Proverbs 31:1 ¶ The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
“Lemuel” = dedicated to God; a symbolic name of Solomon according to the rabbis
Though we cannot prove that it is Solomon, we do know that Lemuel was a king. If it was Solomon, it is a record of teaching he received from his mother Bathsheba. As with all of scripture, it is really not important that we can identify the earthly author because we know that God is the author through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God….”
Proverbs 31:2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
Proverbs 31:3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
From verse two we know that these are the words of a mother to a son to whom she had given birth. It also seems that she had made a vow dedicating this child to the LORD.
“Strength” is a reference to virtue, or moral purity. I think her first warning is against giving in to his fleshly lust for women or any other temptations to sin that can destroy a king. If these are the words of Bathsheba, it is not surprising that she would begin with this warning considering the beginning of her relationship with King David.
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Proverbs 31:5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Proverbs 31:7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
The mother’s next warning focuses on the danger of drinking wine or strong drink. The most obvious harmful effect is that it affects your thinking and self control. A king that drinks too much is much more susceptible to making bad judgments. She advises that strong drink should be reserved for the use of those that are suffering near death and/or heavy of heart. Drinking does help a person forget his troubles. As a Christian mom, I disagree with the king’s mother on this point, I would not advise drinking to forget your troubles; it will only lead to more troubles. However, it is true that wine has medicinal purposes, and Paul advised Timothy accordingly.
1 Timothy 5:23 “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”
According to webmd.com, we now know that wine in moderate amounts “reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.” It “appears to dilate arteries and increase blood flow, thus lower the risk of the kind of clots that cut off blood supply and damage heart muscles. In addition, the fruit of the vine appears to boost levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and helps prevent LDL, or bad cholesterol, from causing damage to the lining of arteries.”
Historical note from Trapp: “The Carthagenians made a law that no magistrate of theirs should drink wine. The Persians permitted their kings to be drunk one day in a year only. Solon made a law at Athens that drunkenness in a prince should be punished with death.”
Clarke: “…inebriating drinks were mercifully given to condemned criminals, to render them less sensible of the torture they endured in dying.”
Proverbs 31:8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
I like the NIV: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
This is self-explanatory and falls right in line with God’s commands through Moses.
Deuteronomy 24:14–17 “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee….Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge….”
Proverbs 31:10 ¶ Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
Proverbs 31:12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Having warned her son against giving in to temptations of the flesh, of the danger of strong drink and the importance of serving all the people without prejudice, she turns her attention to counseling him about the qualities of a good wife. She knows that a godly wife is an invaluable blessing to a king. In other words, she’s a woman worth waiting for.
Verse ten tells us that a woman of excellent moral character is much more valuable than riches. A husband can have complete confidence in such a wife; she will be an asset, not a detriment. She will treat him with loving kindness as long as she lives.
These are really thought-provoking words to all wives today. In our society, the focus is on the individual and their own needs and wants. It takes a servant mindset to focus on the needs of other with sacrificial love and kindness. Frankly, I think this is an impossible undertaking without the benefit of ministry of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.
Trapp: “He is confident of her love, care, and fidelity. He dare trust her with his soulsecrets, &c.; he doubteth not of her chastity, secrecy, or care to keep his family.”
EBC Abridged: “In general it appears that the woman of ch. 31 is a symbol of wisdom. If this is so, then the poem plays an important part in the personification of wisdom in the ancient Near Eastern literature.”
General note from EBC Abridged: “The entire poem is arranged alphabetically (a pattern known as an acrostic). This means the first word of each line begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in sequence.” This made it easier to memorize.
Proverbs 31:13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
Proverbs 31:14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
Proverbs 31:15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
Proverbs 31:16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
These are the first of many verses extolling her intelligence and work ethic. She is skilled in making yarn and thread to make clothing. She shops wisely at the market. She rises early to provide a good breakfast for her family and also her servants to whom she delegates tasks for the day. She spends the money she earns wisely, e.g., considering a field carefully before purchasing it and planting a vineyard.
Clarke: “She does not restrict herself to the bare necessaries of life; she is able to procure some of its comforts. She plants a vineyard, that she may have wine for a beverage, for medicine, and for sacrifice. This also is procured of her own labor. Whatever goes out brings its worth in; and barter, not buying, is her chief mode of traffic.”
Ironside quoting Kitto: “In the state of society to which this description belongs, every kind of drapery for the person, the tent, or the house, is manufactured at home by the women, who make it a matter of pride to be able to boast that their husbands and children are entirely clad by the labor of their hands; and the man’s robe clings the more sweetly to him,- is warmer in winter, and cooler in the heat, from his knowledge of the dear hands by which every thread has been prepared.”
