Proverbs 30:20-23

In Proverbs 30:20-23 Agur gives some wisdom to his own son just like Solomon has done. And while he uses a woman as his example, it applies to man equally as well. In fact, the reality is that all of us are guilty of sin, whether it happens in this way as adultery, or any number of other sinful choices we might make. “This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”” Since this woman is characterized by her adultery, her eating here is a tasteful reference to her sin of adultery. She satisfies her hunger for adultery, then (according to this poetic picture) casually wipes her mouth and considers herself blameless.

That’s the sad reality of how many of us view sin. We make choices to violate God’s laws and his plan for our lives, and then turn around and treat it like no big deal – like nothing is wrong. This adulterous woman represents many who sin against God, their marriage, their family, their community, their partner in adultery, and their own bodies yet consider it no wickedness at all. We deceive ourselves when we think God doesn’t care. We sin and then think we can just go on living without a care and certainly without a sense of guilt. Unfortunately we will stand before God someday and give account, and then sin will not be ignored or treated as unimportant.

Agur goes on to call out four unbearable things that trouble the earth and are fundamentally just not right. He gives a very detailed list. “Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.” Here they are in more detail:

  1. A slave when he becomes king and reigns. Agur is referring to a man with a self-focused mind, who thought and lived as a slave instead of a free man. It is unbearable when such a man reigns because he has no training or understanding how to rule well. He did not mean a man with a servant’s heart like Jesus or a slave like Joseph who rose to power through wisdom.
  2. A fool when he is filled with food. When a fool is satisfied, it only rewards his folly and gives him the energy and the resources to be even more foolish. Agur tells us this is unbearable.

Agur continues his list of unbearable things:

  1. An unloved woman when she gets a husband. Other translations call her a hateful woman. This is unbearable because the hateful woman should never be able to find a husband, and there seems to be an injustice when she does. It is also unbearable for her husband and her family, to live with a hateful woman. It points to a quarrelsome, unlovable woman whom society rejects, the opposite of a prudent wife.
  2. A maidservant when she displaces her mistress. This is similar to the previously described servant when he takes over and reigns. When the social order is upset and unworthy ones dominate the culture, it becomes unbearable. She behaves in a way that makes the whole family uneasy. A great example is the case of Hagar, the maidservant of Sarah, who had a defined place but chose to use it for her own desires.

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