Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Words of Lemuel the king,
The utterance wherewith his mother warned him.
Such would be the superscription if the interpunction of the text as it lies before us were correct. But it is not possibly right. For, notwithstanding the assurance of Ewald, 277b, למואל מלך, nevertheless, as it would be here used, remains an impossibility. Certainly under circumstances an indeterminate apposition can follow a proper name. That on coins we read מתתיה כהן גדול or נרון קיסר is nothing strange; in this case we also use the words "Nero, emperor," and that we altogether omit the article shows that the case is singular: the apposition wavers between the force of a generic and of a proper name. A similar case is the naming of the proper name with the general specification of the class to which this or that one bearing the name belongs in lists of persons, as e.g., Kg1 4:2-6, or in such expressions as, e.g., "Damascus, a town," or "Tel Hum, a castle," and the like; here we have the indefinite article, because the apposition is a simple declaration of the class.
(Note: Thus it is also with the examples of indeterminate gentilicia, which Riehm makes valid for למואל מלך (for he translates למואל symbolically, which, however, syntactically makes no difference): "As analogous to 'Lemuel, a king,' one may adduce 'Jeroboam, son of Nebat, an Ephrathite,' Kg1 11:26, instead of the usual form 'the Ephrathite;'" and בן־ימיני, Psa 7:1, for בן הימיני; on the contrary, כהן, Kg1 4:5, does not belong to the subject, but is the pred.)
But would the expression, "The poem of Oscar, a king," be proper as the title of a book? Proportionally more so than "Oscar, king;" but also that form of indeterminate apposition is contrary to the usus loq., especially with a king with whom the apposition is not a generic name, but a name of honour. We assume that "Lemuel" is a symbolical name, like "Jareb" in "King Jareb," Hos 5:13; Hos 10:6; so we would expect the phrase to be מלך למואל(ה) rather than למואל מלך. The phrase "Lemuel, king," here in the title of this section of the book, sounds like a double name, after the manner of עבר מלך in the book of Jeremiah. In the Greek version also the phrase Λεμουέλου βασιλέως (Venet.) is not used as syntactically correct without having joined to the βασιλέως a dependent genitive such as τῶν Αράβων, while none of the old translators, except Jerome, take the words למואל מלך together in the sense of Lamuelis regis. Thus מלך משּׂא are to be taken together, with Hitzig, Bertheau, Zckler, Mhlau, and Dchsel, against Ewald and Kamphausen; משׂא, whether it be a name of a tribe or a country, or of both at the same time, is the region ruled over by Lemuel, and since this proper name throws back the determination which it has in itself on מלך, the phrase is to be translated: "Words of Lemuel the king of Massa" (vid., under Pro 30:1). If Aquila renders this proper name by Λεμμοῦν, Symmachus by Ἰαμουήλ, Theodotion by Ρεβουήλ, the same arbitrariness prevails with reference to the initial and terminal sound of the word, as in the case of the words Ἀμβακούμ, Βεελζεβούλ, Βελίαρ. The name למוּאל sounds like the name of Simeon's first-born, ימוּאל, Gen 46:10, written in Num 26:12 and Ch1 4:24 as נמוּאל; יואל also appears, Ch1 4:35, as a Simeonite name, which Hitzig adduces in favour of his view that משׂא was a North Arab. Simeonite colony. The interchange of the names ימואל and נמואל is intelligible if it is supposed that ימואל (from ימה = ימא) designates the sworn (sworn to) of God, and נמואל (from נם Mishnic = נאם)
(Note: In the Midrash Koheleth to Pro 1:1, the name Lemuel (as a name of Solomon) is explained: he who has spoken to God in his heart.)
the expressed (addressed) of God; here the reference of ימו and נמו to verbal stems is at least possible, but a verb למּה is found only in the Arab., and with significations inus. But there are two other derivations of the name: (1) The verb (Arab.) waâla signifies to hasten (with the infin. of the onomatop. verbs waniyal, like raḥyal, walking, because motion, especially that which is tumultuous, proceeds with a noise), whence mawnil, the place to which one flees, retreat. Hence למוּאל or למואל, which is in this case to be assumed as the ground-form, might be formed from אל מואל, God is a refuge, with the rejection of the א. This is the opinion of Fleischer, which Mhlau adopts and has established, p. 38-41; for he shows that the initial א is not only often rejected where it is without the support of a full vocal, e.g., נחנוּ = אנחנוּ, lalah = ilalah (Deus), but that this aphaeresis not seldom also occurs where the initial has a full vocal, e.g., לעזר = אלעזר, laḥmaru = âllahmaru (ruber), laḥsâ = âl-laḥsâ (the name of a town); cf. also Blau in Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xxv. 580. But this view is thus acceptable and tenable; a derivation which spares us by a like certainty the supposition of such an abbreviation established only by the late Palestinian לעזר, Λάζαρος, might well desire the preference. (2) Fleischer himself suggests another derivation: "The signification of the name is Deo consecratus, למו, poetic for ל, as also in Pro 31:4 it is to be vocalized למואל after the Masora." The form למואל is certainly not less favourable to that first derivation than to this second; the is in both cases an obscuration of the original. But that "Lemuel" may be explained in this second way is shown by "Lael," Num 3:24 (Olshausen, 277d).
(Note: Simonis has also compared Aethiopic proper names, such as Zakrestos, Zaiasus. Zamikal, Zamariam.)
It is a beautiful sign for King Lemuel, and a verification of his name, that it is he himself by whom we receive the admonition with which his mother in her care counselled him when he attained to independent government. אשׁר connects itself with דברי, after we have connected משׂא with מלך; it is accus. of the manner to יסּרתּוּ = יסּרתהוּ; cf. הטּתּוּ, Pro 7:21, with גּמלתהוּ, Pro 31:12 : wherewith (with which words) she earnestly and impressively admonished him. The Syr. translates: words of Muel, as if ל were that of the author. "Others as inconsistently: words to Lemuel - they are words which is himself ought to carry in his mouth as received from his mother" (Fleischer).
The name "Massa," is it here means effatum, would be proportionally more appropriate for these "Words" of Lemuel than for the "Words" of Agur, for the maternal counsels form an inwardly connected compact whole. They begin with a question which maternal love puts to itself with regard to the beloved son whom she would advise:
2 What, my son? and what the son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?!
The thrice repeated מה is completed by תּעשׂה (cf. Khler under Mal 2:15), and that so that the question is put for the purpose of exciting attention: Consider well, my son, what thou wilt do as ruler, and listen attentively to my counsel (Fleischer). But the passionate repetition of מה would be only affectation if thus interpreted; the underlying thought must be of a subjective nature: what shall I say, אדבּר (vid., under Isa 38:15), what advise thee to do? The question, which is at the same time a call, is like a deep sigh from the heart of the mother concerned for the welfare of her son, who would say to him what is beneficial, and say it in words which strike and remain fixed. He is indeed her dear son, the son whom she carries in her heart, the son for whom with vows of thanksgiving she prayed to God; and as he was given her by God, so to His care she commits him. The name "Lemuel" is, as we interpret it, like the anagram of the fulfilment of the vows of his mother. בּרי bears the Aramaic shade in the Arameo-Arab. colouring of these proverbs from Massa; בּריהּ is common in the Aram., and particularly in the Talmudic, but it can scarcely be adduced in support of ברי. וּמה belongs to the 24, מה, with ח or ע not following; vid., the Masora to Exo 32:1, and its correction by Norzi at Deu 29:23. We do not write וּמה־בּר; מה, with Makkeph and with Metheg, exclude one another.
