BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 153 (January-March 1996): 12-231

Copyright 1996 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Cited with permission.

 

 

THE WIFE

OF NOBLE CHARACTER

IN PROVERBS 31:10-31

 

Tom R. Hawkins

 

Proverbs 31:10-31, the closing pericope of the Book of

Proverbs, beautifully describes and praises a woman who is said

to be of "noble character" (NIV). However, interpreters differ on

how to understand this passage. Does the description refer to a

wife and mother who may have actually lived, or is the passage

describing qualities every woman should aspire to attain, or is

the "noble wife" a personification of wisdom, or is she the epitome

of wisdom?

 

THE NOBLE WIFE AS A ROLE MODEL

 

Proverbs 31:10-31 displays numerous qualities of the noble

wife (lyiHa-tw,xe), including trustworthiness, resourcefulness, fore-

sight, industriousness, generosity, domestic and business skills,

and fear of Yahweh. Her husband's praise at the conclusiof1 of the

poem includes his evaluation that she surpassed all her contem-

poraries, even others who were described as "noble" (lyiHa, v. 29).

This means that the main character of the poem is presented in

superlative terms regarding her extraordinary character.

While some have elevated her to a type of Christ or the Holy

Spirit, von Hoffmann views her as a diligent housewife.1 He is

correct in not ascribing to her any "supernatural" status. How-

ever, his limiting her to being only a housewife does not ade-

quately explicate either the immediate passage or its place in the

Book of Proverbs. She is at least a "role model" and in fact seems

to be more, as will be shown.

 

Tom R. Hawkins is president of Restoration in Christ Ministries, Altoona , Penn-

sylvania.

1 J. Chr. R. von Hofmann, Schriftbeweis (Nrdlingen: C. H. Bed'schen, 1960),404.

 



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 13

 

Because the poem begins with a rhetorical question about

finding a wife, some argue that the poem was written as a "para-

digm for a prospective bride."2 Crook goes even further and sees it

as "a memorandum from a school answering to the needs of

young women who will shortly be assuming positions of wealth

and importance in their communities."3 No evidence has been

found, however, that such a school ever existed. Whybray takes a

third option and says the passage was written from a man's view-

point and hence is "a handbook for prospective bridegrooms."4

Some of these hypotheses rest on or would be strengthened by

the assumption that the poem is related in some way to Proverbs

31:1-9. This connection would logically make the woman of this

poem the ideal wife sought by Lemuel. It must be admitted, how-

ever, that Proverbs 31 gives no indication that Lemuel did seek or

was commanded to seek such. a wife. Further there is no indica-

tion that the lyiHa-tw,xe ("wife of noble character") was a queen or

was to become a queen (31:1). Also the husband of Proverbs 31:11,

23, 28 is a nobleman or elder, not a king. In any case it seems

clear, as Murphy suggests, that the poem "holds out an ideal which

Israelite society held up for the woman herself."5

The word lyiHa has a number of shades of meaning, including,

among others, physical strength (Num. 24:18), wealth (Job 20:15,

perhaps suggesting wealth attained by one's strength or ability),

and integrity or strength of character (Gen. 47:6; Exod. 18:21,

25).6 But what does it convey when used of women in Ruth 3:11;

Proverbs 12:4; and 31:10, 29?

The van der Sluises assert that in view of the occurrence of lyiHa

in Proverbs 12:4,7 this word should not "be diluted" by omitting the

idea of "strength" just because it is used with the word for

"woman" (tw,xe). For example they argue that the only woman

 

2 R. B. Y. Scott, The Way of Wisdom in the Old Testament (New York: Macmillan,

1971), 86.

3 Margaret B. Crook, "The Marriageable Maiden of Provo 61:10-31," Journal of

Near Eastern Studies 13 (1954): 140.

4 R. N. Whybray, Book of Proverbs, Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge

University Press, 1972), 184.

