“Surely I am more stupid than any man” is the opening line of Proverbs 30:2 in the NKJV. These words are attributed to Agur, the son of Jakeh. The identity of this man is unknown. His name appears in verse 1 and nowhere else in Scripture. It is not a Hebrew name. Some suggest it is Arabic, but this is not certain. Why would an individual make such a statement?
Believe me, I can understand and appreciate this statement, or it might be said—“I resemble this remark.” I have done lots of stupid stuff. I have spoken and acted before thinking too many times to count. I have brought harm to myself and others. I have damaged property, relationships, and squandered opportunities due to my stupidity. I thought I would eventually “grow out of it,” but I have come to realize that stupidity does not have an age limit.
I could continue to be self-deprecating and embarrass myself by supplying details about how many unintelligent things I have said and done over the years, but I will not, even though you would probably find such very comical. Neither will I describe the dimwitted and foolish behavior I have witnessed in the lives of other people. Instead, I want to examine and try to determine what Agur wanted to communicate by making this fantastic admission.
First, we need to consider what the word stupid means. The Oxford English dictionary defines stupid as: “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” This is our definition, but this is not precisely what Agur meant when employing this term. The Hebrew word Agur used was ba’ar. This word appears three other times in the Old Testament in the book of Psalms. The NKJV translates the word as “senseless” in both Psalm 49:10 and 92:6, and “like a beast” in Psalm 73:22. Might Agur’s words be interpreted to mean that he feels his reasoning is not on a human level, but he is like the animals in his understanding?
An excellent way to determine the definition of a word and how the author intended to use it is to examine the context. If you read verses two to six with a discerning eye, you will recognize that Agur is a man confessing his ignorance of God by employing sarcastic irony. In other words, he is criticizing those who claim they are capable of understanding everything about God and have answers to every perplexity of life. But, Agur states he is “more stupid than such men” or “like a brute beast.”
In verse four of chapter thirty, Agur wants to know and identify the person who has such advanced knowledge. Evidently, they learned these grand truths about God and the world by visiting the Almighty personally, and Agur is asking if they would be kind enough to tell him so he could go and obtain this knowledge from them. Of course, the questions asked in verse four are intended as gentle sarcasm to illustrate the confines of mortal understanding.
Agur is not an atheist or an agnostic scoffing at those who have faith in the Creator. Rather, he is humbly describing how he understands the limits of human wisdom and is struggling with what some have labeled “the hiddenness of God.”
Instead of stupid, Agur is, in my estimation, brilliant because he recognized how much he did not know. This is something many still need to learn. What do we do in the face of our vast ignorance about many matters and the incapability we have to understand everything fully? Verses 5 and 6 give the answer. Put your trust in the sure and certain Word God has given us. His revelation in the Scriptures supplies us with everything we need to know (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3). Make it your aim to study, learn, and know the Word of God, and you will be wise in what matters most!