February 9, 2024

Did the Proverbs 31 Woman Work?

Proverbs 31

Lucina Thompson
Friday's Devo

February 9, 2024

Friday's Devo

February 9, 2024

Big Book Idea

Living wisely—God's way.

Key Verse | Proverbs 31:29

"Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all."

Proverbs 31

The Words of King Lemuel

The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:

What are you doing, my son? 1 31:2 Hebrew What, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
    What are you doing, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
    your ways to those who destroy kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
    and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress; 2 31:6 Hebrew those bitter in soul
let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute. 3 31:8 Hebrew are sons of passing away
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

The Woman Who Fears the LORD

10  4 31:10 Verses 1031 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than 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 harm,
    all the days of her life.
13  She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14  She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15  She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16  She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17  She dresses herself 5 31:17 Hebrew She girds her loins with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18  She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19  She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20  She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21  She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 6 31:21 Or in double thickness
22  She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23  Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24  She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25  Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26  She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27  She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28  Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29  “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31  Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

Footnotes

[1] 31:2 Hebrew What, my son?
[2] 31:6 Hebrew those bitter in soul
[3] 31:8 Hebrew are sons of passing away
[4] 31:10 Verses 10–31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
[5] 31:17 Hebrew She girds her loins
[6] 31:21 Or in double thickness
Table of Contents
Introduction to Proverbs

Introduction to Proverbs

Timeline

Author and Date

Proverbs itself mentions Solomon (reigned c. 971–931 B.C.) as author or collector of its contents (1:1; 10:1), including the proverbs copied by Hezekiah’s men (25:1). There are also two batches of sayings from a group called “the wise” (22:17–24:22; 24:23–34), and “oracles” from Agur (30:1–33) and Lemuel (31:1–9). No author is named for the song in praise of the excellent wife that ends the book (31:10–31). Although Proverbs was begun in the time of Solomon, it probably was not in its present form until the time of Hezekiah (reigned c. 715–686 B.C.).

Theme

The goal of the book is stated right at the beginning (1:1–7): to describe what wisdom is and to help God’s people become wise. Wisdom is founded in the “fear of the Lord,” and it enables believers to express their faith in the practical details of everyday life.

Audience

The book is addressed to a young man. The situations he will face while he is young receive much attention. These situations supply concrete examples from which all readers can apply lessons to their own lives. Anyone who is wise and who pays attention will benefit (1:5) from this instruction.

Reading Proverbs

The reader of Proverbs must seek to understand the various types of people the book describes. The most obvious characters in the book are the wise, the fool, and the simple. Proverbs urges its readers to be wise, which means embracing God’s covenant and living out the covenant in everyday situations (compare 2:2; 10:1). The fool is the person who constantly opposes God’s covenant (1:7b). The simple is the person who is not firmly committed, either to wisdom or to folly; he is easily misled (14:15).

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are “wisdom poems” that urge the reader to pursue wisdom. The main section of Proverbs—the concise, memorable statements of two or three lines—begins in 10:1. Proverbs often seem to be mere observations about life, but their deeper meanings will reveal themselves if the following questions are kept in mind: (1) What virtue does this proverb commend? (2) What vice does it disapprove of? (3) What value does it affirm?

Key Themes

Proverbs offers wisdom on a wide array of topics from daily life: diligence and laziness (6:6–11); friendship (3:27–28; 18:24); speech (10:19–21); marriage (18:22; 19:14); child rearing (22:6); domestic peace (15:17; 17:1); work (11:1); getting along and good manners (23:1–2; 25:16–17; 26:17–19; 27:14); eternity (14:32; 23:17–18); and much more. It shows that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).

  1. God’s will is intensely practical, applying to every aspect of life. A proper relation to God involves trying hard to understand his truth, and then embracing and obeying that truth.
  2. A life lived by God’s will is a happy life (3:21–26).
  3. A life lived by God’s will is a useful life (3:27–28; 12:18, 25).
  4. A life lived by God’s will does not just happen. One must seek after it (9:1–6).

Outline

  1. Title, Goal, and Motto (1:1–7)
  2. A Father’s Invitation to Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  3. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  4. The Thirty Sayings of “the Wise” (22:17–24:22)
  5. Further Sayings of “the Wise” (24:23–34)
  6. Hezekiah’s Collection of Solomonic Proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  7. The Sayings of Agur (30:1–33)
  8. The Sayings of King Lemuel (31:1–9)
  9. An Alphabet of Womanly Excellence (31:10–31)
The Global Message of Proverbs

The Global Message of Proverbs

Proverbs: Wisdom for the World

The book of Proverbs is not simply a collection of “wise sayings” for life. It is heaven-sent help for stumbling sinners all over the world from every walk of life who are willing to listen to something other than their own fallen instincts. The “fool” in Proverbs is not someone who lacks intellectual capacity but one who stubbornly lives out of his own fallen intuitions, resisting instruction and correction. Likewise, the wise person in Proverbs is not someone who is intellectually superior but someone who humbly places himself beneath the authority of God. Such wisdom is for all God’s people everywhere.

In his great mercy God has clearly shown wisdom to the world—both through the instruction of his Word and in the person of his Son. The book of Proverbs summarizes true wisdom as rooted in the “fear of the LORD” (Prov. 1:7). In Jesus such wisdom takes on new clarity and glory as the one who is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24) and who “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). God’s global people are to receive such wise instruction, to base their wise living in the fear and worship of God, and to testify to a lost world about God’s saving wisdom.

God’s Wisdom Is Theological and Practical

In one sense wisdom is very much universal. It is difficult to find a culture or tradition without its own legacy of wise sayings. Some of these are culture-specific; others reflect the shared human experience.

