Proverbs Chapter 31

Proverbs 31 #Theology #KinglyWisdom 1 #ProverbsandWomanhood

I am including the research and theological constructs presented in seminary about this chapter of the book because it has become the battering ram of many women over the centuries.  It is important that we understand the backdrop from which this chapter came to us! A more in-depth explanation of the purpose and outline of the book with specific topics is included at the end of the study. It is there so that next month when you read a chapter per day in the book of Proverbs you will have a guide to help you through the information presented in the book.

Chapter 31 is among the Sayings of Lemuel (Merrill, Rooker and Grisanti (Cited from now on as MRG) 2011, 530). Rooker continued.

This chapter has small sections (31:2-9) that address social issues reminiscent of theme addressed elsewhere in the book. This is followed by an acrostically arranged poem that describes the virtuous woman (31:10-31). The two sections are connected by a reference to women (vv. 3,10), a concern for noble character (ḥayilvv. 3,10) as well as a concern for the poor (vv. 9,20). The virtuous woman displays the wise character and qualities emphasized throughout the book. Possibly this positive portrayal of the virtuous woman is intended to counter the many references elsewhere in the book to the wayward woman who tries to seduce young men. The virtuous woman exemplifies the fear of the Lord (vv. 27-31), the prerequisite for wisdom. Thus the end of the book with its focus on wisdom returns to the theme with which the book began in 1:7. (536).

 

These last two sections of Proverbs (chaps. 30-31) return to themes mentioned earlier in the book, especially drunkenness, sexual immorality, and control of the tongue. There is no current information about who Agur and or Lemuel maybe. There are no historical records of the part they played in the theological training or religious teachings during the time of King Solomon. The only mention of these two individuals appears at the end of Proverbs.  We can break up the last chapter of Proverbs into 2 headings.

  1. The Wisdom of an astute King: verses 2-9 and
  2. The Example of Womanhood: verses 10-31

 

Part 1 The Wisdom of an astute King

  1. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
  2. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? What did we teach you, my son? The answer to the question follows.
  3. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
  4. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: WHY? Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.  Unhappiness is a marker for alcoholism and so are hereditary markers.

This admonishment identifies how to live a righteous holy life that demonstrates sobriety instead of drunkenness, and compassion for the plight of others instead of having an attitude of indifference that leads to tyrannical behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: The Example of Womanhood: verses

The virtuous woman displays the wise character and qualities emphasized throughout the book. Possibly this positive portrayal of the virtuous woman is intended to counter the many references elsewhere in the book to the wayward woman who tries to seduce young men. The virtuous woman exemplifies the fear of the Lord (vv. 27-31), the prerequisite for wisdom. Thus the end of the book with its focus on wisdom returns to the theme with which the book began in 1:7 (MRG 534)

 

  • 10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Stellar character.
  • 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. Her husband knows that she will not commit adultery. Scripture tells us that if we have thought about it we have done. We have a higher expectation of behavior from the Lord. Matthew 5:28 (KJV)But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman [or man] to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
  • 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. This is where many wheels of relationships fall off the wagon. When something goes wrong in a marriage – even if it is adultery, what is the first thing that comes out of the mouth of the mate? Usually, name calling!
  • 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. This wife works along with her husband to provide for the family. She is careful in her spending and ensures that the needs of her family are met. The burden is not always on her husband. This does not mean that stay at home mothers are not virtuous women. This is simply stating that this woman supports her husband.
  • 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
  • 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
  • 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
  • 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. This verse continues the concern for the poor shown throughout the book21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet .22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Altruism is a theme that permeates this book. This woman demonstrates those values by 1) taking care of the poor and needy 2) Taking care of her own family. 3) She takes care of herself-this is an area where many women fall short. Women are so busy, being busy that they forget that they need to take care of themselves. 4) Her husband is trustworthy and she takes care of him. He also trusts her! 5) Even the store owners [tradesmen] trust her and appreciate the work that she does with her hands. Today, can working women, or volunteering woman be trusted? Are they known for their trustworthiness?
  • 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. Women can be strong and can also be honored.
  • 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Again the theme of the book is reiterated. Wisdom. It is possible for a woman to be wise.

The virtuous woman exemplifies the fear of the Lord (vv. 27-31). Her Christian character is known within her community.

  • 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
  • 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.
  • 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

 

Now that we are completing the study on the book of Proverbs I want to provide readers with some of the theological research that identifies the purpose of the book.

The Information below comes from (MRG 2011, 533-536).

THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK

The purpose of the book of Proverbs, stated in the introduction (1:2-7), is delineated through the use of five infinitive verbs: to know, to discern, to receive, to give, and to understand. Thus the book is like an instructional manual to lead people in righteous living before God. Issues on the execution of sacrifices and worship, so important in other aspects of Israel’s religious life, receive little attention (7:1415:8,2917:121:3,2728:9), though the fundamental theological presuppositions of biblical wisdom do not differ in any respect with those of the law and the prophets. The presupposition behind the instruction and the wisdom to be attained is the fear or reverence of God, a commitment to put the Lord as the center of one’s life (1:7). Thus commitment to the Lord is the appropriate starting point for the acquiring of wisdom. Fearing the Lord determines one’s progress in wisdom and is characterized by obedience (Garrett  1993, 54; MRG 532).

The Book’s Contents

I. Reflections On the Way of Wisdom (Chaps. 1-9)

As already noted, the stated purpose of the book of Proverbs is given in the introduction (1:2-7). These verses introduce not only the first major section (1:8-9:18) but also the book as a whole. The statement that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (1:7) is repeated toward the end of the first section in 9:10, thereby setting up an inclusion for the first section. These chapters present life as a “structured world of boundaries.”In this first major section several speeches open with the teacher addressing the pupil as his son (1:82:13:1), thus giving a parental tone to the entire section. No consensus has emerged regarding the number of individual units in 1:8-9:18. Suggestions have ranged from 10 to 17 individual divisions in this first major section. Longman divides the section into 17 divisions: [ Van Leeuwen, 2008, 175; MRG 533).

Superscription (1:1)

  1. The Purpose of the Book (1:1-7)
  2. Avoid Evil Associations (1:8-19)
  3. Don’t Resist Woman Wisdom (1:20-33)
  4. The Benefits of the Way of Wisdom (chap. 2)
  5. Trust in the Lord (3:1-12)
  6. Praising Wisdom (3:13-20)
  7. The Integrity of Wisdom (3:21-35)
  8. Embrace Wisdom! (4:1-9)
  9. Stay on the Right Path (4:10-19)
  10. Guard Your Heart (4:20-27)
  11. Avoid Promiscuous Women; Love Your Wife (chap. 5)
  12. Wisdom Admonitions: Loans, Laziness, Lying, and Other Topics (6:1-19)
  13. The Danger of Adultery (6:20-35)
  14. Avoid Promiscuous Women; Part II (chap. 7)
  15. Wisdom’s Autobiography (chap. 8)
  16. The Ultimate Encounter: Wisdom or Folly (9:1-6,13-18)
  17. Miscellaneous Wisdom Sayings (9:7-12) (Longman 2002, 23; MRG 534).

 

The above explanation will help the reader to grasp the themes noted in the book of Proverbs. Understanding the contextual purposes of the chapters and verses makes the book come alive.

 

MRG continues

Ten of the discourses are introduced with the phrase “my son” (1:82:13:1,214:1,10205:16:207:1). Throughout the section, only two options are given: the way of wisdom or the way of folly. Wisdom is presented not as an abstract ideal, but as a practical companion for those who would choose her path (MRG, 534).

While praising the virtues of pursuing wisdom, the teacher continually warns the pupil about the ways of folly that lead to destruction. These foolish ways include

