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The Mother of Lemuel. The Excellent Woman
1-9. An exhortation addressed to king Lemuel by his mother, urging him to avoid women and wine. The latter leads to slackness and unfairness in the administration of justice.
’1. Read the title thus: ’The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him.’ It is possible that the Massa of Genesis 25:14 is meant.
2. The repeated What? appears to point to an inclination towards these excesses. Son of my vows] see 1 Samuel 1:11.
3. Read, ’Give not thy love to those who destroy kings.’
4. ’More are drowned in the wine-cup than in the ocean.’
6. Of heavy hearts] read, ’the bitter in soul.’ The Talmud treats this verse as the foundation of the pious custom of the Jerusalem ladies, who provided medicated wine to dull the pain of those condemned to death (Mark 15:23).
10-31. A complete alphabetical poem, each of its 22 vv. beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It describes the perfect housewife, the virtuous, or, as the word rather means, the ’excellent,’ the ’capable’ woman. Industrious herself, she sees to it that her servants are the same. She sells the products of their spinning and weaving, and buys lands with the money. She watches over the conduct of the entire household. She is kind to the poor and gentle to all. Husband and children pay her honour as the prime source of all their welfare. She is self-respecting and dignified. Religion lies at the root of her character.
The ideal is a worthy one, well adapted to life in one of the towns of antiquity, where the men were engaged in public business (Proverbs 31:23) and the women were supposed to attend to all domestic and business affairs. No doubt we should need some additional features for the portrait of the highest type of womanhood. This lady is not in the fullest sense the helpmeet for man. She is too much the toiler on his behalf, too little the partner of his thoughts and plans. Tennyson’s ’Princess’ strikes a note which we cannot afford to miss:
’Let her make herself her own
To give or keep, to live and learn and be
All that not harms distinctive womanhood.
Till at the last she set herself to man,
Like perfect music unto noble words;
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers,
Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other ev’n as those who love.’
11. Spoil here means gain.
13. Read, ’worketh at that which her hands delight in.’
15. The portion is either the proper quantity of food or the allotted quantity of material for work.
21. Scarlet dye being costly, the garments would be of good material, thick and warm.
22. Read, ’She maketh for herself coverings’ (Proverbs 7:16). There is no justification for the addition, ’of tapestry.’
25. ’She laugheth at the time to come’ (RV), because she is prepared for anything.
26. On an Egyptian tombstone is the inscription: ’Peace was in the words which came from his mouth, and the book of the wise Thoth’ (the divine scribe of the gods) ’was on his tongue.’ A later Jerusalem proverb was: ’Gentleness is the salt which preserves wealth from corruption.’
30. Favour] i.e. charm and attractiveness.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 31". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16