King Solomon has always intrigued me. He was given extraordinary wisdom and understanding by Yahweh and yet he married pagan wives and built altars to their deities. What happened to that wisdom?
Although he had 12 older brothers, Solomon was the one who was made king. He was born to David and Bathsheba after their first child (conceived in an adulterous relationship) died. David named him Solomon which means “peaceable”. Solomon was also called Jedidiah, and King Lemuel (meaning to El and for El) in Proverbs 31:1. The name Jedidiah “beloved of Yah” was given to him by Yahweh (2 Samuel 12:25) but it seems to not have stayed with him.
Solomon lived almost a thousand years before Yahshua. We read in I Kings 4:29 that “Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom and understanding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. For he was wiser than all men…and he spake three thousand proverbs and his songs were a thousand and five.” Only a few hundred of Solomon’s proverbs are recorded in the book of Proverbs and only one of his songs (the Song of Songs) is preserved for us in the Scriptures.
Proverbs are instructional sayings that often contrast between right and wrong. We can trust that the book of Proverbs was inspired by Yahweh and are some of the most important instructions given to us.
Proverbs 31:10-30 (New International Version)
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 "Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears Yahweh is to be praised.
31 Give her the fruit of her hand; And let her own works praise her in the gates.
These are often called the “Virtuous Woman” verses and they have always intrigued me. They were written in an acrostic, meaning that each verse starts with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet making it easier to memorize. At traditional Hebrew Sabbath dinners the husband and children sing these verses to their wives and mothers, what a wonderful tribute to a woman who has spent all week cooking, cleaning, keeping house and maybe working outside the home.
Using this “yardstick” of verses always makes me feel inadequate as a wife and mother. This woman wove fine linen and sold it, she made clothing and blankets, she buys fields and plants vineyard, she is kind, gives to the poor, is wise and not at all lazy.
Looking closer at these verses of a model woman (in Hebrew virtuous is called hayil which means strong in all moral qualities), we can see that these verses are repeated with these themes:
· Her husband (vs. 10-12 and vs. 23)
· Her occupation (vs. 13-19 and vs. 24-25)
· Her character (vs. 20 and vs. 26)
· Her household (vs. 21 and vs. 27,28)
· Herself (vs. 22 and vs. 29-31)
It seems that the writer’s mother Bathsheba is trying to emphasis what kind of woman Solomon should be looking for and it seems that he didn’t find her or maybe he wasn’t looking. We have only one example of a woman who is called virtuous in the Old Testament, a gentile named Ruth who married two Jewish men. (see Ruth 3:11)
There seems to be only two types of women mentioned in Proverbs, the wise woman and the wicked woman. Earlier in Proverbs 3:13-16 a young man is instructed: “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you can desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”
I find it wonderful that wisdom is personified as a woman to be honored. Wisdom could have been personified as a learned rabbi. Why didn’t Yahweh choose a great prophet or a patriarch to contrast with an adulteress?
From beginning to end Proverbs is a practical guide to leading a life based on wisdom. In the end, there are only two choices; to lead a life based on the wisdom of following Yahweh or to lead a life of destruction. Proverbs 31 may be an example for those of us, women and men, who desire to be the “bride of Yahshua”. We can all be a shelter for others, serene, worthy of honor, prosperous, generous, and confident about the future. If this advice is taken and a believer’s life is lived in Yahweh’s wisdom, we would truly be blessed and worthy of that Sabbath praise.