by Pastor Mark Hudson
Here are two ways to look at this passage starting at verse 10. The first from a sermon by John McArthur. He sees this outline:
Character as a wife
Devotion as a homemaker
Generosity as a neighbor
Influence as a teacher
Effectiveness as a mother
Excellencies as a person
Waltke prefer a somewhat simpler outline
Introduction: Her value 10-12
Body: Her activities 13-27
Conclusion: Her praise 28-31
This is a wonderful portrait of the value of a godly wife and mother. First, notice the value God places on women, wives, and mothers. Many women like Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth, and others are held up as examples of godliness in the Bible. In the N.T., Jesus honors women as they play a prominent role in His ministry. This chapter, though, is unequaled as an encomium or panegyric to women
This is an oracle King Lemuel’s mother taught him. This poem was not written by a man but composed by his mother. Lemuel is honoring his mother by giving her the credit. The Bible says that a wife is a gift from God. Prov. 12:4 An excellent wife is ethe crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Prov. 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. Prov. 19:14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. A good wife, in the perspective of Proverbs is a matter of great importance. In fact, women and sexuality are all important topics for parents to discuss with their children as witnessed by the amount those topics take up in Proverbs
This woman is a poetic ideal. Could one woman do all these things and be all she is? Notice that the body of this section is two halves.
13-18 contribution to the family economy
19 Janus or hinge
20-27 contribution to family and community
This woman is industrious. She purchases wool and flax, and we assume prepares it for the distaff. She works with willing hands (v. 13). She is compared to a ship who brings various foods to a community; she brings food to her family. She rises early in the morning (while it is still night?) and prepares food and either food or work for her maidens. This virtuous woman is a manager who takes care of her family. Which is why her husband trusts in her (v. 11). She starts early and quits late. Remember, this is still a proverb. Mothers, wives, and grandmothers need to rest. No one can literally work from morning till late in the evening 7 days a week.
She is active outside the home as well. She inspects and purchases a field (v. 16), sells her goods in the marketplace (v. 24), and she is a teacher of wisdom with kindness (v. 26). Not only this but she is generous to the poor (v. 20).
In this Proverb, Lemuel’s mother is directing her son to look for these traits in a woman. She knows her son will look for beauty or wealth. But she is stressing what the Proverbs has continually stressed: blessings is upon the one who fears God (v. 30).
Of course, we would find it hard to find a woman who could do all these things. I do not think that is the point. Nor do I think these verses are hard to apply to different lifestyles. Most importantly, this virtuous woman fears God. Her heart is a God-centered heart. All her value and virtue come from this. She loves God and is serving Him by serving others.
She is a servant of others. She cares for her family and is loved and valued by her husband and her family. Yet, she is concerned with the poor not just her family. This is a person focused on her family but not at the expense of getting involved with others outside her family.
Her skill are multiple. In fact, many of us who work in a job are not called upon to use all the skills this woman uses. She is truly multitalented. This portrait of a godly woman is a bit daunting, and one wonders if this model is attainable. Maybe women shouldn’t try to be this exact wife and mother but attempt to follow her characteristics of being a benefit to her family, generous, and a good manager of the home.
I am thankful that God has given our church many women who strive to be a virtuous woman. You love God and serve your family with hard work, love, and godly wisdom. We need Christian women to fulfill their calling whatever that calling is or wherever God calls you. And we need godly men who value, praise and honor these women.
Lord, we are thankful for godly mothers, mother-in-law, aunts and wives in our lives. We benefit from godly women in our lives in so many ways. Help the men who receive help and assistance to honor and praise them as they recognize their value. May both men and women fear You and serve others. May we both look to Jesus Christ as the example of One who lived for God. In Christ’s holy name. Amen.