An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
My immediate thoughts upon reading this:
- Not every wife is excellent.
- Most men do not have excellent wives.
- Don’t assume that you are an excellent wife.
(Before I expound on my three points above, I want to make mention of a very important translation issue. The word translated as “wife” can simply mean “woman.” In fact, it does. It means woman, wife, or female. So if you are a single woman reading this, please do not think that this post — or more importantly, the entire 31st chapter of Proverbs — does not apply to you; it does! I will be looking at this chapter primarily through the lens of a wife, since I am one, but please know that this is not a part of the Bible that you should feel excluded from. It’s all about you, too, and your thoughts are most welcome!)
As a Christian wife, I am pretty familiar with Proverbs 31. I have a few of the verses memorized, and I remind myself of them frequently. However, I’ve never taken each verse individually and really chewed on it like I did with this one. And it really hit me.
I think my first two points can be taken together, because everyone would agree that not every wife is excellent. Go ahead — take a moment and think of one or two wives who are decidedly not excellent. There’s the woman who carries on an emotional affair with a co-worker, or the one who abandoned her family, or even the one you saw on TV who killed her husband so she could take his money and run off with a lover. It’s no surprise that there are terrible wives out there, but perhaps my second point was a little more abrasive. Most men don’t have excellent wives. If they did, why would the writer wonder who could find an excellent woman? If most wives were excellent, this would be a silly question!
Let’s look at the word “excellent.” Other versions may translate that word as “virtuous” or “capable.” It’s actually the same word (different part of speech) that is used in Lemuel’s mother’s oracle in verse three of the same chapter:
Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
This same word is translated as “strength” in just about every version I looked up. (It’s Strong’s #2428, if you’re interested.) In any case, I think the word “excellence” really captures the idea, and its meaning is expounded upon in the subsequent 21 verses. In every area of responsibility, character, and virtue, she excels. She is rare. She is more worthy than jewels. In some translations, it says pearls or rubies. Same idea.
Do you know what else in the Bible is more valuable than these types of treasures? Wisdom:
For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
And the Kingdom of Heaven:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Wow, ladies! Rare indeed. So that brings us to my third and most sobering point. Don’t assume you are an excellent wife. If most men do not have excellent wives, it then follows that most wives are not excellent. This doesn’t mean that many wives are not generally good, fulfilling responsibilities, staying faithful, and loving their children. But aren’t these basic requirements of being a wife? Isn’t that just part of the definition? So doing them does not make you excellent. Excelling in them makes you excellent! To excel, once again by definition, means that you’re better at it than most other people. So, most wives are not excellent. Let’s approach the rest of this chapter with hearts open to God so that we might attain this goal of becoming a truly rare jewel!
I love this verse so much that I am naming this woman “Jewel” in honor of it. Lemuel and Jewel — we have much to learn from them!
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My Son, a good woman is exceedingly rare. You must search for her, refusing to settle for someone who’s just a nice person. But of course, you must be the kind of man such a woman would bother to look twice at!
My Love, I was not the kind of woman when we met that I hope for Bennett. I praise God that you saw goodness in me, and a true heart. I knew right away that I had better not let you go, and your presence in my life has made me a better woman. May I learn more every day what it is to be a truly excellent woman, and may I have the moxie to become her!
My Lord, who am I — or who could I be — that You would value me? Yet I know that You love me just because I am Yours. Yet press me, refine me, make me a treasure indeed.
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