As we did for Proverbs 27 – 29, we’re looking at an outline of the Proverbs for today.
Proverbs 30 –
Agur Gets Existential
This next section is entitled “Sayings of Agur, Son of Jakeh” (no one knows who Agur was, but he may have been a non-Israelite, representing Near-Eastern wisdom in a more general way). It begins with a confession of human ignorance—the speaker admits that he doesn’t know anything, doesn’t understand how the world was made, or how the universe was structured. He lacks wisdom, he says, but ends by saying to God that God knows all. He says that everything God says comes true, and people shouldn’t falsely attribute statements to the divine. In life, Agur says he only wants to be free from falsehood and lying, and to have just enough to live—being free from both poverty and wealth. He asks God for these gifts and says he won’t be able to live an upright moral life without them. Agur’s Rogues Gallery
Don’t slander servants to their masters, says Agur. Also, Agur catalogues all the bad guys out there: people who curse their parents, people who think they lack sin but are actually sinful, people who oppress the poor and steal money and goods from them. People who are leeches end up having their own children prey on them (though the meaning of this passage in Hebrew is unclear). Agur continues to catalogue different sets of things: four things that are never satisfied—a barren womb, Sheol, the dry earth thirsty for water, and some sort of raging fire that keeps consuming everything. Out of nowhere, he says that an eye that mocks father and mother will be picked out by crows. When a Man Loves a Woman… It’s Really Confusing to Agur
Then he goes back to cataloguing stuff. Agur says three things are too wonderful for him, and four he doesn’t understand. The three things that are too wonderful are an eagle in the sky, a snake crawling on a rock, and a ship sailing the sea. The fourth is the way of a man with a woman. He says, again just off-handedly, that an adulteress commits adultery as simply as someone who eats and wipes his or her mouth and says that they’ve done no wrong. Three things make the earth tremble, and the fourth knocks it out of sorts entirely: a slave who becomes king, a fool who’s eaten too much, an unloved woman who gets a husband, and a maid who succeeds her mistress as the new head of household. Proverbs 31 –
Just Ask Mom
This chapter begins with an oracle that King Lemuel (possibly some otherwise unknown non-Israelite king) learned from his mother.
She tells him not to give his strength to women (by having too much sex) and not to drink wine, because it will lead him into making unjust decisions and violating his citizens’ rights.
She says wine and strong drink are good for people who are dying or are in distress, to ease their pain and help them forget their misery. She ends by urging him to defend the rights of the poor and the needy, and to judge righteously. Betty Crocker Meets Rosie the Riveter
This next section isn’t from King Lemuel or his mom, apparently. It’s an ode to the ideal, capable wife from another source. Basically, capable wives are really great—they benefit their husbands endlessly, bring in food from far away, and know how to work with wool and flax to make clothing. The capable wife rises up early in the morning and makes sure all the servant-girls are doing chores and that the household is running correctly. She considers and buys a field by herself, and plants a vineyard with money she’s earned. She grows physically strong, sells profitable merchandise, and is constantly industrious. The capable wife gives to the poor and doesn’t have to worry about winter, since everyone in her household is richly clothed thanks to her efforts. Oh, and she’s got some fine outfits, as well. Her husband becomes a revered member of the council of elders, and she teaches kindness and wisdom to her children and others. She’s never idle, never has to fear the future, and always takes care of her household. Her kids and husband all praise her and appreciate how happy and capable she is. A woman who fears God is way preferable to one with mere charm or beauty. If you give her a share of the money she’s earned, she’ll use it in works that earn her praise in the city.