Pakora of Idleness… anyone?: The Wife of Noble Character part 4
She speaks with wisdom
And faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting;
But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
And let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Proverbs 31 vs 26-31
The wife of noble character her been very busy so far. But what has she got to say for herself? She teaches others and passes on her wisdom.
I wonder if she has aged since the start of the passage. At the start it does say she brings her husband good “all the days of her life”.
Perhaps all the trading and spinning and charity work are beginning to tail off, but she has a new role?
She teaches others. The writer is quick to clarify – it is not as if she is sitting down, glued to daytime soaps! She is still in charge – but I get the feeling that she is more of an adviser and an overseer at this stage.
I love the line where she “does not eat the bread of idleness”.
I wonder what it means. For me, it could refer to times when I cannot be bothered to cook or am too tired, and I stop in and buy chips or pakora or something hot and delicious because I want to rest and eat rather than cook and get harrassed and crabbit.
I wonder, though, whether it means that she will not eat things she has not earned directly – maybe she doesn’t live off the “fat of the land”. She keeps working, even when they are in profit and could take it easy.
Another reason I think the woman may be older now is that her children “arise and call her blessed”.
The husband, who has a low profile in the passage, (although he has a high profile in life) gets a word in here. He acknowledges the good things women do, and then highlights her above them all.
He knows he is in the company of a strong, able woman of means. We get the sense of the longevity of this marriage: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting”. It seems that the superficial attraction of charm and beauty have no lasting value. Charm is an affectation and beauty is only skin deep.
Almost out of nowhere we have the assertion “but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised”.
Why would fearing God be a plus-point in sourcing a life partner?
No doubt if I knew much about Hebrew I’d have something to say about the connotations of fear in the original. But, as I don’t I can only take it as an opposite or a contrast to charm and beauty. Fear places the woman’s focus outside of herself. She is not worried about how she comes across to other people, she is consumed with awe of God.
And the upshot of all this – it seems that it is her reputation is her reward. But somehow, I don’t think she would be interested in what people thought. She’d be too busy ensuring she had got to the bottom of her to-do list.
So, what do we think about this woman? Is she an ideal or is she real? Would you like her if you met her? Are you her? Are you married to her?
I think I would find her quite a frightening character. So efficient and thorough and with the capacity to cope with so much. I would probably wonder if she was motivated by some deep-seated guilt complex. I would wonder if the tidy purple clothes and the over-accessorized children were a sign that she was keeping up with the Joneses even before the Jonses realised winter was upon them.
From the point of view of the men – I think she would come across as a force to be reckoned with. She is clearly an equal with her husband, although their roles are different. She is concerned with the household and he is concerned with wider society. He trusts her to get on with what she wants to get on with.
Back to the opening – “A wife of noble character who can find?” : is this whole passage advice to young men, then? Is this the kind of wife they should be looking for. I suppose the conclusion they are supposed to draw is that they should look for someone trustworthy with an understanding of faith and a depth of character and to avoid shallow potential partners.
For now I leave the wife of noble character basking in her good reputation, smoothing out her purple dress…
…before she sneaks off down to the shops for some hot and spicy pakora…