Scripture’s admonition and exhortation about wisdom, however, is clear. Our faith is not to rest on man’s wisdom but is to be rooted in God’s power (1 Cor. 2:5). The wisdom of this world is “folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Ultimate wisdom is from God (1 Cor. 1:30) and is revealed by God (1 Cor. 2:7). True wisdom is theological and God-given. Those who lack wisdom are to “ask God” for it (James 1:5). It is the Lord who gives wisdom (Prov. 2:6). In Proverbs 9:10 God’s people are reminded again that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (compare 1:7). True wisdom is not the handy tips for life that get handed down from generation to generation among those who do not know God. True wisdom is divine. It is rooted in God’s own saving revelation to his people.

God’s wisdom is not only theological; it is also practical. Indeed, wisdom is practical because it is theological. Theology impacts daily life, and this is clearly seen in the instruction of Proverbs. Everyday life issues are addressed, including parental relations (Prov. 10:1; 15:20; 19:26; 23:25), marriage (5:18; 12:4; 18:22; 19:13–14; 31:10), money (3:9; 10:4; 11:1; 15:16; 16:11), and the power and danger of words (4:5; 7:5; 10:19; 16:24; 17:27). These are life issues that affect people of every age and place. Proverbs provides a picture of both the blessed life grounded in the fear of the Lord and the danger-filled and foolish life of those who despise the Lord’s wisdom and instruction (1:7).

God’s Wisdom Is Individual and Global

Individual wisdom. For every person, in every place, in every time, the message of Proverbs rings true: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Wisdom from above is not mere advice or pithy sayings. Rather, the worthiest and most blessed advice flows from God, when he has his proper central place in the heart and worship of each individual created by his hand and in his image.

Global wisdom. The message of Proverbs is also global. This is true, first, because only God’s wisdom comprehensively instructs and skillfully dissects with perfect insight the hearts of mankind from every place and for every time. God’s wisdom is global, second, in that God’s global people are called to global engagement and a global mission. The Lord is not a tribal god. The teaching of Proverbs is not tribal lore. God’s wisdom is eternal and global. And God’s people are called to be instruments, through word and deed, of teaching his wisdom to the world. Those who are wise in God represent God to the world. For example, the wise exhibit generosity to the poor and the needy (Prov. 14:21, 31). The wise in God speak enduring and reliable wisdom to a world desperately looking for life-giving counsel. The wise in God feed even their own enemies (25:21).

Taking God’s Saving Wisdom to the World

In the book of Proverbs the Lord has equipped his people to fulfill his global and eternal purposes. God’s purpose is to reveal himself to and then through a people who will bring eternal blessing to the world, and that purpose is still unfolding around the world today (Matt. 28:18–20). In his kindness God has made known both the path of the wicked (Prov. 4:14) and the path of righteousness (12:28). The one leads to destruction and the other to life (11:19).

When love and grace is observed by the world in the lives of God’s people and supremely in the cross of Christ, it is indeed “folly” to them (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). The wise in God share the good news of the wisdom of God in the gospel of Christ with nations both near and far. Such sharing, when it lands on receptive ears, is “like cold water to a thirsty soul” (Prov. 25:25).In grace God is opening blind eyes through the gospel to his glorious wisdom. In grace he has shown us and empowered us toward a life of God-honoring, upright living. In grace he will use us as his global ambassadors till the day we join in the angelic choir proclaiming, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 7:12).

Job Fact #9: Proverbs in Job

Fact: Proverbs in Job

Proverbs in Job. In 17:5, Job may have been quoting a proverb to warn his friends not to make false accusations against him. Proverbs are an effective and memorable way of stating a truth. The book of Proverbs is a rich resource of such wisdom.

Proverbs Fact #1: Wisdom

Fact: Wisdom

Wisdom is a key term in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The word can mean “skilled at making sound decisions in life.” Proverbs 9:10 states that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

Proverbs Fact #4: Garlands

Fact: Garlands

Garlands were wreaths woven from leaves and flowers. They were worn around the head or neck during various celebrations such as weddings. They were also symbols of honor for military success. In Proverbs, they symbolize the honor that comes from following the way of wisdom (4:9).

Proverbs Fact #7: The simple person

Fact: The simple person

The simple person (7:7) is one of the primary character types described in the book of Proverbs. The term describes someone who is immature and easily misled (14:15).

Proverbs Fact #10: A different kind of security

Fact: A different kind of security

A different kind of security. In biblical times, if a person was unable to pay his debt, the consequences could be serious. The whole family could be sold into slavery. If someone put up “security” for another person, he promised to pay that person’s debt if he was unable to do so himself. Proverbs teaches that putting up security for another person is generally unwise, since those who do so risk losing everything if the other person cannot pay his debt (11:15).

Proverbs Fact #27: Gluttony

Fact: Gluttony

Gluttony refers to excessive eating. The Bible condemns gluttony as well as drunkenness. Proverbs teaches that eating and drinking in excess can lead to poverty (23:19–21).

Proverbs Fact #28: Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs

Fact: Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs

Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs. Although most of the Proverbs were collected or written by King Solomon, who reigned from 971–931 B.C., the book of Proverbs did not exist in its present form until the time of King Hezekiah, some 200 years later. Hezekiah and “his men,” probably his scribes, recorded chs. 25–29.

Proverbs Fact #29: Rock badgers

Fact: Rock badgers

Rock badgers are small cliff-dwelling animals closely resembling guinea pigs. They live and forage for food in large groups and are good at hiding. They are best known for posting sentries that alert the group when danger is near. Perhaps it was this mark of wisdom that earned them a mention in Proverbs (30:26).

