Proverbs 31:10 | The Wolfe Notes

Our 2023 GROWTH for Today journey guides us through the description of the Proverbs 31 woman. If you haven't joined yet, we'd love to have you. Each month, we're focusing on a different trait of the Proverbs 31 woman; in January, that trait is VALUABLE.

During week one, we set the background for our study and defined valuable. In week two, we began our examination of Proverbs 31:10. What follows are our notes for that examination. (Our personal thoughts are denoted by an asterisk. Please do not read them as definitive answers; we are seekers too.)

A red sparkling background with text overlay that reads: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." Proverbs 31:10

Contents:
About Virtue
A Look at Rubies
Other Versions of the Verse
A Look at Roles

Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

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

Literal Meaning

*A virtuous woman is rare and exceedingly valuable.

What is Weird?

*Why would a mother who is giving wife-seeking advice to her son ask who can find such a woman? By listing the virtues and talking to her son about these desired qualities, is she not suggesting she believes such a woman does exist? And moreover, that her son will be able to find her?
  • The rhetorical question suggests it is only a vision, that she has no one specific in mind. Yet, the poem ends in YOU making the reader think that the author does have someone in mind. The vision exists only in a personal relationship; a beloved one is unmatched. (Working Preacher)
  • *As it is poetry, it should not be interpreted literally - so it merely conveys the difficulty of the task.
  • *There is an answer: Jesus can find a virtuous woman. His Bride, all of us together (the army of God), is the virtuous woman. Interestingly, the Hebrew word here used for virtuous also means army. And what better audience for this poem is there than Jesus, the King above all Kings?

About Virtue

  • Hebrew Term at Bible Hub
    • Chayil: strength, efficiency, wealth, army
    • As used in Proverbs 31:10 likely "ability, efficiency, often involving moral worth"
  • Defined by Merriam-Webster:
    1. MORALITY: conformity to a standard of right; moral excellence
    2. a beneficial quality or power of a thing
    3. VALOR: manly strength or courage 
    4. MERIT: a commendable quality or trait
    5. POTENCY: a capacity to act
    6. CHASTITY: especially in a woman
    7. plural form (virtues): an order of angels
    8. "by virtue of": "through the force of" or "by authority of"
  • "What is virtue and why does it matter?" by Jennifer Frey at Fordham Institute
    • Defined - "an excellent quality of a thing that allows it to perform its function well."
    • A human's basic function is "to know and understand reality and to decide how best to organize our lives in light of this understanding."
    • Stable character traits. A person with a virtuous trait:
      • KNOWS the value of the trait
      • SHOWS the trait easily in many circumstances; finds it difficult to not act in accordance with the trait.
      • FINDS SATISFACTION when they act in line with the trait but pain when they do not.
      • *A virtuous trait is not an isolated action it is engrained in who you are.
    • Requires training, discipline, and learning - practice under a MASTER (*good thing we have the best teacher ever!)
    • Is transformative and leads to human flourishing
  • My current synopsis of virtue: *A person who consistently displays a vast host of beneficial character traits with uncompromising strength and efficiency. 

A Look at Rubies

  • Verses about Rubies (from Knowing Jesus)
    • Job 28:18 "No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls for the price of wisdom is above rubies." 
    • Proverbs 3:15: "She (wisdom - Proverbs 3:13) is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her." 
    • Proverbs 20:15: "There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." 
    • *Thoughts:
      • Each time there is a reference to "greater than rubies" it is about wisdom or knowledge.
      • The context of the Job passage (Job 28:12-28), is Job's description of wisdom.
        • Proverbs 31:10 echoes Job 28:12-13:"But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living."
        • We see again the rhetorical question: "Where shall wisdom (the virtuous woman) be found?" But this time there is an answer: "...the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Job 28:28
          • Fits with personifying wisdom as a woman because a woman is to respect and submit to her husband and wisdom is fear of the Lord,
          • As equations woman=respectful + submissive; wisdom=fear of the Lord.
          • So, the role of a person displaying wisdom is respect and submission to God, also the role of a woman to her husband.
  • History and Culture of Rubies (from Bible Study and Answers in Genesis)
    • Rubies are also translated as sardius or carnelian.
    • In Folklore:
      • Thought to be created by a bold of lightning
      • Believed to self-generate light (*light of the world=Jesus=wisdom)
      • Thought to make wearer invincible to wounds because it was the color of blood (*Christ's sacrifice)
      • Believed it could make water boil (*purification)
      • Thought to cure digestive ailments (*healing)
    • In the Bible:
      • Mentioned more often than diamonds
    • Science of Rubies (from Bible Study and Answers in Genesis)
    • A ruby is hard.
      • Corundum stone, like a sapphire
        • Natural grinding stone (iron sharpens iron)
        • Called emery in powdered form (on emery boards)
      • Mohs hardness of 9 (only diamonds are harder)
    • Extremely rare
  • *Thoughts:
    • "Who can find a virtuous woman?" You can!
    • How? By fearing God.
      • Accept your role as Christ's bride
      • Respect and complement Him.
    • Wisdom is worth seeking because it is the most valuable thing you can find.

Other Versions (chosen at Bible Gateway)

  • KJV: "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
  • CEV: "A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find!"
  • ERV: "How hard it is to find the perfect wife. She is worth far more than jewels."
  • NLV: "Who can find a good wife? For she is worth far more than rubies that make one rich." 
  • OJB: "Who can find an aishes chayil (a woman of valor, an excellent wife, Proverbs 12:4 - 'a crown to her husband')? For her worth is far above rubies."
  • *Wolfe Stew Interpretations:
    • Personally: If you are looking for something of incomparable value, seek wisdom - know Jesus.
    • Spiritually: Jesus found a virtuous woman in His bride, the church, and He knows your value - it is written on His hands.
    • Relationally: Stop searching for perfection in yourself and others - it's not there. Instead, realize the worth God places on each of us and turn together to Jesus where you will experience immeasurable riches.
  • *A Verse to Connect with It Proverbs 23:4-5 (KJV): Labor not to be rich (*in relationship or personal character): cease from thine own wisdom. (*Choose God above all these things.) Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? (*Perfection and satisfaction beyond God do not exist.) For riches (*vanities, dreams, and illusions of perfection) certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven (*You're setting yourself up for disappointment.)

*A Look at Roles

  • Helper Role
    • Respect him by recognizing his virtues and the way he treasures yours.
    • Complement him by growing in wisdom to fill in areas where virtue is lacking.
  • Keeper Role
    • Lead her through recognition and strengthening of virtues by seeking wisdom.
    • Love her by shining a light on her value; don't hide it. 
  • A Verse that Connects John 11:10 (KJV): But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (*You will stumble if you step out of your role. Man was made to walk in the light and faces difficulty when he doesn't. Can you step out of your role? Yes! But pain and struggle will follow.)

Final Thoughts

That concludes our notes and interpretations for week two of the Proverbs 31 character trait: VALUABLE. Find all weeks on our January GROWTH for Today calendar.

I am most intrigued by the idea that this question does have a definitive answer. You can find a virtuous woman because she is wisdom which is found by fearing God. While often complex, the Bible seems to have a simple, repetitive answer: Jesus.

I continue struggling to interpret this poem according to role perspectives. I even questioned leaving it in the study. My conclusion was that it is important to wrestle with this. God separated us into male and female as He separated night and day (Focus on the Family). We are each equally important, but we were designed distinctively for separate roles. I think wrestling with what they are matters.

As I am, I hope you remain in prayer that the Holy Spirit guides you to an understanding of your value - personally, relationally, and spiritually - and keeps your mind open to accepting Truth.

Growing with You,

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