When I was in youth group, the boys were told to find themselves a Proverbs 31 woman and the girls were told to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and that was the end of it. This reading of the end of Proverbs isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, I ended up finding my own Prov 31 woman. However, by limiting our understanding of Proverbs 31 to the character of women in human relationships, we can miss out on personal growth, the real point of the passage, and of the entire book of Proverbs.

The following is an excerpt from the New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary:

Woman Wisdom as Wife (31:10-31)

An acrostic in Hebrew, starting with ‘aleph each verse begins with the next consonant of the alphabet; the poem describes either an ideal woman or wife or returns the reader to the concept of Woman Wisdom from chapters 1-9 (or perhaps has both meanings in mind).

As an ideal wife, this woman is

  • a hard worker (vv. 15, 18, 19, 27)
  • an expert in domestic management (vv. 13-15, 21-22, 27) and commercial enterprise (vv. 16, 24)
  • of great monetary and social benefit to her husband (vv. 11, 23)
  • a wise woman who has a proper relationship to the Lord (vv. 26, 30).
  • Her husband should acknowledge her value and is ordered to give her a share of her own profits (vv. 10, 31).

The lack of advice to women in chapters 10-31 and the rather unrealistic portrait of this woman (e.g., when does she sleep?) has led a number of commentators to identify this figure as Woman Wisdom. Many similarities exist: both Woman Wisdom and the woman of Prov 31 are more precious than jewels (3:14-15; 8:11, 19: cf. 31:10b); both provide security (1:33; cf. 31:21, 25), riches, and honor (3:16; 8:18, 21; cf. 31:11b, 13-14, 16, 23-24); and both open their mouths with wisdom (1:20; 8:1; cf. 31:26). Woman Wisdom promises that those who keep her ways will be happy (8:32) and in Prov 31 the sons of the woman call her happy (31:28). Finally, wisdom is the fear of the Lord (1:7; 9:10) and the woman of Proverbs 31 fears the Lord (v. 10).

In Prov 1-9, Wisdom appeared as a young woman seeking relationship with young men, even marriage (4:5-6). In Prov 10-31, the sages explored what life with wisdom would look like. Now, Proverbs concludes with a description of the immense benefits that derive from having an intimate marital relationship with Woman Wisdom. Such a person “will have no lack of gain” (31:11b).

Wisdom for all

This Proverbs 31 woman is the final depiction of wisdom personified. While it’s true that finding a partner who fulfills the entire passage would be nice, this description is more likely the result of becoming intimately close with godly wisdom. When you follow the way of wisdom, regardless of your gender, marital status, or parental status, you will find these things.

In some ways, this takes the pressure off. You don’t have to follow this chapter to the letter to be worthy of love or marriage (although it’s good to have a model to aspire toward). Overall, this raises the standard. Instead of expecting your partner to measure up, each person must become a lover of wisdom themselves. As a parting thought, James 1:5 gives us instruction on how to get wisdom:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

What do you think? How has godly wisdom brought blessing to your life?

New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary

Did you enjoy this brief glance into Proverbs 31? The New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary is 1/10th the size of the full commentary set, but it has a full, potent examination of Scripture. Get your copy today!

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