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(Goguet, Origin of Laws, par. 1, l. ii. c. 2.) Parkhurst understands it of fine white linen, or cotton-cloth. The reader will find more on this subject in Celsii Hierobot. par. 2, p. 259; Braunius, de Vest. Sacerd. lib. i. cap. 8, p. 94; Schroeder, de Vest. Mulierum, p. 243, 333. Foster's work, de Bysso Antiquorum, I have never seen.
23. Her husband is respected]_When he sits in the place of judgment and of public resort, he is marked out and respected as the husband of so prudent and excellent a woman. Not, surely, as some commentators explain it, distinguished by the elegance and splendour of his dress, the work of her hands.
24. She maketh vestments and selleth them, &c.]—“ Herodotus informs us that the Egyptian women used to carry on commerce. That trade is now, however, lost; and the Arabs of that country are the only people who retain any share of it. Maillet (Let. xi. p. 134) says that the women used to deal in buying and selling things woven of silk, gold, and silver, of pure silk, of cotton, of cotton and thread, or simple linen cloth, whether made in the country or imported. This is precisely what the industrious Israelitish women are supposed to have done." —Burder, who has abridged this from Harmer's Observations, vol. iv. p. 343.
- vestments]— The origin and meaning of puro is learnedly discussed by Schroeder, de Vest. Mulier. Heb. cap. 19. He derives it from the Arabic w laxavit vestem, and says it denotes an inner garment, worn next to the skin, which the Romans call Interulas, or Subuculas, or Indusia. That this explanation suits all the passages where the word occurs, and that such a vestment or shirt was in use among the ancients, he proves with great erudition. It may be observed, that shirts of linen, cotton, or gauze, are worn by the Turks and Moors, by the roving Arabs of condition, and in Arabia Felix.—(Harmer's Observations, vol. iv. p. 344.) The dress of the modern Greeks, according to Mr. Hobhouse, is “a cotton shirt, made like a woman's chemise, cotton drawers, a vest and jacket of silk and stuff, a pair of large loose brogues, drawn up a little above the ancle, and a short sock; the part of the garment next added is a long broad shawl, often highly worked, and very expensive, wrapped in wide folds round the loins. In one corner of this girdle the poorer people, especially in travelling, both Turks and Greeks, conceal their money, and then wind the shawl round them.”— Journey through Albania, &c. Let. 31, 4to. Lond. 1813.
– girdles]—Girdles were sometimes of so fine and rich a texture, as to be considered a valuable present. Thus we find Joab would have rewarded a soldier of his army, who saw Absolom hanging in a tree: “ Why didst thou not smite him there to the ground, and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle?”—(2 Sam. xvii. 11. Compare 1 Sam. xviii. 4.) People of rank in the East wear girdles at present, which are very rich, sometimes all of silk and superbly adorned with gold and silver.—See Harmer's Observations, vol. ii. p. 527, ed. Clarke; Parkhurst, 70n; and particularly Schroeder, de Vest. Mulier. cap. ix. § 6, p. 139; Jahn, Archæol. Bibl. § 121.
25. And she shall rejoice, fc.)—The meaning, probably, is, that, having provided all things necessary, and exercised prudent foresight and circumspection in her affairs, she has no apprehensions for the future, but, as she is now happy, so shall she be in time to come. Under the Theocracy, this was usually the case; and it is generally so now; for the amiable qualities of virtue and prudence are the likeliest means to secure a wife's present comfort, and her happiness for the future. “To laugh” is used for “ rejoicing,” “ being happy," Job, viii. 21; Gen. xxi. 6; Luke, vi. 21, 25; &c. “ Non timet sibi, sed secura est potius in tempus futurum, et parum angitur cogitatione illius.”—(Michælis, Not. Uber. So Le Clerc, Poli Synop.) The explication of Schultens is to this effect; that, although she possesses the most ample wealth, &c. yet she is not elated with an empty vanity, but clothes herself with modesty and virtue, which she regards as her real and unperishable ornaments.
26. She openeth her mouth, &c.]—The first hemistich describes the prudence and wisdom of her speech, the second, the kindness and benevolence of it.
