Equality…or Equity? Part 7

Proverbs 31:10-31

New International Version (NIV)Woman and Jesus

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Footnotes:

  • Proverbs 31:10 Verses 10-31 are an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

I copy and pasted this from Biblegateway.com.  I thought it was good to review.  I suggest that the reader meditate upon this, asking the Lord to reveal what He wants you to know from this.  However, we shall look at some highlights.

  • v. 11 – I simply ask; how can a husband have full confidence in a woman for whom he makes all the decisions?  
  • v.v. 16 & 18 – Oh…so, a woman can make wise investments, too.  Not just a man’s game.
  • v. 23 – She can be who she is, not worrying that her husband is being a disappointment.
  • v. 26 – This wisdom is not just for other women and children, apparently.  She just speaks it.
  • v. 31 – Give honor to whom honor is due.  Men…stop complaining about your wives.

This is my simplistic view.  Once again, I have invited my old friend, Michael Willingham to bring some Hebrew perspective on this well known and meaningful passage.  Not many know about the poetic side of this passage, nor some of the details hidden in the Hebrew words.   However, even in the English translation, we should take a new look at this passage and allow His Spirit to reveal His voice.

Who can find a Virtuous Wife?
A Declaration of Honor

 In this series of Equity for women using the Bible,  we have seen, considered, and have been shown conclusively that God’s design for women is not what it is practiced or regarded in the male centric circles of church and the streets today. In this segment I am going to give you a commentary rather than a study from the Book of Proverbs. Namely chapter 31 verses 10 -31. I will only for accentuation give you a little Hebrew in order to promote the strong meanings to give you the proper reference and context as well as the defining theme of these passages as a whole.

      King Lemuel wrote wise sayings from Proverbs 31:1-9 as taught to him by his mother. I would submit to you that this king who legend regards as actually Solomon, had complete wisdom. He had the revelation of women as God sees and not as mere men see. So, verses one through nine bear mentioning, not just because of their wise advice to kings, but that they were uttered by a woman and followed by a king. It is from verse 10 through 31 we see this culmination of that respect for his mother as well as women in general.

    I had a very slow time in starting this article because I found the information and revelation of these 22 verses intriguing as well as formidable to convey with all of the due respect due. So I will start with some general musings and expand from there. First point is that these verses are found at the end of proverbs. I see this as fundamentally important and a singular truth. Why? We find in the beginning of Proverbs where first Solomon’s second full admonition of wisdom after “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, we see him say to children to hear” the instruction of their father, And NOT to Forsake the WISDOM of their mother”. And then to set the full theme, Solomon writes that “Wisdom calls out aloud, She raises her voice in the open streets. She cries out in the chief concourses, at the gates in the city she speaks her words.”

Can I have an ‘amen’?

So now lets go back to Proverbs 31:10-22 to look at this honorarium to wives as well as women now that we see that there is a definitely no coincidence we see the feminine touch in this whole book.

     Lets start with a basic but little known fact about proverbs 31:10-22. This is a poem where the first letter of the first word of each verse follows the whole twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Alphabet! I have read of several sources about this fact but didn’t get a true sense of any great explanation of this phenomenon. So I asked God. I asked a plain question but got a marvelous response. This last section of proverbs dedicated to the virtuous wife or “Ishshah” which means woman, or wife that this was a finishing honor to the wisdom God placed in the Ezer Kenegdo. Whether married or single the Ezer Kenegdo is there to be used by God for man (Ish). In this setting then God is laying out from Aleph to Tav the virtues of women and to regard them as such and to take heed. A women is virtuous in all ways and God proves it by honoring her with every letter of the Alphabet. What an incredible and marvelous way for God to honor women by describing her with a twenty two letter “Banner”.

Proverbs 31:10 starts out with the words “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Now the author is doing that strange Hebrew thing of making a statement into a question. It’s a trick of words to tell you that they are declaring to you something and are about to explain what that is.

     I will start this by defining the word virtuous because this word is the setting tone of the rest of the proverb. It’s the defining word. It’s the high note of the trumpet of God who is using twenty-two notes of music to sing the praises of women!

