Week by week, verse by verse, we’ve been studying through Proverbs 31 and the portrait it paints of a virtuous woman. She is a woman we want to copy, and I certainly wish I could have seen her in action.
Do you remember how these Proverbs are an acrostic, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet? Knowing this helps me understand why it seems to hop around through various topics.
We’ve covered the topic of this woman working from her own home. Proverbs 31 mentions her entreprenuerial skills many times:
“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands” (Proverbs 31:13).
“She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
“She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night” (Proverbs 31:18).
“She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff” Proverbs 31:19).
It looks as if her main occupations were her vineyard and her sewing. What amazes me is that these are both very time-consuming jobs!
But today’s verse most clearly describes her money-making efforts. She makes fine linen, then she sells it, then she delivers it.
I searched through many articles online about this verse. You see, this verse really is a puzzle. We can see how much of a priority this woman’s home and family were. We know how devoted she was to her husband. We know that her children rise up and call her blessed.
But how did she do all that… and still find time to maintain vineyards and a business?
Even more complexing, did she only work from the four walls of her home, or did she venture out into the “career world”? Do these verses tell us that women can have a career? Should they only work from home?
I don’t want to cause controversy, but I have to be honest with you. I’ve been perplexed over these same issues for my entire married life. When I was first married, before I had any children, I worked full time as an office worker to help my husband pay for college.
Even later, after my children were born, I often worked from my own home in an effort to help my family out financially.
Yet I’ve often felt very guilty about “working.” The largest pressure NOT to work seems to come from the Internet, especially from those within the homeschooling movement.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I strongly believe that men and women are created equal but have different roles.
- Women were created by God to be suitable helpers to their husbands (Genesis 2:18).
- God’s Word also makes it clear that “young” women (under the age of 60) are to be involved in managing their homes, keeping their marriages and children a top priority (1 Timothy 5:11-15).
- Women are to be taught by the older women to “be busy at home” (Titus 2:5). This command has implications for both older and younger women, since the younger women have to make their homes a priority and the older women have to allocate time to be teachers to the younger women.
The Proverbs 31 woman watched over the affairs of her household (verse 27), made her husband a top priority (verse 11), and was praised by her children (verse 28). It’s very likely that she didn’t do ALL the things listed in this poem EVERY day. There were likely seasons of her life during which she could devote more time to running a business rather than changing diapers.
So should a woman work? In my book, Juggling Life’s Responsibilities, I contend that women should not work but should live in contentment on their husband’s income. I’m starting to realize that it was a bit hypocritical of me to write that when I myself was writing a book in my spare moments so that I could bring in a little extra income.
In today’s economy, more and more women are being asked to work, just to make ends meet. Does this mean that God isn’t providing our needs anymore? No! God is always the source of our income. Proverbs 31 is showing me that sometimes the way He supplies is through a gracious wife who works beside her husband to bring in extra income, to relieve his fatigue with her unique talents and abilities.
Yes, our Proverbs 31 woman was careful to make her home and family the top priorities in her life. After that, in her “spare time,” she was industrious and wise, planting vineyards and selling fine linen to the merchants.
“Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value” (Proverbs 31:11, NIV).
“Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:31, NIV).
P.S. Two opposing views I found online can be read at:
There seems to be many different reasons women work outside of home. When I ask them – “I would go insane staying at home” “Our income depends on it” “I don’t want to be a lousy stay at home mom” HOWEVER, research shows that children are more likely to become “spiritual champions” (revolutionary parenting) in single income households Anyway, I think it is ok for a woman to make money as she is keeper of her home, loves her husband and her children etc… I have noticed a lot of women working outside the home for social needs to be met (yet they wouldn’t admit this). I used to work out of the home but after reading “Created to Be his Helpmeet” ” Where’s Mom?” ” Passionate housewives desparate for God” I am a full time stay at home homescholing mom. And I have found a way to make money and still accomplish being my husbands helper and loving my children while keeping the home. I also have learned to garden which saves a LOT of money. My husband does rental property and says that most of the women who live in the trailers are extremely lazy watching tv all the time and do not even clean. I think these verses are to instruct women to get off their bottoms and be proactive. This does not mean – go persue a career for yourself. It means get busy, be hardworking, stregthen the family. The focus should be on bettering her family and the lives of her children and spouse.
Lets see some commentaries on the verse you mentioned.Proverbs 31:24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Keil and Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary
The description, following the order of the letters, now directs attention to the profitable labour of the housewife:
24 ס She prepareth body-linen and selleth it,
And girdles doth she give to the Phoenicians.
