Posted by: Ety W. | September 10, 2008

Prov. 31:17 – Woman of Strength

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This is part 8 in a series on the Proverbs 31 Woman.
To start at the beginning, click here.

She girds herself with strength,
And makes her arms strong.  Prov. 31:17

At first reading, this appears to say that the Excellent Woman works out and is physically fit.  This may very well be true, but in doing word studies, we see that the words imply so much more.

Gird – Strong’s 2296 – חגר – chagar = to bind on, gird oneself, put on a belt

Herself – (“loins” in the KJV) – Strong’s 4974 – מתן – mothen = From an unused root meaning to be slender; properly the waist or small of the back; only in plural the “loins” or “hips”.

Strength – Strong’s 5759 – עוז or עז – oze = boldness, loud, might, power, strength, strong.  Can refer to material, physical, social, or political strength.

Arms – Strong’s 2220- זרעה or זרו – zerowa = arm (literally or as a symbol of strength), forearm, shoulder (of animal sacrificed), strength, force (political and military)

Makes …. strong – Strong’s 553 – אמץ – ‘amats = To be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage). To be strong, courageous, brave, stout, bold, solid, hard.  In Prov. 31:17, it means to strengthen, secure (for oneself), harden (heart), make firm, make obstinate, assure

From these definitions we see two things.  One is that her strength could be more than being physically strong.  The other is that she is the one taking action, i.e. her strength is not something that has been bestowed upon her.

I was curious as to what the various commentaries had to say about this verse, so I spent quite a bit of time looking at online resources.  Many commentators of Proverbs 31 didn’t address this verse specifically, and some applied it to the church as the bride of Christ.  The most interesting comment was a footnote to “girds herself with strength” at NETBible: “The idea is that of gathering up the long robes with a sash or belt so that they do not get in the way of the work. The point of the figure is readiness for work. But to say she girds herself with ‘strength’ means that she begins vigorously.”1

In context, we see verse 17 as part of a description of the characteristics of an Excellent Wife.  We’ve already seen that she is industrious, diligent, organized, powerful, trustworthy, and wise.  Now we can add strong.  Is it merely physical strength?  Probably not.  Why do I say that? Because it is not physical strength or power which makes an individual excellent; it is what they do with it.

Jesus said (Matt. 6:24), we can only serve one master.  Each one of us must decide who that master will be.  For the unsaved, there is little choice: they serve themselves, money, or power.  As believers, we are free from slavery to sin, so we do have a choice.  We can either serve ourselves, or we can serve God.  We can use our abilities to become strong and accumulate power for our own gain, or we can use them to serve Christ by serving others.

I’m not talking of serving by giving money to the church or charity.  I’m talking about what we do with our time, energy, and influence.  People always have time and money for what’s important to them.  Of the Proverbs 31 Woman we see someone who takes her ministry to her home and family seriously.  In addition she helps the poor and needy (verse 20).  Her motive?

A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  Prov. 31:30b

The Excellent Woman is not excellent because she has accumulated power for herself or because she is so capable.  She is excellent because she is serves the Lord.  Proverbs 31:10-31 is a description of how she does that.

1NETBibleProverbs 31:17


  1. […] Courage – v 17 […]

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