The first admonition is a warning against effeminating sensuality:
Give not thy strength to women,
Nor thy ways to them that destroy kings.
The punctuation למחות sees in this form a syncopated inf. Hiph. = להמחות (vid., at Pro 24:17), according to which we are to translate: viasque tuas ad perdendos reges (ne dirige), by which, as Fleischer formulates the twofold possibility, it may either be said: direct not thy effort to this result, to destroy neighbouring kings - viz. by wars of invasion (properly, to wipe them away from the table of existence, as the Arabs say) - or: do not that by which kings are overthrown; i.e., with special reference to Lemuel, act not so that thou thyself must thereby be brought to ruin. But the warning against vengeful, rapacious, and covetous propensity to war (thus Jerome, so that Venet. after Kimchi: ἀπομάττειν βασιλέας, C. B. Michaelis, and earlier, Gesenius) does not stand well as parallel with the warning against giving his bodily and mental strength to women, i.e., expending it on them. But another explanation: direct not thy ways to the destruction of kings, i.e., toward that which destroys kings (Elster); or, as Luther translates: go not in the way wherein kings destroy themselves - puts into the words a sense which the author cannot have had in view; for the individualizing expression would then be generalized in the most ambiguous way. Thus למחות מלכין will be a name for women, parallel to לנּשׁים. So far the translation of the Targum: לבנת מלכין, filiabus (לאמהת?) regum, lies under a right supposition. But the designation is not thus general. Schultens explains catapultis regum after Eze 26:9; but, inasmuch as he takes this as a figure of those who lay siege to the hearts of men, he translates: expugnatricibus regum, for he regards מחות as the plur. of מחה, a particip. noun, which he translates by deletor. The connecting form of the fem. plur. of this מחה might certainly be מחות (cf. מזי, from מזה), but למחות מלכין ought to be changed into 'וגו 'לם; for one will not appeal to anomalies, such as 'לם, Pro 16:4; 'כּג, Isa 24:2; 'לם, Lam 1:19; or 'וגו 'הת, Kg1 14:24, to save the Pathach of למחות, which, as we saw, proceeds from an altogether different understanding of the word. But if 'לם is to be changed into 'לם, then one must go further, since for מחה not an active but a conditional meaning is to be assumed, and we must write למחות, in favour of which Fleischer as well as Gesenius decides: et ne committe consilia factaque tua iis quae reges perdunt, regum pestibus. Ewald also favours the change למחות, for he renders מחה as a denom. of מח, marrow: those who enfeeble kings, in which Kamphausen follows him. Mhlau goes further; he gives the privative signification, to enfeeble, to the Piel מחה = makhakha (cf. Herzog's Real-Wrterb. xiv. 712), which is much more probable, and proposes לממחות: iis quae vires enervant regum. But we can appropriately, with Nldeke, adhere to למחות, deletricibus (perditricibus), for by this change the parallelism is satisfied; and that מחה may be used, with immediate reference to men, of entire and total destruction, is sufficiently established by such passages as Gen 6:7; Jdg 21:17, if any proof is at all needed for it. Regarding the lxx and those misled by it, who, by מלכין and מלכים, 4a, think on the Aram. מלכּין, βουλαί, vid., Mhlau, p. 53.
(Note: Also Hitzig's Blinzlerinnen [women who ogle or leer = seductive courtesans] and Bttcher's Streichlerinnen [caressers, viz., of kings] are there rejected, as they deserve to be.)
But the Syr. has an idea worthy of the discourse, who translates epulis regum without our needing, with Mhlau, to charge him with dreaming of לחם in למחות. Perhaps that is true; but perhaps by למחות he thought of למחות (from מה, the particip. adj. of מחח): do not direct thy ways to rich food (morsels), such as kings love and can have. By this reading, 3b would mediate the transition to Pro 31:4; and that the mother refers to the immorality, the unseemliness, and the dangers of a large harem, only in one brief word (3a), cannot seem strange, much rather it may be regarded as a sign of delicacy. But so much the more badly does וּדרכיך accord with למחות. Certainly one goes to a banquet, for one finds leisure for it; but of one who himself is a king, it is not said that he should not direct his ways to a king's dainties. But if למחות refers to the whole conduct of the king, the warning is, that he should not regulate his conduct in dependence on the love and the government of women. But whoever will place himself amid the revelry of lust, is wont to intoxicate himself with ardent spirits; and he who is thus intoxicated, is in danger of giving reins to the beast within him.
Hence there now follows a warning against drunkenness, not unmediated by the reading למחות:
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
Not for kings to drink wine,
Not for rulers to ask for intoxicating drink;
5 Lest he drink, and forget what is prescribed,
And pervert the right of all the children of want.
The usual translation of 4a is: non decet reges... (as e.g., also Mhlau); but in this אל is not rightly rendered, which indeed is at times only an οὐ, spoken with close interest, but yet first of all, especially in such paraenetic connection as here, it is a dissuasive μή. But now לא למלכים שׁתות or לא למלכים לשׁתּות, after Ch2 26:18; Mic 3:1, signifies: it is not the part of kings, it does not become them to drink, which may also be turned into a dissuasive form: let it not be the part of kings to drink, let them not have any business therewith, as if it belonged to their calling; according to which Fleischer renders: Absit a regibus, Lemuel, absit a regibus potare vinum. The clearer expression למואל, instead of למוּאל, is, after Bttcher, occasioned by this, that the name is here in the vocative; perhaps rather by this, that the meaning of the name: consecrated to God, belonging to God, must be placed in contrast to the descending to low, sensual lust. Both times we write אל לּמלכים with the orthophonic Dagesh
(Note: Vid., Luth. Zeitschrift, 1863, p. 413. It is the rule, according to which, with Ben-Asher, it is to be written בּן־נּוּן.)
in the ל following ל, and without the recompensative Dagesh, the want of which is in a certain measure covered by the Metheg (vid., Norzi). Regarding the inf. constr. שׁתו (cf. קנה, Pro 16:16), vid., Gesen. 75, Anm. 2; and regarding the sequence of accents here necessary, אל לּמלכים שׁתו־יין (not Mercha, Dechi, Athnach, for Dechi would be here contrary to rule), vid., Thorath Emeth, p. 22 6, p. 43 7.
