We discover that from beginning to end, the woman of Proverbs 31 is a woman of incomprehensible greatness. And of course she is, for she refers to the divine personification of wisdom itself!
What if I told you that the Proverbs 31 woman said more about the incarnation – and less about impossible tasks for Christian women – than you could ever imagine?
It’ll take me a few minutes to get there, but bear with me.
Few passages are as firmly embedded in Christian consciousness as Proverbs 31. You might say that as Psalm 23 is to comfort or Genesis 1 is to creation or Revelation 20 is to millennial views, so Proverbs 31 serves for many as the defining chapter on defining the call of a godly woman.
And for many, that’s where the challenges begin. The woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 seems to defy comprehension for her greatness. How could any woman live up to such a standard?
My answer is simply this: no woman could, and the reason why ties to – fittingly for many this week – the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
To get there, we need to dig in for a deeper, richer understanding of Proverbs 31. I want to spend a few blog posts on this theme, and this will include explorations into the profound, grace-filled call to women Proverbs 31 does create.
But for now, here’s my basic thesis: the primary referent of the Proverbs 31 woman is “Lady Wisdom” of the book of Proverbs, the divine personification of the wisdom of God. She points us to the personal and profound and divine character of wisdom itself, a truth that ultimately anticipates Christ Himself.
How so? Let me dive into a structural point, and then some textual observations on Proverbs 31.
Structural view of Proverbs
If Proverbs were a house, and you took down all the drywall and looked at the supporting beams, you would find in the pivotal places a curious feature. You would find women, namely, lady wisdom. Consider, the following outline of Proverbs:
Proverbs 1-4: These chapters introduce this woman, Lady Wisdom as she is known, who we are to hear and follow.
- In Proverbs 1, she cries aloud to the sons of the street to follow her ways.
- In Proverbs 2, her path contrasts the seductress’ path.
- In Proverbs 3, she offers the tree of life (see Prov. 3:13-18).
- In Proverbs 4, fascinatingly enough, the son is told to go marry her (see the language of Proverbs 4:4-9).
Proverbs 5-7: we flee the world’s woman (lady folly), who most particularly presents herself in sexual immorality. Her route contrasts lady wisdom’s route. The answer is to maintain the pathway of lady wisdom, shown to us in Proverbs 1-4.
Proverbs 8-9: These chapters present the other bookend to the prologue of Proverbs (Proverbs 1-9). Here, lady wisdom returns and draws the simple/fool back to her to the house of wisdom.
In this view, Proverbs 10-30 – the core of Proverbs – reads as the wisdom we find when living in the house of “Lady Wisdom”. It is the lived-out truth of the life bound to wisdom and not folly.