God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:24 aprons for the merchants
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 30, 2019
24 She makes and sells linen garments;
she provides aprons for the merchants.
Fifteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet: samek. First word of this verse: sadin “linen.”
The ideal wife Solomon is thinking of seems to have her hands in everything. Here she turns her sewing handiwork into clothing she can sell in the marketplace. In the second half of the verse she also “provides” (Hebrew “gives”) aprons to merchants. This deserves a closer look: What are the things she provides? Does she give them away, or what does Solomon mean by “provides”?
First: What does she give? Hagor means “apron, sash.” This is the word for the garments Adam and Eve made from fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). The various translations, including the Greek σιμικίνθινoν (simikinthinon) means a workman’s apron. It’s fairly easy to think of a carpenter’s apron, where he keeps his nails and tape measure, or a butcher’s apron, and so on. The good wife, always heroic in her tasks, makes good linen for garments, and tougher material for stronger things like merchants’ aprons.
Second: What does “provides” mean? If she is giving them away to be nice, it’s a gift that isn’t necessary unless it helps improve her husband’s status in the city gate (verse 24). Merchants would be able to afford their own work clothes (aprons), so that doesn’t seem to fit. If she’s making them and selling them for a profit, she is industrious, getting merchants to buy something from her as well as sell something. A third possibility is that she makes them and then sells them for little or no profit at all, to win the favor of the merchants and to give them a chance to sell her their wares at a reduced price. This last scenario would be a gift that keeps on giving, and she might well end up getting the better deal in the end.
My wife does not sell or trade valuables, but she often trades a commodity that is more valuable than money in our culture: time. Whenever a neighbor goes on vacation and needs their garden tended or their pets looked after, my wife offers her time and service. This is really done out of love and friendship, but we never struggle with finding someone to feed our cats when we go away for a few days.
I know of another excellent woman, one who is with the Lord now. I won’t share her name here, but she and her husband were from Germany, and when he was conscripted into the German infantry during World War II, they agonized over what to do. Before they could even think about defecting and running away (they were newlyweds), he was shipped off to the Russian Front and spent most of the war in Russia. Miraculously, he survived, and as soon as he was discharged when the war ended that they emigrated to the United States and came to the very German community where I serve as pastor. A few years ago, the decorative altar cloths (called paraments) and the sash-like stoles we pastors wear were beginning to fade and to fray. This excellent and Godly wife decided that she would provide the church with a new set every year until we had every color used throughout the Church year: Green, then purple, white, blue, and finally red. Each set contained a long altar cloth, a pulpit cloth, and two stoles for the pastors. It was a gift that cost a great deal of money, especially since there were five different sets in all. She didn’t do this to curry favor, but simply because it was something that she could do to show her faith.
Many heroic Christian wives work hours similar to their husbands; sometimes more. Many women endure emotional or physical hardships that their husbands never know about. Some of them suffer abuse. Some of them suffer for other reasons. Many of them continue to be battling, noble, heroic Christian women despite it all, putting their faith into practice out of love for their Savior. It is his unconditional love, lavished on us all, that keeps them going and keeps us all going, day by day. His mercy endures forever. It is his heroic and divine love that makes each and every heroic wife do what they do.
Husbands, notice them, and tell them how much you love them.
Pastor Timothy Smith