The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh–an inspired utterance. This man’s utterance to Ithiel: “I am weary, God, but I can prevail. Proverbs 30:1 NIV
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle. The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ukal: Proverbs 30:1 MEV
The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle. The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Proverbs 30:1 ESV
Have you ever read a passage of scripture and laughed at its meaning? This happened for me today as I read the above passage. According to the NIV translation, Agur had an inspired thought that he spoke, “I am weary O God.” When you are feeling low, to think about being weary doesn’t feel very inspirational.
I then dug into the reason why there is such a difference between the three translations. I am going Hebrew geeky for a few minutes, but I hope we can end up inspired together.
All original Hebrew text was written with consonants only. There were no vowels, punctuation or capitalization. The Old Testament was written approximately between 1400 – 400 BC. The Massorites priest started adding vowel points to preserve the pronunciation between 600 AD to the 10th century. The finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls validated the meticulous detail for making exact duplications of the text.
This is a hard text for translators. As you noticed there are 3 possible renderings for our text passage today.
- Use of proper name. Ithiel and Ukaly are translated just as they are written. There is no capitalization, so these words are not identified as proper names. A straight literal approach to the text allows for these two words to be rendered as proper nouns Ithiel and Ukal. The MEV version and many others choose this translation.
- Translate the meaning of words. Ithiel is actually written twice and it means “God is with me. Ukal is only found once in the Bible and it is in this passage. It means “i am strong”. So the possible translation would read, “The man declares, “God is with me, yes God is with me and I am strong.”
- A slight vowel point changes the word. With a different shift in vowel points ithiel now means, “i am weary. Ukal now means “worn out” This is the ESV choice for translation.
The Niv chose a combination. They used the proper name, Ithiel, for the first time the word appears. Then with the second appearance of the word, they choose the meaning of the different vowel point, :”I am weary”, To finish they use the literal meaning of Ukal “I am strong or I will prevail”, rather than use it as a proper name.
Most of you never made it down this far in the writing, if you did that’s amazing. Let’s find the inspiration for today.
- Take a moment and pray for translators. The Bible is still being translated for tribes who don’t even have a written language. May God help these men and women capture what God has said with excellence. Somebody will grow strong in the Lord, because they now have a Bible to read.
- Take another moment and thank God for His witten word and that you can read. Who taught you to read? Jeremiah said he found the words of God and ate them and they became joy to him. Maybe you don’t understand everything, but through God’s grace, you have His words available to you. Do you value having a Bible? Your engagement with His word builds strong roots to help you abide.
- Thank God for inspiration and understanding of God’s word that comes through the Holy Spirit. He will lead you to truth that is sound and meaningful.
- If you are weary today – physically worn out, feeling hopeless, financially strapped, feeling blah, relationally conflicted, or emotionally and mentally exhausted – be inspired to know that with God’s help you will prevail. It’s in the text, you might have to dig a little to find it
May God open your eyes to understand what is written for your edification. May you prevail!
Blessings Love y’all