Proverbs 31


דִּבְרֵי לְמוּאֵל מֶלֶךְ מַשָּׂא אֲשֶׁר־יִסְּרַתּוּ אִמּוֹ׃   31:1

Prov. 31:1   The words of King Lemuel, the burden by which his mother corrected him:

Nothing is known about this King Lemuel.  Some believe the name is another one for Solomon.  Notice (if we can believe the literal sense of these words) that these are the words of Lemuel as told to him by his mother; his mother is not speaking.

מַה־בְּרִי וּמַה־בַּר־בִּטְנִי וּמֶה בַּר־נְדָרָי׃   31:2

Prov. 31:2   What, my son,

                                and what, son of my womb,

                       and what, son of my vows?

What message are these words conveying?  Was Lemuel’s mother asking what she should say to him?  Or is this a statement rather than a question?  Maybe this was her way of introducing her lecture:  What, ... and what, ... and what.

אַל־תִּתֵּן לַנָּשִׁים חֵילֶךָ וּדְרָכֶיךָ לַמְחוֹת מְלָכִין׃   31:3

Prov. 31:3   You must not give your strength to women,

                                or your ways towards destroying kings.

It’s odd that the last word in this verse, translated as kings, is spelled with the Aramaic form of plural ending.  The reason it’s odd is that the word for kings appears two more times in the next verse and both are spelled with the normal Hebrew plural ending.

אַל לַמְלָכִים לְמֹואֵל אַל לַמְלָכִים שְׁתֹו־יָיִן וּלְרֹוזְנִים (אֹו) [אֵי] שֵׁכָר׃   31:4

Prov. 31:4   Not for kings, Lemuel,

                                it is not for kings to drink wine,

                       and then to demand strong drink.

I am fairly certain the “error” in the parentheses is no error.  I believe it is the word intended.  I translate it as then.  The correction in the brackets is translated as where, as in [and to demand} “Where is strong drink?”

פֶּן־יִשְׁתֶּה וְיִשְׁכַּח מְחֻקָּק וִישַׁנֶּה דִּין כָּל־בְּנֵי־עֹנִי׃   31:5

Prov. 31:5   Lest one would drink and forget about what is decreed,

                                and alter the judgment of any of the afflicted.

תְּנוּ־שֵׁכָר לְאוֹבֵד וְיַיִן לְמָרֵי נָפֶשׁ׃   31:6

Prov. 31:6   Give strong drink to one perishing,

                                and wine to those bitter of soul.

At this point, the focus shifted from Lemuel to a general audience.  The first word, translated as give, is in the second-person masculine plural form.  However, the shift seems not to have been permanent.  The term for your mouth in v. 8 ( and v. 9) below was in the singular again.

יִשְׁתֶּה וְיִשְׁכַּח רִישׁוֹ וַעֲמָלוֹ לֹא יִזְכָּר־עוֹד׃   31:7

Prov. 31:7   Let him drink and forget his poverty and his trouble,

                                and no longer remember.

פְּתַח־פִּיךָ לְאִלֵּם אֶל־דִּין כָּל־בְּנֵי חֲלוֹף׃   31:8

Prov. 31:8   Open your mouth for one unable to speak

                                concerning the cause of all those passing away.

As I mentioned above in connection with v. 6, these words were directed to Lemuel alone.

פְּתַח־פִּיךָ שְׁפָט־צֶדֶק וְדִין עָנִי וְאֶבְיוֹן׃   31:9

Prov. 31:9   Open your mouth, judge righteously,

                                and plead the cause of any poor and needy.

Here Lemuel’s mother addressed him alone again.  The word translated as your mouth is also singular.  Then starting with the next verse, there was another shift in her lecture.  She next devoted her words to describing the ideal wife.  Finally, in the very last verse, she once again employed the second-person plural.

אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל מִי יִמְצָא וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ׃   31:10

Prov. 31:10   A woman of valor who can find?

                                Then her price is far above rubies!

בָּטַח בָּהּ לֵב בַּעְלָהּ וְשָׁלָל לֹא יֶחְסָר׃   31:11

Prov. 31:11   The heart of her husband trusts in her,

                                and he would not lack gain.

גְּמָלַתְהוּ טֹוב וְלֹא־רָע כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיה ׃   31:12

Prov. 31:12   She deals him bountiful good

                                and no evil all the days of her life.

דָּרְשָׁה צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים וַתַּעַשׂ בְּחֵפֶץ כַּפֶּיהָ׃   31:13

Prov. 31:13   She seeks wool and linens,

                                that her hand may fashion with delight.

הָיְתָה כָּאֳנִיּוֹת סוֹחֵר מִמֶּרְחָק תָּבִיא לַחְמָהּ׃   31:14

Prov. 31:14   She is like the merchant ships;

                                she can bring her food from far off.

