Proverbs 31 Commentary

A mother’s advice to a king (31:1-9)

King Lemuel was probably a non-Israelite from a neighbouring nation, but his mother appears to have been a God-fearing woman who vowed her son to God (31:1-2). The main desire of some kings was to get themselves as much pleasure as possible, chiefly through women and wine. Lemuel is warned that such interests distract a king from his proper duties and result in lawlessness and injustice (3-5). Strong drink deadens pain and dulls the mind. Therefore, among the people who seek after it are those whose distress is so great that life seems to have no more hope for them. The king should not seek after it, for he must have a clear mind at all times, so that he can judge with justice and defend the downtrodden (6-9).

The ideal wife (31:10-31)

In the original language this section is an acrostic poem. That is, each of the poem’s twenty-two verses begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order.

A good wife makes the perfect partner. Her husband, knowing this, trusts in her and depends upon her (10-12). She is kind, clever at buying and selling, diligent, conscientious, and a good manager of the household (13-16). She is energetic and tireless, both in helping the family income and in carrying out household tasks (17-19). Though a good business-woman, she is not hard-hearted. Though careful in handling money, she is not miserly. She gives generous help to the poor and needy (20).

In like manner this ideal wife is generous towards her family. When making clothes she uses good cloth, so that all in her household look well dressed and, through her foresight, enjoy good protection when bad weather comes. The respect that people have for her husband is due in large measure to her (21- 25). Through her wise words, kindness, consideration, diligence and reverence for God, the family is uplifted. Her children and her husband delight in her and the community at large honours her (26-31).

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