God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:16 she plants a vineyard
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 21, 2019
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
“She considers” is the translation of our zayin-word, the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Zamamah can also mean “plan” (Lamentations 2:17) or “determine” (Zechariah 8:14,15). Here it depicts the great wife thinking through the purchase of a field for the family’s estate. The Kiel-Delitzsch commentary (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon p. 330) suggests that she is not buying something to expand the family farm, but that she wants a field because the family dwells in the city and has no fields at all. This is based on verse 23, where the husband takes his place at the city gate. However, I’m not convinced that a wealthy landowner who owned an estate outside of town could not sit in the gate of the neighboring city as a respected elder.
Here the excellent wife is shopping for real estate, and she uses her own money to pay for it. She uses her own hands to work it, and with her own resources she has created a vineyard, something that will benefit their family for generations to come. This is just the sort of ideal wife that does whatever she can to benefit her family. This is the sort of wife for any man to search for, and to treasure above everyone else once he has found her, almost like the pearl in Jesus’ parable about the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:45-46). In terms of the Second Estate of man (the family, Genesis 2:18-22), a good wife is the greatest thing for any man to strive for. Here is a place where the First Estate (the Church, Genesis 2:16-17) and the Second Estate parallel one another.
When we use the gifts God gives us to the very best of our abilities, we enhance God’s creation and the world we live in. He does not command us to do one thing or another apart from loving him and loving each other (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18); he leaves what we do with our lives to our own personal creativity. In the earliest days of civilization, the Scriptures tell us about some of the earliest inventors:
Cain - first conceived of giving offerings to God (Genesis 4:3)
Cain - first conceived of and began to build a city (Genesis 4:17)
Jabal - nomadic raising of livestock (Genesis 4:20)
Jubal - the harp and the flute (Genesis 4:21)
Tubal-Cain - working with the forge; bronze and iron (Genesis 4:22)
Seth - Public preaching and ministry (Genesis 4:26)
Noah - Wine making (?) (Genesis 9:21-22)
If you create something new, give glory to God with your invention, and use it for the good of the church, or the good of the family, or for the good of mankind.
In this verse, Solomon is contrasting the ideal and heroic wife to the sluggard or “lazy man” in many other proverbs. Of course, this isn’t a comparison of the sexes, but of the zeal we put into our lives. Compare Proverbs 24:30-31: “I passed by the field of the lazy man, I passed the vineyard of a man with no sense. I saw that thorns had overgrown everything, the ground was covered in weeds, and the stone wall was broken down.” This lazy sluggard has broken the Seventh Commandment. How is that possible? Isn’t the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal”? It is, and some of the people we steal from are our children. We also steal and do damage to property when we don’t care for the things we already have in our possession. In this way, the Seventh Commandment overlaps with the Ninth (which is about property and inheritance) and the First, since despising God’s gifts is another way of despising God who gave them. This is just as true of a shovel or rake as it is of the Word of God and his promises. The difference is that a rake or a shovel only serve as they are being used. But the Word of God always works. Once it has been heard, the Word of God keeps on working in the human heart, and either he will be comforted by the promises of the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of our souls, or he will be hardened by the gospel and reject it, and secure a more agonizing place in the judgment.
For almost twenty-four years, I have seen my wife set an example with her tireless industry. When she was a teacher, her students loved her, although sometimes they mishandled her trust in the early years when she still struggled with managing a classroom. When she was a baker, she learned her trade with skill and energy and put her knowledge to work to this day. When she worked as an accountant for an aerospace company in Milwaukee, people recognized her value to the degree that if she did a thing—if she checked a part to be shipped, or an invoice to be processed, or whatever she did—her superiors no longer needed to check up on her. She herself became the check. When she became a mother, she threw herself completely into motherhood, putting everything else in her life except her faith and her marriage on hold so that “Mama” is everything that describes her to her children. Her attention to detail, to her little garden, to our little strips of lawn, and to all of us she loves, is considered and cared for. The greatest fruits of her vineyard are the lives and faith of our sons, our delightful marriage and friendship, and every other life she touches.
Pastor Timothy Smith