Proverbs 31:10-12

In Proverbs 31:10-12 Lemuel’s mother speaks to him about the qualities of a virtuous wife. This passage is traditionally understood as being addressed to women but is more accurately spoken by a woman to a man so he could know the character and potential character of a good wife before marriage, and value and praise his wife for her virtuous character once married. It is primarily a search-list for a man, and only secondarily a check-list for a woman. It describes the kind of wife the Christian man should pray for and seek after. It also gives a guide, a goal for the Christian woman, showing the kind of character she can have as she fears and follows the Lord.

The passage also reminds the Christian man that he must walk in the fear and wisdom of God so that he will be worthy of and compatible with such a virtuous woman. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” She is called an excellent wife, not because only married women can have these qualities, but because this is marriage guidance from a mother to a son. The virtuous woman can be single or married, but each will have particular ways their excellence is expressed, either in their singleness or as family. Coming at the end of the collection of proverbs, one might say that this is a strong woman – and her greatest strength is her wisdom, rooted in the fear of the Lord.

The woman described in the rest of the chapter is rare and valuable, but her value (worth) is greater than what she does. Her value or worth should not be reduced to performance of these qualities; she is excellent before she acts in that way. The excellent wife not only has the trust of her husband, but it is safely given to her. Her character is trustworthy, filled with integrity. She will speak, act, and live with wisdom – and therefore God’s blessing will be on their home. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” A foolish woman who can’t be trusted, takes some measure of blessing away from the home, and this is often seen financially or materially.

In God’s plan, husband and wife bring each other gain. It is not a burden to be married, but brings blessing in great measure. We gave seen in previous Proverbs that a bad wife creates chaos and harm. But not a good one… “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”  The opposite is also true; an excellent wife does her husband good and not evil, and she continues to be a blessing all the days of her life. The sense is that her goodness and faithful character becomes deeper and greater through the passing years while her commitment to her husband’s well-being is constant.

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