Proverbs 31

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

November 10, 2004

:1-9 Clear headed judgment

:1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

Lemuel[email protected]’el – “for God”

the name of an unknown king to whom his mother addressed the prudential maxims contained in some of the Proverbs

might be same as king Solomon

prophecymassa– load, bearing, tribute, burden, lifting; utterance, oracle, burden

:2 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

Hannah could not have children. She made a promise to God (1Sam. 1:11) that if she got pregnant, she would dedicate her child to the Lord to serve Him.

Lemuel’s mom might have made a similar vow to God.

:3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

strengthchayil – strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army

It’s not wrong for a man to have a wife.

It’s wrong when a man wants one woman after another, giving his “strength” to women.

that which destroyeth kings – drinking

:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

strong drinkshekar – strong drink, intoxicating drink, fermented or intoxicating liquor

We would translate this “beer”.

(Pr 31:4 NIV) {4} “It is not for kings, O Lemuel— not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer,

:5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

This is why a leader needs to stay away from wine and beer.

:6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

heavymar – bitter, bitterness

heartsnephesh – soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion

(Pr 31:6 NASB95) {6} Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter.

:7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

(Prov 31:6-7 NLT) Liquor is for the dying, and wine for those in deep depression. {7} Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more.

Does this mean it is okay to drink if you meet these qualifications?

I’m not sure that the purpose of this is to give the green light to all those of us who are depressed to go out to the bar after church tonight.
Remember that this is being addressed to King Lemuel, who as a king should not be falling into these categories.
(Eph 5:18 KJV) And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Some have suggested that this is a good verse to share with those suffering from pain and wondering if they should take pain medication.

(Pr 31:6-7 The Message) {6} Use wine and beer only as sedatives, to kill the pain and dull the ache {7} Of the terminally ill, for whom life is a living death.

:8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Lemuel is taught that he is supposed to be a good and fair judge.

This is the whole purpose of a leader, to be a person who makes correct decisions, not impaired by drugs or alcohol.

:10-31 The Virtuous Woman

This could be a continuation of the prophecy of Lemuel’s mom. It could have been written by Solomon. It could have been written by an unknown person.

This is an alphabetic acrostic. The first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the next verse with the second letter, etc.

How can you take this next part?

If you’re a gal – this is a blueprint of what kinds of things God wants to produce in your life, whether you’re single or married.

If you’re a single guy, this is the gal you ought to be looking for.

If you’re a married guy, this is the kind of gal your wife can be if you love her like Jesus loves the church. Many of you are married to gals just like this – be thankful for it!

:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

virtuouschayil – strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army

This word is often translated “army” (56 times) or “valiant” or “man of valour” (50 times) in describing men.

(Prov 12:4 KJV) A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

Ru 3:11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou [art] a virtuous woman.

Who can find …?

This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find such a woman.

It means that she is rare. If you’ve got a woman like this, you are truly blessed.

:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

(Pr 31:11 NLT) {11} Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.

The importance of trust in marriage.

Marriage needs to be built on trust.

It’s hard to live with someone you don’t trust.
It’s hard to love or give of yourself if you don’t trust the other person.

Things that break trust:

Handling finances
Jealousy on the man’s part

:12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

(Pr 31:12 The Message) {12} Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.

(Pr 31:12 NLT) {12} She will not hinder him but help him all her life.

Do you help your mate or hinder them?

(1 Cor 13:4 KJV) Charity suffereth long, and is kind

Kindness is doing good things for others.


Here’s one way to help each other:

Paul Tournier writes,
It is only when a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of true harmony: that the difference in their temperaments, their ideas, and their tastes enriches their home instead of endangering it. There will be no further question of one imposing his will on the other, or of the other giving in for the sake of peace.
Instead, they will together seek God’s will, which alone will ensure that each will be fully able to develop his personality. ... When each of the marriage partners seeks quietly before God to see his own faults, recognizes his sin, and asks the forgiveness of the other, marital problems are no more. Each learns to speak the other’s language, and to meet him halfway, so to speak. Each holds back those harsh little words which one is apt to utter when one is right, but which are said in order to injure.
Most of all, a couple rediscovers complete mutual confidence, because, in meditating in prayer together, they learn to become absolutely honest with each other. ... This is the price to be paid if partners very different from each other are to combine their gifts instead of setting them against each other.

:13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

willinglychephets – delight, pleasure; desire, longing; that in which one takes delight

She enjoys her work.

:14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

(Pr 31:14 The Message) {14} She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.

We call this shopping. The virtuous woman is a shopper.  Bringing back “exotic surprises”.


