The Proverbs 31 woman is not a perfect woman.
Her husband doesn’t think she is perfect, other women don’t think she is perfect, she doesn’t think she’s perfect and God doesn’t think she’s perfect.
So why do we get all hung up on ourselves and all of our weaknesses and imperfections, when we think we are comparing ourselves to the perfect woman?
And that is the fallacy within the fallacy: firstly, we think we are comparing ourselves. Secondly, we think we are comparing ourselves to something that is perfect.
So what we’re going to do is start pinning the actual words in Proverbs 31 to the woman. We are going to hear what she is actually doing, what she is saying, how she is feeling and why her husband says that she is not a perfect wife, but a “virtuous wife.”
The first verse is where we will begin, and it is going to be the crux of our understanding of this woman.
Verse 10 begins by saying: “An excellent wife, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” And we’re going to stop there.
And excellent wife. Not a perfect wife. Not even a perfect woman. But some English versions say excellent wife, some say virtuous wife. So, who is she, exactly?
The best thing to do is to get the Torah and get the actual Hebrew translation.
The word that is used which we translate into “excellent” or “virtuous” is the Hebrew word “ishshah“ (h0802) which means “woman” hyphenated with the word“chayil” (h2428 ) Chayil is a noun that translates to a word that means strength, ability, efficiency, virtue, valor or a force.
“A great force of a woman, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”
This version has a much stronger feel to it. A much more poetic stab at describing his wife. He sees her as a force in their household. Someone who can do a litany of amazing things, someone who can love their children better than anyone in the world, someone who loves him and brings him honor as his wife.
This force of an excellent woman.
I wanted to understand in what other contexts this particular word, “chayil,” was used in order to get a better idea of what its meaning encompasses. Because when it is next to another word it will take on a different intention. In verse 10 it is hyphenated with “woman” so the intention is to describe the woman.
In Exodus 18:21 it says, “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”
Here it is “’iysh-chayil” which means “men-force” or “able men.”
2 Chronicles 17:2, “He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured.”
Isaiah 60:5, ““Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice;
Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you.”
When I used the BlueLetterBible to translate this, it came out to: “Isa 60:5 (KJV) — Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.”
Daniel 11:10, “His sons shall wage war and assemble a multitude of greatforces, which shall keep coming and overflow and pass through, and again shall carry the war as far as his fortress.”
Moreover, I just want to show other places where “chayil” has been used.
Now, in Ruth 3:11, it says “ ishshah chayil,” which translates to “virtuous woman” in KJV, and “worthy woman” in ESV:
“And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.”
It is easy to understand what “worthy” means. That word has the weight of value to it, in that someone is worthy of something. But virtuous needs a little bit of exploring: the virtuous bride is virginal, but the virtuous woman has “behavior showing high moral standards.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, “But we urge you, brothers, to do this and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
The Bible encourages us to always be fruitful, to not “eat the bread of idleness,” but more importantly to be virtuous in our work. We can very well be very evil and enjoy the fruits of our labors. We can be corrupt and wicked and have fruits of our labors. We could even be good and receive the fruits of our labors, but the fruits bring glory to us. The Proverbs 31 woman illustrates to us how to be virtuous in our works and receive fruits of our labors that always bring glory to God.