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The Words to Lemuel
This section is the only one in this book in which a king is directly addressed. It is also a whole chapter that comes from a woman filled with Divine wisdom. The teaching contains two warnings (Pro 31:2-7) and one advice (Pro 31:8-9). The mother warns her son, the king, of the dangers of sexuality and drinks. She takes her time and does not mince her words. Even today it is important that parents speak frankly and clearly with their children about these subjects. If we warn children in their youth, they will keep to this when they are older (Pro 22:6).
Lemuel means ‘devoted to God’ or ‘belonging to God’. His name occurs only here. Lemuel was taught by his mother. It was “the oracle” or “the burden“ she had on her heart. This fits in with the way in which Proverbs teachings are passed on. The book began with the words of a father to his son: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction“ (Pro 1:8a). There the father also says to him: “And do not forsake your mother’s teaching“ (Pro 1:8b). This instruction or teaching is given in detail in this last chapter.
It confirms the great influence mothers have on their children. In the books 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles the name of the mother of a king is often mentioned (f.i. 1Kgs 11:26; 1Kgs 14:21; 1Kgs 15:2; 2Chr 12:13; 2Chr 13:2; 2Chr 20:31). It is a great blessing to have a God-fearing mother (2Tim 1:5; 2Tim 3:15). The mother of Lemuel is honored by God because He gives her a whole chapter in His Word for her teaching. This proves the value of her words for every generation through the centuries to this day. After his mother, his wife is the second woman to have a great influence on a man. Lemuel’s mother speaks of her value from Pro 31:10.
Her words also apply to us. For we are kings (Rev 1:6). We do not yet exercise the kingship, but we do possess its dignity and should therefore also behave ‘royally’. We must therefore take to heart the warnings of the mother.
Appeal to Listen to Advice
In the threefold use of the word “what“ we hear the passionate desire of the mother that her son will fulfill his high calling. She speaks as one who thinks about what advice she will give to her son, so full of care she is for her son. The question, which is also a call, comes as a deep sigh from the heart of the mother who is concerned about the welfare of her son. She wants to tell him what is to his advantage, and to do so in words that strike him and stick with him: “The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of [these] collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd“ (Ecc 12:11).
The mother addresses her son in a penetrating way with a voice full of love. She wants his full attention. The triple repetition of “son“ shows the seriousness of the warning. He is first “my son“. This indicates her direct relationship with him. Then she addresses him as “son of my womb“. With this she says that he is her own son, he is not adopted, but born of her. Finally she calls him “son of my vows“. This indicates that she had dedicated him to the LORD. This reminds us of what Hannah did with Samuel (1Sam 1:11). Like Hannah, she must have undoubtedly prayed a lot for this child, both before and after his birth (1Sam 1:26-28).
Warning Against Women
The first danger she points out to him is that of women. She advises him not to give his “strength to women”. Her warning is that he shouldn’t spend his time fulfilling his sexual desires. There are plenty of women in his environment. But he should not focus his attention on them. If he does, his strength will be consumed by it. He will no longer have the strength to perform his actual task as king.
Many kings have been made powerless in the exercise of their kingship by giving in to their sexual desires. Among them are David and especially Solomon. To their shame they have experienced in their lives the truth of what the mother says here (2Sam 12:9-10; 1Kgs 11:1-11; Neh 13:26). It is not wrong to have a wife. He who has received a wife has received a great gift from God. What is wrong, sinful, and pernicious is to have more than one.
Warning Against Wine
The other danger, often associated with the danger of women, is getting dependent on drink (Pro 31:4; Hos 4:11; Rev 17:2). Wine in itself is not wrong (Jdg 9:13; Psa 104:15a). It is wrong to drink too much of it. For a king it applies even more emphatically. He should neither drink it nor ask for it. It is about the excessive consumption of alcohol or the need for it because of the constant pressure on him. If you want to be able to reign over a people well, you must first of all be able to reign over yourself. This is where Noah failed when he was given reign over the purified earth (Gen 9:1-7; 20-24).
The mother tells him what the consequences are when he drinks and gets drunk. Then he “will … forget what is decreed“ (Pro 31:5). He will forget the royal law in which God has said how to behave to be a good king (Deu 17:17-20). Drinks blur the mind. Those who are drunk no longer see things sharply and cannot make a righteous judgment in disputes.
