Proverbs 31
Depiction of Proverbs 31:20, "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor..."
BookBook of Proverbs
CategoryKetuvim
Christian Bible partOld Testament
Order in the Christian part21

Proverbs 31 is the 31st and final chapter of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.[1] Verses 1 to 9 present the advice which King Lemuel's mother gave to him, about how a just king should reign. The remaining verses detail the attributes of a good wife or an ideal woman (verses 10–31). The latter section is also known as Eshet Ḥayil.[2]

Text

The original text was written in the Hebrew language. This chapter is divided into 31 verses.

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter in Hebrew are of the Masoretic Text, which includes the Aleppo Codex (10th century), and Codex Leningradensis (1008).[3]

There is also a translation into Koine Greek known as the Septuagint, made in the last few centuries BC. Extant ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint version include Codex Vaticanus (B; B; 4th century), Codex Sinaiticus (S; BHK: S; 4th century), and Codex Alexandrinus (A; A; 5th century).[4]

The words of Lemuel (31:1–9)

Main article: Lemuel (biblical king)

In this part, an unnamed queen-mother gives instruction to her son, King Lemuel, on his duty to administer justice.[2] Using the appeal to his filial respect to a mother and his birth as an answer of a prayer (verse 2, cf. 1 Samuel 1:11), the mother warns the king against sexual promiscuity and drunkenness (verses 3–7).[2] The eighth and ninth verses are an appeal against inequality and injustice.[5][6]

The good wife (31:10–31)

Verses 10–31 of this chapter, also called Eshet Ḥayil (אשת חיל, woman of valor), form a poem in praise of the good wife, a definition of a perfect wife or "ideal woman" in the nation of Israel, who is 'an industrious housewife, a shrewd businesswoman, an enterprising trader, a generous benefactor (verse 20) and a wise teacher (verse 26).[2] This "Woman of Valor" has been described as the personification of wisdom, or in some sense as a description of a particular class of women in Israel, Persia, or in Hellenistic society.[7] Some[who?] see this as a praise directed from the husband to his wife.

It is one of the thirteen alphabetical acrostic poems in the Bible, where each line begins with a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet.[2] The word חיל (Ḥayil) appears in verses 10 and 29 of the passage, thought as the summary of the good woman's character. Traditionally it has been translated "virtuous" or "noble". Some scholars have suggested that it rather means "forceful", "mighty", or "valiant", because this word is almost exclusively used in the Tanakh with reference to warfare.[8]

Aberdeen theologian Kenneth Aitken notes that in view of the warnings against women portrayed as dangerous or adulterous in chapters 1 to 9, it is "fitting" that the book ends by "directing the attention of prospective bridegrooms to the ideal wife".[2]

Verse 30

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.[9]

The key to the woman's industry, acumen, kindness and wisdom lies in her "fear of the LORD".[2]

Uses

This chapter is recited on Friday night before Shabbat dinner in some Jewish homes.

The chapter has been emphasized within the biblical womanhood movement, and a number of books have been published on the "Proverbs 31 woman".[10][11][12][13][14] This emphasis has been subject to criticism in Christian articles.[15][16] In Christian circles, this chapter has often been held up as the prime example of what a woman should be and in many cases it has been misinterpreted and misused. This passage was intended to show a young man the qualities he should look for in a wife and the things he should value in her; it was not intended to be a checklist for women.[17]

References

  1. ^ Halley 1965, p. 273.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Aitken 2007, p. 422.
  3. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 36–37.
  4. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 73–74.
  5. ^ Proverbs 31:8–9: King James Version
  6. ^ Brinson, Will (September 26, 2017). "Anthem singer Jordin Sparks has 'Proverbs 31:8–9' on hand for Cowboys vs. Cardinals". CBS Sports. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  7. ^ Sandoval, Timothy J., The Discourse of Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs, ISBN 90-04-14492-7, p. 201.
  8. ^ God's Word to Women Lesson 78, Katherine Bushnell
  9. ^ Proverbs 31:30
  10. ^ Reid, E. R. (1993). The Proverbs 31 Woman. Destiny Image.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Nancy (1995). Help! I'm Being Intimidated by the Proverbs 31 Woman!: My Battles with a Role Model Who's Larger Than Life. Multnomah.
  12. ^ George, Elizabeth (2003). Discovering the Treasures of a Godly Woman: Proverbs 31. Harvest House. ISBN 9780736908184.
  13. ^ Partow, Donna (2008). Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life. Revell.
  14. ^ Horn, Sarah (2011). My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife: A One-Year Experiment… and Its Surprising Results. Harvest House.
  15. ^ Lodge, Carey (3 January 2015). "How misapplying Proverbs 31 gives us a skewed picture of biblical womanhood". Christian Today. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  16. ^ Oquist, Lauren (28 August 2014). "Stop Obsessing About the Proverbs 31 Woman". Relevant. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  17. ^ Yvonne, Lisa (2018-02-18). "The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Proverbs 31 Woman". Graceful Abandon. Retrieved 2019-01-22.

Sources