I read the Biblehub some English versions of the verse which have different text.
Some versions use (A) "tell me if you know" - other versions use (B) "surely you know".

Because if it's point-A and assumed the the writer of the verse has read 2 Samuel 7:14 when he wrote the verse

2 Samuel 7:14
I will be his father, and he will be my son.

then I think the writer himself didn't know the answer and in his mind, the answer of "tell me if you know" will certainly "nobody knows".

But if it's point-B, then to me it's difficult to understand it, hence raise a question such as I read in this link Who is he and what is the name of his son? Proverbs 30:4

So my question is:
If there is any Hebrew Bible experts here, which one is more an appropriate English translation based on the Hebrew Bible ? Point-A or Point-B ?

4 Answers 4


The Catholic Latin bible says "si nosti" and the subject is 'my name'.

In English, "if you have known". We know that the knowledge of his name is necessary to salvation, like says St. John, so it is not surely known. Then the first translation is more appropriate.


There are cases in the Hebrew where a different construction is used involving "if" = אִם (im) such as:

  • Job 38:4 - Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
  • Job 38:18 - Have you surveyed the extent of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. [The phrase "tell me" is absent from the Hebrew text making this translation more unlikely.]

However, the construction in Prov 30:4 has this conjunction: כִּי (ki) = "that, for, when", whose use is quite varied but is occasionally approximated by the English "if" but only poorly. It is better to render it, "surely" in Prov 30:4 as per BDB meaning #2(b).

Such a rendering reinforces the assertions of the same verse and those immediately preceding. See the excellent response from Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim at Who is he and what is the name of his son? Proverbs 30:4

APPENDIX - Who is "Him" and his Son? (Prov 30:4)

There is a tantalizing question about the identity of the referent, "son" in prov 30:4 - two possibilities have been proposed by commentators:

  • On the basis of Prob 8:22, some suggest that Prov 30:4 refers to YHWH, God and the "son" is wisdom. However, this is unlikely as "wisdom" is feminine and is referred to as such frequently in Prov 8.
  • Some suggest that Prov 30:4 refers to God and "the son" is a thinly veiled Messianic prophecy about Jesus, especially in view of the parallels between the following texts:
    • Prov 30:4 - Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
    • John 3:13, 31 - No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. ... The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all.
  • There are other suggestions as well including, Israel, Ignorance and others.

All the articles I've read on this fall into two groups:

  1. The "ki" is translated as "if" (which is dubious from a literal point of view, but not necessarily from an overall translation perspective) meaning "Do you know?"

  2. The "ki" is translated as "surely", but the overall line is interpreted as being sarcastic, meaning "Surely, you know!"

The reason is that these questions are rhetorical in nature, and follow the famous "who shall ascend" in Deuteronomy, where it is clearly meant rhetorically, and this phrasing would be familiar to all jewish readers:

Deut 30.11-14

For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

It also bears similarity to the sarcasm of God when he questions Job in chapter 38:

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? Declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, And that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? Or because the number of thy days is great? v16-21

For just a sample of commentaries:


By two sets of rhetorical questions, a form of strong assertion (cf. Ruth 3:1), Agur challenges his audience to bridge the “unbridgeable” gulf between the LORD’s knowledge of wisdom and human helplessness by personally identifying itself as a “son” of the Holy One. In verset A, he employs in an anaphora the animate interrogative pronoun, who (see 23:29), four times, and in verset B, the inanimate interrogative pronoun, what (vis-à-vis, “is his and his son’s name?” see 20:24). The answer to the first question is, “No human being, but only God.” All brings the “who” questions to their climatic conclusion (see 3:15, 17). The answer to the “what: questions are “the LORD” and “Israel.” The “who” questions exhibit a chiastic pattern. The outer core presents the merism “heaven” (4aα1) and “earth” (4aβ2) to denote the cosmos (see 3:19). To ascend to heaven represents its vertical axis and “ends of the earth,” its horizontal axis. The inner core presents the two parts of a thunderstorm, “wind” (4aα1) and “water” (4aβ2) that sustains life on earth (see 3:20). By restraining them the Lord inflicts a drought (cf. 26:8; 28:25). The answer to these questions, standing between humanity’s inability to know wisdom (vv. 2–3) and the presence of God’s word with his people (vv. 5–6), unravels the paradox of how inaccessible wisdom becomes accessible to earthlings.

Waltke, B. K. (2005). The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31 (pp. 471–472). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

  • AYBC

Four questions (vv 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d) are reprised by a double question (v 4e) and a challenge to respond to them (v 4f). The questions are really the same and have a single response, as the singular “his” (“his name,” “his son”) in v 4e shows. Three responses to these questions are possible: (1) someone; (2) God; (3) no one. [...] “No one, of course.” This is the intended response. (The rhetorical question in Qoh 7:24 is also to be answered this way.) The scope of the questions is implicitly confined to humanity, because Agur is speaking about the inadequacy of human wisdom. When Gilgamesh asks “Who can go up to heaven, my friend?” (see below), the question clearly pertains only to mankind, for gods regularly do this. No human has the capability of doing godlike things: traversing the universe, controlling the elements, creating the world. This is a fact known to all, and Agur adduces it to remind the readers of their own ignorance. Humans must always be aware that they are infinitely less powerful and wise than God. Therefore they must rely on him and his word (Prov 30:5–6).

Fox, M. V. (2009). Proverbs 10–31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 18B, p. 856). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

  • NAC

In a series of rhetorical questions (v. 4), he first challenges the reader to admit that no one has achieved direct understanding of the world and the truth behind the world. To “go up to heaven and come back down” is to attain and bring back direct knowledge of eternal truth. Then, with three questions that allude to the creative power of God (and human lack of that power), he implies that no one can explain the metaphysical powers behind the visible creation. This language recalls both Qoheleth’s confessions (Eccl 7:24) and God’s confrontation of Job (Job 38:8–11). Finally, he ironically demands that the reader produce such a sage if he can.

Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 236–237). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


There are 5 questions in Proverbs 30:4

Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?

The next two Hebrew words here are kî ṯê·ḏā‘ which are translated differently by NLT and NIV.

Tell me if you know! (NLT)

If you know some answers to these questions, tell me.

Surely you know! (NIV)

NIV uses sarcasm to translate the Hebrew words here. Particularly applying to the last question: What is his name, and what is the name of his son? The answer to this question was only clearly revealed in the NT.

which one is more an appropriate English translation based on the Hebrew Bible ?

The original Hebrew is ambiguous. Both translations are okay.

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