An exhortation to king Lemuel to take heed of sin, and to do duties. (1-9) The description of a virtuous woman. (10-31)
Verses 1-9 When children are under the mother's eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children. The many awful instances of promising characters who have been ruined by vile women, and love of wine, should warn every one to avoid these evils. Wine is to be used for want or medicine. Every creature of God is good, and wine, though abused, has its use. By the same rule, due praise and consolation should be used as cordials to the dejected and tempted, not administered to the confident and self-sufficient. All in authority should be more carefully temperate even than other men; and should be protectors of those who are unable or afraid to plead their own cause. Our blessed Lord did not decline the bitterest dregs of the cup of sorrow put into his hands; but he puts the cup of consolation into the hands of his people, and causes those to rejoice who are in the deepest distress.
Verses 10-31 This is the description of a virtuous woman of those days, but the general outlines equally suit every age and nation. She is very careful to recommend herself to her husband's esteem and affection, to know his mind, and is willing that he rule over her. 1. She can be trusted, and he will leave such a wife to manage for him. He is happy in her. And she makes it her constant business to do him good. 2. She is one that takes pains in her duties, and takes pleasure in them. She is careful to fill up time, that none be lost. She rises early. She applies herself to the business proper for her, to women's business. She does what she does, with all her power, and trifles not. 3. She makes what she does turn to good account by prudent management. Many undo themselves by buying, without considering whether they can afford it. She provides well for her house. She lays up for hereafter. 4. She looks well to the ways of her household, that she may oblige all to do their duty to God and one another, as well as to her. 5. She is intent upon giving as upon getting, and does it freely and cheerfully. 6. She is discreet and obliging; every word she says, shows she governs herself by the rules of wisdom. She not only takes prudent measures herself, but gives prudent advice to others. The law of love and kindness is written in the heart, and shows itself in the tongue. Her heart is full of another world, even when her hands are most busy about this world. 7. Above all, she fears the Lord. Beauty recommends none to God, nor is it any proof of wisdom and goodness, but it has deceived many a man who made his choice of a wife by it. But the fear of God reigning in the heart, is the beauty of the soul; it lasts for ever. 8. She has firmness to bear up under crosses and disappointments. She shall reflect with comfort when she comes to be old, that she was not idle or useless when young. She shall rejoice in a world to come. She is a great blessing to her relations. If the fruit be good, the tree must have our good word. But she leaves it to her own works to praise her. Every one ought to desire this honour that cometh from God; and according to this standard we all ought to regulate our judgments. This description let all women daily study, who desire to be truly beloved and respected, useful and honourable. This passage is to be applied to individuals, but may it not also be applied to the church of God, which is described as a virtuous spouse? God by his grace has formed from among sinful men a church of true believers, to possess all the excellences here described.
Proverbs 31:1-31 .
1. On the title of this, the sixth part of the book,
2. What, my son?--that is, What shall I say? Repetitions denote earnestness.
son of my womb--as our phrase, "my own son," a term of special affection.
son of my vows--as one dedicated to God; so the word "Lemuel" may mean.
3-9. Succinct but solemn warnings against vices to which kings are peculiarly tempted, as carnal pleasures and oppressive and unrighteous government are used to sustain sensual indulgence.
strength-- mental and bodily resources for health and comfort.
thy ways--or course of life.
to that . . . kings--literally, "to the destroying of kings," avoid destructive pleasures (compare Proverbs 5:9 , Proverbs 7:22 Proverbs 7:27 , Hosea 4:11 ).
4, 5. Stimulants enfeeble reason, pervert the heart, and do not suit rulers, who need clear and steady minds, and well-governed affections (compare Proverbs 20:1 , 22:29 ).
pervert . . . afflicted--They give unrighteous decisions against the poor.
6, 7. The proper use of such drinks is to restore tone to feeble bodies and depressed minds (compare Psalms 104:15 ).
8, 9. Open . . . cause--Plead for those who cannot plead for themselves, as the orphan, stranger, &c. (compare Psalms 72:12 , Isaiah 1:17 ).
appointed to destruction--who are otherwise ruined by their oppressors (compare Proverbs 29:14 Proverbs 29:16 ).
10-31. This exquisite picture of a truly lovely wife is conceived and drawn in accordance with the customs of Eastern nations, but its moral teachings suit all climes. In Hebrew the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order (compare
Who . . . woman--The question implies that such are rare, though not entirely wanting (compare Proverbs 18:22 , 19:14 ).
virtuous--literally, "of strength," that is, moral courage (compare Proverbs 12:4 , Ruth 3:11 ).
her price, &c.--(compare Proverbs 3:15 ).
11. heart . . . trust in her--He relies on her prudence and skill.
no need of spoil--does not lack profit or gain, especially, that obtained by the risk of war.
12. do . . . good--contribute good to him.
13, 14. Ancient women of rank thus wrought with their hands; and such, indeed, were the customs of Western women a few centuries since. In the East also, the fabrics were articles of merchandise.
15. She diligently attends to expending as well as gathering wealth;
16. and hence has means to purchase property.
17, 18. To energy she adds a watchfulness in bargains, and a protracted and painful industry. The last clause may figuratively denote that her prosperity (compare Proverbs 24:20 ) is not short lived.
19. No work, however mean, if honest, is disdained.
20. Industry enables her to be charitable.
21. scarlet--or, "purple," by reason of the dyes used, the best fabrics; as a matter of taste also; the color suits cold.
22. coverings of tapestry--or, "coverlets," that is, for beds.
silk--or, "linen" (compare Exodus 26:1 , 27:9 )
and purple--that is, the most costly goods.
23. in the gates--(compare Proverbs 22:22 ). His domestic comfort promotes his advancement in public dignity.
24. fine linen--or, "linen shirts," or the material for them.
girdles--were often costly and highly valued ( 2 Samuel 18:11 ).
delivereth--or, "giveth as a present" or "to sell."
25. Strength and honour--Strong and beautiful is her clothing; or, figuratively, for moral character, vigorous and honorable.
shall rejoice . . . come--in confidence of certain maintenance.
26. Her conversation is wise and gentle.
27. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:14 , Titus 2:5 ). She adds to her example a wise management of those under her control.
28. She is honored by those who best know her.
29. The words are those of her husband, praising her.
virtuously--(Compare Proverbs 31:10 ).
30. Favour--or, "Grace" of personal manner.
beauty--of face, or form (compare Proverbs 11:22 ). True piety alone commands permanent respect and affection ( 1 Peter 3:3 ).
31. The result of her labor is her best eulogy. Nothing can add to the simple beauty of this admirable portrait. On the measure of its realization in the daughters of our own day rest untold results, in the domestic, and, therefore, the civil and religious, welfare of the people.