5 Roland E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles. Eccle-

siastes and Esther, Forms of Old Testament Literature, ed. Rolf Kneirim and Gene

M. Tucker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981),82.

6 For an examination of this and other shades of meaning or this often-used word

in the Old Testament see Tom R. Hawkins, "The Meaning and Function of Proverbs

31:10-31 in the Book of Proverbs" (Ph.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1995),

62-76.

7 "An excellent wife [lyiH-tw,xe] is the crown of her husband but she who shames

him is as rottenness in his bones."



14 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1996

 

outside Proverbs of whom the word lyiHa is used is Ruth (Ruth 3:11),

whom Boaz acknowledged as "a woman of strength who knew

how to achieve the object she pursued. She is a woman who pur-

posefully, forcefully knew how to shape the circumstances to suit

her needs."8

Furthermore they claim that the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31

is viewed in her role "as a woman of strength, a woman with

might; and somewhat of that strong, self-assured and purposeful I

action sounds throughout the whole song."9 They see this impres-

sion confirmed by others mentioned in the poem, such as her hus-

band and children, who focus on her. She is the one whose actions

are characterized by such words as "rewards, searches, brings,

makes, arises, gives, thinks, takes, plants, girds, strengthens,

tastes, stretches out, understands, spreads out, is not afraid,

makes, sells, gives, opens, considers, eats, excels."10 They find

additional evidence of her strength in the descriptions in verses

17 and 19-20, all of which radiate "strength" and "self-assurance"

and indicate an almost "aggressive" approach to life.11 While the

meaning of lyiHa is broader than "strength" alone, the point is well

taken that physical strength and strength of character are both ev-

ident in the poem and should not be omitted from an understand-

ing of the lyiha-tw,xe.

The strength of her character and her capabilities are in fact

the opposite of the woman lacking in character who is a problem to

her husband (Prov. 12:4b). Instead the lyiHa-tw,xe is a woman "who is

capable of managing a fortune."12 McCreesh notes, "She appears

to be completely self-sufficient, rather wealthy, and also spends

herself and her resources totally for others."13 Camp says this.

woman and Eve in Genesis "provide literary models for women

idealized, as creative, authoritative individuals, very much in

league with men for the well-being of the world in which they

lived (though not, primarily, for its perpetuation through repro-

duction), but not defined by or d pendent on them."14

 

8 Hanneke van der Sluis-van der Kors and Douwe van der Sluis. "De deugdelijke

huisvrouw in opspraak: een interpretatie van spreuken 31: 10-31," Schrift 69 (1980):

94.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., 95.

11 Ibid., 96.

12 Ibid., 96.

13 Thomas P. McCreesh, "Wisdom as ire: Proverbs 31:10-31," Revue Biblique 92

(1985): 28.

14 Claudia Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs (Decatur, GA: ,

Almond, 1985),83.



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 15

 

While the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 is depicted as having

a certain degree of financial security, every attribute of character

mentioned in the poem can be true of those without the wealth she

seemingly enjoys. Character traits such as trustworthiness (v.

11), industriousness (vv. 11, 13, 15, 17-20, 24, 27), wise speech (v.

26a), and faithful instruction (v. 26b) all rise out of her "fear of

Yahweh" (v. 30) and are not related to economic means. In fact

neither the possession of great wealth nor the lack of it excludes

one from emulating the qualities of this outstanding woman.

All the favorable feminine imagery in the Book of Proverbs

reaches a climax in the final poem. The noble woman is the

summation of all that has been said about the good woman or

wife. She is the ultimate role model after whom any woman in

any era or culture can pattern her life if she desires to live ac-

cording to the principles of wisdom and the fear of Yahweh.

 

THE NOBLE WIFE AS THE EPITOME OF WISDOM

 

As the climactic culmination of the good woman/wife motif

portrayed throughout the Book of Proverbs, how is the lyiHa-tw,xe of

31:10-31 related to the theme of wisdom? More specifically, as the

main character of the final poem in Proverbs, which forms an in-

clusio with Proverbs 1-9, is she related in any way to the figure of

Lady Wisdom in those opening chapters?

