The wife of noble character.
v.10-31 are an acrostic poem.
Praise for her character.
v.10-12 An excellent wife who can find? (Rhetorical question.) A good wife comes from the Lord (19:14) and she (like wisdom, 3:15) is more precious than jewels. Her husband trusts her with his heart and she will enrich his life. She does him good and not harm all the days of her life. In the Bible, Ruth was said to be a woman of noble character (Ru 3:11, worthy woman).
Praise for her activities.
v.13-15 She is an industrious woman providing food for her large household and spinning yarn. She works with willing hands, rising early to get a good start on the day.
v.16-18 She is a woman of financial enterprise, buying a field and operating it at a profit. She sets about her work vigorously and with strength.
v.19-21 She provides warm clothing for her family working hard at the sewing machine. She opens her arms to the poor and needy in her community.
v.22-24 She makes bed coverings and fine clothes for her family. Her husband is well respected in the community. She makes clothing and other items to sell to merchants.
Praise for her wisdom and merit.
v.25-27 She is clothed with strength and dignity and can confidently look to the future. She is wise and gracious in her speech and provides faithful instruction. She watches over all the affairs of her household and is not slothful.
v.28-29 Her children rise and call her blessed and her husband praises her: “many woman do excellent things, but you surpass them all.”
v.30-31 She is a woman who fears the Lord and deserves reward and recognition.
Read Proverbs 31:10-31
The words of King Lemuel.
v.1 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him. No one knows who King Lemuel was or where he was king. “An oracle” could be rendered “of Massa” as in 30:1. v.2-9 provide instruction on what the ideal human king should look like.
v.2-3 What are you doing my son? (The repetition of son indicates the seriousness.) Do not waste your strength on women and on those who destroy kings. Perhaps the idea is that having many women saps his strength to rule well.
v.4-5 Kings should not be given to strong drink (20:1). It clouds their judgment and interferes with their role as protector of the afflicted. They will forget their laws and pervert justice.
v.6-7 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing and those in bitter distress; that they remember their misery no more.
v.8-9 Judge righteously, protecting the rights of the poor and needy and all who are destitute. Speak for the one who is mute and unable to speak for himself.
Read Proverbs 31:1-9
v.15a The leech has two daughters named Give and Give (or give, give, they cry, ESV text note). The point may be an observation of someone who is demanding of you and never satisfied.
v.15b-16 This proverb uses the formula n, n+1. Three things are never satisfied, four never say enough: (1) Sheol, (2) the barren womb, (3) land never watered, and (4) a fire that is never quenched. Life is full of such situations.
v.17 A curse, this proverb says that a child who does not honor his parents will die (using the metaphor of an eye picked out by ravens).
v.18-20 Three things are too wonderful, four I don’t understand: (1) the way of an eagle in the sky, (2) the way of a serpent on a rock, (3) the way of a ship on the high seas, and (4) the way of a man with a virgin. Verse 20 is perhaps a key to the significance of the list of four situations. The eagle, serpent, and ship move along but leave no mark (an likewise the man with the virgin, assuming she stays a virgin). Likewise an adulteress leaves no mark but there are consequences to her behavior.
v.21-23 Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear: (1) a slave who becomes king, (2) a fool filled with food, (3) an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and (4) a maidservant when she displaces her mistress. Such persons are insufferable (like someone at work promoted beyond his or her level of competence).
v.24-28 Four things on earth are small but very wise: (1) ants are not strong but they provide their food in summer, (2) rock badgers are not mighty but they make their homes in the cliffs, (3) locusts have no king but they march in ranks, (4) the lizard you can hold in your hand but it lives in king’s palaces. Each provides an important life lesson (e.g., ants teach us to make provision for the future).
v.29-31 There are three things that walk stately, four that strut about: (1) the lion, (2) the rooster, (3) the he-goat, and (4) a king whose army is with him. The majesty of a king is not in himself (like the animals) but in his subjects.
v.32-33 If you have acted foolishly by exalting yourself or planning evil, put a hand over your mouth and keep silent. For as the churning of milk produces curd, so stirring up anger produces strife.