A drunken king is disgusting (1Kgs 16:8-9; 1Kgs 20:16). When it comes to speaking justice in a lawsuit, he will do nothing but “pervert the rights of all the afflicted“. None of the afflicted will get his right, because the king is blurred in his mind. In addition, the rich who exploit the afflicted can manipulate him (cf. Hos 7:5). They will tell him what kind of statement he should make.
The Pro 31:6-7 are most likely intended to be sarcastic. It cannot be a serious advice that strong drinks should be better given to those who are in agony (“who is perishing“), who are deeply depressed (“whose life is bitter“), or who are in deep “poverty“ and “trouble“. The advice then would be: Give them so much strong drinks and wine that they get drunk. Then they forget their misery and no longer think about it. This advice cannot be intended seriously because when the intoxication is over, the problems will not have disappeared, but are still fully present. Then you just have to drink again. And so it becomes an addiction. It is much more so, that people in agony or bitter sorrow need God’s Word and understanding and practical help.
For a king who is under high pressure, who is looked up to and expected to be righteous, the use of alcohol is not an option. He must not shirk his responsibilities or seek relief from them by drinking for a while. A king who knows that his task has been given to him by God will expect everything from God to perform that task. Then he will get what he needs.
The advice that king Lemuel receives from his mother is also important to us. We are kings and may reign with the Lord Jesus (Rev 1:6). We do not yet reign as kings, but we do have the dignity of a king. We lose that dignity by being wrong with sexuality and drink. If we give into this, we lose the purity and simplicity of our devotion to the Lord (cf. Rev 14:4-5) and become objects of contempt and manipulation.
Open Your Mouth to Judge Righteously
The mother tells her son, the king, that he shouldn’t open his mouth to pour wine into it, but to be a voice “for the mute“ (Pro 31:8). This is not someone who cannot talk. It may be someone who is too timid to say something. Someone can also be dumbfounded, because of the unjust charges or the verbal violence of the other party. In any case, it is about someone who cannot speak for himself to defend his own cause.
The king must also open his mouth to speak justice for “all the unfortunate“. They may have words, but they lack the strength to speak up. In both cases it requires insight into the circumstances of those who are in a miserable state and turn to him for a just verdict.
The king seems to be both a lawyer and a judge. As a lawyer he has identified himself, in Pro 31:8, with the case of a mute man and of all those who are unfortunate. This allows him to act as a judge in Pro 31:9. Because he did not drink wine, but remained clear in his mind, he is able to open his mouth and judge with righteousness, and defend the rights of the afflicted and poor (cf. 2Sam 14:4-11; 1Kgs 3:16-28; Psa 45:3-5; Psa 72:4; Isa 9:6-7).
The Value of the Excellent Wife
Much has been written in the previous chapters about the Woman of Folly, about foolish, wrong women. Also in this last chapter we hear the warning about her from the mouth of Lemuel’s mother to her son (Pro 31:3). That is why it is so beautiful that the book concludes with a song of praise for the Woman of Wisdom, for the woman in the full value she has for God, for her husband and for her children.
Wisdom is personified by a woman, because the woman is an excellent example of wisdom because of the variety of applications. Wherever she is, her wisdom becomes visible, and in everything she does, we see how wise she is. We see her at home, at the market, in proving charity and in business. By personalizing wisdom, the writer makes all lessons concrete.
We see her in action in daily life. She is called “someone weaker“ (1Pet 3:7). Yet she acts vigorously. The cause of this is her God-fearfulness and wisdom. In this way, she did her work diligently and at the same time calmly and self-controlled. We see these qualities in her devotion to her husband and children, how she treats her staff, and in her business activities. She is decisive in her performance, without leaving her place as wife next to her husband. She honors her husband, who is honored in the gate. Her behavior is such that he trusts her completely in everything she does. She is honored by her husband, her children and her works.
This song of praise about the woman is an example or model for all women who want to develop a life of wisdom. But because it is about the essence of wisdom, what is said of her contains important lessons not only for women, but also for men. This portion teaches that the fear of the LORD inspires women and men to be faithful stewards of the time and talents God has given. This stewardship is best taught and experienced in the domestic atmosphere. The wisdom with which this stewardship is exercised, becomes visible in a balanced life, paying attention to domestic tasks as well as to business activities and the demonstration of charity.
