“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Growing up in a competitive family, I still want to be first. It does not matter what the contest is, I want to win. Unfortunately, now that I am getting older there are things in life that the young whippersnappers do better than I. My daughters like to play a game called Brain Wars, and they do better than I do on many of the games. My memory and my speed is just not what it once was. It is frustrating to get old sometimes. No matter how many times they beat me, I am still hopeful when I play the game the next time that I am going to beat them. Optimistic, I guess.
The virtuous woman does not try to be the first or the best virtuous woman. She just is. She does not focus on winning the prize for “Most Virtuous Woman” rather she focuses on being a virtuous woman and the first prize is awarded due to her focus on the right things.
This verse is the only one written in the second person, “You surpass them all.” This is the virtuous woman’s husband speaking her praises. King Lemuel’s mother taught him the things he needed or did not need as a King.
The first nine verses focus on:
- Women can destroy a man/king
- Alcohol causes men/kings to make poor choices
- Pay attention and care for the poor, needy, and destitute
- Judge righteously
Following these first nine verses in Proverbs 31 are verses 10-31 which focus on the virtuous woman and give King Lemuel more specific detail on the woman that will not destroy him, but rather will help him be the best king he can be.
If we try to think of examples of virtuous women, I am sure at least one woman comes to mind. The only woman in the Bible to be called a virtuous woman is Ruth, and she was not even an Israelite. “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requires for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” (Ruth 3:11). Not only did Boaz tell Ruth that she was a virtuous woman, but also all the townspeople knew as well. Ruth did not leave her homeland and her family hoping to be a virtuous woman. She left her homeland and family and followed Naomi because she was a virtuous woman. She did not gather grain in the field for Naomi and herself because she was hoping to be a virtuous woman, rather she helped take care of her mother-in-law because she was a virtuous woman. Being virtuous is not something we can put on like a sweater. It is something that comes from within, it pours out through our lives to the individuals we rub shoulders with, laugh with, cry with, and live life with. If Ruth had not been virtuous, she would not have attracted Boaz and lived a biblical fairy tale. If Ruth’s character had been something she put on like a sweater, Boaz would have seen right through it and though he may have made sure she had grain to eat, he would not have wanted to make her a part of his family, part of the Israelite family, and part of the lineage of Christ.
It is not the striving to win the race that makes a virtuous woman who she is. It is a striving to be the Biblical woman God has called us to be. The word virtuous, chayil, not only means virtuous in its original Hebrew context, but also it means wealth, army, host, and men of valor. A virtuous woman is like an army of men or a man of valor. This should not be overwhelming if we are focused on being who God wants us to be rather than putting our character on as an external garment. We will be the best, but the being the best does not matter to the virtuous woman. Properly caring for her home, husband, and family makes her the best. We may never win the prize “Most Virtuous Woman.” Although some day when we stand before God, if we made every effort from our hearts to be virtuous, God will see this and reward us with a far greater prize than we would have ever received on earth. We will be rewarded with a crown to lay at His feet.
- Read Ruth 2:1 and Ruth 3:11 and find the descriptive word concerning Boaz and Ruth that is the same.
- It is amazing to me that this couple is described in the same way. List some things from both Boaz’s and Ruth’s lives that made them virtuous.
- In the list that you wrote down regarding Ruth and Boaz, what qualities do you have? What qualities are you lacking?
- Why are the traits listed above from Proverbs 31:1-9 important for a King to possess?
- Are these qualities that are listed for the king, qualities that the virtuous woman should possess?
- What amazes you about the definition of virtuous?