Proverbs chapter 31

King Lemuel shares the wise words of his mother. The Book of Proverbs concludes with the “Eshet chayil,” a poem about a Woman of God.

 


 

THE WORDS OF KING LEMUEL’S MOTHER

 

VERSE 1. The words of king Lemuel; the revelation which his mother taught him.

king Lemuel. Nothing is known about Lemuel except that he was a king.

his mother taught him. The first ten verses of this chapter are the teachings of a woman. She was the mother of Lemuel.

 

VERSE 2. “Oh, my son! Oh, son of my womb! Oh, son of my vows!

my son. The Aramaic word is “bar.” It means son.

 

VERSE 3. Don’t give your strength to women, nor your ways to that which destroys kings.

Don’t give your strength to women. Lemuel’s mother tells him to not commit adultery.

 

VERSE 4. It is not for kings, Lemuel; it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes to say, ‘Where is strong drink?’

not for kings to drink wine. Lemuel’s mother tells him to avoid alcohol.

 

VERSE 5. lest they drink, and forget the decree, and pervert the justice due to anyone who is afflicted.

 

VERSE 6. Give strong drink to him who is ready to perish; and wine to the bitter in soul:

strong drink. That is, “beer.”

him who is ready to perish. Perhaps alcohol was acceptable as an anesthetic to deaden physical pain.

the bitter in soul. Perhaps alcohol was acceptable to to deaden deep emotional pain.

 

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

 

VERSE 8. Open your mouth for the mute, in the cause of all who are left desolate.

all who are left desolate. A king is to stand up for people who are powerless.

 

VERSE 9. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and serve justice to the poor and needy.”

 

A WOMAN OF GOD

SUMMARY: It is thought that this passage is a eulogy for Sarah, written by her husband Abraham. In it, Abraham praises his wife Sarah for her greatness. It is an acrostic poem. Each of the 22 verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

If so, Abraham would have delivered it at her burial:

Genesis 23:19. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

 

VERSE 10. Who can find a worthy woman? For her price is far above rubies.

Who can find. A woman of God is not nonexistent. But rare.

worthy. The Hebrew word is חַ֭יִל (“khayil”). It means  excellence, excellent, great, might, mighty, nobly, power, strength, strong, valiant valiant, valiantly, valor, very powerful.

woman. The Hebrew word is אֵֽשֶׁת־ (“’ê·šeṯ- “). It means woman, wife, female.

We combine those two words to get the expression “Eshet chayil.” That is how this passage is traditionally referred to in a Jewish household. On the Friday night, the husband recites this passage to his wife.

 

VERSE 11. The heart of her husband trusts in her. He shall have no lack of gain.

trusts in her. The husband’s trust in her is complete.

 

VERSE 12. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

does him good. Spouses are to build each other up. However, some Christian men demand that their wives do him good; in the meantime, he does her bad.

not harm. Spouses are to not tear each other down.

 

VERSE 13. She seeks wool and flax, and works eagerly with her hands.

 

VERSE 14. She is like the merchant ships. She brings her bread from afar.

like the merchant ships. She buys unusual and fascinating things from afar.

 

VERSE 15. She rises also while it is yet night, gives food to her household, and portions for her servant girls.

 

VERSE 16. She considers a field, and buys it. With the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard.

and buys it. Some people imagine that Jewish women were forbidden from owning property in those days. However, this verse shows us otherwise.

 

VERSE 17. She arms her waist with strength, and makes her arms strong.

 

VERSE 18. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp doesn’t go out by night.

her merchandise. She runs a business.

is profitable. The woman’s business is successful.

 

VERSE 19. She lays her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.

 

VERSE 20. She opens her arms to the poor; yes, she extends her hands to the needy.

opens her arms to the poor. This woman of God is generous to poor people.

 

VERSE 21. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

not afraid of. She planned ahead for the season weather changes.

 

VERSE 22. She makes for herself carpets of tapestry. Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

 

VERSE 23. Her husband is respected in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.

respected in the gates. Her husband lives his life in a way that earns the respect of his peers. He is not an abusive scoundrel.

 

VERSE 24. She makes linen garments and sells them, and delivers sashes to the merchant.

 

VERSE 25. Strength and dignity are her clothing. She laughs at the time to come.

Strength. A woman of God is a strong woman. She would not at all fit the modern stereotype promoted by Christian leaders of a woman who is “quiet and submissive.”

dignity. Whatever her lot in life, she is dignified.

 

VERSE 26. She opens her mouth with wisdom. Kind instruction is on her tongue.

Kind instruction. A woman of God has a teaching role. She teaches other people.

 

VERSE 27. She looks well to the ways of her household, and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness.

 

VERSE 28. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her:

Her husband also praises her. A man of God praises his wife.

 

VERSE 29. “Many women do noble things, but you excel them all.”

 

VERSE 30. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

This verse is fantastic! Would you consider memorizing it? More great verses to memorize from the Book of Proverbs and from the entire Bible.

NIV translation: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. A woman who fears the Lord is to literally be praised!

People who are unfamiliar with the Bible might say it puts down women. But this passage, among others, puts to rest any such notion.

 

VERSE 31. Give her of the fruit of her hands! Let her works praise her in the gates!

 


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


 

Author: Todd Van Natta

I was given a great gift. It is to be passionate about Jesus Christ and the Bible and the spiritual life. I am a Christian believer. I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m in love with Jesus! I believe the Bible. I love the Bible. For decades, I've been reading it cover-to-cover, again and again and again. I’ve memorized a whole lot of Bible verses. Most of all, I want the Bible to help us fall more deeply in love with God the Father, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, with other people, and with ourselves. And I've been reading the great writings from the entire Christian heritage for decades. At Explore the Faith, I share what I have discovered.

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