This homage to the wife is written in the special style form that we encounter for instance also in Psalms: Psalms 9; 10; 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; 119; 145. This form is sometimes called an ‘acrostic’. In an acrostic the first word of every verse or group of verses begin with a next letter of the Hebrew alphabet of 22 letters. The acrostic begins in Pro 31:10 with the first letter, the aleph, and ends in Pro 31:31 with the last letter, the taw.
The fact that the whole alphabet is used to sing the praises of the excellent wife, can symbolically indicate that we have a complete description of her, that nothing is missing. It is a perfect whole. It has been pointed out that love is not mentioned. But would an effort as this wife shows, be possible without love being the motive? We see a woman joyfully performing her duties. If we want a description of the relationship of love between man and wife, we can refer to the book of Song of Solomon. In Proverbs 31 it is about the dedication of the wife to her husband which becomes visible in everything she does.
The description of this wife is not a description that applies to every wife without reservation. The wife presented here is a rich and distinguished person with, like her husband, a high social status. She runs a house with an estate and servants. She trades in real estate, vineyards and merchandise. Domestic affairs are under her control and she proves charity, for which she also has the means. Not many wives are in such a position with these circumstances.
Apparently, it is more about the general thought, which a woman is capable of if she is completely guided by wisdom. The ideal wife is presented, the perfect wife, the devoted help of her husband, sincere, God-fearing, economic and wise. The characteristics mentioned will be found in every God-fearing wife according to the measure of her possibilities. It is about making oneself available to others. That is why this part also applies to the God-fearing man.
Behind the description of this wife we see the picture of the church as the wife of the Lamb, or the church as the Lord Jesus sees her, in her fullness, without defect. In practice, He works through His Word to present her to Himself in this way (Eph 5:26-27). We will often be able to apply what is said about the excellent wife to the church.
The introductory question in Pro 31:10 assumes the wife that the mother will describe is not easy to find (cf. Pro 20:6; Ecc 7:28). But if she is found, she is a treasure of great value. Above all, the mother of king Lemuel warned him in Pro 31:3 not to give his strength to women. Now she is going to teach him about the wife who will be a real help to him. She describes the characteristics and qualities of this wife. He must pay attention to this in his search for her.
What matters to her is that her son goes in search of “an excellent wife“. With this she gives at the beginning of the description of the qualities a ‘total description’. The word “excellent” means that this wife has all the virtues that are mentioned in this song of praise on her and that she also puts them into practice. This wife, like wisdom, is worth more than rubies, yes, she is “far above“ their value (Pro 3:15; Pro 8:11).
Spiritually we can apply this to the church. She is the wife of the Lamb, which is Christ. She is for Him “a pearl of great value“ for whom He was willing to do everything to possess her (Mt 13:45-46).
She Looks After the Interests of Her Husband
After the value of the wife that cannot be expressed in money has been determined, the description of her virtues, her good features, follows. But before that description follows, it is first said how her husband sees her, what she means to him (Pro 31:11), and the other way around: how she sees him, what he means to her (Pro 31:12). Her husband trusts her with all his heart. Not love, but trust is the most important basis of a good marriage. Love may be sometimes a little bit less, but trust must always be present. A trusting husband and a faithful wife form an unbreakable unity.
Her husband leaves her with full confidence in the morning to go to work (Psa 104:23). When, so to speak, he closes the door behind him, he does so with the complete confidence in his heart that she will look after his interests at home while he is absent. He leaves everything to her with peace of mind, allowing him to focus fully on his role in society.
She is in stark contrast to the adulterous woman who takes advantage of her husband’s absence to commit adultery (Pro 7:18-19). The same contrast is with the wives whom the prophet Amos calls “cows of Bashan“ and of whom he says that they say to their husband: “Bring now that we may drink“ (Amos 4:1).
She does not betray the trust that her husband has in her in any way. His property is with her in safe, trusty hands (Pro 31:11). His wife has no hole in her hand, she is not a wasteful woman, but someone who manages his property with wisdom. When he comes home from work, she has not abused any of his possessions. In every marriage, and certainly if there is a large household, such confidence in her devotion to him and his house with all possessions is essential.
