God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:23 Her husband is respected
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 29, 2019
23 Her husband is respected in the city gates
where he sits among the elders of the land.
Fourteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet: nun. First word of this verse: nodah “He is known/respected.”
Once again, the word here for husband is “baal,” but not the false Canaanite god. The heroic wife is seen here in the light of her husband, who is a respected elder of the community. He is able to sit in the city gate and judge cases there. The gates of cities in ancient Palestine were important places. They served as courtrooms and judgment halls but with some of the atmosphere of an old-fashioned barbershop (with local talk and probably gossip often enough). The older men met there (Lamentations 5:14), but it wasn’t as if it was their job to do so. They did it out of a sense of duty, and if there weren’t enough men, more were collected for whatever the need. For example, when Boaz needed to take care of the legal matter concerning Ruth and Naomi, he waited for the other man involved in the case, and when he came to the gate, Boaz got ten elders of the town to listen and be witnesses (Ruth 4:1-2).
What does his position at the gate have to do with his wife? We see throughout the Scriptures that the reputations of husbands and wives interact with one another. There are four versions of this, depending on whether or not the husband’s reputation was good or bad, and whether or not the wife helped or hurt him.
1, A bad man and a good wife. Nabal of Carmel was wealthy but also surly, mean, wicked and foolish (1 Samuel 25:3, 25:25). Yet his wife, Abigail, was of such excellent quality that she turned aside the wrath of David and his men over Nabal’s insults and inhospitality. In his case, people might say, “Nabal is a wicked and worthless man, except that he has a heroic wife.” Apart from her, his reputation was worthless. Other examples here include various unbelievers who had believing wives, such as Xerxes and Esther (Esther 2:16-17), and perhaps Pontius Pilate and his wife Veronica (Matthew 27:19).
2, A good man and a good wife. Abraham was an excellent man, righteous and Godly, and his wife was a good woman, righteous and Godly as well (Genesis 17:15-16). They helped one another’s good names to increase and become renowned. Other examples here would include Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-19), Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-6), Aquila and Priscilla (1 Corinthians 16:19), and Peter and his Christian wife (1 Corinthians 9:5).
3, A bad man and a bad wife. On the other extreme is Ahab, son of Omri, king of Israel. Ahab was a wicked king already, but the Holy Spirit adds this: “He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat [that is, idolatry], but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him” (1 Kings 16:31). Even to this day, we don’t think of Ahab and his sins without remembering that his awful wife Jezebel compounded his sins with more sins and a truly wicked reign over Israel. Her reputation was so evil that Jesus used her name to describe a wicked woman in Thyatira who was leading her people into pagan worship (Revelation 2:20). Another example here would be Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2).
4, A good man and a bad wife. Perhaps an example here is Solomon. When he was a young man, he followed the Lord diligently and faithfully (1 Kings 3:7-14). But when he kept up the sinful practice of marrying multiple wives, some of his choices were unwise, and they were not God-fearing women. They drew his heart away from the Lord and to pagan gods (1 Kings 11:4-10). Another example here might be Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:18-21).
So we see that a wife might be the only redeeming quality for her husband, or she might enhance his already good name, or she might do damage to his name with her sinfulness. There are also many sad cases of a wife ruining an otherwise good and God-fearing husband’s reputation. This is done when a wife despises her vow to be faithful to him, cherish him, and support him. When she makes a choice to put herself above their marriage, she injures him, their marriage, and God’s institution of marriage in general.
A good husband will want to build up and support his wife in everything. A good wife will want to do the same for him. I know that my wife has sometimes held her tongue in public when she disagrees with what someone else says, especially about social matters or politics, because she does not want to bruise my reputation in our congregation. In a large church with large numbers of farmers, blue-collar workers and white-collar professionals, there is bound to be a difference of opinion about politics, social institutions, and other things. Our congregation is much more balanced in its division between Democrats and Republicans than most of the members think it is (everyone thinks we’re all the same as they are). My wife knows that I need to be able to minister to them all with the Gospel of Christ, and she has made a conscious and herculean effort to step out of the way of that ministry. Like Elizabeth, Sarah, Priscilla, Mary, and Katie Luther, she has been a heroic wife and supported her husband in everything he has done. Teach your children about such Godly examples, so that your daughters will look to them as role-models, and your sons will look for them for heroic wives of their own.
Pastor Timothy Smith