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Proverbs 31:15-18

Context

31:15 She also gets up 1  while it is still night,

and provides food 2  for her household and a portion 3  to her female servants.

31:16 She considers 4  a field and buys it;

from her own income 5  she plants a vineyard.

31:17 She begins 6  her work vigorously,

and she strengthens 7  her arms.

31:18 She knows 8  that her merchandise is good,

and her lamp 9  does not go out in the night.

1 tn The first word of the sixth line begins with ו (vav), the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

2 sn The word for “food” is טֶרֶף (teref, “prey”; KJV “meat”), another word that does not normally fit the domestic scene. This word also is used in a similar way in Ps 111:5, which says the Lord gives food. Here it is the noble woman who gives food to her family and servants.

3 sn The word חֹק (khoq) probably means “allotted portion of food” as before, but some suggest it means the task that is allotted to the servants, meaning that the wise woman gets up early enough to give out the work assignments (Tg. Prov 31:15, RSV, NRSV, TEV, NLT). That is possible, but seems an unnecessary direction for the line to take. Others, however, simply wish to delete this last colon, leaving two cola and not three, but that is unwarranted.

4 tn The first word of the seventh line begins with ז (zayin), the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

sn The word “considers” means “to plan carefully” in accordance with her purposes. The word is often used in the book of Proverbs for devising evil; but here it is used positively of the woman’s wise investment.

5 tn Heb “from the fruit of her hands.” The expression employs two figures. “Hands” is a metonymy of cause, indicating the work she does. “Fruit” is a hypocatastasis, an implied comparison meaning what she produces, the income she earns. She is able to plant a vineyard from her income.

6 tn The first word of the eighth line begins with ח (khet), the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

tn Heb “she girds her loins with strength.” The idea is that of gathering up the long robes with a sash or belt so that they do not get in the way of the work. The point of the figure is readiness for work. But to say she girds herself with “strength” means that she begins vigorously. “Strength” here would be a comparison with the sash.

7 sn The expression “she makes her arm strong” parallels the first half of the verse and indicates that she gets down to her work with vigor and strength. There may be some indication here of “rolling up the sleeves” to ready the arms for the task, but that is not clear.

8 tn The first word of the ninth line begins with ט (tet), the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

sn This is the word for “taste.” It means her opinion or perception, what she has learned by experience and therefore seems right.

9 sn The line may be taken literally to mean that she is industrious throughout the night (“burning the midnight oil”) when she must in order to follow through a business deal (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 668); cf. TEV. But the line could also be taken figuratively, comparing “her light” to the prosperity of her household – her whole life – which continues night and day.



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