The Woman Of Proverbs 31, Is This Achievable Today?


By Arlene Galloway

I. (Proverbs written 970-930 B.C.)

Question: Do YOU think this is achievable today? Demographics of audience: school; college/uni; working – part-time, full-time; retired

(E. Jacob, “Sagesse et Alphabet: Pr. 31:10-31,” Hommages à A. Dont-Sommer, 287-95): Any careful reading of the passage would have to conclude that if it were merely a paradigm for women what it portrays may well be out of reach – she is a wealthy aristocrat who runs an estate with servants and conducts business affairs of real estate, vineyards, and merchandising, and also takes care of domestic matters and is involved with charity.

So, did you leave instructions with your servants before you came here this morning?

In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, and the book concludes with this acrostic poem, where we see the complete summation of Wisdom embodied as the perfect woman. If God was to describe to Adam in the Garden of Eden what He had in mind as the perfect helper for him, this would be it.

Why have I chosen to use valour instead of noble, virtuous or worthy? Because it can also be translated this way.

This is the same expression used to describe Ruth (e.g., Ruth 3:11). The term here means “moral worth”. Elsewhere the term is used of physical valour in battle, e.g., Gideon, one of the judges – a “mighty man of valour,” the land-owning aristocrat who could champion the needs of his people in times of peace or war (e.g., Judges 6:12).

‘And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valour’

Here the title indicates that the woman possesses all the virtues, honour, and strength to do the things that the poem will set forth.

Domestic goddess

II. Lesson

A. The problem is subjection

a. Ephesians 5:22-24

wives are to be in subjection to their husbands in EVERYTHING 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church (he himself being the saviour of the body). 24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

b. This can cause problems when we don’t understand what subjection is.

i. God gave woman to man as a true partner (Gen 2:22-24)

ii. Submission is about roles, not superiority or inferiority (Acts 10:34, Rom 2:12, Gal 3:28)

iii. We don’t have a problem submitting to our boss at work, or teachers at school, but when it comes to the Church it’s a whole different ballgame!

B. She was an ‘independent’ woman

a. How did she spend her time?

i. Several verses mention how industrious she is with her hands – gathering wool and flax to make quality clothing, both for her family and to sell (13, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25)

ii. She goes wherever she needs to, to make sure her family are well-fed (14)

iii. She gets up while it’s still dark and feeds her family, and continues to work at night via lamplight (we can do this in Scotland easily – the sun doesn’t rise in winter till about 9am and it’s dark by 4pm Not a morning person) (15, 18)

iv. From the income she’s made selling her goods, she invests the money in a field and plants a vineyard (16)

v. She doesn’t forget the poor (20)

vi. She keeps herself in good shape so she can work (vs 17)

vii. She’s not lazy, but looks after her family (27)

C. Was the woman in Proverbs in subjection? Absolutely!

a. She was under the Old Law. Sarah called Abraham ‘Master’ (1 Peter 3:1-6)

In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Then, even if some are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without a word by the way you live, when they see your pure and reverent conduct. Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.

b. Her husband sat daily at the city gate i. He is well-known as one of the elders ii. He is doing all the ‘important stuff’ – helping to make proper judgements for the people. (23)

c. He trusted her implicitly and delegated the task of running the household to her

i. She blessed him because of her skills and abilities (11, 12)

ii. He reaped the benefits of this.

‘Her husband’s heart has trusted her, and he does not lack the dividends. She has rewarded him with good and not harm all the days of her life.’

d. If she wasn’t in subjection then his reputation would be ruined amongst the people of Israel

e. Her family praise her as a godly woman – this wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t in subjection (28-29)

f. She is a woman who fears the Lord (30) – she follows His Word

D. How does this apply to us today?

a. There are women in this room today who work to keep their families clothed and fed

i. We don’t actually do the weaving and sewing (although I know some do!)

ii. Their income is used to support the household by buying the necessities of life

b. There are women in this room today who work to enable their husbands to continue to do the Lord’s work

i. Not every congregation can afford to fully support their preacher financially ii. Their wives sometimes have to supplement with their own income

c. There are women today whose husbands – when they control the finances – manage to run the bank account into the red.

i. Their wives feel that if they take control of the finances they ‘aren’t being in subjection’

ii. The Lord grants us wisdom and talents and expects us to use them appropriately!

iii. Their husbands CAN delegate this task to them and they can still be in subjection in accordance with God’s Word

III. Conclusion

Yes, it IS achievable today. The way society works today is a bit different, but the principles are the same.