The Trusting Husband of Proverbs 31

In an article published in a 2009 issue of Practical Homeschooling, I pointed out that “patriarchy” is a bad word. The Christian home is supposed to revolve around Christ, not around Dad.

However, Dad is a very important part of the Christian home. And we can find out a few forgotten facts about his character from this Bible chapter: Proverbs 31.

Let’s start at the beginning, and see what it says.

1. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

2. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

3. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

The “women” here referred to are “that which destroyeth kings,” which clearly does NOT include a man’s proper wife. Even a king, the most privileged of men, should not heap up wives (Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, lost his way because of this) or cheat on his wife. A righteous huband does not stray.

4. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

5. Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

6. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

7. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

Those with power over others should not get “buzzed” or drunk, lest they “forget the law.”

In this context, while I was writing The Child Abuse Industry, I found that the vast majority of horrific child abuse occurs when the man in the house is drunk.

8. Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

9. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

As we have seen in innumerable Westerns, a real man stands up for the poor and needy. This will be seen more clearly later in the chapter.

10.Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

11. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

He does not micromanage. He knows she can do her job and that she means him well.

I want to stress this, because some seem to feel that Patriarchy or Quiverfull or whatever they (not I!) have chosen to call their movement means that men have to watch their wives every minute. I wrote and intended nothing of the sort in The Way Home. The point was to help women rediscover the joy and power of our biblical role. This is not possible unless our husbands trust us.

Christian wives should not be relegated to asking permission and coming under judgment in the normal course of their duties. Our relationship with our husbands in this area should be more like Joseph’s with Potiphar. As you recall, Joseph was sold into slavery and Potiphar made him his steward. Recognizing Joseph’s trustworthiness and ability, Potiphar “left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.” In other words, Potiphar had menu requests, but didn’t hang around the kitchen supervising, or make Joseph beg him for the money to go shopping.

13. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

15 .She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

16 .She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17 .She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 .She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

19 .She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20 .She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 .She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

We are familiar with the above verses, but may not have considered all the implications.

Please note that the Proverbs 31 woman did not have to ask permission to do any of the above activities. She not only performed her household duties without husbandly micromanaging; she also made a substantial purchase and numerous charitable contributions.

In day-to-day life, I’m sure husband and wife spoke about their plans and activities. Surely the wife had the husband’s blessing to purchase a plot of land (this is the sort of thing couples talk about for a long time before they can afford it) and also to help out the poor. She wasn’t defying him in any way to perform these actions. On the other hand, he wasn’t restricting her to the point where defiance would be a temptation.

23. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

And now the verses addressed to “kings” and “princes” start to make more sense. Her husband is expected to be a leader.

The “gates” were the courtroom and legislative chamber of the ancient Middle East. This is where cases were tried and rules were made. Here is where the poor and needy could find protection from those who would oppress them – provided the “elders of the land” were righteous.

The help and support of his wife has freed up the Proverbs 31 husband enough that he can spend at least some time on church and community leadership of this kind.

Furthermore, he is clearly a wise man, “known in the gates,” which makes his behavior to his wife what theologians call “normative.” This means Christian husbands should follow his example.

24. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

And there it is, guys and gals – the Bible is in favor of strong women.

26. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

The Bible also is NOT in favor of the silent, squished female. A Proverbs 31 wife is to be heard. (Not to mention that the entire CHAPTER of Proverbs 31 is the words of a God-fearing mom!)

27. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

A summary of the Proverbs 31 wife’s behavior.

28. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

Notice the spirit of her husband. Not only does he praise her; he recognizes that “many” women are virtuous and outstanding.

The Proverbs 31 husband likes and approves of women. He isn’t a crusty misogynist, looking for reasons to backbite and criticize women in general.

30. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

A man who is OK with his wife getting older . . . I love this guy!

31. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

A virtuous Christian wife’s good work and character should be recognized. Not only should her husband and children praise her, but her good reputation should become known in the church and community at large. How convenient that her husband is right there “in the gates.” The Proverbs 31 husband has a store of “good works” his wife has done, which he extols to his fellow leaders.

