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Proverbs 31:4-7

Context

31:4 It is not for kings, 1  O Lemuel,

it is not for kings to drink wine, 2 

or for rulers to crave strong drink, 3 

31:5 lest they drink and forget what is decreed,

and remove 4  from all the poor 5  their legal rights. 6 

31:6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, 7 

and wine to those who are bitterly distressed; 8 

31:7 let them 9  drink and forget 10  their poverty,

and remember their misery no more.

1 tn Heb “[It is] not for kings.”

2 sn This second warning for kings concerns the use of alcohol. If this passage is meant to prohibit any use of alcohol by kings, it would be unheard of in any ancient royal court. What is probably meant is an excessive and unwarranted use of alcohol, or a troubling need for it, so that the meaning is “to drink wine in excess” (cf. NLT “to guzzle wine”; CEV “should not get drunk”). The danger, of course, would be that excessive use of alcohol would cloud the mind and deprive a king of true administrative ability and justice.

3 tn The MT has אֵו (’ev), a Kethib/Qere reading. The Kethib is אוֹ (’o) but the Qere is אֵי (’ey). Some follow the Qere and take the word as a shortened form of וַֹיֵּה, “where?” This would mean the ruler would be always asking for drink (cf. ASV). Others reconstruct to אַוֵּה (’avveh, “to desire; to crave”). In either case, the verse would be saying that a king is not to be wanting/seeking alcohol.

tn Here “strong drink” probably refers to barley beer (cf. NIV, NCV “beer”).

4 tn The verb means “change,” perhaps expressed in reversing decisions or removing rights.

5 tn Heb “all the children of poverty.” This expression refers to the poor by nature. Cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV “the afflicted”; NIV “oppressed.”

6 sn The word is דִּין (din, “judgment”; so KJV). In this passage it refers to the cause or the plea for justice, i.e., the “legal rights.”

7 sn Wine and beer should be given to those distressed and dying in order to ease their suffering and help them forget.

8 tn Heb “to the bitter of soul.” The phrase לְמָרֵי נָפֶשׁ (lÿmare nafesh) has been translated “of heavy hearts” (KJV); “in anguish” (NIV); “in misery” (TEV); “in bitter distress” (NRSV); “sorely depressed” (NAB); “in deep depression (NLT); “have lost all hope” (CEV). The word “bitter” (מַר, mar) describes the physical and mental/spiritual suffering as a result of affliction, grief, or suffering – these people are in emotional pain. So the idea of “bitterly distressed” works as well as any other translation.

9 tn The subjects and suffixes are singular (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB). Most other English versions render this as plural for stylistic reasons, in light of the preceding context.

10 tn The king was not to “drink and forget”; the suffering are to “drink and forget.”



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