I don't know about you, but I've never liked Proverbs 31.
There has been a monstrous anvil of pressure on women in the church, an anvil that has been squishing them into the mold of supposed feminine, "godly" behavior. A pressure that comes from well-intentioned (not malicious) men and women. They are good people! But people who need to examine their deep-seated religious traditions and biases.
For all these years Proverbs 31:10-31 was, to me, a giant list of what a woman needs to be like in order to make her husband happy. And to ensure a happy husband, look how much a woman has got to be and do! Come on—the Proverbs 31 woman is a skilled craftswoman, an entrepreneur, a humanitarian, a tradeswoman, a wise teacher—and apparently, she never sleeps...
To be perfectly frank, I don't need another to-do list that makes me feel inadequate as a woman. As if I require another yardstick of perfection to which I am continually being compared! Yet that is what Proverbs 31: 10-31 has been to me: a load of unreasonably heavy expectations taught to me by men and women.
But I've got news for you, Christian lady! I get to shrug off the weight of inadequacy, those unrealistic expectations, and that worn out perfect-woman-mold that was created from misinformed teachings of Proverbs 31:10-31. You can lay down those burdens, too.
Proverbs 31:10-31 is not the be-all and end-all definition a godly woman, wife, or mother.
So, why have we misunderstood this? Part of the problem lies in misunderstanding the style of teaching of Proverbs.
Regarding this issue, Pastor Cole asserts that "commentators fail to interpret Proverbs correctly because they approach it in the same way as they do other genres of literature. Proverbs presents sayings and truth in a lopsided, concentrated way; but no single proverb contains the whole truth of an issue or topic, such as who is involved in the domestic sphere of a home.
"For example, laziness is cited as the cause of poverty in Proverbs 24:30-34. But poverty is also caused by other factors as well, not simply laziness (i.e., unfair bosses). Proverbs 24:30-34 does not represent the whole truth of an issue like poverty. The full truth about poverty is obtained by collating all of the proverbs and poems into a coherent montage.
"The same is true about women in Proverbs 31:10-31. We are given a lopsided view of a wise woman... But it does not represent the whole truth about women or who earns the bread in a family or who gives to the poor and needy or who works in the vineyard or who is in involved in the domestic sphere. All of the Proverbs must be collated together into a montage."
This is just the beginning, just a glimpse into a fresh reading of Proverbs 31:10-31. So please, set aside religious traditions and biases! Come and hear the text re-examined! Come see the real Proverbs 31 woman, the valiant hero, equal in significance and value to the heroic warriors of Israel's history.
Pastor Cole will start this series on the 12th of August.
A Valiant Woman: A True Hero of Israel
An Acrostic Poem: Written by a Mother to her Son
Translation by Dr. Tim Cole
31:10 aleph (1st letter of the Hebrew alphabet)
A valiant woman/wife, who can find? Her price is far beyond coral.
The heart of her husband trusts in her; he does not lack plunder.
She does him benefit and not harm all the days of her life.
She selects wool and stalks of flax and works with glad palms (of her hands).
She becomes like the sailing fleet of a merchant—she brings food from other countries.
And she arises like a lioness while it is still night, and provides prey for her household, and the quota of food for her servant girls.
She considers a field and purchases it; from the fruit of her palms she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with strength; she strengthens her arms for her task.
She perceives that her trading is beneficial; her lamp of prosperity does not go out at night.
Her hands extend out to the spinning staff, her palms grasp the spindle.
Her palm she spreads out to the poor, and she holds out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household on account of the snow; for all her household is clothed with scarlet.
Bedcovers she makes for herself; her clothing is fine linen and dyed with purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate when he sits with the elders of the land.
Garments (literally, satin) she makes and sells them; belts she supplies to the merchants.
Strength and majesty are her clothing, and so she laughs fearlessly at the coming days.
Her mouth she opens with wisdom, and loving teaching is on her tongue;
(she is) one who watches over the affairs of her household, and the food of idleness she does not eat.
Her children arise in respect and pronounce her blessed; her husband also praises her.
Many daughters do valiantly, but you ascend above all of them.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, as for a woman who fears the LORD, she should be praised.
31:31 taw (last letter of the Hebrew alphabet)
Extol her for the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.