Proverbs 31:13
She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) And worketh willingly with her hands.—Literally, with the pleasure or willingness of her hands; they, as it were, catch her willing spirit.

Proverbs 31:13-14. She seeketh wool and flax — That she may find employment for her servants, and not suffer them to spend their time unprofitably. And worketh willingly with her hands — She encourages them to work by her example; which was a common practice among princesses in those first ages. Not that it is the duty of kings and queens to use manual operations, but it is the duty of all persons, the greatest not excepted, to improve all their talents, and particularly their time, which is one of the noblest of them, to the service of that God to whom they must give an account, and to the good of that community to which they are related. She bringeth her food from afar — By the sale of her home-spun commodities she purchases the choicest goods which come from far countries.31:10-31 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.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. 13, 14. Ancient women of rank thus wrought with their hands; and such, indeed, were the customs of Western women a few centuries since. In the East also, the fabrics were articles of merchandise. She seeketh wool and flax, that she may find employment for her servants, and not suffer them to spend all their time unprofitably in ease and idleness.

Worketh willingly with her hands; she encourageth them to work by her example; which was a common practice among princesses in those first and purest ages of the world. Not that it is the duty of kings and queens to use manual or mechanical operations, but that it is the duty of all persons, the greatest not excepted, to improve all their talents, and particularly their time, which is one of the noblest of them, one way or other to the service of that God to whom they must give an account, and to the good of that community to which they are related and obliged. She seeketh wool and flax,.... To get them, in order to spin them, and work them up into garments; she stays not till they are brought to her, and she is pressed to take them; but she seeks after them, which shows her willingness to work, as is after more fully expressed. It was usual in ancient times for great personages to do such works as these, both among the Grecians (z) and Romans: Lucretia with her maids were found spinning, when her husband Collatinus paid a visit to her from the camp (a): Tanaquills, or Caia Caecilia, the wife of King Tarquin, was an excellent spinster of wool (b); her wool, with a distaff and spindle, long remained in the temple of Sangus, or Sancus, as Varro (c) relates: and a garment made by her, wore by Servius Tullius, was reserved in the temple of Fortune; hence it became a custom for maidens to accompany newly married women with a distaff and spindle, with wool upon them (d), signifying what they were principally to attend unto; and maidens are advised to follow the example of Minerva, said to be the first that made a web (e); and, if they would have her favour, to learn to use the distaff, and to card and spin (f): so did the daughters of Minyas, in Ovid (g); and the nymphs, in Virgil (h). When Alexander the great advised the mother of Darius to use her nieces to such employments, the Persian ladies were in great concern, it being reckoned reproachful with them for such to move their hands to wool; on hearing which, Alexander himself went to her, and told her the clothes he wore were wrought by his sisters (i): and the daughters and granddaughters of Augustus Caesar employed themselves in the woollen manufacture by his order (k); and he himself usually wore no other garment than what was made at home, by his wife, sister, daughter, and granddaughter (l). The Jews have a saying (m), that there is no wisdom in a woman but in the distaff; suggesting, that it is her wisdom to mind her spinning, and the affairs of her household: at the Roman marriages, the word "thalassio" was often repeated (n), which signified a vessel in which spinning work was put; and this was done to put the bride in mind what her work was to be. Now as to the mystical sense of these words; as of wool outward garments, and of flax linen and inward garments, are made; by the one may be meant external, and by the other internal, acts of religion; both are to be done, and not the one without the other: outward acts of religion are, such as hearing the word, attendance on ordinances, and all good works, which make up a conversation garment that should be kept; and they should be done so as to be seen of men, but not for that reason: and internal acts of religion are, the fear of God, humility, faith, hope, love, and other graces, and the exercises of them, which make up the new man, to be put on as a garment; and these should go together; bodily exercise, without powerful godliness, profiteth little; and pretensions to spirituality and internal religion, without regard to the outward duties of religion, are all vain. Hence Ambrose, on the text, observes that one may say,

"It is enough to worship and serve God in my mind; what need have I to go to church, and visibly mingle with Christians? Such a man would have a linen, without a woollen garment, this woman knew not; she does not commend such works.''

She sought all opportunities of doing good works externally, as believers do; and sought after the kingdom of God, inward godliness, which lies in peace, righteousness, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Not that such garments are to be joined with Christs robe of righteousness, to make up a justifying one; a garment mingled with linen and woollen, in this sense, is not to come upon the saints, Leviticus 19:19;

and worketh willingly with her hands; or, "with the pleasure of her hands" (o); as if her hands took delight in working, as the church and all true believers do; who are made willing in the day of the Lord's power upon them, to serve him, as well as to be saved by him; in whose hearts he works, both to will and to do; and these do what they do cheerfully: these do the work of the Lord, not by the force of the law, nor through fear of punishment, but in love; not by constraint, but willingly, having no other constraint but the love of God and Christ; and not with mercenary selfish views, but with a view to his glory; and they find a pleasure and delight in all they do; Christ's ways are ways of pleasantness; his commandments are not grievous, his yoke is easy.

