Proverbs 31

1Lemuel's lesson of temperance and chastity. 6The afflicted are to be comforted, and the poor defended. 10The praise and properties of a virtuous woman.

1THE words 1of king 2Lemuel, the 3prophecy that 4his mother 5taught him.

1 That is, which were given to this king for an instruction, and received by him, recorded and thus left unto all people for their use and edification.

2 This Lemuel is also called Lemoel, which signifies as much as unto or before God, that is, he who belongs unto God, or is dedicated unto Him. The common opinion is, that by this man is meant king Solomon himself, who is also called Jedidiah, that is, the beloved of the LORD. See 2 Sam. 12:25 and the annotations.

3 See Prov. 30 on verse 1.

4 Namely, Bathsheba, of whom see 2 Sam. 11:3; 1 Kings 1:11; 2:13, etc.

5 Namely, before he was crowned as king, or right away after.

26What, my son? and what, the son of 7my womb? and what, the son of 8my vows?

6 These are the words of his mother’s instruction, as if she had said: What shall I say? Or, What or how shall the thing be, O my son? I must needs teach and instruct thee in that, which I count to be most needful and necessary for thee.

7 Compare Isa. 49:15 Children are also called as such in respect of their father, Job 19:17. So likewise the fruit of the womb, namely, of their parents, Deut. 28:4, 18, 53.

8 That is, for whom I made so many vows unto the Lord, which I have also done and performed, in order that thou wouldst come to the crown and kingdom, and therein quit thyself so as becometh a godly and religious king to do.

3Give not thy 9strength unto women,a nor 10thy ways 11to that which destroyeth kings.

9 That is, the powers and faculties of your soul and body, together with your temporal means. Compare Prov. 5:9, 10.

a Deut. 17:17.

10 That is, your inclinations, dealing and works.

11 That is, presumptuously and without cause, to conquer the lands and cities of kings, making war against them out of mere arrogance, pride and covetousness. Other, Give not thy affections unto women, which tendeth to destroy kings, etc., that is, utterly to consume them and to cause them to perish.

412It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink 13wine; 14nor for princes strong drink:

12 Other, Be it far from kings, etc. to drink wine, etc.

13 Namely, inconsiderately.

14 Or, nor for princes strong drink, or, and to enquire: Where is strong drink?

5Lest 15they drink, and forget the 16law, and pervert the judgment of any of the 17afflicted.

15 Namely, every one of the kings and princes.

16 The Hebrew word signifies that which is not only once ordained and established as law, but which is also for such an end and purpose engraved, carved and written in stone, copper or any other material, according to which the judges’ sentence must at all times be formed and framed.

17 Hebr. children of affliction, that is, afflicted people. Also children of death Psalm 79:11, for people appointed unto death. Children of alteration or of destruction, verse 8. Children of the captivity, Ezra 4:1, for people who had been carried away captive. Children of the curse, 2 Peter 2:14, for cursed people.

6Give strong drink unto him that is ready to 18perish, and wine unto those that be of 19heavy hearts.

18 That is, who pines and melts away, and, as it were, consumes away to nothing by reason of some grief in which he is plunged. Compare Deut. 26:5.

19 Hebr. that are bitter in soul, that is, who are bitterly grieved in their heart. See 2 Kings 4 on verse 27.

7Let 20him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

20 Namely, he who perishes and is bitter in soul. Here is a change of number. Compare Job 24 on verse 18.

821Open thy mouth for the 22dumb in the cause of 23all such as are appointed to destruction.

21 Also in the next verse. See Job 33 on verse 2.

22 That is, for him who is not able to speak for himself by reason of his inability, or dares not speak through fear of his potent adversary.

23 Hebr. children of alteration or of destruction, that is, who are in danger of suffering wrongfully some hurtful change or alteration, that is, who shall suffer great damage in their goods, body or honor, yea, which would tend to their utter undoing. Other, of all the children of passing by, that is, of all people, whose life here is nothing else but, as it were, a short thorough-fare, and stepping over, or passage unto death.

9Open thy mouth, 24judgeb righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

24 Hebr. judge righteousness, that is, righteously or rightly. Also Deut. 1:16. Other, in or with righteousness, as this full and entire phrase is found Lev. 19:15; Psalm 9:8.

b Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16.

1025Who can find ac26virtuous woman? for her price is far above 27rubies.

