Proverbs 31: 10-31
This is the only section of scripture dedicated to the expectations of a principled woman. The book of Proverbs has long since been regarded as a book of wisdom; and after the writer has written exhaustively about every thought of discernment, he now turns his attention to this ideal woman. As with every piece of art, music, and even writing, the end always end with a bang; and the end is always a conclusion of the matter, a summoning of all the thoughts the writer might have raised. And so the author concludes his writing by looking at a woman, whom every man should aspire to be sojourned to. It implies that even though a man can gain all the knowledge in the world, he can be a principled man, well versed in all thirty chapters of proverbs full of wise ways of living, but if he does not choose the right woman he is destroyed. Just as it has been suggested that you are fortunate if you meet the right woman, for she will complete you. But if you meet the wrong woman, she will finish you! No man is complete without the proverb 31 woman. She is the fabric that holds him all together. He can have Proverbs 1 to 30, but without Proverbs 31, he is incomplete.
Who can find a virtuous woman? The expression, woman of virtue actually means “woman of force”; the expression combines the ideas of moral goodness and bodily vigour and activity. It is useless to try to fix the character upon any particular person. Her price is far above rubies; or, pearls; the Septuagint reads, “Such a one is more valuable than precious stones.” There may be allusion to the custom of giving treasure in exchange for a wife, purchasing her, as it were, from her friends. At any rate, few only are privileged to meet with this excellent wife, and her worth cannot be estimated by any material object, however costly. You may go to the ends of the earth to find her equal in value.
The heart of her husband cloth safely trust in her. The husband of such a wife goes forth to his daily occupations, having full confidence in her whom he leaves at home, that she will act discreetly, and promote his interests while he is absent. Her husband has full confidence in her; she is the incomparable, and to him, she is the best! We live in a society where many husbands do not trust their wives; many have need to check their cell phones to see which guys they have been chatting to; they are restless and constantly anxious and insecure. But a man, who has been fortunate to meet the virtuous woman, he rests secure, and has no need to worry because her wife has given him no need to doubt her.
She will do him good and not evil. She is consistent in her conduct towards her husband, always pursuing his best interests. All the days of her life; in good times or bad, in the early spring time of young affection, and in the waning years of declining age.
She seeks wool, and flax. She pays attention to these things, as materials for clothing and domestic uses. Wool has been used for clothing from the earliest times and flax was largely cultivated for the manufacture of linen, the processes of drying, peeling, hackling, and spinning being well understood.
And works willingly with her hands; or, she works with her hands’ pleasure; i.e. with willing hands. She works at the business of her hands. What is meant is that she not only labours diligently herself, but finds pleasure in doing so, and this, not because she has none to help her, and is forced to do her own work (on the contrary, she is represented as rich, and at the head of a large household), but because she considers that labour is a duty for all, and that idleness is a transgression of a universal law.
She is like the merchants’ ships. She is like them in that she extends her operations beyond her own immediate neighbourhood, and brings her food from afar, buying in the best markets and on advantageous terms, without regard to distance, and being always on the look out to make honest profit.
She rises also while it is yet night. Before dawn she is up and stirring, to be ready for her daily occupation. A lamp is always kept burning at night in Eastern houses, and as it is of very small dimensions, the careful housewife has to rise at midnight to replenish the oil, and she often then begins her household work by grinding the corn or preparing something for next day’s meals. And giveth meat to her household. The word for “meat” is tereph, which means “food torn in pieces” with the teeth, and hence food to be eaten. The wife thus early prepares or distributes the food which will be wanted for the day. And a portion to her maidens. Chok, “final portion,” may apply either to work or food.
She considers a field, and buys it. She turns her attention to a certain field, the possession of which is for some cause desirable; and, after due examination and consideration, she buys it. Land is expensive. We live in a generation where many ladies are looking for men who will do things for them, who will finance their expensive lifestyles, and their costly fashion taste. Although it is not wrong for a man to provide for her wife, as a matter of fact it is highly encouraged. But this woman does not make it her goal to depend on her husband. She sees a field, she goes and get the funds and she invests into it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. Her prudent management and economy give her means to buy vines and plant a vineyard, and thus to increase her produce. Vineyards are a good (although also costly) investment. She is in all understanding a business woman, and she knows where to invest her money. Many a man today are in financial pitfalls because of their wives. They are merely interested in spending and shopping, they know nothing nor care anything about investing.
