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The Woman from Proverbs Chapter 31

Solomon had plenty of experience with women; the last thing he needed was for his mother to match him up with another.

BY AARON EBY

Proverbs 31:10Proverbs 31:10
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  

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asks us who can find a “capable” or “virtuous” woman. At first, this question seems a bit insulting. Are virtuous and capable women really that rare and difficult to find?

I personally know many women whose accomplishments are too great to number. Certainly the mother of King Lemuel (traditionally, Solomon) did not mean to insinuate that few women were any good.

Solomon had plenty of experience with women; the last thing he needed was for his mother to match him up with another. Rather, the question of Proverbs 31 poses a riddle to us; it asks: “Can you figure out what I am hinting at as I describe this capable woman?”

The mystics of the seventeenth century interpreted this passage as a depiction of the Divine Presence which is greeted as the Sabbath bride. But in its original context, the Proverbs 31 allegory had a different meaning. The Sabbath Table commentary explains:

The theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom and fear of the Lord. Wisdom is equated with the Torah, and it is personified as a woman. The book begins with the equation, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7Proverbs 1:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. the beginning: or, the principal part  

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). Just as the capable woman’s value is “far greater than pearls,” the Proverbs also declare that “wisdom is better than pearls” (Proverbs 8:11Proverbs 8:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.  

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). “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom … she is more precious than pearls” (Proverbs 3:13, 15Proverbs 3:13, 15
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. that getteth...: Heb. that draweth out understanding 15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.  

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)./

Proverbs 31 concludes with the thought, “A woman who fears the LORD should be praised” (Proverbs 31:30Proverbs 31:30
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.  

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), even though there is no mention earlier in the passage about fearing God. The descriptive phrase “who fears the LORD” in Hebrew is exactly the same as the phrase “the fear of the LORD” (yir’at HaShemיראת יי). This makes it sound as if the woman herself is the fear of the LORD—that is to say, the Torah.

This could explain the acrostic form of the passage. The “woman” is composed of the letters of the alphabet, alluding to her identity as the Torah. Rabbi Isaac bar Nehemiah said, “Just as the blessed Holy One gave the Torah to Israel with twenty-two letters, so he praises the upright women with twenty-two letters.”

In this view, each of the depictions of the capable woman represents the Torah in some way. For example, when the passage says that the woman purchases a field and plants a vineyard (Proverbs 31:16Proverbs 31:16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. buyeth: Heb. taketh  

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), this refers to the Torah’s promise of the land of Canaan and the establishment of the Jewish people there. The language about her generosity to the poor (Proverbs 31:20Proverbs 31:20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She...: Heb. She spreadeth  

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) speaks of the commandments to show charity. Her children, the benei Torah, are the Jewish people, and her husband who sits among the elders (Proverbs 31:23Proverbs 31:23
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.  

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) corresponds to the scholars and judges who have mastered the Torah.

In a spiritual sense, Proverbs 31 can even be seen as a describing our Master Yeshua, who exists as a living Torah—the very word of God in human form.

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