The Virtuous Woman
In this article, I want to introduce you to the ideal woman. She is called the "virtuous woman" and we are provided a clear look at her, the innermost depths of her character that manifest itself in certain tangible traits (Prov. 31: 10, 10-31). The expression "virtuous woman" is from the Hebrew ishshah chayil and literally means "one of power either in mind or body, or both." As one source comments, "She is the perfect housewife, the chaste helpmate of her husband, upright, God-fearing, economical, wise" (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9, pg. 597). The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 especially stands out today in contrast to the "modern woman," the product of the Feminist's Movement. Before we introduce Proverbs 31: 10-31, allow me to make some preliminary points regarding the nature of Proverbs. Some view the Book of Proverbs as possessing simply antiquated sayings that were only applicable to the Jew under the Law of Moses. While it must be admitted that Proverbs was written in the climate of the Law of Moses, there is often a high standard of morality taught that transcends the Law (Prov. 7: 14, cp. Lev. 3; 7). There is moral enunciation that certainly enjoys placement in "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1: 25). I refer to such teaching as is found in Proverbs 24: 29 (Matt. 7: 12); 24: 17 (Rom. 12: 20); and 24: 9 (2 Cor. 10: 5). I submit that the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 stands as an ideal example of God's woman today, viewed from such facets as wife, mother, member of society, manufacturer, merchant, and landowner (vs. 11, 12; 28; 14-31; 24; 16). Hence, the virtuous woman presentation challenges the contemporary Jewish concept and, often, the thinking of some Christians and even preachers today, as we shall see. It is my pleasure to now introduce you to the virtuous woman:
"10: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11: The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12: She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13: She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14: She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15: She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16: She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17: She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18: She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19: She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20: She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21: She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22: She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23: Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24: She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25: Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26: She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27: She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28: Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29: Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30: Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth 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" (Prov. 31).
We shall engage in a study of God's ideal woman under four approaches: Her value; her domesticity; her characteristics; and her rewards.
The value of the virtuous woman. First, her value is seen in her virtuosity. "Who can find a virtuous woman?" asked the writer, "for her price is far above rubies" and "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised" (vs. 10; 30). Value can be determined by contribution. In the case of the virtuous woman, she greatly contributes to her husband, children, the poor, society, and to herself (vs. 11, 12, cp. 12: 4; 15; 20; 24; 17, 22). Be impressed, dear reader, with the fact that the woman is praised for qualities that she herself has developed! The value of women to any culture, society, and the church of Christ cannot be over emphasized. Women can contribute to overall goodness and moral integrity or they can tear down and destroy. Women are often more resistant to moral decay and, therefore, serve as a restraint. When women "become one of the boys," so to speak, society is in for trouble (much of what is happening today). God's ideal woman stands in sharp contrast with the too often modern woman with her tattoos, cursing, and selfish and shallow promiscuous lifestyle.
She attends to the needs of her family. A cursory examination of Proverbs 31: 10-31 reveals the emphasis and priority of God's woman: her family. She is seen busy in activities that pertain to the good and well being of her husband and children. She does good to her husband and not evil and "she riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household" (vs. 12; 15). She is not concerned with the threats of nature, because she has made ready for her family against nature (vs. 21). The fact of her primary concern being her family is seen in the language: "She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness" (vs. 27).
The teaching of Proverbs 31 is in perfect harmony with the teaching of the New Testament relative to the role of woman. In Paul's inspired epistle to Titus, Paul says regarding older women: "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Tit. 2: 4, 5).
The characteristics of the virtuous woman. When we consider the characteristics of God's woman, we can see why she is "ishshal chayil," a woman of force and power." Let us briefly mention how she is described and appreciate the fact that these are not surface traits, but they actually emanate from her character. She fears the Lord; hence she is characterized by piety (vs. 30). Purity and loyalty abound (vs. 10, 11, 12). She is kind, benevolent, and selfless (vs. 26, 20, 15, 20, 27). As opposed to bitterness and complaining, cheerfulness is seen (vs. 21). She is wise and dignified (vs. 26; 22).
An outstanding characteristic of the virtuous woman is her industry. This zeal and resourcefulness is seen in the promotion of her household (vs. 13, 15, 19, 21, 27). She is a manufacturer, merchant, and landowner (vs. 24; 24; 16). She even cultivates the soil (vs. 16). Herein, please allow me to gently issue a challenge: Who said the godly wife and mother cannot be involved in enterprise outside her physical house? Look again at the virtuous woman (vs. 24; 16). She is presented as what we would call an entrepreneur. She is involved in such enterprise, yet, does not neglect her family!
The reward of being a virtuous woman. First, be impressed with the fact that God's woman is a woman of real power. Which is more far reaching: to work primarily at a secular career and promote a company in providing some often whimsical product or contributing to the very foundation of society and mankind itself, the family? Herein is power! Too often great women go unnoticed and without praise. Not so with the godly woman of our text. We read, "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also and he praiseth her" and "Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates" (vs. 28; 31). Appreciate the fact that the wife has personal recognition, "let her own works praise her in the gates." What a statement, especially when viewed in the Jewish setting in which it is made!
Beloved, above and beyond all praise, recognition, and joy of this earth, heaven is the ultimate reward for God's people (Matt. 5: 12). We need more women today who are seeking to emulate the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 and not Hollywood's version of the successful woman. God's woman is of real substance and lasting quality and will offer important contributions to herself, family, and society as a whole. May their tribe increase. (You might like to read, "The Truth about Woman."