Hermanson maintains that the author of Proverbs is teach-

ing wisdom through the entire book by contrasting two kinds of

people under the figure of the wise and the foolish woman. He sees

the woman of folly as the unfaithful wife and the noble wife in

31:10-31 as the faithful one. Hermanson identifies the skillful

woman with wisdom and the unfaithful wife with folly.15 These

two figures in Proverbs 1-9 become "representative examples of

wisdom and folly through implied comparison." In his view

31:10-31 becomes the climactic personification of wisdom. 16

Hermanson argues that since 31:10-31 is never referred to as

a pattern for the New Testament role of woman or, wife, the early

church "did not see its value for women" and did hot believe the

passage is primarily pointing out qualities a woman should

have.17 But this argument from silence overlooks the obviously

feminine qualities referred to in the passage, such as the three

references to the woman's husband. While the noble woman may

 

15 Hermanson called her a "prostitute," but the better te1m is "adulteress"

(Michael R. Hermanson, "The Personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 31:10-31"

[Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983],40).

16 Ibid., 42.

17 Ibid., 44.



16 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1996

 

not necessarily have referred to a specific (unnamed) individ-

ual, the passage, as already suggested, does seem to depict a typi-

cal industrious and noble woman. Although the cumulative effect

of all the activities of this industrious woman may seem over-

whelming, what is said of her could be true of a particular indi-

vidual. What she is represented as doing is possible for an actual

woman of the first millennium B.C. In this sense her existence is

historically plausible.

Numerous verbal repetitions describe both Lady Wisdom in

chapters 1-9 and the noble wife of the final poem, thus suggesting,

as some argue, that 31:10-311 depicts a personification of wisdom.

One such parallel relates to I the value of "finding" both wisdom

and the noble woman. Proverbs 8:35 reads, concerning Lady

Wisdom, "for he who finds me finds life, and obtains favor from

the Lord." Likewise 31:10 asks the rhetorical question about who

can find this "wife of noble character," whose value is "far above

jewels." Proverbs 3:15 and 8;11 describe the value of wisdom as

also being "more precious than jewels."18 Thus the search for

wisdom and for the noble wife, are both worth the time and effort.

Other possible parallels 1 are found in wisdom's bringing fa-

vor and a good name to those who embrace her (3:4) Just as the no-

ble wife brings good to her husband all the days of her life (31:12),

enabling him to enjoy respect among the elders in "the gates" of

the city (31:23).19 Wisdom brings a profitable yield (3:14; 8:19)

while the noble wife too sees that her trading is profitable (31:18).

Wisdom and the noble woman both have maids (9:3; 31:15) who do

their bidding. Furthermore their character each earns a well-de-

served reward. Wisdom's "reward" to those who "embrace" her is

better than fine gold or choice silver (8:19). Likewise, though in a

slightly different sense, the I noble wife is "rewarded" by praise

from her children, husband, I and the entire community (31:31).

Wisdom and the noble wife are also both found at the city gates.

Wisdom calls there for followers to come after her (1:21; 8:3)

while the noble wife there rt1ceives well-earned praise for all her

works (31:31). The speech of the noble woman is also filled with

"wisdom" and "faithful" instruction (31:26), which loosely echo

the character of Lady Wisdom seen in 8:11-12 and 9:6.

Finally, wisdom is inseparable from the "fear of Yahweh"

(8:13). In fact the "fear of Yahweh" is said to be the beginning of

wisdom (9:10), and yet in a reciprocal manner wisdom enables

those who embrace her to understand the "fear of Yahweh" (2:5).

 

18 Job 28:18 uses the same word in describing the price of wisdom.

19 Proverbs 31:23 says that one of the "good" things he enjoys is respect in "the

gates."



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 17

 

In the climax of the poem that concludes the book the basis of all

the noble woman's character traits and works of her hands for

which she is praised is her "fear of Yahweh" (31:30).20

McCreesh sees these parallels as supporting the idea that the

woman of 31:10-31 is a personification of wisdom.

