Proverbs 30

The Word Made Fresh

1This is an oracle, in the words of Agur son of Jakeh:
A man cries out, “I am so weary, God! How can I continue?
2I am surely too stupid to be human;
I have no human understanding.
3I have learned nothing.
I have no knowledge of anything holy.
4Who has gone to heaven and returned?
Who can gather wind in the hands?
Who has bundled the waters in a cloak?
Who has set all the boundaries of the earth?
What is this person’s name?
What is the name of this person’s child?
Surely you know!”
5Every word God speaks is true.
God is a shield in whom anyone can find protection.
6But don’t add to God’s words,
or you will be rebuked and be found a liar.
7I ask but two things of you;
don’t deny them to me before I die.
8Remove lying and falsehoods away from me;
do not give me either poverty or wealth;
only the food that I need.
9Otherwise I would be filled and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or I shall be poor and steal
and curse the name of my God.
10Don’t slander a servant to his or her master
or the servant will curse you and you will be guilty.
11There are those who will curse their fathers
and refuse to bless their mothers.
12And there are those who are perfect in their own eyes
even though never cleansed of their filth.
13There are those whose eyes are raised too high,
and their eyelids lifted higher.
14There are those whose teeth are sharpened like swords,
sharpened like knives,
ready to devour the poor from the earth
and the needy from the human race.
15The bloodsucker has two daughters.
“Give!” they cry. “Give!”
There are three things never satisfied;
four that never say, “Enough:”
16Death, the barren womb,
the dry ever-thirsty earth,
and the fire that never says, “No more.”
17The eye that makes fun of a father
and refuses to obey a mother
will be pecked out by the valley ravens
and devoured by vultures.
18Three things are too wonderful for me;
no, four things I do not understand:
19the way of an eagle in the sky;
the way of a snake on a rock;
the way of a ship on the high seas;
and the way of a man with a woman.
20This is how an adulteress behaves:
she eats, wipes her mouth, and says,
“I haven’t done anything wrong.”
21The earth trembles under three things
and can’t hold up under four:
22a slave become king;
a fool glutted with food;
23an unloved woman who finds a husband,
and a maid when she overcomes her mistress.
24Four things on earth are very small
and yet very, very wise:
25Ants are creatures without strength,
but they still manage to provide food for themselves in summer;
26badgers are creatures with no power,
but they make their homes in the rocks;
27locusts have no king,
but they march together, rank by rank;
28lizards can be caught in the hand,
but still are found in the palaces of kings.
29Three things are very stately in their stride;
Indeed, four in their gait:
30the lion, mightiest of all the wild animals,
does not turn away from any of them;
31the rooster that struts, the proud he-goat,
and the king, stepping out before his people.
32If you have been exalting yourself foolishly,
or if you have been planning evil,
put your hand over your mouth.
33You might produce curds by pressing milk,
or produce blood by pressing your nose,
or produce strife by pressing anger.


1-6: Agur son of Jakeh is otherwise unknown, and the verses that follow are markedly different from what has gone before. They are not labeled proverbs but rather “the words of Agur,” and then we are told this is “the oracle.” Some scholars believe these verses are intended as a dialogue between two people; one whose faith is foundering, the other whose faith is strong. The difficulties presented by the text are too numerous to consider here. However, I suggest that verses 1b-4 be taken as the questioning of one who is not convinced anything can be known of God, and verses 5-6 as the response of faith.

7-9: It has been said that these verses form the only prayer to be found in Proverbs. The author acknowledges that honesty is more important than riches and therefore asks God to provide for basic needs — “my daily bread” as some translations have it. Having more than enough tempts one to deny God. Having too little is a temptation to steal what is lacking, thus dishonoring God.

10: In a culture that practiced indentured servanthood it was necessary to insure the security of the servants. This verse acknowledges the close relationship between master and servant, so that the word of the servant is taken over the word of an accuser.

11-14: A list of deplorable behaviors, from mistreatment of parents to vanity to lording it over the poor.

15-16: 15b begins a list of “three things that never satisfy,” but is preceded by something else that is never satisfied: the children of a leech (someone who habitually exploits others).

17: Honor your father and mother!

18-19: Poetry at its best.

20: The adulteress makes her last appearance in Proverbs.

21-23: Agur likes numerical proverbs, doesn’t he?

24-28: And he likes to put them into groups of four.

29-31: I wonder if the king appreciated being compared to a goat, a rooster. and a lion.

32-33: A vulgar platitude which basically means “curb your tongue, knave.”


Chapter 30 is a unique contribution to the book of Proverbs. A new character, Agur, is introduced and presented as a model for the kind of behavior the book of Proverbs seeks to promote.