Proverbs 31 – “Speech of Lemuel’s Mother; Acrostic about the Woman of Valor”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Lemuel’s mother lectures her son about women, wine, and kingship. A woman of valor is praised in an alphabetic acrostic.

II. Photo
Lemuel’s mother speaks about alcohol: “Give strong drink to the hapless and wine to the embittered. Let them drink and forget their poverty, and put their troubles out of mind.” (vv. 6-7)

III. Select Verses
1: The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, with which his mother admonished him:
3-4: Do not give your strength to women, Your vigor, to those who destroy kings. Wine is not for kings, O Lemuel; Not for kings to drink, Nor any strong drink for princes.
6-7: Give strong drink to the hapless And wine to the embittered. Let them drink and forget their poverty, And put their troubles out of mind.
10-12: What a rare find is a capable wife! Her worth is far beyond that of rubies.  Her husband puts his confidence in her, And lacks no good thing. She is good to him, never bad, All the days of her life.
18: She sees that her business thrives; Her lamp never goes out at night.
20: She gives generously to the poor; Her hands are stretched out to the needy.
30: Grace is deceptive, Beauty is illusory; It is for her fear of the LORD That a woman is to be praised.

IV. Outline

1-9. Speech of Lemuel’s mother
    1. Superscription
    2-9. Exhortation
10-31. Acrostic: the woman of valor

V. Comment
Proverbs 31 is made up of two units, a speech made by Lemuel’s mother and an acrostic poem about a woman of valor. In regards to the latter, Fox writes: “The book of Proverbs is devoted to cultivating wise men. Throughout it addresses men’s concerns (such as avoiding promiscuous women), and the wise people it describes are almost all men. Now it concludes by describing a wise woman, but this too is a man’s concern. The poem praises her capabilities in bringing income into the home, caring for her household, showing charity to the poor, speaking wisdom and kindness, and living in fear of God… Contrary to a common modern stereotype of ancient women, this one has considerable independence in interacting with outsiders and conducting her business, and she can even purchase real estate.” (890)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Michael Fox, Proverbs 10-31 (Anchor Yale Bible 18B; New Haven: Yale, 2009).
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