In 4b nothing is to be gained from the Chethı̂b או. There is not a substantive או, desire, the constr. of which would here have to be read, not או (Umbreit, Gesenius), but או, after the form קו (Maurer); and why did the author not write תּאות שׁכר? But the particle או does not here also fall in with the connection; for if או שׁכר connect itself with יין (Hitzig, Ewald, and others), then it would drag disagreeably, and we would have here a spiritless classification of things unadvisable for kings. Bttcher therefore sees in this או the remains of the obliterated סבוא; a corrector must then have transformed the וא which remained into או. But before one ventures on such conjectures, the Kerı̂ אי [where?] must be tried. Is it the abbreviated אין (Herzog's Real-Wrterbuch, xiv. 712)? Certainly not, because וּלרוזנים אין שׁכר would mean: and the princes, or rulers (vid., regarding רוזנים at Pro 8:15), have no mead, which is inconsistent. But אין does not abbreviate itself into אי, but into אי. Not אי, but אי, is in Heb., as well as in Ethiop., the word with which negative adjectives such as אי נקי, not innocent, Job 22:30, and in later Heb. also, negative sentences, such as אי אפשׁר: it is not possible, are formed.
(Note: The author of the Comm. עטרת זקנים to the ארח חיים, c. 6, Geiger and others would read אי, because אי is abbreviated from אין. But why not from אין, Sa1 21:9? The traditional expression is אי; and Elias Levita in the Tishbi, as also Baer in the Siddur Abodath Jisrael, are right in defending it against that innovation.)
Therefore Mhlau vocalizes אי, and thinks that the author used this word for אל, so as not to repeat this word for the third time. But how is that possible? אי שׁכר signifies either: not mead, or: there is not mead; and both afford, for the passage before us, no meaning. Is, then, the Kerı̂ אי truly so unsuitable? Indeed, to explain: how came intoxicating drink to rulers! is inadmissible, since אי always means only ubi (e.g., Gen 4:9); not, like the Ethiop. aitê, also quomodo. But the question ubi temetum, as a question of desire, fits the connection, whether the sentence means: non decet principibus dicere (Ahron b. Josef supplies שׁיאמרו) ubi temetum, or: absit a principibus quaerere ubi temetum (Fleischer), which, from our view of 4a, we prefer. There is in reality nothing to be supplied; but as 4a says that the drinking of wine ought not to characterize kings, so 4b, that "Where is mead?" (i.e., this eager inquiry after mead) ought not to characterize rulers.
(Note: The translation of Jerome, quia nullum secretum est ubi regnat ebrietas (as if the words were לית רזא אי שׁכר), corresponds to the proverb: נכנס יין יצא סוד :b, when the wine goes in the secret comes out; or, which is the same thing: if one adds יין (= 70), סוד (= 70) comes out.)
Why not? Pro 31:5 says. That the prince, being a slave to drink, may not forget the מחקּק, i.e., that which has been made and has become חק, thus that which is lawfully right, and may not alter the righteous cause of the miserable, who cry against their oppressors, i.e., may not handle falsely the facts of the case, and give judgment contrary to them.
שׁנּה דין (Aquila, Theodotion, Quinta, ἀλλοιοῦν κρίσιν) is elsewhere equivalent to הטּה משׁפּט (עוּת). בּני־עני are those who are, as it were, born to oppression and suffering. This mode of expression is a Semitism (Fleischer), but it here heightens the impression of the Arab. colouring. In כל (Venet. ὡντινοῦν) it is indicated that, not merely with reference to individual poor men, but in general to the whole class of the poorer people, suffering humanity, sympathy and a regard for truth on the part of a prince given to sensuality are easily thrown aside. Wine is better suited for those who are in a condition to be timeously helped over which, is a refreshment to them.
6 Give strong drink to him that is perishing,
And wine to those whose soul is in bitter woe;
7 Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And let him think of his misery no more.
The preparation of a potion for malefactors who were condemned to death was, on the ground of these words of the proverb, cared for by noble women in Jerusalem (נשׁים יקרות שׁבירושׁלים), Sanhedrin 43a; Jesus rejected it, because He wished, without becoming insensible to His sorrow, to pass away from the earthly life freely and in full consciousness, Mar 15:23. The transition from the plur. to the sing. of the subject is in Pro 31:7 less violent than in Pro 31:5, since in Pro 31:6 singular and plur. already interchange. We write תּנוּ־שׁכר with the counter-tone Metheg and Mercha. אובד designates, as at Job 29:13; Job 31:19, one who goes to meet destruction: it combines the present signification interiens, the fut. signif. interiturus, and the perf. perditus (hopelessly lost). מרי נפשׁ (those whose minds are filled with sorrow) is also supported from the Book of Job; Job 3:20, cf. Pro 21:25, the language and thought and mode of writing of which notably rests on the Proverbs of Agur and Lemuel (vid., Mhlau, pp. 64-66). The Venet. τοῖς πικροῖς (not ψυξροῖς) τὴν ψυχήν. רישׁ (poverty) is not, however, found there, but only in the Book of Proverbs, in which this word-stem is more at home than elsewhere. Wine rejoices the heart of man, Psa 104:15, and at the same time raises it for the time above oppression and want, and out of anxious sorrow, wherefore it is soonest granted to them, and in sympathizing love ought to be presented to them by whom this its beneficent influence is to be wished for. The ruined man forgets his poverty, the deeply perplexed his burden of sorrow; the king, on the contrary, is in danger from this cause of forgetting what the law required at his hands, viz., in relation to those who need help, to whom especially his duty as a ruler refers.
8 Open thy mouth for the dumb,
For the right of all the children of leaving;
9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously,
And do right to the poor and needy.
He is called dumb who suffers the infirmity of dumbness, as עוּר and פּסּח, Job 29:15, is he who suffers the infirmity of blindness or lameness, not here figuratively; at the same time, he who, on account of his youth, or on account of his ignorance, or from fear, cannot speak before the tribunal for himself (Fleischer). With ל the dat. commodi (lxx after Lagarde, μογιλάλῳ; Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, ἀλάλῳ; the Venet. after Gebhardt, βωβῷ) אל, of the object aimed at, interchanges, as e.g., Kg1 19:3; Kg2 7:7, אל־נפשׁם, for the preservation of their life, or for the sake of their life, for it is seldom that it introduces the object so purely as here. And that an infin. such as חלוף should stand as a subst. occurs proportionally seldomer in Heb. (Isa 4:4; Psa 22:7; cf. with ה of the artic., Num 4:12; Psa 66:9) than it does in Arab. בּני חלוף in the same way as בּני־עני, 5b, belongs to the Arab. complexion of this proverb, but without its being necessary to refer to the Arab. in order to fix the meaning of these two words. Hitzig explains after khalf, to come after, which further means "to have the disadvantage," in which Zckler follows him; but this verb in Arab. does not mean ὑστερεῖν (ὑστερεῖσθαι), we must explain "sons of him that remains behind," i.e., such as come not forward, but remain behind ('an) others. Mhlau goes further, and explains, with Schultens and Vaihinger: those destitute of defence, after (Arab.) khalafahu he is ranked next to him, and has become his representative - a use of the word foreign to the Heb. Still less is the rendering of Gesenius justified, "children of inheritance" = children left behind, after khallafa, to leave behind; and Luther, "for the cause of all who are left behind," by the phrase (Arab.) khallfany'an 'awnih, he has placed me behind his help, denied it to me, for the Kal of the verb cannot mean to abandon, to leave. And that בני חלוף means the opposers of the truth, or of the poor, or the litigious person, the quarrelsome, is perfectly inadmissible, since the Kal חלוף cannot be equivalent to (Arab.) khilaf, the inf. of the 3rd conj., and besides, the gen. after דּין always denotes those in whose favour, not those against whom it is passed; the latter is also valid against Ralbag's "sons of change," i.e., who say things different from what they think; and Ahron b. Josef's "sons of changing," viz., the truth into lies. We must abide by the meaning of the Heb. חלף, "to follow after, to change places, pass away." Accordingly, Fleischer understands by חלוף, the going away, the dying, viz., of parents, and translates: eorum qui parentibus orbati sunt. In another way Rashi reaches the same sense: orphans deprived of their helper. But the connection בני חלף requires that we make those who are intended themselves the subject of חלוף. Rightly Ewald, Bertheau, Kamphausen, compare Isa 2:18 (and Psa 90:5., this with questionable right), and understand by the sons of disappearance those whose inherited lot, whose proper fate, is to disappear, to die, to perish (Symmachus: πάντων υἱῶν ἀποιχομένων; Jerome: omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt). It is not men in general as children of frailty that are meant (Kimchi, Meri, Immanuel, Euchel, and others), after which the Venet. τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ μεταβάλλειν (i.e., those who must exchange this life for another), but such as are on the brink of the abyss. צדק in שׁפט־צדק is not equivalent to בּצדק, but is the accus. of the object, as at Zac 8:16, decide justice, i.e., so that justice is the result of thy judicial act; cf. Knobel on Deu 1:16. ודּין is imper., do right to the miserable and the poor; cf. Psa 54:3 with Jer 22:16; Jer 5:28. That is a king of a right sort, who directs his high function as a judge, so as to be an advocate [procurator] for the helpless of his people.