 

Do not the two portraits complement one another? The portrait of

Wisdom inviting those who heed her call to make their home with

her in chapter 9 is completed by the portrait of he woman settled

down with her own in chapter 31. And the security and peace

promised by Wisdom in 1:33 is amply portrayed n 31:10-31. If the

portrait in chapter 9 is that of Wisdom searching for companions,

the portrait of chapter 31 must symbolize Wisdom finally settled

down with her own.21

The picture given in 31:10-31, according to McCreesh, pro-

vides support for his view that because wisdoms personified in

chapters 1-9 and the noble wife in chapter 31 is described in simi-

lar terms, she also is the personification of wisdom.22

On the other hand, though verbal and other similarities be-

tween these two outstanding female figures appear at opposite

ends of the book, rather profound differences do exist. While

Lady Wisdom is never clearly pictured as a wife or a mother in

Proverbs 1-9, the noble woman is obviously both. Her role as a

mother, though not strongly emphasized, is reflected in 31:28.23

The figure of Lady Wisdom seems to be something of a com-

posite, that is, she seems to be presented as a preacher (feminine)

in 1:20-23, a prophet (feminine) in 1:24-33, and a teacher (also

feminine) in 8:4-11. She is also said to be seeking followers in

9:3-6 (and perhaps by implication in 1:21 and 8:3-11, 17), whereas

the Proverbs 31 woman is too busy in her productivity to seek after

followers. She sews (vv. 13, 19, 22), cooks (v. 15 , gets up before

daylight (v. 15), provides food for her family (v. 15), buys fields

(v. 16), plants vineyards (vv. 16-17), engages in trading (v. 18),

shares goods with the poor (v. 20), clothes her family in the finest

of warm clothing (v. 21), makes retail goods and turns a profit (v.

24). She "provides for the various needs of her husband, children,

and servants" (vv. 15, 21, 27).24

 

20 Most of these suggestions on the comparison of Lady Wisdom and the lyiHa-tw,xe

are found in McCreesh, "Wisdom as Wife," 41-43.

21 Ibid.. 30, It could be questioned, however, that his phrase" make their home with

her in chapter 9" is an accurate portrayal of her invitation to a meal.

22 Ibid., 44.

23 In addition several verses could be viewed as allusions t her activities as a

mother(vv. 15,21,27).

24 Roy B. Zuck, "A Theology of the Wisdom Books and the Song of Songs," in A Bib-

lical Theology of the Old Testament, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Chicago: l11oody, 1991),237.



18 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1996

 

Zuck points out that Since the noble wife "speaks" with wis-

dom (v. 26), it makes no sense to equate Lady Wisdom with her

and thus have "Wisdom speaking with wisdom." It therefore

seems better to see the Proverbs 31 noble woman as a "wise

woman, not wisdom personified."25 This finds further support,

according to Zuck, in verse 30. As 1:7 and 9:10 have made clear

the fear of the Lord is the foundational essence of wisdom. The

noble woman, then, as one who fears the Lord, is most certainly a

wise woman. She represents the epitome of all that Lady Wisdom

teaches.

 

She is a model or example of a wise woman. In contrast to a fool-

ish, adulterous woman (2: 6-19; 5:20; 6:23-34; 7:4-27) this woman

is faithful to her family and is therefore praised (31:30-31) by her

children and her husband (v. 28) and the public (v. 31). As a wise

woman, she is in contrast to "woman Folly" (9:13-18): Rather than.

