This is the thirty first and final part in this study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study has been to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that limited human wisdom can never compare with God’s unlimited perfect wisdom. I also saw that though nature proclaims that God exists, it is only through His Word that I can really come to know Him. Finally I saw through several examples from nature, that God is able to overcome any weakness through His strength.
The final chapter of Proverbs was written by King Lemuel. We do not know what nation he was king over, though we do know it was not Israel. Lemuel’s writing is unique in that in that it was given by a mother to her son rather than a father as with the rest of this book. This shows that though the father bore primary responsibility for training children in wisdom, the mother also played a crucial role.
After a short introduction, the author provides wisdom about refraining from drunkenness. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” Drunkenness is not befitting for one in a position of authority, for they need to be in full control of their senses at all times. Intoxication might prevent a ruler from properly fulfilling his duties and making wise decisions. As we see in verse 6, he must especially not use it as an avenue for escape from the hardships of life. “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.”
The bulk of this chapter is the well-known description of “the virtuous wife.” The 22 verses are in the form of an acrostic poem, though we do not see this in the English translation. A virtuous woman is one who seeks to live a life of godly wisdom, for we read “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” She exhibits qualities of wisdom both with her words and her actions. “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” Though difficult to find, a wife of great virtue is not an impossible dream.
The passage goes on to describe a woman who works hard to support herself and her family. She rises before dawn to provide food for the family and spends her day running various enterprises. She helps the needy and shows shrewdness in all her dealings.
Several verses caught my attention. Verses 11 and 23 show that a wife’s virtue extends beyond her to her family. “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” Because of the wife’s hard work, the husband does not need to worry about poverty overcoming the family. And not only that, but “her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Her virtue is known to the community and people admire her husband because of her.
We see that despite all this, her great reward is the praise and admiration of her family. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”” Though she may be proud of the work she has done, the money she has earned or the way she has cared for her family, her greatest pride should be in the admiration of her family.
The application for me, as a man, is not to compare my wife with this woman and grumble about the areas she falls short. Rather, I need to rejoice in the qualities she exhibits and ensure that I do call her blessed and praise her for the love and concern she shows for myself and my family. I need to thank God for providing me a woman of virtue.
The Reformation Study Bible has a text note I would like to include here as it beautifully wraps up the book of Proverbs. “The Book of Proverbs ends as it begins: observation of the created order can provide some wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom. 1:20-23), but only the self-relevation of the Creator enables us to know and appreciate the God-centered meaning of reality. True wisdom is seen as the life lived in wholehearted obedience to God’s revelation in His Word, which is “the fear of the Lord.” This trust is the foundation and continuing path of wisdom as it brings us to final perfection in Christ.”