The Proverbs 31 Woman—Inspiration or Discouragement?

The “Proverbs 31 Woman” as described in Proverbs 31:10-31 can sometimes feel overwhelming. After all. She does it all. And seemingly to levels of perfection. She cooks, she cleans, she brings home the bacon. She pleases everyone, hardly sleeps, makes her own clothing, and her husband has a place of honor. Wow. I’m breathless just thinking of her. What in the world was God thinking featuring her in His Word? Can we ever attain such sacrificial selfless love along with unending energy and godly wisdom?

God doesn’t intend to discourage us or give a perfectionistic image.

His intention through His inspiring words is to challenge, yes, yet have an overall view of what life can be like. The passage covers all the life stages of one woman—not one day or even one season in her life.

God isn’t expecting we will be perfect like this woman, but to depend upon him more and more. And to grow in our godly qualities and righteous choices.

Proverbs 31:1 tells us, “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.” The word/name “Lemuel” means “from God” or “belonging to God,” possibly referring to God providing baby Solomon to King David and Bathsheba as a reminder of God’s redemption and restoration after their sin of adultery (2 Samuel 12:24 – 25, I Chronicles 22:9).

Therefore, some commentators believe King Lemuel is another name for Solomon, and this teaching is from his mom Bathsheba as advice for the kind of woman he should seek. As an adulterer herself, and maybe because she saw in Solomon some of the traits of her husband, David, she hoped he would choose the perfect woman for his queen. Ironically and sadly, Solomon ended up have many wives and concubines. Maybe he tried to find a wife who fulfilled every characteristic and couldn’t, so he had to add more women to his collection.

The very fact the writer starts out saying, “who can find?” indicates it’s impossible. Maybe the meaning is, “An excellent wife is hard to find. But if you could find her, she would be like the following description.” Her example is supposed to inspire us but not discourage us. 

As modern women, we could easily take for granted a woman’s valued place in our society, missing how this passage indicates God’s value of women. Women then were used and abused at their husband’s whim and had no rights. But this Proverbs woman had power to make business decisions and control a household staff. In Eastern countries, a woman was a slave to her mother-in-law and had no rights. Her husband usually had no kind or positive thing to say about his wife in public.

God believes women are even more important and valued than society and the world currently regard them.

The Bible is accused of being against women, their rights, and their value. But long before society regarded women as important, God indicated his value of women. Although his people, the Israelites, didn’t esteem women the way He wanted, He provides for women who are oppressed. The Bible says a lot about taking care of widows, and the early Christian church obeyed (Acts 6:1 – 4). God is passionate about the care of his people, especially those who can’t take care of themselves.

The affairs of the community, including court, were carried out at the town gate. This verse points to how the Proverbs 31 woman is fulfilling her God-given tasks, therefore her husband has confidence to know he won’t be distracted unnecessarily by home problems or things she is not completing. It doesn’t mean he isn’t involved in his family; but when he is supposed to be at the gate and carrying out civic duties, he can concentrate on his assigned responsibilities.

God’s plan is timeless and when we look at this description of a godly woman in broad categories, not much has changed. In the heart of people, we all are the same, wanting love, to be considered important and trusted to make decisions. God affirms through The Proverbs 31 Woman that He values every man and woman as His creation.

This is an excerpt from my women’s Bible study, Heart Wisdom, a ten lesson study of Proverbs perfect for individuals or groups.