(z) Vid. Homer. Iliad 3. v. 125. & 6. v. 490, 491. & 22. v. 440. Odyss. l. v. 357. & 5. v. 62. (a) "Cujus, ante torumn calathi, lanaque mollis erat", Ovid. Fasti, l. 2. prope finem. (b) Valerius Maximus, l. 10. p. 348. (c) Apud Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 48. (d) Plin. ibid. (e) Pomponius Subinus in Virgil. Cyrin, p. 1939. (f) "Pallade placata, lanam mollire puellae discant, et plenas exonerare colos", Ovid. Fast. l. 3. prope finem. (g) Metamorph. l. 4. Fab. 1. v. 34, 35. (h) Georgic. l. 4. (i) Curt. Hist. l. 5. c. 2.((k) Sueton. in Vit. August. c. 64. (l) lbid. c. 73. (m) Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Rabbin. col. 1742. (n) Varro apud Chartar. de Imag. Deorum, p. 88. (o) "cum voluptate altro neis manibus", so some in Vatablus, Tigurine version; so Cocceius, Michaelis, Piscator, Gejerus, Schultens.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. seeketh] Some would render, applies herself to, busies herself about. The LXX. have draws out; μηρυομένη.Verse 13. - DALETH. She seeketh wool, and flax. She pays attention to these things, as materials for clothing and domestic uses. Wool has been used for clothing from the earliest times (see Leviticus 13:47; Job 31:20, etc.), and flax was largely cultivated for the manufacture of linen, the processes of drying, peeling, hackling, and spinning being well understood (see Joshua 2:6; Isaiah 19:9; Jeremiah 13:1, etc.). The prohibition about mixing wool and flax in a garment (Deuteronomy 22:11) was probably based on the idea that all mixtures made by the art of man are polluted, and that what is pure and simple, such as it is in its natural state, is alone proper for the use of the people of God. And worketh willingly with her hands; or, she worketh with her hands' pleasure; i.e. with willing hands. The rendering of the Revised Version margin, after Hitzig, "She worketh at the business of her hands," is feeble, and does not say much. What is meant is that she not only labours diligently herself, but finds pleasure in doing so, and this, not because she has none to help her, and is forced to do her own work (on the contrary, she is represented as rich, and at the head of a large household), but because she considers that labour is a duty for all, and that idleness is a transgression of a universal law. Septuagint, "Weaving (μηρυομένη) wool and flax; she makes it useful with her hands." 6 Give strong drink to him that is perishing,

   And wine to those whose soul is in bitter woe;

7 Let him drink and forget his poverty,

   And let him think of his misery no more.

The preparation of a potion for malefactors who were condemned to death was, on the ground of these words of the proverb, cared for by noble women in Jerusalem (נשׁים יקרות שׁבירושׁלים), Sanhedrin 43a; Jesus rejected it, because He wished, without becoming insensible to His sorrow, to pass away from the earthly life freely and in full consciousness, Mark 15:23. The transition from the plur. to the sing. of the subject is in Proverbs 31:7 less violent than in Proverbs 31:5, since in Proverbs 31:6 singular and plur. already interchange. We write תּנוּ־שׁכר with the counter-tone Metheg and Mercha. אובד designates, as at Job 29:13; Job 31:19, one who goes to meet destruction: it combines the present signification interiens, the fut. signif. interiturus, and the perf. perditus (hopelessly lost). מרי נפשׁ (those whose minds are filled with sorrow) is also supported from the Book of Job; Job 3:20, cf. Proverbs 21:25, the language and thought and mode of writing of which notably rests on the Proverbs of Agur and Lemuel (vid., Mhlau, pp. 64-66). The Venet. τοῖς πικροῖς (not ψυξροῖς) τὴν ψυχήν. רישׁ (poverty) is not, however, found there, but only in the Book of Proverbs, in which this word-stem is more at home than elsewhere. Wine rejoices the heart of man, Psalm 104:15, and at the same time raises it for the time above oppression and want, and out of anxious sorrow, wherefore it is soonest granted to them, and in sympathizing love ought to be presented to them by whom this its beneficent influence is to be wished for. The ruined man forgets his poverty, the deeply perplexed his burden of sorrow; the king, on the contrary, is in danger from this cause of forgetting what the law required at his hands, viz., in relation to those who need help, to whom especially his duty as a ruler refers.

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