The description of the “wife of noble character” has always been a picture of biblical womanhood. She is a woman who provides for her family by fearing the Lord, shrewd business leadership, compassion, and tender care. On one hand, this woman is no push-over, and she isn’t a weak-willed subordinate. On the other hand, the “P31 woman” is not simply climbing a corporate ladder (note: this isn’t sexist, I also regularly caution men against ladder-climbing attitudes); she works hard for the sake of her husband and her children and she presses forward each day to provide for her family.
Proverbs 31:10-31 is King Lemuel’s advice to his son about what to look for in a godly wife. To be clear, this article is not written in an attempt to correct a perceived misunderstanding, but to fill out that she is noble and excellent because she is like Jesus. While it’s too far to say “Jesus is the Proverbs 31 woman,” it should be clear that we see Jesus through her description.
Lady Wisdom in Proverbs
Throughout Proverbs, wisdom and folly are personified as women who bring life or death to those who follow. Wisdom is not portrayed as an abstract principle, but as a living person who is calling out to the reader. The wise son is listens to Lady Wisdom, but the foolish son follows the way of Woman Folly. Consider the different invitations they offer in Proverbs 9:
1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved out her seven pillars.
she calls out from the highest points of the city…
4 “Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!”
To the one who lacks sense, she says,
5 “Come, eat my bread,
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave inexperience behind, and you will live;
pursue the way of understanding. …
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For by me your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit;
if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences.”
13 Folly is a rowdy woman;
she is gullible and knows nothing.
14 She sits by the doorway of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15 calling to those who pass by,
who go straight ahead on their paths:
16 “Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!”
To the one who lacks sense, she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten secretly is tasty!”
18 But he doesn’t know that the departed spirits are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
While some might see Lady Wisdom as representing the Holy Spirit, I am persuaded to see Lady Wisdom as the same Word/Logos that is referred to in John 1 who became flesh – Jesus Christ.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory,the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 (CSB)
The Proverbs 31 Woman & Jesus
Again, I want to be clear that I agree Proverbs 31:10-31 is primarily a picture of godly womanhood. It is also worth remembering that sanctification is the ongoing process by which the Holy Spirit makes Christians more like Jesus. So it only makes sense that the P31 Woman would be pointing us to Christ as the reason why she is so excellent and praiseworthy.
There are a number of ways in which the P31 Woman points us to Jesus.
- Provision – She works diligently and with great skill to provide for her family.
- Trustworthy – Her husband looks to her and trusts her fully with everything he has.
- Compassion – She is not only concerned about her own family, but also looks after the poor and needy.
- Confidence About the Future – She does not live with anxiety about what is coming, but “laughs at the time to come.”
- Wisdom – Her words are filled with wisdom and she teaches her children well.
- Praiseworthy – Her husband and children publicly praise her and recognize they are blessed.
While these can easily and plainly be seen as godly attributes all people (not just women) should embody, Christians ultimately look to Christ. We live under the recognition that we cannot do all these things perfectly.
Reading Jesus as the Proverbs 31 woman shows us a Savior who is trustworthy to provide for his people and is compassionate to those in need. He gives us confidence in the future so we can live with hope and his words are filled with truth and wisdom. Because of Christ’s provision and care we rise up and praise him. Jesus is Lady Wisdom incarnate, he is the “Word who became flesh” (John 1:14), he is the one who rescues those who are tempted to follow Woman Folly down the paths that lead to death.
The P31 woman is a “wife of noble character” because she is a woman who has become like Christ.