Build the Home I Need
Proverbs 31:10-14 ,15-20,25-31 May 12 2013
This description of the virtuous woman is designed to show what wives the women should make and what wives the men should choose; it consists of twenty-two verses, each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order, as some of the Psalms, which makes some think it was no part of the lesson which Lemuel’s mother taught him, but a poem by itself, written by some other hand, and perhaps had been commonly repeated among the pious Jews, for the ease of which it was made alphabetical. We have the abridgment of it in the New Testament (1Tim. 2:9 , 10 , 1Pet. 3:1-6 ), where the duty prescribed to wives agrees with this description of a good wife; and with good reason is so much stress laid upon it, since it contributes as much as any one thing to the keeping up of religion in families, and the entail of it upon posterity, that the mothers be wise and good; and of what consequence it is to the wealth and outward prosperity of a house every one is sensible. He that will thrive must ask his wife leave. Here is
1. Choice of a Wife (Proverbs 31: 10-14)
Prov.31:10 Who can find a virtuous wife?For her worth is far above rubies.11The heart of her husband safely trusts her;So he will have no lack of gain.12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.13 She seeks wool and flax,And willingly works with her hands.14 She is like the merchant ships ,She brings her food from afar.
The creation story makes it clear that both men and women were created in the image of God and thus are equal as persons (Gen. 1-2 ). With sin, the biblical ideal for male/female relationships became distorted, as did all other things in life ( Gen. 3:16 ). There is no doubt that in ancient societies, including the Heb., women were subordinate to men. This is reflected in the leadership role Heb. culture arrogated to men for civil responsibility in the household and to male elders as the ones having governmental responsibility for the community.
2 . She rises early, while it is yet night (Proverbs 31:15-20)
Prov. 31:15 She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.17 She girds herself with strength,And strengthens her arms.18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,And her lamp does not go out by night.19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,And her hand holds the spindle.20 She extends her hand to the poor,Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
Yet any apparent chauvinism is balanced by a greater appreciation for women in the O.T. than was displayed in other contemporary cultures. It is also balanced by the respect Scripture calls for toward older women, as well as older men, and toward mothers as well as fathers. The fact that women were not automatically deprived of politically or spiritually sensitive roles by their sex is illustrated by the many significant women the O.T. singles out. Among them are Abigail and Ruth, who functioned within the traditional women’s role (1Sam. 25 ; Ruth). But there are also women who broke the mold and served as prophets (Ex. 15:20 ; 2Kings22:14 ; 2 Chron. 34:22) and even one who served as a judge (Judg. 4:4-5 ).
3. All her household are clothed in scarlet,(Proverbs 31:25-31)
Prov. 31:25 Strength and honor are her clothing;She shall rejoice in time to come.26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,And on her tongue is the law of kindness.27 She watches over the ways of her household,And does not eat the bread of idleness.28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;Her husband also, and he praises her:29 “Many daughters have done well,But you excel them all.”30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing. But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,And let her own works praise her in the gates.
If we are to see women in adequate perspective we must first of all affirm their absolute unity with men as persons of value and worth. We must also realize that women must be given, within society, opportunities to utilize all the capacities of personhood with which they have been endowed. Women are equal to men in ability, and gifted individuals should be encouraged to use their abilities within, and at times outside of, culturally defined expectations. Like the “noble wife” of Prov. 31 , each woman, as well as each man, should be given the opportunity to achieve and be honored for every accomplishment.
The last two chapters in Proverbs were contributed by two unknowns, Agur and King Lemuel. One late tradition suggests that Lemuel is Solomon and that the lengthy praise of a virtuous woman in Proverbs31:10-31was dedicated to his mother, Bathsheba. The real contribution of this passage, however, is to demonstrate that women played an important social and economic role in Old Testament times. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985) notes that in that agrarian society women actually filled roles that were the same as men. Thus the noble wife of this chapter “supervised a staff of workers . She served as buyer for her enterprises . She sold what her staff produced , and she invested her profits . She had the freedom to give to help the needy . She was respected for her wisdom and responsibility .” Each of these is a “business” function, and while the woman’s activities were linked to her home and family, the biblical picture of the woman’s role is a far cry from the “stay-home-and-care-for-the-kids” concept of many moderns. In Old Testament times women had the opportunity to use their God-given abilities.