Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's the Excellent Wife's husband like?

I enjoy it when you find scriptural teaching in unexpected places - those little bits of scripture that are easily missed because they touch on something different than the surrounding context. Such is the subject of today's study.

Proverbs 31 is widely known as the description of the Excellent Wife (or Virtuous Wife, or Wife of Noble Character, depending on translation). Yet almost hidden within it is a comment on her husband's character that we guys do well to pay attention to.

In Proverbs 31:28-29 we read

Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying
"Many daughters have done nobly

Let's stop right there, as those last 5 words say an awful lot about his general attitude towards women.

"Many daughters" - the evaluation that follows covers a large segment of the female population. The Hebrew for 'Many' generally carries a connotation of abundance. In this context it's even likely he's talking about a majority of women.

"have done" - note that it's their acts that he's evaluating. The Hebrew connotes doing or making things in a systematic or habitual way, so this is not just the exceptional actions he has in mind.

"nobly" - this is not a minor term of praise. The Hebrew connotes enough of some resource to constitute a force.

So what do we have here? We have a man who regards women in general not as mere attractive backdrop, but as people doing worthwhile things, and doing them very well.

Is it any accident that this is the man who is the excellent wife's husband? Is it possible that his high regard for women is one of the things that enables her to accomplish all that she does?

I ask because I'm not sure how often I see this in modern times, even in the church. Too often, we men take the Biblical concept of male headship as though it was a sop to the male ego, making us the important ones, and women mere attractive backdrop. Too often on modern men's lips, the expression of praise in this verse comes out more like "Y'know, women as a whole don't amount to much, but You, You're OK". Before we ask our wives to try to live up to the example of the Proverbs 31 wife, we ought to make sure we're living up to the example of the Proverbs 31 wife's husband.

5 comments:

Rev Dave said...

Interesting comment.

Here's my two cents on what the excellent wife's husband is like--it's the rest of the Book of Proverbs. She gets one chapter, the other 30 are for him.

There's some theological thought that Proverbs is the collection of wise sayings you give to your son before you send him off to the big city to find a wife. Hence the warnings about the loose woman to avoid, etc. The first 30 chapters are about what he needs to be so he can live up the responsiblity of being the husband of the chapter 31 girl.

codepoke said...

Thanks for fixing the link!

Y'know, women as a whole don't amount to much, but You, You're OK

You're right. This is the kind of statement that isolates and scares its "beneficiary." We could all profit from this attitude. Thank you for digging all the marrow out of the Hebrew.

Whyte Stonne said...

Very nice, Oloryn. It's taken me decades to appreciate what a terrific woman God brought into my life.

As a young man I was careless with my wife's feelings, speaking to her meanly in private AND in public. I'm . . . ashamed for how I treated her.

A couple of months ago I told her I loved her. And, as she sometimes does, she asked, "Why?"

I paused and said, "I love you because of your spirituality. I love you because of how much you love me, how kind you are to me, how you will say nothing before you say something cutting or belittling to me. I love you because of the values you live by. I've never met a woman whose values I share more."

Over thirty years married, and I had never said anything quite like that before.

She asked me "Why?" again recently, as women are wont to do. I gave her a longer list, and added, "And even if you were missing two or three or more of those qualities, I'd still love you."

I'm not bragging. I am such a slow learner. I have a lot to make up for. She accepted way too much meanness for way too long.

Anonymous said...

I don't very like the comment "attractive backdrop". In the biblical verses about a virtuous woman. It says clearly charm is deceitful. and beauty is vain. Women are beautiful not on appearance but of her heart. As a woman myself, I find that disrespectful. I advise you take it back. Lord sees the heart. Not the face. No matter how a woman behaves.. she cannot escape the watchful eye of the Lord. And men should not be looking at her outer appearance. What if she gets burned the day after you commented on her "beautiful" face? What would you say then?

Oloryn said...

Anonymous:

I'm rather confused, as I don't use the phrase "attractive backdrop" as though I approve of the attitude. I use it as a shorthand phrase referring to how too many men (even Christian men) regard women as unimportant and only useful for how attractive they are. And I'm pointing out that this is not the attitude of the Excellent Wife's husband.

It seems to me that I'm disapproving of the attitude that women are only useful as "attractive backdrop" about as much as you are. Why do you think I have to "take it back"?