“She does him good and not evil“ (Pro 31:12), because she is intimately related to him. If she did not do him good but evil, she did so against herself. In a good marriage, husband and wife always aim for the good for each other, and will never seek to harm each other. Here the emphasis is on the actions of the wife. She is in a position where her husband has entrusted everything to her and she has a great freedom of action. But everything she does, she does with a view to him. She illustrates in her life what Paul writes: “But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband“ (1Cor 7:34b).
In this way she does not act incidentally, when it suits her, but “all the days of her life”. It points to her continuous fidelity in marriage. She remains faithful to the oath she swore when she married him: until death separates her from him. Even when both of them are old, she continues to do him good.
She is independent, but not self-centered. Her activities do not serve to develop herself, but to support her husband. She is focused on him and not on her career. There is no question of her going a separate way apart from her husband, as often happens in our modern society and to which people are also encouraged to do.
This relationship of trust and doing good shows how the Lord Jesus trusts His church. He knows her, takes care of her and trusts her to look after His interests on earth while He is absent. The fact that the church as a whole has become unfaithful to Him is not the aspect that comes forward here. This is about Him seeing in faithful, devoted believers the faithfulness and devotion that He appreciates.
She Cares of Clothing and Food
In Pro 31:13, the list of activities begins. She appears to be a wife whose adornment “as it suits women who confess to be pious“ consists of “good works“ (1Tim 2:10). Her first concern is that the family should be well dressed (Pro 31:13). She does not buy or outsource the making of the clothes. She could do that, because she has the means for it. She doesn’t even buy the fabrics for the clothing on the market, but the raw materials, “wool and flax“, to make the fabric herself. Even the purchase of the raw materials she does with care. “She searches“, which means that she tries to get the best material.
When she has the raw materials, she goes to work. She doesn’t work reluctantly, but with pleasure. This is evident from the expression that she “works with her hands in delight“. Wool comes from sheep and flax grows on the land. Wool is used to make clothes that keep the body warm when it is cold. Flax is used to make linen for airy clothing that is more suitable for warmer days. She has the right clothing for every temperature.
As a spiritual application, the following can be said about this. When it comes to wool, it indicates that the church is a place where there is a warm or loving interest in every member. Linen represents righteousness (Rev 19:8). The church is also a place where each one is given what he is entitled to. Each is recognized in his specific qualities. Space is given to develop these qualities.
The church is looking for this. This means that the church prays for it. She seeks from the Lord what she needs to radiate loving interest and righteousness.
Besides the care for clothing, she also takes care of food (Pro 31:14). Just as she carefully selects the materials for the clothes she makes, she also carefully selects the food. In her search for food she is compared, not with ‘a ship’, but with “ships”. There is variety in her activities to get food. She gets the best from everywhere. It is “her food“ and she brings it “from afar“. It is food from which she lives and which she also gives to her house. She has no other food for her housemates than what she eats herself.
In the spiritual application it is about the spiritual food for the church and for all who belong to it. That food comes “from afar“, from heaven, where Christ is. He nourishes and cherishes the church (Eph 5:29), which means, He provides it with food and warmth.
The food must not only be bought, but also prepared and put on the table (Pro 31:15). For breakfast, this must be done before everyone wakes up and comes to the table. She does not order the maids to prepare and set up everything, but she does that herself. She gets out of bed early for that. She wants to make sure that her husband, her children and also the maids start the day with a good meal.
The church consists of believers who are out to serve each other with the food of God’s Word. They realize that they need each other in this. One learns from the other. The believers are not only members of God’s house with all the privileges that go with it, but they all have a task. In order to perform this task properly, they need the power of the food of God’s Word. Everyone gets the part assigned to him, as much as necessary to be able to do the service.
Her Sound Financial Management
After taking care of her family and all those who are part of it, she has the hands free to take actions that increase the family budget (Pro 31:16). She increases her husband’s income. In this part of the enumeration we see that the woman is also a good businesswoman, who invests wisely. There is no question of foolish purchases or entering into debts. After acquiring the field, she turns it into a vineyard by herself.
In the spiritual application it is about things we set our minds on. A field is an area on which we work in order to grow something on it and to benefit from it. She turns the field into a vineyard by herself. A vineyard speaks of joy. In this context, the field can be seen as a picture of the family. The congregation also consists of families. Every family that lives for God is a joy for Him. We can also buy a field for ourselves (Lk 14:18). Then we think only of our own pleasure and leave God outside. This is not in accordance with the calling of the church.