Genesis Fact #16: The city gate

Fact: The city gate

The city gate was a place where leaders made key decisions (Prov. 31:23; Lam. 5:14). Lot’s presence at the city gate (Gen. 19:1) shows that he had a position of importance in Sodom.

OT Testimony that All Are under Sin (3:9)

OT Testimony that All Are under Sin (3:9)

Romans 3 OT Reference
Sinful Condition
v. 10, none is righteous Ps. 14:3/53:3; Eccles. 7:20
v. 11a, no one understands Ps. 14:2/53:2
v. 11b, no one seeks for God Ps. 14:2/53:2
v. 12, all have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one Ps. 14:3/53:3
Sinful Speech (note progression from throat to tongue to lips)
v. 13a, b, their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive Ps. 5:10, Septuagint (English, 5:9)
v. 13c, the venom of asps is under their lips Ps. 140:3
v. 14, their mouth is full of curses and bitterness Ps. 10:7
Sinful Action
v. 15, their feet are swift to shed blood Prov. 1:16/Isa. 59:7
v. 16, in their paths are ruin and misery Isa. 59:7
v. 17, and the way of peace they have not known Isa. 59:8
Summary Statement
v. 18, there is no fear of God before their eyes Ps. 36:1
Introduction to Proverbs

Introduction to Proverbs

Timeline

Author and Date

Proverbs itself mentions Solomon (reigned c. 971–931 B.C.) as author or collector of its contents (1:1; 10:1), including the proverbs copied by Hezekiah’s men (25:1). There are also two batches of sayings from a group called “the wise” (22:17–24:22; 24:23–34), and “oracles” from Agur (30:1–33) and Lemuel (31:1–9). No author is named for the song in praise of the excellent wife that ends the book (31:10–31). Although Proverbs was begun in the time of Solomon, it probably was not in its present form until the time of Hezekiah (reigned c. 715–686 B.C.).

Theme

The goal of the book is stated right at the beginning (1:1–7): to describe what wisdom is and to help God’s people become wise. Wisdom is founded in the “fear of the Lord,” and it enables believers to express their faith in the practical details of everyday life.

Audience

The book is addressed to a young man. The situations he will face while he is young receive much attention. These situations supply concrete examples from which all readers can apply lessons to their own lives. Anyone who is wise and who pays attention will benefit (1:5) from this instruction.

Reading Proverbs

The reader of Proverbs must seek to understand the various types of people the book describes. The most obvious characters in the book are the wise, the fool, and the simple. Proverbs urges its readers to be wise, which means embracing God’s covenant and living out the covenant in everyday situations (compare 2:2; 10:1). The fool is the person who constantly opposes God’s covenant (1:7b). The simple is the person who is not firmly committed, either to wisdom or to folly; he is easily misled (14:15).

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are “wisdom poems” that urge the reader to pursue wisdom. The main section of Proverbs—the concise, memorable statements of two or three lines—begins in 10:1. Proverbs often seem to be mere observations about life, but their deeper meanings will reveal themselves if the following questions are kept in mind: (1) What virtue does this proverb commend? (2) What vice does it disapprove of? (3) What value does it affirm?

Key Themes

Proverbs offers wisdom on a wide array of topics from daily life: diligence and laziness (6:6–11); friendship (3:27–28; 18:24); speech (10:19–21); marriage (18:22; 19:14); child rearing (22:6); domestic peace (15:17; 17:1); work (11:1); getting along and good manners (23:1–2; 25:16–17; 26:17–19; 27:14); eternity (14:32; 23:17–18); and much more. It shows that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).

  1. God’s will is intensely practical, applying to every aspect of life. A proper relation to God involves trying hard to understand his truth, and then embracing and obeying that truth.
  2. A life lived by God’s will is a happy life (3:21–26).
  3. A life lived by God’s will is a useful life (3:27–28; 12:18, 25).
  4. A life lived by God’s will does not just happen. One must seek after it (9:1–6).

Outline

  1. Title, Goal, and Motto (1:1–7)
  2. A Father’s Invitation to Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  3. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  4. The Thirty Sayings of “the Wise” (22:17–24:22)
  5. Further Sayings of “the Wise” (24:23–34)
  6. Hezekiah’s Collection of Solomonic Proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  7. The Sayings of Agur (30:1–33)
  8. The Sayings of King Lemuel (31:1–9)
  9. An Alphabet of Womanly Excellence (31:10–31)
Study Notes

Prov. 31:4–5 Kings should serve the well-being of their subjects, especially protecting the rights of all the afflicted. They must never allow their judgment to be clouded by wine or strong drink.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:6–7 The strong drink would help those in bitter distress to forget their poverty. This is often taken to mean that the king should provide strong drink to those who are perishing or in misery, to relieve their physical pain. But it could also mean that the king should invite these people to a banquet where they can have some innocent fun and forget their troubles for a while.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:1–9 The Sayings of King Lemuel. The word translated “oracle” (v. 1) is the same as in 30:1. As in 30:1, some have preferred to see it as the name for a place called Massa (see note on 30:1–33). No one knows who Lemuel was, or where he was king. Most suppose that he was not an Israelite (which is consistent with the Aramaic spellings for son in 31:2 and kings in v. 3b, and with the absence of Yahweh’s name from all the sayings). Verses 2–9 describe the ideal human king: he is judicious personally (vv. 3–4) so that he may protect others through justice (vv. 5, 9) and compassion (vv. 6–8). This description runs contrary to ordinary experience, where power is often used to benefit the leader rather than those being led. If Lemuel was a ruler from outside Israel, then these verses underscore Proverbs’ teaching that all rulers are called upon to rule justly and are judged accordingly (compare Lady Wisdom’s comments in 8:14–16).

