Our daughter told me about a Bible study where the teacher mentioned Proverbs 31 and said something like, “We all know that the Virtuous Woman is an ideal. She’s too good to be true.” Suppose a military commander gives his troop an order. The men whisper to the lieutenant, “Permission to fail, sir?” The lieutenant whispers back, “Permission to fail granted.”
The chapter isn’t stated like a commandment. In fact, the writer laments, “Who can find a virtuous woman?” Yet I believe the Scriptures are our “orders.” We should not give ourselves and those we teach permission to fail.
Let’s assume she meant that it’s not likely that anybody will achieve all that is listed for the virtuous woman. Perhaps it’s a composite of all the godly traits to aspire to. Some of the parables are not literal events. That doesn’t mean He was giving suggestions or passing the time. I would take the possibly composite traits and treat them like a “to do” list. Maybe you won’t check off every item but you’d better be working on the list. A Bible study teacher should not hand out a pre-license to smile and say “Wow, I could never be all that woman was. Nobody could.”
In Old Testament times, rubies were the crown of jewels. That’s how a man was supposed to be able to think of his woman. His heart was supposed to be able to “safely trust in her.” Everyone’s heard songs and stories of jealous men. This man never heard of such nonsense. Oh, to so capture and captivate a man’s heart. Even a Christian man can have his doubts, especially if a temptress works to make herself attractive. But not this man, it would appear. The passage also says he “has no need of spoil.”
I know that in the Iliad, ancient Greek poem about the Trojan War, spoils were frequently women as well as valuables. Didn’t seem to matter to Agamemnon that he was already married when he took Cassandra as a spoil of war. His wife was unfaithful to him, as well, but this Proverbs couple shines like the sun with fidelity. Whether it’s riches or sexual rewards, this man needed nothing beyond what he had. They say men are hard to satisfy, and that it is hard to conquer their hearts. Yet Proverbs is a book about relationships between the sexes, good and bad, and the power a woman has to captivate a man, for good and for bad.
Modesty, whether it is true or feigned, teaches women to undervalue their power and influence, but it is there. Men are girl-watchers for more than just great gams and other parts. “Behind every great man is a great woman” is not just a saying. Women have been making and breaking their men throughout history, beginning with Eve. Do you suppose it’s just barely possible that Adam valued Eve’s company more than God’s when he envisioned what would happen to his disobedient little wife? The Bible says Eve was deceived but Adam was in the transgression. Part of his transgression may have been choosing Eve over God.
Picture the scene earlier on in Proverbs, that adulterous wife grabbing a gullible fool by his proverbial nose ring and leading him off, ox-like, to the slaughter. How must her husband have lived his life? In jealousy, dread and rage. “No one who touches her shall go unpunished,” we are told, but clearly the woman was out on the prowl and a man cannot trust his heart to such a wife, no matter how many of her conquests he punishes. He might have had a purse full of money but oh, how empty his heart. The next time you even think about turning the head of some fool, lady, think about this woman who seems to have been doorkeeper at the mouth of Hell. Not somebody you want to emulate.
The evil Duessa from the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
The Scriptures are clear about even entertaining wrong thoughts, in the woman’s mind or in the man’s. Captivate your husband, and nobody else. Don’t be responsible for a man’s fall. Don’t hurt your husband’s heart. Be those rubies, and far more, to that man, and keep him and all the other men safe. Well, that’s just one or two points on the to-do-list, unfortunately, but it’s enough to meditate on. Be far above rubies. Be that thing a man can trust his heart in. Be powerful for God, ladies. Never forget that you have power, whether you acknowledge it or not, and put it on your to-do list to use it Wise-Woman Proverbs style.