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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Virtuous Woman

Who is a virtuous woman?  Does she skip the job and stay at home to take care of the kids and her husband?  What does God want women to do in this day and age where many families feature both a husband and wife ‘bringing home the bacon’?  I would like to present a study straight from the Bible of the good wife and virtuous woman in order to answer some of these questions that modern Christian wives seem to have.


First we’ll start with the well known verses in Titus that seem to tell us that wives ought to be stay at home wives.

Titus 2:3-5 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” 

So we saw here that in order to be in behavior as becometh holiness women are to be keepers at home amongst other things.  So what is a keeper at home?  I believe we have to go back to those scriptures in Genesis regarding the creation of Eve to understand what a keeper at home does. 

Remember that God created woman for two purposes, one because it was not good that man be lonely, and two, he created her to be a ‘helpmeat’ for man.  In other words, she needs to do what she has to in order to help her husband.  If he needs her to cook food and raise the kids, that is what she ought to be doing as his wife.  If he needs her to mend clothing, then she should do this.  Keeping this in mind, let’s move onto the book of Proverbs chapter 31.

Most of chapter 31 in the book of Proverbs teaches us what a virtuous woman is.  It gives us an example of a woman who is virtuous and shows us all of the things she does to be virtuous including being a keeper at home.

Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”  First we see that virtuous women are possibly hard to find, and that they are so precious that their price is ‘far above rubies.’

Proverbs 31:11-12 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  Next we see that a virtuous woman is married and that her husband safely trusts in her.  She doesn’t do evil against him, but always good.

Pro 31:13-16 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.  She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.  She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.  She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.”  These verses show us quite a few things about the virtuous woman.  She is seeking out things to bring into the home (wool, flax, food from afar), she willingly works with her hands, she’s up early or late providing meat for her household and her servants.  And the very last thing in this set of scriptures is kind of exciting.  She considers (looks at) a field and buys it, and plants a vineyard.  These verses are exciting because not only is she in the home working and providing for her family as a keeper at home, but she’s also out buying fields and planting vineyards.

Proverbs 31:17-23 “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.  She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.  She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.  She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.  She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.  Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.” 

She represents strength, as she is clothing her loins  in strength and doing things that are making her arms strong (such as planting a vineyard).  She knows her merchandise is good.  Merchandise is something that you sell, and we will see this later.  So not only is she out of the home buying fields and planting, but she’s making merchandise to sell.  She is also helping the poor and needy. 

She’s not afraid of bad weather for her household because she knows they’re well taken care of and clothed.  Now, we also see how she dresses… in silk and purple.  I would assume this is a pleasing way to dress, and that she is doing it for her husband. 

The very next verse tells us that her husband is well known.  We don’t know at this point if it is because she married an influential individual, or if it is that he is well known because people know her and admire that he has such virtuous wife.  We do know from Proverbs 12:24 that a virtuous woman is a crown unto her husband.  A crown is something that a person wears and that is becoming to them, not something they hide away.  So if she is indeed virtuous and he wears her as a crown, he is probably telling others about her because he is pleased.

Proverbs 31:24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.”  Ok, so here we see the virtuous woman and wife making, selling, and delivering.  Does this sound like a job?  Absolutely.  She’s making merchandise, selling it, and delivering it, on top of buying and planting fields and being a keeper at home.  This woman is being used as a good example of a wife in the Bible.  If we are to follow the example the Bible sets, then are we to go out and work as well as be keepers at home?  I believe it goes back to what our husbands need us to do.  This woman’s husband has obviously needed or asked her to do these things.

Proverbs 31:25-28 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.  She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”  Yet again we see that she is clothing herself not only in strength, but in honor as well.  She also doesn’t appear to be bitter or unhappy because she is ‘rejoicing’ in the time to come.  She speaks with wisdom and kindness, not hurtful words.  She looks after her household and takes care of them and is not idle and lazy.  Her family calls her blessed and praises her.  We can see from this set of verses that this is a happy woman.  She is obviously fulfilled and joyful, especially if her family is praising her.


Proverbs 31:29-31 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.  Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”  Here we see that ‘many’ women are virtuous, but this woman who is at home taking care of her family and out in the workforce (making, buying, selling, and delivering) has excelled above all other virtuous women and is therefore the most virtuous.  She also fears the Lord.