A wife, such as she ought to be, is a rare treasure, a good excelling all earthly possession:
10 א A virtuous woman, who findeth her!
She stands far above pearls in worth.
In the connection אושׁת חיל and the like, the idea of bodily vigour is spiritualized to that of capacity, ability, and is generalized; in virtus the corresponding transition from manliness, and in the originally Romanic "Bravheit," valour to ability, is completed; we have translated as at Pro 12:4, but also Luther, "a virtuous woman," is suitable, since Tugend (virtue) has with Tchtigkeit [ability] the same root-word, and according to our linguistic [German] usage designates the property of moral goodness and propriety, while for those of former times, when they spoke of the tugend (tugent) of a woman, the word combined with it the idea of fine manners (cf. חן, Pro 11:16) and culture (cf. שׂכל טוב, Pro 13:15). The question מי ימצא, quis inveniat, which, Ecc 7:24, proceeds from the supposition of the impossibility of finding, conveys here only the idea of the difficulty of finding. In ancient Jerusalem, when one was married, they were wont to ask: מצא אומוצא, i.e., has he found? thus as is said at Pro 18:22, or at Ecc 7:26. A virtuous woman [braves Weib] is not found by every one, she is found by comparatively few. In 10b there is given to the thought which underlies the question a synonymous expression. Ewald, Elster, and Zckler incorrectly render the ו by "although" or "and yet." Fleischer rightly: the second clause, if not in form yet in sense, runs parallel to the first. מכר designates the price for which such a woman is sold, and thus is purchasable, not without reference to this, that in the Orient a wife is obtained by means of מהר. מכר, synon. מחיר, for which a wife of the right kind is gained, is רחוק, placed further, i.e., is more difficult to be obtained, than pearls (vid., regarding "pearls" at Pro 3:15), i.e., than the price for such precious things. The poet thereby means to say that such a wife is a more precious possession than all earthly things which are precious, and that he who finds such an one has to speak of his rare fortune.
The reason for this is now given:
11 ב The heart of her husband doth trust her,
And he shall not fail of grain.
If we interpret שׁלל, after Ecc 9:8, as subject, then we miss לּו; it will thus be object., and the husband subj. to לא יחסּר: nec lucro carebit, as e.g., Fleischer translates it, with the remark that שׁלל denotes properly the spoil which one takes from an enemy, but then also, like the Arab. ḍanymat, can mean profit and gain of all kinds (cf. Rdiger in Gesenius' Thes.). Thus also in our "kriegen" = to come into possession, the reference to war disappears. Hitzig understands by שׁלל, the continual prosperity of the man on account of his fortunate possession of such a wife; but in that case the poet should have said שׂמחת שׁלל; for שׁלל is gain, not the feeling that is therewith connected. There is here meant the gain, profit, which the housewife is the means of bringing in (cf. Psa 78:13). The heart of her husband (בּעלּהּ) can be at rest, it can rest on her whom it loves - he goes after his calling, perhaps a calling which, though weighty and honourable, brings in little or nothing; but the wife keeps the family possessions scrupulously together, and increases them by her laborious and prudent management, so that there is not wanting to him gain, which he properly did not acquire, but which the confidence he is justified in reposing in his wife alone brings to him. She is to him a perpetual spring of nothing but good.
12 ג She doeth good to him, and not evil,
All the days of her life;
or, as Luther translates:
"Sie thut jm liebs und kein leids."
[She does him good, and no harm.]
She is far from ever doing him evil, she does him only good all her life long; her love is not dependent on freaks, it rests on deep moral grounds, and hence derives its power and purity, which remain ever the same. גּמל signifies to accomplish, to perform. To the not assimilated form גּמלתהוּ, cf. יסּרתּוּ, 1b.
The poet now describes how she disposes of things:
13 ד She careth for wool and flax,
And worketh these with her hands' pleasure.
The verb דּרשׁ proceeds, as the Arab. shows,
(Note: The inquirer is there called (Arab.) daras, as libros terens.)
from the primary meaning terere; but to translate with reference thereto: tractat lanam et linum (lxx, Schultens, Dathe, Rosemller, Fleischer), is inadmissible. The Heb. דרשׁ does not mean the external working at or manufacturing of a thing; but it means, even when it refers to this, the intention of the mind purposely directed thereto. Thus wool and flax come into view as the material of work which she cares to bring in; and ותּעשׂ signifies the work itself, following the creation of the need of work. Hitzig translates the second line: she works at the business of her hands. Certainly ב after עשׂה may denote the sphere of activity, Exo 31:4; 1 Kings 5:30, etc.; but if חפץ had here the weakened signification business, πρᾶγμα, - which it gains in the same way as we say business, affair, of any object of care - the scarcely established meaning presents itself, that she shows herself active in that which she has made the business of her hands. How much more beautiful, on the contrary, is the thought: she is active with her hands' pleasure! חפץ is, as Schultens rightly explains, inclinatio flexa et propensa in aliquid, and pulchre manibus diligentissimis attribuitur lubentia cum oblectatione et per oblectationem sese animans. עשׂה, without obj. accus., signifies often: to accomplish, e.g., Ps. 22:32; here it stands, in a sense, complete in itself, and without object. accus., as when it means "handeln" [agere], Pro 13:16, and particularly to act in the service of God = to offer sacrifice, Exo 10:25; it means here, and at Rut 2:19; Hab 2:4, to be active, as at Isa 19:15, to be effective; ותּעשׂ is equivalent to ותעשׂ בּמּלאכה or ותעשׂ מלאכתּהּ (cf. under Pro 10:4). And pleasure and love for the work, חפץ, can be attributed to the hands with the same right as at Psa 78:72, discretion. The disposition which animates a man, especially his inner relation to the work devolving upon him, communicates itself to his hands, which, according as he has joy or aversion in regard to his work, will be nimble or clumsy. The Syr. translates: "and her hands are active after the pleasure of her heart;" but בחפץ is not equivalent to כּחפצהּ; also בּחפץ, in the sense of con amore (Bttcher), is not used.
