The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:
2 What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
3 Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
5 For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
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 trouble no more.
8 Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
King Lemuel shares of the wisdom that his mother imparted to him concerning what makes a king rule with understanding and justice. His mother advised him to heed the commands of Scripture to stay away from all forms of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:3) including the multiplying of wives, which was common practice among the kings of old. This would likely turn a man’s heart away as it did Solomon’s as the king became focused on sinful pleasure rather than upon the wisdom of God. Deuteronomy 17:17 says of the Israel’s king, “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.” A king who wants to rule wisely needs also to avoid drunkenness and the lure of escaping reality with strong drink. Proverbs 20:1 says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” Strong drink would impair his judgment, and it could lead to him to make terrible decisions without realizing what he was doing. He might forget the law of God and the law of the land and act in a way that defrauds people of their rights. It is the king’s responsibility to look out for the needs of the downtrodden and lowly, and this would not happen if a king’s mind is overtaken by a corrupt sex drive or by too much alcohol. King Lemuel’s mother suggested leaving the alcohol to those facing imminent death to help cope with pain and suffering. Many who face poverty drink to forget the pain of their lives, and, while this is wrong and unwise (Ephesians 5:18), it is less dangerous for society at large than if the leader of a country is a drunkard. The weak, disabled, unfortunate, poor, and afflicted need the king to stand up and defend their rights and dignity. The king can’t shirk his responsibility to lead and to dispense justice, and those who have a mind which is sober in spirit (1 Peter 1:13) and led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14) can do just that.
10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
An excellent wife is a rare find (Ecclesiastes 7:27-29) and a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Few people seek after God, and it is a special provision of God to find a mate who loves the Lord and who is fully trustworthy. No money can buy such a person, and thus her worth is beyond the value of any earthly possession or treasure. Her husband has full confidence in her loyalty and in her ability to keep her promises and commitments. Because of her character, there is no reason for her husband to be concerned that she will stop loving him, that she is only pretending to be devoted to him, or that she might find a better husband one day and leave him. Having her as a help, support, encouragement, friend, counselor, and lover is a source of strength for him and a great blessing that helps him succeed in what God gives him to do. He can be sure that she will never do something to harm or betray him, but, all of the days of her life with him, she will do him good. Because she fears God, she loves good and hates evil, and her life bears that out.
13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
The excellent wife is not bound to certain stereotypes or social norms in that she lets the Word of God dictate what she does with her time, skills, and energy. She is free to use her skillset and enjoy doing so if that is what she wants to do. If she likes to sow, she can gather the materials and sow to make her family clothes (see also verses 19-21). If she has other skills, she can use those, but she is always careful to do what she can do make sure her family has adequate food and clothing. She is not one who spends her life gossiping and getting into trouble (1 Timothy 3:11, 1 Timothy 5:13), but she lives a productive life as God gives her strength and according to the talents she has been given. Undertaking business ventures may be part of that skillset, and she is free before God to start a business. Perhaps she buys a field and plants a vineyard, and she does what she is able to help bring financial gain to the family (see verse 24). The Bible gives women the freedom to earn money if they so choose, but it is not a prerequisite or guarantee of godliness. The principle is that a woman of excellence will seize upon the opportunities that God puts in her path, and she will use her gifts to benefit her family and those who are less fortunate.
17 She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
The excellent wife is not afraid of work, and she is not lazy. Her arms are not weak from choosing to do nothing and frittering her day away not looking after her family’s needs. In fact, her arms are strong as a result of her labor. The size of a woman’s biceps is not indicative of godliness, but the principle here is that a godly wife isn’t a busybody, a gossip, lazy, or a wasted talent. She uses the skills that God has given her for His glory, and she is faithful to be a worker at home so that her family does not get neglected (Titus 2:3-5).
