HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
The last part of Proverbs 31, beginning with verse 10, consists of 22 verses. Each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet (in proper order). The same alphabetical pattern is found in some of the Psalms and may have been used as an aid in memorizing Scripture. The most well-known alphabetical Psalm is Psalm 119 where there are 22 alphabetical sections of eight verses each. In the Hebrew text of Proverbs 31, each verse is also clearly divided into two parts (for example, in verse 10—Part 1: Who can find a virtuous woman? Part 2: For her price is far above rubies). This same two-part format is found in all of these verses. The only exception might be verse 15 which seems to be divided into three parts.
Who can find a virtuous woman?
The first part of verse 10 literally reads, “Who can find a woman of strength?” The term “virtuous” is a noun meaning strength, efficiency, ability. Here it refers to the strength of character, that is, moral strength and firmness.
In Exodus 18:21 we find the expression used of men. Moses was to find “able men” (lit.–“men of strength”) such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness. In light of this verse, we can say that a virtuous man is one who fears God, loves truth and hates sin. Moses was to look for and find such men, and the implication is that such men were not easy to find. The expression is also used in 1 Kings 1:42 (“valiant man” or “man of strength”) and 1 Kings 1:52 (“worthy man” or “man of strength”). In this latter passage (v. 52) we learn that the opposite of a virtuous man is a man in whom wickedness is found. Thus a virtuous man is a man of great moral strength, in whom wickedness is not found. He is a godly, God-fearing man. So also, the virtuous woman is a God-fearing woman–compare Proverbs 31:10 with 31:30.
The Old Testament uses this expression of a virtuous woman in two other places. In Ruth 3:11 it is used by Ruth. Everyone in the city knew that she was a virtuous woman! When a woman has the strength of character (fears God, loves truth, hates the sin), then others will take note and recognize this. It will be very obvious because it is so unusual. People are usually so morally weak and so anaemic in character, that when a man or woman of strength shows up it is quite evident to all. The other place the term is used is in Proverbs 12:4 where we learn that a virtuous woman (lit–a woman of strength) does not make her husband ashamed.
For her price is far above rubies.
She is far more valuable and worth far more than rubies. The Hebrew term for “rubies” may not refer to rubies, but may refer to pink pearls or red coral. A pink pearl which was found in a mollusc in the Red Sea was considered of great value to the ancients. It is difficult to know exactly which stone or pearl this Hebrew word referred to, but its usage in the Old Testament tells us two things for sure: 1) It was very valuable (see Proverbs 20:15 and Job 28:18); 2) It was reddish in colour (Lamentations 4:7–“ruddy”).
Who can find a virtuous woman (a woman of strength)? She is a rare gem. Precious stones are precious and costly because they are so rare. If you could go out along the roadside and collect hundreds of rubies anytime you wanted to, then they would not be worth much. It is the rare, hard to find gems that are worth so much. Also, for some reason God made the most common stones unattractive; yet He made most rare stones very beautiful and brilliant and lustrous. The virtuous woman is a beautiful woman, not necessarily outwardly, but certainly inwardly (see Prov. 31:30). She is not only a rare gem but a beautiful gem.
A godly woman is rare and very hard to find. The same thing could be said about the godly man. Number one on the endangered species list is the Homo sapiens pious*: “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psalm 12:1). There are hardly any such creatures around, and the few that do exist will eventually die out! May God in His infinite grace and mercy be pleased to raise up godly men and women in these difficult and trying days. [*Pious is the Latin word for “godly.”]
If a young man is looking for a godly woman, how can he find her? First, he should trust God to find her for him. Second, he must realize that a virtuous woman is not going to want just any man. She is going to want to find a virtuous man (a man of strength, a man valiant for the truth, a godly servant of Christ). So if you want to have any chance of finding such a gem, you must be a gem yourself. Exercise yourself unto godliness. Learn the fear of the Lord. Dare to be different. Dare to go against the flow of the world, and to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2). Be the kind of a man that would attract the interest of the godly woman!
So in this opening verse, we have learned that the godly woman is very hard to find. She is more valuable than a rare gem. She has an inner beauty and a strength of character and a moral firmness that is lacking in the vast majority of women, even believing women.