Types of Women in the Book of Proverbs
Authorship of the Book
The authorship of the Book of Proverbs is generally ascribed to Solomon (Proverbs 1:1) King of Israel for 40 years (circa 970 to 931 BCE) and reputed to be the wisest of all. However, chapter 30 was written by Agur, son of Jakeh (30:1) and chapter 31 by King Lemuel (31:1). It is believed that some of the proverbs throughout the book were quoted from the sayings of other wise men.
Given that King Solomon, the greatest contributor to the book also “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” of different nationalities (Proverbs 11: 1, 3), it is worth hearing what he says about women. The objective of the book as stated in the first chapter is partly to give insight and make the reader wiser. Young men are often addressed, but women can also learn from what men say about them.
In each subtitle of descriptive words, the first word is from the King James Version. Synonyms are listed as they appear in the New King James and New Living Translations. Verses quoted are from the New Living Translation.
(1) Brawling. Contentious. Quarrelsome.
It is better to live in the corner of an attic or alone in the desert (21:9, 19) than in a lovely home with this type of woman. She is also labelled angry and complaining (21:19) and is “as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day” (27:15).
Most likely, she has suffered some emotional damage caused by selfish desires or by the cruelty of others. Her way back to wholeness includes self-inventory, confession, repentance, forgiveness and acceptance of divine principles for living. When she finds inner peace, she learns how to be at peace with others (16:7).
(2) Fair. Lovely. Beautiful.
Chapter 11, credited to Solomon contains this sole reference to a physically beautiful woman, and it makes only one point, namely; that beauty is wasted if the woman does not have discretion (word used in all three versions). It’s like placing “a jewel of gold in a swine's snout” (11:22).
Ta`am, the Hebrew root word for discretion is also translated as taste and judgement. It is clear that after all his experience with women, Solomon is insisting that good judgement in a woman is more desirable than physical beauty.
Gracious is used in all three versions. Chên, the Hebrew root word is translated in Strong's Concordance as kind, favored, pleasant, precious. This woman is known for developing and maintaining her honor (dignity, reputation) or respect with the same passion that wealthy men build and maintain their riches (11:16). She is the composite of real beauty in a woman.
(4) Strange. Immoral. Promiscuous.
She is the personification of Folly; and described with other words like simple, brash, clamorous and ignorant (9:13); whorish, a harlot, an adulteress; a prostitute who will bring a man to poverty, and whose sexual rendezvous with a married man can cost him his life (6:26).
Men are advised that they need wisdom to steer them away from the seductive words of this woman (2:16). “Her lips are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil” (5: 3). She is reputed to be an evil flatterer (6:24). Those who allow her into their hearts will be led down the wrong path (7:25), into a dangerous trap (22:14).
Agur describes her in a scenario which he admits is beyond his understanding. He views her as capable of eating a man, wiping her mouth and then asking, “What’s wrong with that?” (30:20)
Men are warned to avoid her, but how do other women react to her? They are advised to befriend her (11:30), advise her (12:26) and empower her (27:17). She is encouraged to seek the company of the wise, to learn and develop good judgment (4:5).
5) Virtuous. Excellent. Worthy.
She is a crown to her husband, as opposed to a disgraceful wife who is like cancer in her husband’s bones (12:4). In chapter 31, King Lemuel further describes her as: capable, precious, trustworthy, industrious, energetic, strong, organized, business-savvy, wise and kind. His summary reads:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
but you surpass them all!” (31:29)
She is the sermon topic for many modern day preachers, and is usually presented as the role model for other God-fearing women. What's great is that she presents excellent womanhood as more than spiritual and moral. She is also exemplary in her social and economic skills.
This woman is the personification of Wisdom. Wise is also used in all three versions (14:1) and refers to the woman who builds (manages) her home and family with diligence, as opposed to the foolish woman who self-destructs with extravagance and idleness.
She is portrayed as having built her house with seven columns (9:1), seven symbolizing completeness and sufficiency. She invites people to come eat at her table. Whereas her rival Folly feeds destruction, Wisdom offers a menu which encourages her guests to "Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live." (9:6)
Throughout the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom is recommended as an ideal companion. "Joyful is the person who finds wisdom," (3:13) and women who share their wisdom deserve much appreciation.
Poll: Wisdom Personified
In which of the following quotes, can you replace the word "wisdom" with the name of a woman you know?
© 2018 Dora Weithers