Ironside: “Unlike the unfaithful servant, who wrapped his talent in a napkin and hid it away where he could not use it, the prudent wife is continually adding to her husband’s possessions by her economy and foresight.”
Guzik: “The flurry of activity described in these verses doesn’t mean that she does all these things in a day or even a week, but it does point to how much work and how many different kinds of work are involved in wisely and properly managing a home….The virtuous wife provides food for her family and home after the pattern of a merchant ship, which operates with regularity and effort.”
Proverbs 31:17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
Proverbs 31:18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
Proverbs 31:19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
Verse 17 states that the virtuous woman keeps herself healthy, fit and strong. She knows that she is making good quality items both for home and for trade and is willing to work late into the night when necessary. She is skilled at making thread and yarn to use in making clothing.
Clarke: “She takes the distaff, that on which the wool or flax was rolled; and the spindle, that by twisting of which she twisted the thread with the right hand, while she held the distaff in the guard of the left arm, and drew down the thread with the fingers of the left hand….The spindle and distaff are the most ancient of all the instruments used for spinning, or making thread.”
Proverbs 31:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
This godly woman is ready to lend a helping hand to the poor and needy. She has a generous, compassionate and merciful spirit.
Proverbs 31:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Proverbs 31:22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Proverbs 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
Proverbs 31:24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
The Hebrew for “scarlet” makes reference to the color, but the context references proper clothing for warmth. From what I understand, scarlet clothing was indicative of royalty and people of high standing. This woman plans ahead for the winter and ensures that she has high quality warm clothing for her family. “Coverings of tapestry” appear to reference a cover or spread, possibly a cloak; some translations reference bed spreads. That she wears silk and purple speaks of luxury and is again indicative of her high standing in society. Because of the context, it would seem that her husband is well known “in the gates,” in part because of the beautiful, fine clothing his wife makes for him. “The gates” reference an area sort of like a courthouse or City Hall, a place designated for conducting court business. This amazing woman also makes cloth and clothing to sell to others.
Guzik quoting Kidner regarding “scarlet” - “The word has a plural ending, which is abnormal for ‘scarlet’; so that both form and sense arouse suspicion. The consonants allow the reading double (AV margin), i.e. double thickness, which is supported by Vulgate and LXX.”
Clarke re “girdles” - “These are still a very general and very expensive article of dress. I have seen them made of silk, and highly ornamented with gold and silver thread, worked into flowers and various curious devices. The loose Eastern robe is confined by these; and the word may also take in the shawl of the turban, which is often superb and costly. It is properly the girdle for the head.”
Proverbs 31:25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Proverbs 31:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
The Hebrew root for “clothing” states, “to wrap around or to clothe (oneself, or another) literally or figuratively. So, this person is known for her strong, honorable character; and she has no fear of the future. When she speaks, it is with wisdom and kindness; this means she carefully considers her words before speaking and always takes others into consideration.
Proverbs 31:27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Proverbs 31:29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
This wise woman is a good supervisor and is ever alert to all that is going on in her home; she never lets up or is lazy. Her husband and children love, respect and praise her. The context implies to me that it is her husband that proudly praises her as a woman that excels above all others.
I think it is an important thing for children to have a father that examples and encourages them to praise their mother. The father’s lead in this regard is especially important in that he is the one that can best instill in his family a picture of Father God as loving and gracious.
Guzik: “In a completely literal sense, this could only be true of one woman in any given community at any given time. Yet, we perfectly understand the sense of this. Every home can have a wife and mother that does excel them all; every husband can legitimately feel ‘I’ve got the best wife’ and children feel, ‘We have the best mom.’”
Ironside: “Solicitously she notices the habits and actions, as well as marking the speech, of her children. Without nagging and ill-temper, she exercises a firm but loving discipline over each one; checking here and encouraging there as she sees either to be needed. Never too busy to seek to win an erring one from the snares of worldliness and pride, she does not eat the bread of idleness. By both example and precept she endeavors to guide her offspring in the way of peace.”
Proverbs 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Proverbs 31:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Kind actions can be deceptive, and beauty will fade; in other words, a woman can put on an act and her outward beauty appreciated for a time. But a woman that fears and reverences the LORD is worthy of praise and honor; she possesses true inner beauty that never fades, and her actions are pure and without deceit. She deserves to be rewarded for her work and is worthy of public praise.
Clarke re v31: “This may be a prayer. May she long enjoy the fruit of her labors! May she see her children's children, and peace upon Israel!”
Ironside: “This fear of the Lord, which the book of Proverbs has declared to be the beginning of wisdom, is her abiding characteristic. Her words, her ways, her dress, and her household discipline are all ordered as in His presence.”