a personification of wisdom , the woman in 31:10-31 IS an embodi-

ment or model of wisdom, woman who is wise because she is liv-

ing skillfully.26

Rather than limiting the woman in 31:10-31 to simply a per-

sonification of wisdom, Garrett, Ringgren, and Wolters see her

as both personification and the presentation of an ideal woman.27

She is "wisdom in action" and "her deeds are the practical and

concrete incarnation of what 't means to be wise."28 The advan-

tage of this view is that it see the obvious references to both wis-

dom and the womanly role model. Only in this way is it possible

to do "justice to the everyday and down-to-earth character of the

Valiant Woman's mighty deeds as manager of a large estate."29

Manifesting many of the traits of wisdom, the lyiHa-tw,xe is simi-

lar in many ways to Lady Wisdom. The latter, however, is de-

picted much more as a figure through whom the concept of wisdom

can be vocalized while the Woman in Proverbs 31 is clearly a

woman doing what women do, though admittedly idealized. Her

activities in real life represent concrete applications of the wis-

dom that Lady Wisdom personifies.

One of the questions faced by the writer or final editor of

Proverbs was how best to impress indelibly on his readers a poetic;

 

25 Ibid. (italics his).

26 Ibid., 237-38.

27 Duane A. Garrett Proverbs, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman,

1993), 249; Helmer Ringgren, Artur Weiser, and Walther Zimmerli, Sprche,

Prediger, Das Hohe Lied, Klagelieder, Das Buch Esther {Gttingen: Vandenhoeck

& Ruprecht, 1980),121; and AI Wolters,"Sopyy (Prov 31:27) as Hymnic Participle

and Play on Sophia," Journal of Biblical Literature 104 (1985): 581.

28 Wolters, Sopyy (Prov 31:27) as Hymnic Participle and Play on Sophia," 581.

29 Ibid., 581-82.



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 19

 

ideal of wisdom. It is nothing short of a brilliant stroke to delay

his most convincing portrait of how to live wisely until the very

end of the book. He then pulled together the major themes and

motifs about women and concretized the concept of wisdom into a

final, summarizing statement by giving a word picture of a

woman who embodies the essence of what it means to live wisely.

Though she represents wisdom in a female form, the character

traits she demonstrates serve as examples to both men and

women. Neither wisdom nor folly is limited to a single gender.

 

THE APPLICATION OF PROVERBS 31:10-31 TO TODAY

 

Throughout the Book of Proverbs women are neither ignored

nor treated as inferior to men; in fact the climactic conclusion

found in 31:10-31 elevates womanhood to a position of supreme

honor. The status accorded the lyiHa-tw,xe in this passage was not

granted because of birth or riches but was earned through indus-

trious productivity and diligent application of the principles of

wisdom based on the fear of Yahweh.

The noble woman presents an image of superior achievement

in every area of life. In an era in which industry is discouraged

by emphasis on rights over responsibilities, get-rich-quick

schemes, and preoccupation with goods acquired on credit, the

lyiHa-tw,xe models an industrious and productive lifestyle that con-

tributes to the prosperity of the home and of society at large. In

keeping with descriptions throughout the Book of Proverbs, this

culminating picture reinforces the thought that anyone whose

character, commitment, godliness, and productivity replicate the

qualities of this woman has learned to live wisely.

Following the rhetorical question "who can find?" the poem

describes the noble woman as gaining the full confidence of her

husband. Such a relationship of trust is possible in a marriage in

which each mate loves the other in a way that consistently benefits

the other person. While 31: 11-12 focuses on the trustworthiness of

the wife, the husband has a similar responsibility to seek to de-

velop the character qualities described in this acrostic poem.

The poem effectively portrays that the noble wife had a strong

work ethic and willingly carried her share of the household's

work. Although she was privileged to have servants, she did not

use them as an opportunity for laziness. She remained in com-

plete oversight of all activities in her household (v. 27), even ris-

ing before dawn to involve herself personally in the allotting of

food for the day (v. 15). She did not seem to allow for an idle mo-

ment. The help of her servants enabled her to expand her horizons

and spread her energies further afield in providing for the needs



20 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA/January-March 1996

 

of her household. She did not look for an easy way out but instead

did what was necessary to ensure that her activities manifested

the best quality, whether in the food she secured for the table (v.

14), the clothing she made herself and her family (vv. 21-22), or

the garments she sold to the merchants (v. 24).

