God’s Word for You
Proverbs 31:28-29 You surpass them all
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 4, 2019
28 Her children get out of bed and bless her;
her husband too, and he praises her:
29 “Many women are heroic,
but you surpass them all.”
Nineteenth and twentieth letters: qoph and resh. Vs. 28: qamu “they rise.” Vs. 29: rabboth “many.”
Since we have already discussed this woman’s bedspreads (vs. 22) and “how things go in her household” (vs. 27), it’s more than reasonable that the verb “rising, getting up” in verse 28 should be understood as “getting out of bed” as I have translated it here. Also, verse 27 ended by saying that she “does not eat the bread of idleness.” When her children rise in the morning, they find many things already prepared for them. For example, before my wife ever goes to bed, she makes up the children’s lunches, checks over the books and papers in their backpacks, makes sure that they have clean clothes for the next day, that if they need money for something, it’s laid out with a note, and so on. When they were small, they got little notes in their lunches, too, with things like “Good luck on your tryouts!” or “Do well on your test today! Remember to pray for God’s help to do your best! Love, Mama XOXO,” and things like that. She is also the one who urges and cajoles them into taking their baths, washing their hair, brushing their teeth, and on and on, so that they are clean and healthy. In the morning, she’s the one who wakes them up and gets them off to school on time. After that, she’s there at the window, without fail, waving goodbye. It never matters how tired she might be, or in a hurry, or on the phone with someone (we still use a phone with a cord); she’s there waving to the boys as they head out the door. And to me, too. And sometimes, we’re delighted to see, they really do praise her and bless her.
In verse 28, we’re told that the husband praises her. A husband should praise or compliment his wife every day. I was told once about a newlywed husband (this was before I was married) who overpraised his wife’s cooking with every meal, until she realized that he was running out of superlatives, and that it was impossible for every single meal to be “the best supper I’ve ever had.” He meant it in the nicest way, but it wasn’t strictly true. I don’t think this damaged their marriage, but a husband should praise his wife for what she truly does, for what she really looks like, etc. I know that my wife is pretty, and I try to compliment her often. I truly mean what I say, even if she’s never quite gotten the hang of accepting a compliment.
The husband’s praise is quoted in verse 29 in two parallel lines. This is an example of synthetic parallelism, where the second line expands or explains the first rather than restating it. He says: “Many women are heroic.” This is chayil, the same word as in verse 10, which means strength, ability, bravery, or can refer to being valiant or noble. This would be praiseworthy. But now the Godly husband adds: “But you surpass them all.” There is something lovely and romantic about the sound of ‘alit al-cullana, “You surpass them all.” The first word of that phrase, ‘alit, means “you ascend.” Here Solomon’s poetry excels, since earlier the children “rose” (got out of bed), but the wife “ascends,” which means she goes above and beyond everyone. It’s a poetic superlative (a superlative is a term like “best,” where any comparison is shot out to its farthest reach). In this way, it’s a lot like Adam’s hymn for his wife the moment he met her and they were married. Adam said:
She is now bone of my bones (=the best of my bones)
and flesh of my flesh. (=the best of my flesh) (Genesis 2:23)
Adam understood God’s design as soon as he met Eve. With marriage they were one whole, one flesh. The married couple is more than a family, they are a unified team, living, working, and striving together to support each other. They interact like organs in a single body, in synch all the time. They are like heart and lungs, not fighting one another, but each performing different yet vital functions for the life and the good of the whole. In his praise, the husband here in the Proverb has met many women and has seen many marriages. There are many wives who are heroic, but he has found that for him, his darling bride surpasses all others.
A woman who is lovely is a blessing to a man; her beauty is part of what attracts him to her, especially in the beginning.
A woman who is hard-working is a greater blessing to a man; her tireless labor helps build up their marriage.
A woman who is honest is a blessing that is greater still; her frankness will build the trust they have for one another.
A woman with faith in Christ is the greatest blessing to her man. They will be there for one another without quarreling about the way to eternal life. Their faith will deepen their attraction, build up their marriage, and build deeper and deeper trust.
My wife trusts me with her most vulnerable moments; perhaps this is one of the greatest gifts she has ever given me apart from our sons. She has surpassed Job’s wife (who questioned his faith, Job 2:9) and Abraham’s wife (who laughed at God’s promises, Genesis 18:12). She has surpassed the hard-working Ruth, wife of Boaz, since Ruth toiled in the fields and bore Obed (Ruth 4:13-17), but my Kathryn has toiled in many fields and has born Jonathan, Benjamin, Peter, and Eric. And she has surpassed the lovely Rachel (Genesis 29:17), because she has never relied on mere beauty to open doors for her, and she has never turned aside to idols as Rachel did, or stolen from anyone (Genesis 31:19). These women were all heroic in many ways, but my wife surpasses them all.
Pastor Timothy Smith