posted on Jun, 7 2019 @ 05:01 PM
The collector of the Old Testament Proverbs makes his purpose clear from the beginning.
“That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight” (ch1 v2).
Then he further defines this wisdom as “fear of the Lord” (v7). This phrase, when used in the Bible, means respect and willingness to obey.
I’m studying the different characters of Proverbs, as one way of organising and understanding the teaching
The last character portrayed in this book is the Wife.
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord” (ch18 v22).
But “ a good wife who can find?” (ch31 v10).
You may well ask.
There are two particular faults which may be detected in a wife.
She may be nagging and argumentative;
“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a contentious woman are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in his right hand”
“it is better to live in a corner of a housetop than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (ch21 v9).
“Better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and fretful woman” (ch21 v19).
Or she may be promiscuous.
“ A good woman is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in is bones” (ch12 v4).
“Like a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion”-(ch11 v22).
Nevertheless, a “prudent wife” is received as a gift from the Lord –ch19 v14
The well-known description at the end of the book (ch31 vv10-31) proclaims that a good wife is “more precious than jewels”.
The essential point is that “the heart of her husband trusts in her” and “she does him good and not harm all the days of her life”.
There are many details about the management of her household. It seems to be a very wealthy household, because she is able to buy in wool and flax and
food imported from far countries. She is in a position to buy fields and plant vineyards.
The house has many servants, and she takes pains to ensure that they are properly fed and fully occupied.
She works hard to make clothing of all kinds, fine linen and purple, supplying the needs of her family and also producing a surplus for sale.
Modern women may think that this picture is “over-domesticated”, as a friend of mine once remarked.
Two points to consider.
Firstly, this woman’s virtue is not defined by these details of her daily life.
The way she spends her day is governed by the social conditions of the time.
What matters, what makes her a “good wife”, is that she does whatever she has to do with devotion and diligence.
She is the mistress of the household, not one of the servants, and this is about the faithful management of her business.
This passage is the equivalent of the advice which was previously given to the farmer;
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds…
When the grass is gone, and the new growth appears, and the herbage of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats
the price of a field;
There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household, and for the maintenance of your maidens” (ch27 vv23-27).
Most of the characters of Proverbs can be arranged in opposing pairs; the Good Wife would fit into that pattern as the opposite number of the
The other point worth considering is that this woman’s house is not exactly an ordinary household.
It is a massive commercial operation.
I’m not sure that even the wealthiest families would be gaining their income is quite so many diverse
Fields and vineyards, the various stage of the cloth-making industry, importing food from long distances, and selling merchandise-
There’s enough economic activity in this picture to fill the life of a nation, and that may be the point.
This may be one of those passages in the Old Testament which portrays God’s people Israel as God’s wife.
In this case, the image of the wife as God intended her to be, rather than the adulterous version which we find in some of the prophets.
The key to this ideal, whether we understand her as an individual woman or as a people, is the righteousness of her conduct.
“She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy…
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…
A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”.
So we come round full circle, and this book ends exactly as it began.
With a woman teaching wisdom, and an emphasis on the fear of the Lord.