Virtuous: In Hebrew the word is tied to woman with a hyphen indicating that the two words are linked. Ready? Virtuous Wife

       חַיִל– אֵשֶׁת

Now this is Hebrew so we are reading from right to left. The hyphenated whole word is Ishshah-Chayil. Ishshah, of course, means women but second word linked by the hyphen is Chayil which means the following powerful adjectives: force, whether of men, means or other resources; an armywealthvirtuevalor,strength:—able, activity, (+) army, band of men (soldiers), company, (great) forces, goods, host, might, power, riches, strength, strong, substance, train, (+) valiant (-ly), valour.

I think I could probably end this article on that note alone if you have not picked up on that definition. This is describing a warrior!

Skip Moen writes in an article called “Worth Another Look; The word used to describe the role model for women of Israel is a masculine noun taken from military language.  Forget those translations that talk about a “good wife” or a “wife of noble character” or an “excellent wife.”  This is Joan of Arc, not Jackie Kennedy!  The Hebrew imagery focuses on external behavior, not inner contemplation or heart motivation.  No heroine ever earned glory by sitting quietly at home thinking good thoughts!  Character in the Hebrew community is seen in inner strength exhibited in outward, public reputation. (Skip Moen)

So with this definition and full thematic elements you read in all of the last 22 verses of proverbs 31 as a unrelenting description of a person who practices powerful abilities of management like a CEO of a company. She is a dietician, supervisor, financial analyst, purchaser, wall street investor. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! This warrior also tends to all of the points of the household with the above professional acumen, but she is also generous, industrial, never idle, driven to succeed, loves with quality and quantity and as one verse says “she does her husband good and not evil all the days of his life. The man fully and safely trusts her. With this woman there is NO LACK of GAIN.

Sounds like a fortune 500 company to me?

Again I quote from Skip Moen; “It is behavior that exhibits heroic status.  We nod in agreement, but we don’t recognize just how foreign this thought is to what we value in women.  The heroic poem declares that God values action on behalf of others so highly that this woman is considered a heroine.  But we grew up Greek.  We value other things, like physical beauty, economic dependence and domestication.  We might acknowledge that women play a growing role in business and politics, but more often than not, men want to marry a wife who is gorgeous, placid and subservient.  In fact, the church often misuses Paul’s comments to reinforce those very Greek ideals.

But you won’t find them in this poem.  This heroine is lauded for her economic strategy, cunning and expertise.  She is prized for her “take charge” approach, praised for her profit-making efforts and honored for her charity.  Her stamp of approval is related to her self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, not the shape of her body.  She is a wise teacher, an industrious contributor, a philanthropist and societal icon.  We lust after a crop of celebrities who know nothing about true heroism.  Our role models are deteriorated Greek goddesses, not Hebrew heroines.

And here’s the punch line:  by honoring the valiant wife in heroic poetry, the author offers this concept as the role model for all the daughters of Zion.  Honor follows action, and for all women, heroic action is the first godly option.

Perhaps we need to completely rethink the way that we conscript our girls and young women into a cultural role that was never part of God’s plan.  Perhaps we need to understand that God is not Greek, in thought, word or deed.  What a tragedy we have perpetrated upon women as the church adopted a Greek view of feminine attributes.  Maybe you need to start seeing your girls in combat fatigues instead of cheerleading costumes.” (Skip Moen)

Summary: It is time to go back to read this proverb again, both men and women, with an entirely new and true perspective of what God had inspired the author to write this. You see in the ending of this poem of honor the end result being a house where the children and the husband praises her. She has a reputation in the city because the husband can’t talk enough about his Ishshah-Chayil. We find a home of harmony because this woman reflects the very function of the Ezer-Kenegdo, the force of nature as the Ishshah-Chayil, and practices generosity as a person who reflects the Grace of God, who helps the poor and sets all matters of the house straight with wisdom, purpose and great love.

Men take note here. Women; be encouraged. Church; take notice.

Its time to stop being Greek, start being a Church and let women come into their own by getting out of the way. We are each to our own gifts minister, and in our homes walk with purpose side by side building each other up and creating a dynamic force that marriage can be as well as a dynamic force for women in the Church and the world.

Shalom.
~Michael Willingham

Well, this draws this topic to a fair conclusion.  Next will be a review of some of the highlights of what we have all seen and learned through this little adventure.  I pray that all who read this are blessed, whether you are a woman…or even a man.

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