25 The praise and declaration of the virtues of a prudent and diligent mother of a family is placed in this verse and in every verse following.

c Prov. 12:4.

26 Hebr. a wife of virtue, or piety, or valor. Thus Ruth 3:11. See Gen. 47:6, the annotation on the word activity.

27 See Job 28:18 and the annotation.

11The heart of her 28husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of 29spoil.

28 Or, of her lord, that is, of her husband. See 2 Sam. 11:26 and the annotation.

29 The Hebrew word shalal signifies properly spoil or prey, that is, all moveable goods, which in time of war are spoiled, or taken away; but understand here, by way of comparison, all kind of goods which are necessary unto house-keeping, and are gained and gotten by labor or trading. Compare herewith verse 15, the meaning of the word tereph, meat or food.

12She 30will do him good 31and not evil all the days of her life.

30 Or, rewardeth good unto him, etc. See of the Hebrew word 2 Chron. 20 on verse 11; Prov. 11 on verse 17.

31 The nature of the Hebrew language is to repeat the same thing again with a denial of the contrary, Psalm 102:17; Luke 1:20, etc.

13She seeketh wool, and flax, and 32worketh 33willingly with her hands.

32 The Hebrew word asah is also taken elsewhere for working. See Gen. 30 on verse 30; Exod. 31:4; Ruth 2:19 and the annotation; 2 Chron. 2:7.

33 Also is ascribed to the hands, refusal or disinclination and unwillingness Prov. 21:15.

14She is 34like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her 35food 36from afar.

34 That is, like the merchant men.

35 That is, whatsoever tends to the sustentation and preservation of this temporal life. Compare Prov. 4 on verse 17.

36 That is, she provides herself opportunely, not only of those things which are to be had there in the country, but also of those that must be fetched from far, for which she either pays with money or wares made by her own folk.

15She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth 37meat to her 38household, and a 39portion to her maidens.

37 The Hebrew word tereph signifies properly prey or victual that is gotten by plundering, as Num. 23:24; Job 24:5, but it is also taken for other victuals, as here, and Psalm 111:5; Mal. 3:10, as also the word hitriph, Prov. 30:8, is as much as feeding with ordinary food.

38 Or, to her house. See Gen. 7 on verse 1.

39 See Job 23 on verse 12.

16She 40considereth a field, and 41buyeth it: with the 42fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

40 The word zaman is for the most part taken in a bad sense, and for evil and wicked thoughts, as Deut. 19:19; Psalm 37:12; Prov. 30:32, etc., but here it is taken in a good sense for diligent, prudent and pious thoughts. Compare Zech. 8:15. Thus the word mezimmah, thought, is taken likewise in a good and in a bad sense. See Job 21 on verse 27.

41 Namely, with an intention to raise yet more gain and profit thereby for her family. Compare Prov. 24:27.

42 That is, with the gain and profit she enjoys by her handy-work and trading.

1743She girdeth her loins with strength, and 44strengtheneth her arms.

43 That is, she applies herself with diligence and courage to the work. See Exod. 12 on verse 11.

44 That is, she makes her arms ready for the work, or (as we use to say) she tucks up her sleeves. Here mention is made especially of the loins and arms, because therein lies the greatest strength which is requisite and needful for labor.

18She 45perceiveth that her merchandise is 46good: 47her candle goeth not out by night.

45 That is, judges, opinions, experiences and perceives. Understand this of the taste of the heart. Compare Job 12 on verse 20; Psalm 34 on verse 8.

46 That is, profitable; also Jer. 5:25; 1 Cor. 7:1.

47 Namely, because she uses it a long while in the night.

19She layeth her hands to 48the spindle, and her hands 49hold the distaff.d

48 Namely, whereby she winds her thread. Other, swivel.

49 Namely, to turn it now and then, and to pull or draw her flax or wool from it. It is perceived that the old custom of spinning was not done with a wheel, but (as at this day) is yet much used with a spindle and distaff.

d rod to hold wool for hand-spinning

20She 50stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

50 Namely, to help them. For, she is diligent, not only to provide for her own family, but also to communicate unto the poor.

21She is not afraid of the 51snow for her 52household: for all her household are clothed with 53scarlet.

