Characteristics of The Proverbs 31 Woman
A while back, I was confronted with three rhetorical questions (feel free to answer them yourself):
- If you had to choose to live someone else’s life, alive today, who would it be?
- Who is the godliest person you know?
- If those two answers are different, why?
My answers were completely different. The person whose life I wanted was full of worldly success: the perfect home full of nice things, dream job, and constant travel. I’ve never heard her mention faith of any kind. Yet, I answered her name confidently without hesitation.
I needed to take an honest look at my priorities.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21
During this time, I wasn’t having regular conversations with God. Instead of fueling up on the Word, I was listening to what the world says is desirable. My attitude reflected how I felt on the inside: jealous, discontent, and anxious- the exact opposite of the woman I wanted to be.
So, what kind of woman did I want to be? The Proverbs 31 Woman. In other words, a woman who fears the Lord.
To “fear God“, means to stand in awe of Him, to respect Him. And that’s why the Proverbs 31 Woman attracts so much attention.
Before we dive in…
Who actually is the Proverbs 31 Woman?
The first verse of chapter 31 gives us more context:
“The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:” – Proverbs 31:1
So that leaves us with the questions, who is King Lemuel and who is his mother?
Many believe King Lemuel is King Solomon, as he is credited with writing the book of Proverbs. If that’s the case, his mother would be Bathsheba, but I can’t say for certain.
The word “oracle” is defined as, “load, burden, lifting, bearing, tribute.”
King Lemuel’s name in Hebrew means, “dedicated to God, a king whom his mother instructed.”
We know from this first verse that King Lemuel respected his mother and took her advice to heart. She loved her son and felt a burden to teach him about the destructiveness of becoming drunk, warning him about giving his strength to women, the importance of helping the needy, and advised him on the type of woman he should marry.
It’s important to know the Proverbs 31 Woman is the recorded advice of a mother who loves her son, not a set of rules on how to become perfect.
The Characteristics of a Proverbs 31 Woman:
AN EXCELLENT WOMAN
10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The word “excellent” in this verse literally translates to “a woman of strength” in Hebrew. She is physically, mentally and spiritually strong.
While many choose to walk in jealousy, gossip and chase worldly status- a virtuous woman walks with confidence, speaks with wisdom and clings to the Gospel. She’s a force to be rekoned with, the kind of woman who makes a difference in this world.
Becoming a Proverbs 31 woman is not about living a faultless life. If our goal is perfection, we’ll always fall short. It’s impossible to be perfect, and if we could, then we wouldn’t need Grace. Instead, she allowed God to refine her. She lived an imperfect life full of love, humility, forgiveness, hard work, compassion, and repentance.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
Her husband knows she is trustworthy. He doesn’t question her motives or actions and knows she has the best interest of their family in mind. She doesn’t squander their money or shop frivolously. Instead, she is thankful for what God has provided, not jealous or constantly wanting more- knowing that one of Satan’s biggest distractions is the love of money.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
Even when times are hard, for better or for worse- she chooses to be kind. She speaks with love and respect instead of talking down to him. She doesn’t go behind his back to get her way. Her marriage means more to her than being right, proving a point, or venting to her girlfriends about her husband’s mistakes.
LEADS BY EXAMPLE
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
To seek means, “search for, try to obtain, do one’s best.”
Willingly means, “cheerfully, happily, with pleasure.”
It’s not just about the work she’s doing but the attitude she has while doing it. She’s a lead-by-example type of woman.
Everything in the Bible has a purpose, down to every word. It’s no accident that verse 13 specifically mentions wool and flax. Wool is a protective covering of sheep and used to keep them warm in the winter. Flax is a blue-flowered herbaceous plant that is cultivated for its seed. It’s commonly used to make textiles like linen, a fabric is often worn in summer months.
She didn’t rush, she planned ahead and carefully selected quality fabrics for her family, one to keep them warm and the other to keep them cool.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
Merchant ships are not the fastest, but they are the most cost-effective. She goes beyond her neighborhood to find the best resources. She finds joy in homemaking and buying quality ingredients for her family.
WAKES UP WITH THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
How she rises is more important than the hour she rises.