Her priorities were thus devoted to the good of her husband

and her household. She also sought to help the needs of the poor in

her community (v. 20). In addition she ran a profitable home-

based business (vv. 17-18), selling garments she made to in-

crease the income of the household (v. 24). She knew how to oper-

ate in the business world, selecting raw materials (v. 13), invest-

ing in property that would yield a profitable return, and selling

finished products (vv. 16, 24).

Collins calls her a "capable wife" whose character makes her

"no mere homebody but an efficient businesswoman" as well. He

correctly insists that if this passage teaches anything about the

role of women, "it is that they can exercise responsibility quite as

widely and efficiently as their male counterparts."30

Such industrious productivity on the part of the lyiHa-tw,xe reaped

many benefits for her husband, her family, and herself. They all

were able to enjoy quality provisions (v. 21) as well as financial

and emotional security concerning whatever the future might

bring (vv. 21, 25). With his wife providing such apt leadership

over the affairs of the household, her husband was able to direct

his energies toward the leadership needs of the community, where

he too was well respected (v. 23). Obviously both members of this

couple were committed to deep-seated character qualities en-

abling them to excel in their individual areas. In addition to the

wife's unfailing devotion to the needs of her husband and family

and generosity to the poor, the poem specifically mentions the

kindness and wisdom with which she spoke (v. 26). The founda-

tion from which these qualities arise is given in the grand cli-

max of the pericope as her "fear of Yahweh" (v. 30). The end result

is that this woman and her works are praised by all whom her life

touches: her children, her husband (vv. 28-29), and her commu-

nity (v. 31).

In spite of the great beauty of this portrayal of the ideal woman

and the honor given her, this passage is nevertheless often viewed

by modern women as a harsh yardstick by which to measure their

shortcomings. Many cringe at the mere mention of this woman.

Therefore it is important to put into perspective certain aspects of

the poem's message.

 

30 John J. Collins, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Knox Preaching Guides (Atlanta: Knox,

1980), 69-70.



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 21

 

First, no young bride can possibly fulfill all that is pictured

in this poem before developing the maturity that comes only with

time. This portrait looks at the finished product, not at a young

woman entering marriage. It reflects the cumulative effect of a

life lived wisely. At any given point in life a person can only

seek to move in the direction this superb and' energetic woman

has laid out for all to follow. She serves as d kind of pictorial

mentor of the "ultimate" wife just as the qualities listed for church

leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 describe the direction and fo-

cus a man's life should take if he aspires to be a church leader.

A second area in which perspective is needed is in seeing the

complementary roles of the husband and wife. At first glance it

might be easy to conclude from this passage that the woman is the

dominant figure who is the major provider for the family. What

must be remembered is that the purpose of the poem is to focus on

the role of the wife, not that of the husband. The portrayal of this

woman is in no way inconsistent with the New Testament princi-

ple of the husband being the head of the wife (Eph. 5:23). If the hus-

band's role and daily activities were depicted to the same extent

as the wife's in this poem, she could still be seen as fitting under

his leadership and loving authority.

In an age when women often tend to feel demeaned, Proverbs

31:10-31 provides a liberating concept of marriage with both hus-

band and wife making a valuable contribution to the family. The

poem presents a picture in which the lyiHa-tw,xe is no slave to her hus-

band but has ample opportunities to develop her own potential. She

is involved in the textile industry, agriculture, real estate, and

household management while her husband takes a place in what

might be called "politics" in the modern era. Their lives are not

lived totally separate, however. They are partners in marriage.

Modern couples could benefit by a careful examination of the in-

( teraction between spouses suggested in this acrostic poem.

 

Like some recurring refrain in a musical masterpiece, in the midst

of this paean the ideal woman's husband is mentioned directly or

by implication five times. She is said to be his most precious pos-

session: "If 'you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than

precious gems" (Provo 31:10). She interacts with him by supplying

his needs and giving him grounds for trusting her. (Prov.

