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What Does it Mean to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman?

A Proverbs 31 woman yearns to please God and strives to be like this ideal example, but with the understanding that every Christian is a work in progress, brought “to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Contributing Writer
Updated May 14, 2024
What Does it Mean to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman?

What is a Proverbs 31 woman, and is it possible for women to be one today? The 31st chapter of Proverbs paints the picture of an ideal woman, the best example of a virtuous wife and mother. This final chapter of Proverbs echoes Proverbs 1:7“fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

The term "Proverbs 31 woman" refers to a description of an ideal and virtuous woman found in the Book of Proverbs, specifically in Chapter 31:10-31. This passage is often cited as a standard of feminine virtue and is considered a model for women's behavior following the virtues taught in Christianity.

"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. 29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. 30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates." - Proverbs 31:10-31

Meaning of a Proverbs 31 Woman

Commentary from the ESV Study Bible regarding Proverbs 31 tells us that the ideal woman is virtuous, strong, and selfless. She does not wait to be served but rises early, even before sunrise, to delegate tasks and engage in business.

She possesses “a range of manual, commercial, administrative, and interpersonal skills.” This woman “opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (v.20). She is loving and dignified, and her virtues increase her husband’s reputation: “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (v.23).

She is sharp but honest, engaged in business for the benefit of her household. Above all, she fears the Lord, for “a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Read the full Bible commentary on Proverbs chapter 31 from Matthew Henry.

Characteristics of a Proverbs 31 Woman

The Proverbs 31 woman is described as a woman of noble character, often portrayed as a wife and mother. Some of the key characteristics and qualities attributed to her in the passage include:

  1. Trustworthiness: She is a woman who can be trusted by her husband, and he has full confidence in her.

  2. Industriousness: She is a hard worker, diligent in her responsibilities, and not idle. She is often depicted as being involved in various economic activities, including investing in fields, making garments, and trading.

  3. Wisdom: She is known for her wisdom and good judgment, making wise decisions in her daily life.

  4. Compassion: She is known for her compassion and kindness, both within her family and towards others.

  5. Strength and dignity: She is described as strong, not just physically but also in character. She carries herself with dignity and honor.

  6. Resourcefulness: She is skilled in managing her household, providing for her family, and being prepared for the future.

  7. Fear of the Lord: The passage concludes by saying that her worth is not just in her external qualities but also in her reverence for God.

These words describe “a woman who honors God by seeking Him in everything she does and trusting Him wholeheartedly with her life. She has a heart of reverence that overflows into a life of spiritual maturity and wisdom.”

She is not born this way; she gets there by a process of refinement, which is a work of the Holy Spirit. A woman who yearns to please God strives to be like this ideal example, but with the understanding that every Christian is a work in progress, brought “to completion in the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Who Can Be a Proverbs Woman?

One reason a woman might skip past Proverbs 31 is that not all women marry, and not all who marry become parents. Should an unmarried woman or a wife with no children still aspire to the qualities of a Proverbs 31 woman?

Marriage is an especially intimate relationship, yet aspects of an intimate relationship are not mentioned by the writer in this piece of wisdom literature. His greatest concern has to do with the woman’s character and how she interacts with people.

The writer is hopeful that the young men of his community will seek out this sort of wife and that the young girls will aspire to her ideal. But even if they never marry, every female who sincerely loves the Lord is developing the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman.

At many times and in many locations around the world (even now), professing faith in Christ has been risky for women. They have had to truly love the Lord in order to endure the ridicule and isolation they sometimes face(d).

One historian wrote that, in his opinion, the church was attended by the “silly and mean and stupid,” and “disproportionately populated by women.” Certainly, the church attracted individuals who needed to be cared for — sheltering vulnerable people has always been a function of the church.

But it took great courage to be a Christian woman. For one thing, many of them attended Christian fellowship without their husbands; they “often converted to Christianity while their male relatives remained pagans, lest they lose their senatorial status.”

One might argue that any woman with a sincere Christian faith is well on her way to becoming the ideal example of Proverbs 31.

Women as Leaders

Another reason there were more females than males in the first fellowship was that the church “repudiated” the “practice of exposing unwanted female infants — abandoning them to certain death.”

Statistics alone ensure that women had to be leaders, perhaps responsible for “organizing and hosting” the Lord’s Supper and other meetings, which provided “natural opportunities for women to serve and even lead.”

Men and women prayed and sang together, and women sometimes led the hymns. As seen in Acts 18:26, where Priscilla was involved in discipleship, educated female participants in Christian fellowship “read and interpreted Scripture.”

A woman boasting the aforementioned characteristics was one who lived out the values of service, humility, and charity taught by Christ. In fact, women were central to the charitable work and organization of the church from the very start.

Christ and the Church as the Proverbs 31 Wife

Proverbs 31 describes an ideal woman, but also the ideal bride: The church. “God created marriage to be a metaphor of Christ’s relationship to the church,” wrote John Piper.

As such, the selfless, hard-working, considerate, pleasing woman of this Old Testament passage represents everyone who makes up the body of the Christian church. “The union of man and woman in marriage” contains “a truth about Christ and the church,” which is that “God ordained a permanent union between His Son and the church.”

Marriage between a man and a woman should reflect this: The man is the head, giving his life for the woman; the woman submits to the man who lays his life down for her. “Human marriage is the copy, not the original” (Piper).

Taken as a metaphor, Proverbs 31 is not simply describing wives and mothers, but also husbands and fathers, unmarried men and women, couples without children, and those who have survived their spouses.

Anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian is a bride of Christ through the Spirit, which unites the global church. Each person and each fellowship have responsibilities such as spreading the good reputation of the bridegroom (v.23) and caring for the poor (v.20).

Chad Ashby comments: “The church ought to be characterized by [...] single-hearted devotion to her Bridegroom,” which is embodied by the Proverbs 31 woman. “After all, John Gill reiterates, she is 'a woman actually married to Christ.’”

Final Words from the New Testament

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves” (1 Peter 3:4-5).

God wants his bride to love him, to submit to him, and then he will give his bride discernment. He will increase her courage and soften her heart, so she is disposed to give generously; to act charitably.

He will ensure that when “she opens her mouth with wisdom, [...] the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (v.26). His bride is his treasure. We, the church, are his bride.

For further reading:

How Did Jesus Treat Women in the Bible?

How the Women in the Bible Were Revered, Respected, and Diverse

What Does it Mean to be a Daughter of Christ?

Should Women Be Pastors?

What Is the Biblical Definition of Marriage?

A Metaphor of Christ and the Church

Who Needs to Hear Proverbs 31 the Most?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Anastasiia Stiahailo

Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.


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