To Find An Excellent Wife
Prayer – Father in Heaven, help us, man or woman, to pursue your ideal for our lives. We know that you want us to be like Christ. May we accept all the guidance available in Scripture to do so, and may the Holy Spirit do his work of transformation in our lives. Amen.
I. Setting a High Standard (v. 10)
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
In the opening chapters of Proverbs, a father is speaking to his son and most of the time when a woman is mentioned is usually referencing an adulteress, or a woman who will lead the young man to foolishness. Fathers and mothers are mentioned in chapters 10-29, and here the book of Proverbs closes with a picture of an excellent woman.
The adulteress flatters with her lips; she forsakes the covenant with her own husband, to seduce someone else. She has lips that drip honey, she has a smooth tongue and she hunts for the precious life of some victim. There is not only the “adulteress” but there is the “noisy woman,” the loud, boisterous woman, with whom no one wants to live, and the normal man would prefer, the proverbs says, “to live in the corner of the roof, in a tiny little place, than in a big house with a boisterous woman.
There is the “foolish woman,” there is the “rebellious woman,” there is the “quarrelsome woman,” and they are all really set in contrast to this “excellent wife” here in chapter 31. There is in chapter 12:4 of Proverbs, this statement, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones.”
Because he was royal, and because he was going to take a position of rulership, His mother told him some things he really needed to know. The book of Proverbs closes with the boy’s mother teaching him wisdom.
This is great advice from this Jewish mother to her son in verses 3-8. “Stay away from alcohol, stay away from sexual immorality, take care of hurting people, defend those who can’t defend themselves, stand for the oppressed, support the needy, and deal justly with everybody.
This is how to be a good king, this is how to be a great man, and most of all,” and this is what occupied the length of her speech from verse 10 to 31, “find a good wife,” understanding the implications of a bad one–boisterous, quarrelsome, self-centered, wicked (such as Jezebel). And realizing the influence she was bound to have upon his life, his mother encouraged Lemuel to “find an excellent wife!”
There are 22 verses from verse 10 to 31, and there are 22 characters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each of these verses begins with the next character in sequence in the Hebrew alphabet, so that it starts with Aleph, Beth, Gimel, and so forth, right down through the Hebrew alphabet. The first letter of each of these proverbs, each verse, is the next letter in sequence. Why? Because it was easy that way to memorize this. It became an acrostic which created a formula for easy memorization and recall of these features, so that every young Jewish son could be taught by his mother to memorize Proverbs 31:10-31, and thereby have in his mind the criteria, at all times, by which he was to measure the excellence of a woman.
Too often when a selection is made of a woman or a wife, it is made for the wrong reasons: looks, education, personality, likes and dislikes, accomplishments, style–rather than virtue and character – those things that matter. But this woman has a value that is far above jewels.
The word actually describes precious stones of any kind. Some versions translate it “rubies,” some translate it “pearls.” “Jewels” is the best, it’s just a generic word for precious stones. The point being, this is a very, very valuable woman–not easy to find. Then in verse 11, she begins to describe this woman.
So how does the boy’s mother describe this “excellent wife”? What should he be looking for?
II. Characteristics of an Excellent Wife (vv. 11-28)
Trustworthy (v. 11)
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
Literally “his heart trusts her” – She is faithful in every area of her life. Her husband lacks nothing of value because of her faithfulness. She is faithful everyday of her life, and she brings him good.
(Joseph and Potiphar’s wife) Genesis 39:19 “As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.”
It doesn’t say who his anger was kindled against, and why did he put Joseph in prison instead of having him killed? I believe it was because he could not trust his wife. She did not respect his property, his work goals, him as her husband. Can your husband trust you, when he is not there?
Not just trustworthy in fidelity but also in that she does not take things from him – Not their money, their possessions, their resources, or his reputation. She never speaks evil of him so that those in the home would learn to distrust him because of her testimony of his absence of character. She does him good not evil. She does everything to build him up.
“all the days of her life” – her love for him is based upon spiritual principles that it doesn’t fluctuate with the circumstances of life. She is focused on building her husband up, no matter the conditions of life (for richer or poorer, sickness and in health).