Read Proverbs 30:15-33
The words of Agur.
v.1 These are the words of Agur, but the identity of this Agur is unknown. All we know is what is indicated in the text: Agur, son of Jakeh, the man of Massa (ESV text note). His words are given as: “I am weary O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.” These rather depressing words are difficult to translate and there are varying interpretations.
v.2-4 Here Agur considers himself too stupid to be a man. He doesn’t have understanding and has not learned wisdom. He does not have knowledge of the holy one. He asks several rhetorical questions reminiscent of God’s questions in Jb 38-39. The answer to them is of course only God himself.
v.5-6 Every word of God proves to be true, do not add to them lest you be found a liar (and he rebuke you). The Lord is a shield to those who take refuge in him. See Ps 18:30. Wise people recognize their ignorance and trust in the words of God.
v.7-9 The only prayer in Proverbs. Agur asks for: (1) remove me far from falsehood and lying, (2) give me neither poverty nor riches, and (3) feed me with the food that is needful for me. His requests indicate that what he wants is good character and to be keep from circumstances that would endanger his character. He wants fair winds and a following sea (don’t we all). The poor worry about having sufficient food and the rich are weighted down with worries.
v.10 Don’t slander (lie about) a worker to his employer (nor servant to his master) lest he curse you and you be held guilty (by God). You would be damaging the person’s livelihood.
v.11-14 Here are described four types of loathsome people: (1) those who curse their father and do not bless their mother, (2) those who are clean in their own eyes but are covered with filth, (3) those who are arrogant (lofty are their eyes), and (4) those whose teeth are swords devouring the poor and needy.
Read Proverbs 30:1-14
Discipline and trust in the Lord.
v.19-22 Discipline. (v.19) A servant (or a son) is not disciplined by (cannot be corrected by) mere words. That is to say, words alone are not enough, for though he understands he will not heed (see v.15). Train up a child in the way he should go (22:6). (v.20) There is more hope for a fool than a man who is too hasty in his words. Consider your words carefully. Be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jas 1:19). (v.21) A servant pampered from childhood will become a rebel (bring grief, NIV). (v.22) A man of wrath causes trouble and one given to anger much transgression (see also 14:17).
v.23 Pride. A man’s pride will humble him, but he who is humble will obtain honor (humility comes before honor, 15:33). By pride Mordecai lifted his hands against the Jews, but he was humbled on the gallows (Est 3-7). The Lord resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prv 3:34, Jas 4:6).
v.24 Curse. Companions of criminals cannot but help getting entangled in their crimes. Called to testify in court they reveal nothing and bring a curse on their head. The proverb says such a person hates his own life.
v.25-26 Trust in the Lord. (v.25) The fear of man will become a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord is safe. (v.26) Many may seek after a rulers help, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.
v.27 Just and unjust. The unjust are an abomination to the righteous but one who lives an upright life is an abomination to the wicked.
This ends the Hezekiah collection of Solomon’s proverbs (25:1-29:27).
Read Proverbs 29:19-27
The rage of a fool, the endurance of a dynasty, raising children.
v.8-11 These four proverbs consider the rage and violence of folly. (v.8) Scoffers stir up trouble in the city, but the wise man calms down anger (2 Sm 20). (v.9) In an argument the fool is loud and abusive and there can be no quiet. It is a waste of a wise man’s time to try and settle a dispute with a fool. (v.10) They (bloodthirsty men) hate the one who is blameless and seek his life. As they sought the life of Jesus in the NT. (v.11) The fool vents all of his anger and rage, while the wise man holds it back. It takes wisdom to restrain anger and maintain peace and order.
v.12-14 Administration of the king. (v.12) If the ruler listens to falsehood, his officials will become wicked (qualis rex, talis grex — like king, like people). (v.13) The Lord gives life both to the poor man and his oppressor (and therefore the oppressor should treat the poor humanely, 3:27). (v.14) If the king gives justice to the poor his administration (dynasty) will endure (thrive, be secure) forever. The endurance of an administration is determined by its moral character.
v.15-18 Parents should teach their children or there will be chaos in society. (v.15) Discipline and correction give wisdom to your children (and their behavior will be enjoyable). A child left to himself will bring shame on his parents. (v.16) When the wicked increase in number, transgression increases (there will be chaos). The righteous will look upon their downfall. (v.17) Discipline your children and they will be a delight to your heart. (v.18) Where their is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (i.e., there will be chaos). The one who keeps the law will be blessed.