Study Notes

Prov. 31:15 By providing for her household and her maidens before the day begins, the “excellent wife” (v. 10) multiplies the effectiveness of her work. Her planning enables everyone else in her household to be productive throughout the day. She does not lie in bed and wait for servants to attend to her.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:16 She is not confined to the home but is engaged in business. This verse demonstrates remarkable financial independence for a woman in the ancient world. She herself considers a field (indicating wise judgment) and buys it (indicating control of a substantial amount of money).

Study Notes

Prov. 31:18 Profitable indicates that she is able to make money from her labor, which she uses to purchase a field (v. 16) and provide for her household (v. 15).

Study Notes

Prov. 31:23 Gates were the center of civic and economic life in an Israelite city. The leading men gathered there. The wife’s excellent work and noble character have contributed significantly to her husband’s success and reputation when he sits among the elders of the land.

Genesis Fact #16: The city gate

Fact: The city gate

The city gate was a place where leaders made key decisions (Prov. 31:23; Lam. 5:14). Lot’s presence at the city gate (Gen. 19:1) shows that he had a position of importance in Sodom.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:25 Strength and dignity are so much a part of her character and conduct that they seem to be almost like her clothing. She laughs at the future, in contrast with being worried or fearful about it.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:26 The wisdom that God teaches in Proverbs can be well understood by both men and women (compare note on 1:8).

Study Notes

Prov. 31:28–29 In a loving family, the members value each other. Here the children and husband offer their praise. Verse 29 gives the words of the husband, or perhaps of both husband and children.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:30 The mention of a woman who fears the LORD at the end of this long list of excellent qualities brings back the theme of the book of Proverbs stated in 1:7 (see note). It reminds readers that this woman excels in her fear of the Lord. She is a model of the character traits and wisdom taught throughout the book. Inserting “fear of the Lord” at the end of this list is a reminder that this quality is more important than even great skill and talent. A godly woman may well have skill and beauty, but these are of secondary importance to her godliness.

Study Notes

Prov. 31:10–31 An Alphabet of Womanly Excellence. As the ESV footnote to v. 10 explains, this wisdom poem is an acrostic. Each successive verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The poem begins and ends with mention of the woman’s “excellence” (vv. 10, 29–31). The probable intention of putting this in an acrostic pattern is to show that this woman’s character runs the whole range of excellence. The woman is married, and she is devoted to the well-being of her household (vv. 11–13, 15, 17, 19, 21–22, 25, 27). She contributes financially to her family (vv. 14, 16, 18, 24). At the same time she makes her home the center of ministry by giving generously to the poor (v. 20) and by instructing her children and household workers in true kindness (v. 26). Her husband and children enjoy their lives and honor her for her industry (vv. 11–12, 23, 28–29). This portrait of excellence sets such a high standard that it can be depressing to godly women today until its purpose is understood. First, the woman embodies wisdom in all areas of life. This shows that the teaching of Proverbs is intended for all of God’s people. Second, this profile is an ideal. It is not expected that any one woman will look exactly like this in every way. Rather, it is an example of full-scale virtue and wisdom toward which the faithful are willing to be molded.

Prov. 31:31 The wife’s works are known and appreciated in the gates (compare v. 23), and therefore throughout the town. Give her of the fruit of her hands means that she should be given some personal reward for her excellent work. let her works praise her. The excellent character and work of such a woman calls for public honor.

See chart See chart
OT Testimony that All Are under Sin (3:9)

OT Testimony that All Are under Sin (3:9)

Romans 3 OT Reference
Sinful Condition
v. 10, none is righteous Ps. 14:3/53:3; Eccles. 7:20
v. 11a, no one understands Ps. 14:2/53:2
v. 11b, no one seeks for God Ps. 14:2/53:2
v. 12, all have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one Ps. 14:3/53:3
Sinful Speech (note progression from throat to tongue to lips)
v. 13a, b, their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive Ps. 5:10, Septuagint (English, 5:9)
v. 13c, the venom of asps is under their lips Ps. 140:3
v. 14, their mouth is full of curses and bitterness Ps. 10:7
Sinful Action
v. 15, their feet are swift to shed blood Prov. 1:16/Isa. 59:7
v. 16, in their paths are ruin and misery Isa. 59:7
v. 17, and the way of peace they have not known Isa. 59:8
Summary Statement
v. 18, there is no fear of God before their eyes Ps. 36:1
Introduction to Proverbs

Introduction to Proverbs

Timeline

Author and Date

Proverbs itself mentions Solomon (reigned c. 971–931 B.C.) as author or collector of its contents (1:1; 10:1), including the proverbs copied by Hezekiah’s men (25:1). There are also two batches of sayings from a group called “the wise” (22:17–24:22; 24:23–34), and “oracles” from Agur (30:1–33) and Lemuel (31:1–9). No author is named for the song in praise of the excellent wife that ends the book (31:10–31). Although Proverbs was begun in the time of Solomon, it probably was not in its present form until the time of Hezekiah (reigned c. 715–686 B.C.).

Theme

The goal of the book is stated right at the beginning (1:1–7): to describe what wisdom is and to help God’s people become wise. Wisdom is founded in the “fear of the Lord,” and it enables believers to express their faith in the practical details of everyday life.

Audience

The book is addressed to a young man. The situations he will face while he is young receive much attention. These situations supply concrete examples from which all readers can apply lessons to their own lives. Anyone who is wise and who pays attention will benefit (1:5) from this instruction.

