The Words of Agur
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God that we are considering. When we come to chapter 30 of the book of Proverbs, we have come to the first of two supplements to the book. The book is concluded in chapter 29, and chapter 30 is supplement number one. Chapter 31 is supplement number two. Supplement number one we might call The Words of Agur , and supplement number two, The Words of King Lemuel .

When you glance at chapter 30, you will recognize that it is a long chapter, comparatively speaking, and you are aware that in the manner in which we minister the Word of God, we would not even attempt to look at this entire chapter in this lesson. Since that is true, I would like to share with you what we might term An Analysis of the Chapter so that you can read it, anticipating the messages that we bring and recognizing exactly where we are.

An Analysis of the Chapter

The words of Agur consist first of his confession, in verses 2-4. Then the conclusion to which he came, because of what he learned in relation to what he confessed. Then, we have a prayer that he prayed. After that, he begins a discussion of a series of fours. He speaks of four generations in verses 10-14. Actually, the word generations could be translated as well by the word class , so he is thinking about four classes of people. Then he speaks of four insatiable things, four wonderful things, four intolerable things, four little things, and four comely or stately things. He closes his discussion with a word of admonition.

We will be thinking about the things contained in this analysis in this lesson and in future lessons. If you can anticipate yourselves a bit and read on, you will be able to understand that which you are reading in the light of the manner in which we will be talking about it.

Look at verse 1:

Proverbs 30:

1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,

There are a lot of names. If you are familiar with your Bibles, you know without my telling you that you have never met this man, Agur, before, but you don't need to feel bad about it; no one else has ever met him, either. We don't know any more about him than what is right here in this first verse; but because most of us have an insatiable curiosity about characters in the Bible, Bible scholars try to identify unknown Bible characters in some fashion so that they might better understand the things that they do say.

I want to share with you some suggestions that are made concerning the identification of this man, Agur. The first thing that we might say to you is that he could have been and probably was a Gentile like Job, like Balaam, like Melchizedek. Our Bible is primarily a Jewish book and we are familiar with Jewish characters such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and when we run across a name that is not Jewish, we immediately assume that he is a heathen out of touch with the truth about God.

You know that Balaam was a prophet of God. You are familiar with Melchizedek and know that he was a Gentile to whom Abraham paid tithes. It is very possible that this man, Agur, was like either these two or like Job, who lived long before any of these others to whom I have made reference, a man who, though he was not a part of the nation of Israel, still had the knowledge of the true God. It is very possible that Agur was a teacher of his disciples as is indicated in verse 1, where Agur's name is given and the disciples to whom he taught the Word.

The names of Agur and his disciples are significant in telling us the kind of man he was. Agur means “a gatherer.” That tells us immediately that he was a man who had gathered together a number of proverbs—various truthful sayings from many different sources—in order that he might share them with his followers, one of whom was Ithiel , which means “God within me,” and the other Ucal , which translated may mean “able”—an able man, spiritually speaking.

This man, Agur, was the son of Jakeh, according to our text. Jakeh means “the pious one,” which would indicate that Agur in all probability was the teacher that he was of the Word of God because he had adequate home training. Some Bible scholars, recognizing the difference in vowel punctuation of the Masoretic text, suggests that verse 1 might read: “…the words of Agur, son of her who was abade in Massa.” Should that be the rendering of the text, which it could be, that would indicate that Agur was not really a Gentile as I have already suggested to you. He was an Ishmaelite and you would find Massa, the grandmother of Agur, being described in Genesis, chapter 25, verse 14.

Agur's Confession

The interesting thing that we all recognize is that regardless of who this man actually was, he is kin to most of us from a spiritual standpoint. Regardless of who he was, he becomes spiritually related to us as is indicated by the confession that is recorded in verses 2-4, which I would like for you to notice:

Proverbs 30:

2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.
3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.

