Proverbs 31:6
Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish, and wine to those that be of heavy hearts.
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(6) Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish.—For this is not waste, but an advantageous use of God’s gift. (Comp. St. Paul’s advice, 1Timothy 5:23.) It was out of a merciful remembrance of this passage that the pious ladies of Jerusalem used to provide a medicated drink for criminals condemned to be crucified, in order to deaden their pain. This was offered to our Lord (Matthew 27:34), but He would not drink it, as He wished to keep His mind clear to the last, and was willing to drink to the dregs the “cup which His Father had given Him.”

31:1-9 When children are under the mother's eye, she has an opportunity of fashioning their minds aright. Those who are grown up, should often call to mind the good teaching they received when children. The many awful instances of promising characters who have been ruined by vile women, and love of wine, should warn every one to avoid these evils. Wine is to be used for want or medicine. Every creature of God is good, and wine, though abused, has its use. By the same rule, due praise and consolation should be used as cordials to the dejected and tempted, not administered to the confident and self-sufficient. All in authority should be more carefully temperate even than other men; and should be protectors of those who are unable or afraid to plead their own cause. Our blessed Lord did not decline the bitterest dregs of the cup of sorrow put into his hands; but he puts the cup of consolation into the hands of his people, and causes those to rejoice who are in the deepest distress.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. 6, 7. The proper use of such drinks is to restore tone to feeble bodies and depressed minds (compare Ps 104:15). Unto him; which is to be understood comparatively, to him rather than to kings, partly because he needs a liberal draught of it more than kings do; and principally because if it proceed to excess, in him it is only a private inconvenience, but in kings it is a public mischief and grievance.

Ready to perish; sorely afflicted and overwhelmed with sorrow, as it is explained in the following words; for such need a cordial. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish,.... Thou, O Lemuel, and other kings and judges, rather than drink strong drink yourselves, least to excess; give it out of your great abundance and liberality to poor persons in starving circumstances, who must perish, unless relieved; it will do them good, moderately used; and should they drink too freely, which they ought not, yet it would not be attended with such bad consequences as if kings and princes should;

and wine to those that be of heavy heart; of melancholy dispositions, under gloomy apprehensions of things; pressed with the weight of their affliction and poverty: or, "bitter in soul" (i); such as God has dealt bitterly with, as Naomi says was her case, and therefore called her own name Marah, which signifies bitter; of such a sorrowful spirit, and one thus bitter in soul, was Hannah; and so Job, and others; persons in great affliction and distress, to whom life itself is bitter; see Ruth 1:20; now wine to such is very exhilarating and cheering; see Judges 9:13.

(i) "his qui amaro sunt animo", V. L. Pagninus, Tigurine version: "amaris animo", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius; "amaris animus", Vatablus, Piscator.

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
6. of heavy hearts] Better, with R.V. text and A.V. marg., bitter in soul. Comp. 1 Samuel 1:10, where the same Heb. expression is used.Verse 6. - There are cases where strong drink may be properly administered. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish (Job 29:13; Job 31:19). As a restorative, a cordial, or a medicine, wine may he advantageously used; it has a place in the providential economy of God. "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities," was St. Paul's advice to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23). It is supposed to have been in consideration of the injunction in the text that the ladies of Jerusalem provided for criminals on their way to the place of execution a drink of medicated wine, which might deaden the pain of suffering. This was the draught rejected by Christ, who willed to taste the full bitterness of death (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23). The Septuagint has, "to those that are in sorrow;" so the Vulgate, maerentibus, but this makes the two clauses tautological. Wine unto those that be of heavy hearts (Job 3:20). "Wine," says the psalmist, "maketh glad the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15). Says Homer, 'Iliad,' 6:261 -

"Great is the strength
Which generous wine imparts to wearied men."
Wine, says St. Chrysostom ('Hom. in Ephes.,' 19), "has been given us for cheerfulness, not for drunkenness. Wouldest thou know where wine is good? Hear what the Scripture saith, 'Give wine to them, etc. And justly, because it can mitigate asperity and gloominess, and drive away clouds from the brow" (comp. Ecclus. 34 [31]:25, etc.). Another proverb, the last of Agur's "Words" which exhorts to thoughtful, discreet demeanour, here follows the proverb of self-conscious, grave deportment:

32 If thou art foolish in that thou exaltest thyself,

     Or in devising, - put thy hand to thy mouth!

33 For the pressure on milk bringeth forth butter,

     And pressure on the nose bringeth forth blood,

     And pressure on sensibility bringeth forth altercation.

Lwenstein translates Proverbs 30:32 :

Art thou despicable, it is by boasting;

Art thou prudent, then hold thy hand on thy mouth.

But if זמם denotes reflection and deliberation, then נבל, as its opposite, denotes unreflecting, foolish conduct. Then בּהתנשּׂא ne by boasting is not to be regarded as a consequent (thus it happens by lifting thyself up; or: it is connected with boasting); by this construction also, אם־נבלתּ must be accented with Dechi, not with Tarcha. Otherwise Euchel:

Hast thou become offensive through pride,

Or seems it so to thee, - lay thy hand to thy mouth.

The thought is appropriate,

(Note: Yet the Talmud, Nidda 27a, derives another moral rule from this proverb, for it interprets זמם in the sense of זמם equals חסם, to tie up, to bridle, to shut up, but אם נבלת in the sense of "if thou hast made thyself despicable," as Lwenstein has done.)


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