16–22 June 2019.
In the ancient world, Proverbs was often the first textbook that young Jewish boys would have encountered. The wisdom of Proverbs was simple and easy to understand, and it was focused on the practical challenges of daily life. And so the first step in the education of young boys was for them to write out and recite the verses of Proverbs.
But despite being written for teenage boys, Proverbs is dominated by two female characters: Woman Wisdom, who calls boys to follow her along the sensible path of goodness towards a successful life, and the so-called “strange” or adulterous woman, who tempts unthinking boys to their eventual disaster. The first practical challenge teenage boys will face in life is choosing which of these “women” (and the lives they represent) they will follow. Proverbs ends by returning to this theme again in chapter 31, with its praise of the wise and capable wife.
Unlike much of the rest of Proverbs, Chapter 31 does not really give advice. Rather it is an epic poem celebrating the powers of wise womanhood, and encouraging foolish boys to bend their desires in the direction of pursuing such female greatness. The “capable wife” written about in this chapter is not a particular person, but rather a superhero description of the talents of all great women.
A great woman is not limited, but her abilities stretch across all society. She displays her expertise in business and international trade, in organization and management, even dominating farming and agriculture. She cares for her family, but also cares for society and the world, being compassionate to the poor and needy. Verse 17 describes her like a mighty warrior, girded with strength and power. Verse 25 pushes the superhero imagery even further, describing her as draped in dignity and strength, booming in laughter at any challenges the future may dare throw in her way.
Proverbs then ends this poem, and with it the whole book, with practical advice that is good not just for young boys but for us all. When searching for a life partner, it’s important to remember that charm is deceptive and good looks never last, but a partner who fears and follows God is truly an unbeatable blessing (v. 30). When both people’s lives are properly aligned in this right direction, a couple has a wonderful foundation for a life that will truly lead to great and even heroic achievements.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis