We’ve already quoted from Proverbs 31 extensively—the worthy woman, or as the King James reads, the virtuous woman. Maybe it’s worth checking out the meaning of “worthy.” Just what makes this woman so rare and precious, her value “far above rubies?” The word itself has a depth of meaning you might never suspect.
The Hebrew word chayil is used 150 times in the Old Testament. Look at these other words it is often translated by: army, band of men, band of soldiers, company, forces, great forces, host, might, power, strength, substance, valor, war, able, strong, and valiant. Look up these passages where the word is translated by one of those: Judg 21:10; 1 Chron 5:18; 2 Kgs 2:16; 2 Chron 33:14; 1 Sam 9:1; 14:48. Of the 150 available, that is a good representation. Can you find the word in those verses? If you see one that has anything to do with brave, strong men, that’s it:”worthy.”
We tend to think of strength and courage as specifically masculine traits, and yes, men may have the monopoly on brute strength, but look through Proverbs 31. Not only does this woman have the strength to survive long, busy days, one after the other with no end in sight, but she has the inner strength to survive life! “Hothouse flowers” who “have the vapors” are not who God had in mind when he created woman.
A woman should have the strength to stand by a man through thick and thin, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse” and all the other things she promised all those years ago, to manage her household (1 Tim 5:14), to teach her children, to help the needy, to serve the saints, and to stand against the wiles of the Devil, and to quench all the fiery darts of the Evil One, Eph 6:11,16.
By using this word “worthy” in Proverbs 31, both at the beginning of the passage, v 10, and at the end, v 29, God is surely telling us that he expects his women to be strong, inside and out. She won’t wilt when times get rough, when one trial after the other besets her soul.
She won’t leave when the money is so scarce she can’t go shopping, when all the appliances break down at once and she can’t afford new ones. She might even have to put her hands in dishwater and scrub, or hang clothes on a clothesline in the winter, but she will do whatever is necessary, when it is necessary. She doesn’t have to have a certain brand, a certain level of living, a certain status among her peers or “my life is ruined.”
She won’t go to pieces when the schedule is full and time is short, when there is a deadline to meet and being late is not an option.
She will stand by a man, even when he makes mistakes that he has to pay for with shame and humility, forgiving and comforting as only someone intimately close can.
When tragedy strikes, she may cry, but she won’t disintegrate. She may grieve, but she won’t become bitter. She may bend over in sorrow, but she won’t break in defeat. In whatever life brings her, she plays the hand she was dealt and comes away a winner.
Ladies, God says there is strength and courage in femininity—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
A worthy [strong, valiant] woman, who can find? Her price is far above rubies; she girds her loins with strength, and makes her arms strong. Strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at the time to come. Many daughters have done valiantly but you excel them all. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:10,17,25,29,31.