51 Understand hereby all manner of inconvenience coming from the sky.

52 That is, family; and likewise further in this verse; also in verse 15. Or, her house.

53 That is, with two suits of clothing. Other, with scarlet, that is, not only for necessity to keep off the cold, but also for ornament to those who belong to the family of a great woman or lady. Some understand by her household none other but her husband and her children. Yet forasmuch as it seems that scarlet was somewhat common in those countries, 2 Sam. 1:24; it is not incredible but that some servants and waiting gentle-women, pertaining to such great houses and families, may have worn such kind of apparel, and therefore were much more stored with other garments to protect them against the grievous cold.

22She maketh herself 54coverings of tapestry; her clothing is 55silk and 56purple.

54 See Prov. 7 on verse 16.

55 See Gen. 41 on verse 42.

56 That is, a garment which is of a dark or deep red or crimson color.

23Her husband is known in the 57gates, when he sitteth among the 58elders of the land.

57 That is, houses of judicature. See Gen. 22 on verse 17.

58 That is, rulers of the land, who are commonly chosen out of those who are old in years (at least old in wisdom and understanding). See 2 Kings 23:1.

24She maketh 59fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth 60girdles unto the 61merchant.

59 See hereof Judges 14 on verse 12.

60 Which served in war, to be thereby, as by a military sign, admitted to the use and practice of arms, 2 Kings 3:21, to hang the sword on it, 2 Sam. 20:8, and to make the members of the body ready, firm and strong for any work. See Exod. 12 on verse 11; Eph. 6:14. The girdle served also for an ornament to the body, Isa. 3 on verse 24.

61 Hebr. unto the Canaanite. See Job 41 on verse 6.

2562Strength and 63honour are 64her clothing; and 65she shall rejoice 66in time to come.

62 That is, valor, courage, confidence in God, and undauntedness of spirit.

63 That is, ornament of godliness and virtuous manners.

64 That is, she is therewith well stored and furnished, and keeps herself close thereto, as unto an ordinary and daily clothing or wearing apparel. Compare Job 29 on verse 14.

65 That is, she is quiet, void of care and without fear in respect of the future, and that by reason of the apprehension of God’s favor and blessing, and by reason of a good conscience, and the order which she has made in her housekeeping. To rejoice is here taken for being without fear, and for despising. See Job 5 on verse 22.

66 Understand the future, wherein she would be visited with adversity, want or poverty. Others understand the time of old age, or the time of death, or the day of judgment which is to come.

26She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the 67law of kindness.

67 That is, speech of desiring to do well unto all, and exhortation to stir up others thereunto.

27She looketh well to the 68ways of her household, and eateth not the bread 69of idleness.

68 That is, how things go in her family, minding her children, her servants, the business and employments they are about to do, the furniture and household stuff, as also the means with which she is entrusted by her husband.

69 That is, the bread which is obtained without honest labor. Compare Prov. 4 on verse 17.

28Her 70children 71arise up, and call her blessed; 72her husband also, and he praiseth her.

70 Or, sons.

71 That is, are ready and prepared to praise her; as they also straightway perform it. Also is to arise up or to get oneself up as much as to make oneself ready for and to apply oneself to any business, Gen. 37:35; Exod. 2:17; Joshua 18:4; 1 Sam. 25:29, etc.

72 Namely, gets him up.

2973Many 74daughters have done 75virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

73 These are the words of the husband and his sons.

74 That is, women. Also Gen. 30:13; Luke 23:28.

75 Namely, in housekeeping. Such is the word chail taken Ruth 3:11 and above verse 10. Other, have done virtue, or, gathered riches.

3076Favour is 77deceitful, and beauty is 78vain: but a 79woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

76 Understand the outward comeliness and grace, which some womenfolk might have about them. See Nah. 3:4.

77 Hebr. lie, or falsehood, namely, because they are deceived who rely upon it as upon a sure and lasting estate, and because oftentimes great and gross vices are hidden under it.

78 That is, fading, and soon or easily vanishing. See Job 15 on verse 31.

79 Or, a woman of the fear of the Lord, that is, a woman who is endued with the fear of the Lord.

3180Give her of 81the fruit of her 82hands; and let her own works praise her 83in the gates.

80 To give something in words is to praise, Jer. 13:16. He wants to say: that they, from the fruit of her hands, should take matter to praise her.

81 See Prov. 1 on verse 31.

82 That is, works.

83 That is, in the public assemblies of the people, who were wont to be in the gates, where justice was administered.