No, I'm not talking about an airplane. I'm talking about the Proverbs 31 woman -- the bane of every Christian woman's existence. We all know that list is there and most of us purposely ignore that section of the Bible, but what is it really saying? Is Proverbs 31 as "bad" as we make it out to be?10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The Hebrew word used for "virtuous" (chayil
) actually means "strength" in the sense of the military. No, it doesn't mean you need to be GI Jane, but this verse is literally saying that this woman's strength is like that of an army. Wow! That's a woman to be reckoned with!11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
Her husband is confident in her. Batach
, used for "safely trust," means "to be confident, secure, bold." This woman's husband is proud of her.12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
This verse seems to explain itself in a general manner, but when I looked up the original Hebrew, I discovered what was meant by "good
" and "evil
." She is sensitive towards her husband's emotional, intellectual, and sexual needs. She is not hurtful towards this man -- she uplifts him.13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
Does this mean we should weave and drive an hour for groceries? No. Notice the key words -- she seeks and works willingly. She has a servant's heart. It's interesting to notice that the Hebrew used for "seeketh" means "to consult, enquire of, seek (of God); to practice, study, follow, seek with application."15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
I once heard a story about a man who asked his wife, "So when are you going to wake up early?" to which the wife replied, "When are you going to get me some of those maidens?" Again, this speaks of the woman's diligence. No, you don't have to wake before dawn (although I personally like to because I'm a morning person). The Hebrew for "riseth" actually means that she is "established" and "fulfilled" before the sun ever rises. I would take this a step further to say that this woman has her personal devotions before the break of dawn. She meets with the Lord before her day begins and before anyone else is awake.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
The P-31 runs a business out of her home.17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
"Strength" is actually used not only in the physical sense, but also in social and political sense. This woman exudes strength and confidence.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night
. She tastes the benefits of her prosperous labor and works late into the night. Again, this woman is diligent.19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
This worried me at first because I can't sew to save my soul. My mind draws a blank when my eyes behold the needle and thread. You do not need to be well-trained in the way of the seam to be a godly woman, but you do need to apply yourself diligently to the work you have -- like this woman.20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
The P-31 is merciful and helps those who are less fortunate than she. (Take a look at James 2:14-26.) She volunteers in her community, works in a food bank, etc.21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Because of her diligence, the P-31 does not fear for her family's well-being.22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple
. In Biblical times, silk and purple were the fabric exclusively associated with royalty. This woman isn't a frumpy housewife.23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land
. Because of her excellent character, her husband has no fear of taking a leadership position.24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant
. Her second business run out of the home.25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come
. The P-31 is literally cloaked in strength and honor. Interesting, though, is that the Hebrew for "rejoice" actually means "to laugh, play, mock."26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
See Psalm 37:30-31, 39:1, James 1:26, and James 3:1-12. This woman controls her tongue -- something many females don't do.27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
She is never idle, but wisely using every minute of her day.28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
This verse is often used on Mother's Day cards, but every day is Mother's Day for the P-31. Those closest to her -- who see her worst side -- sing her praises.29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
This is what her husband says of her -- the greatest praise a man could ever give a woman.30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
Nothing is said of the P-31's physical beauty -- she has a gorgeous character. God-fearing women are to be praised. Proverbs 11:22 says, "As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion." Beauty does you no good if there isn't a beautiful heart.31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
An excellent conclusion -- let her own works praise her. No words are needed to give this woman praise.
Wow, so that really is a "tall order" isn't it? Obviously, no woman -- no matter how godly she is -- completely fills this profile. This passage is here to challenge and exhort us. Don't try to make a list and follow it. God doesn't make lists for us to follow -- He sent His Son for us to follow.
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." Walk closely with the Lord and this will become natural (James 4:8).