The following proverb praises the extent of her housewifely transactions:
14 ה She is like the ships of the merchant -
Bringeth her food from afar.
She is (lxx ἐγένετο) like merchant ships (כּאניות, indeterminate, and thus to be read kōǒnı̂joth), i.e., she has the art of such ships as sail away and bring wares from a distance, are equipped, sent out, and managed by an enterprising spirit; so the prudent, calculating look of the brave wife, directed towards the care and the advancement of her house, goes out beyond the nearest circle; she descries also distant opportunities of advantageous purchase and profitable exchange, and brings in from a distance what is necessary for the supply of her house, or, mediately, what yields this supply (ממּרחק, Cod. Jaman. ממרחק, cf. under Isa 10:6), for she finds that source of gain she has espied.
With this diligence in her duties she is not a long sleeper, who is not awakened till the sun is up; but
15 ו She riseth up while it is yet night,
And giveth food to her house,
And the fixed portion to her maidens.
The fut. consec. express, if not a logical sequence of connection, yet a close inner binding together of the separate features of the character here described. Early, ere the morning dawns, such a housewife rises up, because she places care for her house above her own comfort; or rather, because this care is to her a satisfaction and a joy. Since now the poet means without doubt to say that she is up before the other inmates of the house, especially before the children, though not before the maids: we have not, in ותּתּן, to think that the inmates of the house, all in the morning night-watch, stand round about her, and that each receives from her a portion for the approaching day; but that she herself, early, whilst yet the most are asleep, gives out or prepares the necessary portions of food for the day (cf. ויּתּן, Isa 53:9). Regarding טרף, food, from טרף (to tear in pieces, viz., with the teeth), and regarding חק, a portion decreed, vid., at Pro 30:8. It is true that חק also means the appointed labour (pensum), and thus the day's work (דּבר יום); but the parallelism brings it nearer to explain after Pro 30:8, as is done by Gesenius and Hitzig after Exo 5:14.
This industry - a pattern for the whole house - this punctuality in the management of household matters, secures to her success in the extension of her household wealth:
16 ז She seeketh a field and getteth possession of it;
Of the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
The field which she considereth, towards which her wish and her effort are directed, is perhaps not one beyond those which she already possesses, but one which has hitherto been wanting to her family; for the poet has, after Pro 31:23, an inhabitant of a town in his eye, - a woman whose husband is not a landlord, but has a business in the city. The perf. זממה precedes and gives circumstantiality to the chief factum expressed by ותּקּחה. Regarding זמם, vid., Pro 21:27. "לקח is the general expression for purchasing, as נתן, 24b, for selling. Thus the Aram. and Arab. אחד, while, (Arab.) akhadh w'ṭa, Turk. alisch werisch (from elmeḳ, to take, and wirmek, to give - viz. ṣâtun, in the way of selling; Lat. venum), post-bibl. משּׂא וּמתּן or מקּח וּממכּר, denotes giving and taking = business in general" (Fleischer). In 16b the Chethı̂b is, with Ewald and Bertheau, to be read נטע, and, with Hitzig, to be made dependent on ותקחה, as parallel obj.: "of her hands' fruit (she gaineth) a planting of vines." But a planting of vines would be expressed by מטּע כרם (Mic 1:6); and the Kerı̂ נטעה is more acceptable. The perf., as a fundamental verbal form, is here the expression of the abstract present: she plants a vineyard, for she purchases vines from the profit of her industry (Isa 7:23, cf. Pro 5:2).
The poet has this augmented household wealth in his eye, for he continues:
17 ח She girdeth her loins with strength,
And moveth vigorously her arms.
Strength is as the girdle which she wraps around her body (Psa 93:1). We write חגרה בעוז; both words have Munach, and the ב of בעוז is aspirated. Thus girded with strength, out of this fulness of strength she makes firm or steels her arms (cf. Psa 89:22). The produce of the field and vineyard extend far beyond the necessity of her house; thus a great portion is brought to sale, and the gain thence arising stimulates the industry and the diligence of the unwearied woman.
18 ט She perceiveth that her gain is good;
And her light goeth not out at night.
The perf. and fut. are related to each other as antecedent and consequent, so that 18a can also be rendered as an hypothetical antecedent. She comes to find (taste) how profitable her industry is by the experience resulting from the sale of its product: the corn, the grapes, and the wine are found to be good, and thus her gain (cf. Pro 3:14) is better, this opened new source of nourishment productive.
This spurs on her active industry to redoubled effort, and at times, when she is not fully occupied by the oversight of her fields and vineyard, she has another employment over which her light goes not out till far in the night. בּלּילה is, as at Lam 2:19, a needless Kerı̂ for the poetic בּלּיל (Isa 16:3). What other business it is to which she gives attention till in the night, is mentioned in the next verse.
19 י She putteth her hand to the rock Spinnrocken;
And her fingers lay hold on the spindle.
She applies herself to the work of spinning, and performs it with skill. The phrase שׁלּח יד בּ (שׁלח, Job 28:9) signifies to take up an object of work, and תּמך, with obj. accus. (cf. Amo 1:5), the handling of the instrument of work necessary thereto. כּפּים denotes the hands when the subject is skilful, successful work; we accordingly say יגיע כפים, not יגיע ידים; cf. Pro 31:13 and Pro 31:16, Psa 78:72. What פּלך means is shown by the Arab. falakat, which, as distinguished from mighzal, i.e., fuseau (Lat. fusus), is explained by bout arrondi et conique au bas du fuseau, thus: the whorl, i.e., the ring or knob fastened on the spindle below, which gives it its necessary weight and regulates its movement, Lat. verticellus, post-bibl. פּיקה (which Bartenora glosses by the Ital. fusajuolo) or צנּורה, e.g., Kelim ix. 6, כושׁ שׁבלע את הצנורה, a spindle which holds the whorl hidden (vid., Aruch under כש, iii.). But the word then also signifies per synecdochen partis pro toto, the spindle, i.e., the cylindrical wood on which the thread winds itself when spinning (cf. Sa2 3:29, where it means the staff on which the infirm leans); Homer gives to Helen and the goddesses golden spindles (χρυσηλάκατοι). Accordingly it is not probable that כּישׁור also denotes the whorl, as Kimchi explains the word: "כישור is that which one calls by the name verteil, viz., that which one fixes on the spindle (פלך) above to regulate the spinning (מטוה)," according to which the Venet. renders כישׁור by σφόνδυλος, whorl, and פלך by ἄτρακτος, spindle. The old interpreters have not recognised that כישׁור denotes a thing belonging to the spinning apparatus; the lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, Syr., and Jerome see therein an ethical idea (from כּשׁר, to be capable, able); but Luther, not misled thereby, translates with unusual excellence:
She stretches her hand to the rock,
And her fingers grasp the spindle.
