Thoughts on Proverbs 31:10-31 – The man, the husband

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
She provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
Her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
And extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
For all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
She is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
Where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
She can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
And faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
But you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting;
But a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I am delighted in this section of Proverbs 31 and, in it, I, as have many others before me, find a great resource to understand what a “Godly” woman is; that is, the woman of noble character. It is not uncommon to hear about the “Proverbs 31 woman,” but rare to hear any appreciation for the husband, who should be held as the model for all husbands, soon-to-be husbands, and single men. I am, then, therefore, convicted to learn from this, for I too desire immensely to be much like the man in this Proverb.

What is initially striking, though, about this Proverb, is the placement in comparison to the beginning of the collection. Interestingly enough, after an exhortation to pay attention to and learn from wisdom, Solomon warns against a particular woman: the adulteress, whose lips are like honey, yet who is thoughtless and crooked (Pr. 5 [v. 3-6]). To close the book, we have another exhortation to seek out the woman of truth and, likewise, to be a truthful man.

“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.” (31:11)

The focus is always placed on the woman in this chapter, rightfully so, yet there are profound things written about the man – the husband. To start, he is a man who trusts is wife and is said to “lack nothing of value.” Certainly the woman shows herself worth trusting, but trust is dependent upon both the object or subject of trust and the one who places the trust. What is most striking in this verse is the relationship between the husband and the contrast of the sinful and fruitful spirit. It is easy to discern that this husband is not of the former type, but of the latter, for he is not quick to jealousy; instead, for his wife, he possesses great love and goodness.

Jealousy and love, that is, pure love, are contrary to each other, as I see it. The former arises when the love for one is replaced by love for the self, for the self fears the loss of the one in whom the feeling of love is ascribed. Even better than previously written, the “lover” places the label of love for the desire of possessing the “loved,” which is, at the root, self-love. We, as husbands and soon-to-be husbands, even in the hope to be, at one time, husbands, are commanded to love our wives as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). Love, that is, pure love, as Paul wrote, “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Co. 13:7).

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” (v.23)

Respect can be gained through ill means, yes, as being one who possesses a trait which is immensely desirable by another, yet ill-gained respect is hardly ever the respect of the populace and never the benefit of the whole, where which the elders gather together to consider. Jesus spoke of the truly faithful by contrast that one may know them by their fruit, for no bad tree bears good fruit (Mt 7:16-20); this is important for the context in which the respect is known, for just as Jesus called out the expectations of those on the side of truth, so did the writers in the “books of wisdom” who all sought to exhort their readers to seek out good. This man’s fruit bore witness for him that he is just that and, for this, he is afforded the pleasure of joining the elders – the like-minded.

The good is recognizable and worthy of respect and the good man is one whose deeds inspires praise for our Father in heaven. Through this, one’s respect is gained through true and pure means, to the glory of God.

“Her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women do noble things,
But you surpass them all.’”

I say that this convicts and my guilt weighs heavily against me, for I have not done as I should to one woman who is worthy of praise. This, much like the first, shows the ideal relationship between husband and wife; if it is satisfactory, one can also say between dating companions. Her spouse sees, in her, substantial worth and his love for her draws out his praise. Yes, charm is deceptive and beauty is vain (v. 30), yet she who fears the Lord is worth praising and he, that is the husband and even, to a lesser extent, the boyfriend, knows this and does so accordingly. He praises her for her worth, for she is of a far greater sort than rubies (v. 10).

It is the man’s responsibility to give his wife or, again, to a lesser extent, his girlfriend the reward for her deeds through praise both in person (v. 28-29) and in the company of his peers (v. 31). Let, the writer writes, her deeds, then, bring her praise at the city gates.

I pray for my brothers, both those who are blessed as single men and those blessed with great women of worth that they would pay close mind to the husband written of in this scripture. I, too, pray for myself, that my inadequacies would no longer hinder my embrace of what a real man should be in relation to any woman that the gracious Lord would allow into my life. And, for the women, I pray that they would continue to grow to become amazing women of the Lord, further growing in His gracious love, for a woman of the Lord is like a lily among thorns. Also, for their sake, that they would all find men of integrity and character, joy and love, in accordance to God’s will for their life. All to the glory of God through Christ Jesus may we love each other and praise one another as husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends.


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Proverbs 31:10-31 – The man, the husband

  1. Thank you for this post. I, too, have always heard about what the woman does for her husband and her family, and no doubt, I aspire to be like this woman. However, I often wonder about the part of the husband to support and encourage his wife and love her like Christ loves the church in order for her to be free to do all the things here…

    • I believe that is, in a way, mentioned here. Lemuel’s mother taught him the sayings in the chapter and this section begins with a focus on the woman (“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”), but specific room was made for the actions and quality of the husband. I had more, but fatigue from a long day has…done something to my head I cannot put into words.

  2. Blech! Seriously?! This just seems like biblical propaganda telling women that they have to economically support the family as well as do all of the household work (did you hear all of the things she has to do to bring home the bread) while no discussion is made of the man’s contribution to the family. Of course he should respect this woman, but why should she respect him? This is simply more evidence (as if we needed more) that traditionalism led to thousands of years of women taking on both far more burden and far less power than was good for themselves or their children, and therefore society. I don’t see this as a model to follow, but as a bigoted, abusive past that I hope we strive to neither model nor repeat.

    • I think the biggest mistake, with respect to the content of the aforementioned Scripture, is that the implication is lost. She isn’t being subjugated in the verses, but what is inherently worthy of praise is that she willingly does these things because she loves her family. It is worth mentioning that doing something because you are being forced to is quite far from “noble”, yet her husband praises her by saying, “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” His belief is that her noble deeds, which she willingly and selflessly performs, surpasses the best of the other women. As for the husband, the section in particular does not specify what he does, but we are given some ideas – at least one – about his status. He sits with the elders of the “land”, where he is respected; this is a sign of both is status and esteem. This Scripture is far from being “more evidence” of female subjugation in a male-dominated world and is, instead, a refreshing look at what it means to be unified as husband and wife – each living selflessly for the other.

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