This simple confession Agur made indicates that he is kin to most of us, for who is there among us who has not been puzzled about things that we could not understand? Who is there among us who has not been puzzled to the point of weariness? As a matter of fact, if you read the last part of verse 1, according to the Masoretic text, you find the opportunity of hearing Agur say, “I am tired out, Oh God, and I am ready to die.”

You may be weary for any number of reasons and make a statement such as that, but it would be wise to keep in mind that the context that Agur was weary and ready to die was because of his search for God, which had been dissappointing—that is, his search to understand the holy, as you read down in verse 3, but actually you should be reading, “the holy One.”

When Agur gave the confession that he made, saying, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man,” he identified himself with a number of Old Testament scholars, particularly with a man by the name of Asaph. I don't know how familiar you are with Asaph. If I were to ask you who wrote the Psalms, you would probably tell me David did. That wouldn't be absolutely correct. David wrote many of them. Moses wrote some. Asaph wrote some, and the Psalms which Asaph wrote, as a rule, have the tenet of these two verses that we have read here in the book of Proverbs.

In fact, in Psalm 73, you will notice Asaph making practically the same confession that Agur made. This Psalm describes Asaph's feeling to the extent that he said, “I just might as well not been saved to begin with. I would have been just as well off if I had never heard about God.” But he explains his real reason for feeling that way in verse 22:

Psalm 73:

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

Of course, he is speaking to God and saying, “God I am just a brute beast.”

Agur's Frustration

In the book of Proverbs, you hear Agur saying the same thing. He said, “I am brutish. I am stupid. I am more stupid even than an animal.” Look again at verse 2:

Proverbs 30:

2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.

It would be wise to recognize that the word brutish comes from the Hebrew word baar , which describes the act of consuming something by eating. We have a colloquialism that we use often to express this very thing. We talk about people acting and living like pigs. They are stupid. They are living like animals and acting like animals. They are ignoring God, and this is what Agur was saying: “I don't even have the ability to comprehend the knowledge of God.” But he said something else that is significant, I think. Look at verse 3:

Proverbs 30:

3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.

Keep in mind the rendering presented by the Living Bible editors: “I can not understand man, let alone God.”

If one word would describe Agur's attitude of heart, I think we could choose frustration . He wanted to know God. He wanted to know the answer to the mysteries that faced him, and up to this point in his confession, he had not discovered the answers.

Look with me at verse 4, for in this verse you have the questions which puzzled Agur. In a sense he might be speaking to a hypothetical person who was cutting him down with his own superior knowledge, a hypothetical person who said, “I know all about God. Why don't you know all about God? It is easy for me to understand God. Why can't you understand God?” Agur answers in verse 4:

Proverbs 30:

4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?

“Superior person, if you can answer all of these questions for me, answer them.”

Agur's First Question

I want us to look at these questions, recognizing that the questions that Agur faced were questions that men have faced from the beginning of time. Agur was without an answer. Thank God, with the complete revelation of God in our hands, we have the answers to these questions.

The first question Agur asked was, “Who hath both ascended into Heaven and descended?” There was no problem for Agur to find an answer to the first question. Elijah went into Heaven. Elisha ascended into Heaven. Enoch went to Heaven without the benefit of death. It is no problem to find someone who ascended into Heaven, but who is it that has ascended into Heaven and has descended into Heaven as well? “Tell me that,” said Agur, “and if you can tell me that, then you will enable me to understand God, who is unfathomable to the human mind.”

Because of the complete revelation that we have in our hands today, we have the answers. Turn with me, please, to the Gospel of John, chapter 3, recognizing that in John, chapter 3, we have the interview of the Lord Jesus Christ with Nicodemus, that interview carried on at night; and we have the subsequent comments that were presented because of that interview. The interview centered around the fact that Nicodemus could not understand how a man could be born again. You see, he was faced with the same problem with which Agur was faced, but in a little different setting. Look at verse 13, where the Lord Jesus Christ said:

John 3:

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

You see, he was saying the same thing to Nicodemus that Agur was asking about. “Who has ascended and descended?” “No man,” said Jesus Christ, “but the Son of man, the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only one who has ascended and descended.”

Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 4, as I remind you that the reason that the answer to this question is so significant is that the only way that man will be able to understand God is through the Son of God, who became flesh. He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh that we might be able to know exactly what God is like. Notice verse 8:

Ephesians 4:

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high [this is speaking of Jesus Christ], he led captivity captive [this is speaking of the host of individuals He led from Paradise to the third Heaven where God's throne is], and gave gifts unto men.
9 [Then the comment which is taken from Psalm 68] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Agur said to a hypothetical person, who could not understand why he did not fathom God, “You tell me of somebody who has both ascended and descended; then I will understand.” The hypothetical opponent who faced Agur could not give him the answer the Spirit of God has given to us. If you attempt to fathom God without the Lord Jesus Christ, you are attempting the impossible. If you want to know what God is like, then receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and with the spiritual enlightenment that comes when you are made a new creature in Christ Jesus, you will be able to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ is like. You will not find it necessary to say as did Agur, “Surely I am more stupid than any animal you know anything about. I don't understand man. I can't even understand God.”

Agur's Second Question

Look back at Proverbs, chapter 30, verse 4, and you will notice the second question that Agur asked:

Proverbs 30:

4 …who hath gathered the wind in his fists?…

You ask, “Why in the world would he ask a question like that? Who could do that anyway?” That is what Agur wanted to know. You see, in the parlance of the day in which Agur lived, the fist, as it is today, was often a symbol of power and control. If you hold something in your grasp, in your fist, you control it. The elements, before they were controlled even in the measure in which they are now, were things that struck terror deep into the heart of mankind. That is the reason that the so-called heathen, who did not have the knowledge of God, oftentimes chose the elements as a god before whom they bowed down to worship.

The wind was one of the most terrorizing elements to be considered, and I think that any of us who have been in or near tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, even with all of our modern methods of protection, have some idea of the awesome power of the wind. Agur is saying, “If you can tell me who controls the wind, then maybe I can understand something about God. Who does this anyway?”

The hypothetical opponent of Agur did not have the answer, but we, with the complete revelation of God, do. Among the many passages of Scripture in which the answer is given is Psalm 135. You say, “Nobody really controls the elements. Nobody really has charge of it. It is just nature.”

How often have you read in the paper of nature gone wild? Well, Friend, if you accept the Word of God at its face value, there is no such thing as nature going wild. Notice Psalm 135, verse 5:

Psalm 135:

5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
7 He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.

That is, He bringeth the wind out of the vaults. That is the reason the word treasuries is used here. It is not that the wind is a treasure necessarily, but you keep your treasures in locked vaults, don't you? God, figuratively speaking, keeps the wind in a vault and that vault is His fist; and whenever He is ready to open His fist and let the wind blow, it blows. God can control. Agur said, “I would like to know who is responsible for the wind storm.” Nobody had the answer. The Psalmist in Psalm 135 had the answer. He said, “God controls the wind. He keeps it in His treasure house, and it does His bidding.”

If you jump to conclusions, you are going to go out of here saying, “Joe Temple says terrible things. He said that God was responsible for a tornado that blew that town away and killed all of those people. What must he think about God?”

I didn't say that. I said that God controls nature, and you might as well face, whether you want to face it or not, that the Word of God declares, “Is there evil in the city and God has not done it?” It doesn't mean He is responsible for it; it means that He is in charge. Much of the evil that we are facing today, from a natural standpoint, we brought upon ourselves because of our misuse of nature that God has committed to our care. But God is still on the throne. It is His overruling hand that makes the difference.

