Wednesday 28 September 2022

Bible Book:

… give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or I shall be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (vs 8-9)

Proverbs 30:1-9 Wednesday 28 September 2022

Psalm 69:1-18


The opening words to this chapter tell us it contains words of Agur, son of Jakeh. We know nothing more about him, but it is reasonable to assume he was a court official. His words are described as an 'oracle' which is an inspired utterance. His opening statement, “I am weary O God” refers to inability to know wisdom by way of human reason, a theme he expands  in verses 2-4, while “How can I prevail?” alludes to his hope of finding the truth through the scriptures as developed in verses 5-6.

Verses 2-3 say one cannot obtain wisdom from within oneself or from other people, but only from God, and when we recognise this we can begin to acquire divine wisdom and move in the direction of being truly wise and truly human. The bald statement of verse 2 may be hyperbole in the style of Psalm 22:6 and Job 25:4-6 but it is saying when we are in touch with God’s wisdom we own our full humanity. “I have not learned wisdom” (v.3) refers to learning from wise people; “the holy ones” (v.3) are angels that do not suffer the limitations of humans.

Verse 4 poses four 'Who?' questions (compare Job 28:12-28) that highlight the gulf between human and divine wisdom. Verse 4 goes on to encourages the reader to identify with the son who the wise father teaches, whose name, though not here stated, is Israel. The significance of this verse is to show that wisdom comes from relationship to God rather than intellect.

Verses 5-6 imply that God’s word is the route into such a relationship. Verse 5 echoes 2 Samuel 22:31. Verse 6, which says "Do not add to his words" assumes there's an established canon of scripture, which was defined for the Jews by about 165 BC. This may suggest that the final editing of Proverbs was in that era.

The passage ends with Agur’s prayer for two things: that he might prove to be radically truthful, and that he will be provided for so as to avoid both poverty and greed. 'Food' is shorthand for all life’s basic necessities. For the first risk in verse 9, that of riches, compare Deuteronomy 8:12-14. The thought behind the second is that if a poor person steals they are demonstrating a lack of trust in God to provide, and so dishonouring God.


To Ponder:

  • Is it helpful to take the view that without knowing God we cannot be fully human?
  • How do you respond to the idea of God as a shield (v. 5)?
  • Is Agur’s request to be neither rich nor poor a wise one? How real are the risks that he associates with one or other extreme, namely that the rich are inclined to ignore God and the poor to curse him?
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