The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.
Lemuel — Of Solomon, by the general consent both of Jewish and Christian writers; this name signifies one from God, or belonging to God, and such an one was Solomon eminently, being given by God to David and Bathsheba, as a pledge of his reconciliation to them after their repentance. Possibly his mother gave him this name to mind him of his great obligations to God, and of the justice of his devoting himself to God's service.
 What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?
What — A short speech, arguing her great passion for him; what words shall I take? What counsels shall I give thee? My heart is full, but where shall I begin? Of my womb - My son, not by adoption, but whom I bare in the womb, and therefore it is my duty to give thee admonitions, and thine to receive them.
My vows — On whose behalf I have made many prayers and sacrifices, and solemn vows to God; whom I have, as far as in me lay, devoted to the work, and service, and glory of God.
 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.
Strength — The vigour of thy mind and body.
Ways — Thy conversation, repeated in other words.
 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
To drink — To excess.
 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
To perish — To faint; for such need a cordial.
 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
The dumb — For such as cannot speak in their own cause, either through ignorance, or because of the dread of their more potent adversaries.
Destruction — Who, without such succour from the judges, are like to be utterly ruined.
 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
A virtuous woman — Here he lays down several qualifications of an excellent wife, which are delivered in alphabetical order, each verse beginning with a several letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
No need — He shall have no need to use indirect courses to get wealth.
 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
Flax — That she may find employment for her servants.
Worketh — She encourages them to work by her example; which was a common practice among princesses in those first ages. Not that it is the duty of kings and queens to use manual operations, but it is the duty of all persons, the greatest not excepted, to improve all their talents, and particularly their time, which is one of the noblest of them, to the service of that God to whom they must give an account, and to the good of that community to which they are related.
 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
From afar — By the sale of her home-spun commodities she purchases the choicest goods which come from far countries.
 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
Giveth — Distributes all necessary provisions.
 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
Considereth — Whether it be fit for her use.
The fruit — With the effects of her diligence.
Planteth — She improves the land to the best advantage.
 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
Girdeth — She uses great diligence and expedition in her employment; for which end, men in those times used to gird up their long and loose garments about their loins.
Strengtheneth — Puts forth her utmost strength in her business.
 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
Perceiveth — She finds great comfort in her labours.
Her candle — Which is not to be taken strictly, but only signifies her unwearied care and industry.
 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She layeth — By her own example she provokes her servants to labour. And although in these latter and more delicate times, such mean employments are grown out of fashion among great persons, yet they were not so in former ages, neither in other countries, nor in this land; whence all women unmarried unto this day are called in the language of our law, Spinsters.
 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Not afraid — Of any injuries of the weather.
Are clothed — She hath provided enough, not only for their necessity, but also for their delight and ornament.
 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Tapestry — For the furniture of her house.
Silk — Which was agreeable to her high quality.
 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
It known — Observed and respected, not only for his own worth, but for his wife's sake.
Sitteth — In counsel or judgment.
 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Girdles — Curiously wrought of linen, and gold, or other precious materials.
 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Strength — Strength of mind, magnanimity, courage, activity.
Her clothing — Her ornament and glory.
Rejoice — She lives in constant tranquillity of mind, from a just confidence in God's gracious providence.
 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Openeth her mouth — She is neither sullenly silent, nor full of impertinent talk, but speaks discreetly and piously, as occasion offers.
In her tongue — Her speeches are guided by wisdom and grace, and not by inordinate passions. And this practice is called a law in her tongue, because it is constant and customary, and proceeds from an inward and powerful principle of true wisdom.
 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Looketh well — She diligently observes the management of her domestick business, and the whole carriage of her children and servants.
 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Favour — Comeliness, which commonly gives women favour with those who behold them.
Deceitful — It gives a false representation of the person, being often a cover to a deformed soul; it does not give a man that satisfaction, which at first he promised to himself from it; and it is soon lost, not only by death, but by many diseases and contingencies.
 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
Give her — It is but just, that she should enjoy those praises which her labours deserve.
Let her works — If men be silent, the lasting effects of her prudence and diligence will trumpet forth her praises.
In the gates — In the most publick and solemn assemblies.