And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. – 1 Kings 4:29-31
The proverbs penned and collected during the reign of Solomon have filled this book until now. Turning to chapter 30, we find an introduction to an “oracle” by Agur, son of Jakeh. And at the beginning of 31 we read: The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him… Who these characters are is not known with any certainty. Some trace the names to foreign sages; others parse the names as adjectives and believe they are references to Solomon himself. In any case, given the preeminence of Solomon’s wisdom that is described in 1 Kings, their inclusion here bestows a high honor.
The oracle of Agur in chapter 30 is broken into two parts. The second half, from verse 10 on, is a collection of proverbs on general subjects, which seems built around a creative exercise concerning the number four. The first nine verses are a self-contained unit – perhaps the oracle itself – built around the credibility of the LORD’s word. You have to read the entire nine verses to garner the complete idea, and it helps to remember the foundational thesis of this book.
Chapter 31, of King Lenuel, is also a production in two Acts. The first nine verses are introduced as “An oracle his mother taught him,” where she asked, and he now asks, “What are you doing, my son?” Whether its speaker is presenting his past self for rebuke, or a present subject, is unclear – and likely beside the point. It sounds like instruction that is in accord with the LORD’s design that a young ruler should hear.
The second Act of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem – where each of the 22 verses begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet – about an excellent wife. Even though its creative style is only evident in the original Hebrew, I point it out because this influences how the lines are phrased. As elsewhere in Proverbs, treat these as observational and descriptive. Take into account the whole context of the poem without elevating one favored line above the rest. And allow verses that resonate to simmer for a bit, not because they are more important, but because there is something about them that connects to your own moment.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Proverbs 30 through 31. Now let’s read it!
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.