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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Proverbs 31



Verse 28


‘Her children arise up, and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praiseth her.’

Proverbs 31:28

I. She has the praise of her husband.—The husband is secondary in the picture, but we are told something about him. He is known as were Job and Boaz in the gates of his city. An elder and a judge, he sits there to be consulted in the simple way in which justice was administered in those primitive times. He praiseth her; not waiting till she is absent, as did Thomas Carlyle, to say pleasant things which found no counterpart in his words to his wife when they were together; nor putting off the discovery of her virtue until she was dead, and making up for a lifetime of neglect by a costly monument and an extravagant epitaph.

II. She has her children’s blessing.—Her children rise up and call her blessed. To them she has been a true mother. She does not affect the fear of a large family which is the shame of some countries. It is the absence of pious mothers which makes the abundance of godless sons and daughters. And on the other hand the chances are that where there is true religion at home the children will one by one become converted. Our prisons and penitentiaries and reformatories are the fruits of homes which are no homes. The drift towards the jail starts sometimes from the very cradle.

III. She has the honour of her neighbours.Let her own works praise her in the gates. ‘The great Greek historian said that woman’s highest praise consisted in not being mentioned at all. That is not the teaching of Revelation. Woman’s highest praise is when the seeds sown in silence have grown into flowers of love liness and fruit that is sweet to the taste, and the whole community is forced to yield to her the honour which is her due, exalting, with heartfelt admiration and with deep gratitude to God, the wife, the mother, the ministrant to the poor.’

IV. And as the summing up of the whole she reaps the harvest of her life.Praise her according to the fruit of her hands. Her life is her best monument; her family her fittest memorial.

‘So closes the book of Proverbs. In the first chapter we found father and mother advising a listening son; now we find a woman drawn in full length with a skill of heaven and the feeling of love. Such a woman is the mother of the world. The Bible recognises the beauty, the dignity, and the worth of women beyond all other books.’ This portrait in its rich colours, vivid lines, and harmonious completeness, has never been excelled. Here we have

A woman mixed of such fine elements

That were all virtue and religion dead

She’d make them newly, being what she was.

Matthew Henry quaintly concludes, ‘Thus is shut up this looking-glass for ladies, which they are desired to open and dress themselves by it; and if they do so, their adorning will be found to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.’


(1) ‘It is assumed by most commentators that the poem which closes the Book of Proverbs forms a part of the pious counsel given by the Lady of Massa to her son. Possibly it may. The style of matron delineated is such as a princess might be in those primitive times, and may have been intended to guide Lemuel in his marriage choice. It is an alphabetical song, each of the twenty-two verses of the original beginning with a letter of the alphabet in its usual order. In this form some of the most beautiful and elaborate of the Hebrew poems are written: several of David’s Psalms, particularly the 119th, where eight consecutive verses begin with the same letter. Stuart says, with more than ordinary enthusiasm, “It is a song which is at the same time both beautiful and noble. The picture is certainly very attractive, and shows the hand of a skilful artist. It is a striking specimen of the simplex munditiis.”’

(2) ‘“The Age of Home-spun” was the happy title of one of Horace Bushnell’s wisest addresses. It was a good age to celebrate. Benjamin Franklin records that he had once been clothed from head to foot in woollen and linen of his wife’s manufacture, and, says he, “I never was prouder of my dress in my life.” Our word spinster commemorates the historical fact that the bride, before leaving her father’s house, spun her own linen. The model wife in our lesson is afraid neither of weather nor of want. The snow does not make her shiver, and she has no fears as she looks on, for she shall rejoice in time to come. Probably the word scarlet should be translated with double garment; but the idea that red is a warm colour is a very old superstition, and holds still.’

Verse 30-31


‘Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.’

Proverbs 31:30-31

I. Interpretation.—‘Grace’ and ‘beauty’ will not win lasting praise; therefore they will disappoint. But a God-fearing woman, ‘she shall be praised’; her character in God’s eyes and man’s shall be her lasting grace, her unfading beauty. She is worthy of the praise she has earned by the work of her own hands. ‘Let her own works celebrate her.’ (To be praised ‘in the gates,’ or in the places of public concourse, is equivalent to becoming noted or celebrated.)

II. Illustration.—The unsatisfactory character of mere beauty of face or of form is illustrated by the cases, of Rachel, unhappy in spite of it; of Naomi, who lost it through bitter affliction; of Vashti, whom it exposed to insult. But Sarah is praised in Holy Scripture for her faith and obedience (Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:6); the garments wrought by Dorcas for the poor, and the tears shed over her dead body, were her best encomium; the pious fulfilment of maternal duties was the commendation of Lois and Eunice, which has made their names household words unto this day.

III. Application.—The ‘counsels’ of this book end, as they began, with ‘the fear of the Lord.’ This is the condition of all womanly as well as manly excellence. The character of the ‘excellent woman’ or wife has been beautifully described. She has been held up as a pattern of conjugal virtue. Her industry, benevolence, forethought, discretion, kindness, government of her household—these and other admirable points have been exhibited by way of pattern. Then is disclosed the key to such rare excellence. True religion has led up to it. For religion does not slacken, but rather quickens attention to the common duties of life. Genuine faith gives birth to obedience. The holier the woman, the better the wife, the mother, the mistress of a household. Thus, Christianity would commend itself to the world. Beauty of form and feature is not essential to its praise. For these are but fleeting, and, unless combined with sterling good qualities, ere long disappoint or even create disgust. No, it is only beauty of character, the loveliness of practical piety as seen in the details of every-day life, which compels universal admiration at last. This, too, shall have ‘praise of God,’ of Him Whose whole teaching throughout this book has been of righteousness as the fruit of faith. Where holy women lead the way, let men follow. Each have their respective work to do. According as that is done shall they enter in (or not) through the gates into the city.

—Rev. C. R. Pearson.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Proverbs 31:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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