Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night.
Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
(Proverbs 31:10-20, 30-31)
Little is known about Lemuel except that he was a king who received wise teachings from his mother. His name means “devoted to God.” Some believe that Lemuel and Agur were both from the kingdom of Massa in northern Arabia.
Proverbs has a lot to say about women. How fitting that the book ends with a picture of a woman of strong character, great wisdom, many skills, and great compassion. The woman described in this chapter has outstanding abilities. Her family’s social position is high. In fact, she may not be one woman at all—she may be a composite portrait of ideal womanhood.
Some people have the mistaken idea that the ideal woman in the Bible is retiring, servile, and entirely domestic. Not so! This woman is an excellent wife and mother. She is also a manufacturer, importer, manager, realtor, farmer, seamstress, upholsterer, and merchant. Her strength and dignity do not come from her amazing achievements, however. They are a result of her reverence for God.
Some might find this description of the “Proverbs woman” a little intimidating. Do not see her as a model to imitate (or demand that your spouse imitate) in every detail. No one’s day is long enough to do everything she does! See her instead as an inspiration to be all you can be or encourage your spouse to be. We can’t be just like her, but we can learn from her industry, integrity, and resourcefulness.