Reading Proverbs

The reader of Proverbs must seek to understand the various types of people the book describes. The most obvious characters in the book are the wise, the fool, and the simple. Proverbs urges its readers to be wise, which means embracing God’s covenant and living out the covenant in everyday situations (compare 2:2; 10:1). The fool is the person who constantly opposes God’s covenant (1:7b). The simple is the person who is not firmly committed, either to wisdom or to folly; he is easily misled (14:15).

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are “wisdom poems” that urge the reader to pursue wisdom. The main section of Proverbs—the concise, memorable statements of two or three lines—begins in 10:1. Proverbs often seem to be mere observations about life, but their deeper meanings will reveal themselves if the following questions are kept in mind: (1) What virtue does this proverb commend? (2) What vice does it disapprove of? (3) What value does it affirm?

Key Themes

Proverbs offers wisdom on a wide array of topics from daily life: diligence and laziness (6:6–11); friendship (3:27–28; 18:24); speech (10:19–21); marriage (18:22; 19:14); child rearing (22:6); domestic peace (15:17; 17:1); work (11:1); getting along and good manners (23:1–2; 25:16–17; 26:17–19; 27:14); eternity (14:32; 23:17–18); and much more. It shows that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).

  1. God’s will is intensely practical, applying to every aspect of life. A proper relation to God involves trying hard to understand his truth, and then embracing and obeying that truth.
  2. A life lived by God’s will is a happy life (3:21–26).
  3. A life lived by God’s will is a useful life (3:27–28; 12:18, 25).
  4. A life lived by God’s will does not just happen. One must seek after it (9:1–6).

Outline

  1. Title, Goal, and Motto (1:1–7)
  2. A Father’s Invitation to Wisdom (1:8–9:18)
  3. Proverbs of Solomon (10:1–22:16)
  4. The Thirty Sayings of “the Wise” (22:17–24:22)
  5. Further Sayings of “the Wise” (24:23–34)
  6. Hezekiah’s Collection of Solomonic Proverbs (25:1–29:27)
  7. The Sayings of Agur (30:1–33)
  8. The Sayings of King Lemuel (31:1–9)
  9. An Alphabet of Womanly Excellence (31:10–31)
The Global Message of Proverbs

The Global Message of Proverbs

Proverbs: Wisdom for the World

The book of Proverbs is not simply a collection of “wise sayings” for life. It is heaven-sent help for stumbling sinners all over the world from every walk of life who are willing to listen to something other than their own fallen instincts. The “fool” in Proverbs is not someone who lacks intellectual capacity but one who stubbornly lives out of his own fallen intuitions, resisting instruction and correction. Likewise, the wise person in Proverbs is not someone who is intellectually superior but someone who humbly places himself beneath the authority of God. Such wisdom is for all God’s people everywhere.

In his great mercy God has clearly shown wisdom to the world—both through the instruction of his Word and in the person of his Son. The book of Proverbs summarizes true wisdom as rooted in the “fear of the LORD” (Prov. 1:7). In Jesus such wisdom takes on new clarity and glory as the one who is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24) and who “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). God’s global people are to receive such wise instruction, to base their wise living in the fear and worship of God, and to testify to a lost world about God’s saving wisdom.

God’s Wisdom Is Theological and Practical

In one sense wisdom is very much universal. It is difficult to find a culture or tradition without its own legacy of wise sayings. Some of these are culture-specific; others reflect the shared human experience.

Scripture’s admonition and exhortation about wisdom, however, is clear. Our faith is not to rest on man’s wisdom but is to be rooted in God’s power (1 Cor. 2:5). The wisdom of this world is “folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Ultimate wisdom is from God (1 Cor. 1:30) and is revealed by God (1 Cor. 2:7). True wisdom is theological and God-given. Those who lack wisdom are to “ask God” for it (James 1:5). It is the Lord who gives wisdom (Prov. 2:6). In Proverbs 9:10 God’s people are reminded again that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (compare 1:7). True wisdom is not the handy tips for life that get handed down from generation to generation among those who do not know God. True wisdom is divine. It is rooted in God’s own saving revelation to his people.

God’s wisdom is not only theological; it is also practical. Indeed, wisdom is practical because it is theological. Theology impacts daily life, and this is clearly seen in the instruction of Proverbs. Everyday life issues are addressed, including parental relations (Prov. 10:1; 15:20; 19:26; 23:25), marriage (5:18; 12:4; 18:22; 19:13–14; 31:10), money (3:9; 10:4; 11:1; 15:16; 16:11), and the power and danger of words (4:5; 7:5; 10:19; 16:24; 17:27). These are life issues that affect people of every age and place. Proverbs provides a picture of both the blessed life grounded in the fear of the Lord and the danger-filled and foolish life of those who despise the Lord’s wisdom and instruction (1:7).

God’s Wisdom Is Individual and Global

Individual wisdom. For every person, in every place, in every time, the message of Proverbs rings true: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Wisdom from above is not mere advice or pithy sayings. Rather, the worthiest and most blessed advice flows from God, when he has his proper central place in the heart and worship of each individual created by his hand and in his image.

Global wisdom. The message of Proverbs is also global. This is true, first, because only God’s wisdom comprehensively instructs and skillfully dissects with perfect insight the hearts of mankind from every place and for every time. God’s wisdom is global, second, in that God’s global people are called to global engagement and a global mission. The Lord is not a tribal god. The teaching of Proverbs is not tribal lore. God’s wisdom is eternal and global. And God’s people are called to be instruments, through word and deed, of teaching his wisdom to the world. Those who are wise in God represent God to the world. For example, the wise exhibit generosity to the poor and the needy (Prov. 14:21, 31). The wise in God speak enduring and reliable wisdom to a world desperately looking for life-giving counsel. The wise in God feed even their own enemies (25:21).

