“She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15).
I was all set to write about this verse, to talk about how important it is for a godly woman to get up early in the morning and to provide good food for her family – when something interesting happened.
I “cut and paste” the verse from e-sword into my word processor, but I accidentally cut from the Literal Translation instead of the King James. Instead of the word “food,” it used the word “game.”
Game? Did this woman go hunting?
Well, I was off on a hunt for sure! How did other versions of the Bible translate this verse?
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls (NIV).
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started (The Message).
She rises while it is yet night and gets [spiritual] food for her household and assigns her maids their tasks (Amplified).
There certainly are some differences here, aren’t there? I’m no expert in Hebrew, but I decided to check out the word in the original language, using the Strong’s concordance provided with my e-sword.
According to Strong’s, the word “meat” is the Hebrew word tereph (2964, טרף), and it means “something torn.” It has the sense of prey or something caught to provide food. This certainly sounds like hunting, but yet I didn’t see the hunting idea portrayed in any of our Bibles.
I wondered how commentaries interpreted this. (I was so far from my original idea by now…) I found no help here, though. The ideas were quite varied.
Many commentators discussed how she woke up early in the morning, before the sun had come up (especially in the winter months) to make preparations for the day’s food. Since her servants are mentioned here, most authors said that she didn’t prepare all the food herself; rather, she assigned “portions” of the work of food preparation to her “maidens.” I like how Adam Clarke stated that “every thing is done orderly.”
Originally I had intended to talk about how sleeping late robs us of valuable time to care for our homes. Surely this is still true, for Proverbs talks about the dangers of loving sleep more than hard work:
“Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9-10).
“Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread” (Proverbs 20:13).
“Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33-34).
Amazingly, commentator John Gill writes that this woman is compared to Song of Solomon 5:2:
“I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”
I would never have compared the two women! The virtuous wife is up before dawn, working very hard, yet the wife of Song of Solomon is sleeping with her husband. This is also a “virtuous” thing to do!
Ladies, I have to be honest. I’m not sure exactly what is being said in this verse. I think that if I were a Hebrew woman in that long-ago culture, I would understand it better.
- Certainly, to rise early is usually a good thing. Laziness is a bad thing (although we’re all tempted by it).
- However, we see a principle in Scripture that our husbands are a higher priority than even our children and households, meaning that there will be times when sleeping next to that man is more important than anything else (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and Hebrews 13:4).
- I also see that it takes time to prepare food, so maybe a case could be made that carefully prepared food is better than microwaved food (smile).
- Finally, we see that an orderly home is important. We should use our “maidens” efficiently (probably electric appliances in our culture), and which of us couldn’t perfect our homemaking skills more?
However, I’ll leave you with a thought. Commentator John Gill compared this virtuous woman to Jesus Christ, when “in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus didn’t rise this early every morning of His life. Sleep, as a general rule, is a healthful thing, and we women should avoid the tendency to “burn the candle at both ends.” However, when the needs were great and Jesus knew He needed to go in the strength and wisdom of His Father, He rose early, “a great while before day,” and prayed.
If our verse in Proverbs today is talking about a woman who occasionally enjoyed going hunting (and yes, I know some women who would love that), then we have to wonder if rising while it was yet night was only an occasional thing. In this case, we would learn that there are seasons for everything: seasons for love making, seasons for hunting, seasons for interacting with servant girls, and seasons for prayer. In contrast, the “sluggard” only cares about sleep.
What priorities do my sleep habits reveal?