Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.
This couplet of verses continue the chapter’s general theme of kings (:1, 2, 5) and the specific focus of being “in the king’s presence” (:4-5). The average Israelite may have never been “in the king’s presence, let alone that of “great men” or “a nobleman.”
But someone working in the court of Solomon would. The image here is the king’s audience chamber and the guys standing in proper pecking order around him as he sits on the royal throne.
Jesus used this same proverb to teach humility. It was at a dinner, as He observed people vie for chief seats at the table (Luke 14:6-10).
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 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, it’s better that the big guy (“king”) 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 place is for someone else.
I know that place and have been there before! Just hope I remember this for next time!