  1. violence (1:10-194:14-19),
  2. hastiness (6:1-5),
  3. laziness (6:6-11),
  4. dishonesty (6:12-15),
  5. and particularly sexual immorality (2:16-195:3-206:23-357:4-279:13-18).
  6. While wisdom is thrice personified as a respectable and attractive woman (1:20-338:1-369:1-6),
  7. folly is depicted as an immoral woman who tries to seduce the young and naive to their death (7:6-279:13-18).
  8. Wisdom is also personified as a tree of life (3:18), a way (4:10-19), and a craftsman (8:22-31).
  • II. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1-22:16): In marked contrast to 1:1-9:18Prov 10:1-22:16 consists of 375 single proverbial sayings, arranged in no apparent order. The arrangement is not completely haphazard, however, as Proverbs 1-9provides the theological worldview for understanding the various proverbs in Proverbs 10-29. (Van Leeuwen, “Proverbs,” 175; MRG, 534). As noted above, this second major section of the book consists of observations about life presented in distich form. The section continues the contrast between the righteous and the wicked as well as the inevitable consequences of each lifestyle. The contrast between the righteous and the wicked parallels the contrast between wisdom and folly in chaps. 1-9.
  • III. Anonymous Wise Sayings (22:17-24:22): This section has been divided into 29 or 30 proverbial poems that consist of two or three verses each. Many of these short poems include an exhortation or a warning followed by a description of the consequences. The pattern in 22:17-23:12 is almost identical to the Egyptian Teaching of Amenemope, which was probably composed around 1000 BC very close to the time of Solomon. About one-third of the section bears resemblance to the Amenemope text. The similarities between the texts may be explained by the international character of wisdom that is recognized in the Bible itself (1 Kgs 4:29-34). The royal court of Egypt influenced Solomon’s court through marital and other ties. If this account was borrowed from this Egyptian source, it has been adapted to the parameters of the Israelite Yahwistic faith. This brief section includes concise proverbs (e.g., Prov 22:26) as well as longer discourses (22:30-34).
  • IV. More Anonymous Sayings (24:23-34): This section records additional wisdom sayings from Israelite sages. The wise men who generally have been associated with the royal court must have been a prominent class in ancient Israel (Job 15:18Prov 1:622:1724:23Jer 18:18). These men, like Hezekiah’s men (Prov 25:1), may have been royal scribes commissioned with the task of collecting axioms and proverbial sayings about the practical aspects of life.
  • V. More Proverbs of Solomon (Chaps. 25-29): This more lengthy section of Solomon’s proverbs is frequently subdivided into two sections, chaps. 25-27 and chaps. 28-29. The first subsection has parallel lines, which are mostly synthetically parallel, and includes numerous similes and also rules based on practical experience. Chapter 25 has some topical collections that come closest to the longer discourse forms in 1:8-9:18 than in any other portion of the book. The second section (chaps. 28-29) exhibits mostly antithetical parallelism as well as sayings that could be considered more religious in tone. Also contrasts between the rich and the poor are more frequent in these two chapters than in other sections of the book.

The collection of these proverbs during the reign of Hezekiah (715-687 BC) may reflect his focus on effecting a religious reform during his reign (2 Kings 18-20Isaiah 36-39). Of particular importance in this section is a focus on the responsibility of the king to fear the Lord and live in obedience before Him. (MRG,  534-535

  • VI. Sayings of Agur (Chap. 30): In 30:15-33 are graded numerical sayings with three observations that allude to the four types of persons mentioned in 30:11-14 This x, x + 1 pattern is attested elsewhere in the  (Amos 1-2Mic 5:5) and in Ugaritic literature.
  • VII. Sayings of Lemuel (Chap. 31): This chapter has small sections (31:2-9) that address social issues reminiscent of theme addressed elsewhere in the book. This is followed by an acrostically arranged poem that describes the virtuous woman (31:10-31). The two sections are connected by a reference to women (vv. 3,10), a concern for noble character ( ḥayilvv. 3,10) as well as a concern for the poor (vv. 9,20). (Watke The virtuous woman displays the wise character and qualities emphasized throughout the book. Possibly this positive portrayal of the virtuous woman is intended to counter the many references elsewhere in the book to the wayward woman who tries to seduce young men. The virtuous woman exemplifies the fear of the Lord (vv. 27-31), the prerequisite for wisdom. Thus the end of the book with its focus on wisdom returns to the theme with which the book began in 1:7.
  • These last two sections of Proverbs (chaps. 30-31) return to themes mentioned earlier in the book, especially drunkenness, sexual immorality, and control of the tongue. Nothing is known of Agur and Lemuel apart from their being mentioned here at the end of Proverbs. Many scholars connect them with the northern Arabian tribe of Massa, one of Ishmael’s sons (Gen 25:141 Chr 1:30).

THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK

The purpose of the book of Proverbs, stated in the introduction (1:2-7), is delineated through the use of five infinitive verbs: to know, to discern, to receive, to give, and to understand. Thus the book is like an instructional manual to lead people in righteous living before God. Issues on the execution of sacrifices and worship, so important in other aspects of Israel’s religious life, receive little attention (7:1415:8,2917:121:3,2728:9), though the fundamental theological presuppositions of biblical wisdom do not differ in any respect with those of the law and the prophets. The presupposition behind the instruction and the wisdom to be attained is the fear or reverence of God, a commitment to put the Lord as the center of one’s life (1:7). Thus commitment to the Lord is the appropriate starting point for the acquiring of wisdom. Fearing the Lord determines one’s progress in wisdom and is characterized by obedience.

References

  1. Garrett, D. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, NAC (Nashville: B&H, 1993), 54.
  2. Merrill, Eugene H., Rooker, Mark, and Grisanti, Michael A.. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. B&H Publishing Group, 2014. Accessed July 31, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
  3. Van Leeuwen, quoted by Merrill, Eugene H., et al. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament, B&H Publishing Group, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/lib/liberty/detail.action?docID=731407
  4. Watke, B. quoted by Merrill, Eugene H., et al. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament, B&H Publishing Group, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-

 

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