Finding a Lutheran Perspective of the Proverbs 31 Women

Written by: Dcs. Heidi Goehmann

Lately, for one of our online Bible studies, I’ve been studying the word Excellent.  Interestingly enough, in my Biblical search of the word excellent, Proverbs 31 kept popping up.  Interesting because it’s for a women’s Bible study (convenient), and interesting because I avoid the passage at all costs.

Proverbs 31, any proverb really, is a minefield, for the Bible study writer, in my opinion.  Proverbs is wisdom literature, which means it is helpful, insightful even, but isn’t meant to be always and never.  I don’t need to get up at 4am and sell yarn in the marketplace to be a wife of noble character (v. 13-15, interpreted by Heidi, tongue in cheek).  Wisdom literature is intended to do just that – impact some broad wisdom.  think of it like talking to an older and wiser mentor women from church.  You thank God for her and discern her thoughts and ideas, but  your situation may not exactly line up with her suggestions and that’s ok.  Complicate all of that with the inerrancy of God’s Word and “ta-da!” – minfield.

Heidi FamilyHowever, the Proverbs 31 women, is indeed called excellent.  More than once!  Let’s read together.  Don’t get wrapped up in it  yet.  Just let the words flow from the page and sit a bit.

Proverbs 31:10-31:

An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.  She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.  She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.  She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.  She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.  She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.  She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.  Her lamp does not go out at night.  She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.  She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.  She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.  Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.  She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.  Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord Is to be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

So we find excellent in verse 10 and verse 29.  It’s reflective of the sandwich idea again.  So, in Hebrew, that draws attention to the reader, emphasis on the idea – She is excellent.

Most days, I feel not so excellent.  I’ll be honest, lately, it’s been so much less than not excellent.  I try to keep my family’s schedule together, but I show up late everywhere.  I even show up at the wrong places at the wrong times.  I want to make healthy meals and forget 3 out of the 7 ingredients at the store.  It feels like my husband and children want every little piece of me and, girls. there’s only so much to go around.

The Hebrew root word for excellent in the passage is hayil.  I think it can shed some light some light on the subject and help us redefine Proverbs 31 and excellent for us.  Praise the Lord!

Hayil is actually a masculine noun.  It can mean capable, wealthy, efficient, and is reflective of strength, valour, and power.  Hmmm…that does not sound very feminine to me.

And maybe I’m taking this too far, maybe I’m too wrapped up in my ideas of gender roles and trying to be the mom who does it all that I’m desperate for a little scrap of Grace on the subject, but I think there is another reason this particular word is used for excellent, when there are other Hebrew roots available that also reflect excellence.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because we’re not supposed to be Excellent.  But He is.

Christ is strong.  He is capable.  He is efficient.  He has it all together.

I am His instrument.  I go through my day.  I honor Him with my lips.  I let His Spirit leak out of me in the market, at my table, in bed beside by husband.  It’s my job to be weak and real and open.

An excellent wife who ca find?  A wife that reflects Christ, because He lives in me.  That’s me.  That’s it.

That is excellent.  I am excellent in Christ.

Excellent Mom.  Excellent wife.  Excellent me.