In Proverbs 31 King Lemuel's mother made a list of qualities of a woman's character for her son to look for when he wishes to marry. Cleverly, she used letters of the Hebrew alphabet to make it easier for him to remember. It is a striking list, a challenge not only for a woman to achieve, but these are very specific qualities for a man to keep in mind as he seeks his mate for life. Granted, she is a rare jewel, but she does exist! The question is, do you and I as mothers see the value in using this same list to teach our sons to begin evaluating the characteristics they want in a wife, even from a young age? I know I failed to fully grasp this resource for my sons. Instead, I studied from workbooks that placed the emphasis on learning and later teaching the worthy woman as a list chosen by a woman for women. Granted, just as valuable a usage, but what about its original intention??
Let us look again at the list Lemuel's mother gave to him, and consider how we can impress the same on our own sons. Like King Lemuel's mother, we too should fully expect our sons to find such women of character. She will bring the love, the color, the joy, the life, and the energy to the home!
First, before even considering teaching this passage of scripture, we need to consider the meaning of the word "virtuous" (worthy, excellent}. Notice the various English words used in the Bible to convey the meaning of the Hebrew word chayil, according to their context:
Strongs: 2428. chayil, khah’-yil; from 2342; prob. a force, whether of men, means or other resources; an army, wealth, virtue, valor, strength:- able, activity, (+) army, band of men (soldiers), company, (great) forces, goods, host, might, power, riches, strength, strong, substance, train, (+) valiant (-ly), valour, virtuous (-ly), war, worthy (-ily).
Amazingly, the Hebrew word for virtuous is used 200-plus times in the Bible to describe an army. This Old Testament word refers to a force and is used to mean able, capable, mighty, strong, valiant, powerful, efficient, wealthy, courageous and worthy. The word is also used in reference to a man of war, men of war, and men prepared for war. When we change this definition to the feminine case we can begin to grasp the power at the core of this woman! Just as mental toughness and physical energy are the primary traits of an army, when we add her deep love for God, we will find God’s beautiful woman.
Consider her strong physical qualities:
• She works willingly with her hands (Proverbs 31:13).
• Those willing hands plant a vineyard (verse 16).
• They also operate a spindle and distaff (verse 19).
• She works from early in the morning (verse 15) until late at night (verse 18).
• She nurses the needy (verse 20).
• She weaves the cloth for her family’s clothes (verse 21), for her household needs (verse 22), for her own clothing (verse 22), and for sale as a professional (verse 24).
• Never idle, she watches over and builds her home (verse 27).
And the character qualities which motivated her activities:
• Willing--choosing to serve her family and those around her--spontaneous, magnanimous, voluntary, liberal, with alacrity, eager (verses 10-31)
• Honest-Her husband trusts her (verses 11–12).
• Industrious-She is busy from sunup to sundown managing her interests and expanding her enterprises (verses 13–19, 21–22, 24, 27, 31).
• Thrifty-Her skill with finances enables her to care for her loved ones and increase her property (verses 14, 16).
• Strong in character-She faces the daily challenges of life (and death!) with undaunted courage (verse 25, 29).
• Kind-Compassion for the unfortunate governs her life and sweet speech flows from her lips (verses 20, 26).
• Wise-Walking in wisdom is her way of life (verse 26).
• Holy-She wholeheartedly loves the Lord (verse 30).
It would be good to remind our sons that this amazing woman did not achieve these qualities overnight. She is a work in progress. Someone taught her to cultivate a desire to work toward being a woman of virtue. The woman you seek has taken time to work toward being a woman of strong godly character. Time was also taken to read God's Word, to memorize it, to put it in her heart. God's words gave her the mental and spiritual force needed to climb toward her goals. She understood she only has today. She accepted that numbering her days is necessary in order to gain a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90:12.
What did the virtuous girl/woman need to concentrate on? Practical skills, emotional stability, and spiritual health. We as mothers must seek to train our girls in practical skills and fully realize the importance of training in the Scriptures. But do we also appreciate the importance of mastering the ability to endure--when the going is tough, to persevere. Emotional stability also includes mastering the temper. A woman of strength wil nurture a peaceful heart (Prov 14:30), know when to wait (Prov 19:2), will not strive (Prov 19:11), and will restrain her spirit (Prov 25:28). Likewise, she must master her tongue, appreciating that the tongue can speak blessings or cursings (James 3:10), and "speak like the peircings of a sword" or "promote health" (Prov 12:18). She must learn to speak less often (Prov 10:19), speak only after considering what she is going to say (Prov 15:28), speak only what is sweet and pleasant (Prov 16:21,24), and speak what is wise and kind (Prov 31:26).
“The heart of her husband safely trusts her” (31:11). The heart of a husband who can trust a loyal wife is a heart at ease, a heart at rest. A wife is to live her life in such a solid way that her husband never worries or wonders about her character or her management of her home, her finances, or her time! Trust--let us take trust seriously. Keep our word. Follow through on instructions. Then our husbands can truly build their lives on the cornerstone of our loyalty.
We need to consider this aspect just a little deeper. One way to build trust is to do what we've been asked to do. Don't try to second-guess the whys behind instructions. Be careful with any advice. Ask questions if you need to, but in the end your goal is to follow through. When in doubt, check it out! (Prov 28:26). The key word is serving with a "willing" heart. His heart can be at ease because he knows that you are carrying out his desires for the home, the family, and the finances. Furthermore, your compliance is evidence of God’s deep character buried in your heart!
We truly are like mighty warriors who utilize our full heart and considerable abilities for the benefit of our husband’s domain. This startling image dramatically conveys the commitment of God’s beautiful woman to her husband and his wealth and welfare. She is a warrior of undying allegiance who dedicates her life and energies to the well-being of her husband and his household. The virtuous (chayil) woman has the same qualities as an able (chayil) judge over Israel! Ex 18:21.
She lives to love her husband, and so she does him good at every opportunity. She operates her life and his home in a way that routinely benefits him with good. Her waking prayer each day is to do her husband good-to love him, serve him, honor him, advance him, spoil him, and ease his life. Far from looking for any payoff, notice, or praise, she finds following through on God’s assignment to do her husband good reward enough!
Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
This heads-up list by a good mother for her son is encapsulated in the New Testament:
1 Timothy 2:9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
1 Peter 3:1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel-- 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
In working on this lesson, my eye was caught by two quotations from Mathew Henry’s commentary on Proverbs 31:30. Please note the connection made to Genesis 3:16 :
A virtuous woman is a woman of spirit, who has the command of her own spirit and knows how to manage other people's, one that is pious and industrious, and a help meet for a man. A virtuous woman is a woman of resolution, who, having espoused good principles, is firm and steady to them, and will not be frightened with winds and clouds from any part of her duty.
A good woman, if she be brought into the marriage state, will be a good wife, and make it her business to please her husband, 1Cor. 7: 34; Gen 3: 16. Though she is a woman of spirit herself, yet her desire is to her husband, to know his mind, that she may accommodate herself to it, and she is willing that he should rule over her.
Ladies, we have work to do!