I wanted to study these verses because I have heard too many people say that a woman’s place is at home and nowhere else… that she should not be in the workforce because her family will suffer.  Yet here, used as an excellent example of a virtuous woman in the Bible we see that this woman is the all in one package.  Her family is very well fed, clothed, and taken care of, even her servants, and yet she is also working, both as a merchant, as well as buying land and planting vineyards.  Not only that but she is a happy woman, who rejoices.  She is clearly able to be a keeper at home and hold job, and her husband is happy with her as well, praising her alongside her children. 

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it almost always gives us an example of what it means, even if it’s in different book.  We know wives need to be keepers at home from the verse in Titus, but then Proverbs gives us an example of how she’s being a keeper at home as well as being virtuous in other ways.  We also need to remember that God created us to be a help meat or helper to our husbands.  So we should do what our husbands need us to do.  We can still be virtuous by just being a keeper at home, as we saw that others are virtuous but the woman in Proverbs apparently is the most virtuous.  But if our husbands need us in the workforce, then there’s nothing wrong with that either.  The most virtuous woman in the Bible does both though.  Maybe they should just call her superwoman.

10 comments:

  1. Maybe I'm just not as old fashioned as the previous generation, but I wholeheartedly agree with you on this one, especially reading the scriptures straight through like that and seeing the example God gave for us of what a virtuous woman was doing in her life. It's interesting how God tells us something and then gives us examples just so we don't get confused. I like how you recognize that. My mom and dad both had jobs, partly out of necessity, but also because my mom wanted to work and my dad wanted her to also. A little strange for Baptists maybe but that's just how things worked in our house regardless of how those in the church looked down on my mom for working. We're in a different Baptist church now that doesn't look down on her for doing what my dad wants and what we think God wants. That wasn't the only problem with the church we were at, but it was a big one.
    Thanks again for posting this anyhow.

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  2. As young newlyweds 22yrs ago, my husband wanted me to be a stay-at-home wife/mom. His job required (still requires) long hours away from home and he preferred that I tend to the home and be with our children. I have always been criticized for staying at home...for not "helping" my husband make more money so that we can have more stuff, have a bigger/nicer/newer house, and spend more on entertainment. It became worse when we began homeschooling 15 years ago. I'm in my 40's now and I have seen that there is a critic around every corner. Sadly, some of these critics are now divorced or so deep in debt that they now have no choice but to work outside the home. We're still married, still homeschooling, and I'm still at home... Don't let competition (i.e. keeping up with the Jones') or materialism guide you. Do what is pleasing to your husband.

    One last thing to consider: I have heard that Proverbs 31 could be describing what this woman has done over her lifetime instead of "a day in the life of...", meaning that this may not be describing a young wife/mother with babies and toddlers at home. Her husband sits among the elders (he may not be a young man here) and her children rise up and call her blessed (perhaps these are grown children). Just something to think about.

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  3. To Anonmymous: I'm sorry to hear that you've encountered critics for staying home as that is what your husband wanted you to do. I have encountered the opposite: I have encountered critics who say I'm a bad wife because I do what my husband wants by going out into the workforce and helping to put food on the table. We saw that there were other virtuous woman in the Bible (Who didn't necessarily work outside the home) but the example given to us here was that she was apparently more virtuous above them all because she was sort of the all in one package. Again, I believe it goes back to doing what our husbands want us to do. It's ok for you to stay home because your husband wants you to, and it's ok for me to go out into the work force because my husband wants me to. We see both represented in the Bible.

    Obviously this chapter isn't taking place all in one day, because I don't think it's possible to buy and then plant a field in a day by yourself, and even with help that would be hard. But these are obviously all things that this woman does, and the placement of scriptures makes me think she is doing these things while taking care of her family, or at the very least while taking care of her husband. Perhaps because he sits among the elders he might not have a job, which makes it necessary for her to buy and sell to provide the household with meat.

    Thank you for your comments. This post was not meant to be critical of women who stay at home, but to show that it is also ok for women to be out in the workforce if their husbands want them to. It had nothing to do with competing with the "Jones" and letting material things take over your life. Sometimes just to have a roof over your head and food on the table it is necessary for both spouses to work, as is our case.

    Thank you again for your comment, and to you as well believer3232.

