Proverbs 31:14

The Merchants’ Ships


1. This proverb continues to describe the virtuous woman… the strong, capable, noble woman.

2. Here she is described as a diligent, shrewd, and capable shopper.

3. She is likened to the merchants’ ships.

The Merchant Ships in the Bible

1. II Chron. 9:10-14 – They brought in on their merchant ships gold and algum trees. These were unusual trees that made the finest musical instruments. Because of his merchant ships, Solomon had available whatever the Queen of Sheba wanted.

2. II Chron. 9:21-24 – They imported gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. These were exotic, imported items from faraway places.

3. Ezekiel 27:3-25 – Merchant ships brought all kinds of items from every place in the known world at the time. They imported the very best other nations had to offer.

4. Revelation 18:12-13 – The merchant ships made virtually all of the specialty and luxury items available to the Babylon of the last days.

5. The merchant ships sailed all around the world seeking out the best foods, the best material, the best crafted items, the best precious metals, the best clothing, the best tapestries, the best furniture, the best spices,—the best of everything!

6. They brought back to the homeland exotic items from afar that were unique and unusual. You don’t send ships half way across the world to bring back run of the mill, everyday, ordinary items.

7. They brought back food, clothing, decorations for the home, jewelry, and luxury items.

8. Merchant ships traveled the world seeking DEALS. They wanted to be able to bring home goods that would bring them a profit. The merchants sought to pay little and get a lot.

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

1. The virtuous woman is LIKE the merchant ships.

a. She too sought out the best deals.
• She traveled afar to get the best price for their hard earned money.
• Like the merchant ships, she went wherever she had to go to find what her family needed at a good price.
• But she wasn’t foolish. Merchant ships did not spend more seeking and buying unique items than they could sell them for. They had to make a profit.
• To put it in modern terms, the virtuous woman didn’t spend $50.00 on gas to save $10.00 on a sale. She was like the merchants—efficient—practical—and profitable for her family.

b. Being LIKE the merchants ships may imply that the virtuous woman went about TRADING.
• She manufactured things in the home.
» She made clothing (vs. 21).
» She made tapestries (vs. 22).
» She made linen and girdles (sashes; belts) and sold them (vs.2 4).
• She may have traded them for other more exotic items from various marketplaces.
• Merchant ships often carried goods made domestically and sold them or traded them for unusual items to bring back home.
• She was like the merchants ships in that she was (in a sense) an exporter and an importer!
• She made things, sold them, and traded them for the good of her family. She was a hard worker.
• This capable woman sees opportunities to sell her goods at a profit for her family. The profit comes in fine goods, exotic goods, and better to best quality items for the family she loves and works so hard to make comfortable.

c. The ships went on long journeys to obtain unique items. The virtuous woman also went far and wide—on shopping trips to find unique items for her home and for her family.
• She may have travelled to the port cities to see what items the ships brought into port.
• She may have traveled to the villages in the hill country to get the best meat for her family meals.
• She may have traveled to another city to find the best linen for clothing.
• She may have traveled to another city to find craftsmen who made the best furnishings for her home.
• She went down to the marketplace daily because she wanted to get the freshest vegetables for her meals… and the best spices.

2. The virtuous woman took her responsibilities as “homemaker” seriously.

a. She didn’t settle for “good enough to get by.”

b. She wanted to find the very best she could afford.

c. She was diligent and hard working.
• She went far and wide to find the best—even if it took her all day to go get it. She did not have a car.
• She wasn’t lazy. She did a lot of research, leg work, and comparisons to make sure that she was getting a good deal.
• She was a wise shopper… like a shrewd merchant.
• Prov. 13:11 – “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” She increased the family wealth through her diligence.
• Prov. 31:27 – “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
• This woman must have walked many miles to and fro to the market and even to other cities to gather her goods.

d. She sought out the best for her family’s clothing.
• She didn’t want her children or husband to look sloppy and disheveled, dirty, or unkempt.
• She saw this as part of her testimony and the testimony of her family.
• Vs. 21 – They were dressed in scarlet.
• To apply this to today, the virtuous woman shops far and wide for the best price and the best quality in clothing.

e. She sought out the best for her family’s meals.
• She gathered her food from afar.
• She was continually trying to please her husband and family.
• In today’s terms, she would travel to the Jewish deli to get the best meats; and to the Italian bakery to get the best breads; and then off to the farm stand to get fresh corn and tomatoes; and then a stop at the Hipke’s for some fresh eggs!
• She wanted a good variety of foods for her family.
• She could have made one stop at the Walmart superstore, but she wanted the best for her family. Their meats and vegetables weren’t that good.
• Prov. 6:6-8 – “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”
• Perhaps this woman studied the ants and decided to go out and gather the best foods she could!

f. She sought out the best for her home decorations.
• She may have made plans to be at the port when she knew the ships were coming in and bought directly from the merchants to get the best and most unique items she could for her home.
• She sought after just the right color tapestry for a wall hanging; just the right feathers for her featherbed; just the right incense; just the right chair for the living room.
• Prov. 21:20 – “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” There were treasures in this lady’s home – because she worked hard to make merchandise she could sell for a profit, and then she went out to trade her goods, and found treasures to bring home!

3. What comes across in this chapter is the motive of the virtuous woman: she desired to please her husband and make her family as comfortable, well fed, and well dressed as she could.

a. Her shopping was not done out of vanity.

b. It wasn’t done to show off.

c. It was not done out of covetousness or selfishness.

d. She was not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

e. It was done for others – for her family. That’s a pretty good description of agape love in action.