When discussing the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, many teachers focus on the attributes that make her a good mother, wife, and keeper of the home. This passage goes beyond that, however, and it describes her as a woman who is well-rounded with a good head on her shoulders. She is also smart and resourceful. The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 provides both food and clothing for her family and servants, manages the home and its finances, takes care for the needy, sells her own handiwork, and speaks wisdom and teaching to others. (She is one busy lady!)
It is true that in today’s culture, many of the characteristics seen in Proverbs seem outdated. To tell a woman today that she has to sew her own clothing in order to be considered a virtuous woman would seem crazy to say the least.
I’m sure there are some that would jump at the chance, but most women would be overwhelmed at the idea of making clothing for themselves and their entire family on a regular basis. Many women today do not even know how to sew!
Despite the fact that today’s culture is much different from the culture this passage was written for, there are still fundamental truths describing the virtuous woman that can be applied today.
First of all, she is a trustworthy woman who takes her role as a helper seriously. (Proverbs 31:11-12) Eve was created in the Garden of Eden as a helper to her husband. She was to aid him in life and be by his side in all things. (Bear in mind that the husband is given his own role as provider and protector.)
A virtuous woman will be a blessing to her husband in many ways and will do so all the days of her life.
In verses 13-15, we find a woman spinning wool and flax. She also plans the day for her “servant girls.” For the modern American woman, spinning wool is not an everyday custom; and having servants is no longer typical either. This passage implies certain characteristics, however, that women today can appreciate.
First of all, a virtuous woman is resourceful. The wool and flax she is spinning were “found.” This trait is again implied when she uses her resources to create meals for her family. Secondly, the virtuous woman is seen waking up early to feed breakfast to her family. She plans each day and takes care of her home.
The virtuous woman is also a hard worker. Not only does she wake up early to make breakfast, but “her lamp burns late into the night.” (Proverbs 31:16-18)
What I also find interesting is that the woman uses her earnings to inspect a field and buy it in order to plant a vineyard. This implies that she earns some form of income and that she saves her money. She then uses it to provide even more for her family. The virtuous woman is also intelligent and independent. After all, she is the one that inspected the field before purchasing it.
The woman is again seen “spinning thread” and “twisting fiber” in Proverbs 31:19-21. She is always keeping herself busy with things that help provide for her family. It is obvious here as well that the woman has thought ahead to the winter months and made sure that her family was well taken care of and warm. The virtuous woman also plays an active role in her community. She is always ready to help the poor and needy.
Many view a focus on appearance to be unbiblical. It is true that our appearance should take a backseat to other more important things of God, but the virtuous woman does know how to present herself and her family when she’s in public. (Proverbs 31:22-24) She wears “fine linen” and “purple gowns.” The virtuous woman is also seen making things to sell “to the merchants.” (This could very well be the source of income mentioned earlier.)
The woman’s husband is well-known in the community as well. It may seem odd that the husband is briefly mentioned in a passage that is meant to describe a virtuous woman. On the other hand, I believe that the woman may have something to do with the fact that her husband is well-known and respected. Unlike many in our culture today, she isn’t meeting up with friends and complaining about her spouse. She speaks well of her husband. She respects him, and therefore others will respect him as well.
Words such as “strength” and “dignity” are used to describe the virtuous woman in verses 25-26. Not only do these adjectives describe her inward beauty, but they could also be describing the way she carries herself in public. She clearly has a healthy amount of self-esteem and poise. The virtuous woman gives wise advice and counsel to others. She does not slander or speak foolishly. She also teaches and instructs others with “kindness.” She is careful when critiquing others to be loving and thoughtful in her choice of words.
The virtuous woman fears God and worships Him with her life’s work. She takes her role as her husband’s “helper” very seriously and serves her family as she would serve the Lord. At the same time, she is strong, smart, and independent. This is why she is to be honored and praised. (Proverbs 31:27-31)
The virtuous woman is a rare gem indeed.
Be sure to read my follow up post entitled Proverbs 31 Man: Wisdom for the Modern Husband.