He has in this no predecessors, except only the Targumists, whose כוּנשׁרא (vid., Levy) appears also to denote the spinning-rock. The Syriac and Talmudic כּוּשׁ, which is compared by Gesenius-Dietrich, is another word, and denotes, not the rock, but the spindle. Immanuel also, who explains פלך as the מעזל, i.e., the spindle, understands (as perhaps also Parchon) by כישׁור the rock. And why should not the rock (wocken = distaff), i.e., the stock to which the tuft of flax, hemp, or wool is fixed for the purpose of being spun, Lat. colus, not be named כּישׁור, from כשׁר, to be upright as a stick, upright in height, or perhaps more correctly as מכשׁיר, i.e., as that which prepares or makes fit the flax for spinning? Also in צינק, Jer 29:26, there are united the meanings of the close and the confining dungeon, and שׁלה = שׁילון signifies
(Note: Otherwise, but improbably, Schultens: colus a כשׁר = katr kathr, necti in orbem, circumnecti in globum. In פּלך, whence פּלך, he rightly finds the primary meaning of circumvolutio sive gyratio.)
the place which yields rest. The spinning-wheel is a German invention of the 16th century, but the rock standing on the ground, or held also in the hands, the spindle and the whorl, are more ancient.
(Note: A view of the ancient art of spinning is afforded by the figures of the 12th Dynasty (according to Lepsius, 2380-2167 b.c.) in the burial chamber of Beni Hassan (270 kilometres above Bulak, on the right bank of the Nile). M. J. Henry, in his work L'Egypte Pharaonique (Paris 1846), Bd. 2, p. 431, mentions that there are figures there which represent "toutes les oprations de la fabrication des tissus depuis le filage jusqu au tissage." Then he continues: Lex fuseaux dont se servent les fileuses sont excatement semblables aux ntres, et on voit mme ces fileuses imprimer le mouvement de rotation ces fuseaux, en en froissant le bout inferieur entre leur main et leur cuisse.)
With the spindle תמך stands in fit relation, for it is twirled between the fingers, as Catullus says of Fate:
Libratum tereti versabat pollice fusum.
(Note: In the "marriage of Peleus and Thetis," Catullus describes the work of the Fates: "Their hands are ceaselessly active at their never-ending work; while the left holds the rock, surrounded with a soft fleece, the right assiduously draws the thread and forms it with raised fingers; then it swiftly turns the spindle, with the thumb stretched down, and swings it away in whirling circles." Then follows the refrain of the song of the Fates: Currite ducentes subtegmina, currite, fusi. - (After Hertzberg's Translation.))
That which impels the housewife to this labour is not selfishness, not a narrow-hearted limitation of her care to the circle of what is her own, but love, which reaches out far beyond this circle:
20 כ She holdeth out her hand to the unfortunate,
And stretcheth forth her hands to the needy.
With כּפּיה, 19b, is connected the idea of artistic skilfulness; with כּפּהּ, here that of offering for counsel (vid., at Isa 2:6); with sympathy and readiness to help, she presents herself to those who are oppressed by the misfortunes of life as if for an alliance, as if saying: place confidence in me, I shall do whatever I can - there thou hast my hand! Hitzig erroneously thinks of the open hand with a gift lying in it: this ought to be named, for כף in itself is nothing else than the half-opened hand. Also in 20b we are not to think of alms. Here Hitzig rightly: she stretches out to him both of her hands, that he might grasp them, both of them, or whichever he may. She does not throw to him merely a gift from a distance, but above all she gives to him to experience her warm sympathy (cf. Eze 16:49). Here, as at 19a, שׁלחה is punctuated (with Dagesh) as Piel. The punctuation supposes that the author both times not unintentionally made use of the intensive form. This one verse (20) is complete in itself as a description of character; and the author has done well in choosing such strong expressions, for, without this sympathy with misery and poverty, she, so good and trustworthy and industrious, might indeed be pleasing to her husband, but not to God. One could almost wish that greater expansion had been given to this one feature in the picture.
But the poet goes on to describe her fruitful activity in the nearest sphere of her calling:
21 ל She is not afraid of the snow for her house;
For her whole house is clothed in scarlet.
A fall of snow in the rainy season of winter is not rare in Palestine, the Hauran, and neighbouring countries, and is sometimes accompanied with freezing cold.
(Note: Vid., regarding a fall of snow in Jerusalem, the journal Saat auf Hoffnung Jahrg. 3, Heft 3; and in the Hauran Comm. to Job 38:22.)
She sees approaching the cold time of the year without any fear for her house, even though the season bring intense cold; for her whole house, i.e., the whole of the members of her family, are לבשׁ שׁנים. The connection is accusatival (Venet. ἐνδεδυμένος ἐρυθρά), as at Sa2 15:32; Eze 9:2-3. שׁני, from שׁנה, to shine, glance clear, or high red, and is with or without תולעת the name of the colour of the Kermes worm, crimson or scarlet, perhaps to be distinguished from ארגּמן, the red-purple shell colour, and תּכלת, the blue. שׁנים are clothing or material coloured with such שׁני (bright red) (vid., at Isa 1:18). The explanation of the word by dibapha is inadmissible, because the doubled colouring, wherever it is mentioned, always refers to the purple, particularly that of Tyre (dibapha Tyria), not to the scarlet.
(Note: Vid., Blmner's Die gewerbliche Thtigkeit der Vlder des klassischen Alterthums (1869), p. 21f.)
But why does the poet name scarlet-coloured clothing? On account of the contrast to the white snow, says Hitzig, he clothes the family in crimson. But this contrast would be a meaningless freak. Rather it is to be supposed that there is ascribed to the red material a power of retaining the heat, as there is to the white that of keeping off the heat; but evidence for this are wanting. Therefore Rosenmller, Vaihinger, and Bttcher approve of the translation duplicibus (Jerome, Luther) [= with double clothing], because they read, with the lxx, שׁנים.
(Note: The lxx reads together שנים מרבדים, δισσὰς χλαίνας, and brings into Pro 31:21 (her husband remains without care for the members of the family if it does not snow χιονίζη, as it is to be read for χρονίζη) and 22 the husband, who appears to the translator too much kept in the background.)
But, with right, the Syr., Targ. abide by זהוריתא, scarlet. The scarlet clothing is of wool, which as such preserves warmth, and, as high-coloured, appears at the same time dignified (Sa2 1:24).
From the protecting, and at the same time ornamental clothing of the family, the poet proceeds to speak of the bed-places, and of the attire of the housewife:
22 מ She prepareth for herself pillows;
Linen and purple is her raiment.
Regarding מרבדּים (with ב raphatum), vid., at Pro 7:16. Thus, pillows or mattresses (Aquila, Theodotion, περιστρώματα; Jerome, stragulatam vestem; Luther, Decke = coverlets) to make the bed soft and to adorn it (Kimchi: ליפּות על המטות, according to which Venet. κόσμια); Symmachus designates it as ἀμφιτάπους, i.e., τάπητες (tapetae, tapetia, carpets), which are hairy (shaggy) on both sides.
(Note: Vid., Lumbroso, Recherches sur l'Economie politique de l'Egypte sous les Lagides (Turin, 1870), p. 111; des tapis de laine de premere qualit, pourpres, laineux des deux cts (ἀμφίταποι).)
