The Words of Lemuel, 1-9

31:1 The words of King Lemuel,
an oracle that his mother taught him:
31:2 O my son, O son of my womb,
O son of my vows,
31:3 Do not give your strength to women,
nor your ways to that which ruins kings.
31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to crave strong drink,
31:5 lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
and remove from all the poor their legal rights.
31:6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those who are bitterly distressed;
31:7 let them drink and forget their poverty,
and remember their misery no more.

Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitterly distressed

AV: ‘Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, And wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.’  It has been thought by some that ‘strong drink’ is more intoxicating than ‘wine’, and that the former drink was offered to (and refused by) Jesus (Mt 27:34), whereas he accepted the latter because he was on the point of dying (Jn 19:29).  There is, however, no reason to suppose that the two types of drink offered to our Lord correspond to the two types of drink mentioned in the present passage.  And, in any case, the parallelism of verse 6 does not imply a distinction, but rather a similarity, between the two types of drink mentioned.

As Garrett remarks, the point of this passage is not to recommend inebriation for the masses, but rather to remind Lemuel of the mind-numbing effects of over-consumption.

31:8 Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak,
for the legal rights of all the dying.
31:9 Open your mouth, judge in righteousness,
and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

The Wife of Noble Character, 10-31

31:10 Who can find a wife of noble character?
For her value is far more than rubies.
31:11 The heart of her husband has confidence in her,
and he has no lack of gain.
31:12 She brings him good and not evil
all the days of her life.
31:13 She obtains wool and flax,
and she is pleased to work with her hands.
31:14 She is like the merchant ships;
she brings her food from afar.
31:15 She also gets up while it is still night,
and provides food for her household and a portion to her female servants.
31:16 She considers a field and buys it;
from her own income she plants a vineyard.

This passage ‘depicts a wife and mother whose support for the family extends well beyond ordinary domestic chores (cf. e.g., verses 16 and 24: “She considers a field and buys it … she plants a vineyard… . She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen,” NASB).’ (Knight, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

31:17 She begins her work vigorously,
and she strengthens her arms.
31:18 She knows that her merchandise is good,
and her lamp does not go out in the night.
31:19 Her hands take hold of the distaff,
and her hands grasp the spindle.
31:20 She extends her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hand to the needy.
31:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
for all of her household are clothed with scarlet.
31:22 She makes for herself coverlets;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
31:23 Her husband is well-known in the city gate
when he sits with the elders of the land.
31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
31:25 She is clothed with strength and honor,
and she can laugh at the time to come.
31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and loving instruction is on her tongue.
31:27 She watches over the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed,
her husband also praises her:
31:29 “Many daughters have done valiantly,
but you surpass them all!”
31:30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised.
31:31 Give her credit for what she has accomplished,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Without, it seems giving full support, Christine Roy Yoder notes: ‘Most women regard the “woman of substance” as a mixed blessing. Aspects of her depiction reinforce the values and customs of a patriarchal culture. The poet objectifies her, describing her as something to be found and purchased. She has a “price” higher than that of other expensive items, perhaps a reference to the value of her dowry or a bride-price paid by the groom to the bride’s family (Prov 31:10). And she is desirable for the “loot”—the imported delicacies, real estate, money, and status—she brings her husband (Prov 31:11–12). Moreover, she embodies not one woman but the desired aspects of many. The idealized portrait assumes, among other things, that the woman is heterosexual, married, and a mother. It is no wonder, then, that while some women say they know a “woman of substance,” far more consider her a “superwoman”—another unrealistic and dehumanizing depiction of women created to entice and promote the values of men.’ (Women’s Bible Commentary)