Verses 1-9 Dialogue Between a Skeptic and a Believer
Verse 1 gives us the title of this collection. Agur and Jakeh of Massa which are not Hebrew but Arabic words. This may suggest that these sayings are not Hebrew. Massa is referred to in Genesis 25:14 and 1 Chronicles 1:30. In these verses 1-9 there is a dialog between a sceptic and a believer. Verse 2-4 state the position of the agnostic who believes that we cannot know anything of God. Verses 5-6 are the response of the believer. The believer sates that God is trustworthy and has revealed Himself through His Word. In verse 7-9 is the prayer of the righteous that God will grant the sceptic knowledge of the truth and his daily bread.
Verse 2 states “Surely I am more stupid than any man.” Some see this statement as an expression of humility. It is not clear but the text shows that the speaker is skeptical of being able to know God. In verse 3 “knowledge of the Holy One” is a reference to religious knowledge. Verse 4 is a series of rhetorical questions similar to the questions of Job in chapter 38.
In verse 5-6 the believer gives answer to the sceptic. God’s Word will stand in examination. God is a refuge for those who will trust Him. One should not try to put words into the mouth of God or deny what He has said. One could be rebuked and proven a liar.
Verses 7-9 is a closing petition which asks for two things: To be trustworthy and not engage in falsehood; secondly, to be neither rich nor poor. Too much can cause one to become proud and deny the Lord. Too little could cause one to steal.
Verses 10-33 Admonitions and Proverbs
Verse 10 is an admonition against tale bearing against a servant. Verses 11-14 list four types of evil men. Each of the verses begins with “a kind of man.” Signifying a group of people. The four types of evil men are despisers of parents; self-righteous; arrogant and proud; and devourers of the poor.
Verses 15-33 is a series of numerical sayings. The first is about four insatiable things. Sheol; the woman without children; the thirsty earth that is parched in a dry land; and fire which devours. In verse 17 admonishes and rebukes the youth who make fun and ignore the rights of their parents. This would be an inexcusable behavior for a Hebrew youth.
Verses 18-19 have four wonders; how great a bird is able to fly through the air; how a snake moves without legs and feet; how a ship piles the waves; and the wonder of love making.
Verse 20 describes the callous behavior of the adulterous. “Wipes her mouth” shows her lack of concern for her behavior.
Verses 21-23 describe four unbearable types of persons; a slave who gets to the throne; a fool with a full belly; a woman who marries after losing hope of finding a husband; and a maid who takes the affections of her mistresses’ husband.
Verses 24-28 is four wise things; ants, because of their industriousness; badgers, who are ingenious about building their homes; locust, who have order without a king; and the lizard, who can climb any wall.
Verses 29-31 describe four stately things: the lion; a strutting cock; a he-goat, and a king strutting before his people.
Verses 32-33 admonish self-restraint. To one who blows their own horn too much, or planning evil against someone else, put your hand upon your mouth to stop it. If you push too hard the results will be bad.