Allow me to introduce you to the most intimidating gal in scripture – the Proverbs 31 Woman! She is so capable, let’s face it ladies, we just can’t compete! Have you ever wondered, “Who was this amazing woman?”
To find her, we must first have a look at the author of this chapter of the book of Proverbs. Verse 31:1 states that “these are the words of King Lemuel.” In the Hebrew, Lemuel means “belonging to God,” and many scholars are convinced that it refers not to some unknown king buried in the dust of history, but to King Solomon himself. Verse 1 goes on to say that chapter 31 is based on advice that the king’s mother taught him. If all these scholarly minds are correct, and I believe they are, then the author of the 31st chapter of Proverbs was King Solomon, and the inspiration for this final chapter of the book was his mother.
Who, you may ask, was King Solomon’s mother? It was Bathsheba, widow of Uriah, wife of King David, and ancestress of Jesus as listed in Matthew 1:6.
Obviously, King Solomon loved his mother, and she was a wise woman. But there’s much more to the story than that! In case you hadn’t heard, when it came to the ladies, King David had a roving eye. One balmy day, rather than accompany his troops to battle, David decided to take the day off from waging war with the philistines, stay home, and do a little sunbathing on his balcony. But oops! On that very day Bathsheba decided that since all the mighty men – including her husband, Uriah - were away from the palace being heroic, she’d enjoy a leisurely wash-up on her roof. After all, it was such lovely spring weather, and all the men were out of town.
You can read the full story in 2 Samuel 11 and 12, but to sum it up, tragic, beautiful Bathsheba was not alone on her rooftop as she thought. The moment King David clapped eyes on Bathsheba in her tub, he threw caution, good sense and morality to the wind and sent for her immediately. The result of their tryst was that Bathsheba became pregnant, David had her husband murdered by trickery, and the infant son of their illicit union died, even though David fasted and prayed for his life. Ultimately David and Bathsheba were legally married, and their youngest son Solomon was chosen by God to inherit David’s throne and build the first Temple in Jerusalem (See 1 Kings 1-11).
The prophet wrote in 2 Samuel that “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (11:26-27 ESV). Because of David’s actions, and in part her own, Bathsheba suffered through the stigma of infidelity, the murder of her husband, and the loss of her child.
A truth that leaps out at us as we study the Bible is that none of the men and women in scripture – except Jesus - was perfect. David and Bathsheba were no exception. In fact, if you listen to enough sermons about King David, you’ll find that two of the defining characters in his life story were the giant Goliath and the gorgeous Bathsheba, who represented both his greatest victory and his greatest defeat.
But as Paul reminds us, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).
The Proverbs 31 Woman stands for us as a witness and a testimony of God’s uplifting power, even in the presence of unbearable sin and suffering. Bathsheba could have allowed the unfair things that happened to her and the part she played in causing her own heartbreak to destroy her. But instead Solomon’s description of his mother demonstrates that the Proverbs 31 Woman did not need to fear her future, or her past, because by the grace of God she had been redeemed and restored.
Now that we know a little more of her story, let’s read King Solomon’s depiction of the woman who was “far more precious than gold or jewels” (31:10):
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:11-31 ESV)
The picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman is a portrait of redemption. If we don’t know that about her we will miss the point, and think that all she was is a woman who worked really, really hard and was good at everything. But Beloveds, the Proverbs 31 Woman wasn’t blessed because she worked hard. She threw herself into every aspect of her life joyfully, because even though she had participated in terrible sins, by the goodness of God she was transformed.
Jesus said of the woman who bathed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47 ESV).
Both David and Bathsheba paid a hard price for their mistakes. And their stories are interwoven with ours. When we are forgiven much, by the grace of God, we love much. When we receive restoration from the Lord, he equips us to do the work that he originally designed us to do.
As this series continues, we will explore how we can find inspiration in the husband and wife that Solomon introduced us to in Proverbs 31, and apply their joyful and productive vision to our own lives in the years to come.