A Woman's Guide to Men's Gifts

With Christmas right around the corner, gals take notes!

Rule #1:

When in doubt - buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.

Rule #2:

If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. "By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?" Again, no one knows why.

Rule #3:

If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99-cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.

Rule #4:

Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties. And never buy men bathrobes. I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.

Rule #5:

You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

Rule #6:

Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink. You get the idea. No one knows why.

Rule #7:

Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his Special Day and he will always have parts left over.

Rule #8:

Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chainsaw. If you don't know why - please refer to Rule #6 and what happens when he gets a label maker.

Rule #9:

Rope. Men love rope. It takes us back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts. Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manila rope. No one knows why.

:15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

(Pr 31:15 NLT) {15} She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

She’s an early riser.

She works hard.

She delegates to her “maidens”.

:16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

(Pr 31:16 NIV) {16} She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

She’s a businesswoman

She’s into real estate.

She invests what she makes.

:17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

(Pr 31:17 The Message) {17} First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.

(Pr 31:17 NIV) {17} She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

She’s got strong arms.  Be careful when you arm-wrestle with her.

She’s a hard worker.


E. M. Gray noted, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do.  The successful person doesn’t like doing them either, but his dislike is subordinated to the strength of his purpose.”  If you’ve allowed yourself to develop the habit of making excuses, make a commitment to change today.  Trading excuses for excellence opens the door to many of the other positive trade-offs you’ll need to make to be successful.

-- John Maxwell, The Success Journey, (Nelson, 1997), p. 157.

:18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

merchandisecachar – traffic, gain, profit, gain from merchandise

(Pr 31:18 NIV) {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

candleniyr – lamp

Requires planning ahead, being prepared.

The parable of the ten virgins.

(Mat 25:1-13 NLT) "The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. {2} Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. {3} The five who were foolish took no oil for their lamps, {4} but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. {5} When the bridegroom was delayed, they all lay down and slept. {6} At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and welcome him!' {7} "All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. {8} Then the five foolish ones asked the others, 'Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.' {9} But the others replied, 'We don't have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.' {10} "But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. {11} Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, 'Sir, open the door for us!' {12} But he called back, 'I don't know you!' {13} "So stay awake and be prepared, because you do not know the day or hour of my return.

:19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

spindlekiyshowr – spindle-whorl, distaff

distaffpelek – whirl of spindle, stick

(Prov 31:19 NLT) Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

(Prov 31:19 ICB) She makes thread with her hands and weaves her own cloth.

:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She cares for others.  She cares for the needy.

One suggestion is that when she makes her cloth (verse 19), she gives it to those in need.


Olympias, a daughter of the wealthy Count Seleusus, was born near Constantinople in 368. Apparently her parents died when she was still quite young, but they left her a substantial fortune. This drew the attention of many matchmakers, including the Emperor Theodosius, who wanted to be sure that such a large amount of wealth—and the influence that went with it—came to rest in the proper hands.

So while still in her teens, Olympias married an official in the imperial court named Nebridius. But he died less than two years later. The stream of eager suitors resumed, but she chose to not remarry—having decided, as a Christian, that she would devote herself to the Lord and her inheritance to helping the poor.

This decision aggravated Theodosius, who used his royal privilege to seize her fortune and place it in trust until she turned 30. Olympias wrote to thank the emperor for relieving her of the burden of all that money, and insisted that, as executor of the inheritance, he divide it between the church in Constantinople and the poor. Outfoxed by the plucky teenager, Theodosius restored the wealth to her prerogative and she immediately began to give the money away again, to the sick, widows, prisoners, beggars, and slaves (she even bought hundreds of slaves and set them free).

She became a deaconess of the church at Constantinople, and a good friend of John Chrysostom, the local bishop, who once advised her to give less to the poor because she was making them lazy. Her loyalty to Chrysostom eventually cost her much. He, a gifted preacher, spoke out against the wanton behavior of the Empress Eudoxia. Incensed at his impertinence, the empress pulled strings in the church hierarchy and, in 403, got John banished for life on trumped-up charges. Olympias and many other Christians in Constantinople protested this treatment of their beloved bishop, and hence were physically harassed. Then, when Olympias refused to recognize the new bishop who was appointed, she was banished as well. She was also tried for disrupting the church, and was heavily fined. Later, all her assets were seized and her charitable projects shut down.

Throughout all these troubles, Olympias and Chrysostom managed to maintain a correspondence. In his letters John encouraged her, praising her patience and dignity. He died in 407; within a year she also died, a pauper. But she was remembered as a devoted Christian who used her great wealth unselfishly for the Lord, as a regular student of the Bible, and as a faithful deaconess of the church.

