Proverbs 31

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Depiction of Proverbs 31:20, "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor..."

Proverb 31 is the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It is presented as advice which Lemuel's mother gave to him, about how a virtuous king should reign, and also detailing the attributes of a virtuous wife or ideal woman. The second section of text of this chapter calls for husbands and the community generally to praise women who are good home and small trade managers, who are thrifty, industrious, and charitable, and (thus) who fear the Lord and work good for their households and their husbands.


The 8th and 9th verses[1] are an appeal against inequality and injustice:[2]

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Verses 10-31 of the chapter are called Eshet Ḥayil (אשת חיל, woman of valor). It is a praise of the good wife, a definition of a perfect wife or "ideal woman" in the nation of Israel. This "Woman of Valor" has been described as the personification of wisdom, or in some sense as a description of a particular class of Women in Israel, Persia, or in Hellenistic society.[3] It is one of the thirteen alphabetical acrostic poems in the Bible. Traditionally, the Eshet Ḥayil was viewed as written by King Solomon and many prominent theologians continue to hold this belief. However there is a more recent branch of critical scholarship which suggests it was added to Proverbs later.


This chapter is recited on Friday night before Shabbat dinner in some Jewish homes. Some see this as a praise directed from the husband to his wife.

The word חיל (Ḥayil) appears in verses 10 and 29 of the passage, thought as the summary of the good woman's character. Traditionally it has been translated "virtuous" or "noble". Some scholars have suggested that it rather means "forceful", "mighty", or "valiant", because this word is almost exclusively used in the Tanakh with reference to warfare.[4]

The chapter has been emphasised within the biblical womanhood movement, and a number of books have been published on the "Proverbs 31 woman".[5][6][7][8][9] This emphasis has been subject to criticism in Christian articles.[10][11] In Christian circles, this chapter has often been held up as the prime example of what a woman should be and in many cases it has been misinterpreted and misused. This passage was intended to show a young man the qualities he should look for in a wife and the things he should value in her; it was not intended to be a checklist for women.[12]


  1. ^ Proverbs 31:8–9
  2. ^ Will Brinson (September 26, 2017). "Anthem singer Jordin Sparks has 'Proverbs 31:8-9' on hand for Cowboys vs. Cardinals". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  3. ^ Sandoval, Timothy J. The Discourse of Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs, ISBN 90-04-14492-7, p. 201
  4. ^ God's Word to Women Lesson 78 by Katherine Bushnell
  5. ^ Reid, E. R. (1993). The Proverbs 31 Woman. Destiny Image Publishers.
  6. ^ Kennedy, Nancy (1995). Help! I'm Being Intimidated by the Proverbs 31 Woman!: My Battles with a Role Model Who's Larger Than Life. Multnomah.
  7. ^ George, Elizabeth (2003). Discovering the Treasures of a Godly Woman: Proverbs 31. Harvest House.
  8. ^ Partow, Donna (2008). Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life. Revell.
  9. ^ Horn, Sarah (2011). My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife: A One-Year Experiment...and Its Surprising Results. Harvest House.
  10. ^ Lodge, Carey (3 January 2015). "How misapplying Proverbs 31 gives us a skewed picture of biblical womanhood". Christian Today. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  11. ^ Oquist, Lauren (28 August 2014). "Stop Obsessing About the Proverbs 31 Woman". Relevant. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  12. ^ Yvonne, Lisa (2018-02-18). "The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Proverbs 31 Woman". Graceful Abandon. Retrieved 2019-01-22.

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