What does it say?

Though speculation abounds, no one knows the identity of Agur, author of Proverbs 30, or king Lemuel that wrote chapter 31. In all probability the men of king Hezekiah of Judah that assembled more proverbs of Solomon in chapters 25-29 also included these last two chapters in this collection of Hebrew wisdom.

Proverbs 30 is devoted to wisdom. The first part of the chapter speaks of wisdom about God while verse 10 to the end speaks of wisdom about life in general. Chapter 31 opens with advice Lemuel received from his mother to be a wise king. In verse 10 he gives us an acrostic poem of the perfect wife and mother.

What does it mean?

The proverbs in these last two chapters are extended, meaning that the reader must consider them in the context of the clusters in which they appear. Notice also the beauty and depth of Middle Eastern poetic philosophy. For example, Pro 30:18-20 addresses the mysterious allure that entices a man and woman to commit adultery. Rather than give a list of three or four reasons as would be common in the west, Agur gives three sources of wonder that cannot be fully explained and concludes that such is the way of an adulterous relationship. One can read this repeatedly, meditate on it and still discover more and deeper wisdom.

The commonly called “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 is the subject of countless studies, books and sermons. Any woman can find wisdom and direction in this great acrostic poem, but many also point to the analogous relationship between Christ and his bride the church and see parallels in this passage for a picture of the mature church.

Hebrew poetry often uses a figure like “three things … yes, four that …” You’ve seen several examples. This is a cultural way to either emphasize the parallel nature of the individual items in the list, and/or to emphasize the last item in the list.

How will I respond?

Of the extended proverbs in these final two chapters, which most speaks to my life today? How does it instruct me? Does it correct something wrong in my life? Does it suggest a step to correct what’s wrong in my life? What step can I take to grow from addressing this issue in my life?