I recently attended an all-day Bible Institute about the “just” or “righteous” man in the book of Proverbs. In his introduction, the teacher said, “There are twenty-three descriptions of women in Proverbs.”* This piqued my curiosity. Really? Twenty-three? I’m going to investigate! So, I put a star next to my notes and later started reading through Proverbs in search of them. I’ll list them in categories, followed by the references to the verses and what God says about each one.
These are the women I found:
- Strange (Also stranger. 2:16-19; 5:3, 20; 6:24b, 7:5; 22:14)—flatters with her words, forsakes her parents’ teaching and forgets God’s promises, her end is death, acts like an adulteress, has a mouth like a deep well
- Evil (6:24a)
- Whore (KJV spelling whoorish. 6:26) brings a man to his doom
- Adulteress, neighbor’s wife (6:26-29: 30:20) means death, like taking fire into one’s bosom and hot coals, she’s never satisfied or ashamed
- Harlot (7:10-29) dresses to seduce, she’s loud, stubborn, restless, impudent, tricky, and her ways lead to death
- Foolish (9:13-18; 14:1b) clamorous, simple, knows nothing, seductive, her guests pay with their lives, pulls her house down
- Fair woman without discretion (11:22)—is as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout.
- She that maketh ashamed (12:4)—is as rottenness in his (her husband’s) bones.
- Contentious wife (19:13; 21:19; 27:15)—always bothersome, you don’t want to live near her
- Brawling (21:9)—It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with her!
- Angry (21:19)—It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with her!
- Odious married woman (30:23)—one of the three things that disturbs the earth
- A handmaid that is heir to her mistress (30:23)—another one of the three things that disturbs the earth
- Mother (1:8b; 4:3; 6:20; 10:1; 23:25; 29:15; 31:1)—teaches her children, loves her children, sets rules for her children, cares for how her children turn out, rejoices in a good child, is vulnerable to her children; corrects her children, will be blessed by her children
- Wife (5:15-19; 18:22; 19:14)—wonderful lover, prudent, gift of God, a good thing
- Virtuous (12:4a; 31:10-29)—crown to her husband, more value than rubies, her husband trusts in her, she always does good to her husband, she’s hardworking and wise, she’s prepared, she thinks of others and serves them, she dresses beautifully, she guides her children well and they bless her, she is joyful, her husband praises her
- Gracious (11:16a) retains honor
- Wise (14:1a)—builds her house
- Maid (30:18-19)—One of three great marvels is the way of a man with a maid.
- Woman who fears the Lord (31:30-31)—will be praised, reaps the fruit of her hands
So, I came up with twenty-one different descriptions of women in Proverbs. (The difference in number is due to the difference in languages, as Spanish uses different words for strange and stranger and two different words for contentious.)
This study is interesting, but it’s nothing unless we apply what we’ve learned to our lives. It’s easy to say, “I want to be a good woman.” Great! But, we need to look at both kinds—just in case we can learn from the bad girls as well as from the good.
Let’s take the bad ones first, so we can end with good. I think all of my readers would easily agree you don’t want to be an adulteress or a prostitute. Those are easy! But look at some of the characteristics: flatters men with her mouth, ignores her parents’ instruction and forgets God’s promises. Oops! Sometimes we act like that!
- Are we ever not careful to dress modestly and avoid seductive clothes and manners?
- Are we loud, argumentative, nagging?
- Are we “dumb” and simple? (Think “blonde.”)
- Are we ever indiscreet?
- Are we catty, tricky, always trying to get our way?
- Are we always angry and wanting to fight? Are we hateful?
- Are we rottenness to our husband or a crown to him? (Yes, we’re starting the good stuff, now.)
Do you notice that the good women mentioned in Proverbs are family-oriented? I found that very interesting. Look back over the list: mother, wife, virtuous, gracious, wise, maid, and a woman who fears the Lord. Where do we fit in our family? Are you a daughter? Wife? Mother? A wise, gracious maid who fears the Lord?
- Do I teach and correct my children? Do I love them? Do I live the kind of life so that they would want to praise me?
- Am I a good thing for my husband? Do I have great value to him, more than rubies? (Did you know a quality ruby costs more than a diamond of the same weight?)
- Does my husband trust me? (Can he?)
- Am I hardworking?
- Do I think of others before myself?
- Do I take care in my dress, making sure I look very nice?
- Am I joyful?
- Do I inspire my husband to praise me?
- Am I constantly building up my home?
- Do I respect God?
There's lots of food for thought, here, don’t you agree?
* Thank you, Fernando Corbí, for launching this great study!