A STUDY OF WISDOM FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
A Noble Woman—An Example of Wisdom
Proverbs 31 SCC 2/7/16
The Proverbs of King Lemuel’s Mother 1
We know nothing else about King Lemuel or his mother. Yet her short description of the excellent wife (31:10-31) has been quoted for 3000 years, and probably is the best description of a perfect wife in all of literature. It is not clear whether Lemuel or his mother wrote the words we have here. But, since the text indicates this is the oracle, which his mother taught him; these seem to be her words. She begins by giving her son preliminary warnings about women, alcohol, and being unjust.
Don’t spend your strength on sensual lust 2-3
The king is warned not to spend his strength on sensual lust. This is, of course, something Solomon addresses at length in the first section of the book (chapters 5–9). Here, Lemuel’s mother says sexual immorality will take your strength and destroy you, even if you are a king. This is such a huge theme in Proverbs that every young man should take extreme caution in his dealing with women.
NB: Nothing will destroy your life faster or more thoroughly than sexual immorality (Chp 5 and 7). If you run around with guys who boast about their sexual conquests and listen to the media morality, one will feel right about premarital sex, and regret it the rest of his life.
Excessive use of alcohol will cloud one’s judgment 4-7
Drinking wine and craving beer is not for king’s v 4. The point is excessive use of alcohol or the troubling need for it that could cloud the mind and impair judgment of those responsible to lead v 5. She suggests it is good for the one who is perishing and him whose life is bitter v 6. She defines a bitter life as poverty and trouble v 7. Excessive alcohol use is not for healthy people in positions of responsibility. She gives two reasons:
One, it affects one’s ability to perform one’s job with your best mental ability v 5a. The primary job for a person with responsibility is to think. You can’t do that under the influence.
Two, she says alcohol affects one’s judgment v 5b. Specifically, she says you will pervert the rights of all the afflicted. In other words, alcohol not only affects your mental ability, it affects your moral judgment as well.
Be sensitive to the need about justice for the unfortunate 8-9
Lemuel’s mother is concerned that he be a leader who is sensitive to the needs of those who cannot help themselves. It is the responsibility of the king to also champion the rights of the poor and needy, and those left desolate by the cruelties of life. Specifically, she mentions the mute, the unfortunate, the afflicted, and needy.
The Description of an Excellent Wife
Lemuel’s mother has been known throughout history for her description of the excellent wife. There are 22 verses in this poem, each beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order. This noble woman becomes a role model of wisdom for all who read it. With vignettes of domestic life throughout Proverbs benefitting from wisdom, is the fertile idea that wisdom is best taught and lived in the home. The success of the home demands wisdom, which produces balanced living, which gives attention to domestic responsibilities as well as business enterprises and charitable service.
Verse 10: The phrase an excellent wife is or more literally a wife (or woman) of strength. But the descriptive word can also mean she is a wife of efficiency, wealth, ability, force, or power as in a powerful army. The point is that the wife of noble character is not easily found but when she is she is a treasure. This woman, like wisdom, is worth more than rubies. Of course, this is contrary to postmodern feminism, but it is consistent with the order of creation. Moses wrote: Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him”(Genesis 2:18). Next she gives five significant aspects of the excellent wife. As we review these virtues they are also true of wisdom when it is applied to one’s life.
1. The excellent wife serves her husband
Her husband lacks nothing of value 11-12
The point is that there is no lack household goods for the family as a result of her diligence. Specifically, Lemuel’s mother says her husband trusts her. He has material gain because of her. She does only good for him all her life. In any marriage and household such trust in the wife’s ability is essential.
Her husband was important 23
Because of her noble character she enhances her husbands standing among those who transact legal and judicial matters amongst the community. The ‘gate’ was the place where the elders assembled for judicial responsibilities. Though she is aggressive and competent she functions in a way that honors her husband’s leadership rather than competing with or degenerating it. It is what respect is.
She inspires her husbands praise 28-29
Her husband, along with her children, praises her as most excellent, even among other noble women. She is positive and optimistic and enjoys her role in life. The outcome is a reputation, the best kind from those closest to you, about her character.
2. An excellent wife is a home-oriented businesswoman.
She is industrious 13-15, 19-20
A noble woman can work with her hands to benefit her household. The use of wool and flax indicates ingenuity to work skillfully to provide v 13. He ingenuity makes her capable to creatively supply her household with goods brought home from shopping and buying v 14. She personally and sacrificially prepares what is necessary to feed her household while delegating where possible to take advantage of the help she has v 15. She even serves the practical needs of the needy around her 19. She uses her industry in charitable ways 20
She is vigorous and shrewd 16-18
She has a business mind and works hard to secure transactions that ensure her household is provided for v 16. She works with energy and vigor with a healthy attitude toward work v 17. She plans ahead and is praised for her forethought that brings an advantage to her household v 18.
She understands business 24, 31
The excellent wife is involved in business, but her business is all related to her home. She buys and sells, earns and invests, manufactures and distributes. Her business takes her out into the community, and sometimes beyond her own community. But it never involves her serving some man other than her husband, or focusing on the prosperity of some institution other than her family.
3. An excellent wife takes care of herself, physically and spiritually
She wears appropriate apparel 22
A noble woman commits herself to providing the most basic staples for herself and her household. The clothing for her is appropriate, acceptable, and agreeable. Her appearance has style and is artful.
She also clothes herself with strength and dignity 25
Because she is diligent and prudent in her household management, she enables that household to become confident in facing the future. Her strength comes from her sound economic management.
She realizes that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain 30
Her secret is her godly character. This does not mean she is not physically attractive and charming but she recognizes those are not the qualities that last. Only those produced from a fear of God are valuable.
4. An excellent wife takes care of her household.
She is well prepared for the future 21
He diligent management allows her household to be well prepared for any uncertainties they may have to face. Warm clothes for cold weather are an example of her preparedness for any contingencies.
Her speech is wise and gracious 26
She uses good practical common sense in her discussions with others. Her instruction is reliable based in experience and insight. Her words of wisdom are worth hearing.
She manages her household diligently 27
Her management prepares her household for the future. Her supervision results in a diligent effort that anticipates rather than reacts to situations. She knows her households needs very well.
1. Wisdom impacts the basic structure of society—the home. Wisdom lays the foundation for an ordered society in the most basic unit of society—the family.
2. The benefit of wisdom is all of the order crafted by the excellent wife. When wisdom is at work it establishes order, averts chaos, and creates an environment for growth and maturity.