She girds her loins with strength. This seems at first sight a strange assertion to make concerning one of the weaker sex; but the phrase is metaphorically expressive of the energy and force with which she prepares herself for her work. Strength and vigour are, as it were, the girdle which she binds round her waist to enable her to conduct her operations with case and freedom.
She perceives that her merchandise is good. The pleasure that is derived from duty done and successfully conducted business is legitimate and healthy, a providential reward of good works.
She lays her hands to the spindle. This is probably not the spindle, but the distaff, i.e. the staff to which is tied the bunch of flax from which the spinning wheel draws the thread. To this she applies her hand; she deftly performs the work of spinning her flax into thread. Her hands hold the distsaff. This is the spindle, the cylindrical wood (afterwards the wheel) on which the thread winds itself as it is spun.
She is not impelled by selfish greed to improve her means and enlarge her revenues. She is sympathizing and charitable, and loves to extend to others the blessings which have rewarded her efforts. She stretches out her hand to the poor. She knows the maxim (Proverbs 19:17), “He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord,” etc.; and she has no fear of poverty. Yea, she reaches forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household. “Snow,” “covers the streets of Jerusalem two winters in three, but it generally comes in small quantities, and soon disappears. Yet there are sometimes very snowy winters. .
She makes herself coverings of tapestry. Pillows for beds or cushions are meant. Purple garments were brought from the Phoenician cities, and were highly esteemed. The wife dresses herself in a way becoming her station, avoiding the extremes of sordid simplicity and ostentatious luxury.
Her husband is known in the gates. Such a woman advances her husband’s interests, increases his influence, and, by attending to his domestic concerns, enables him to take his share in public matters, so that his name is in great repute in the popular assemblies at the city gates. She is indeed “a crown to her husband” (Proverbs 12:4).
She makes fine linen, and sells it. The word for “fine linen” is sadin, and denoting linen garments; or body linen. Delivers girdles unto the merchant; literally, unto the Canaanite; i.e. the Phoenician merchant, a generic name for all traders. Girdles were necessary articles of attire with the flowing robes of Eastern dress.
Strength and honour are her clothing. She is invested with a moral force and dignity which arm her against care and worry; the power of a righteous purpose and strong will reveals itself in her carriage and demeanour. And thus equipped, she shall rejoice in time to come; or, she laughs at the future.
She opens her mouth with wisdom. she guides her family with words of wisdom. When she speaks, it is not gossip, or slander, or idle talk, that she utters, but sentences of prudence and sound sense, such as may minister grace to the hearers. Wisdom is often attributed to men, and the man in the house is often the one expected to advice and guide his children with wisdom, but this is not so with the virtuous woman.
She looks well to the ways of her house; the actions and habits of the household. She exercises careful surveillance over all that goes on in the family. Eats not the bread of idleness; but rather bread won by active labour and conscientious diligence. She is of the opinion of the apostle who said “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Her children arise up, and call her blessed. She is a fruitful mother of children, who, seeing her sedulity and prudence, and experiencing her affectionate care, celebrate and praise her, and own that she has rightly won the blessing of the Lord. Her husband also, and he praises her; in the words given in the next verse.”
Many daughters have done virtuously, but you out beat them all. We may regard it as a representation of the truly Christian matron, who loves husband and children, guides the house, is discreet, chaste, good, a teacher of good things; such a woman out beat them all. She is the Best!
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain. Quite interesting there has been no mention of the physical attributes of the virtuous woman. The author did not find her physique, her sexiness to be of any importance. He wholly focuses on her personality and her mind.
But a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. So we come back to the maxim with which the whole book began, that the foundation of all excellence is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Such, too, is the conclusion of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 12:13), “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
This is a short yet concise description of the Proverb 31 woman. She is also a wife, but she is a woman. For a woman does not need to have a husband to be a wife. ‘Wife’ is not a noun, it is a verb. One is called a wife because of what they do. No mention is made of the husband and how he exerts his influence on the proverbs 31 woman. She was a wife before her husband met her. If a woman is not a wife before you put a ring on her finger, putting a ring on her finger is not going to make her a wife. She has to be it to become it. Everyone can be the Proverb 31 woman, because this ideal is not generic, but humaric.
Chris Mhlongo, A Short Piece, As preached @ AGAPE Women’s Conference, Cape Town.