1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle.
The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal:
2 Surely I am more stupid than any man,
And I do not have the understanding of a man.
3 Neither have I learned wisdom,
Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!
While the book of Proverbs begins with “the proverbs of Solomon son of David,” this chapter begins with what looks to be a riddle obscured in translation. Our excerpt, for the sake of precision, is from the NASB. What hints do we have to solve this riddle? Agur is a passive participle of agar, which is translated in 10:5 as “he who gathers.” Jakeh is a proper noun form of obedient. It is speculated that “Agur the son of Jakeh” is a cryptic way of saying “Solomon, son of David,” but we cannot be certain. “The Gatherer, son of the Obedient,” will have to do.
“The oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal.” An oracle is a prophecy, particularly involving a burden. Ithiel means God has arrived, while Ucal (absent from the NIV) means devoured or consumed. Put all this together and our best guess at verse one is: “The words of the Gatherer son of the Obedient, a prophecy of burden, the man declares God’s arrival, that God arrives to be consumed.”
“Surely I am more stupid than any man, and I do not have the understanding of a man, neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have knowledge of the Holy One.” This self-deprecation seems to anticipate the response of mockery. “He must be an idiot” is a much easier attitude to hold than “maybe there’s something I don’t know.” This is reiterated at the end of verse 4, “surely you know!”
While this oracle anticipates that God will arrive to be consumed, it ends with a reflection on God’s unique power.
“Who has ascended into heaven and descended?” Psalm 139:8
“Who has gathered the wind in His fists?” Psalm 135:7
“Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?” Psalm 104:6
“Who has established all the ends of the earth?” Psalm 2:8
“Surely you know!”