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30 Charm[a] is deceitful[b] and beauty is fleeting.[c]
A woman who fears the Lord[d]—she makes herself praiseworthy.[e]

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  1. Proverbs 31:30 tn The word חֵן (khen) refers to “charm, gracefulness, graciousness, favor.” It frequently occurs in the phrase to “find favor in the eyes” of someone. So it appears to have a broad meaning that includes whatever may have the effect of eliciting a favorable response from someone else, something that they find charming (“pleasant, agreeable qualities” HALOT, 322).
  2. Proverbs 31:30 tn The first word of the twenty-first line begins with שׁ (shin), the twenty-first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The graphic distinction between שׁ (shin) and שׂ (sin) had not been made at the time the book of Proverbs was written; that graphic distinction was introduced by the Masoretes, ca. a.d. The noun שֶׁקֶר (sheqer) means a “lie; breach of faith” (HALOT, 1648). While it is not true that everything that incites favor is a lie (e.g. Boaz responded to Ruth’s character and Naomi’s need when Ruth found “favor” in his eyes), this is a strong declaration against relying on the emotional impulse of attraction. Many messages in Western culture and media to “follow your heart” actually amount to little or no more than “follow whatever gives you a charmed feeling while ignoring moral constraints and potential consequences.”
  3. Proverbs 31:30 sn The verse shows that “charm” and “beauty” do not endure as do those qualities that the fear of the Lord produces. Charm is deceitful: One may be disappointed in the character of the one with beauty. Beauty is vain (fleeting as a vapor): Physical appearance will not last. The writer is not saying these are worthless; he is saying there is something infinitely more valuable.
  4. Proverbs 31:30 sn This chapter describes the wise woman as fearing the Lord. It is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom—that was the motto of the book (1:7). Psalm 111:10 also repeats that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
  5. Proverbs 31:30 tn The verb תִתְהַלָּל (tithallal) is a Hitpael imperfect. This is not the passive form (to “be praised,” so KJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, ASV, Holman) as occurs in Prov 12:8. The Hitpael of הָלַל (halal) is reflexive with meanings like “to boast; take glory in.” It is sometimes parallel to terms for rejoicing (Pss 34:2; 63:11; 64:10; Isa 41:16), being exultant over accomplishment or victory. In the context of contrasting misleading and fleeting external qualities, the reflexive translation “makes herself praiseworthy” emphasizes her character. The imperfect form could also be understood as modal “she can boast.” This would not mean a selfish bragging since the term is used to boast in the Lord (1 Chr 16:10; Isa 41:6; Jer 4:2; Ps 34:2). Rather it would mean she has a sound basis for being proud of her accomplishments achieved under the umbrella of the fear of the The last two verses of the chapter have shifted from the past tense description of the woman to commentary. This section began by asking who can find a wife/woman of noble character. It then described such a woman in past tense terms that are only fully evident in a retrospective of her life. The commentary at this point serves to remind that the fear of the Lord is the quality to look for rather than merely external beauty. While there is certainly an implication for women to develop good character, the direct teaching is to men. The issue before fathers is how to direct their sons to value the right things in a woman against the pressure to emphasize outward appearance or perhaps even aspects of personality.