Taking God’s Saving Wisdom to the World

In the book of Proverbs the Lord has equipped his people to fulfill his global and eternal purposes. God’s purpose is to reveal himself to and then through a people who will bring eternal blessing to the world, and that purpose is still unfolding around the world today (Matt. 28:18–20). In his kindness God has made known both the path of the wicked (Prov. 4:14) and the path of righteousness (12:28). The one leads to destruction and the other to life (11:19).

When love and grace is observed by the world in the lives of God’s people and supremely in the cross of Christ, it is indeed “folly” to them (1 Cor. 1:18, 21). But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). The wise in God share the good news of the wisdom of God in the gospel of Christ with nations both near and far. Such sharing, when it lands on receptive ears, is “like cold water to a thirsty soul” (Prov. 25:25).In grace God is opening blind eyes through the gospel to his glorious wisdom. In grace he has shown us and empowered us toward a life of God-honoring, upright living. In grace he will use us as his global ambassadors till the day we join in the angelic choir proclaiming, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 7:12).

Job Fact #9: Proverbs in Job

Fact: Proverbs in Job

Proverbs in Job. In 17:5, Job may have been quoting a proverb to warn his friends not to make false accusations against him. Proverbs are an effective and memorable way of stating a truth. The book of Proverbs is a rich resource of such wisdom.

Proverbs Fact #1: Wisdom

Fact: Wisdom

Wisdom is a key term in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The word can mean “skilled at making sound decisions in life.” Proverbs 9:10 states that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

Proverbs Fact #4: Garlands

Fact: Garlands

Garlands were wreaths woven from leaves and flowers. They were worn around the head or neck during various celebrations such as weddings. They were also symbols of honor for military success. In Proverbs, they symbolize the honor that comes from following the way of wisdom (4:9).

Proverbs Fact #7: The simple person

Fact: The simple person

The simple person (7:7) is one of the primary character types described in the book of Proverbs. The term describes someone who is immature and easily misled (14:15).

Proverbs Fact #10: A different kind of security

Fact: A different kind of security

A different kind of security. In biblical times, if a person was unable to pay his debt, the consequences could be serious. The whole family could be sold into slavery. If someone put up “security” for another person, he promised to pay that person’s debt if he was unable to do so himself. Proverbs teaches that putting up security for another person is generally unwise, since those who do so risk losing everything if the other person cannot pay his debt (11:15).

Proverbs Fact #27: Gluttony

Fact: Gluttony

Gluttony refers to excessive eating. The Bible condemns gluttony as well as drunkenness. Proverbs teaches that eating and drinking in excess can lead to poverty (23:19–21).

Proverbs Fact #28: Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs

Fact: Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs

Hezekiah’s contribution to Proverbs. Although most of the Proverbs were collected or written by King Solomon, who reigned from 971–931 B.C., the book of Proverbs did not exist in its present form until the time of King Hezekiah, some 200 years later. Hezekiah and “his men,” probably his scribes, recorded chs. 25–29.

Proverbs Fact #29: Rock badgers

Fact: Rock badgers

Rock badgers are small cliff-dwelling animals closely resembling guinea pigs. They live and forage for food in large groups and are good at hiding. They are best known for posting sentries that alert the group when danger is near. Perhaps it was this mark of wisdom that earned them a mention in Proverbs (30:26).

S3:030 Proverbs 31

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Dive Deeper | Proverbs 31

I grew up hearing my mother often quote an old saying: "A man can work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done." As I became a wife and mother myself, I found this saying to be TRUE. Many credit that quote to Jean Little, but after our reading today, it looks to me like she ripped it straight from the verses of Proverbs 31.

What do we see and learn from the "Proverbs 31 woman"? Without a doubt, this lady WORKS at everything she does. God created work for humans in the garden (Genesis 2:15). Work is vital in a healthy, God-honoring life, so this woman's work is good and normative. She's not a workaholic, but rather is laser-focused on three key areas: family, profession, and community.

  1. Family work begins and ends with her closest relationships. This woman's family is her number one goal, paying great dividends. Her husband considers her priceless, and she ALWAYS does good on his behalf. Her children bless her (yes, moms of teens, it IS possible), so imagine it. If you're leading a family, you know strong marriages and great kids don't just happen. They take work.
  2. Professional work involves running successful businesses. This lady is a fashion designer (making fabric and clothing) and farmer (specializing in food and wine). She provides for her family and workers and plows her earnings back into future profitable endeavors.
  3. Community work capitalizes on her time, talent, and treasure. She is an advocate for the less fortunate with whom she crosses paths. Her earnings are shared with these people, and doing so brings her joy.

How does this woman do it all (a question many women ask today)? She isn't a "Super Woman," but her success lies in this simple yet profound truth: she "fears the Lord" and lets God's wisdom be her guide.

Wherever you are in life, whether working as a single guy/gal, a parent raising kids, or a corporate mover and shaker, follow the Lord in all you do so it will go well with you!

This month's memory verse

Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

– Exodus 34:6b

Discussion Questions

1. Have you set hard boundaries on the work a woman can do? Does that line up with what you read in this passage? Based on this reading, would you change anything about what you have thought?

2. How have you thought about the work women in your life do? If you have never thanked your mother, wife, or coworker, take time now to do so in a text, email, or phone call. Be specific about what she does.

