Posted by: Ety W. | August 16, 2008

The Excellent Woman – By Whose Definition?

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In my last post, I wanted to start looking at the Proverbs 31 woman.  The first step is to read the entire chapter to put our target verses in context. As we read, we begin to ask it questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how?  This is part of observation in inductive Bible study.  and “who wrote it” is my first question, because information about both author and recipient can be invaluable to accurate interpretation.

The Book of Proverbs is credited to King Solomon (Prov. 1:1). Chapter 31 however, begins with this verse,

The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him.  Prov. 31:1

This should raise a lot of questions. Who is King Lemuel?  Who is his mother?  How much of chapter 31 is the oracle: all of it, or only verses 1 – 9, as they are in the English Bible?  While we may not know for certain, we can develop some educated opinions.

Who is King Lemuel?  Evidently the rabbis believed him to be Solomon. Many Christian Bible scholars agree with this, others think he is someone different. Since we know that Solomon authored the rest of Proverbs, we may well wonder why he would record someone else’s words, especially since Lemuel was never a king of Israel, and since Solomon had his own wisdom.  Perhaps it added later?  It seems to make more sense that Solomon is Lemuel, rather than the alternatives.  Why he chose this pseudonym, is unknown as well.

Who is his mother?  If Solomon is the author, then Bathsheba is his mother.  (2 Samuel 12:24)

How much of chapter 31 is the oracle?  Is it the first nine verses or the entire chapter? Many Bible commentaries limit her advice to the first nine verses.  However the Hebrew Bible doesn’t have paragraph divisions, so the paragraphs aren’t solid evidence to base an opinion on.  Why is this even of importance?  In some ways it’s not.  But I am personally curious as to whether the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman’s idea of an ideal wife, or a man’s?  It would be interesting to ask various men and women to describe the qualities of a perfect wife.  I may be wrong, but I suspect the Proverbs 31 woman would fit women’s descriptions more than men’s.

The word oracle is interesting to look at. It is translated prophecy in the King James.

Oracle – Strong’s 4853 – משׂא – massa’ = a burden, load, tribute, that which is carried or borne; figuratively an utterance, oracle.

Obviously King Lemuel’s mother had a real burden about some things in his life:  that he not allow himself to be destroyed by drunkenness (v. 4 – 7), nor women (v. 3), that he protect the rights of the needy (v. 8, 9) and especially as to the type of woman he should marry (V. 10 – 31).  Starting in chapter four, Solomon had recorded the instructions his father had given him.  It makes sense that now in chapter 31, he lastly recorded the advice from his mother.

Next time we’ll start taking a look a what she had to say about an excellent wife.


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  2. […]  Being a Godly WomanMy husband and I joke sometimes, about how long the line will be in heaven to ask Adam and Eve, “Why did you do it?“  I’m sure every believer wonders about that at some time or another.  However, if Adam and Eve hadn’t been disobedient, someone else certainly would have, and we’d still live in a fallen world today no matter who sinned first.Sometimes when I am challenged by unbelievers as to why God allows horrible things to happen in the world, I say, “Oh He could fix it easily.  All He would have to do is take away everyone’s free will.”  I’m not trying to be facetious with this answer, I’m just trying to point out that the world’s problems aren’t God’s fault, they are the result of our sinful choices.  The question for us as Christians, is not how can we fix the consequences of sin, but how do we live in spite of them.  How do we live in a sinful world, without participating in sin.  How do we live our lives according to God’s will, His plan for us as individuals and as a people.  For anyone who tries to do this, we know it isn’t easy.  Mankind seems to have lost the way.When we come to Christ, we are given a new beginning.  Not that our individual world’s change much, but we change, and with that change is an opportunity to live our lives differently, to live them according to the plan God has for us.  Not that we automatically stop wanting to sin, but in Christ, we now have the freedom to choose to not sin.This isn’t easy for a couple of reasons. Firstly we still have the flesh to deal with, which constantly squawks to have it’s own way, but also the world pressures us with it’s own definitions of who women are and what we are supposed to do.  All of this is in opposition to the Word of God.So how can we be godly women?  I think it’s important to study passages such as Titus 2:3-5, but I also think it is helpful to take a look at some of the women of the Bible.Not everyone in the Bible is an example of godly living, but one in particular has become my heroine, the Proverbs 31 Woman.  I want to take a look at this passage of scripture, in hopes that we can see a role model for today’s Christian woman as well.  I’ll begin with that next time. […]

  3. I really love what u are doing and i believe it will help our new system women who have derail from that path 2 have a rethink

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