-- "Women in the Early Church," Christian History, Issue 17.

:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

scarletshaniy – scarlet, crimson; properly, the insect ‘coccus ilicis’, the dried body of the female yielding coloring matter from which is made the dye used for cloth to colour it scarlet or crimson

(Prov 31:21 ICB) She does not worry about her family when it snows. They all have fine clothes to keep them warm.

:22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

tapestrymarbad – spread, coverlet

silkshesh – something bleached white, byssus, linen, fine linen

purple argaman – purple, red-purple; a dye made from a shellfish.

(Pr 31:22 NLT) {22} She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth.

:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

gates – where the leaders of the city hung out. Her husband is considered a leader in the city.

(Pr 31:23 NLT) {23} Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders.

Behind every good leader is a good woman.

This kind of woman produces this kind of husband.

A woman’s choice in how she lives her life will affect her husband:

(1 Pet 3:1 NKJV)  Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,

:24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

girdleschagowr – clothed, girded, girt

(Pr 31:24 NLT) {24} She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.

Is it okay for a Christian woman to have a career?

I’d have to say yes.

This is definitely a “career” woman.  She still has a huge responsibility at home, which she doesn’t neglect, but she has a career.

:25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

strength‘oz – might, strength; material or physical; personal or social or political

honourhadar – ornament; splendour, majesty; honour, glory

(Pr 31:25 NASB95) {25} Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

(Pr 31:25 NLT) {25} She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future.

:26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

kindnesscheced – goodness, kindness, faithfulness

(Pr 31:26 NLT) {26} When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions.

:27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

idlenessatsluwth – sluggishness, laziness

(Pr 31:27 The Message) {27} She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.

(Pr 31:27 NLT) {27} She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.

:28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

:29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

(Pr 31:28-29 The Message) {28} Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: {29} “Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”

(Pr 31:28-29 NLT) {28} Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: {29} “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”

Fellows, you ought to be saying this to your wife.

I know for me, every time I read Proverbs 31, I have a wonderful picture of what it looks like living in my house.


Once I had a conversation with Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was President.  I said, “Mr. President, you have known every great man of our time.  Who is the greatest man you ever met?”

Without an instant’s hesitation he said, “The greatest person I ever met wasn’t a man.  It was a woman.  It was my mother.  She never had much schooling but she was wise in God’s wisdom.  She went to school to the greatest of all books, the Bible.  And she acquired real wisdom.”  He said, “Once when I was a boy, my brothers and I were playing a game with my mother.  The game was with cards—not regular playing cards because she was too straight-laced for that—but a hand of cards was dealt and I remember this night Mother dealt me an utterly impossible hand.  And I began to complain about it.

“She said, ‘Boys, put your cards down.  I want to tell you something, especially you, Dwight.  You are playing a game in your home with your mother under loving circumstances.  We all love each other here and I have dealt you a bad hand.  Now,’ she said, ‘when you get out in life where they don’t love you so much, you are going to be dealt many a bad hand.  What are you to do?  You are to pray to God. You are to trust God and like a man you are to play out the hand that is dealt you.’

“And,” said Dwight Eisenhower, “that is one of the wisest things I learned in my youth.”

-- Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

favourchen – favour, grace, charm; elegance

deceitfulsheqer – lie, deception, disappointment, falsehood

vainhebel – vapour, breath; vanity (fig.)

shall be praised halal – to shine; to praise

(Pr 31:30 The Message) {30} Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.

When I watch TV, I’m not sure our society understands this.

Our society tries very hard to attain physical beauty, but it’s not the thing that makes life great.

Peter wrote,

(1 Pet 3:3-4 NKJV)  Do not let your adornment be merely outward; arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; {4} rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.


One day I had a speaking engagement in Florida and I shared a table with three elegant young women. I felt fat, forty, and somewhat futile.

Suddenly and unexpectedly God inquired of me, “Why do you think everyone is so tense?”

“Competition,” I replied with sudden understanding.

I distinctly heard his next words: “Jill, you’ll never be competition.”

For the first time I thanked God for my ordinary good looks. I could be a big sister to women, a friendly mother, an aunt. I could relax, knowing I would never threaten anyone. God had made me just right for my ministry of teaching women, and that was all that mattered.

-- Jill Briscoe, The Greatest Lesson I've Ever Learned. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."

:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

A woman like this deserves recognition.  She deserves the fruit of her labors.  She deserves praise at the place where others are honored and recognized.