Only the lxx makes out of it δισσὰς χλαίνας, lined overcoats, for it brings over שׁנים. By עשׂתה־לּהּ it is not meant that she prepares such pillows for her own bed, but that she herself (i.e., for the wants of her house) prepares them. But she also clothes herself in costly attire. שׁשׁ (an Egyptian word, not, as Heb., derived from שׁוּשׁ, cogn. ישׁשׁ, to be white) is the old name for linen, according to which the Aram. translates it by בּוּץ, the Greek by βύσσος, vid., Genesis, pp. 470, 557, to which the remark is to be added, that the linen [Byssus], according to a prevailing probability, was not a fine cotton cloth, but linen cloth. Luther translates שׁשׁ, here and elsewhere, by weisse Seide [white silk] (σηρικόν, i.e., from the land of the Σῆρες, Rev 18:12); but the silk, is first mentioned by Ezekiel under the name of משׁי; and the ancients call the country where silk-stuff (bombycina) was woven, uniformly Assyria. ארגּמן (Aram. ארגּון, derived by Benfey, with great improbability, from the rare Sanscrit word râgavant, red-coloured; much rather from רגם = רקם, as stuff of variegated colour) is red purple; the most valuable purple garments were brought from Tyre and Sidon.
Now, first, the description turns back to the husband, of the woman who is commended, mentioned in the introduction:
23 נ 32 Well known in the gates is her husband,
Where he sitteth among the elders of the land.
Such a wife is, according to Pro 12:4, עטרת בּעלּהּ, - she advances the estimation and the respect in which her husband is held. He has, in the gates where the affairs of the city are deliberated upon, a well-known, reputable name; for there he sits, along with the elders of the land, who are chosen into the council of the city as the chief place of the land, and has a weighty voice among them. The phrase wavers between נודע (lxx περίβλεπτος γίνεται; Venet. ἔλνωσται) and נודע. The old Venetian edd. have in this place (like the Cod. Jaman.), and at Psa 9:17, נודע; on the contrary, Psa 76:2; Ecc 6:10, נודע, and that is correct; for the Masora, at this place and at Psa 76:2 (in the Biblia rabb), is disfigured.
The description, following the order of the letters, now directs attention to the profitable labour of the housewife:
24 ס She prepareth body-linen and selleth it,
And girdles doth she give to the Phoenicians.
It is a question whether סדין signifies σινδών, cloth from Sindhu, the land of India (vid., at Isa 3:23); the Arab. sadn (sadl), to cause to hang down, to descend (for the purpose of covering or veiling), offers an appropriate verbal root. In the Talmud, סדין is the sleeping linen, the curtain, the embroidered cloth, but particularly a light smock-frock, as summer costume, which was worn on the bare body (cf. Mar 14:51.). Kimchi explains the word by night-shirt; the Edictum Diocletiani, xviii. 16, names σινδόνες κοιταρίαι, as the Papyrus Louvre, ὀθόνια ἐγκοιμήτρια; and the connection in the Edict shows that linen attire (ἐκ λίνου) is meant, although - as with שׁשׁ, so also with סדין - with the ancients and the moderns, sometimes linen and sometimes cotton is spoken of without any distinction. Aethicus speaks of costly girdles, Cosmogr. 84, as fabricated at Jerusalem: baltea regalia ... ex Hierosolyma allata; Jerusalem and Scythopolis were in later times the chief places in Palestine for the art of weaving. In Galilee also, where excellent flax grew, the art of weaving was carried on; and the ὀθόναι, which, according to Clemens Alex. Paedag. ii. 10, p. 239, were exported ἐκ γῆς Ἑβραίων, are at least in their material certainly synon. with σινδόνες. Regarding נתן, syn. מכר, opp. לקח, syn. נשׂא = קנה, vid., at 16a. There is no reason to interpret כּנעני here, with the obliteration of the ethnographical meaning, in the general sense of סחר, trader, merchant; for purple, 22b, is a Phoenician manufacture, and thus, as an article of exchange, can be transferred to the possession of the industrious wife.
The description is now more inward:
25 ע Strength and honour is her clothing;
Thus she laugheth at the future day.
She is clothed with עז, strength, i.e., power over the changes of temporal circumstances, which easily shatter and bring to ruin a household resting on less solid foundations; clothed with הדר, glory, i.e., elevation above that which is low, little, common, a state in which they remain who propose to themselves no high aim after which they strive with all their might: in other words, her raiment is just pride, true dignity, with which she looks confidently into the future, and is armed against all sorrow and care. The connection of ideas, עז והדר (defectively written, on the contrary, at Psa 84:6, Masora, and only there written plene, and with Munach), instead of the frequent הוד והדר, occurs only here. The expression 25b is like Job 39:7, wherefore Hitzig rightly compares Job 24:14 to 25a. יום אחרון, distinguished from אחרית, and incorrectly interpreted (Rashi) of the day of death, is, as at Isa 30:8, the future, here that which one at a later period may enter upon.
The next verse presents one of the most beautiful features in the portrait:
26 פ She openeth her mouth with wisdom,
And amiable instruction is on her tongue.
The ב of בּחכמה is, as also at Psa 49:5; Psa 78:2, that of means: when she speaks, then it is wisdom pressing itself from her heart outward, by means of which she breaks the silence of her mouth. With על, in the expression 26b, elsewhere תּהת interchanges: under the tongue, Psa 10:7, one has that which is ready to be spoken out, and on the tongue, Psa 15:3, that which is in the act of being spoken out. תּורת־חסד is a genitive connection after the manner of tôrath אמת, Mal 2:6. The gen. is not, as at Lev 6:2, in tôrath העלה, the gen. of the object (thus e.g., Fleischer's institutio ad humanitatem), but the gen. of property, but not so that חסד denotes grace (Symmachus, νόμος ἐπίχαρις; Theodotion, νόμος χάριτος), because for this meaning there is no example except Isa 40:6; and since חסד in the O.T. is the very same as in the N.T., love, which is the fulfilling of the law, Hos 6:6, cf. Kg1 20:31,
(Note: Immanuel remarks that Tôrath חסד probably refers to the Tôra, and שׁכוהל חסד, i.e., which is wholly love, which goes forth in love, to the Gesetz = statute.)
it is supposed that the poet, since he writes תורת חסד, and not תורת חן, means to designate by חסד this property without which her love for her husband, her industry, her high sentiment, would be no virtues, viz., unselfish, sympathizing, gentle love. Instruction which bears on itself the stamp of such amiability, and is also gracious, i.e., awakening love, because going forth from love (according to which Luther, translating holdselige Lere = pleasing instructions, thus understands it) - such instruction she carries, as house-mother (Pro 1:8), in her mouth. Accordingly the lxx translate (vid., Lagarde regarding the mistakes of this text before us) θεσμοὶ ἐλεημοσύνης, and Jerome lex clementiae. חסד is related to אהבה as grace to love; it denotes love showing itself in kindness and gracefulness, particularly condescending love, proceeding from a compassionate sympathy with the sufferings and wants of men. Such graceful instruction she communicates now to this and now to that member of her household, for nothing that goes on in her house escapes her observation.