Read Proverbs 29:8-18
Rejoicing of the righteous.
v.1 Sudden death. He who is often corrected but stiffens his neck (doesn’t accept criticism) will be suddenly broken beyond healing. This proverb warns about the danger of stubbornly continuing in sin.
v.2 Righteous rule. When the righteous rule the people rejoice. When the wicked rule the people groan. See also 28:28 forming an inclusio around v.1 which possibly indicates the state of the entire nation Israel (suffering under wicked regimes that will be suddenly destroyed).
v.3 Wise son. The son who loves wisdom makes his father proud, but a son living riotously with prostitutes squanders his wealth (Lk 15:11-32). Wise behavior brings joy and prosperity to the family.
v.4 Justice. Justice brings a country stability, but a ruler greedily seeking bribes (or taxing excessively) brings it down. Wicked rulers put their own interest ahead of the good of the country with disastrous effects.
v.5-6 A snare. One who flatters his neighbor sets a snare for his feet. An evil man is ensnared by his own sin, but the righteous man escapes with joy.
v.7 Rights of the poor. The righteous man knows the rights of the poor (or justice for), but the wicked do not have any such knowledge (or concern).
Read Proverbs 29:1-7
Trust in the Lord.
v.25 Prosperity. A greedy person stirs up trouble in trying to obtain wealth at any cost. He is contrasted with the man who trusts in the Lord and, ironically, prospers. The object of your faith and appetites determine the course of your life. The greed of the first man becomes a hindrance to his obtaining wealth.
v.26 Trust. The one who trusts in himself (his own mind) is a fool (and will not be safe), but he who trusts in the Lord (and is therefore wise) will be kept safe from harm. The human heart is desperately wicked, to trust in it is the epitome of folly.
v.27 The poor. Whomever gives to the poor will not lack anything, but the one who turns his eyes away and doesn’t help will receive many curses (presumably from the poor who are being ignored).
v.28 The wicked. When the wicked rise to power, people hide themselves (28:12). When they perish the righteous will increase. Wisdom benefits both the individual and the community.
Read Proverbs 28:25-28
Hard work and finding favor.
v.19 Work hard. Work (your land) hard and you will be satisfied with food. But if you chase after daydreams you will find your fill of poverty (and go hungry). See 12:11, 20:13.
v.20 Wealth. Earn your wealth ethically with hard work and you will be blessed. Trying to get rich quick will result in ruin and punishment. Don’t be in a hurry to acquire wealth.
v.21 Partiality. The proverb cautions against showing partiality, indicating that for a small bribe a man will do wrong (i.e., show partiality). Rendering a wrong verdict based on a bribe seems to be in view.
v.22 Greed. Stingy, greedy people try to get rich quick, not realizing that they are headed for poverty (v.20). The idea of getting rich quick implies that it is done through some dishonest means.
v.23 A good rebuke. Paradoxically, when you rebuke a man (honest criticism) you will afterward find more favor than the one who only flatters with words.
v.24 Parent robbery. If you rob father and mother (claiming no wrong done) you are a companion of one who destroys (the family). Don’t try to get all of the inheritance for yourself.
Read Proverbs 28:19-24
Fear the Lord always.
v.13 Mercy. If you conceal (cover up, blame others, excuse, indulge) your sins you will not succeed, but if you confess and forsake (abandon) them you will obtain mercy. See 1 Jn 1:9 and Ps 51:4.
v.14 Beatitude. Blessed is the one who fears God always (by confessing and forsaking sins, v.13). But the one who hardens his heart will fall into trouble. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).
v.15-16 Wicked ruler. A wicked ruler is like a dangerous wild animal (i.e., attacking bear or lion) preying on the poor of his country. A ruler without understanding (wisdom) is a cruel oppressor. But, a ruler who doesn’t go after gain unjustly will have prolonged days.
v.17-18 Walk in integrity. Do not help a murderer who is a fugitive fleeing from justice. He who walks in integrity will be delivered but the one crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
Read Proverbs 28:13-18