Agur's Third Question

Back to Proverbs, chapter 30. Notice the third question which Agur asked:

Proverbs 30:

4 …who hath established all the ends of the earth?…

Agur could look out toward the north, the south, the east, the west, and he could see the horizons. He knew there was an end. Perhaps he thought, as did some of the ancients, that if you went far enough north, you would fall off the end of the earth until they were enlightened in the Word. Not science. Science discovered what is already spoken in the Word. Science and the Bible don't have to agree, and you are foolish to try and make them. Science has never found anything that contradicts the Word of God, apparently, but never actually.

Men thought if they went far enough in any direction, they would fall off the end of the earth. Agur said, “I wish I knew who set the end of the earth. How far can he go in any direction or either direction?” I repeat: He didn't have the answer and his hypothetical friend didn't have the answer; but we, having the complete revelation from God, have the answer. Among the places that such an answer is found is Psalm 24, verses 1-2. Notice:

Psalm 24:

1 The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Literally, this says that He has set the boundaries of the seas and He has set the boundaries of the floods. “Who has set the boundaries?” That is what Agur wants to know. Who did? God did. Agur said, “If I had known that, I could understand God a whole lot better than I do now.”

How grateful we ought to be in the hour in which we live that we are not living in the darkness in which Agur lived. The complete revelation of God is ours, and I hope you are learning something. I hope you are learning that the answer to every question that you have is not found in a new revelation. It is found in the perfect revelation already completed.

When individuals tell me that they have dreams and visions, I listen politely—always skeptically, never critically, because I see no point in arguing with experience—but I am never too interested, for the revelation of God today does not come through visions and dreams. It comes through the Word. Should there be some vision or dream that some individual has, it has to be measured by the Word of God before it can be accepted.

Agur's Fourth Question

Back to Proverbs, chapter 30, for the last of the four questions which Agur asked. He said, “I have asked who. I have asked who has both ascended and descended. I have asked who has gathered the wind in His fists. I have asked who has established the boundaries of the earth. I want to know what his name is. If you think you can tell me who it is, identify him for me. I don't want to be wandering around worshiping any number of different gods. I want to know his name.”

Thanks to the mercy of God and the complete revelation before us, we have the name of the creature who puzzled Agur. Turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 1, where the Spirit of God writes:

John 1:

1 In the beginning was the Word,…

To most people, the only beginning they know about is recorded in the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” but this beginning goes back farther than that. It goes back to the beginning, whenever that was. Notice verse 1 again:

John 1:

1 In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

“Agur, you are not even talking about one individual. You are talking about the Godhead. The Lord our God, plural (Deuteronomy 6:9), is one Lord.” Here we are reminded that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, indicating that the Word and God (Elohim) were two individual characters, and the interesting statement was: “…They were One, because the Word was God.”

The question that Agur asks is, “What is His name?” and our answer is, “God.” Then the question is, “What is His Son's name, if you can tell?” Our answer is, “The Word.”

The Living Word

Turn with me, please, to Revelation, chapter 19, because I would not want you to suggest that I am talking about the inanimate thing that you hold in your hand, though we do refer to it as the living Word . I am not talking about the written Word; I am talking about the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice Revelation, chapter 19. There is a description of that great event that will occur in God's own time that we refer to as the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ , when the Lord Jesus Christ literally leaves His place in Heaven at the right hand of the throne of God and comes back to this earth accompanied by a great army, an army riding upon white horses, an army which is identified in this chapter as all of the saints of God who have been gathered home to Heaven representing the bride of Christ. When John sees this vision he describes it in a very forceful way—the Coming Conqueror. But we are interested particularly in verses 12-13:

Revelation 19:

12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

We don't know that name yet. We don't puzzle about it because we are told that in due time the revelation will be complete. Look at verse 13:

Revelation 19:

13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

The Word of John, chapter 1, verses 1-3, is the same as the Word of Revelation, chapter 19. The Word of Revelation, chapter 19, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, so when Agur asked the question, “Who is responsible for all of it? Tell me what His name is,” we give the answer, “God is His name.” He said, “What is His Son's name?” We answer, “The Lord Jesus Christ.”

