Focal Passage: Proverbs 31:10-31
Women in Proverbs have not been cast in a very good light. Basically she is pictured as the seductress that young men are to avoid. The 31st chapter of Proverbs changes this in the depiction of the good wife. The following attribute of the good wife is in acrostic form, with the first letter of each verse starting with the order of the Hebrew alphabet, (Psalm 119 is an example of this technique) and ends 22 verses later.
Women were honored for their child-bearing ability especially on the birth of a son. They were exempted from the bread winning chores, and other mundane tasks, but her status was hardly on an equal level with the husband.
In the following verses she is extolled for her industriousness and for her ability to do a multitude of tasks. Whether such a woman actually existed is unknown — she would definitely be rare — or if she was the creation of Solomon’s ideal wife. By the accounting of her tasks, she would have been the wife of a nobleman. Most of the women of their day would not have had such a broad scope of abilities nor opportunities.
What follows is the depiction of the good wife in the accepted role of the wives of the Old Testament. What she does, she does for her husband, and while she does some masculine things, i.e., buys a field and “… does him no harm, all the days of her life.” Therefore, “… the heart of the husband trusts her.” She is diligent, compassionate, and devoted to her family and committed to the Lord. By her activities, “Her husband is known in the gates where he sits among the elders of the land” (v. 23). She is known and revered by the townsmen who gather at the gates engaging in their business.
My own mother fell into the pattern of this woman. She was the loving wife of my father, a small cotton farmer. Their lives were like many small farm families during the depression era. She took her place beside dad in the cotton fields while caring for a growing family. She was blessed with high energy and a love for work. Typically she fed all the family at breakfast and made her way to the fields, stopping an hour early at lunch time and cooked a full course meal for the family, then beating everybody back to the fields for an afternoon of work. This was her desired routine. She hated dirt, physical and moral dirt, and attacked both with the same vigor. Her houses were typical small farm houses, bare walls and no frills, which she transformed into a clean and respectable home. She taught her children a love for education, and though her formal education was limited she was very bright. I owe a large debt to both my parents, but my mother excelled in virtually all that she did and instilled in me the Christian values I cherish to this day. Many of you have similar stories, and like mine, you are what you are because you were taught and disciplined as a child.
Solomon concludes his remarks by describing the nature of true beauty. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (v. 30). This is a needed lesson for our time. The pitch to our youth is a constant emphasis on their physical form and shape and beauty, with little or no importance given to anything else. He warns of the fleeting beauty that may be here today but gone tomorrow.
Recently I visited a church where a member came to me and told me they knew my mother and father. He related enough to me that I realized he really did know them. It was his parting comment that filled me with joy and gratitude. “Everywhere they went they laid down a Christian witness.”
I agree with Solomon, “Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates” (v. 31).
— Hay, a former pastor and retiree from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, lives in Dyersburg.