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 just king should reign (verse 1–9), and in the second part detailing the attributes of a good wife or ideal woman (verses 10–31; also known as Eshet Ḥayil).
The Words of Lemuel (31:1–9)
In this part, a queen-mother gives instruction to her son, King Lemuel, on his duty to administer justice. Using the appeal to his filial respect to a mother and his birth as an answer of a prayer (verse 2, cf. 1 Samuel 1:11), the mother warns the king against sexual promiscuity and drunkenness (verses 3–7). The 8th and 9th verses are an appeal against inequality and injustice:
⁸Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
⁹Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
The Good Wife (31:10–31)
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, who is 'an industrious housewife, a shrewd businesswoman, an enterprising trader, a generous benefactor (verse 20) and a wise teacher (verse 26)'. 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. It is one of the thirteen alphabetical acrostic poems in the Bible, where each line begins with a successive letter in the Hebrew alphabet.
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.
The chapter has been emphasised within the biblical womanhood movement, and a number of books have been published on the "Proverbs 31 woman". This emphasis has been subject to criticism in Christian articles. 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.
- Aitken 2007, p. 422.
- Proverbs 31:8–9 KJV.
- Brinson, Will (September 26, 2017). "Anthem singer Jordin Sparks has 'Proverbs 31:8–9' on hand for Cowboys vs. Cardinals". CBS Sports. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV
- Sandoval, Timothy J. The Discourse of Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs, ISBN 90-04-14492-7, p. 201.
- God's Word to Women Lesson 78, Katherine Bushnell
- Reid, E. R. (1993). The Proverbs 31 Woman. Destiny Image.
- 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.
- George, Elizabeth (2003). Discovering the Treasures of a Godly Woman: Proverbs 31. Harvest House.
- Partow, Donna (2008). Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90-Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life. Revell.
- Horn, Sarah (2011). My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife: A One-Year Experiment… and Its Surprising Results. Harvest House.
- Lodge, Carey (3 January 2015). "How misapplying Proverbs 31 gives us a skewed picture of biblical womanhood". Christian Today. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Oquist, Lauren (28 August 2014). "Stop Obsessing About the Proverbs 31 Woman". Relevant. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Yvonne, Lisa (2018-02-18). "The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Proverbs 31 Woman". Graceful Abandon. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
- Aitken, K. T. (2007). "19. Proverbs". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary (first (paperback) ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 405–422. ISBN 978-0199277186. Retrieved February 6, 2019.