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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Proverbs Chapter 31


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See the introduction to Proverbs.

Proverbs 31:1

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That his mother taught him - Compare Pro 1:8; Pro 6:20. If we refer the chapter to Israelite authorship, we may remember the honor paid to the wisdom of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah; if it was the honor paid to an Edomite or an Arabian, we may think of the Queen of Sheba, whose love of Wisdom led her to sit at the feet of the son of David.

Proverbs 31:2

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The repetitions are emphatic; expressive of anxious love.

Son of my vows - Like Samuel, and Samson, the child often asked for in prayer, the prayer ratified by a vow of dedication. The name Lemuel (literally "for God," consecrated to Him) may be the expression of that dedication; and the warning against indulging in wine Pro 31:4 shows that it had something of the Nazarite or Rechabite idea in it.

Proverbs 31:3

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To that which destroyeth - The temptations of the harem were then, as now, the curse of all Eastern kingdoms.

Proverbs 31:4

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Some read: "nor for princes to say, Where is strong drink?" The "strong drink" Pro 20:1 was distilled from barley, or honey, or dates.

Proverbs 31:6

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The true purpose of the power of wine over man's mind and body, as a restorative and remedial agent. Compare the margin reference. The same thought showed itself in the Jewish practice of giving a cup of wine to mourners, and (as in the history of the crucifixion) to criminals at their execution.

Proverbs 31:8

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In contrast with the two besetting sins of Eastern monarchs stands their one great duty, to give help to those who had no other helper.

Such as are appointed to destruction - literally, "children of bereavement," with the sense, either, as in the text, of those "destined to be bereaved of life or goods," or of "bereaved or fatherless children."

Proverbs 31:10

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See the introduction to Proverbs.

Rubies - Better, pearls. See the Pro 3:15 note.

Proverbs 31:11

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No need of spoil - Better, no lack of gain, lack of honest gain.

Proverbs 31:13

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Worketh willingly with her hands - Or, worketh with willing hands. The stress laid upon the industrial habits of Israelite matrons may perhaps belong to a time when, as under the monarchy of Judah, those habits were passing away.

Proverbs 31:14

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The comparison points to the enlarged commerce of the Israelites consequent on their contact with the Phoenicians under David and Solomon; compare Pro 31:24.

Proverbs 31:15

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A portion to her maidens - The daily task assigned to each at the same time as the daily food. Compare Pro 30:8; Exo 5:14.

Proverbs 31:16

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The verse points to a large sphere of feminine activity, strikingly in contrast with the degradation to which woman in the East has now fallen.

Proverbs 31:20

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The industry is not selfish, but bears the fruit of an open-handed charity.

Proverbs 31:21

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Scarlet - Probably some well-known articles of dress, at once conspicuous for their color, or, as some think, for their double texture and warmth.

Proverbs 31:22

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Silk - Better, fine linen, the byssus of Egypt.

Proverbs 31:23

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The industry of the wife leaves the husband free to take his place among the elders that sit in councils.

Proverbs 31:24

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Fine linen - Not the same word as in Pro 31:22 note; it describes a made-up garment Isa 3:23.

Merchant - literally, "Canaanite," i. e., the Phoenician merchant.

Proverbs 31:25

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Shall rejoice in time to come - Better, rejoiceth over the time to come; i. e., looks forward to the future, not with anxious care, but with confident gladness.

Proverbs 31:26

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Law of kindness - The words which come from the lips of the true wife are as a law giving guidance and instruction to those that hear them; but the law is not proclaimed in its sterner aspects, but as one in which "mercy tempers justice," and love, the fulfilling of the law, is seen to be the source from which it springs.

Proverbs 31:29

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The words of praise which the husband Pro 31:28 is supposed to have addressed to the ideal wife.

Virtuously - The Hebrew word has primarily (like "virtus") the idea of "strength," but is used with various shades of meaning. Here (as in Pro 12:4; Rut 3:11) the strength is that of character stedfast in goodness. In other passages (e. g., Gen 34:29; Psa 49:10) it has the sense of "riches," and is so taken here by the Septuagint and Vulgate, see also the marginal rendering.

Proverbs 31:30

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The last lesson of the book is the same as the first. The fear of the Lord is the condition of all womanly, as well as of all manly, excellence.

Next: Ecclesiastes Introduction