The Proverbs 31 Woman wakes up with plenty of time in the morning to quietly talk with Jesus, dive into His word, worship, get herself ready, and take care of her family. She has a plan before the day starts and is ready to tackle what needs to be done.
PRACTICAL WITH MONEY
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
To consider means, “to think about, contemplate, reflect on, examine.”
She’s business-savvy, doesn’t jump into commitments without much thought, prays over decisions and seeks guidance from her husband. She’s not afraid of hard work and uses what she has already earned instead of going into debt.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
The Hebrew phrase “she dresses herself” translates “to gird up the loins.”
A girdle is an undergarment, usually made of material like leather or cloth. Its purpose is to fasten a tunic (outer clothing) to the waist. It was frequently used to hold items like weapons, tools or money. In situations where men needed to work or do physical activity- they would tuck the hem of the garment into the girdle so they had more freedom to move around.
“To gird up the loins” means to be prepared for service, ready to work (both physically and spiritually). Today that would look like rolling up our sleeves.
The virtuous woman clothes herself in Christ’s strength, studies the Word, takes responsibility, and gird’s up the loins- equipping her for the day ahead.
FUELS HER LAMP
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in studying the Bible is learning how to read Scripture from God’s perspective instead of man’s interpretations. We do this by studying the historical context through study Bibles, commentaries, and Bible dictionaries. *Please note that if a commentary you read even slightly differs from God’s Word, it’s not an accurate representation of the Gospel.
The Hebrew word for ‘perceive‘ means, “to taste.” She personally sees things through instead of just talking about it. She is a great manager of the home and thrifty in her spending. She uses her God-given abilities to make a profit.
The Hebrew word for ‘lamp‘ (fueled by olive oil), by extension: “life, as a burning lamp; light, showing the way of truth.”
We see the same Hebrew word for ‘lamp‘ in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
Before the invention of the spinning wheel, the spinning of yarn or thread was traditionally done by women using a spindle and a distaff. A spindle was a long spool to hold and spin the yarn. A distaff was a short rod with an opening or branches at the top for holding the flax or wool. The word distæf in Old English meant literally “flax staff,” from dis- “a bunch of flax” and stæf “staff.” Because women usually did the spinning, the distaff came to be a symbol for women’s work.” – Word Central
Using a distaff and spindle requires a lot of patience, and could be considered a mundane task. It’s really interesting that this is one of the qualities of an excellent woman.
“Nowhere do we see a list of the Excellent Woman’s religious activities. Why not? Because her most powerful ministry is to her family and home.” – Ety W.
The Proverbs 31 Woman understands she has an incredible influence on her family. So, she turns their home into a safe-haven from the world, a place where her husband and children can find rest. Her home is her mission field. She leads by example, teaching and equipping her family to spread the Gospel.
It’s not about being a perfect homemaker, master chef, or design-extraordinaire. These skills were refined over time, after years of practice and learning from her mistakes. As a result, she lives out Scripture in day-to-day life.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
With all the hard work and providing the Proverbs 31 Woman does for her family, she also makes time and budgets financially to help those in need. She doesn’t do it for a pat on the back or recognition, but with pure motives and a loving spirit. She sees people through God’s eyes.
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
We are guaranteed this life will bring storms and trials. We, as Christians, are not immune to these hardships. But the woman who fears the Lord does is not afraid of what will come tomorrow. She has faithfully prepared her house and puts her trust in God alone.
CLOTHED IN CHRIST
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Fine linen and purple were very expensive back then. Therefore, it was mostly worn by priests and royalty.
I love John Gill’s exposition of Proverbs 31:22:
“This is not her own natural clothing, for she has none by nature that deserves the name; nor of her own working, not works of righteousness done by her; nor of her own putting on, but what Christ has wrought out for her, and clothes her with; and which is very rich in itself, the best robe, very ornamental to her; her wedding garment, and which will last for ever.”
What a beautiful picture!
As Christian women, we represent the bride of Christ– in our actions, our speech, and how we present ourselves. He created us, fearfully and wonderfully, in His image.
