Proverbs 31
Barnes' Notes
See the introduction to Proverbs.

The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
That his mother taught him - Compare Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 6:20. If we refer the chapter to Israelite authorship, we may remember the honor paid to the wisdom of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; if it was the honor paid to an Edomite or an Arabian, we may think of the Queen of Sheba, whose love of Wisdom led her to sit at the feet of the son of David.

What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
The repetitions are emphatic; expressive of anxious love.

Son of my vows - Like Samuel, and Samson, the child often asked for in prayer, the prayer ratified by a vow of dedication. The name Lemuel (literally "for God," consecrated to Him) may be the expression of that dedication; and the warning against indulging in wine Proverbs 31:4 shows that it had something of the Nazarite or Rechabite idea in it.

Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
To that which destroyeth - The temptations of the harem were then, as now, the curse of all Eastern kingdoms.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Some read: "nor for princes to say, Where is strong drink?" The "strong drink" Proverbs 20:1 was distilled from barley, or honey, or dates.

Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
The true purpose of the power of wine over man's mind and body, as a restorative and remedial agent. Compare the margin reference. The same thought showed itself in the Jewish practice of giving a cup of wine to mourners, and (as in the history of the crucifixion) to criminals at their execution.

Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
In contrast with the two besetting sins of Eastern monarchs stands their one great duty, to give help to those who had no other helper.

Such as are appointed to destruction - literally, "children of bereavement," with the sense, either, as in the text, of those "destined to be bereaved of life or goods," or of "bereaved or fatherless children."

Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
See the introduction to Proverbs.

Rubies - Better, pearls. See the Proverbs 3:15 note.

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
No need of spoil - Better, no lack of gain, lack of honest gain.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
Worketh willingly with her hands - Or, worketh with willing hands. The stress laid upon the industrial habits of Israelite matrons may perhaps belong to a time when, as under the monarchy of Judah, those habits were passing away.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
The comparison points to the enlarged commerce of the Israelites consequent on their contact with the Phoenicians under David and Solomon; compare Proverbs 31:24.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
A portion to her maidens - The daily task assigned to each at the same time as the daily food. Compare Proverbs 30:8; Exodus 5:14.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
The verse points to a large sphere of feminine activity, strikingly in contrast with the degradation to which woman in the East has now fallen.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
The industry is not selfish, but bears the fruit of an open-handed charity.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Scarlet - Probably some well-known articles of dress, at once conspicuous for their color, or, as some think, for their double texture and warmth.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Silk - Better, fine linen, the byssus of Egypt.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
The industry of the wife leaves the husband free to take his place among the elders that sit in councils.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Fine linen - Not the same word as in Proverbs 31:22 note; it describes a made-up garment Isaiah 3:23.

Merchant - literally, "Canaanite," i. e., the Phoenician merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Shall rejoice in time to come - Better, rejoiceth over the time to come; i. e., looks forward to the future, not with anxious care, but with confident gladness.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Law of kindness - The words which come from the lips of the true wife are as a law giving guidance and instruction to those that hear them; but the law is not proclaimed in its sterner aspects, but as one in which "mercy tempers justice," and love, the fulfilling of the law, is seen to be the source from which it springs.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
The words of praise which the husband Proverbs 31:28 is supposed to have addressed to the ideal wife.

Virtuously - The Hebrew word has primarily (like "virtus") the idea of "strength," but is used with various shades of meaning. Here (as in Proverbs 12:4; Ruth 3:11) the strength is that of character stedfast in goodness. In other passages (e. g., Genesis 34:29; Psalm 49:10) it has the sense of "riches," and is so taken here by the Septuagint and Vulgate, see also the marginal rendering.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
The last lesson of the book is the same as the first. The fear of the Lord is the condition of all womanly, as well as of all manly, excellence.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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