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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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Verses 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.

Verses 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.