The Role Of Women In Proverbs -- By: Craig S. Keener

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 08:1 (Winter 1994)
Article: The Role Of Women In Proverbs
Author: Craig S. Keener


The Role Of Women In Proverbs

Craig S. Keener

Craig Keener is professor of New Testament at Hood Theological Seminary, and author of two books available from the CBE book service: ...And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage in the New Testament and Paul. Women & Wives: Marriage & Women’s Ministries in the Letters of Paul.

Most of us recoil at some Jewish sages’ estimation of women, as reported in works such as Sirach (25:19, 24; 42:12-14) and perhaps even Ecclesiastes (7:27-28).1 As the son of Sirach puts it, “Like the moth emerges from clothes, so wickedness emerges from women; a man’s evil is better than a woman’s goodness...” (Sir. 42:13-14). But does the negative view of women found in later Jewish sages also reflect the perspective on women found in the Book of Proverbs, as some have argued?2 Does the Jewish and Christian canon actually confer inspired status on chauvinistic claims? While some proverbs might sound like this is the case, an examination of their context among other proverbs indicates that the statements are not against women in general.

A Woman As A Sexual Threat

Many proverbs are warnings against the seductive adulteress (5:20; 6:24-35;3 chap. 7; 20:16; 22:14; 27:13; 30:20; cf. 23:27), yet no proverbs warn a young woman to beware of a promiscuous man. This apparent double standard sounds quite different from the double standard by which some modern parents impose strict rules on their daughters while reasoning that “boys will be boys”—but it can be interpreted as no less chauvinistic. Does the writer of Proverbs regard women as more naturally promiscuous and threatening to the opposite gender than men are?

An examination of Proverbs, however, reveals that this is not at all the case. The framework of the introductory section of the book indicates that it is wisdom addressed by the king to his son (1:8; 2:1; 3:1, 22; 4:1,

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