Thursday, January 27, 2011

Noble and Precious

So I'm jumping into my look at the inner qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman. As I already mentioned, she is often upheld as the "super-type" role model for Christian women. Reading through the list of all that she DOES could cause one to throw up one's hands in despair and crawl back into bed. I'm not sure that's why God put her in the Bible though. Somehow I think we're supposed to look at her character - who she IS - and to strive to BE rather than to DO. This is a lesson God has been impressing on me for quite a while, and it's taking a long time for it to get into my skull...and perhaps even longer to get into my heart.

To find out who this woman is I thought we could look at the adjectives that the author uses to describe her. The passage begins:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NIV) (emphasis mine)
Already we are seeing some special things about this woman. She is noble and she is worth a lot (which I will refer to as precious.)

In the original Hebrew, the word noble (New International Version, NIV) is translated from chayil (khah'-yil) which refers to a force (of means, men or other resources) producing virtue, valor, and strength. The word is derived from chuwl (khool) or chiyl (kheel) a primary root that means to twist or whirl, to dance, to writhe in pain or fear, to wait, and to make to bring forth. The King James Version (KJV) translates chayil as virtuous. The English Standard Version (ESV) says excellent. In other words this woman possesses an internal force (from some resource) that causes her to bring forth virtue (goodness), valor (courage), and strength. Boaz uses chayil to describe Ruth when she rendezvous with him to ask him to "redeem" her (Ruth 3:11). Ruth's chayil is probably what helped her stand by her mother-in-law even when it meant leaving her own family and being reduced to the status of a beggar-woman. The result of her chayil is that she became the great-grandmother of King David, and one of a handful of women listed in the genealogy of Jesus. As a Christian this chayil need not come from my own resources...I can rely on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There's no great virtue in anything I try to do apart from Him, actually. (Isaiah 64:6)

I was particularly struck by the reference to this woman's worth as exceeding rubies. Why not gold or diamonds? Is there something about rubies that makes this reference most apt? So I did a little research and found out that "rubies are the scarcest of all gemstones and command extremely high prices." (So ladies if your husband or significant other offers you a ruby don't pout at him that you wanted a diamond...) The author is telling us that this woman is so precious she is more costly than the rarest of jewels. It also appears that this analogy refers us back to earlier sayings in Proverbs where wisdom is considered more precious than rubies (see Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11). As such this woman personifies wisdom. Also note that the value of the woman comes from how scarce she is and yet is assigned to her by her husband (and only him), not by herself.

In all of this we can be encouraged because our virtue and our value are not dependent on ourselves. It is not our own work, but the work of Christ that makes us noble. It is not up to us to be precious on our own, rather as the Bride of Christ He has made us precious, more precious than rubies.


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