Everything she does, she does with all her strength (Pro 31:17). To gird the hips means that the clothing is pulled up and tied around the hips, so that you can walk freely. At the same time, the belt gives strength to the hips. An arm is also a symbol of strength. She makes her arms strong. She does not possess that power in herself. She is a woman who fears God (Pro 31:30). This means that her strength lies in her fellowship with God.
The church has no strength in herself. She strengthens herself in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Eph 6:10).
While she is busy, she senses “that her gain is good“ (Pro 31:18). She evaluates what she has done and sees a positive result. That encourages her to continue like this. She is busy until late at night. Of course she needs her rest and sleep and will not continue working at night. It is about her commitment. This is not limited to a number of hours that are laid down in a contract.
Of Anna it is said that she was “serving night and day with fastings and prayers“ (Lk 2:37). This does not mean that Anna never slept. It is about what characterized her. It is the same with this woman. The fact that her lamp does not go out at night can also mean that her house is kept from disasters that come upon the wicked (Job 18:6; Jer 25:10).
When the church lives with the Lord and seeks and finds her strength in Him, she sees that her work is blessed. We see this especially at the beginning of the book of Acts (Acts 2:47). The church lives in the night of the world. Then her lamp should not go out, but burn brightly. This points to the testimony she gives of Him Who is the light of the world. We may all give that testimony individually. It can also be seen in our homes (cf. Exo 10:23).
She Works for the Family and the Poor
She bought raw materials for the clothing (Pro 31:13) and did her business. In the evening, by the light of the lamp (Pro 31:18), she turns the wool and flax into fabrics (Pro 31:19), from which she can make clothes. She knows how to use the distaff. We see her skill in the description.
The church also needs to know how to make clothes, that means that she is conscious in which way she is clothed with spiritual clothing. Thus the believers are clothed with the garments of salvation and with the cloak of righteousness (Isa 61:10). Paul knew how to clothe the believers with this, that is to say he explained to them what their position in Christ is. The believers are clothed with Christ. In several letters Paul, especially the letter to the Ephesians, explains what that means.
The woman takes care of her family, but she does not forget those who are poor and needy (Pro 31:20). She is socially engaged. She may have made garments for them too, or at least distributed to them what she had (cf. Acts 9:36-39). The fact that she opens her hand to the needy means that she gives voluntarily and mildly to them (Psa 112:9). She does not fob them off with a tip. Her reaching out to the poor adds the thought of compassion. It is the hands that have been doing hard and skillful work, not the hands of a lazy, rich woman. She used her zeal generously and mercifully.
The church may share what she has acquired concerning spiritual insight with the less fortunate. She is not isolated from the world and does not sit with a booklet in a corner selfishly enjoying all truths. There are many people who are spiritually needy and poor. For them she will open her hand and to them she will reach out and hand out the spiritual blessings she has discovered.
She thinks not only about the here and now, but also about the future (Pro 31:21). It will be winter again. At the end of summer, every wife who has to manage a family, will start thinking about winter clothes again. She wants to prepare her family well for the coming cold. When the cold comes, her family wears warm clothes. The clothes are not only warm, but also attractive. Husband and children look good. She has taste.
The cold in the world does not hurt her, because she provides a soothing warmth of love in her home. In this way, the church also keeps the cold of the world out as warmth and love are present in her. This is especially necessary now, because we know that the end of all things is near (1Pet 4:7). The coldness of God’s judgments is slowly forcing in. That is why we are told that above all we should have fervent love for one another (1Pet 4:8).
She and Her Husband
When caring for others, she does not forget to take care of herself (Pro 31:22). The “coverings“ give her warmth. Her clothing “of fine linen and purple“ prove her wealth and high rank. It is reminiscent of the rich man about whom the Lord Jesus tells, who was also dressed in purple and fine linen (Lk 16:19). The problem was not the clothing he was wearing, but that he was “joyously living in splendor every day“, ignoring the poor who was lying at his front door. With him the charity of this woman was completely absent.