18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
A godly wife finds satisfaction is seeing the fruit of the works of her hands. Her productivity as a mother and wife is a good thing, and it is an honor to her and a blessing to her family. When a child comes in with a bad dream or something last minute needs her attention, she is not afraid to burn the midnight oil if she must. A woman’s lack of sleep is not indicative of her level of spirituality, however, for all people need adequate rest. The principle is that she recognizes that, even at night, she is still on call if need be. This doesn’t exempt the husband from pitching in around the house and helping out with the children so that mom can get some needed sleep. It is a team effort, and the instructions here are just focusing on the wife’s responsibilities, not implying that the husband has no responsibilities at home.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
In this specific instance, the wife is pictured as having great skill in making clothing, and she uses that skill to dress her own family and to give clothes to the needy. Those in her household will be ready even for cold weather with adequate coverings, and she even makes fine apparel for herself. It is not that fine dress makes a godly woman (1 Peter 3:3-4), but a godly woman is free to look her best as she desires in accordance with proper modesty and discretion. Having made sure her household is taken care of, she gives as she is able to those who are in need because she cares about the poor. Her love for the Lord compels her to be compassionate and concerned for those who do not have the resources, skills, money, and opportunity that she might have. Not every woman must feel that she has to sow or make clothes for the poor. The principles are clear, however, that a godly wife does all that she can to see that her family’s needs are met, she gives according to her ability to those who are in need, and she cares about those who are less fortunate.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
A godly wife does not have to have a husband who is well-known or in a position of power and influence in the community. But what a godly wife will do is enable her husband to be all that he can be in the Lord and according to the gifts that God has given him. He will be more effective practically and spiritually because of her support, help, provision, and influence (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
This particular woman uses her individual skills to help support her family and to have resources to provide for the needy. This particular woman was skilled at making various garments and belts that various tradesmen would purchase from her. This doesn’t mean that all women need to learn this specific skillset, but the principle is that a godly woman is a wise steward of her individual gifting and skills. She uses her time, energy, and resources for the benefit of her family and for others. She is not lazy (v. 27) or consumed by worthless activities, but she recognizes what matters in life and acts accordingly.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She has great internal confidence, boldness, and security in Christ, and she trusts Him for the future well-being of her family. She is faithful to do her part to prepare for the future and to plan accordingly, and thus she can look forward to what may come with hope, anticipation, and courage. She is dignified because she is a woman of loyalty, devotion, sacrifice, love, compassion, and integrity. She is strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Essential to being a godly wife is believing the Bible and being able to teach it to her children. She must be able to speak words of wisdom to her children and to help train them in righteousness. She doesn’t do this in wrath or impatience, but she is forbearing, gentle, gracious, and kind. She teaches her children how to hold tightly and rightly to the truth of the Lord and how to be full of kindness and grace as well. She models kindness by her actions so that her children can both hear the truth and see the truth in practice. She does all that she can to teach her children how to love God with all of their hearts and to love their neighbors as themselves.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
A godly wife and mother is keenly aware of the practical needs of the household, she does her share of the labor, she trains her children how to work also, she teaches them the ways of the Lord, and she makes sure God is honored in the home. She does not waste her days or skirt her responsibilities (see also 1 Timothy 3:11, 5:13 and Titus 2:3). This doesn’t mean that she cannot rest, socialize, or have some fun. In fact, she should live a life of balance as much as possible, and she is more likely to achieve balance which will help her endure if she has been faithful to train her children well, to plan ahead, and to work hard so that she can have time to relax as well.
28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
The goal of every godly woman should be to raise children that will praise God. If she is successful at this, she will be filled with joy when they thank her and honor her for a job well done. Her husband also if he has any dignity whatsoever will clearly recognize the faithful labor, the steadfast love, and the joy that his wife has brought to the family, and he, too, will call her blessed, thank her, and compliment her many times. A godly husband will be attuned to the efforts that his wife makes to care for the family, and he will recognize her and praise her for her faithful love and devotion. He will be amazed at how special she is and amazed at what she has done.
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
The Book of Proverbs has included many warnings about the adulteress and her devious, destructive ways, but it concludes on a high note, having painted a picture of the noble characteristics of a godly wife. Charm can include lies, false pretenses, flattery, and deceit, but a woman of God is honest, loyal, trustworthy, and pure. That charm is deceitful doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t have a pleasant personality, but it means that she is straightforward in her dealings and conversations. She does not put forth a shady testimony or change her opinions and beliefs based upon the company just to make people like her. She is grounded in truth, and she lets her faith in Christ be a large part of her appeal. External beauty is vain in the sense that a beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22). Those who have such a woman as a wife will find her untrustworthy and difficult to live with. Many are the warnings in Proverbs about the contentious woman who seeks her own way and pursues her own agendas at the expense of her husband and children. But a woman who fears God will have tremendous character and inner beauty that will appeal to a godly man because he will recognize that she will be loyal, trustworthy, and devoted to him and any children they might have together. As two walk closely with Christ, they can grow closer together. This makes a woman’s appeal that much greater and stronger, and it makes her external beauty shine brighter, purer, and truer. Physical appearances decay with natural aging, but with a couple who fears God and adores one another, the attraction will always run deep because the marriage wasn’t based upon selfishness, vanity, and passing things but upon depth of character and unity at the soul level. None of this is to underemphasize physical attraction in marriage given that Song of Solomon glorifies sexual attraction in marriage at great length. It is simply to say that physical beauty can either be rendered meaningless when love for Christ is absent, or a heart that loves the Lord can enhance the physical form and make the appeal to the right godly man irresistible.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
It is a sad reality when the world doesn’t recognize beauty, strength, and dignity of the inner person, but it is a godly testimony regardless of the response of society when a woman of character loves her husband, cares for her children, works hard, uses her skills and talents to God’s glory, and has compassion for those who are less fortunate. As she shines forth the light of Christ in her integrity, compassion, and good works, God will be glorified, and the gospel will go forth (Matthew 5:16). She deserves praise and honor for a job well done and for being a tremendous example of godliness and how to make a wise investment (1 Timothy 2:15). The fruit of her life demonstrates the reality of her excellent spirit in Christ, and she will receive honor from Him for a life wisely lived.