God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:10 The Heroic Wife
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 14, 2019
In the weeks to come, I will set aside Acts for a little while and turn to the final verses of Proverbs, often called “The Wife of Noble Character.” I have translated the title “The Heroic Wife.” It may be that due to my schedule, these devotions will be irregular, and I apologize ahead of time if they do not arrive every day. The translation, as usual these days, is my own, and I pray that God will continue to bless this study of his holy word.
THE HEROIC WIFE
Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem in Hebrew, with each line beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
10 Who can find a heroic wife?
She is far more precious than jewels.
“Who can find…?” is the question asked by King Solomon (or King Lemuel, see verse 1 of this chapter). This is a rhetorical question since the author doesn’t think that any wife could ever live up to this seemingly impossible standard. In ancient Israel, it is said that when a young man got married, people would often ask: “Has he found her?” meaning the wife in this chapter. While some people think this poem is about the Church and not any man’s wife, it would be best for husbands everywhere to look at their wives and say to themselves: She is the one. She is the heroic wife, the virtuous and noble wife. I have found her because God gave her to me.
The Lord wants a husband to love and cherish his wife. Their relationship begins with the union of their flesh (Genesis 2:24), but it continues with the union of their hearts and minds, as they agree together to go through life as a team, each one filling in the gaps in one another’s lives and abilities. This relationship, if understood correctly by married couples, works like gears turning with one another, with one gear’s teeth filling in the other gear’s gaps and spaces, so that as they turn together they simply, elegantly, and lovingly, fill and are filled, give and are given, help and are helped, over and over again, in an endless, joyful cycle.
A husband must not read these verses thinking, “If only my wife would do half of these things, I would be happy.” And a wife must not be overwhelmed by these verses, as if she concludes, “I can’t do a tenth of this, and so I am a failure.” Humanly speaking, neither husband nor wife can perfectly fulfill each other’s expectations. Yet a Christian couple who knows and trusts in their Savior will constantly support and be there for one another, including those times when they are apart. A wife must not bad-mouth her husband to her friends when he isn’t there, and a husband should never complain about his wife when she isn’t there (or when she is). They should be cheerleaders for each other. This needs to be more than just words; it must truly be the way that they think about each other. So, a husband can read the words of this poem and think: If only the world would know about my wife! Surely, she is the one Solomon was writing about!
“A heroic wife.” This is the beginning of the verse in Hebrew (ishah “wife” begins with aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet), and it is because of the alphabetic structure and not the emphasis of the sentence that “wife” comes first, and so I have retained a more typical word-order in the translation. The Hebrew noun chayil means strength (1 Samuel 2:4), or ability and bravery (Genesis 47:6), or a valiant man (Deuteronomy 3:18). While “worthy” or “noble” would be an apt translation here, I must rely at least somewhat on my own experience with my own wife, and I find that “heroic” is the word that suits the context best.
The rest of the chapter will describe what this means, but Solomon calls “jewels” to mind: She is worth far more, distantly more (rachoq, “far away” in Isaiah 6:12), than the jewels of the deep sea. “Jewels” here is paninim, a word sometimes translated “coral” (Job 28:18) and sometimes “rubies” (Proverbs 8:11, 20:15; Lamentations 4:7), and perhaps we should think of any beautiful red stone. A red stone tends to stand out in a setting with multiple gems, and perhaps this is what Solomon meant. Certainly, a man’s wife stands out to him in any group of women, no matter how lovely any of them might be. She is his bride, his wife, his best friend, and she will catch his eye and hold his attention no matter where they are.
Our family once visited Bull Run, Virginia, the site of the first important battle of the Civil War. While our boys played around the ancient cannons, my wife and I held hands and walked together over the green hills through a gentle summer rain. I don’t remember much about the shape or terrain of that battlefield; I only know some details because I had read about it before. What I remember most about that day is her hand in mine, the laughter of our boys, and the things we talked about and laughed about together. Who else could find a heroic wife like mine?
Thank the Lord our God for the gifts that he gives and for the people around you, the people that you love. If you have the rare gift of celibacy, treasure it and ask the Lord how you might use it to serve him best. If not, if you are like most of us in the world who need a spouse and who are able to follow the Lord’s command to be fruitful and multiply, then either seek out a fitting spouse or, if you are already blessed with one, praise God for the gift he has given you so generously. Value what you have above all riches, all aspirations, and all of life’s achievements, and let your wife (or husband) know just how much you love them.
Pastor Timothy Smith