Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 31

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

The words of king Lemuel - a figurative name for an ideal model king. It means 'Devoted to God.' Hitzig fancifully makes Lemuel eider brother to Agur, and king of an Arab tribe in Manna, on the borders of Palestine; and both descended from the Simeonites, who drove out the Amalekites from Mount Seir, under Hezekiah (1 Chronicles 4:24; 1 Chronicles 4:38-43) - Lemuel being an older form of Nemuel, or Jemuel, Simeon's oldest son.

His mother taught him - as Lois and Eunice taught Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Verse 2

What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

What, my son: and what, the son of my womb (for whom I have borne such throes, and whom therefore, I so intensely love)?

And what. The thrice-repeated interrogation implies the strength of the mother's feelings: What am I to say to thee? With what precepts can I sufficiently instruct thee, so that thou mayest be truly wise and happy as a king? Words fail to express all I feel in respect to thee.

The son of my vows? - the son granted to my prayers, like Samuel; and therefore, as thy name, Lemuel, implies (note; Proverbs 31:1), consecrated to God (1 Samuel 1:11; 1 Samuel 1:27-28). A mother's pleadings with her son are likely then to be most effectual when she has first pleaded with God for him.

Verse 3

Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

Give not thy strength unto women ... which destroyeth kings - (Proverbs 5:9.) A snare to kings especially, because their power gives them impunity in lust. Solomon by this sin caused the rending of his kingdom (1 Kings 11:11; cf. Job 31:9-12).

Verses 4-5

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

(It is) not for kings ... to drink wine. Let all intoxicating drink be put away from kings. The reason follows:

Lest they drink, and forget the law - (cf. Proverbs 20:1; Ecclesiastes 2:3) Kings do not need it in ordinary health, and their abstinence from it sets a good example in their elevated position. This sanctions entire abstinence in cases where a greater good is gained by it than by the use of it. See the bad effects of drinking in the case of Elah (1 Kings 16:8-9); Benhadad (1 Kings 20:16); Belshazzar (Daniel 5:24; cf. Hosea 7:5; Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 56:12; Ephesians 5:18).

Lest they ... pervert (literally, change) the judgment of any of the afflicted -literally, of all the sons of affliction.

Verse 6

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and ... unto those ... of heavy hearts. The use of wine is not as a continual beverage, but as a cordial and restorative where stimulants are needed (Judges 9:13; Luke 10:34; 1 Timothy 5:23).

Verse 7

Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

Let him drink, and forget his poverty. Cause him, by the wine which thou givest him (not in excess, but in moderation), to "forget" his sorrow, instead of thyself by wine 'forgetting the law' (Proverbs 31:5).

Verse 8

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

Open thy mouth for the dumb - i:e., for those who cannot defend themselves in the courts of justice.

In the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction - literally, 'the sons of passing away.' Maurer, 'the sons of abandonment,' or orphanage - i:e., sons left orphans by their deceased parents; Hebrew, benee chaloph. Imitate God who is peculiarly the Patron of the widow and the orphan.

Verse 9

Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 10-31

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The praises of a virtuous woman; forming a Hebrew acrostic. The 22 years begin with the several 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet consecutively; M. Henry calls it, 'a locking-glass for ladies.' Lemuel's "mother" (Proverbs 31:1) suggested the model of "a virtuous woman" - Hebrew, chail: brave, strenuous, good.

Who can find? - it is a rare treasure (Ecclesiastes 7:28).

Verse 11. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her - he can with implicit confidence leave to her the management of his household concerns, and devote himself to his public and weightier duties. Confidence reposed makes good wives the more diligent in their duties. Husband and wife should each attend to their distinct spheres.

So that he shall have no need of spoil - he shall have no need to go forth to war for spoil; because his wife shall supply all that ministers to home comforts and elegancies.

Verse 12. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life - not merely the first month, and the first year, as too often happens, but at all times, in sickness, adversity, and old age.

Verse 13. She seeketh wool ... - she does not wait until her husband procures for her, or forces on her, these materials for work, as if she were reluctant: for she "worketh willingly with her hands".

Worketh willingly with her hands. Maurer translates daarªshaah (H1875), 'she handleth.' Even princely women in primitive days did household work (Genesis 18:6; Genesis 27:14).

Verse 14. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar - she, with the produce of her industry buyeth necessaries and comforts for her household, as merchant ships barter goods exported from home for foreign goods to be imported.

Verse 15. She ... giveth meat to her household, and a portion (their allowance; Proverbs 30:8 ; or rather, their task or work for the day) to her maidens. The standard here held before women to aim toward is not that of a religious recluse, in an unnatural state of monastic asceticism, under pretext of superior sanctity; but one diligent in every household duty, economical and yet liberal, faithful and loving as a wife and a mother, and having the fear of the Lord the basis of all.

Verse 16. She considereth (as to buying) a field, and buyeth it. Not only sloth, but also rashness is forbidden. The wise 'count the cost,' whether the article on sale be worth the price, and whether they can afford it. So spiritually (Luke 14:28). She not merely considers about things, but she does them, not vacillating, with female inconstancy.

With the fruit of her hand she planteth (feminine) a vineyard. So the Qeri' ( naaTª`aah (H5193)). But the original Kethibh (nata`) has the masculine verb. Her husband planteth a vineyard by help of the means which are the produce of her toil. She does not plant it herself, as her sphere is within doors not outside. She seeks necessaries before luxuries.