Agur's Conclusion

Indulge me a moment longer and go back to Proverbs, chapter 30, and notice the last suggestion that I want to leave with you: the conclusion to which Agur came after his period of doubt and puzzlement. We have entitled it Agur's Conclusion . Notice verse 5-6:

Proverbs 30:

5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

You see, Agur had spent many sleepless nights pondering about God, and though he did not have the written revelation as we have it now, he did have revelation from the oracle of God Himself, and He is saying to you what you should be better able to grasp than anyone else because you hold the complete revelation of God in your hand, and that is:

Proverbs 30:

5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

Notice the first of three things that Agur said: “Every word of God is pure…” The word pure in Hebrew is better translated by our English word tried and is so translated in Psalm 18, verse 30, where the second thing that Agur said is reiterated by the Psalmist:

Psalm 18:

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

The word tried is the same word that is translated pure in Proverbs, chapter 30. He is a buckler, a shield, to all those who place their trust in Him. Two things Agur had learned—the Word of God was dependable and tried.

Perchance you have not tried a certain portion of the Word. Perchance you have not tried a certain promise in the Word, but it has been tried. It has been tested by fire. There are no impurities in it. It will not give way.

Occasionally, you hear about a piece of steel collapsing because of impurities within it that were for some reason not discovered when the particular building was built. When the weight of the building was put upon the steel, the steel gave way. It was never tried properly. The Word of God has been tried, and that is the reason that, without fear of contradiction or disappointment, we can encourage men to try the Word. Go ahead and rest all of your weight upon it and you won't be disappointed. That is the reason we can say to a man who is seeking to know God, “Receive the Lord Jesus Christ,” because the tried Word says: “As many as receive the Lord Jesus Christ, to them gives He the power to become the sons of God.”

You might say, “I don't know whether that works or not. How do you know it works?” I could tell you that I know it works because I have tried it. But if I told you only that, you would be apt to say, “Oh, you don't have the same problems I have. You haven't faced the same things that I have faced, so that doesn't mean anything.” But I can tell you that God's Word has been tried before God ever offered it to you, and it will hold all the weight that you want to put on it. If you want to take refuge in Him, you will find Him to be a shield and a buckler for you.

A Word of Admonition

We come to a very important admonition on the part of Agur. Agur said, “No additions to the Word of God.” Oh, he didn't say it exactly that way. He said in verse 6:

Proverbs 30:

6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

More times than not the passage in the Revelation is quoted to emphasize the fact that no addition should be made to the Word, so it might be wise for us to look at that passage of Scripture first. Turn to the last chapter of the book of the Revelation. When the Revelation was completed the Spirit of God said, in verse 18:

Revelation 22:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

I trust that you are intelligent enough that it will not be necessary for me to take time to explain in detail that when we exegete a passage of Scripture, we are not adding to the Word of God, that when we exegete a passage of Scripture giving you the meaning of the original text instead of what you have before you oftentimes, we are not taking away from the Word of God. Additions to the Word of God comprise additional revelation that is not yet found within the Word. All we attempt to do is to amplify the truth that is already before you.

I would like for you to turn to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 4, and notice that this admonition, commonly referred to as being in the New Testament, is in the Old Testament as well. God said, after His presentation of His Word through Moses:

Deuteronomy 4:

1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
2 [Notice carefully] Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Conclusion

In this supplement to the book of Proverbs, The Words of Agur , Agur shares with us first a confession of his own stupidity when he attempted to understand God in the natural realm, an utter impossibility, recognizing by the very questions that he asked that the answer was above his human reasoning. Because those questions were asked, we found the answers, and the answers are all in Christ. Of course, Agur reminded us through his own experience of stupidity that there is nothing really reliable in this world save the Word of God, so every decision that you make ought to be made not on the basis of what you think, not on the basis of what some church thinks, not on the basis of what some theologian thinks, but on the basis of the Word of God.


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