So, in summary:

The Proverbs 31 husband:
• Is faithful to his wife
• Stays sober
• Speaks up for the helpless
• Trusts his wife
• Doesn’t make her ask permission or beg for supplies in order to do her work
• Is fine with her making major family purchases and charitable contributions
• Is a church and community leader, respected for his wisdom
• Appreciates the good qualities of women
• Is unthreatened by strong women
• Lets his wife talk and listens to her
• Know what his wife is doing (doesn’t ignore her work)
• Praises her mainly for her deeds, not her physical appearance
• Honors her before other men

We need more men like this.

2 Responses

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  • Joseph Pride says:

    Note verse 10… Far above rubies. This refers not only to the value of the Proverbs 31 wife as so many have observed over the years, but also to the fact that the Proverbs 31 husband recognizes that her value is so high. He considers her rarer than the rarest thing, more valuable than the most valuable thing he can name on this earth.

    Just one more thought for the list. Another break away from patriarchy.

    I feel it is hardly any more fair to throw up our hands and ask where the Proverbs 31 men are than it is to ask where the Proverbs 31 women are. Let’s just ask where the Proverbs 31 people are in general and why they never seem to meet each other.

    Also, please don’t take verse 24 literally and think you’re a Proverbs 31 woman just because you’re an active member of a sewing circle. Trust me when I say I have no idea what to do with that. Sometime between when these verses were written and the modern age, there seems to have been an industrial revolution, so while the principles stay the same, I doubt they still express themselves in textiles. I believe it’s more accurate to say that, though the husband goes boldly out to be a captain of industry and puts food on the table, the wife neither sits idly by nor spends day and night barefoot in the kitchen; she makes full use of her independence to add to the household in her own way and with her own modern skills and strengths.

    In the modern day, this may take the following form: The husband and wife live within the husband’s means. The wife then has the luxury to spend personal time and money on long-term self-improvement that may not immediately yield profit, such as additional college, art, music, writing, business, etc., such that she is able to sell something roughly analogous to the textiles in verses 13-22, be it art, crafts, a book, work of her own, consulting, programming, teaching, etc.

    One guideline I draw from this is a controversial thought in the modern age: That whatever the wife gets into should be something she can get out of if need be. The family shouldn’t be trapped in a situation where they can’t afford to lose the wife’s income if her services should come into need as a mother. Note the industries that the wife becomes involved in: They enlarge the household but they are not of such a nature that the household is bankrupt if she should quit.

    Let’s go further on the role of husband and wife here. Might it not be possible that the wife studies and learns a trade while the husband works, then one day she works while he studies, and they move up in life together this way? Might they not hand off responsibilities sometimes as responsible partners if real life requires it? Is there a situation in this day and age where it would be appropriate for a husband to tend to the home while the wife is a captain of industry? Is this blasphemy? Or is it necessity? What if the husband is crippled? What if the wife went out and got an ivy-league education before she met him? Why shouldn’t a couple work in this way? If you don’t think a wife should ever be involved in supporting a family, then what do you think of my mother?

    Proverbs 31 raises a lot of interesting questions about traditional marriage roles as viewed by traditional people. Were traditionalists ever accurately reading their Bibles? Because what I see is not a starkly defined separation between a husband who is educated and strong and a wife who is weak and subservient. Rather, what I see is a relationship, a team in which both members complement each other, make the most out of themselves and each other, are proud of each other, and support each other. It’s a team where both members may at various times pass a baton. The husband loves his wife and the wife obeys her husband, which seems to be the only unequivocal commandment in a Biblical relationship aside from the basic Ten Commandments stuff.

    This implies a level of maturity and responsibility for both members of the marriage so rare among humanity that I feel both the Proverbs 31 wife and husband must be valued far above rubies. Why does the scripture value a good wife above rubies? Because she’s always been more rare and more valuable. There’s never been a magic time in history when human nature was somehow less sinful. There’s never been a time when humanity was less flawed. And I think I can safely say that while it may have been easier or harder in certain eras to find a spouse — provided you were rich and possessed the right social standing — it has never been easy to find one of the caliber described in these verses. The Proverbs 31 relationship has always been rare. Value it if you find it and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.

    • Mary Pride says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful response, Joseph. And Amen to the comment that ” whatever the wife gets into should be something she can get out of if need be.”

      Your post also led me to try to research just how rare rubies are. Couldn’t find any exact answers as to how many rubies are out there – just that rubies of 1 carat or above are “very rare.” The good news is that, like Superman squeezing coal into diamonds, the Holy Spirit can turn dirty ol’ us into rubies over time!

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