A Good Wife (Month of Proverbs)

In Bombay with my mother and sister, 1959

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
(Proverbs 31:10-11)

Several times in the first 30 chapters, the book of Proverbs speaks of quarrelsome wives – advising young men that it would be better to live in the desert or the corner of a rooftop than to live in luxury with one.  Finally, as the book closes, we have the picture of the wife one wants to have.   Bible study groups – both men’s and women’s – often focus on it, and for many women, it’s an inspiration and a model.  Family members often choose this passage to read at funerals. In fact, I first heard this passage when a minister chose it for my own mother’s funeral decades ago.

What does this worthy wife do? She is no sluggard, nor lacking in initiative.  Not only does she distribute food to her household, but she also plants vineyards and makes things for market.  She “enjoys the sucess” of her dealings, working at them willingly.  This good wife is a worthy and equal partner in the marriage: she has charge of her own small business ventures, re-invests her own money, and shares in the dignity and status of the household.

This sounds a bit like praising an overworked person to keep her going. But we hear, too, that she is prized for the wisdom of her counsel (31:26), reaches out to the poor and needy (31:20), and has charge of the conduct of those in her household (31:27).  For this, both her husband and her children extol her.

What is it that lasts? Proverbs warned repeatedly against falling for good looks, and it does so again – but thistime by comparing the fleeting nature of beauty to the enduring value of a wise and virtuous woman.

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

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