וַתָּקָם בְּעוֹד לַיְלָה וַתִּתֵּן טֶרֶף לְבֵיתָהּ וְחֹק לְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ׃   31:15

Prov. 31:15   She also rises while it is still night,

                                and prepares food for her household

                         and a share for her maidens.

זָמְמָה דֶה וַתִּקָּחֵהוּ מִפְּרִי כַפֶּיהָ (נְטַע) [נָטְעָה] כָּרֶם׃   31:16

Prov. 31:16   She arranges for a field and acquires it;

                                by the fruit of her hands a vineyard is planted.

The word in the parentheses, translated as is planted, is without error.  The word for vineyard is the subject of is planted and it is masculine and so is the word in the parentheses.  The word in the brackets makes it inappropriately feminine.  Me, oh my!

חָגְרָה בְעֹוז מָתְנֶיהָ וַתְּאַמֵּץ זְרֹעֹותֶיהָ׃   31:17

Prov. 31:17   She girds her loins with strength

                                and makes her arms firm.

טָעֲמָה כִּי־טֹוב סַחְרָהּ לֹא־יִכְבֶּה (בַלַּיִל) [בַלַּיְלָה] נֵרָהּ׃   31:18

Prov. 31:18   She perceives that her profit is good;

                                her lamp will not go out at night.

The word in the parentheses, translated as at night, may or may not need a heh suffix.  The correction in the brackets alters the spelling to the form in which the word is usually found.  But the spelling in the parentheses is also correct, although rare.

יָדֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָה בַכִּישׁוֹר וְכַפֶּיהָ תָּמְכוּ פָלֶךְ׃   31:19

Prov. 31:19   She places her hands on the distaff,

                                and her hands support the spindle.

כַּפָּהּ פָּרְשָׂה לֶעָנִי וְיָדֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָה לָאֶבְיוֹן׃   31:20

Prov. 31:20   She stretches out her hand to any poor,

                                and she sends forth her hand to a needy person.

לֹא־תִירָא לְבֵיתָהּ מִשָּׁלֶג כִּי כָל־בֵּיתָהּ לָבֻשׁ שָׁנִים׃   31:21

Prov. 31:21   She would have no fear for her household because of snow,

                                for every one of her household wears scarlet.

The word translated as snow must be a better form of poetry than what it probably means. cold weather.  Along with this, the word translated as scarlet must be the same for warm clothes.

מַרְבַדִּים עָשְׂתָה־לָּהּ שֵׁשׁ וְאַרְגָּמָן לְבוּשָׁהּ׃   31:22

Prov. 31:22   She fashions coverlets for herself;

                                her clothes are of fine linen and purple.

נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעְלָהּ בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ עִם־זִקְנֵי־אָרֶץ׃   31:23

Prov. 31:23   Her husband would be known at the gates,

                                in his sitting with the elders of the land.

Ah, it seems that Lemuel’s mother was not speaking of a wife for him, but for any husband.  A king would likely not sit at the gates of the city.  Besides this, if she’s working so hard, shouldn’t her husband be studying Torah?

סָדִין עָשְׂתָה וַתִּמְכֹּר וַחֲגוֹר נָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי׃   31:24

Prov. 31:24   She fashions the linen wrap and sells,

                                and delivers the girdle to the merchant.

עֹז־וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ וַתִּשְׂחַק לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן׃   31:25

Prov. 31:25   Her clothes are so strong and majestic,

                                that she makes sport for the rest of day.

פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה וְתוֹרַת־חֶסֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָהּ׃   31:26

Prov. 31:26   She opens her mouth in wisdom,

                                and the instruction of kindness is on her tongue.

צוֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכוֹת בֵּיתָהּ וְלֶחֶם עַצְלוּת לֹא תֹאכֵל׃   31:27

Prov. 31:27   She watches closely the doings of her household,

                                and would not eat the bread of laziness.

קָמוּ בָנֶיהָ וַיְאַשְּׁרוּהָ בַּעְלָהּ וַיְהַלְלָהּ׃   31:28

Prov. 31:28   Her children rise and call her blessed;

                                her husband also praises her.

רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת עָשׂוּ חָיִל וְאַתְּ עָלִית עַל־כֻּלָּנָה׃   31:29

Prov. 31:29   Many daughters work efficiently,

                                but you excel over all of them.

Do you think the pronoun you is inappropriate in this verse?  Instead of you excel, shouldn’t we expect she excels?

שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת־יְהוָה הִיא תִתְהַלָּל׃   31:30

Prov. 31:30   The graceful one is deceptive and the beauty vain:

                                the woman fearing the Lord, she will be praised.

תְּנוּ־לָהּ מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ׃   31:31

Prov. 31:31   Give her from the fruit of her hands,

                                and her works will praise her at the gates.

The first word, translated as give, is plural again, so this verse was addressed to a general audience at the last.


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