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  4. By "a day in the life of..." I didn't mean she buys and plants a field in a literal 24-hr period. What I mean is that there are seasons in a woman's life. She may not have bought and planted that field when she had, say 6 young children at home under the age of 10. Perhaps her primary work at that time was caring for her children. Perhaps she bought the field in another "season" of her life; like when the kids were older and could take over some of the household duties. Therefore, this passage might be as I suggested: that these are things that she did during her lifetime as a wife and mother.
    Absolutely nothing suggests to me that her husband is a young, out of work man hanging out with the elders while she she does all of the work...nursing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, buying, selling, planting...whew! He would have to be extremely disabled, perhaps bedridden, to not be able to take on SOME of that, and nothing suggests that he is. I think he was an older man.

    Certainly some people must work outside the home for basic needs, just as certainly as some people work outside the home to keep up with the Jones'. Food on the table for many means restaurant meals (since no one's home to cook) and a roof over their heads means more square footage than most actually "need". I worked full-time outside the home for a couple of years when my oldest was a toddler believing that, in order to "make it", we must have two incomes, so I have received the critism from both sides. I learned that I was wrong.
    There is nothing wrong with having things, but when we are working multiple jobs for more and more stuff, we need to ask ourselves why. I just hate to see young couples trying to gain as much as they can as quickly as they can. We need to pace ourselves...accept and enjoy the season we are currently in. Do whatever our hand finds to do with all our might, as unto the Lord. And when our lives reach their fullness, many wonderful things will be said about all that we achieved...over the course of our lives.
    I've not said that you are wrong. I simply wanted to share another perspective because I thought it might help someone. Thanks for listening.

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  5. It is quite possible that these things could have been done in different seasons of her life, but also possible that they could be happening at once we can't know for sure because it doesn't indicate it clearly to us either way. I also do not believe this is a younger man (or else he wouldn't be sitting with elders probably) but it is possible that he wasn't working, or maybe he was, we can't know.

    I agree with you that some consider the need for two jobs the need for eating out or having more square footage than they need, but in our case I really do mean literally some food on the table and a 'roof' over our heads. Not a big one, just what we need. And I still get criticized for it. I had a friend who decided not to be my friend anymore because I wasn't Christian enough because I work outside of the home and take care inside the home. I was accused of spending all our money on a big screen TV... (which we don't have, and we don't even have basic TV service... not even the news channel). I would say the only luxury we have is the internet, and I use it to take online classes.

    I just hate to see people criticized either way. One way or the other according to Paul all things are lawful to us, but not all things are profitable or expedient. I truly do believe that whether a woman works inside the home, outside the home, or both, she should not be judged by others, and it should not be assumed that all women who work outside the home are doing it for bigger, better lifestyles. I work in a private Christian school part time, and know many women who work there, whose husbands also work, and they live in small houses with the basic necessities.

    I do value your opinion anonymous, and you are always welcome to comment on any post, even if we may sometimes differ in opinion. I believe that's perfectly fine for people to have different opinions, so long as everybody gets heard and nobody gets hurt feelings.

    Thanks again for your insights and comments.

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  6. Hi... Your post is wonderful, its exactly what I wanted to know... The comments too, are very nice to read.

    There has always been a desire to work hard and achieve something big in my career, obviously not at the cost of family...family comes first, which I do agree upon.
    My husband, whose is very traditional prefers me to stay at home and I have been staying at home for the past 3 years. But there is an unsatisfied feeling that's engulfing me off lately. I am confident that I will be capable enough to take care of both the family and career, yet I need to be at home because my husband wants so. Being a believer himself, my husband taught me three things:
    1. Women should never cut their hair
    2. God blesses the family more, when the woman stays at home.
    3. Woman should not have any principles of her own, she should be obedient to her husband and his principles.
    Though I am a believer of the Bible, some times, I wonder if it's marriage that makes me think that God made women secondary to men. Or is all this because man wants to have a dominion over the woman, which is in his nature.
    When we are brought up and till single, we strive to please Jesus in all the ways. Now, after marriage... is husband first??

    We women need to keep ourselves motivated/positive and abide in Jesus Christ in all circumstances till Jesus takes us home.

    I would love to know your opinion.

