The Virtuous Woman – Wife and Mother (Proverbs 31:10-31) (Part 1)

General Observation

Proverbs 31:1 (KJV) “The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.” The description of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 comes from the teaching of King Lemuel, as he was taught by his mother. His mother laid down the General Principles of a model wife, not necessarily the wife of the King but a wife of a man “known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23), that is, a wife of “the man-in-the street.”

We now come to the climatic, and concluding, section of the entire Book of Proverbs: the well-know treatise on the “virtuous” (excellent, noble) wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 serves not only as an outline of the individual qualities and cumulative worth of the excellent wife, but also as a fitting literary conclusion to the whole of Proverbs.

1. The Virtuous Wife

Proverbs 31:10 (NIV) “A wife of noble (virtuous, excellent) character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. The “virtuous wife” character traits laid down in Proverbs 31:10-31 transcend time, culture, social and economic standing. These godly traits laid down in God’s Word are for learning, emulation, and instruction. Thus, the study of Proverbs 31:10-31 is therefore of practical value to both the men and women, even in the 21st Century: 

  • Her CharacterProverbs 31:10a (NIV) “A wife of noble character (virtuous).” The woman is of “virtuous (noble, excellent) character,” this speaks not so much of nobility in status, but it speaks of a woman who is “able” and whose worth is beyond the worth of rubies (precious stones).
  • The “excellent character” (“virtuous” – KJV; “noble” – NIV) carries with it the meaning of “ability,” “efficiency,” and “moral worth.” It does not just refer to the ability to do things efficiently but also the idea of strength of character and integrity. The KJV translates as “virtuous.” The connotation of “an able woman” is a woman who has the ability to accomplish, and is actively accomplishing, many things and yet has high moral standard.
  • This term “excellent wife” is used of Ruth (Ruth 3:11) and of her husband, Boaz as “a man of great wealth” (same term).
  • The same word, “excellent” (“noble” – NIV) is used in Proverbs 31:29. Proverbs 12:4a states that “an excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”   

2. Rarity

Her RarityProverbs 31:10b (NIV) “Who can find?” – The statement: “who can find?” (Proverbs 31:10b) does not imply impossibility, but rather rarity, because the Book of Proverbs holds up “wisdom” as the ideal of life and setting forth in such practical portals does not in the end tells us to throw up our hands and give up pursuing it. This statement implies that the woman of excellent (noble, virtuous) character is a rarity and therefore difficult but not impossible to find.

  • Such a wife is “a gift from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14) and “a sign of His favour” (Proverbs 18:22).
  • The model wife taught in Proverbs 31:10-31 is therefore a model that can be followed by any wife and a model that can be used by any man in his search for the life-Partner.
  • Charles Bridges suggests the possible reason for her rarity: that she is “so seldom sought. Too often is the search made for accomplishment, not for virtues, for external and adventitious recommendations, rather than for moral internal godly worth.” (Charles Bridges, “Proverbs” Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968, 620).

3. Her Worth

Woman of WorthProverbs 31:10c (NIV) “She is worth far more than rubies.” The word “worth” is a commercial term that normally refers to the price of something. The point is that no dowry, no matter how large, can balance the worth of such a Gift from God.

  • The description of the virtuous (excellent, noble) woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is not according to world’s standard but the Word of God and is to be studied, by both men and woman, to gleam the precious truth stated. Her attributes, character and works are excellent testimonies of a woman who walks in Reverential Fear of God and of His Word – “Proverbs 31:30b (NIV) “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
  • The woman of excellent (noble, virtuous) character value is far above rubies (precious stones), that is, priced above the most precious gems and therefore worth every effort by the man to search for her, as his wife.

4. Trusted By Husband

Proverbs 31:11a (NIV) “Her husband has full confidence in her.” Her husband trusts her fully and completely. This mean that she looks after his needs well and in a responsible manner and has therefore earned his trust.

  • The statement: “The heart of her husband doeth safely trust in her” (KJV) is a remarkable statement, for this verb is almost exclusively used for trust in God. Only twice in the Old Testament is it used of trust in another human being (Proverbs 31:11a; Judges 20:36). (Waltke, Bruce K., “The Role of the ‘Valiant Wife’ in the Marketplace,” Pg.26).
  • The husband is seldom seen in this ode to the woman of valour, except as a husband free from domestic worries, so that he can give himself to civic leadership (Proverbs 31:23), or as turning from his preoccupation to blessing and praising her (Proverbs 31:28).
  • The virtuous woman’s major concern therefore is the needs of her husband and how best she can meet them to minister to him. She does this so well and contributes so much to his well-being that the result is that he has full confidence (“safely trust” – KJV) in her.

5. Husband Don’t Need “Spoilt”

Proverbs 31:11b (NIV) “And lacks nothing of value (spoil).”  The result of her attention to her husband: “he shall have no need of spoil (gain.)” The word “spoil” (gain) comes from the root verb “to spoil, to plunder,” therefore carries the connotation of gain (spoil) obtained through unjust means. Her husband need not resolve to unjust mean or something inferior to meet his unsatisfied needs as he already is fully satisfied.     

In order to satisfy her husband, she displays a loving, caring, giving and selfless woman. The husband’s state of no lack or spoil or gain does not come from his mere possession of a virtuous wife but stems from his virtuous wife’s own doing in creating that state for her husband. This is the extension of the teaching in Proverbs 31:10 that she is an able woman, a woman of accomplishments. Her accomplishments are not for self neither are they at the expense of her husband but are of benefit to her husband.

To be continued….. Stay tuned

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