The Word Made Fresh
1These are sayings King Lemuel’s mother taught him:
2“Son of my womb, son of my vows,
3Don’t give away all your strength to women.
Don’t give all your ideas to those who destroy kings.
4It is not for kings to drink wine, Lemuel,
or for rulers to crave strong drink,
5for they will drink and forget what they have decreed,
and will trample the rights of the poor.
6Reserve strong drink to one who is dying,
and wine for those in terrible distress.
7Let them drink and forget their troubles;
let them remember their misery no more.
8Speak out for those who have no voice,
and for the rights of those who are destitute.
9Speak out. Judge well.
Defend the rights of the poor and needy.
10A good wife is far more precious than jewels.
11Her husband trusts in her,
and because of her he will enjoy no end of gain.
12Her whole life she will bring him good
and not harm.
13She seeks the best wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14She is like a merchant ship
bringing stores from far away.
15She arises in the early morning while it is still dark,
and provides for her family and instructs her servant girls.
16She considers a field and buys it,
then with skillful hands she plants a vineyard.
17She prepares herself for her work,
And makes her arms strong for the task.
18She sees that her work is profitable,
and doesn’t let her lamp go out at night.
19She holds the distaff in one hand
and handles the spindle with the other.
20Her hands are always open to the poor,
and always reaching out to those in need.
21She is not concerned for her family when it snows
because they are all well-clothed.
22She makes her own clothes
of purple and fine linen.
23Her husband is well known at the city gate
and takes his seat among the elders.
24She makes garments of linen and sells them.
She supplies the merchants with sashes.
25She is clothed in strength and dignity,
and has no concerns about the time to come.
26She speaks with wisdom,
and kind words are always on her lips.
27She attends the needs of her household
and does not partake of the bread of idleness.
28Her children are well aware of the blessing she is,
and her husband as well, as he praises her:
29“Many women have done well,” he says,
“But you more than all the rest.”
30Charm can deceive and beauty is vain,
but a woman who knows and respects the LORD is praiseworthy.
31Give her a portion in the work she performs,
and let them praise her in the city gates.
1: King Lemuel is also otherwise unknown. This last chapter of Proverbs consists of teachings supposedly given by a Queen Mother to her son who will one day ascend to the throne. Another way of looking at it is that the mother represents Lady Wisdom instructing her son, thus tying this last chapter to earlier ones that personify wisdom (see chapters 8 and 9). Note also that as the book began with a father giving advice (1:8), so it ends with the advice of a mother.
2-9: Her instructions are simple and basic: stay away from wild women and strong drink. Defend the needy and the poor.
10-31: Finally, she gives Lemuel advice on the kind of wife to seek and launches into a long list of her virtues. Perhaps the activities listed here are a catalogue of her own impressive accomplishments. Notice that verse 30 echoes 1:7: the theme of “the fear of the LORD” ties the book nicely together.
Proverbs is a very different kind of literature than what we have seen yet in the Old Testament. It is a book of wisdom, laying down the proper emphasis on teaching the young, and lauding rulers and others for their role in training the next generation of believers.