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The Virtuous

Proverbs 31:10 (ESV) … “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

The longer Solomon played the fool when it came to women, the more the ideal woman haunted him. Proverbs 31:10–31 is, we will assume, his ode to the one woman in the world he could never have. Was he perhaps thinking of the Shulamite—the woman about whom he wrote his famous song?

How rare she was, this model woman who haunted Solomon’s dreams. “Who can find a virtuous woman?” he wrote, “for her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). The Hebrew word rendered “virtuous” here refers to much more than purity. The word means “strong in all moral qualities.”

Proverbs 31:10 reminds me of Ruth. She was raised as a pagan in Moab. Then one day she met a foreigner, a young Hebrew named Mahlon. He was not a strong man, but he caught her fancy. He talked to her about another God, the true and living God. She married him and then he died, leaving her a widow almost before she was a wife.

As she passed through the deep waters of grief, Ruth learned to appreciate her mother-in-law Naomi, who was also a widow. Ruth would drink in Naomi’s stories about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Joshua, Caleb and Gideon, and Barak and Deborah. The young pagan listened eagerly as Naomi talked about redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb, about the laws of Moses, about wilderness wanderings, about sacrifices, and about feast days. How different Hebrew worship was from the cruel worship of Moab!

When Naomi announced that she was going home, Ruth decided to go with her. At the end of their journey, the poor widowed pair arrived in Bethlehem, where Ruth’s goodness to Naomi, sweetness of disposition, and eagerness to know more about the God of Israel became the talk of the town.

Because it was harvest time, Naomi explained the law of the gleaner to her daughter-in-law, and Ruth set out for the field. There she met Boaz, a prince of the house of Judah. Boaz spoke kindly to her and sent her home laden with tokens of his bounty. Then Naomi taught Ruth the law of the kinsman-redeemer and, in compliance with that law, Ruth put herself at Boaz’ feet. He promised to play his part and said, “All the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).

Ruth is the only woman in the Old Testament who is called “a virtuous woman.” Doubtless Solomon had her, or someone like her, in mind when he said that such a woman’s price was “far above rubies.” Solomon would have given a king’s ransom for a woman like Ruth.[1]

Proverbs 31 challenges believers, especially the young, to learn the lessons of past generations. It gives the practical implications of the confession that God is the Lord of all of life. The truly wise show respect for God and His standards in all life situations. Living faith can never be divorced from lives of faithfulness. Faith must be lived out in the day-to-day world where problems call for practical wisdom. How we relate to others serves as an indicator of our relationship with God.[2]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring Proverbs 19–31: An Expository Commentary (Vol. 2, Pr 31:10). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

[2] Dockery, D. S. (Ed.). (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 359). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

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