27 צ She looketh well to the ways of her house,
And eateth not the bread of idleness.
Although there exists an inner relation between 27a and Pro 31:26, yet 27a is scarcely to be thought of (Hitzig) as appos. to the suffix in לשׁונהּ. Participles with or without determination occur in descriptions frequently as predicates of the subject standing in the discourse of the same force as abstr. present declarations, e.g., Isa 40:22., Psa 104:13. צופיּה is connected with the accus. of the object of the intended warning, like Pro 15:3, and is compared according to the form with המיּה, Pro 7:11. הליבה signifies elsewhere things necessary for a journey, Job 6:19, and in the plur. magnificus it denotes show (pompa), Hab 3:6 : but originally the walk, conduct, Nah 2:6; and here in the plur. walks = comings and goings, but not these separately, but in general, the modi procedendi (lxx διατριβαι). The Chethı̂b has הילכות, probably an error in writing, but possibly also the plur. of הלכה, thus found in the post-bibl. Heb. (after the form צדקות), custom, viz., appointed traditional law, but also like the Aram. הלכא (emph. הלכתא), usage, manner, common practice. Hitzig estimates this Chethı̂b, understood Talmudically, as removing the section into a late period; but this Talmudical signification is not at all appropriate (Hitzig translates, with an incorrect rendering of צופיה, "for she sees after the ordering of the house"), and besides the Aram. הלכא, e.g., Targ. Pro 16:9, in the first line, signifies only the walk or the manner and way of going, and this gives with the Kerı̂ essentially the same signification. Luther well: Sie schawet wie es in jrem Hause zugeht [= she looks how it goes in her house]. Her eyes are turned everywhere; she is at one time here, at another there, to look after all with her own eyes; she does not suffer the day's work, according to the instructions given, to be left undone, while she folds her own hands on her bosom; but she works, keeping an oversight on all sides, and does not eat the bread of idleness (עצלוּת = עצלה, Pro 19:15), but bread well deserved, for εἴ τις οὐ θέλει ἐργάζεσθαι, μηδὲ ἐσθιέτω, Th2 3:10.
Now begins the finale of this song in praise of the virtuous woman:
28 ק Her sons rise up and bless her,
Her husband (riseth up) and praiseth her.
The Piel אשּׁר in such a connection is denom. of אשׁר (אשׁרי). Her children rise up (קוּם, like e.g., Jer 26:17, but here, perhaps, with the associated idea of reverential honour) and bless her, that she has on her part brought the house and them to such prosperity, such a position of respect, and to a state where love (חסד) reigns, and her husband rises up and sings her praise.
29 ר "Many are the daughters who have done bravely,
But thou hast surpassed them all together."
We have already often remarked, last time under Pro 29:6, that רב, not indeed in its sing., but in its plur. רבּים and רבּות, can precede, after the manner of a numeral, as attribute; but this syntactical licence, Pro 28:12, by no means appears, and needs to be assumed as little here as at Pro 8:26, although there is no reason that can be adduced against it. עשׂה חיל signifies here not the gaining of riches (the lxx, Syr., Targ., Jerome, Luther, Gesenius, Bttcher, and others), which here, where the encomium comes to its height, would give to it a mercenary mammon-worship note - it indeed has this signification only when connected with ל of the person: Sibi opes acquirere, Deu 6:17; Eze 28:4 - but: bravery, energy, and, as the reference to אשׁת חיל demands, moral activity, capacity for activity, in accordance with one's calling, ποιεῖν ἀρετήν, by which the Venet. translates it. בּנות is, as in the primary passages, Gen 30:13; Sol 6:9, a more delicate, finer name of women than נשׁים: many daughters there have always been who have unfolded ability, but thou my spouse hast raised thyself above them all, i.e., thou art excellent and incomparable. Instead of עלית, there is to be written, after Chajug, Aben Ezra (Zachoth 7a), and Jekuthiel under Gen 16:11, עלית; the Spanish Nakdanim thus distinguish the forms מצאת, thou hast found, and מצאת, she has found. כּלּנה, for כּלּן, Gen 42:36.
What now follows is not a continuation of the husband's words of praise (Ewald, Elster, Lwenstein), but an epiphonema auctoris (Schultens); the poet confirms the praise of the husband by referring it to the general ground of its reason:
30 ש Grace is deceit; and beauty, vanity -
A wife that feareth Jahve, she shall be praised.
Grace is deceit, because he who estimates the works of a wife merely by the loveliness of her external appearance, is deceived by it; and beauty is vanity, vanitas, because it is nothing that remains, nothing that is real, but is subject to the law of all material things - transitoriness. The true value of a wife is measured only by that which is enduring, according to the moral background of its external appearance; according to the piety which makes itself manifest when the beauty of bodily form has faded away, in a beauty which is attractive.
(Note: Vid., the application of Pro 31:30 in Taanith 26b: "Young man," say the maidens, "lift up thine eyes and behold that which thou choosest for thyself! Direct thine eyes not to beauty (נוי), direct thine eyes to the family (משׁפחה); pleasantness is a deception, etc.")
יראת (with Makkeph following),
(Note: The writing יראת־ is that of Ben Asher, יראת that of Ben Naphtali; Norzi, from a misunderstanding, claims יראת־ (with Gaja) as Ben Asher's manner of writing.)
is here the connective form of יראה (fem. of ירא). The Hithpa. תתהלּל is here manifestly (Pro 27:2) not reflexive, but representative of the passive (cf. Pro 12:8, and the frequently occurring מהלּל, laudatus = laudandus), nowhere occurring except in the passage before us. In itself the fut. may also mean: she will be praised = is worthy of praise, but the jussive rendering (Luther: Let her be praised) is recommended by the verse which follows:
31 ת Give to her of the fruit of her hands;
And let her works praise her in the gates!
The fruit of her hands is the good which, by her conduct, she has brought to maturity - the blessing which she has secured for others, but, according to the promise (Isa 3:10), has also secured for her own enjoyment. The first line proceeds on the idea that, on account of this blessing, she herself shall rejoice. תּנוּ־להּ (with Gaja, after Metheg-Setzung, 37) is not equivalent to give to her honour because of...; for in that case, instead of the ambiguous מן, another preposition - such e.g., as על - would have been used; and so תּנוּ, of itself, cannot be equivalent to תּנּוּ (sing the praise of), as Ziegler would read, after Jdg 11:40. It must stand with כבוד, or instead of מפּרי an accus. obj. is to be thought of, as at Psa 68:35; Deu 32:3, which the necessity of the case brings with it - the giving, as a return in the echo of the song of praise. Immanuel is right in explaining תנו־לה by תגמלו לה חסד or עשׂו עתה חסד וכבוד, cf. Psa 28:4. The מן, as is not otherwise to be expected, after תנו is partitive: give to her something of the fruit of her hands, i.e., recompense it to her, render it thankfully, by which not exclusively a requital in the form of honourable recognition, but yet this specially, is to be thought of. Her best praise is her works themselves. In the gates, i.e., in the place where the representatives of the people come together, and where the people are assembled, her works praise her; and the poet desires that this may be right worthily done, full of certainty that she merits it, and that they honour themselves who seek to praise the works of such a woman, which carry in themselves their own commendation.