- And upon her tongue is the law of kindness]—" i.e. engraved, alluding, perhaps, to the Decalogue, Exod. xxxi. 18." ---(Dimock.) But by “law” we are probably to understand doctrine, instruction, precept; (see ch. i. 8;) namely, on her tongue is benevolent doctrine and kind instruction.
27. She superintendeth, &c.]—This verse delineates her constant attention to the conduct and behaviour of the inmates of her house. Her watchfulness is unremitted; she not only gives meat to her household, and their portion of daily work to her maidens, but likewise takes care that they do their duty, and conduct themselves with moral propriety. According to the pattern here exhibited, let every virtuous wife have a watchful eye to the morals of her children and domestics. The lessons of a mother have a powerful effect in repressing the rising passions, and in cultivating the opening virtues of the heart. Nor is the influence of a virtuous mistress of a family less salutary upon the minds of her servants; she may check improper discourse and immoral habits; she may, by casual observations and incidental remarks, inculcate the virtues belonging to their situation; and she may promote honesty and frugality, industry and sobriety, order and
on; and ... inculcar, by
regularity among them, which will not only render them useful members of society, but will contribute much to their eternal interests. She who does not anxiously watch over the principles and moral conduct of her domestics, whatever other graces she may possess, is not entitled to the character of a virtuous wife.
- superintendeth]—is a very emphatical word: it is applied to the eyes of Jehovah Proverbs, xv. 3; Ps. Ixvi. 7. It denotes, that the good wife carefully attends to every thing that is going on in her house, and regulates all with prudence and kindness; it is, therefore, well expressed by the word “ superintend.”
28. Her children rise up]—“ To rise” (ip) often in Scripture denotes “to begin,” “to undertake,” “aggredi agendum aliquid.”—(2 Sam. xiii. 31; Josh. xviii. 4; Neh, ii. 20, iii. 1; Job, i. 20, where see Schultens; Jon. iii. 6, &c.) Sn the Greek work aviotnue is used, (Schleusneri Lex. 5,) and the Arabic 6.—Golii Lex. Arab.
-- Her husband also]—Here is an ellipsis of Dip ariseth, after nya her husband.
29. Many women, &c.]—This may be understood as spoken by the husband: thus, “ Her husband also, and he praiseth her,” saying, “ Many women have acted virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” Or it may be taken as an exclamation of the author of the chapter, who, as if charmed with the picture of the virtuous wife which he had drawn, bursts into expressions of admiration, and apostrophizes her in these words: “ Many women have acted virtuously, but thou excellest them all!” And this appears preferable, as the two following verses are the observations of the author of the chapter.
- have acted virtuously]—Literally, “ Multæ filiarum virtutem strenuam exercuere.”—(Schultens, Dathe, &c.) But this idiom cannot well be expressed in English.
31. Give her, &c.]—Or, taking the imperative for the future, “ They shall give, or, it shall be given to her according to the fruit of her hands, and her works shall praise her in the gates.” That is, she shall be honoured in proportion to her virtues, and her works shall constitute her highest praise in the place of frequent resort; they shall publicly proclaim her merit. The sense of the authorized version, which I have not thought necessary to alter, is well expressed by Patrick : “ Let every one extol her virtue; let her not want the just commendations of her pious labours in the greatest assemblies, where, if all men should be silent, her own work will declare her excellent worth."
It is astonishing how this beautiful delineation of a chaste and excellent matron could ever be taken in any other than a literal sense; yet, such is the fervour of an over-heated imagination, that some have not hesitated to interpret it allegorically. They differ, however, as to the subject represented by the allegory; a circumstance which need not excite our surprise, for when the guidance of sound judgment and the rules of sober criticism are once deserted, no limits can be set to the wildness of fancy, and the vagaries of opinion. The Rabbins suppose that the Law or the Synagogue are depictured under the emblem of a virtuous wife, while some of the Christian doctors, instead of the Law or the Synagogue, substitute the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, or the Church.—(See Schultens's Commentary, and Gill on verse 10.) It were waste of time to confute these fancies; the judicious reader cannot fail to discover, that the author only intended, in this admirable picture, to portray,