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Proverbs 31

An exhortation to king Lemuel to take heed of sin, and to do duties. (1-9) The description of a virtuous woman. (10-31)

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An exhortation to king Lemuel to take heed of sin, and to do duties

1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

The description of a virtuous woman

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Lamuel. This name signifies, God with him; and is supposed to be one of the names of Solomon. Ch. — Grotius would explain it of Ezechias. But why should we abandon the tradition of both Jews and Christians? — Mother; Bethsabee, who it seems was inspired, unless she received these maxims from Nathan. Solomon always speaks of her with the utmost respect, as a prudent mother may have the greatest influence over the tender minds of her children. C. i. 8. and xxiii. 25.

Ver. 2. Vows. She seems unable to express her concern for him when he first mounted the throne, and shewed her the greatest reverence. 3 K. ii. 19.

Ver. 3. Women. This would destroy thy health, and tend to impoverish the kingdom. — Kings, by injustice and ambition. C.

Ver. 4. Give. Sept. “Do all with counsel. By advice drink wine. Lords are inclined to anger; let them not drink wine.” H. — Solomon took this advice. Eccle. ii. 3.

Ver. 5. Poor. Solon condemned to death, at Athens, the prince who should get drunk; and the Areopagites excluded from their assembly a judge who had dined in a tavern. Laert. 1. Athen. xiii. 2.

Ver. 6. Drink. Heb. shecar, particularly palm-wine. — Are sad. Heb. “perish,” being sentenced to die; (Mark xv. 23. Amos ii. 8.) or, who grieve and mourn for one deceased. On such occasions no food was prepared in the house, but the friends supplied what was necessary, and went to eat and drink with the afflicted. Eccle. vii. 3.

Ver. 7. More. Not that intoxication is permitted even to them.

Ver. 8. Pass through life, or the country. C. — Sept. “Open thy mouth and judge righteously. Render justice to the poor and weak.” H. — Doctrine is best received by those who are more ready to hear than to speak. W.

Ver. 10. Who. The following verses are in alphabetical order. They contain a grand eulogy of Bethsabee, who repented, or of a perfect matron. C. — Such are rare, though they may be found. W. — Valiant; industrious. — Price. Formerly people bought their wives. C. — Is. Heb. “is far above riches (Prot. H.) or pearls.” Lam. iv. 7.

Ver. 11. Spoils, taken in war. His wife will supply all necessaries. v. 21.

Ver. 13. Hands, with skill and industry, (C.) or “willingness.” Heb. M. — Ladies of the highest quality formerly employed themselves in this manner, like Penelope. Alexander, Augustus, and Charlemagne wore garments, which their sisters or wives had wrought. Curt. 5. Suet. 64. Eginhard.

Ver. 14. Bread; all that is used for meat and drink. Sept. “riches.” Grabe, “livelihood:” Bion. H.

Ver. 15. Night, or early in the morning, as soon as the night was over; de nocte. Heb. “while it is yet night.” H. — Extreme vigilance is required of those who direct others. “The master must be first up, and last in bed.” Cato v.

Ver. 16. Considered. This conduct is suggested by prudence. C. — Cato (Rust. 2.) says, “Do not go only once round the field,” &c.

Ver. 17. Arm; working, and making others obey.

Ver. 18. Night, during a great part of which she will work.

Ver. 19. Strong things, “becoming” (Sept.) her station. C. — Spindle. She purposes and begins well, trusting in God for perfection and a reward. W.

Ver. 21. Domestics. Heb. “house is clothed in purple,” which may be understood of the domestics, though it seems more probably to refer to her husband and children.

Ver. 22. Tapestry, for the beds and floor. — Linens, or cotton; byssus. Ex. xxv. 4.

Ver. 23. Gates. Chal. “provinces.” The rich were chosen for judges. C.

Ver. 24. The Chanaanite, the merchant; for Chanaanite, in Hebrew, signifies a merchant. Ch. — The PhÅ“nicians travelled into all countries. Traffic was not then deemed a discredit, even to kings. — Girdles were worn both by men and women, and were very costly, insomuch that (C.) the kings of Persia assigned cities to furnish their wives with them. Athen. i. in Antylla. — They who practise and teach the law may be said to buy and sell. W.

Ver. 25. Clothing: it is very beautiful, or wisdom and virtue surround her. — Day. She fears not death, (C.) or future distress of hunger, &c. Jans.

Ver. 26. Tongue. She is ever bent on doing good. H. — Very different from many of her sex, who are taken up with vanity and complaints. C.

Ver. 27. Idle, out of a sense of duty, and not though avarice.

Ver. 28. Her. They were best able to judge of her merit.

Ver. 30. Lord. Hitherto natural qualifications appear: but to these the Christian matron must add sincere piety: and thus Solomon completes the character of his mother, (C.) who had given him such excellent instructions, or of any accomplished woman. Outward beauty soon (H.) decays; but the fear of God is more deserving of praise. W.

Ver. 31. Gates, before all the judges (H.) and people. M. — Good works shall be rewarded at God’s tribunal, (W.) when the vain worldly beauty shall be covered with confusion. H. — This idea of a perfect woman is best verified in the Catholic Church, (S. Aug. Ven. Bede) though the blessed Virgin, &c. may also be designated. W. — The use of the alphabet herein denotes, that we must begin with a moral good life, if we would penetrate the greater mysteries of the Scriptures. S. Jerom. Lam.