Proverbs 31

1 The words of Lemuel, the king; the vision by which his mother taught him.
2 What, my darling? what, the darling of my womb? what, the darling of my desires? (What, my darling? what is it, the darling of my womb? what is it, the answer to my prayers?)
3 Give thou not thy chattel to women (Give thou not all thy substance to women), and thy riches to do away kings.
4 A! Lemuel, do not thou give wine to kings; for no private there is, where drunkenness reigneth. (O! Lemuel, do not thou give wine to kings; for there is no secret place, where drunkenness can reign.)
5 Lest peradventure they drink, and forget dooms, and change the cause of the sons of a poor man. (Lest perhaps they drink, and forget justice, and pervert the cause of the poor.)
6 Give ye cider to them that mourn, and wine to them that be of bitter soul.
7 Drink they, and forget they their neediness; and think they no more on their sorrow.
8 Open thy mouth for a dumb man, and open thy mouth for the causes of all sons that pass forth. (Speak thou for the dumb, and for the causes of all those who pass forth before thee.)
9 Deem thou that that is just, and deem thou a needy man and a poor man. (Judge thou with judgement, or with discernment, and give thou justice to the needy and to the poor.)
10 Who shall find a strong woman? the price of her is far, and from the last ends. (Who shall find a woman of virtue? her value is far above anything else.)
11 The heart of her husband trusteth in her; and he shall not have need to robberies. (Her husband trusteth her in his heart; and he shall have no need for robbery, or for theft.)
12 She shall yield to him good, and not evil, in all the days of her life.
13 She sought wool and flax; and wrought by the counsel of her hands. (She sought out wool and flax; and skillfully worked them with her hands.)
14 She is made as the ship of a merchant (She is made like a merchant's ship), that beareth his bread from [a]far.
15 And she rose by night, and gave lifelode to her menials, and meats to her handmaidens. (And she arose at night, and gave sustenance to her servants, and food to her servantesses.)
16 She beheld a field, and bought it; of the fruit of her hands she planted a vinery. (She saw a field, and bought it; and from the fruit of her hands, or out of her earnings, she planted a vineyard.)
17 She girded her loins with strength, and made strong her arm.
18 She tasted, and saw, that her merchandise was good; her lantern shall not be quenched in the night.
19 She put her hands to the wharve, and her fingers took the spindle.
20 She opened her hand to the needy man, and stretched forth her hands to a poor man. (She opened her hands to the needy, and stretched forth her hands to the poor.)
21 She shall not dread for her house of the colds of snow (She shall not have fear for her household concerning the cold and the snow); for all her menials be clothed with double clothes.
22 She made to her a ray-cloth; bis, either white silk, and purple is the cloth of her. (She made a ray-cloth for herself; bis, or white silk, and purple maketh her cloak.)
23 Her husband is noble in the gates, when he sitteth with the senators of [the] earth. (Her husband is well-regarded at the city gates, when he sitteth with the elders of the land.)
24 She made linen cloth, and sold it; and gave a girdle to a merchant.
25 Strength and fairness is the clothing of her; and she shall laugh in the last day. (Strength and beauty be her clothing; and she shall laugh at tomorrow/and she shall laugh on the last day, as she did on this day.)
26 She opened her mouth to wisdom; and the law of mercy is in her tongue. (She opened her mouth with wisdom; and the law of love, or of kindness, is upon her tongue.)
27 She beheld the paths of her house; and she ate not bread idly (and she did not eat the bread of idleness).
28 Her sons rose up, and preached her most blessed; her husband rose (up), and praised her.
29 Many daughters gathered riches; thou passedest all. (Many women have gathered in riches; but thou hast surpassed them all.)
30 Fairness is deceivable grace, and vain; that woman, that dreadeth the Lord, [she] shall be praised. (Beauty is deceptive, and will not last; but that woman, who feareth the Lord/who revereth the Lord, yea, she shall be praised.)
31 Give ye to her of the fruit of her hands; and her works praise her in the gates. (Give ye her credit for the fruit of her hands, or for all that she hath done; and may her works bring her praise 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.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO PROVERBS 31

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