Proverbs 31:10-31 - Wisdom that Works
The concluding passage of Proverbs shows what wisdom looks like when it's put to work.
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Proverbs 31:10–31 (ESV)
10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
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.
seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
rises while it is yet night
food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
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.
opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
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.
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Proverbs 31:10-31 Summary
This final passage of Proverbs paints a picture of perfection that few can truly achieve. While it showcases an ideal woman who excels in every realm of life, this passage is much deeper than a guide on how to be a good wife.
First of all, this passage is a work of art in and of itself. Although it's impossible to notice in English, this passage is an acrostic poem, with each line beginning with subsequent letters of the Hebrew alphabet (or more literally, the alefbet).
But most of all, this passage is a picture of Lady Wisdom, the woman the wise father encouraged his young son to seek in the opening chapters of Proverbs. When read in this context, the characteristics described become something that all people - both men and women - must seek to emulate in our own lives.
Wisdom is much more than a detached understanding of how the world ought to work, such as the theoretical musings of a philosopher or an isolated monk at the top of a mountain.