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The Teaching of King Lemuel’s Mother


The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:



No, my son! No, son of my womb!

No, son of my vows!


Do not give your strength to women,

your ways to those who destroy kings.


It is not for kings, O Lemuel,

it is not for kings to drink wine,

or for rulers to desire strong drink;


or else they will drink and forget what has been decreed,

and will pervert the rights of all the afflicted.


Give strong drink to one who is perishing,

and wine to those in bitter distress;


let them drink and forget their poverty,

and remember their misery no more.


Speak out for those who cannot speak,

for the rights of all the destitute.


Speak out, judge righteously,

defend the rights of the poor and needy.


Ode to a Capable Wife


A capable wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.


The heart of her husband trusts in her,

and he will have no lack of gain.


She does him good, and not harm,

all the days of her life.


She seeks wool and flax,

and works with willing hands.


She is like the ships of the merchant,

she brings her food from far away.


She rises while it is still night

and provides food for her household

and tasks for her servant-girls.


She considers a field and buys it;

with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.


She girds herself with strength,

and makes her arms strong.


She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

Her lamp does not go out at night.


She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her hands hold the spindle.


She opens her hand to the poor,

and reaches out her hands to the needy.


She is not afraid for her household when it snows,

for all her household are clothed in crimson.


She makes herself coverings;

her clothing is fine linen and purple.


Her husband is known in the city gates,

taking his seat among the elders of the land.


She makes linen garments and sells them;

she supplies the merchant with sashes.


Strength and dignity are her clothing,

and she laughs at the time to come.


She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.


She looks well to the ways of her household,

and does not eat the bread of idleness.


Her children rise up and call her happy;

her husband too, and he praises her:


“Many women have done excellently,

but you surpass them all.”


Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.


Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,

and let her works praise her in the city gates.

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Pr 31:1-31.

1. On the title of this, the sixth part of the book, see Introduction.

prophecy—(See on Pr 30:1).

2. What, my son?—that is, What shall I say? Repetitions denote earnestness.

son of my womb—as our phrase, "my own son," a term of special affection.

son of my vows—as one dedicated to God; so the word "Lemuel" may mean.

3-9. Succinct but solemn warnings against vices to which kings are peculiarly tempted, as carnal pleasures and oppressive and unrighteous government are used to sustain sensual indulgence.

strength—mental and bodily resources for health and comfort.

thy ways—or course of life.

to that … kings—literally, "to the destroying of kings," avoid destructive pleasures (compare Pr 5:9; 7:22, 27; Ho 4:11).

4, 5. Stimulants enfeeble reason, pervert the heart, and do not suit rulers, who need clear and steady minds, and well-governed affections (compare Pr 20:1; 22:29).

pervert … afflicted—They give unrighteous decisions against the poor.

6, 7. The proper use of such drinks is to restore tone to feeble bodies and depressed minds (compare Ps 104:15).

8, 9. Open … cause—Plead for those who cannot plead for themselves, as the orphan, stranger, &c. (compare Ps 72:12; Isa 1:17).

appointed to destruction—who are otherwise ruined by their oppressors (compare Pr 29:14, 16).

10-31. This exquisite picture of a truly lovely wife is conceived and drawn in accordance with the customs of Eastern nations, but its moral teachings suit all climes. In Hebrew the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order (compare Introduction to Poetical Books).

Who … woman—The question implies that such are rare, though not entirely wanting (compare Pr 18:22; 19:14).

virtuous—literally, "of strength," that is, moral courage (compare Pr 12:4; Ru 3:11).

her price, &c.—(compare Pr 3:15).

11. heart … trust in her—He relies on her prudence and skill.

no need of spoil—does not lack profit or gain, especially, that obtained by the risk of war.

12. do … good—contribute good to him.

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.

15. She diligently attends to expending as well as gathering wealth;

16. and hence has means to purchase property.

17, 18. To energy she adds a watchfulness in bargains, and a protracted and painful industry. The last clause may figuratively denote that her prosperity (compare Pr 24:20) is not short lived.

19. No work, however mean, if honest, is disdained.

20. Industry enables her to be charitable.

21. scarlet—or, "purple," by reason of the dyes used, the best fabrics; as a matter of taste also; the color suits cold.

22. coverings of tapestry—or, "coverlets," that is, for beds.

silk—or, "linen" (compare Ex 26:1; 27:9)

and purple—that is, the most costly goods.

23. in the gates—(compare Pr 22:22). His domestic comfort promotes his advancement in public dignity.

24. fine linen—or, "linen shirts," or the material for them.

girdles—were often costly and highly valued (2Sa 18:11).

delivereth—or, "giveth as a present" or "to sell."

25. Strength and honourStrong and beautiful is her clothing; or, figuratively, for moral character, vigorous and honorable.

shall rejoice … come—in confidence of certain maintenance.

26. Her conversation is wise and gentle.

27. (Compare 1Ti 5:14; Tit 2:5). She adds to her example a wise management of those under her control.

28. She is honored by those who best know her.

29. The words are those of her husband, praising her.

virtuously—(Compare Pr 31:10).

30. Favour—or, "Grace" of personal manner.

beauty—of face, or form (compare Pr 11:22). True piety alone commands permanent respect and affection (1Pe 3:3).

31. The result of her labor is her best eulogy. Nothing can add to the simple beauty of this admirable portrait. On the measure of its realization in the daughters of our own day rest untold results, in the domestic, and, therefore, the civil and religious, welfare of the people.