Proverbs 31

Listen to Proverbs 31

The Words of King Lemuel

1 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:
2 What are you doing, my son?[a] What are you doing, 1son of my womb? What are you doing, 2son of my vows?
3 Do 3not give your strength to women, your ways to those 4who destroy kings.
4 5It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings 6to drink wine, or for rulers to take 7strong drink,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and 8pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink to the one who 9is perishing, and wine to 10those in bitter distress;[b]
7 11let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
8 12Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.[c]
9 Open your mouth, 13judge righteously, 14defend the rights of 15the poor and needy.

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10 [d]16An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than 17jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She 18seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
15 She 19rises while it is yet night and 20provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She 21dresses herself[e] with strength and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She 22opens her hand to 23the poor and reaches out her hands to 24the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in 25scarlet.[f]
22 She makes 26bed coverings for herself; her clothing is 27fine linen and 28purple.
23 Her husband is known in 29the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes 30linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 31Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many 32women have done 33excellently, but you surpass them all."
30 34Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the 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.

Cross References 34

  • 1. Isaiah 49:15
  • 2. [1 Samuel 1:27]
  • 3. [Proverbs 5:9]
  • 4. [Proverbs 7:26; Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 11:1; Nehemiah 13:26]
  • 5. Ecclesiastes 10:17; [1 Kings 16:9; 1 Kings 20:16]
  • 6. [Hosea 4:11]
  • 7. Proverbs 20:1
  • 8. [Isaiah 5:22, 23]
  • 9. Job 29:13
  • 10. Job 3:20
  • 11. [Psalms 104:15]
  • 12. Job 29:12, 15, 16; [Isaiah 1:17]
  • 13. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:16
  • 14. Jeremiah 22:16; [Isaiah 1:17]
  • 15. ver. 20; Psalms 40:17; Psalms 86:1
  • 16. Proverbs 12:4; Ruth 3:11; [Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14]
  • 17. Job 28:18
  • 18. [ver. 21, 22, 24]
  • 19. [Proverbs 20:13]
  • 20. Luke 12:42; [Psalms 111:5]
  • 21. [ver. 25]
  • 22. [Romans 12:13; Ephesians 4:28]
  • 23. [ver. 9]
  • 24. [ver. 9]
  • 25. 2 Samuel 1:24
  • 26. Proverbs 7:16
  • 27. Genesis 41:42; Revelation 19:8, 14
  • 28. Judges 8:26
  • 29. See Ruth 4:1, 2
  • 30. Judges 14:12; Isaiah 3:23
  • 31. [ver. 17]
  • 32. Song of Songs 6:9
  • 33. [ver. 10]
  • 34. [Proverbs 11:16]

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Hebrew What, my son?
  • [b]. Hebrew those bitter in soul
  • [c]. Hebrew are sons of passing away
  • [d]. Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
  • [e]. Hebrew She girds her loins
  • [f]. Or in double thickness

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

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.