Proverbs chapter 31 is the Bible’s best passage on womanhood. It speaks of two things a woman can do to a man. She can either break him or make him.
Breaking him is mentioned in verse 3 where the mother of King Lemuel gives him the following advice:
Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings. (N.K.J.V.)
Some believe that King Lemuel was none other than Solomon, the man to whom the book of Proverbs is primarily attributed. Under this interpretation, Lemuel — which means “belonging to God” — was either a descriptive name Solomon gave himself or a pet name his mother (Bathsheba) gave him. However, it’s also possible that Lemuel was a fellow king that Solomon either knew personally or at least knew by reputation. Either way, the verse teaches that a king can be destroyed by giving his strength to women.
It was common in ancient times for kings to have harems. Solomon himself had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Needless to say, if Lemuel was in actuality Solomon, he definitely didn’t take his mother’s advice on this matter. But can a group of women, to say nothing of one woman, really bring down a king or any other man? To find the answer, all we have to do is look at scripture. Here are five examples that prove that it can happen:
- Abraham had sexual relations with Hagar (his wife Sarah’s maidservant) and produced a son named Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-16). That certainly brought Abraham’s testimony and walk with the Lord down a notch.
- Esau married two Canaanite women (Genesis 26:34-35) and then married an Ishmaelite woman (Genesis 28:8-9). But those three wives only pushed him further outside of God’s will.
- Jacob got himself involved with the two sisters Rachel and Leah. After marrying both of them, he then got himself involved with Bilhah (Rachel’s maidservant) and Zilpah (Leah’s maidservant). The children produced from these four relationships and the inner family jealousies that came from the women and the children brought all kinds of trouble to Jacob’s life (Genesis chapters 30 and 31).
- David’s affair with Bathsheba and his subsequent killing of her husband Uriah brought much tragedy upon David’s children (2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12) and tarnished his legacy (1 Kings 15:5).
- Solomon’s many foreign women turned his heart to the worship of their false gods, a sin that cost his son Rehoboam the united kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 11:1-13).
Mind you that I’m not for a moment excusing the roles these men played in their own downfalls. I’m simply pointing out that history is replete with men who at least for a time have given their strength to women rather than to serving the Lord and have paid a high price for it. Even in recent times, how many politicians, celebrities, and sports stars have made the news cycle because of their sordid relationships with women? The list is a long one, to be sure.
But now let’s turn our attention to what Proverbs chapter 31 says about how a woman can be the making of a man. The passage’s description of the virtuous woman is one of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible. I won’t cover the entirety of the passage here, but I will offer seven highlights from it:
- The heart of her husband safely trusts in her (v.11).
- Her husband will have no lack of gain because of her (v.11).
- She does her husband good and not evil all the days of his life (v.12).
- She willingly works with her hands (v.13).
- She does the shopping for the food the household requires (v.14).
- She provides food for her husband as well as the rest of the household (v.15).
- She is a smart businesswoman who makes a profit outside the home (v.16, v.24).
And what does being married to such a woman do for a husband’s social standing? It causes him to sit in the gates of his city among the fellow elders (v.23). Ancient cities did not have courthouses, tax offices, register of deeds offices, etc. All official business was conducted by the city’s elders when they met in conference at the city’s gate. Therefore, the point of verse 23 is that everything this wonderful wife does for her husband allows him to become a prominent citizen of his city. You see, she’s not his rival or his nemesis. She’s his edifier, his promoter, his helper (Genesis 2:18). Her goal is to get him, not her, a spot among the elders at the city gate.
Such a woman is surely worthy to be praised by not only her husband but also by her children (v.28). Her own works even eventually reach a point where they themselves are praised in the gates. This shows that other men recognize it when a man has a Proverbs c.31 wife, and they don’t speak of her in lowly, subservient terms. They don’t look upon her as being a doormat. To the contrary, they understand that she is fulfilling God’s will for her life by pouring herself into the lives of her husband and her children.
Summing up the whole situation, it all comes down to a simple choice. A woman can either zap a man’s strength or be his strength. She can tear him down or build him up. She can help him get demoted or promoted. She can be his undoing or his doing.
Unfortunately, our schools today are not teaching any classes that prepare young women to be Proverbs c.31 wives and mothers. Then again, that was never supposed to be the world’s job anyway. Instead, God has given that teaching assignment to the older women (Titus 2:3-5).
But if you want to know how they are doing on carrying out that assignment, all you have to do is look at the state of our marriages and homes today. Even as we thank God for each woman who is doing those things that build up her husband, we must admit that there are far too many women who are not doing such things. And make no mistake about it, we are all the worse for it. I say that because in God’s plan for marriage and the home there really is no substitute for the Proverbs c.31 woman.