7. Her Attitude & Deeds
Proverbs 31:17a (NIV) “She sets about her work vigorously.” This reinforces that the virtuous woman is an extremely hardworking and committed person. The term “she has girded her loins with strength” (KJV) is the physical act of gathering up the loose, flowing robes of her tunic and tucking them into her belt. This is done to grant freedom of movement for physical labour.
This is an expression typically used of men and women and warriors (1Kings 18:46; 2Kings 4:29). It means she literally and physically, “roll up her sleeves and gets dirt under her fingernails” by helping her servants to plant the vineyard (Proverbs 31:16), or “she sets about her work vigorously” (NIV).
Though she had servants at her bidding (Proverbs 31:15b), she is not above working alongside of them. She ensures her physical fitness and hardiness in order to take on the many tasks ahead of her. She knows how to work hard but yet looks after her health.
f. Health Conscious
Proverbs 31:17 (KJV) “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” She does not take her health for granted. Her dedication and preparedness indicate a woman of foresight and balance. She does not work so hard that she neglects her health and allows her own body to run down. While she is industrious, she sees to it that her “loins” and “arms” (KJV) are kept strong so that she can continue to be productive and useful to her family, thereby able to fulfil her responsibilities.
The term “she makes her arms strong” (Proverbs 31:17b), the same word for strength is used to describe the military power of the soldier to stand his ground (Nahum 2:1) and of the political might to secure the Kingdom under Rehoboam (2Chronicles 11:17). Here, it means not that she is a body builder, but that she applies herself to her work and is thereby fit and capable for it.
g. Business Acumen
Proverbs 31:18 (NIV) “She sees (senses) that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” Here we gain an understanding of that which motivates such an excellent woman. The verb translated “she senses (sees)” means, basically, to taste or sample food or beverage. It is used of discerning or sensing something (c/f “O taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8a). The virtuous woman has business acumen and has been making profit out of her investment (trading).
She has ensured that her buys are all good buys, that she obtains value for money or that she makes a profit from it. This further reinforces her frugal and careful character (Proverbs 31:14 & 15).
Her success, however, does not lead her to rest on her laurels. Instead, it spurs her on to work even harder by working into the night – “Her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:18, NIV). It does not mean that she literally forgoes sleep, as it would be unrealistic and to miss the point, because “Wisdom” realises that “it is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labour; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:2). It means that she is able to adjust her times and priorities, wisely!
h. Family’s Priority
Proverbs 31:19 (NIV) “In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.” This describes her reaching out to take a piece of work and the instrument of work, a description of the distaff spinning technique that was used during biblical times before the spinning-wheel was invented in Germany in the 16th century. The woman of biblical times would “attach wool or flax to the distaff (a rod or stick), and then use a spindle to twist the fibres into threads.” She is skilful and successful, is implies, in whatever she does, with the term “in her hands.”
She does not only purchase wool and flax (Proverbs 31:13), she personally works on them, even late into the night, to produce what her family needs. She does this herself despite the fact that she has servants. It is an indication that she does not find it a chore but rather a joy to be able to spin and weave clothing for her loved ones. It is no wonder that her husband safely trusts in her (Proverbs 31:11), as caring for her loved ones is a joy to her. He knows that they will be well looked after by her, that she will not neglect the family needs.
Proverbs 31:20 (NIV) “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” Beyond her immediate family, the virtuous woman is equally caring and kind to those outside of her household, in particular, the poor and the needy. Her hands laboured to provide for her loved ones but extended to the poor and needy:
- She “opens her hands” to the poor and needy. This speaks of her compassion and generosity. She reaches out to these people.
- She “extends her arms” to the poor and needy. The words “extends her hands” indicates that she takes the initiative with the earnest intent to care for these people.
Her compassionate spirit calls her to take initiative to reach out to these people willingly and cheerfully. She does not only serve those who are around and close by, perhaps her neighbours, she also extends her hands of help to those who may not be nearby. She will stretch and reach out to them. Distance is no barrier to her good works. The love of God is expressed through her!
