Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

I almost get tired just reading about her: The woman described in Proverbs 31.

This passage mentions her being praised in several spots. If God actually held that up as a standard that women should meet before they could be regarded as praiseworthy, we will burn out long before we will ever be half way to being worthy of praise. But I think the essence of this passage is missed by those who preach it as a performance list.

You see, nothing in Proverbs 31 say: “This (fictitious) woman did this and this. Go and do likewise.”

Perhaps, Proverbs talks of 3 different ways women try to be worthy of praise:

busy-mom-21) Impossibly high achievement

After asking …:

A wife of noble character who can find?

… King Lemuel’s mother (the teacher of this lesson) starts to list a lot of things which would indeed make a woman an exceptionally high achiever. This superwoman:

> always does her husband good – even before meeting him (:12);

> works with wool and flax (:13) ;

> provides for her family (:15) and her servants;

> deals in real estate and farms grapes (:16); she trades (:18);

> spins (:19);

> is involved in charity work (:20);

> decorates her home(:22);

> she and her family looks good and wears fine clothing (:21-22);

> runs a clothing factory (:24);

> counsels people with wisdom(:26);

> and even when she goes afar to bring in food (:14) she watches over her household (:27).

The best evidence of how impossible this list is, is here:

:18 … her lamp does not go out at night.

She never sleeps? Nobody can do that!
Such a woman, said king Lemuel’s mother, will be praised by her spouse and children. We ordinary women, who cannot juggle three or more lucrative businesses plus family plus working for charity, often do a thankless task. We who actually need to sleep sometimes may not be praised. But should we be praised? I believe the answer lies somewhat later in the passage.

2) Charm and looksJules Erbit art

:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting…

It goes without saying that men will praise you if you are charming and pretty. It is way easier for charming, pretty women to be praised than for high achievers. But that, according to Proverbs, is not important, and not what makes you worthy of praise.

3) Fearing the Lord

woman%20reading%20bibleGod say the woman who fear the Lord should be praised. This is the only command in the passage. Nothing in the passage say: “Woman, see to it that you farm grapes/ do your husband only good every single day/ make bed covers/ always have wise advice to give/ actually have a husband/ work with wool and flax.” The text does not suggest a lamp that never goes out is the way to identify a woman who fears the Lord. Even God rested on the 7th day.
No, the command is (bold added):

:30 … 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.

Praise and honor the woman who fears the Lord. The woman who, in God’s mind, should be praised is not the impossibly high achiever or the one naturally blessed with charm and beauty.
Woman, you do not have to perform to be praiseworthy. You don’t need to look in the mirror and think yourself unworthy of praise, because of what you see there. No! If you fear the Lord, this passage say you should be praised. God commands those who know God-fearing women to praise them!


Comments on: "Proverbs 31 – for women who get tired sometimes" (6)

  1. I have been impressed with how the Jewish community tends to view the Proverbs 31 woman. During their Friday night supper the husband sings these verses to his wife as a way of thanking her for all she has done for the family during the week. Its meant as encouragement, and sadly Christians tend to use it as a hammer to show you how you aren’t good enough. Jews use it to remind the family how she has an honor position within the family, and Christian use it as a list of restrictions and must do’s.

    How the heck did we miss the mark so badly? Its suppose to be used as an encouragement and thank you. Not a list to prove yourself!


  2. I take it that all the work the servants do is credited to the Prov. 31 woman. So her servants have a night shift, and possibly work 3 shifts a day. That is how her light does not go out. It is physically impossible for her to go afar to buy this or that, yet be at home taking care of her household, therefore, the passage is speaking of her excellent way of delegating tasks, of hiring trustworthy people. (and firing those who are slackers, etc.) She’s a business woman, who even has household help. This passage says the OPPOSITE of what churches teach. She is NOT at home seeing to her family 24/7. It is unlikely she would sent staff to purchase a field, etc, since she would have to finalize the deal, so SHE is the one doing that, and perhaps taking staff/counsel with her. She’s running a business, or even several businesses. She may have ceo’s for her businesses, but she does NOT sound like a hands-off owner. She is quite active in her enterprises and does more than stay informed about what is going on. Since her husband is well known in the gates, it is likely her family is wealthy and that neither she nor her husband have to work. This wealthy angle I read from somewhere. My own addition is to point out how responsible and caring she is to leave her household to others so she can provide jobs for many, who are relying on her to stay in business and make wise business choices so they can pay their bills. Again, this is NOT what complementarians want their wives to copy!!


  3. It has impressed me, that during Friday evening Shabbot, women are allowed and encouraged to light the candles, lead the assembly in prayer, and even preach from the bible to the congregation. Far more than what most main line Christian churches allow their women to do.

    The part that reads “her lamp does not go out at night”, can also be thought as her maintaining the lamps and keeping enough oil in her lamps to last through out the night, so the wicks do not run out of oil and go out.

    I do think it was possible for a woman back then, to do all of those things, just not all at once. If most women of today were to list all the things she did in a year for her household, I think many would have an impressively long list as well…


    • Not to split hairs, but it looks to me like most mainline churches have no issues with women (in their official policies at least). That is, if I go by the Wikipedia understanding of what constitutes mainline Protestantism in the US:

      I know that where I live, in the SE Unites States, it seems that denominations like the PCA and the SBC (a convention technically yet it has been requiring more agreement of its members, particularly on the Convention’s anti-woman policies) dominate. Fortunately this is not the case everywhere in the US.


  4. K. Martin said:

    The book of Proverbs is probably my most favorite Biblical book, and I do love the description of the Pr 31 woman. However, one issue that most fail to address is the “female servant.”

    In that patriarchal society, those females servants would likely have been concubines that the Pr 31 had to give to her husband for his sexual satisfaction. Concubinage was a very common OT practice. Virtually, every OT man had one or more. Remember Sarah and Hagar, Rachel and Bihah, Leah and Zipah. Solomon himself had 300 concubines. These young girls weren’t just around serving the Pr 31 woman. They also serviced the husband sexually – sex slaves.

    That’s a bit of historical context that gets overlooked. I’m sure complementarian wives don’t want to highlight that historical tidbit when discussing the Pr 31 woman, especially those who claim it’s literal rather than cultural.


  5. It’s so wonderful to have devotional ME time with the Lord!


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