Proverbs 31 – Advice for King Lemuel and a Noble Wife

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

Verses 1-9 – this brief section is also of non-Israelite origin.  King Lemuel is otherwise unknown.

“his mother” – this entire chapter emphasizes the role and significance of wise women.  The queen mother was an influential figure (see 1 Kgs  1:11-13; 15:13).

2 What, my son? an d what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

“son of my vows” – Hannah made a vow as she prayed for a son (1 Sam 1:11).

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

“strength unto women” – a warning against a large harem and sexual immorality (see 5:9-11; 1 Kgs  11:1; Neh 13:26).

4 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” – woe to the land whose rulers are drunkards (Ecc 10:16-17; Hos 7:5).

5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the Judgment of any of the afflicted.

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

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

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

Verses 8-9 – the king represents God as the defender of the poor and needy (see 16:10; Ps 82:3; cf, Lev 19:15; Job 29:12-17; Is 1:17).

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

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

“virtuous woman” – like Ruth ( Ruth 3:11).  She is “the crown to her husband” (12:4).

Verses 10-31 – the epilogue: an acrostic poem (each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) praising the “virtuous woman” (v 10).  It corresponds to 1:1-7 (the prologue) as it describes a “woman that feareth the LORD” (v 30;).  Such a woman is almost a personification of wisdom.  Like wisdom, “her price is far above rubies” (v 10; 3:15; 8:11), and he who finds her “obtains favor of the LORD” (8:35; 18:22).

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

“flax” – its fibers were made into linen (see vv 19, 22, 24; cf, Is 19:9).

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

“like the merchant’s ships” – she is an enterprising person (see v 18).

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

“She riseth also while it is yet night” – she is the opposite of the sluggard (see 6:9-10; 20:13).

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

“considereth a field…planteth a vineyard” – she shows good Judgment – unlike the sluggard, whose vineyard is overgrown with thorns and weeds (24:30-31).

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

“her merchandise is good” – her profit or value.  Like wisdom, “her price is far above rubies” (v 10; 3:15; 8:11).  The profit of wisdom “is better than the merchandise of silver” (3:14).

19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

”spindle…distaff” – spinning thread was women’s work.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

“clothed with scarlet” – of high quality, probably made of wool (cf, 2 Sam 1:23; Rev 18:16).

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

“silk” – associated with nobility (see Gen 41:42).

”purple” – linked with kings (Jdg 8:26; Sol 3:10). Or the rich (Lk 16:19; Rev 18:16).

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

“in the gates” – the court.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25 Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

“Strength and honor are her clothing” – see Is 52:1, 1 Tim 2:9-10.  The opposite is to be “clothed with shame and dishonor (Ps 35:26).

”she shall rejoice in time to come” – she is free of anxiety and worry concerning the future (cf, Job 39:7).

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

“law of kindness” – given to her children and friends.  She is a wise and loving counselor (see 1;8; 6:20).

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

“call her blessed” – because of the happy environment she creates and the joy she radiates to others (see Gen 30:13; Ps 72:17; Sol 6:9; Mal 3:12; cf Ruth 4:14-15).

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

“Favor is deceitful” – cf, 5:3.

”beauty is vain” – cf Job 14:2; 1 Pet 3:3-5.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

“praise her” – honor comes through “humility and the fear of the LORD” (22:4).