Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 31

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Proverbs 31:1. The words of King Lemuel — Of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers: this name signifies one from God, or, belonging to God, and such a one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bath-sheba as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance. Possibly his mother gave him this name to remind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice and necessity of his devoting himself to God’s service. It must be acknowledged, some have doubted whether Lemuel was not a different person; but, according to Dr. Delaney and many others, without sufficient reason. “I know,” says that judicious divine: “that some modern critics, contrary to the unanimous judgment and tradition of all antiquity, have raised some scruples upon this head, as if Lemuel were not Solomon, but some other king, they know not who. I have examined them with all the care and candour I am capable of, and conclude, upon the whole, that their objections are such as my readers, of best understandings, would be little obliged to me either for retailing or refuting.”

Verse 2
Proverbs 31:2. What, my son — A short speech, arguing her great passion for him; what words shall I take? What counsels shall I give thee? My heart is full; I must give it vent; but where shall I begin? What, the son of my womb — My son, not by adoption, but whom I bare in the womb, and therefore it is my duty to give thee admonitions, and thine to receive them. What, the son of my vows — On whose behalf I have made many prayers and sacrifices, and solemn vows to God; whom I have, as far as in me lay, devoted to the work, and service, and glory of God.

Verse 3
Proverbs 31:3. Give not thy strength unto women — The vigour of thy mind and body, which is greatly impaired by inordinate lusts, as all physicians agree, and frequent experience shows; nor thy ways — Thy conversation or course of life; to that which destroyeth kings — The same thing repeated in other words, as is very usual in these books; to the immoderate love of women, which is most destructive to kings and kingdoms, as was well known to Solomon, by the example of his father David, and by many other sad examples, left upon record in all histories.

Verses 4-7
Proverbs 31:4-7. It is not for kings to drink wine — Namely, to excess, as the next verse explains it: Lest they drink and forget the law — The laws of God, by which they are to govern themselves and their kingdoms; and pervert the judgment of the afflicted — Which may be easily done by a drunken judge, because drunkenness deprives a man of the use of his reason; by which alone men can distinguish between right and wrong, and withal stirs up those passions in him, which incline him both to precipitation and partiality. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish — To faint; for such need a cordial. This is to be understood comparatively; to him rather than to kings, because he needs a liberal draught of it more than they do. Let him drink and forget his poverty — For wine moderately used allays men’s cares and fears, and cheers the spirits.

Verse 8
Proverbs 31:8. Open thy mouth — Speak freely and impartially, as becomes a king and a judge to do: for the dumb — For such as cannot speak in their own cause, either through ignorance, or because of the dread of their more potent adversaries. In the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction — Who, without such succour from the judges, are likely to be utterly ruined.

Verse 10
Proverbs 31:10. Who can find a virtuous woman? — Here he lays down several qualifications of an excellent wife, which are delivered in alphabetical order, each verse beginning with a several letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It may be proper to observe here, that the versions, in general, agree in reading this, a strong woman, the words, אשׁת חיל, being literally, a woman of strength, or firmness: but then it must be observed, that it is equally applicable to strength of body or strength of mind: and therefore may with great propriety be rendered, as in our translation, a virtuous woman, or a woman of a strong, firm, and excellent mind.

Verse 11-12
Proverbs 31:11-12. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her — For the prudent and faithful management of all his domestic affairs, which are committed to her care; so that he shall have no need of spoil — The sense is, either, 1st, He shall want no necessary provisions for his family, which are sometimes called spoil, or prey: or, 2d, He shall not need to use indirect and unlawful courses to get wealth, as by cheating, or oppressing his subjects, or others, as princes have often done to maintain the luxury of their wives, and as Solomon himself afterward did: because all shall abundantly be supplied to him by her providence. She will do him good, &c. — She will improve and not waste his estate.

Verse 13-14
Proverbs 31:13-14. She seeketh wool and flax — That she may find employment for her servants, and not suffer them to spend their time unprofitably. And worketh willingly with her hands — She encourages them to work by her example; which was a common practice among princesses in those first ages. Not that it is the duty of kings and queens to use manual operations, but it is the duty of all persons, the greatest not excepted, to improve all their talents, and particularly their time, which is one of the noblest of them, to the service of that God to whom they must give an account, and to the good of that community to which they are related. She bringeth her food from afar — By the sale of her home-spun commodities she purchases the choicest goods which come from far countries.

Verse 15
Proverbs 31:15. She riseth while it is yet night — “She doth not indulge herself in too much sleep, but is an early riser, before the break of day, to make provision for those who are to go abroad to work in the fields, and to set her maidens their several tasks at home. The reader will observe that the ideas here refer to those modest and ancient times when female occupations were far different: even of the highest rank, from such as are usual in modern times.” — Dodd.

