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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 31

 

 

Verses 1-31

Proverbs 31:1. The words of king Lemuel. Ancient kings had many names and surnames which embarrass history. The first name of Solomon was Jedidiah, or Jedid-jah, beloved of God. 2 Samuel 12:25. Lemuel is analyzed, למו אל Lemo-ail, sacred to God. Solomon’s appointment to the throne was also of God, he being the youngest was preferred before his elder brethren. But if another conjecture should be true, that Lemuel was a prince in a neighbouring kingdom to Israel, and his mother was a descendant of David’s house, the doctrine of this chapter is not the less worthy of sacred regard.

Proverbs 31:2. What, my son? She addresses the young king with a feeling heart, and in poetic boldness. What, my son? What, the son of my womb, the son of my vows; do I see in thee youthful propensities, which I wish to check in their earliest dawn?

Proverbs 31:3. Give not thy strength unto women. Excess of connubial pleasures will degrade thy character, weaken thy intellect, and superinduce infirmities of age in the middle of life. Marriage therefore, without the strictest chastity, is not pleasing to God; and young men should most cautiously avoid all habits which injure the health, and degrade the soul. This address was highly proper to an eastern prince; for the princes of Asia were haughty and corrupt beyond a name.

Proverbs 31:4. It is not for kings to drink wine. She cautions him against wine, often productive of the crimes before mentioned. And if we may credit Xenophon’s Cyropædia, lib. 1., scenes of intoxication were habitual in the court of Ecbatana. When young men live too free, it forces the constitution as a plant in a hothouse: an abstemious temperance is a most hopeful ornament in the character of youth. It is better to give the wine to the sick and the dying, than waste it after a luxuriant dinner. The harem, and the festive board, have been the destruction of kings. What can a numerous race of seventy sons do for the support of the throne? They pull it down by oppression and luxury; they destroy the peace of the family by their quarrels, often killing one another; the jealousy of so many queens must communicate their miseries to the monarch’s mind. Corpulency steals on his body, while his intellectual powers and passions approximate to those of the brutes. God made Adam but one wife; and those who violate the pure laws of nature must be daily drenched with the bitter cup of their own mixing.

Proverbs 31:8. Open thy mouth for the dumb. She charged him when on the bench of justice to advocate the cause of the dumb; for countrymen introduced into a court cannot talk there as at home, how good soever their cause may be. Chastity, temperance, and justice, are high virtues in the humble character; but in a prince they shine with a lustre which dazzles the eyes of an empire.

Proverbs 31:10. Who can find a virtuous woman? We have next an acrostic, comprising the twenty two letters of the alphabet, a fine poem in praise of a virtuous woman. It opens with a boldness peculiar to ancient poetry. Who can find a virtuous woman, a woman of a strong and noble mind?

And truly he who is so favoured receives one of God’s best gifts; and he is indeed a Nabal who does not prove himself worthy of so great a gift. Her leading virtues are classed under seven heads.

(1) She is industrious in business. She girds her waist to labour, and takes the lead in the manufacture of wool and flax established in her house. The work of her hands is admired in distant nations. How different from the polished ladies of Jerusalem, Isaiah 3:16, and the ladies of modern Europe. Sardanapalus, effeminate as he was, assigned his ladies their tasks at the distaff. Justin, lib. 1. cap. 3.

(2) Encreasing in opulence by industry, she purchases land when offered for sale. So husbandry and trade shake hands, and wealth flows from every source. It is as the accession of rivulets which augment the stream.

(3) As riches encrease, she augments her benevolence and bounty to the poor and needy. The blind and the lame eat in her house, the widow tells her troubles there, and finds compassion and comfort; and the orphans are sheltered and employed under her roof. Thus it is that heaven takes delight to entrust its treasures in bounteous hands.

(4) The virtuous woman elevates her husband to wealth, honour and happiness. He is honoured by the public as a happy man, and head of a rising house. When he takes his seat in the gate, where sitting magistrates judge causes, he is known or reverenced by the public.

(5) When critical affairs happen in her house, she opens her mouth in wisdom. (6) So when introduced into company, and company the best informed, she knows when to speak, and when to be silent; then no one will controvert her words, but all applaud her judgment.

(7) Her husband and children bless her in life, and posterity will revere her memory. Envy and rivalship subside with death; then the public appreciates worth with a sober decision. Then this woman’s virtues will be held up as the glory of her house, and the model of her age. Then this woman’s worth will be found to be more than the favour of princes, for they may discard a favourite in a moment; and her virtues will far exceed beauty, for that fades with sickness, and vanishes in death; but her virtues live for ever, because they were done in the fear of the Lord; and the noble motives of piety conferred a celestial lustre on all her conduct. The day a man receives the hand of so much worth, his cup begins to overflow with the richest favours of God’s providence. The christian fathers, in their allegorical mode of exposition, make this woman a figure of the church.

Proverbs 31:31. Let her own works praise her in the gates. These are the laurels; and these after death keep the cypress evergreen.

At the end of two hundred and sixty Greek proverbs, I find this adjection. If these proverbs are good, make use of them; if otherwise, write better.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 31:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/proverbs-31.html. 1835.


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Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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