These two verses continue the general theme of kings (:1, 2, 5) and the specific focus of being “in the king’s presence” (:4-5). The average Israelite may never have had the chance to be “in the king’s presence, let alone that of “great men” or “a nobleman.” But someone working in the court of Solomon would have.
In the first verse, the advice is given twice – typical Hebrew poetry. I should not “exalt myself” or “claim a place among” the important people, as if I think I belong at the head table or the front of the line – even if I do!
Then the second verse offers another of those “better-than” wise sayings. It suggests if I really do belong up there, its best that the big guy (“king” here) see me and say “come up here.” That is especially good because it’s “before” all those others who will be watching!
Certainly that is “better…than” having him come to me (or send one of his guys) and say this seat is for someone else. I’ve been in that seat before!
Jesus recounted this wise saying as a lesson to his disciples. It explained humility after watching a number of people vie for chief seats at an event (Luke 14:6-10).