Our collection of Proverbs ends with one attributed to “King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1 NET). Sadly, this is all we know about him. Although Jewish legend identified him as Solomon, with the advice being from his mother Bathsheba, there is no evidence for this. Although we don’t know who he was, the advice is good and wise.
The first part of Proverbs 31 is addressed to the king and is good advice for anyone in authority. “Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of all the dying” (Proverbs 31:8) is as apt today as it was 3,000 years ago. But the last part of this chapter is what most people remember.
“Who can find a wife of noble character? For her value is far more than rubies. Her husband’s heart has trusted her, and he does not lack the dividends. She has rewarded him with good and not harm all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10-12)
Although describing the ideal wife, we realise that many of these qualities are those that both a wife and husband should have. Finding a wife – or a husband – of good character that we can trust is worth more than any amount of wealth we could imagine. When we have a wife or husband we can share every aspect of our lives with we will have the best life possible.
As we look at the character of the wife described in these verses, we discover that she is quite modern in what she does. She is a good manager and business woman. She gets the best material with which to make clothing for her family – and she enjoys it. She seeks out the best food and gets up while it is still dark to make sure her family has the food they need.
Her work isn’t restricted to being a homemaker – she is involved in business pursuits, as well. She looks at a field and buys it. From her own income she plants a vineyard. She has an income and invests it so that it profits her family. She works into the night to insure that the goods she is able to sell are the best. She sells and trades the best-made clothing with merchants.
She is successful and prosperous in her work. She has enough to help the poor and needy as well as providing what is needed for her family, even when winter comes. Not only are they warmly clothed, they are clothed with the best.
She complements her husband perfectly. He is “well-known in the city gate when he sits with the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23), indicating that he is one of the leaders of their area with judicial responsibilities. She is successful in her sphere of business and he is successful as a leader of the community.
She is also a wise woman. She speaks with wisdom and the advice she gives is not only wise but loving. Her children called her ‘blessed’ and she also has her husband’s admiration and praise.
What is the secret to being this type of ideal wife (or husband)? Notice the last two verses.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting. A woman who fears the Lord—she makes herself praiseworthy. Give her credit for what she has accomplished, and let her works praise her in the city gates.” (Proverbs 31:30-31).
When a person’s life is not centred in trying to impress people or worried about how they look, but is centred in serving the Lord, then we have someone who is, indeed, worthy of praise. By seeking to serve the Lord we can accomplish great things throughout our life. It is when we are known for being faithful to God that we will have true praise from those around us.
Readings for next week: Proverbs 26-31; Psalms 84-85, 87