Over the past year or so I’ve read Proverbs 31 again and again. It’s been prayed over me several times and I’ve pondered this picture of womanhood a lot. I am inspired by the compassion, creativity, and confidence of this woman, and I see her as more modern than I ever imagined when I first read it (she’s a business woman as well as a housekeeper).
This week I read the chapter for the first time in the Amplified version and was struck all over again, particularly by the emphasis it puts on the inner life of a godly woman. Like in verse 15, it adds a note about her rising while it’s still night to get spiritual food for her household (hello morning quiet time….), not just physical food. It blew me away.
So I invite you to sit with this description of a godly wife, more precious than jewels (I included the notes on the text in italics):
“It is most unfortunate that this description of God’s ideal woman is usually confined in readers’ minds merely to its literal sense–her ability as a homemaker, as in the picture of Martha of Bethany in Luke 10:38-42. But it is obvious that far more than that is meant. When the summary of what makes her value “far above rubies” is given (in Prov. 31:30), it is her spiritual life only that is mentioned. One can almost hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Mary has chosen the good portion… which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).” (note on v. 10)
“A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman–who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls.
The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil.
She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her.
She seeks out wool and flax and works with willing hands [to develop it].
She is like the merchant ships loaded with foodstuffs; she brings her household’s food from a far [country].
She rises while it is yet night and gets [spiritual] food for her household and assigns her maids their tasks.
She considers a [new] field before she buys or accepts it [expanding prudently and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming other duties]; with her savings [of time and strength] she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.
She girds herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] and makes her arms strong and firm.
She tastes and sees that her gain from work [with and for God] is good; her lamp goes not out, but it burns on continually through the night [of trouble, privation, or sorrow, warning away fear, doubt, and distrust].
She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit].
She fears not the snow for her family, for all her household are doubly clothed in scarlet.
She makes for herself coverlets, cushions, and rugs of tapestry. Her clothing is of linen, pure and fine, and of purple [such as that of which the clothing of the priests and the hallowed cloths of the temple were made].
Her husband is known in the [city’s] gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes fine linen garments and leads others to buy them; she delivers to the merchants girdles [or sashes that free one up for service].
Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure; she rejoices over the future [the latter day or time to come, knowing that she and her family are in readiness for it]!
She opens her mouth in skillful and godly Wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness [giving counsel and instruction].
She looks well to how things go in her household, and the bread of idleness (gossip, discontent, and self-pity) she will not eat.
Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her, [saying],
Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], but you excel them all.
Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates [of the city]!”
“Many daughters have done… nobly and well… but you excel them all.” What a glowing description here recorded of this woman in private life, this “capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman” of Prov. 31! It means she had done more than Miriam, the one who led a nation’s women in praise to God (Exod. 15:20, 21); Deborah, the patriotic military advisor (Judg. 4:4-10); Ruth, the woman of constancy (Ruth 1:16); Hannah, the ideal mother (I Sam. 1:20; 2:19); the Shunammite, the hospitable woman (II Kings 4:8-10); Huldah, the woman who revealed God’s secret message to national leaders (II Kings 22:14); and even more than Queen Esther, the woman who risked sacrificing her life for her people (Esth. 4:16). In what way did she “excel them all”? In her spiritual and practical devotion to God, which permeated every area and relationship of her life. All seven of the Christian virtues (II Pet. 1:5) are there, like colored threads in a tapestry. Her secret, which is open to everyone, is the Holy Spirit’s climax to the story, and to this book. In Prov. 31:30, it becomes clear that the “reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord,” which is “the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom” (Prov. 9:10), is put forth as the true foundation for a life which is valued by God and her husband as “far above rubies or pearls” (Prov. 31:10).