The Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 31:1-31 (Proverbs 31:1-31)

The words of Lernuel

The fear of God is the leading thought in these meditations; and this in a twofold relation—to the king in his rule in the state, and the woman in her rule in the house.

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Proverbs 31:2-9 (Proverbs 31:2-9)

A mother's maxims

The mother's heart, deep in emotions of affection and urgent solicitude, is expressed in the passionate form of the address.

I. ON WOMEN OR THE DUTY OF CHASTITY . ( Proverbs 31:3 .) The weakness of this passion was one of the things, Alexander the Great was wont to say, which reminded him that he was mortal David and Solomon were both warnings and beacon lights against yielding to it.

II. ON WINE , OR THE DUTY OF TEMPERANCE . ( Proverbs 31:4 . sqq .) Here is a sin in close affinity to the former ( Hosea 4:11 ).

1 . A vice degrading in all, drunkenness is most especially unbefitting those in high station. Elah ( 1 Kings 16:8 , 1 Kings 16:9 ), Benhadad ( 1 Kings 20:16 ), and Belshazzar ( Daniel 5:2-4 ), were all dark examples of the danger (comp. Hosea 7:5 ).

2 . It may lead to moral perversion. ( Proverbs 31:5 .) The woman wrongly condemned by Philip of Macedon exclaimed, "I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober." Ahasuerus ( Esther 1:10 , Esther 1:11 ) and Herod ( Mark 6:21-28 ) appear to have been guilty of arbitrary conduct under the same besotting influence. Men "err through strong drink" ( Isaiah 28:7 ).

3 . The true use of wine. ( Proverbs 31:6 .) It is a medicine for the fainting. It is a restorative under extreme depression. The Bible tolerates and admits the blessing of wine in moderation as promotive of social cheerfulness. It "maketh glad the heart of man," and is even said to "cheer God" ( 9:13 ). Hence libations were a part of the sacrificial feast offered to the Majesty on high. As an anodyne it is admitted here ( Proverbs 31:7 ). But all this does not exempt from close circumspection as to time, place, persons, and circumstances in its use. The priests, when performing their sacred functions in the tabernacle and temple, were to abstain from wine. But here, as in other matters, there is large latitude given to the exercise of the private judgment, the personal Christian conscience. Any attempt to overrule the right of personal freedom creates a new class of evils. Let those who see their duty in that light adopt total abstinence; and others labour according to their ability to strike at the indirect and deeper causes of what many regard as a national vice. Wherever there is a widespread vice, it is rooted in some profound misery. The surest, though longest, cure is by the eradication of the pain of the mind which drives so many towards the nepenthes, or draught of oblivion.

III. ON THE FREE AND FULL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE . ( Proverbs 31:8 , Proverbs 31:9 .) The royal heart and hand are to be at the service of those who cannot help themselves—the widow, the orphan, the poor, and "all that are desolate and oppressed" ( Job 29:15 , Job 29:16 ). He is to be both advocate and judge. He is to be an earthly type of God. "Let his representatives on earth study the character of their King in heaven, and be conformed more fully to his image of forgiveness and love."—J.

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Proverbs 31:1-3 (Proverbs 31:1-3)


We have not many words from women's lips in the inspired record, and we may therefore esteem the more highly those we possess. The verses bring out—

I. THE STRONG CLAIMS OF MOTHERHOOD . "The son of my womb;" "the son of my vows." These claims are based upon:

1 . Motherhood as such. Upon all that motherhood means to us; upon the fact that the mother has borne her child, has cherished him at her own breast, has watched over his infancy and childhood with sedulous care, has shielded and succoured him, has fed and clothed him; as we say in one word—has "mothered" him.

2 . Motherly training and dedication. The early experiences of the mother include much beyond the physical realm; they include the education of the intellect, the training of the Will, the first imparting of religious instruction, the solemn dedication of her child to the service of God, repeated and earnest prayer on his behalf. Her child is not only her offspring; he is "the son of her vows," the one on whom she has expanded her most fervent piety.

3 . Maternal affection and anxiety. The words of Lemuel's mother are charged with deep affection and profound solicitude. And it is those who truly love us, and who are unselfishly devoted to our interest, that have the strongest claim upon us. A claim which is only that of natural relationship, and is not crowned and completed by affection, falls very short indeed of that which is strengthened and sanctified by sacrificial love.

II. THE HOPE OF MOTHERHOOD . The mother hopes for good and even great things for and from her child; he is to stand among the strong, the wise, the honoured, the useful.

III. ITS BITTER AND CRUEL DISAPPOINTMENT . When the son of much sorrow and prayer, of much patient training and earshot entreaty, who had a noble opportunity before him—when he virtually signs away his inheritance, "gives his strength" to the destroyer, takes the path which leads to entire dethronement and ruin, then is there such a bitter and such a cruel disappointment as only st mother's heart can feel and know. Then perishes a fond and proud and precious hope; then enters and takes possession a saddening, a crushing sorrow.

IV. ITS RIGHT TO REMONSTRATE . "What, my son? This of thee?—of thee whom I have loved and taught and trained? of thee for whom I have yearned and prayed? of thee from whom I have had a right to hope for such better things? Oh, lose not thy fair heritage! take the portion, live the life, wear the crown, still within thy reach!" A true and faithful mother has a right which is wholly indisputable, and strong with surpassing strength, to speak thus in affectionate expostulation to one who owes so much to her, and has returned her nothing. And what is—

V. THE FILIAL DUTY ? Surely it is to receive such remonstrance with deep respect; to give to it a patient and dutiful attention; to take it into long and earnest consideration; to resolve that, cost what it may, the path of penitence and renewal shall be trodden; that anything shall be endured rather than a mother's heart be pierced by the hand of her own child!—C.

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Proverbs 31:1-9 (Proverbs 31:1-9)

Part VIII. SECOND APPENDIX TO THE SECOND COLLECTION , containing "the words of Lemuel" on the subjects of impurity and intemperance.

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Proverbs 31:2-9 (Proverbs 31:2-9)

Here follows the exhortation, which seems to come from the same source as the "burden" of Agur above. In this section the connection and parallelism of the parts are exhibited by repetition of thought and often of words in the several clauses.

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Proverbs 31:3 (Proverbs 31:3)

Exhortation to chastity. Give not thy strength unto women (comp. Proverbs 5:9 ). Chayil is "vigour," the bodily powers, which are sapped and enervated by sensuality. The Septuagint has σὸν πλοῦτον ; the Vulgate, substantiam tuam ; but the prayerful, anxious mother would consider rather her son's personal well being than his worldly circumstances, which, indeed, an Eastern monarch's licentiousness would not necessarily impair. Nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings; or, with a slight alteration in the punctuation (and an improved parallelism), to them that destroy kings ; "expugnatricibus regum," as Schultens terms them. Women are meant; and the prince is enjoined not to surrender his life, conduct, and actions to the influence of women, who, both by the dissipation and sensuality which they occasion, and the quarrels which they provoke, and the evil counsels which they give, often ruin kings and states (see the injunction, Deuteronomy 17:11 ). The Vulgate rendering, ad delendos reges, looks as if the warning was against making wars of conquest against neighbouring kings; but this is not a satisfactory parallel to the former clause. Septuagint, "Give not thy wealth unto women, nor thy mind, nor thy life unto remorse ( ὑστεροβολίαν ) . Do all things with counsel; drink wine with counsel." This seems to belong to the next verse.

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