Proverbs 31:6

ESV Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress;
NIV Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!
NASB Give intoxicating drink to one who is perishing, And wine to one whose life is bitter.
CSB Give beer to one who is dying and wine to one whose life is bitter.
NLT Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress.
KJV Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
NKJV Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart.

What does Proverbs 31:6 mean?

After warning kings and rulers against drinking (Proverbs 31:4–5), Lemuel's mother (Proverbs 31:1–2) notes a situation where alcohol's effects are more appropriate. Her earlier advice indicated that alcohol impairs one's senses. A king disabled by alcohol—or any addiction (Proverbs 31:3)—is bound to fail in his role. A more apt time for that sensation is when death is imminent. In this case, that means using drink as an anesthetic, to dull pain for those near death or in extreme agony. This suggestion also emphasizes how inappropriate such things are for kings and rulers. Leaders need their wits about them—so intoxicants should be avoided.

Commentators suggest pious women in Jerusalem had this very verse in mind when providing a medicated drink to criminals who were condemned to be crucified. The liquid was meant to reduce their pain. Matthew reports that when Jesus cried out from the cross, a bystander hurried and filled a sponge for Jesus to drink (Matthew 27:46–48). This may have been meant as a painkiller, though it was apparently offered mere moments before His death (John 19:28–30; Matthew 27:49–50). Lemuel's mother finds this use appropriate for those who want to be numbed to sorrow (Proverbs 31:7), but not for those who need to rule.
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