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    CHAPTER 31

    Pr 31:1-31.

    1. On the title of this, the sixth part of the book, see Introduction.
    - prophecy--(See on Pr 30:1).

    2. What, my son?--that is, What shall I say? Repetitions denote earnestness.
    - son of my womb--as our phrase, "my own son," a term of special affection.
    - son of my vows--as one dedicated to God; so the word "Lemuel" may mean.

    3-9. Succinct but solemn warnings against vices to which kings are peculiarly tempted, as carnal pleasures and oppressive and unrighteous government are used to sustain sensual indulgence.
    - strength--mental and bodily resources for health and comfort.
    - thy ways--or course of life.
    - to that . . . kings--literally, "to the destroying of kings," avoid destructive pleasures (compare Pr 5:9; 7:22, 27; Ho 4:11).

    4, 5. Stimulants enfeeble reason, pervert the heart, and do not suit rulers, who need clear and steady minds, and well-governed affections (compare Pr 20:1; 22:29).
    - pervert . . . afflicted--They give unrighteous decisions against the poor.

    6, 7. The proper use of such drinks is to restore tone to feeble bodies and depressed minds (compare Ps 104:15).

    8, 9. Open . . . cause--Plead for those who cannot plead for themselves, as the orphan, stranger, &c. (compare Ps 72:12; Isa 1:17).
    - appointed to destruction--who are otherwise ruined by their oppressors (compare Pr 29:14, 16).

    10-31. This exquisite picture of a truly lovely wife is conceived and drawn in accordance with the customs of Eastern nations, but its moral teachings suit all climes. In Hebrew the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order (compare Introduction to Poetical Books).
    - Who . . . woman--The question implies that such are rare, though not entirely wanting (compare Pr 18:22; 19:14).
    - virtuous--literally, "of strength," that is, moral courage (compare Pr 12:4; Ru 3:11).
    - her price, &c.--(compare Pr 3:15).

    11. heart . . . trust in her--He relies on her prudence and skill.
    - no need of spoil--does not lack profit or gain, especially, that obtained by the risk of war.

    12. do . . . good--contribute good to him.

    13, 14. Ancient women of rank thus wrought with their hands; and such, indeed, were the customs of Western women a few centuries since. In the East also, the fabrics were articles of merchandise.

    15. She diligently attends to expending as well as gathering wealth;

    16. and hence has means to purchase property.

    17, 18. To energy she adds a watchfulness in bargains, and a protracted and painful industry. The last clause may figuratively denote that her prosperity (compare Pr 24:20) is not short lived.

    19. No work, however mean, if honest, is disdained.

    20. Industry enables her to be charitable.

    21. scarlet--or, "purple," by reason of the dyes used, the best fabrics; as a matter of taste also; the color suits cold.

    22. coverings of tapestry--or, "coverlets," that is, for beds.
    - silk--or, "linen" (compare Ex 26:1; 27:9)
    - and purple--that is, the most costly goods.

    23. in the gates--(compare Pr 22:22). His domestic comfort promotes his advancement in public dignity.

    24. fine linen--or, "linen shirts," or the material for them.
    - girdles--were often costly and highly valued (2Sa 18:11).
    - delivereth--or, "giveth as a present" or "to sell."

    25. Strength and honour--Strong and beautiful is her clothing; or, figuratively, for moral character, vigorous and honorable.
    - shall rejoice . . . come--in confidence of certain maintenance.

    26. Her conversation is wise and gentle.

    27. (Compare 1Ti 5:14; Tit 2:5). She adds to her example a wise management of those under her control.

    28. She is honored by those who best know her.

    29. The words are those of her husband, praising her.
    - virtuously--(Compare Pr 31:10).

    30. Favour--or, "Grace" of personal manner.
    - beauty--of face, or form (compare Pr 11:22). True piety alone commands permanent respect and affection (1Pe 3:3).

    31. The result of her labor is her best eulogy. Nothing can add to the simple beauty of this admirable portrait. On the measure of its realization in the daughters of our own day rest untold results, in the domestic, and, therefore, the civil and religious, welfare of the people.

    Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871)


    The Hebrew title is Koheleth, which the speaker in it applies to himself (Ec 1:12), "I, Koheleth, was king over Israel." It means an Assembler or Convener of a meeting and a Preacher to such a meeting. The feminine form of the Hebrew noun, and its construction once (Ec 7:27) with a feminine verb, show that it not only signifies Solomon, the Preacher to assemblies (in which case it is construed with the verb or noun masculine), but also Divine Wisdom (feminine in Hebrew) speaking by the mouth of the inspired king. In six cases out of seven it is construed with the masculine. Solomon was endowed with inspired wisdom (1Ki 3:5-14; 6:11, 12; 9:1-9; 11:9-11), specially fitting him for the task. The Orientals delight in such meetings for grave discourse. Thus the Arabs formerly had an assembly yearly, at Ocadh, for hearing and reciting poems. Compare "Masters of assemblies" (see on Ec 12:11, also Ec 12:9). "The Preacher taught the people knowledge," probably viva voce ("orally"); 1Ki 4:34; 10:2, 8, 24; 2Ch 9:1, 7, 23, plainly refer to a somewhat public divan met for literary discussion. So "spake," thrice repeated (1Ki 4:32, 33), refers not to written compositions, but to addresses spoken in assemblies convened for the purpose. The Holy Ghost, no doubt, signifies also by the term that Solomon's doctrine is intended for the "great congregation," the Church of all places and ages (Ps 22:25; 49:2-4).

