Who is This Lady?: 30 Dates in November Challenge
Whenever I start reading a new section of the Bible, I always ask 6 questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? As we begin this 30-day journey together, I want to share some background on the Proverbs-31 woman.
Who wrote Proverbs 31:10-31?
The book of Proverbs is ascribed to King Solomon for the most part, with the exception of a few passages (Proverbs 22:17 and again in Proverbs 24:23 is attributed to ‘sayings of the wise.’ Proverbs 30 is attributed to Agur, son of Jakeh. Proverbs 31:1-9 is attributed to King Lemuel and the words are ones his mother taught him). There isn’t a clear distinction between verses 1-9 and 10-31 in the Hebrew, only a sub-heading in English translations, calling verses 10-31 the epilogue.
King Lemuel isn’t mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. Verses 1-9 contain several Aramaic spellings. Some scholars believe this may point to a non-Israelite background. Some scholars believe Lemuel is a pseudonym for Solomon, making his mother Bathsheba. The name Lemuel means “for God” or “devoted to God,” and, as proposed by Matthew Henry’s Commentary, possibly was a term of endearment used by the mother for her son.
Did Lemuel’s mother speak verses 10-31? Most scholars say yes. The ideals presented in Proverbs 31 certainly point to a godly mother wanting her son to choose a godly wife.
To whom was it written?
The entire book of Proverbs, mostly written by Solomon, suggests the book was written to teach men to be godly and wise leaders. This makes sense for a king who is concerned about teaching his sons to make godly decisions. However, the entirety of Scripture is written for both men and women. All Scripture is for instruction in righteousness, and the principles of Proverbs can be applied to godliness and making wise decisions regardless of gender. Specifically, Proverbs 31:10-31 is not meant to illustrate some spiritual superwoman who had and did it all, but to provide a guideline for godliness.
When and where was it written?
The NIV Study Bible suggests Israel, around the 10th century BC during the unified kingdom.
What does the mother have to say? Why is it important?
In verses 1-9, the mother teaches her son to avoid the temptations of sexual immorality and drunkenness and to care for and protect the needy. As stated above, it is assumed she continues to instruct him on what a godly wife looks like. Specifically and most importantly, she ties in the rest of the message of Proverbs – wisdom – to the wife – and she states, “a woman who fears (respects, worships, and faithfully follows) the Lord is to be praised.” Bottom line, ladies, Christ has to come first.
How is it written?
Proverbs 31:10-31 is written as an acrostic corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew word ‘proverb‘ also can be translated ‘parable.’ Again, this makes sense as Jesus used stories, parables, to teach people about His kingdom and principles. The Proverbs 31 woman illustration is no different from the other illustrations Jesus usedin the New Testament or other examples of godly womanhood such as Abigail, Ruth, or Esther in the Bible. While these women weren’t perfect, they, too, are guidelines to illustrate what a godly wife looks like in action.
How does this apply to me?
When you look at the verses standalone, it seems like an intimidating list of all the right things to do. This is not how God works. The Bible is meant to be the foundation for your faith, not an impossible to-do list. Salvation is meant to be a grace-covering for sin, not a way to point out how flawed we are and how much we have to work to gain favor with God.
However, James tells us that faith without works is dead. Everything God does can be boiled down to three little words: love in action. As you are to strive to be like Christ, so your attitudes, words, and actions must also reflect the love of Christ.
Remember your first calling: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is closely followed by: love your neighbor as yourself and all these things (the concerns of everyday life and the help to get through the challenges of each day) will be added/given to you. These two statements reflect what your heart is to look like: the heart of a lover and the heart of a servant.
Remember your purpose as a woman: God created you to be a beautiful, sexy, purposeful, whole lady. God created you out of love for love and to love. God created you to know Him and to be known. God created you to be a reflection of His glory and beauty. God created you to bring glory to Himself, and to honor Him through your love, devotion, and service to Him. God created you to be a pillar of strength and love in your home and community – to love others as He has loved you.
Remember your purpose as a wife: God created you to be your husband’s ezer kenegdo – sustainer beside him, a position of glory and honor, a position of strength and purpose. God designed you to be a co-heir of His kingdom, a joint ruler over the earth with your husband. You were designed for a powerful, intimate relationship with God and then to reflect this relationship in your relationship with your husband.