Hard Working (vv. 13-19, 24, 27)
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She is diligent and this is the trait that is given more text than anything else. In the ancient world women had to stay busy in their spare moments (spinning wool, making clothes). Weaving and sewing were a major part of her work. She selected the materials, and works with “delight of her hands.” She took pleasure in creating something of beauty and usefulness. It was not a duty, and she didn’t complain.
In her work she makes extra (she goes beyond what is required) and then sells the extra clothes. With the extra clothes that she sells, she saves up enough to purchase a field. She is like a merchant ship bringing the home items that the family cannot produce for itself. To make this happen she gets up early to make sure that her family is well fed and taken care of.
Her lamp does not go out at night is a reference that she works into the night making her clothes. So she gets up early to oversee her family, she oversees her household and ventures during the day, and in the evening she works into the night. 24 “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”
“27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. This Proverb 31 woman sees it as her responsibility to oversee what goes on in the home. She’s not waiting around or wasting time, she spends considerable time “looking well into” how the home is running and making it a better place.
Caring (v. 20)
20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
As driven as this woman is, she is willing to step away from her work and help others in need. She holds the clothes that she has spent hours and hours making, and instead of putting them on her own family, or making money for her family, she opens her hands and gives and serves the poor.
Her hands are diligent to make cloth and clothes, and her hands hold these clothes out for other people to be able to be clothed. She gives dignity (nakedness) and warmth to others, and see this as something that is important to do. Later the text says that she does not fear the future – but those around her who are poor and needy do fear what is to come – so she also gives security to other people. She takes away this burden of worry.
Looks Ahead (vv. 21, 25)
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
Scarlet clothing was expensive, of the highest quality, and would be adequate for cold weather. Because she has worked hard and saved money – either she has saved up to buy, or she has made their clothes. Either way, when the cold weather months come she does not have to fear.
Wisdom means skill, and part of wisdom is the ability to look at one’s life as a whole, or to be able to see how our actions will lead to a certain way of life (consequences, long life).
Also, typically wool clothes were not dyed, so the fact that it was colored scarlet means that she has added some personality and flair to the clothes. “25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She includes her own bright personality to her work and makes it fun.
Takes Pride Her Appearance and Her Home (v. 22)
22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
She again makes her children’s clothes, bed coverings, and now the mother in reminding her son what to look for in a wife tells him to look for an excellent wife who takes some pride in her appearance.
She honors God (who gave her the beauty) and honors her husband by taking time to put herself together. She knows that how she presents herself is extended to her husband and her family.
Brings Honor to Her Husband (v.23)
23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She enhances her husband’s reputation. He’s risen to the very top of the esteem of the people in the profession he has chosen in life because he is free to do so because of the dutiful wife. She creates a world for him and their family in which he can be everything that God would want him to be.
She’s so faithful to the duties of her love that he is free to be all that he can be as a man. He is known in the gates. He is a well-known man. The implication there is that he is esteemed, he is honored, he is respected.
Teaches Others (v. 26)
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Not only does she open her hands to the poor, but she opens her mouth to teach her children wisdom and shares her wisdom with her husband. When she teaches her children she is not being hypocritical. If you live in the home with someone you know if they are just talking or are they being genuine and honest.
III. A Wise Woman Will Be Blessed (vv. 28-31)
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Children and her husband realize how she has lived her life and see how she has been a part of their lives and “call her blessed.”
If a woman is charming – then she uses her personality to manipulate, charm is a way of approaching another for the purpose of getting something you want. So, how do you know if she’s being truthful or if she’s playing you? If she is beautiful, it will fade – there is a sure bet for the woman you are looking to marry – what does her character show?
With all these things that we have mentioned, how is a woman ever going to be able to do them all? Proverbs begins with a call to wisdom and to fear the Lord, and here is a portrait of a woman who is wise and fears the Lord. Matthew Henry said, “Proverbs 31 is the mirror against which every Christian woman must stand and face herself.”
She can do all these things if her life is centered on Christ, and gives herself unselfishly to her home and family.
The mother in Proverbs 31 tells her son to look for a list of godly virtues. What are you looking for today?
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation’s deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. What are you living for? Is the past, however glorious or painful, what you’ve set your sights upon? Or are you seeking after new, abundant life? Only if you know what you’re looking for will you find it.
 Acts 9:36