Proverbs 31

The Words of Lemuel

1 The words of King Lemuel, an oracle[a] that his mother taught him:
2 What [should I say], my son? What, son of my womb? What, son of my vows?
3 Don't spend your energy on women or your efforts on those who destroy kings.
4 It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers [to desire] beer.
5 Otherwise, they[b] will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed.[c] [d]
6 Give beer to one who is dying, and wine to one whose life is bitter.
7 Let him drink so that he can forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.
8 Speak up[e] for those who have no voice,[f] for the justice of all who are dispossessed.[g]
9 Speak up,[h] judge righteously, and defend the cause of[i] the oppressed and needy.

In Praise of a Capable Wife

10 Who can find a capable wife?[j] She is far more precious than jewels.[k] [l]
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good.
12 She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax[m] and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions[n] for her servants.[o]
16 She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings.[p]
17 She draws on her strength[q] and reveals that her arms are strong.[r]
18 She sees that her profits are good, and her lamp never goes out at night.
19 She extends her hands to the spinning staff, and her hands hold the spindle.[s]
20 Her hands reach[t] out to the poor, and she extends her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed.[u]
22 She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known at the city gates, where he sits among the elders of the land.[v]
24 She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts[w] to the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing,[x] and she can laugh at the time to come.[y]
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction[z] is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the activities of her household[aa] and is never idle.[ab]
28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her:
29 "Many women[ac] are capable, but you surpass them all!"[ad]
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.
31 Give her the reward of her labor,[ae] and let her works praise her at the city gates.

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Proverbs 31 Commentary

Chapter 31

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.

Footnotes 31

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains the last part of the book of Proverbs; which some reckon the fifth, others the sixth. It contains the instructions of the mother of a prince, whose name was Lemuel, which she gave unto him; and which are so valuable, as to be annexed to the proverbs of Solomon. The preface or introduction to them is in Pr 31:1; the address to her son, Pr 31:2. The vices she cautions him against are uncleanness and intemperance; which she dissuades from, because of the pernicious consequences of both to kings and to their subjects, Pr 31:3-5. Advises rather to give wine and strong drink to poor people, such as are in distress; as being more useful to them, at least less prejudicial, Pr 31:6,7; and exhorts her son to the duties of his office; by pleading the cause of the poor and injured, and administering justice to them, Pr 31:8,9. And then at large describes a virtuous woman; perhaps designed as an instruction to her son in the choice of a wife, Pr 31:10-31; though more than that may be intended by it.

Proverbs 31 Commentaries

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