Delitzsch (“Proverbs”) points out that the use of “her palm (hand)” is not to be taken to merely mean the giving of gifts or alms. Rather, it means the offer of “sympathy and readiness to help…..as if saying: place confidence in me, I shall do whatever I can…..there thou has my hand!”
The use of plural: “her hands” points to virtuous woman reaching out with both her hands to the poor and needy, getting herself physically near enough to the poor and needy that they will be able to take hold of her outstretched hands in theirs to experience her warmth and sympathy. This kind of giving goes beyond the giving of gifts or money but the warm and personal touch, as portrayed by the outstretched hands.
Proverbs 31:21 (NIV) “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” Her love and care for her household makes her think ahead and plan for the family’s need during the time of winter (“when it snows”). She always has the welfare of the whole family in her heart. Such thoughtfulness on her part leads her husband to safely trust her (Proverbs 31:11).
The clothing is described as “scarlet,” a colour that is supposed to absorb and retain heat during winter. Such clothing is functional and appropriate for winter. The physical needs of her household are well looked into. Scarlet clothing is not only functional for use in winter the clothing is attractively coloured, making her family beautiful and smart looking.
In the Old Testament, the colour scarlet is often mentioned together with fine linen or gold. It is a colour that signifies richness and good taste. Therefore, the virtuous woman is a woman of good sense and taste. She ensures that her household is smartly attired and looks presentable in public.
k. Woman of Purpose
Proverbs 31:22a (NIV) “She makes coverings for her bed.” Coverings (bed sheets) or coverlets have the dual function of making the bed soft as well as to add to their aesthetics. The virtuous woman’s home is not only functional but also tastefully done up and decorated, making it an attractive, restful and comfortable place for everyone in her family. The bed’s coverings (bed sheets) could be purchased or made by herself, because that is not the major emphasis but on her taste.
Proverbs 31:22b (NIV) “She is clothed in fine linen and purple.” In her care for others, she does not neglect herself – she is well-dressed because her clothing is “fine linen and purple” which are both of quality and expensive fabrics.
- Linen fabrics made from flax are quality material.
- Purple coloured fabrics shows forth good taste of colour.
In the times of the Old Testament, Tyre, the Phoenician City, was known to export these expensive purple fabrics. The virtuous woman takes care of her own physical appearance and does not bring shame or embarrassment to her husband and her children by being properly dressed and in appearance. Her physical appearance must have been neat and pleasant, but not ostentatious (showy) nor unduly over-dressed (“over-killed”).
Despite her thrifty nature (Proverbs 31:13 &14), she is not a miser nor is she a penny-pincher. She has good sense and taste and is willing to pay for things of good quality, beauty or aesthetical valued. Her husband must be proud to be seen with her in public.Despite her thrifty nature (Proverbs 31:13 &14), she is not a miser nor is she a penny-pincher. She has good sense and taste and is willing to pay for things of good quality, beauty or aesthetical valued. Her husband must be proud to be seen with her in public.
m. Husband’s Reputation
Proverbs 31:23 (NIV) “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” The virtuous woman’s good character, deeds, management of her household and her being personally well- groomed (Proverbs 31:12-22) has contributed to her husband’s good reputation among the leaders (elders) of the land.
- Her husband has a Seat of Leadership “at the gate.” The city gates were centres for conversations and commerce…….because the Elders often transacted business at the gate, so “sit at the gate” meant to attain a certain social eminence.” (Parker and Tenney, “Illustrated Manners,” 412).
- The virtuous woman’s role in the home has great influenced and impacted on her husband’s career and reputation outside the home. The way she managed her household has resulted in her husband having full confidence in her (Proverbs 31:11) and therefore he is able to fully concentrate on his work without any worries as to household matters.
- The way she takes care of his physical needs in the home (which includes dressing him decently, appropriately and tastefully) is reflected in his physical appearance outside the home.
- Her husband trusts in her gives him a relaxed and peaceful demeanour. His whole outlook and appearance indicated to others that he has a caring, loving and supportive wife at home.
- In helping to promote her husband’s good standing outside the home, the virtuous woman does not strive to obtain that seat of reputation outside the home for herself. It is satisfying for her just to know that her husband has that respect and position outside.
Stay Tuned….. To be continued