instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The words of Gatherer, the son of Vomiter

As the note on the Douay-Rheims translation of Proverbs 30:1 explains, St. Jerome "has given us in this place the signification of the Hebrew names, instead of the names themselves, which are in the Hebrew, Agur the son of Jakeh."

Somewhat more poetical is the English translation of the Latin translation of vv 7-9:
Two things I have asked of thee, deny them not to me before I die.

Remove far from me vanity, and lying words.

Give me neither beggary, nor riches: give me only the necessaries of life: Lest perhaps being filled, I should be tempted to deny, and say: Who is the Lord? or being compelled by poverty, I should steal, and forswear the name of my God.
"Neither beggary nor riches" is a prudent prayer -- although I really do think I could be trusted with riches. (Which means, don't you think, giving me riches would be an excellent way for God to test my faith.)

Notice, though, the reasons "Agur" gives for this desire. He doesn't want to be tempted to do anything that would weaken his relationship with the Lord. He expresses the attitude we pray for in an act of contrition, detesting sins most of all because they offend God, Who is all good and deserving of all our love.

Moreover (I don't know that this was intended by the human author, but it certainly comes right out of what he wrote), the way he puts his imagined sins -- "to deny," to "forswear the Name" -- suggests the scandal such sins would cause. The author is, we can believe, known for his piety and wisdom. Should external circumstances, whether good or ill as the world judges, cause him to deny or forswear God, others will be tempted to do likewise, or perhaps to simply chuck the whole fidelity business as a bunch of malarkey.

As far as I can tell, he doesn't elaborate on his first wish -- "put falsehood and lying far from me," as the NAB has it. These too, though, would be concerns of a man held in some esteem by others, that he might start thinking more of his wisdom than he should or even make a pretense of wisdom on matters he doesn't understand. If he were to do these, then he would profane the name of the Lord in his pride.