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  7. RP, thank you for your comment. Is your husband able to give you any scriptures for these three things he has taught you. As far as I know a woman is to have long hair, but is able to cut her hair (or else it would be trailing behind her on the ground eventually, then how would she easily take care of her house and family).

    2) It may very well be possible that God would bless the family more if the woman stays at home, but again I know of no scriptural basis for this, so if you could give me some scriptures, that would be helpful.

    3) Again, I don't know of any scriptures in support of this, but what I do know is that in the end you will stand before God by yourself, without your husband and be held accountable for your actions and your principles and beliefs. You need to be in the Word with your husband and apart from your husband both, studying and learning from God. We have the Holy Spirit in us after we accept Christ and the Holy Spirit teaches us all things according to scripture.

    I want to direct you to two of my other Bible studies: A study in Marriage part one http://christianbiblestudyblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/study-in-marriage-part-1.html

    and a study in marriage part two http://christianbiblestudyblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/study-in-marriage-part-2-how-it-all.html

    These outline what marriage is (including your question about your husband having dominance over you), as well as how the husband and wife are to treat each other and act towards each other.

    I hope that you can resolve your feelings with your husband and God. I cannot tell you what to do because it is between you and your husband and God, but I can tell you that in my relationship with my husband and God I try to do what my husband wants, but don't always manage (I am a sinner after all), and also that he doesn't put upon me things that will make me unhappy as per the scriptures (again, see those two marriage studies).

    Please know that if your husband tells you something from the Word of God, ask if he can give you scriptures. As for us, we read the scriptures literally with no interpretation, that way we don't end up getting God's Word wrong. God doesn't like when we add to His Word or take away from it. Taking it literally along with spiritually is a good way to avoid adding onto it. 1Cor 14:33 God is not the author of confusion.... he's not going to try to write to confuse us. He want's us to understand.

    If you have any more questions or want to discuss this more, feel free to comment again. By the way, if there is a comment you don't want to be publicly viewed, just let me know so in the front of the comment, and I won't post it for the public to see and can e-mail you instead if you so choose.

    Blessings!

    Note: This comment was given after conferring with my husband, so the male and female point of view were represented.

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  8. I'm sorry, however, I think you have taken Proverbs 31 completely out of context. A womans curse in Genesis 3 is stated: 16 To the woman he said,

    “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
    Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
    17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
    18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
    19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”
    So, if a woman is working outside the house she is helping a man to fulfill his part of his curse even though there is no way a man can help a woman fulfill her curse. You just don't see a whole lot of men walking around in labor these days or any days. If you want a good commentary on Proverbs 31 go to John MacArthur or Kay Arthur. Proverbs 31 is suppose to be over a lifetime and the work that she does is from her home and in her spare time (as if she has any spare time). Blessings, BKSecrest

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  9. Dear Anonymous:

    If you don't believe a woman can help a man by working outside of the house, then please explain the verses: Proverbs 31:24 “She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.” She makes, sells, and delivers merchandise to merchants. This not only sounds like a job, but her own business.

    Also: Pro 31:13-16 “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.” She seeks out wool and flax (possibly for the merchandise she's making and selling), and she's also buying and planting fields. It sounds like she has a lot of responsibility. Unless you're taking these scriptures symbolically instead of literally. We take them literally, as in, God says what He means and means what He says. I would be more than happy to discuss this further with you. As to your argument that a woman can't help the man outside of the home: God gave Eve to Adam to be a 'helpmeat;. Genesis 2:18 "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." He made Eve to help Adam. It never says anywhere in the Bible that a woman is to only help her husband at home. If a man needs help outside of the house, then a woman's job is to help her husband in any way she can, because this is what God created Eve for.

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  10. Continued from above...

    Your argument that a woman can't help a man because a man can't help a woman... Man wasn't created to help woman with her trials, but woman was created for man to help him. There are no examples of a man in the Bible helping a woman fulfill her portion of the curse, but we do have an example in the Bible of woman helping man outside of the house. Also, the woman working outside of the house, making, buying, selling, planting, this says nothing of her helping the man fulfill his part of the curse. It never says her husband wasn't still working hard. It also never indicates that this story is of a woman over her entire life (though I don't discount the possibility), but you can't just assume that she's doing these things before she's married when it talks about her being married with kids throughout the passage.

    ReplyDelete

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