The Proverbs 31 Wife: What Determines Virtue? -- By: Marcia Hornok

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 17:51 (Summer 2013)
Article: The Proverbs 31 Wife: What Determines Virtue?
Author: Marcia Hornok

The Proverbs 31 Wife:
What Determines Virtue?

Marcia Hornok

*Marcia Hornok, M.A. student, Piedmont International University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; pastor’s wife and mother of six; managing editor, CHERA Fellowship magazine; and, author of various curriculum and devotional works.

What makes a woman virtuous according to Proverbs 31:10–31? Should contemporary Christian women attempt to emulate what was deemed virtuous by ancient Hebrew standards? Proverbs 31, in general, presents an ideal worth pursuing, but also seems pragmatically unattainable, similar to achieving sinlessness. Another problem results from two differing manners in which interpreters understand the text. An evangelical feminist perspective regards this wife and mother as a successful career woman, while complementarians view her as a stay-at-home mom making things from the very beginning. Both approaches correctly insist that her success resides in fearing God, that is, keeping Him as the focus of everything (as verse 30 commends).

The purpose of this article is to examine both the feminist and complementarian approaches to demonstrate that the virtuous woman is both a homebody and a career woman, but at different stages of her life. The assertion herein is evident by outlining Proverbs 31:10–31 into three distinct periods to demonstrate that rather than portraying a wife’s daily responsibilities, it commends her lifelong pursuits, with her income earning endeavors relegated to the later years. From this perspective, one discovers that all women can achieve Proverbs 31 virtue by developing expertise in something throughout the period of their lifetimes.

Overview Of Proverbs 31

The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10–31 is the climax that summarizes the book, “demonstrating the application in a life of Proverb truths.”1 Alexander claimed that the “qualities . . . suggested by the wife’s actions in the domestic sphere” (vv. 12–22) are the “same qualities . . . presented

throughout the book.”2 With this in mind, a wise son (Lemuel, in context) was taught by his mother to look for a wise wife who aspired to such qualities. As an acrostic poem, “appa...

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