It is a question whether סדין signifies σινδων , cloth from Sindhu, the land of India (vid., at Isa 3:23); the Arab. sadn ( sadl ), to cause to hang down, to descend (for the purpose of covering or veiling), offers an appropriate verbal root. In the Talmud, סדין is the sleeping linen, the curtain, the embroidered cloth, but particularly a light smock-frock, as summer costume, which was worn on the bare body (cf. Mr 14:51.). Kimchi explains the word by night-shirt; the Edictum Diocletiani, xviii. 16, names σινδονες κοιταριαι , as the Papyrus Louvre, οθονια εγκοιμητρια ; and the connection in the Edict shows that linen attire ( εκ λινου ) is meant, although – as with שש , so also with סדין – with the ancients and the moderns, sometimes linen and sometimes cotton is spoken of without any distinction. Aethicus speaks of costly girdles, Cosmogr. 84, as fabricated at Jerusalem: baltea regalia … ex Hierosolyma allata; Jerusalem and Scythopolis were in later times the chief places in Palestine for the art of weaving. In Galilee also, where excellent flax grew, the art of weaving was carried on; and the οθοναι , which, according to Clemens Alex. Paedag. ii. 10, p. 239, were exported εκ γης Εβραιων , are at least in their material certainly synon. with σινδονες . Regarding נתן , syn. מכר , opp. לקח , syn. נשא = קנה , vid., at 16a. There is no reason to interpret כנעני here, with the obliteration of the ethnographical meaning, in the general sense of סחר , trader, merchant; for purple, 22b, is a Phoenician manufacture, and thus, as an article of exchange, can be transferred to the possession of the industrious wife.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it,… She not only seeks wool and flax, and spins it, but makes it up into fine linen, which she disposes of to advantage to herself and family. Kimchi says1, the word signifies coverings for the night, as well as day he seems to design linen sheets: the Arabic version adds, and “sells it to the inhabitants of Bosra.” This, in the mystic sense, may signify either the good works the church does, and which she proposes as a pattern and example to her members; or divine instruction, as others, the preaching of the Gospel, and the truths of it; which she sells, and others buy, though both without money and without price; for, as she freely receives, she freely gives: or the righteousness of Christ, which is called fine linen and white raiment; which, properly speaking, is made by Christ, and sold by him, or bought of him, as before, without money; see Re 19:8; yet this the church makes her own, by laying hold upon it by faith, and which she holds forth freely to others in the Gospel; which is therefore called “the ministration of righteousness”, 2Co 3:9;
and delivereth girdles unto the merchant; to dispose of them for her; either to sell to others, to the Egyptian priests which wore them; or for their own use, to put their money in, girdles being used for that purpose; see Gill on Mt 10:9. Or, “a girdle to the Canaanite”2; the Canaanites or Phoenicians being generally merchants, the word is put for one. By these may be meant ministers of the word; for, as the priests of Rome are called the merchants of the earth and false teachers are said to make merchandise men, Re 18:3; so faithful ministers, who trade for the good of souls, and seek not theirs, but them, and not their own things, but Christ’s, may be called merchants: and to these “the girdle of truth” is given; and these the church exhorts to gird their loins with it, as well as all her members, that they may be ready to every good work, and particularly prepared to preach the Gospel of peace, Eph 6:14.
1. Sepher. Shorash. rad סדז
2. לכנעני “Chananaeo”, V. L. Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus; “negotiatori Phoenicio”, Schultens.
Proverbs 31:16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
She considereth a field and buyeth it –
5. She provides for the growing wants of her family. More land will shortly be needed, for the family is growing up; and having seen a field contiguous to her own, which was on sale, she estimates its worth, and purchases it a good bargain; and she pays for it by the fruit of her own industry.
6. She does not restrict herself to the bare necessaries of life; she is able to procure some of its comforts. She plants a vineyard, that she may have wine for a beverage, for medicine, and for sacrifice. This also is procured of her own labor. Whatever goes out brings its worth in; and barter, not buying, is her chief mode of traffic.
Anne Elliott says
Very good comments, Kristi (and thank you for all your hard work in typing this up). I think you’ve hit upon a very important point:
Motive makes all the difference!
Is a woman working to ESCAPE God’s plan for her life, that she is a wife and mother, or is she working for THEIR benefit?
Also, WHERE a woman works is important, especially when children are in the home.
I just lost a very long response I had written, and the message said I didn’t pass math. I misunderstood what I was supposed to do with the spam protection box and simply put the two numbers side-by-side instead of adding them together and inputting the sum.
At any rate, this was a good post, and thank you very much for discussing this topic here.
Debbie Watson says
I am a 60 year old grandmother. I worked full time the whole time my two children were growing up. In hindsight, I wish now that I had spent the time with them. (Not sure at the time my priorities of God first was there) And homeschooling was not even thought of.
My daughter has four children, she works 3 twelve hr shifts. We plan to homeschool. She would quite tomorrow if she could. I am praying that some day she and her husband will rethink their priorities and find a way for her to stay home and homeschool.
Thanks for the discussion.
This particular topic always catches my eye since I have been on both sides of the issue. I was very fortunate to stay home during my daughter’s infant and preschool years. But as she entered kindergarten I started looking to get back into teaching. Long story short…I am working at our church just a couple doors down from my daughter’s classroom. I know this is exactly where God wants me even though I’m working “outside” the home. I’m still close to her and my hours are flexible around her. I think that’s the key…keeping your family first and “outside” job as flexible as possible.
Thanks for your insights, Anne! Well written.
thanks for your insight. i think that women should and must get their priorities right if they will raise godly children in this generation. A woman should work but must give her family top priority.
the type of work matters as well. Proverbs 31 woman has shown us the right example to follow. A christian woman should have her own business from home. She will be able to keep an eye on her family. As the children grow she can then explore other opportunities.But, i bet she wouldn’t because she would have been tremendously blessed by GOD.