mortal to think that he can explain God’s work or compare himself to God. These questions display mankind’s limitations and God’s incomparable nature. The first question could be open to include humans, but may refer to God alone (as the other questions do).
8 sn The questions are filled with anthropomorphic language. The questioner is asking what humans have ever done this, but the meaning is that only God has done this. “Gathering the wind in his fists” is a way of expressing absolute sovereign control over the forces of nature.
9 sn The question is comparing the clouds of the heavens to garments (e.g., Job 26:8). T. T. Perowne writes, “Men bind up water in skins or bottles; God binds up the rain-floods in the thin, gauzy texture of the changing clouds, which yet by his power does not rend under its burden of waters.”
10 sn The ends of the earth is an expression often used in scripture as a metonymy of subject referring to the people who live in the ends of the earth, the far off and remote lands and islands. While that is possible here as well, this may simply be a synecdoche saying that God created the whole world, even the most remote and distant places.
11 sn The reference to “son” in this passage has prompted many suggestions down through the years: It was identified as Israel in the Jewish Midrashim, the Logos or demiurge by some of the philosophers and allegorical writers, as simple poetic parallelism without a separate identity by some critical scholars, and as Jesus by Christian commentators. Parallels with Ugaritic are interesting, because Baal is referred to as a son; but that is bound up within the pantheon where there was a father god. Some of the Jewish commentators exhibit a strange logic in expressing what Christians would say is only their blindness to the full revelation: There is little cogency in this being a reference to Jesus because if there had been such a person at any time in the past he would have left some tradition about it through his descendants (J. H. Greenstone, Proverbs, 317). But Judaism has taught from the earliest times that Messiah was preexistent (especially in view of Micah 5 and Daniel 7); and the claims of Jesus in the Gospels bear this out. It seems best to say that there is a hint here of the nature of the Messiah as Son, a hint that will later be revealed in full through the incarnation.
12 sn The text here uses an implied comparison (a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis): It compares the perfection of every word from God with some precious metal that has been refined and purified (e.g., Ps 12:6). The point is that God’s word is trustworthy; it has no defects and flaws, nothing false or misleading. The second half of the verse explains the significance of this point – it is safe to trust the
13 tn The comparative “like” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is implied by the metaphor; it is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
14 sn The line uses two more figures of speech to declare that God can be trusted for security and salvation. “Shield” is a simple metaphor – God protects. “Take refuge” is another implied comparison (hypocatastasis) – God provides spiritual rest and security for those who put their trust in him.
15 tn The form of the verb is a Niphal perfect tense with a vav consecutive from the root כָּזַב (kazav, “to lie”). In this stem it has the ideas of “been made deceptive,” or “shown to be false” or “proved to be a liar.” One who adds to or changes the word of the
17 tn Assuming that the contents of vv. 7-9 are a prayer, several English versions have supplied a vocative phrase: “O
18 tn The two words might form a hendiadys: “falsehood and lies” being equivalent to “complete deception.” The word שָׁוְא means “false; empty; vain; to a false purpose.” The second word means “word of lying,” thus “a lying word.” Taken separately they might refer to false intentions and false words.
19 tn The word חֹק (khoq) means “statute”; it is also used of a definite assignment in labor (Exod 5:14; Prov 31:15), or of a set portion of food (Gen 47:22). Here it refers to food that is the proper proportion for the speaker.
21 tn The verb כָּחַשׁ (kakhash) means “to be disappointing; to deceive; to fail; to grow lean.” In the Piel stem it means “to deceive; to act deceptively; to cringe; to disappoint.” The idea of acting deceptively is illustrated in Hos 9:2 where it has the connotation of “disowning” or “refusing to acknowledge” (a meaning very close to its meaning here).
22 tn The Hebrew verb literally means “to take hold of; to seize”; this produces the idea of doing violence to the reputation of God.