The Words of Lemuel
31 The words of [a]King Lemuel, the oracle, which his mother taught him:
What, O my [b]son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what [shall I advise you], O son of my vows?
Do not give your [generative] strength to women [neither foreign wives in marriages of alliances, nor [c]concubines],
Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,(A)
Otherwise they drink and forget the law and its decrees,
And pervert the rights and justice of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink [as medicine] to him who is ready to pass away,
And wine to him whose life is bitter.
Let him drink and forget his poverty
And no longer remember his trouble.
Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all who are unfortunate and defenseless;(B)
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And administer justice for the afflicted and needy.(C)
Description of a Worthy Woman
[d]An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous], who is he who can find her?
Her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies or pearls.(D)
The heart of her husband trusts in her [with secure confidence],
And he will have no lack of gain.
She comforts, encourages, and does him only good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with willing hands in delight.
She is like the merchant ships [abounding with treasure];
She brings her [household’s] food from far away.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And assigns tasks to her maids.(E)
She considers a field before she buys or accepts it [expanding her business prudently];
With her profits she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.
She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task]
And makes her arms strong.
She sees that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out, but it burns continually through the night [she is prepared for whatever lies ahead].
She stretches out her hands to the [e]distaff,
And her hands hold the spindle [as she spins wool into thread for clothing].
She opens and extends her hand to the poor,
And she reaches out her filled hands to the needy.
She does not fear the snow for her household,
For all in her household are clothed in [expensive] scarlet [wool].(F)
She makes for herself coverlets, cushions, and rugs of tapestry.
Her clothing is linen, pure and fine, and purple [wool].(G)
Her husband is known in the [city’s] gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.(H)
She makes [fine] linen garments and sells them;
And supplies sashes to the merchants.
Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure;
And she smiles at the future [knowing that she and her family are prepared].
She opens her mouth in [skillful and godly] wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue [giving counsel and instruction].
She looks well to how things go in her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.(I)
Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired);
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying,
“Many daughters have done nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness],
[f]But you excel them all.”
Charm and grace are deceptive, and [superficial] beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord [reverently worshiping, obeying, serving, and trusting Him with awe-filled respect], she shall be praised.
Give her of the product of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates [of the city].(J)
- Proverbs 31:1 The identity of King Lemuel is uncertain; however, ancient Jewish tradition connects Lemuel with Solomon.
- Proverbs 31:2 This chapter consists of two poetic sections. The first (vv 2-9) details the qualities needed to be a wise ruler, and the second (vv 10-31) the qualities describing an excellent wife.
- Proverbs 31:3 See note Gen 22:24.
- Proverbs 31:10 The following verses are written as an acrostic poem (each of the twenty-two verses begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Aside from the artistry, the acrostic structure also aided memorization.
- Proverbs 31:19 I.e. the staff that holds the textile fibers for spinning.
- Proverbs 31:29 The source of this remarkable woman’s success and competence is revealed in v 30, and it is a source available to everyone. She is wise because she understands and puts into practice the message contained in 9:10.