The Mighty Wife
From Proverbs 31:10-31
<cue woefully inadequate Julie Andrews imitation> “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
First of all, let’s clarify something: according to every teacher who’s ever endeavored to teach me this delightful passage, and according to the words and heading of the Bible translation I possess, this passage is about “The Wife of Noble Character.”
So, what the heck does that mean?
Here’s something fascinating that I just learned that nobody’s ever told me before: the Hebrew word translated “noble character” here, hayil? It means mighty. Like, as in, it is most often used in reference to military might. It is related to the word heyl, which literally means military fortification, or army. Hayil means: “Might, strength, power; able, valiant, virtuous; army host, forces; riches, substance, wealth. Primarily signifies military might.” (From my Key Word Study Bible)
Why do I find this so fascinating? Well, my background is in English literature. One of the things you’re taught when you are taught to analyze English literature is that there is a difference between a word’s denotation (what the dictionary says it means) and it’s connotation (what it implies, or, actually means).
This word for “noble character” is used to connote all things mighty.
This passage is not about the “noble” wife who stares down her nose at people and wears fancy schmancy gowns bought by the blood, sweat, and tears of the servants she oppresses (which, by the way, is not what “noble” originally meant, either, hence the translator’s choice of words. Perfect example of denotation vs. connotation). This woman is not some holier version of Cinderella’s stepmother, folks, “noble woman” though she may have been called.
Neither is she some pushover, weak-willed, soft-gripped woman, either, which is how noble has often come to be used today.
No, no. This passage, my dears, is about the Mighty Wife. <cue bicep flex>
A couple years ago, one of my cousin’s wives said something to me that I found profoundly life changing. I was admiring her ability to carry a toddler on her back and a baby on her front walking uphill in the blistering heat (might as well have been both ways), and she just shrugged and said, “Women are strong,” as if everybody knew that.
But, wait – do we know that?
Men are strong. Right? Well, of course they are. Physiologically speaking, men are stronger than women, just because. I mean, their testosterone levels make them literally grow muscles in their sleep. <cue Fezzik voice> “It’s not my fault that I’m the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.” Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Granted, men are stronger than women. In our minds, though, which are taught to think in opposites, that naturally makes women weak. My dears, men may be stronger – but women are still strong. You are strong. Remember that. This Proverbs 31 chick? She’s a beast – the most beautiful kind. The passage specifically praises her strength – more than once!
So here’s a lie that our culture (not our Bible!) has taught us: The Bible says women are weak. <cue objections> Yes, yes, yes, it does say women are the “weaker vessel.” Emphasis on the er. Remember how stronger didn’t mean not strong? Well guess what. Weaker, fellas, weaker. We, none of us, are strong vessels without Christ. But I digress.
The Bible, God’s living and active Word, Proverbs 31, says women are STRONG.
Time and time again, my own observations confirm this truth. And I don’t just mean physically, although women have tremendous potential to be physically strong and many of us are, but strong in personality, strong in conviction, strong in adversity, strong in integrity, strong in love. The first verse of this infamous passage, verse 10, calls this woman a “wife of <mighty> character,” (added emphasis etc.). I don’t think I’m the only one who can look around and see women who fit this bill.
Truth #1: Woman who fears the Lord, thou art strong.