Thou Excellest them All
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
1. In the previous verse, Lemuel wrote of the fact that the children and the husband of the virtuous woman both praise her for who she is and for all that she does.
2. The praise continues in vs. 29. In vs. 29, her virtue is compared to others.
3. This verse is unique in that all the other verses speak about this virtuous woman in the third person (she).
a. But vs.29 speaks of her in the second person (you – thou).
b. For that reason, it is probably best to understand vs. 29 as the words of the husband (and children?) addressed to his virtuous wife.
Many daughters have done virtuously
1. The first part of this proverb states the fact that there have been MANY virtuous women.
2. At first, this might sound like a contradiction to the way Lemuel began the description of the virtuous woman.
a. Vs. 10 – “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”
• This passage seems to imply that it is hard to find a virtuous woman.
• Such a woman is rare—like a rare gem—a ruby.
• That is what vs. 10 states, and it is entirely true.
• When you cast a broad net out over ALL the women in the entire world, a virtuous woman, like the one described in Proverbs 31, IS rare.
• Vs. 10 states emphatically that they are hard to find. Who can find such a woman?
• But if you have found one, you have found a gem!
b. Vs. 29 states that there are MANY such women.
• This is not a contradiction.
• Compared to all the women in the world, there are not many. They are RELATIVELY rare in that comparison.
• But if you pooled all the virtuous women in the world together, there would be MANY.
• The terms are used in a relative sense.
• For example, the Bible says that there are FEW that enter through the narrow gate compared to the MANY on the broad road. Compared to all the people in the world, very few are true believers.
• However, if we had a conference with all the believers in one place, we might say that MANY attended.
• Numbers by their nature are relative.
3. With that understood, Lemuel states that MANY women have done virtuously.
a. The wife of this husband certainly was not the only virtuous woman in the world.
b. But to him, she was the BEST.
c. Adam Clark wrote: “Thou hast ascended above the whole of them—thou hast carried every duty, every virtue, and every qualification and excellency, to a higher perfection, than any of whom we have ever read or heard.”
d. The expression “done virtuously” is also used in Ruth 4:11.
• “And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem.”
• This was the prayer of the people for Ruth when taken in by Boaz.
• They prayed for her to be a virtuous (worthy; noble; strong; valiant) woman.
• Ruth BECAME that kind of woman.
• She showed signs of it in her single state – before being wed to Boaz.
• But she went on to prove it later throughout her marriage.
e. And Ruth was not the only virtuous woman.
• MANY have done virtuously!
• You don’t have to be perfect to be a virtuous woman.
f. MANY believing women are like rare, precious jewels.
• And among the precious gems, there is a great variety: there are rubies, emeralds, onyx, amethyst, and diamonds.
• They are not all the same; but they are all precious gems.
• They may not all be good at planting a vineyard, or spinning yarn, or as a seamstress, or at cooking.
g. But each one has their own, unique set of skills and abilities that they can use in a virtuous, sacrificial, generous manner.
h. There have been MANY godly wives and mothers over the ages.
But thou excellest them all
1. MANY have done well at virtue; but ONE excels them all.
a. There is no woman on earth like her. Who can find her equal?
• 31:10 – Previously he said, “Who can find one?”
• 31:29 – He says essentially: “There are many out there; you can find one if you look hard enough. But who can find one as good as this one? This one has no equal.”
b. This virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 is set before the MANY other virtuous women as the ideal woman, the ideal wife and mother as their goal.
• Other virtuous women should strive to be more like her.
• Others should seek to be even more virtuous and to excel at virtue.
2. The usage of the term “daughters” could be taken in two ways:
a. FIRST: The term “daughters” is sometimes used in the Old Testament as a way of referring to women/females in general. (the daughters of Israel)
• If this is the meaning here, then Lemuel is stating that the daughter (actually wife and mother) being described in chapter 31 excels all the other women in the world.
• The woman described here is model and example for all other women in the world.
• This whole section then becomes a description of the perfect woman… the ideal woman. It is a poetic way of describing what other women should strive for.
• This seems to be the most obvious and simplest way to understand this section.
b. SECONDLY: It may imply a contrast between the mother and wife in the family in contrast to her younger daughter.
• If this is the case, then Lemuel is making a contrast in virtue between mothers and their single daughters.
• A young, single daughter in the family may be virtuous.
» She may be kind, diligent, generous, giving, sacrificial, talented, creative, and godly, etc.
» In her single state, she may manifest much virtue.
» But in their single state, they do not have the opportunity to manifest as much virtue as a wife and mother does… who cares for both her husband and her children.
» The young daughters are not mothers yet and have no children to care for in a motherly way.
» They may be virtuous and sacrificial—but they know nothing of the kind of sacrifice of a mother.
» The young daughters may be virtuous, but because they have no husband, they know nothing of the kind of selflessness and service of a wife.
» This is not said to disparage them; they simply don’t have the life experience.
» But the virtuous woman described in this section—who is both a wife and a mother—this woman excels them all!
» Her virtue excels the virtue even of her virtuous daughters.
» For example, if the mother died, and the daughters were charged with caring for their father and the household, a man could not have his household cared for by good daughters as he could by a good wife (a thought from Matthew Henry).
» The daughters may have virtue, but it has never been exercised and proven (tried and true) to the degree of the wife and mother mentioned here.
» They will have their chance later in life to prove their virtue.
3. But for now, the virtue of the wife and mother excelleth them all!