The church has a high calling. Paul speaks about this in detail in Ephesians 1-3. There he shows the congregation, as it were, coverings and her dignified clothing. She “has been made pleasing in the Beloved“ (Eph 1:6), clothed with Him. Then he calls her to walk “worthy of the calling“ with which she is called (Eph 4:1). How she can do this, he tells in the following chapters (Ephesians 4-6).
Her dignity is not of herself, but she derives it from her husband (Pro 31:23). The ‘gates’ is the place of the meeting of the elders, of the city council, where court cases are discussed (Rth 4:1-12). Her husband is busy looking after the interests of the city. He is not sitting unobtrusively among the “elders of the land“, but is a distinguished man, a well-known leader.
The church is connected to a Spouse Who is constantly working for the interests of the city, with which also His church is meant. In Revelation 21, the description of the bride is suddenly transferred to the city without any explanation (Rev 21:9-10). The question is whether He is so well known everywhere and especially in the gates, the places of justice, where we can think of the local churches. Does He take the lead there? Is authority there given to Him?
The expression “sits among the elders“ is reminiscent of Revelation 5 (Rev 5:1-14). There we see the Lamb among the elders. The Lamb is not sitting, but is standing as slain. It can also be said of the Lamb that it is known in the gates. As said, the gates are the places of government and administration. The throne of God speaks of this. The seven spirits that depart from the throne show this. The knowledge of the twenty-four elders of the Lamb is evident from the falling down and worshiping, as we read at the end of Revelation 5. When John cries because there is no one worthy of opening the book and breaking the seals, one of the elders comforts John. He is familiar with the Lamb and points out to John the Lion from the tribe of Judah.
She Sells and Delivers
She has taken care of her family, she has cared about the poor, and the position of her husband has been clearly presented. Now she gets to work for the people around her. She also wants to serve them with her capacities. But she does ask a price for her services. That will increase her capital, but also make the other person richer. What she sells and delivers is quality.
The church has a lot to offer, but sometimes a price has to be asked for it. The truth must be bought (Pro 23:23). The sinner cannot pay anything to be saved. One is saved by grace (Eph 2:8). But the truth of God’s Word does not just come to us. Learning to know the truth takes time and effort.
Wisdom and Prosperity
What characterizes her is expressed in the way she dresses. Her clothing shows who she is (Pro 31:22). In Pro 31:25 there is another reference to her clothing, but now in a different way. Her clothing, what is seen of her, is “strength and dignity“. She is a woman who radiates strength and excellence. Everything about her is dynamic and beauty. She faces life every morning with a smile. This is not overconfidence, but the firm trust in God who leads her life and gives her the strength for everything she does.
The church owes all the strength and dignity with which she is clothed to the Lord Jesus. Strength and dignity belong to Him and He has laid them upon her, clothed her with them (Lk 24:49). Strength and dignity are Divine attributes. They are qualities of God Himself and she exhibits them. Here we see the picture of the church as the wife of the Lamb who has prepared herself in a cloth of linen. On the one hand she has made this cloth herself, because it speaks of the righteous deeds she has done. On the other hand, that garment is given to her, for it is God’s grace that has enabled her to do those righteous deeds (Rev 19:7-8).
This awareness makes the church smile at “the future“. We can think of looking forward to the coming of the Lord for His own, and also of His coming to earth with His own. She rejoices at what is coming, because everything is connected with Him Who is to come. Therefore she rejoices at Him Who is to come. She loves His appearance (2Tim 4:8).
The excellent wife is not known as a talker, and certainly not as a chatterer or slanderer (cf. 1Tim 5:13; Tit 2:3). The statement here that she opens her mouth means that she usually does not talk. But when she talks, words of wisdom come out of her mouth. Then it appears that there is “teaching“ on her tongue that she speaks “with teaching of kindness”.
Her discussions to convince someone stem from common sense. And her teaching, the instructions she gives, is reliable. The second line of Pro 31:26 literally says that “the law of kindness“ is on her tongue. What she says does not repel, but invites to accept what has been said. It is pleasant to listen to her.
Teaching in the church is characterized by wisdom and kindness. Kindness does not mean a characterless sweetness. If opponents must be reprimanded, this must be done in an unmistakable manner. Yet it is important that it happens out of kindness, that is, that the motive is to win the other (2Tim 2:24-26).