Verse 16
Proverbs 31:16. She considereth a field — Whether it be fit for use and of a reasonable price, and how she may purchase it. This excludes the rashness, as the proceeding to buy it excludes the inconstancy, which is often incident to that sex; with the fruit of her hands — With the effects of her diligence; she planteth a vineyard — She improveth the land to the best advantage.

Verse 17-18
Proverbs 31:17-18. She girdeth her loins with strength — She uses great diligence and expedition in her employment; for which end, men in those times used to gird up their long and loose garments about their loins. And strengtheneth her arms — Puts forth her utmost strength in her business. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good — She finds great comfort and good success in her labours. Her candle goeth not out by night — Which is not to be taken strictly, but only signifies her unwearied care and industry.

Verse 19
Proverbs 31:19. She layeth her hands to the spindle — By her own example she provokes her servants to labour. And although in these latter and more delicate times such mean employments are grown out of fashion among great persons, yet they were not so in former ages, neither in other countries, nor in this land; whence all women unmarried, unto this day, are called, in the language of our law, spinsters.

Verse 20
Proverbs 31:20. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor — To relieve their necessities. Her designs are generous and noble; for she labours not only to supply her own and her household’s necessities, or to support her own state, much less to feed her pride and luxury; but that she may have wherewith to supply the wants of others, who crave or need her assistance. Which also procures God’s blessing upon her husband and children, and whole family, to whom, by this means, she brings both honour and advantage.

Verses 21-25
Proverbs 31:21-25. She is not afraid of the snow — Of any injuries of the weather. For her household are clothed with scarlet — She has provided enough, not only for their necessity, and defence against cold and other inconveniences, but also for their delight and ornament. She maketh coverings of tapestry — For the furniture of her house. Her clothing is silk and purple — Which was very agreeable to her high quality, though it doth not justify that luxury in attire which is now usual among persons of far lower ranks, both for wealth and dignity. Her husband is known — Observed and respected, not only for his own worth, but for his wife’s sake; when he sitteth among the elders, &c. — In council or judgment. And delivereth girdles — Curiously wrought of linen and gold, or other precious materials, which, in those parts, were used both by men and women. Strength and honour — Strength of mind, magnanimity, courage, activity; are her clothing — Her ornament and glory; and she shall rejoice in time to come — She lives in constant tranquillity of mind, from a just confidence in God’s gracious providence.

Verse 26
Proverbs 31:26. She openeth her mouth with wisdom — She is neither sullenly silent, nor full of impertinent talk, but speaks discreetly and piously, as occasion offers. In her tongue is the law of kindness — Her speeches are guided by wisdom and grace, and not by inordinate passions. And this practice is called a law in her tongue, because it is constant and customary, and proceeds from an inward and powerful principle of true wisdom.

Verse 27
Proverbs 31:27. She looketh well to her household — She diligently observes the management of her domestic business, and the whole carriage of her children and servants. Whereby he also intimates, that she spends not her time in gadding abroad to other people’s houses, and in idle discourses about the concerns of other persons, as the manner of many women is, but is wholly intent upon her own house and proper business; and eateth not the bread of idleness — That which is gotten by idleness, or without labour.

Verse 28
Proverbs 31:28. Her children arise up — Whose testimony is the more considerable, because they have been constant eye-witnesses of her whole conduct, and, therefore, must have seen her misdemeanours, if there had been any, as well as her virtues; and call her blessed — Both for her own excellences, and for many happy fruits which they have gathered from her wise and godly education of them. Her husband also — Ariseth to bear witness to her excellence; and he praiseth her — Namely, in the following words.

Verse 29-30
Proverbs 31:29-30. Many daughters have done virtuously — Daughters of men, that is, women, so called, Genesis 34:1; Ezekiel 30:18; but thou excellest them all — Her husband esteems it but just, that his praises should bear proportion to her real and manifold excellences. Favour — Comeliness, which commonly gives women favour with those who behold them. Deceitful — It gives a false representation of the person, being often a cover to a deformed soul; it does not give a man that satisfaction which at first he promised to himself from it; and it is soon lost, not only by death, but by many diseases and contingences. But a woman that feareth the Lord — Which character is here mentioned, either as the crown of all her perfections, or as a key to understand the foregoing description of her character, as being intended of that wisdom, fidelity, and diligence, which proceed from, or are accompanied with, the fear of God.

Verse 31
Proverbs 31:31. Give her of the fruit of her hands — It is but just that she should enjoy those praises which her labours deserve. Let her works praise her — If men be silent, the lasting effects of her prudence and diligence will trumpet forth her praises. In the gates — In the most public and solemn assemblies.