King Lemuel shares the wise words of his mother. The Book of Proverbs concludes with the “Eshet chayil,” a poem about a Woman of God.
king Lemuel. Nothing is known about Lemuel except that he was a king.
his mother taught him. The first ten verses of this chapter are the teachings of a woman. She was the mother of Lemuel.
my son. The Aramaic word is “bar.” It means son.
Don’t give your strength to women. Lemuel’s mother tells him to not commit adultery.
not for kings to drink wine. Lemuel’s mother tells him to avoid alcohol.
VERSE 5. lest they drink, and forget the decree, and pervert the justice due to anyone who is afflicted.
strong drink. That is, “beer.”
him who is ready to perish. Perhaps alcohol was acceptable as an anesthetic to deaden physical pain.
the bitter in soul. Perhaps alcohol was acceptable to to deaden deep emotional pain.
VERSE 7. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
all who are left desolate. A king is to stand up for people who are powerless.
VERSE 9. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and serve justice to the poor and needy.”
SUMMARY: It is thought that this passage is a eulogy for Sarah, written by her husband Abraham. In it, Abraham praises his wife Sarah for her greatness. It is an acrostic poem. Each of the 22 verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
If so, Abraham would have delivered it at her burial:
Genesis 23:19. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan.
Who can find. A woman of God is not nonexistent. But rare.
worthy. The Hebrew word is חַ֭יִל (“khayil”). It means excellence, excellent, great, might, mighty, nobly, power, strength, strong, valiant valiant, valiantly, valor, very powerful.
woman. The Hebrew word is אֵֽשֶׁת־ (“’ê·šeṯ- “). It means woman, wife, female.
We combine those two words to get the expression “Eshet chayil.” That is how this passage is traditionally referred to in a Jewish household. On the Friday night, the husband recites this passage to his wife.
VERSE 11. The heart of her husband trusts in her. He shall have no lack of gain.
trusts in her. The husband’s trust in her is complete.
does him good. Spouses are to build each other up. However, some Christian men demand that their wives do him good; in the meantime, he does her bad.
not harm. Spouses are to not tear each other down.
VERSE 13. She seeks wool and flax, and works eagerly with her hands.
like the merchant ships. She buys unusual and fascinating things from afar.
VERSE 15. She rises also while it is yet night, gives food to her household, and portions for her servant girls.
and buys it. Some people imagine that Jewish women were forbidden from owning property in those days. However, this verse shows us otherwise.
VERSE 17. She arms her waist with strength, and makes her arms strong.
her merchandise. She runs a business.
is profitable. The woman’s business is successful.
VERSE 19. She lays her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
opens her arms to the poor. This woman of God is generous to poor people.
not afraid of. She planned ahead for the season weather changes.
VERSE 22. She makes for herself carpets of tapestry. Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
respected in the gates. Her husband lives his life in a way that earns the respect of his peers. He is not an abusive scoundrel.
VERSE 24. She makes linen garments and sells them, and delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength. A woman of God is a strong woman. She would not at all fit the modern stereotype promoted by Christian leaders of a woman who is “quiet and submissive.”
dignity. Whatever her lot in life, she is dignified.
Kind instruction. A woman of God has a teaching role. She teaches other people.
VERSE 27. She looks well to the ways of her household, and doesn’t eat the bread of idleness.
Her husband also praises her. A man of God praises his wife.
VERSE 29. “Many women do noble things, but you excel them all.”
NIV translation: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. A woman who fears the Lord is to literally be praised!
People who are unfamiliar with the Bible might say it puts down women. But this passage, among others, puts to rest any such notion.
VERSE 31. Give her of the fruit of her hands! Let her works praise her in the gates!
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.