    Solomon was plainly the author (Ec 1:12, 16; 2:15; 12:9). That the Rabbins attribute it to Isaiah or Hezekiah is explicable by supposing that one or the other inserted it in the canon. The difference of its style, as compared with Proverbs and Song of Solomon, is due to the difference of subjects, and the different period of his life in which each was written; the Song, in the fervor of his first love to God; Proverbs, about the same time, or somewhat later; but Ecclesiastes in late old age, as the seal and testimony of repentance of his apostasy in the intervening period: Ps 89:30, 33 proves his penitence. The substitution of the title Koheleth for Solomon (that is, peace), may imply that, having troubled Israel, meantime he forfeited his name of peace (1Ki 11:14, 23); but now, having repented, he wishes to be henceforth a Preacher of righteousness. The alleged foreign expressions in the Hebrew may have been easily imported, through the great intercourse there was with other nations during his long reign. Moreover, supposed Chaldaisms may be fragments preserved from the common tongue of which Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldee, and Arabic were offshoots.

    THE SCOPE of Ecclesiastes is to show the vanity of all mere human pursuits, when made the chief end, as contrasted with the real blessedness of true wisdom, that is, religion. The immortality of the soul is dwelt on incidentally, as subsidiary to the main scope. Moses' law took this truth for granted but drew its sanctions of rewards and punishments in accordance with the theocracy, which was under a special providence of God as the temporal King of Israel, from the present life, rather than the future. But after Israel chose an earthly king, God withdrew, in part, His extraordinary providence, so that under Solomon, temporal rewards did not invariably follow virtue, and punishments vice (compare Ec 2:16; 3:19; 4:1; 5:8; 7:15; 8:14; 9:2, 11). Hence the need arises to show that these anomalies will be rectified hereafter, and this is the grand "conclusion," therefore, of the "whole" book, that, seeing there is a coming judgment, and seeing that present goods do not satisfy the soul, "man's whole duty is to fear God and keep his commandments" (Ec 12:13, 14), and meanwhile, to use, in joyful and serene sobriety, and not abuse, the present life (Ec 3:12, 13).

    It is objected that sensual epicurism seems to be inculcated (Ec 3:12, 13, 22, &c.); but it is a contented, thankful enjoyment of God's present gifts that is taught, as opposed to a murmuring, anxious, avaricious spirit, as is proved by Ec 5:18, compare with Ec 5:11-15, not making them the chief end of life; not the joy of levity and folly; a misunderstanding which he guards against in Ec 7:2-6; 11:9; 12:1. Again, Ec 7:16; 9:2-10, might seem to teach fatalism and skepticism. But these are words put in the mouth of an objector; or rather, they were the language of Solomon himself during his apostasy, finding an echo in the heart of every sensualist, who wishes to be an unbeliever, and, who, therefore, sees difficulties enough in the world around wherewith to prop up his wilful unbelief. The answer is given (Ec 7:17, 18; 9:11, 12; 11:1, 6; 12:13). Even if these passages be taken as words of Solomon, they are to be understood as forbidding a self-made "righteousness," which tries to constrain God to grant salvation to imaginary good works and external strictness with which it wearies itself; also, that speculation which tries to fathom all God's inscrutable counsels (Ec 8:17), and that carefulness about the future forbidden in Mt 6:25.

    THE CHIEF GOOD is that the possession of that which makes us happy, is to be sought as the end, for its own sake; whereas, all other things are but means towards it. Philosophers, who made it the great subject of inquiry, restricted it to the present life, treating the eternal as unreal, and only useful to awe the multitude with. But Solomon shows the vanity of all human things (so-called philosophy included) to satisfy the soul, and that heavenly wisdom alone is the chief good. He had taught so when young (Pr 1:20; 8:1); so also; in Song of Solomon, he had spiritualized the subject in an allegory; and now, after having long personally tried the manifold ways in which the worldly seek to reach happiness, he gives the fruit of his experience in old age.

    It is divided into two parts-- Ec 1:1-6:10 showing the vanity of earthly things; Ec 6:10-12:14, the excellence of heavenly wisdom. Deviations from strict logical methods occur in these divisions, but in the main they are observed. The deviations make it the less stiff and artificial, and the more suited to all capacities. It is in poetry; the hemistichal division is mostly observed, but occasionally not so. The choice of epithets, imagery, inverted order of words, ellipses, parallelism, or, in its absence, similarity of diction, mark versification.


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