Very little of the Bible focuses on the lives of women. There are only two short books, Esther and Ruth, completely dedicated to the lives of women. Therefore, Proverbs 31:10-31 is an important portion of scripture because it clearly portrays the characteristics of a godly woman. What surprises me the most about the description is that it is so contrary to what I have seen and been taught in the churches I have attended. Perhaps that is why this section of Proverbs 31 begins with the question, Who can find a virtuous woman?
The Hebrew word translated virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 is chayil (khah´ – yil). It is the same word translated strength in Proverbs 31:3 where it says, “Give not thy strength unto women.” “Chayil means strength; power; wealth; property; capable; valiant; army; troops; influential; upper-class people. This word signifies a faculty or ‘power,’ the ability to effect or produce something. This word is used of physical ‘strength’ in the sense of power that can be exerted (2428). Most people think of power in the context of a position that one holds, such as President of the United States, but the context of power in the virtuous woman is work, physical labor. The only woman in the Bible associated with chayil is Ruth, who worked in the field of Boaz to support herself and her mother-in-law Naomi, a widowed Israelite.
It says of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:17, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms” and in verse 25, “strength and honour are her clothing.” Some of the activities of the virtuous woman are “working willingly with her hands (vs 13); she considereth a field, and buyeth it (vs 16); she maketh fine linen, and selleth it (vs 24); she openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (vs 26). I think an appropriate one-word description of the virtuous woman is industrious or prosperous. It is important to note that the virtuous woman is a wife and mother. It says in Proverbs 31 that “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (vs 11) and “her children arise up, and call her blessed” (vs 28).
One of the misconceptions I had when I was married was that a good wife’s primary responsibility was to take care of her husband’s sexual needs. My ex-husband once told me the reason that he married me was so he wouldn’t have to pay for sex. Today, it seems like most women are concerned with the way they look; attracting a man sexually is very important to them. It says in Proverbs 31:30 that “favour is deceitful and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” If I ever get married again, I want to be a good wife, but instead of focusing on my sexy 60 year old body, I expect the man I marry to be impressed with the balance in my bank account.