31:11). She efficiently cares for and establishes a good relation-

ship with their children: "Her children stand' up and bless her"

(Provo 31:28). Then he realizes what her needs are and gives her

his unstinted praise: "There are many fine women in the world

but you are the best of them all" (Provo 31:29). 31

 

31 Robina Drakeford and John W. Drakeford, In Praise of Women: A Christian

Approach to Love, Marriage and Equality (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980),

26.



22 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / January-March 1996

 

Third, while the woman of noble character is seen as expand-

ing her horizons beyond her home, all her outside business en-

deavors are focused on meeting the needs of her family, and her

generating extra income is carried on from a home base.

In a modern society that has tried to declare marriage and the

family useless relics of bygone days tied to irrelevant customs,

Proverbs 31:10-31 stands like a literary Statue of Liberty welcom-

ing all who have tried the sociological jargon about loose com-

mitment and easy divorce and found it wanting. By contrast, the

lyiHa-tw,xe models faithfulness to her marriage vows and the family

unit. Her commitment to purity of life and morals contrasts with

the loose living of the adulteress and the prostitute. As a role

model for the modern age, the Proverbs 31 woman is "liberated"

in the good sense of that word and is a model of the kind of person,

man or woman, whose character forms the foundation stone of

any healthy society.

Just as Proverbs 9 brings together the matter of choice before

each person in regard to Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly, so the

final picture of the lyiHa-tw,xe as the epitome of wisdom presents a

personal choice for readers to become actively involved in deter-

mining the direction of their lives, seeking a quality of life that is

positive, uplifting, and beneficial rather than drifting through

life as a spectator. To be equipped for the demands of normal life

(31:21), as well as the uncertainties of the future (v. 25) every per-

son, male and female, needs wisdom. The qualities wisdom im-

parts benefit all mankind. It is a tragedy that so many have

stumbled through life, despising those attributes or being unwill-

ing to pay the price to obtain them.

The lyiHa-tw,xe is a concrete word picture of all that it means to

live wisely. She exemplifies wisdom in her life by her proper

alignment of values. She does not follow the world's standards of

feminine achievement focused on physical beauty and womanly

charm. Instead she has chosen to anchor her life on the "fear of

Yahweh" (v. 30), the true basis of all wisdom. One cannot em-

brace true wisdom without entering into a personal relationship

with God.

With this as her foundation the noble wife further demon-

strates wisdom in ordering other priorities in her life. Her mar-

riage vows are not taken lightly, but she consistently and dili-

gently applies herself to meeting, the needs of her husband and her

household in the best way possible. Her genuine concern for oth-

ers does not end with her family, however, as she also reaches out ,

in generosity to the poor (v. 20) and speaks with kindness (v. 26),

indicating the value she places on human life and relationships.

Her disciplined, industrious lifestyle shows foresight, effi-



The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31:10-31 23

 

ciency, and resourcefulness, all evidences of the application of

wisdom in her life. She has prepared for the worst of winter

weather and other unforeseen contingencies (Vv. 21, 25). She uses

her time wisely, and she diligently oversees her household af-

fairs in an orderly manner (v. 27). She demonstrates business

acumen and makes wise decisions (vv. 16, 18). Wisdom has be-

come so much a part of her life that it is naturally expressed in her

speech (v. 26).

Lady Wisdom in chapters 1-9, and the wife of noble charac-

ter as the epitome of wisdom, in Proverbs 31:10-31, are looking for

followers m any age or society. They are female mentors to be

held up to all young women and men as worthy of emulation. In a

society that honors and highly pays sports and entertainment fig-

ures, a tremendous need exists to hold up a new kind of model.

This noble woman demonstrates that a proper spiritual orienta-

tion and the arrangement of one's life under the "fear of the Lord"

is the only way to reach one's "full potential" as wise created be-

ings made to live free of slavery and yet under divine authority.

 

 

This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Dallas Theological Seminary

3909 Swiss Ave.

Dallas, TX 75204

www.dts.edu

 

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: thildebrandt@gordon.edu