Verse 17. She girdeth her loins with strength. - putting forth all her might to what she undertakes. The loins were girded for active service (Exodus 12:11; 1 Kings 18:46; Job 38:3).

And strengtheneth her arms - not merely touching her work with the tips of her fingers, but using her arms, and not shrinking from hard labour.

Verse 18. She perceiveth (by happy experience; literally, she tasteth) that her merchandise is good - that success attends her labours. The image of merchandise is resumed from Proverbs 31:14. Experience teaches the happy fruits of industry. Therefore, as she rises early, so she works even after nightfall by candle light.

Verse 19. She layeth her hands to the spindle - not as many women, whose hands are oftener employed in decorating themselves before the looking-glass, or in fashionable accomplishments, than in what minister's real good to their households.

Verse 20. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor. Her industry (Proverbs 31:19) is not merely for self, but, "that Verse 20. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor. Her industry (Proverbs 31:19) is not merely for self, but, "that she may have to give to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28). "Stretcheth out (or, rather, openeth wide) her hand" is a phrase implying prompt and liberal gifts: the opposite of shutting the hand (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). The end of industry is not to hoard, not to waste on unprofitable trifles and self-indulgence, but to spend in relieving the poor all that is above our personal and family needs. As her industry shines forth in acquiring, so her piety and charity in giving. How few there are who make this the end of acquiring! "Her hand ... her hands:" the change of number implies her readiness to help with one hand or with both hands, as the exigency may require.

Verse 21. She is not afraid of the snow (the cold of winter) for her household: for all her household (are) clothed with scarlet. So far is her family from being without garments to keep out the cold, that they have even more costly garments (cf. Proverbs 31:22). So the Syriac and Chaldaic read. The searlet colour suggests the idea of warmth as well as beauty, in contrast to the cold snow. But the, Vulgate translates, as margin, 'double garments' ( shªnayim (H8147), for shaaniym (H8144)). So the Septuagint [dissa], loena), a double garment, as good as two.

Verse 22. Her clothing is silk (or fine linen: sheesh) and purple. She provides for ornament, as well as for necessity: at the same time she attends to the necessary comforts of her household before she thinks of her own gratification. This shows that the prohibition of costly array (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3) is leveled against dress being made the instrument of pride and vanity. The wife here is one in high position. Each is to dress according to her station.

Verse 23. Her husband is known (is conspicuous; occupies through her indirect influence a prominent position) in the gates (in the place of justice), when he sitteth among the elders (the senators) of the land His wife's diligence and amiability at home enables him, with undistracted mind, to attend to his public duties in high positions in the State (Proverbs 12:4).

Verse 24. She ... delivereth girdles unto the merchant - who buy them from her to sell to foreigners.

Verse 25. Strength (of mind) and honour (are) her clothing - a still better clothing than the material clothing which she makes for the body (Proverbs 31:21-22).

She shall rejoice (or laugh) in time to come. She can afford to laugh at fear, because she knows that she is guarded beforehand against all casualties by wise precaution and a good conscience.

Verse 26. She openeth her mouth with wisdom - not talkative and trifling, as most women, but thoughtful and sensible in her words. As idleness is the source of talkativeness (1 Timothy 5:13), so industry is its antidote.

In her tongue is the law of kindness - beneficence and grace. "In:" literally, upon - i:e., resting upon her tongue permanently. She tempers wisdom with grace, both spiritual and natural. Besides words of amiability, she speaks of "the law of grace," the Word of God, the source or an true kindness. Godly women should speak not merely of household matters, but also of the grace of God, to all within their sphere of influence (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Samuel 2:1; Esther 4:16; cf. Christ's example, Isaiah 50:4; Luke 4:22).

Verse 27. She looketh well to the ways of her household - i:e., to her domestic affairs; not going ahead, and busying herself about other people's affairs, but minder own household, narrowly observing their ways, whether they do their duty faithfully, and in the fear of God or not.

The bread of idleness - the opposite of "the bread of sorrows" or 'toils' (Psalms 127:2).

Verse 28. Her children arise up, and call her blessed. When they reach mature age, they bless her for her early training of them. "Arise up" is a phrase for going into public. When they were children they were in privacy, their arising up to go up into public life is the sign of their having reached maturity. "Arise also expresses one a earnestly addressing himself to the discharge of a duty (Joshua 18:4).

Verse 29. My daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all - Solomon's or the Spirit's address of commendation to the gracious woman just described.

Verse 30. Favour is deceitful - Hebrew, is deceitfulness itself. "Favour;" i:e., grace in manner and address. It soon perishes and gives no solid and lasting satisfaction.

Beauty is vain - Hebrew vanity. It often ministers to pride, indolence, lust, bad temper. At best it is fleeting.

A woman (that) feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Industry prudence, and natural amiability are nothing worth without the fear of the Lord. Even pagan may have many domestic virtues; but they have not the piety which is understood as the root of all the virtues of the woman just described.

She - and she alone, is deserving of praise.

Verse 31. Give her a the fruit of her hands - Solomon's address to men in general: Give her the praises which she so richly merits.

In the gates - in public places.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 31". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/proverbs-31.html. 1871-8.
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