Proverbs 31:19
She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Proverbs 31:19. She layeth her hands to the spindle — By her own example she provokes her servants to labour. And although in these latter and more delicate times such mean employments are grown out of fashion among great persons, yet they were not so in former ages, neither in other countries, nor in this land; whence all women unmarried, unto this day, are called, in the language of our law, spinsters.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.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. 19. No work, however mean, if honest, is disdained. By her own example she provoketh her servants to labour. And although in these later and more delicate and luxurious times, such mean employments are grown out of fashion among great persons, yet they were not so in former ages, neither in other countries, nor in this land; whence all women unmarried are to this day called in the language of our law spinsters. She layeth her hands to the spindle,.... As Penelope and her maidens did (t). Or spinning wheel, more properly, the wheel itself, which is laid hold on by the right hand, and turned round;

and her hands hold the distaff; the rock, stick, or staff, about which the wool is wrapped, which is spun, and is held in the left hand; for though hands are mentioned in both clauses, yet it is only with one hand the wheel is turned, and the distaff held with the other. Not only wool and flax were sought by her, Proverbs 31:13; but she spins them, and works them up into garments her web is not like the spider's, spun out of its own bowels, on which it hangs; to which the hope and trust of a hypocrite are compared, and whose webs do not become garments to cover them, Job 8:14; but the church's web is both for ornament, to the adorning of her profession, and for defence and protection from the calumnies of the world; for by these are meant good works, as Ambrose interprets them.

(t) Homer, Odyss. 1. v. 357. & 21. v. 351.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. spindle … distaff] Rather, distaff … spindle, with R.V. Of the two Heb. words here used the first occurs nowhere else, but it is derived from a root which means to be straight, and therefore may properly denote the distaff, or straight rod. Of the second word, the root-meaning is to be round. It is used of the circuit or circle round, the environs of, Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:12; Neh. 14:15).

“Till comparatively recent times the sole spinning implements were the spindle and distaff. The spindle, which is the fundamental apparatus in all spinning, was nothing more nor less than a round stick or rod of wood, about 12 inches in length, tapering towards each extremity, and having at its upper end a notch or slit, into which the yarn might be caught or fixed. In general, a ring or whorl of stone or clay was passed round the upper part of the spindle to give it momentum and steadiness when in rotation. The distaff or rod was a rather longer and stronger bar or stick, around one end of which, in a loose coil or ball, the fibrous material to be spun was wound. The other extremity of the distaff was carried under the left arm, or fixed in the girdle at the left side, so as to have the coil of flax in a convenient position for drawing out to yarn.” Encyclop. Britann. Art. Linen, vol. xiv. p. 664. 9th edition.

An illustration of the use of these implements is found in Catullus, Epithal. de nupt. Pel. et Thet. 312 sqq.:

“Læva colum molli lana retinebat amictum:

Dextera turn leviter deducens fila supinis

Formabat digitis; turn prono in pollice torquens

Libratum tereti versabat turbine fusum.”Verse 19. - YODH. She layeth her hands to the spindle. כִּישׁור. (kishor, a word not occurring elsewhere) is probably not the spindle, but the distaff, i.e. the staff to which is tied the bunch of flax from which the spinning wheel draws the thread. To this she applies her hand; she deftly performs the work of spinning her flax into thread. Her hands hold the distsaff. פֶלֶך (pelek) is the spindle, the cylindrical wood (afterwards the wheel) on which the thread winds itself as it is spun. The hands could not be spared to hold the distaff as well as the spindle, so the first clause should run, "She stretches her hand towards the distaff." In the former clause kishor occasioned some difficulty to the early translators, who did not view the word as connected with the process of spinning. The Septuagint translates, "She stretches out her arms to useful works (ἐπὶ τὰ συμφέροντα);" Vulgate, Manum suam misit ad fortia. So Aquila and Symmachus, ἀνδρεῖα. This rather impedes the parallelism of the two clauses. There was nothing derogatory in women of high rank spinning among their maidens, just as in the Middle Ages noble ladies worked at tapestry with their attendants. We remember how Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, was found sitting in the midst of her handmaids, carding wool and spinning (Livy, 1:57). Catullus, in his 'Epithal. Pel. et Thet.,' 312, describes the process of spinning ?

"Laeva colum molli lana retinebat amictum;
Dextera tum leviter deducens fila supinis
Formabat digitis; tum prono in pollice torquens
Libratum tereti versabat turbine fusum."

(Carm.,' 64.) The poet now describes how she disposes of things:

13 ד She careth for wool and flax,

        And worketh these with her hands' pleasure.

The verb דּרשׁ proceeds, as the Arab. shows,

(Note: The inquirer is there called (Arab.) daras, as libros terens.)

from the primary meaning terere; but to translate with reference thereto: tractat lanam et linum (lxx, Schultens, Dathe, Rosemller, Fleischer), is inadmissible. The Heb. דרשׁ does not mean the external working at or manufacturing of a thing; but it means, even when it refers to this, the intention of the mind purposely directed thereto. Thus wool and flax come into view as the material of work which she cares to bring in; and ותּעשׂ signifies the work itself, following the creation of the need of work. Hitzig translates the second line: she works at the business of her hands. Certainly ב after עשׂה may denote the sphere of activity, Exodus 31:4; 1 Kings 5:30, etc.; but if חפץ had here the weakened signification business, πρᾶγμα, - which it gains in the same way as we say business, affair, of any object of care - the scarcely established meaning presents itself, that she shows herself active in that which she has made the business of her hands. How much more beautiful, on the contrary, is the thought: she is active with her hands' pleasure! חפץ is, as Schultens rightly explains, inclinatio flexa et propensa in aliquid, and pulchre manibus diligentissimis attribuitur lubentia cum oblectatione et per oblectationem sese animans. עשׂה, without obj. accus., signifies often: to accomplish, e.g., Psalm 22:32; here it stands, in a sense, complete in itself, and without object. accus., as when it means "handeln" [agere], Proverbs 13:16, and particularly to act in the service of God equals to offer sacrifice, Exodus 10:25; it means here, and at Ruth 2:19; Habakkuk 2:4, to be active, as at Isaiah 19:15, to be effective; ותּעשׂ is equivalent to ותעשׂ בּמּלאכה or ותעשׂ מלאכתּהּ (cf. under Proverbs 10:4). And pleasure and love for the work, חפץ, can be attributed to the hands with the same right as at Psalm 78:72, discretion. The disposition which animates a man, especially his inner relation to the work devolving upon him, communicates itself to his hands, which, according as he has joy or aversion in regard to his work, will be nimble or clumsy. The Syr. translates: "and her hands are active after the pleasure of her heart;" but בחפץ is not equivalent to כּחפצהּ; also בּחפץ, in the sense of con amore (Bttcher), is not used.

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