April 25, 2022 Southshore Bible Church

Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31

Throughout the book of Proverbs are several key character types including the wise, the fool, and the simple. Readers are urged to be the wise, those who know God’s covenant and are developing the skill to live out that covenant through everyday situations. The beginning of wise knowledge is the fear of the LORD, the fear of Yahweh. (1:7)


Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. It portrays a person who embodies the full character of wisdom in all areas of life, a concrete ideal of wisdom lived out.


Throughout the book, the author has frequently addressed sons, fathers, and other men. So it is unexpected but delightful that for his ideal of fully realized wisdom, he addresses a woman. It drives home the point that the wisdom teaching of Proverbs applies to all of God’s people of both genders.


The passage begins with a rhetorical question -- “An excellent wife who can find?” – which has been answered earlier in the book “a prudent wife is from the LORD” (19:14). The covenant-keeping God is the source of wisdom and wise women. The author launches into a description of a broad range of manual, commercial, administrative, and interpersonal skills in which she shows her excellence.


She works diligently and skillfully with vigour and planning. She shows a broad range of manual skills, working with her hands, planning what is necessary even for the servants to best benefit the household. Her careful preparations and skills enable her and her family not to fear the weather or even the future, but she wears strength and dignity as though they were her own clothes. Her excellent work and her noble character have contributed to her husband being raised to sit with the elders of the land.


Her work is not simply confined to her own household, but she engages in wise and discerning dealing with outsiders, evaluating and purchasing property and returning a profit in her dealings. This is an image of remarkable financial independence for a woman in the ancient world.


Finally, her work is not just to the benefit of her own household, but in generosity and compassion she opens her hand to the poor and the needy. Her home is a place of wise guidance and kind teaching to those seeking direction.


The result? She is praised by her grateful husband and children, including public recognition for her wise excellence. 


The example of the Proverbs 31 woman is formidable. She shows what wisdom looks like fully fleshed out in all parts of life, engaging with diligence and intentionality all the parts of her day and her years, all of her tasks within the family and without. All of us -- men and women -- are challenged and encouraged to a life with the same breadth and depth of intentional wisdom.


Remember, Proverbs began with the note that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of Yahweh. The description of this epitome of wisdom ends by recognizing that she, this excellent and praiseworthy woman, is above all a woman who fears Yahweh. May we too be women (and men) who fear Yahweh and live intentionally in his wisdom.


Prayer


Father, you grant us deep and profound wisdom through your Word, and you enable the living out of that wisdom through your Spirit who lives in us. Give us grace and strength and conviction to live our days and our years, inside our family and outside with others, diligently engaged in loving you above all things, and loving our neighbours for your name’s sake. We ask for mercy and for transformation, in the glorious name of your Son! Amen!


Tom Gee