There’s a difference in taking care of your appearance by dressing well than being obsessed with how you look and what the world says about you. The Proverbs 31 Woman was classy and presented herself well, but her focus was always on Christ. And that’s what grabbed people’s attention.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
The Proverbs 31 Woman’s husband is likely in a position of authority. While she manages the home, he works in the community. Neither tries “to do it all”, but both understand that together they are unified, one flesh, stronger, and more effective together.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
We were created to work even before sin entered the world. Working is an act of worship to God.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” – Genesis 3:15
Our job is our mission field; we work to promote the Gospel. Yes, stay-at-home wives and mothers, that means you, too! Your ministry starts with your family and that’s nothing to snuff at. God gave you that mission field for a specific purpose.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:3-5
The Proverbs 31 Woman works to take care of her household, family, and also has an at-home business on the side. She’s proficient in time-management, works hard and does it with a joyful attitude.
Something else to consider:
Whether you’re a stay-at-home wife and feeling like you’re not good enough, a full-time employee at a job you’re miserable at or trying to juggle both- remember that work is not meant to define us.
We work to promote the Gospel- to our family, our employers, our co-workers, and the people we encounter throughout the day.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” – Colossians 3:17
CHEERFUL FOR TOMORROW
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
These words were carefully chosen.
“Strength” – “boldness, loud, might, power”
“Dignity” – “beauty, excellency, glorious, glory, honor”
Wearing strength and dignity as clothing is symbolic of her attitude, not her physical apparel.
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
The Proverbs 31 Woman didn’t need to prove her worth to the world. Her confidence is found in Christ, not the approval of others. She is both bold and gentle simultaneously.
TEACHES WITH WISDOM
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Our tongue- it can cause an abundance of good or a world of destruction. Words are powerful; sometimes it’s not what we say, but how we say it. The Proverbs 31 Woman knew that and had self-control with her speech.
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” – James 3:10
“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.” – Proverbs 15:33
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” – Philippians 2:14-15
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
“Idleness” = “indolence, idleness, sluggishness, laziness”
Have you heard the expression, “An idle mind is the Devil’s playground?”
Satan loves idleness. If our mind is not rooted in Christ, it’s easier for Satan to slither his way in.
Idleness can breed gossip and jealousy, or feelings of anxiety. The Proverbs 31 Woman prepares, provides, works hard, sells, gives generously, manages, and teaches. She practices mental self-control and discipline by meditating on God’s Word, memorizing Scripture, and extinguishing her pride- leaving no room for Satan to sneak in and whisper his lies.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
A WOMAN OF INTEGRITY
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
This verse is an incredibly powerful statement about her character. The people who know her best, the ones she lives with and sees on a regular basis, through good times and bad, call her blessed.
Family is up close and personal. When she’s at home, cooking a meal or scrubbing the floors, her children are watching and picking up on her attitude. After a long day, she greets her husband with love and respect instead of complaining and gossip. She’s the same person at home, worshipping in church, or walking in front of crowds.
HER HUSBAND HONORS HER
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
This woman makes a difference in the life of her family. She didn’t grow weary in caring for their needs. Instead, ministered through her daily actions, humble attitude, and words of kindness.
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Above all else, she fears the Lord. To “fear the Lord” means to “stand in awe of Him, to respect Him.” Everything she does is out of pure love and respect for God, not earthly praise- that fades. Beauty fades. Fame fades. Eternity with Christ is forever.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2
HER ACTIONS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
The virtuous woman doesn’t seek out praise or do good deeds because she wants people to see her. Her motives are pure and she’s fully aware that her rewards are in Heaven.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
This will not be a judgment of sin for Christians; Christ already paid the debt in full. We will be receiving the fruit of our hands, reaping the harvest of how we lived our lives on earth.
The purpose of the Proverbs 31 woman is not to make you feel guilty when you fall short. We all fall short. It’s an encouraging picture of a woman who does her best to put God first in everything she does. She’s selfless and a breath of fresh air in our modern world.
An excellent woman’s focus is on Christ and her attitude reflects that in everything she does. Her motivation is found in a deep love and respect for the Lord. A woman like her will one day hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”