3. What value do you attribute to the women who work in your life? Do your actions match your words?

4. Regardless of your gender, God has direction for you regarding the work you do. Read these two passages and note what principles can be applied to your work life: Colossians 3:23 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13.

Respond to Today's Passage

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JJ

Jamie Johnson

If the husband is a (vs 23) full-time leader in his community or in a larger context, serving at the county, state or federal level, this god-fearing man and other men like him would have a profound moral effect on their culture. Meanwhile, his wife is thriving in her household, business and community work. (The feminist movement of the 1960's would not have been needed or occurred). Her daughters are being trained in household organization, wise income-producing investments and practical help for the poor. Her sons are learning from her husband how to serve their community. It's not to late for this present generation to embrace the truth of Proverbs 31.
MS

Michael Scaman

Title: Lemuel's great journey of life and his mother's advice! - Proverbs 31 We are at the end of the journey in a book but Lemuel was at his beginning. As Lemuel prepared to embark on his great journey, his mother's words lingered in his mind like the gentle echo of a cherished melody. "My son, Lemuel," she had said, her voice brimming with a mix of pride and concern, "remember the meaning of your name—belonging to God, consecrated to God." Lemuel Gulliver couldn't help but smile at her earnestness, wondering if perhaps he had chosen the name Gulliver to avoid the weightiness of his given name, Lemuel, which seemed to imply a solemnity and wisdom he wasn't sure he possessed. Nevertheless, her words struck a chord within him, stirring a sense of responsibility and purpose as he prepared to venture into the unknown. "Before you set foot on distant shores," his mother continued, her gaze searching his face for understanding, "if by chance you find yourself in a position of power, remember the plight of the less fortunate, and let justice guide your rule." Gulliver nodded solemnly, his heart swelling with a mixture of determination and apprehension. The thought of wielding authority in far-off lands both excited and daunted him, but he knew he carried his mother's teachings with him like a guiding light in the darkness. "And above all, my son," she whispered, her voice soft yet resolute, "marry wisdom." Her words were accompanied by a melodic refrain, a song of ancient wisdom passed down through generations. "A good wife is better than rubies," she sang, her voice weaving through the air with an ethereal grace. "She will be respected as you sit at the gate, where they will know the value of her counsel." As his mother sang, Gulliver envisioned a future where he governed with wisdom by his side, her insight and intuition complementing his own strengths. The idea of ruling at the gate while his wife pursued her own endeavors of kindness and industry filled him with a sense of harmony and balance. With a final embrace, Lemuel Gulliver bid his mother farewell, her tearful gaze following him as he set off into the vast unknown. Yet, in his heart, he carried her wisdom like a precious treasure, guiding him on his journey through lands both strange and wondrous. He would repeat her advise to many kings and in many lands no matter how big or small they might be.
HS

Hugh Stephenson

Good morning, Lucina!! What a joy it is to have the blessing of all of the Thompson’s with us at Watermark! Thanks to you and Kyle as well as John, Audrey, and Jordan for being such great examples of a committed and submitted life. Sadly, I don’t get the benefit of your teaching often enough. So it is an extra treat today to get it in your devotional. I love how you take the woman in this proverb and link it directly to the Godly woman’s call of today. It’s a huge blessing to have many, many of these women at Watermark. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Proverbs 31. What can I say? I am thankful to King Lemuel for his rendering of what an excellent wife looks like. I am thankful to God for answering my prayers and bringing my Proverbs 31 excellent wife to me.
HS

Hugh Stephenson

I realize Proverbs represent ideals that are not always exactly true. Amy’s Godly humility makes her uncomfortable with my describing her as the excellent wife in this proverb. She will be quick to confess her sins and tell anyone how far she has to go. Still, the verses that stand out to me are 29-31 that start out with the praise from her husband. - “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” - Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Nowadays, “the fruit of her hands” and “the works that praise her” comes through her serving on staff as one of the Women’ Community Directors. It’s structured as a 50 hour a week position. But I can tell you she spends more time than that – because she loves her shepherds, leaders, and members as her own flock. It’s as if God created her for this. Because He did! It was Amy that started our spiritual recovery off many years ago when she started attending Al-Anon. It did not take long for me to realize that the problem with my drinking was me, not her. It was Amy that was the answer to my prayer at 3:30 AM on 12/10/10. She woke up, saw I wasn’t home, then called me then came and got me as I lay in a drunken stupor on Abbot Avenue in Highland Park. It was Amy that had no single condemning word. Not a single one. Only love and care. It was Amy’s actions and love that helped me see that the leadership problem in our family was not them being unwilling to follow me…but my unworthiness to be followed. It was Amy who has walked with me through her and my recovery via Prodigal, re:gen, and recovery from our abortion. Every step of the way she has been as enthusiastic and determined as I am. She fears the Lord, has the fruit of her hands, and her works praise and give testimony to her faith. An excellent wife who can find? I can. And did. She really is “far more precious than jewels”. Today my prayer is one of gratitude to a God that hears my prayers and answers them.
GJ

greg jones

Rather than instructions, or as an instruction manual for wives some understand Proverbs 31 as the concluding personification of lady wisdom that was built in the first 9 introductory chapters. Proverbs 30 is read as a concluding narrative to the book as well. In 30 the goal is to imagine a young man starting to internalize the process of how to identify paths of wisdom and paths of folly. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) is a repeated phrase in Proverbs. A self realization of ‘I don’t think I really know what I think I know’ might be what precedes “the fear of Lord”. “Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” (Proverbs 30:2-3) But “Agur” gets wiser as the chapter progresses. I get the sense that in humility he is telling of some hard lessons he has learned. It is in that sense that the Oricale is seen as a concluding teaching narrative to Proverbs. Proverbs 31:1-5 Oricale of the mother paraphrased, my son before you learn from the school of hard knocks…what are you doing? Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Son of my womb, son of my vows, do this-Proverbs 31:6-9 Not that-Proverbs 1:10-19 An excellent wife who can find? Proverbs 31:10 Highlight verse 28 within Proverbs 1:20-33 for the answer to the rhetorical question. V28-Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. For a bit of humor you can imagine the scene vv 20-27 would cause. Then imagine a bunch of young men in the market saying, “a girl like wisdom how would you ever find a girl like that with lady Wisdom causing the scene in the background. The parallels with Lady Wisdom and the P 31 woman just go on and on and are kind of fun to find if you enjoy that kind Bible nerdiness like me. So the last word in the Lady Wisdom as a personification conclusion view goes like this. You young men who are being trained as leaders marry yourselves to Lady Wisdom. Before it’s too late for you, or worse yet, too late for all the rest of us. Wisdom, the source of the vaulted mistake free life. Then there’s the narratives of Rahab the prostitute and the spies Joshua 2, 6. The narrative of Tamar and Judah Genesis 38. The narrative Ruth the Moabite and her encounter with a drunk Boaz and the similarity to the origins of the Moabite people when Lot’s daughters visit him in his tent while drunk. I love those stories of overcoming. And I love the modern stories of overcoming too. Those are the ones I can sometimes best relate to. Great deeper dive on how to be the Proverbs 31 woman.
SB

Sue Bohlin

BELOVED LUCINA!!! Sooooo good to see your beautiful face greeting me this morning! How I miss you! Super, super devo. Loved it. First, verse 3 is incredibly sage wisdom for today: "Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings." One of the reasons there is such a heartbreaking dearth of creativity or productivity in men today (and a daily growing number of women as well) is the addiction to pornography and self-pleasuring that results in "giving their strength to women." Not even real, 3-D women, but female images on a screen. Their life-energy (what Lemuel termed "strength") is being diverted and wasted rather than being stewarded to serve and bless others. Recently I asked someone engaged in ministering to those recovering from sexual sin what percentage of the church he thinks is caught in this addiction and he said probably 97%. :::wince::: Second, Proverbs 31 is one of the most powerful counter arguments against the false accusation that the Bible is misogynistically anti-women. Verses 10-31 are completely steeped in respect and honor. I pray daily that Jesus returns soon, but if He delays, I'd love this to be the epitaph on my tombstone: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." That'll work.
MM

meg mccrory

Thank you Lucina for a beautiful articulation of God’s Word. These scriptures are THE very heart behind Woven, the working mom ministry at the church. We want to be a continual source of encouragement to single moms and dual income families with a grounding view of God’s Word as our guide. So very grateful for the Thompson’s!
JC

Jason Cromwell

Growing up my dad has Diabetes, and my mother and I both have Auto Immune (the non spreadable kind) Diseases so we all had to pitch in for the housework while maintaining school and work schedules. So, I never really grew up with that 50's mindset.
AL

Amy Lowther

1. No. Women should do what they can of what is possible and of what is good. This idea is in line with the passage. My thinking will continue to be positive like this because of positive things women are doing everywhere. 2. There are women who do really good. There are women who do not so good. Prayer: God, thank you for my mom. Thank you for helping her love my dad and helping her support him in his work. Thank you God for my mom loving me. Be with my mom to continue being strong, to continue believing, and to continue seeing life as you would. Amen. 3. There are good women in my life who do good work everyday. I thank them as often as I can for their good work. My actions and ideas are sincere and consistent. The women lead by example and show me I can too. 4. When working like God prefers and incorporating God’s ways, great results will occur. Also, it is important to encourage coworkers to do their best, to know Jesus, and to be positive. Lucinda - Thank you for sharing your ideas. You made a good point in saying the woman of this passage let, “God's wisdom be her guide”. God is definitely resourceful and a good helper.
MS

Michael Scaman

I lean toward The Old Testament theologian Bruce Walke's view that Proverbs are 100% true in ensamble, not taking them as maxims usually true. This is partly why there are 5 books of wisom. Job is a proverbially wise man but suffers and Solomon is a wise king but his wisdom led to pain in Eclesiasters. There is also a wisdom in lover is Song of SOlomon and right thinking and meotions in worship in Psalms. Taken together 100% true. I think also Michael Reeves the Anglican who wrote 'Delighting in the Trinity" may be right when he things Solomon, Agur and Lemuel might all be Solomon and the final proverbs 31 woman represents wisdom. We were presented with Lady Wisdom and Dane Folly, A father gave adice to his son. Now a mother's advice counterbalances that and an admonition to choose and marry wisdom. Proverbs can also be riddles. Proverbs 1:6b "...proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise..."
MS

Michael Scaman

Solomon has presented his opus on wisdom and in his humanity hits not satisfaction but painful meaninglessness. It's as if Lady Mabeth popped into Lit class and said: Yo, listen up, as Lady Macbeth I speak, Tomorrow and tomorrow, it's all we seek. In the petty pace of life, we're trapped in a grind, Chasing shadows, with nothing to find. From Ecclesiastes, we learn life's vanity, All our yesterdays lead to dust, it's insanity. We hustle and grind, but what's the gain? Just fleeting pleasures, washed away by the rain. In this endless cycle, we're lost in the fray, No remembrance of former things, they all decay. So let's seize the day, while we still can, Before time's last syllable slips from our hand. Solomon now has the Lit class' attention