I admit to being rather innocent here, living in a bubble even, as in I had no idea how much abuse has been heaped on women, continues to be heaped on women, by misapplication of the Proverbs 31 wife. I was blissfully unaware that woman was ever used as a sword to hiss and spit virtue all over women, always with this idea that you are not good enough, not worthy, you fall short. Bad woman.
Wowsers, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. I’ve now seen it quite enough, thank you very much. It’s all over the internet, some really appalling things, and I feel compelled to apologize. If you have ever been hurt by false teachings about the Proverbs 31 wife, I am so sorry. You did not deserve that.
People may not know this, but in ancient Jewish times, husbands used to sing that passage to their wives, to honor them, to pay tribute to them. Those words were not designed to shame us or make us feel inadequate, they were words of love, affection, and adoration. Like all words of love, there is a bit of hyperbole in there, we are honoring mom here, and the woman is a saint. Of course she is just a human woman, but she’s mom, if you understand what I am saying, so basically superwoman. She is romance wrapped in idealism.
Something else seldom said, Proverbs is thought to have been written by Solomon whose father was King David and whose mother was Bathsheba. These words are actually the words of Bathsheba, “the prophecy that his mother taught him,” Bathsheba who once bathed naked on the roof top and caught King David’s fancy. We have no idea how interested Bathsheba was in actually having a relationship with King David, we just know he was the King and that he sent her husband to his death.
The point is, as far as we know Bathsheba is the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, a woman who once bathed naked on a roof top, whose husband was murdered, and who went on to give birth to Solomon. Solomon, thought to be the wisest man to have ever lived, credits his mother and pays tribute to her many virtues in these passages.
People who try to tie the tale of the crafty harlot in Proverbs 7:6-27 to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, and use them as an indictment against all of womankind annoy the heck out of me. Proverbs is not a judgement against women. That is a misreading and misunderstanding of scripture, one that takes those passages out of context and attempts to use them as a weapon to try to beat women over the head with.
These are the words of Bathsheba, a mom trying to steer her son towards wisdom. The crafty harlot is just a parable, a soliloquy about the vulnerability of men.
“The prophecy that his mother taught him.” Prophecy, a predication, a forcast, a peek into the future. Prophecy as in, my son, this shall be your downfall. Sure enough, King Solomon, in spite of all his wisdom, went on to have a thousand wives and concubines, many of them foreign princesses who worshipped other gods.
Our virtuous woman does indeed have worth and value above rubies and great wisdom, and incredible grace, the kind of grace that makes it possible for you to survive the murder of your husband, the death of your baby, the powerlessness of your position in a world run by men, and to figure out how to make the best of it all. She is every woman, she is realistic, attainable, human, and she has genuine power and influence in the world. She “opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
She is not sexual purity or handmade clothes, nor is she rising at 4am for a life of endless servitude, she is the essence and strength of women throughout the ages, women who have risen to the challenge of impossible circumstances, determined to bring some beauty to them.
Virtue, the original translation of the Virtuous Woman was actually “valour.” She was a Woman of Valour, meaning courageous, audacious, and bold.
God took Bathsheba, who once bathed naked on a rooftop, and made her into the Proverbs 31 woman, not to tear us down, but to honor and recognize the valour and courage of women.
Hundreds of thousands of Jewish men have known that all along.