Before others speak about her in Pro 31:28-31, her watchfulness is pointed out as the last of her excellencies (Pro 31:27). She does not allow herself to be misled by her prosperity, as if, because of all her efforts and the desired results, she can now continue her path carelessly. No, while she is working, she keeps a close eye on everything in her house. That is where the focus of her activities lies. Everything revolves around her family.
She knows from every member of the family what he or she is doing. She is alert to who and what enters into her family and what the consequences are. In this way, she can intervene in time if she sees something that threatens the devotion of a family member to the service to God. There is no room for idleness. Even if she was ‘successful’, she “did not eat the bread of idleness”. She does not withdraw arrogantly to look at the results of her efforts with a sense of self-satisfaction. Her task is not finished as long as she has a family to manage.
Nor should the church think that everything is fine and that no one can rob her of the blessings she has. Paul warns the Thessalonians about this kind of complacency. He says to them, involving himself: “So then let us not sleep as others [these are the people of the world] do, but let us be alert and sober“ (1Thes 5:6). The order is: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving“ (Col 4:2), “and having done everything, to stand firm“ (Eph 6:13).
She and Her Works Are Praised
The characteristics of the excellent woman are described in detail in the previous verses. This provokes a reaction in which the appreciation for her is expressed. This appreciation comes from four sides: from her children and from her husband (Pro 31:28-29), and from the LORD and from her works (Pro 31:30-31). Of all men, her children and her husband know her best. They are best able to judge the value of who she is and what she does and has done.
“Her children“ are the first who express themselves (Pro 31:28). They “rise up“. This expression describes an activity that prepares the expression of their appreciation (cf. Gen 37:35a). It is like rising up to give someone a standing ovation. It is an attitude that fits what they are going to say. It expresses not only appreciation but also admiration and reverence. Then they bless her. Through her all honor goes to God Who blessed her so much. To be praised by the children is worth much more than anything gained from trade.
“Her husband … praises her.” He expresses his great appreciation for the support she had always given him and for the dedication with which she had always served him. This has enabled him to fulfil his calling. She has run his household more than excellently. The family actually belongs to both the husband and the wife, but the wife does provide the lion’s share in the management. How good and important it is that a husband openly expresses his appreciation for his wife.
He adds that she surpasses all other women, including their daughters who, like she, have “done nobly“ (Pro 31:29). The daughters have done this following her example, they have learned it from her.
Whether the words of Pro 31:30 are also said by the husband is not entirely clear. Perhaps Lemuel’s mother has spoken them to warn her son not to rely on the appearance. Behind a charming appearance, a corrupt character can hide. And external beauty is transient, not permanent, but eventually disappears.
He must be aware that the virtue of a woman is not in her outer beauty, but in her inner relationship with the LORD (cf. 1Pet 3:3-4). Therefore, when choosing a wife, he must in particular pay attention to whether she is a woman “who fears the LORD“. That woman “will be praised“ by the LORD and also by her family. The same goes for the church. It is not about all kinds of externally attractive things, all kinds of gifts of spirit that are attractive to the eye. It is about respect and devotion to the Lord. This is important when we judge a local church.
“The product of her hands“ (Pro 31:31) speaks of what she has achieved with hard work. The results of her work may give her satisfaction. She has earned it. She herself will say that it is all grace. And that is what it is. At the same time there has also been an unbridled effort, which is appreciated by the Lord and by everyone who looks at her with His eyes. The Lord will reward all that has been done for Him.
Her works are of exceptional quality. They must be praised “in the gates”. Where her husband sits among the elders of the land (Pro 31:23), there must be appreciation for her. A woman who runs a family well is an example for any form of government. City governments and national governments would do well to acknowledge the work of such women and to follow their example. Then there would be hope for a society that is now a mess because of the many broken families, among other things because of women who only pursue their own interests.
Not the beauty of the woman, but her works praise her. She was praised for the product of her hands. The tree is known by the fruit. If the fruit is good, the tree is also good. She gains honor from all that she had sown in investing in education, from all the care she had given to her husband and her children.
The driving force in her is the fear of the LORD. At the end of the book, the emphasis is once again on this most important aspect of wisdom with which the book also began (Pro 1:7).
That is not different for the church. Only through reverence for God is she able to express herself in a way that will receive tribute from God.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 31". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26