Study Guide

Proverbs The Strong and Virtuous Woman

The Strong and Virtuous Woman

The "capable wife" of Proverbs' final chapter is the total opposite of the adulteress or foolish woman depicted mainly in the earlier chapters. Whereas the adulteress is morally unserious, prey to her wandering appetites, the capable wife is focused. She gets stuff done:

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. (Proverbs 31:15-17)

The capable wife isn't just defined by her usefulness to other people like her husband and her children. She also makes decisions on her own, decides to buy property, and becomes physically and mentally strong. She offers an interesting combination of strength and gentleness, practicality and kindness.

In many ways, you could say that she acts towards her husband in the same way that Wisdom acts towards God—as a kind of efficient assistant, a "master builder" who helps in creating and, later, enjoying the world. (Perhaps the authors even intended readers to tease out that parallel.) Except, in this case, rather than creating the earth and heavens, the husband and wife are creating a family and a household—that's the world they participate in making.

Of course, there are plenty of reasonable objections people might make to this depiction—it puts women in a secondary position in relation to men, for instance. But it's important to note that it does recognize the shared humanity of men and women, at the very least, and affords a degree of freedom to women that the reader might not have expected.

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