Few things in life are more encouraging than receiving a compliment or being told, “Well done.” I know as a mom, I worked hard, often sacrificing for my family and rarely received a “thank you,” let alone a “good job.” Can I get an amen?
Did you know there is a song in the Bible that Jewish men sing over their wives every Friday night when they celebrate the start of their holy day Shabbat? It is a heroic hymn, a song that celebrates her strength and victories in life.
1 Samuel 18:6-8 is an example of one of the Bible's heroic hymns. It tells us that when David returned from killing the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing to meet King Saul, with tambourines, joy, and musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousand.” These hymns were sung to celebrate a conquering hero, something uncommon for the woman of ancient times. The song still sung over Jewish women today is Proverbs 31, Eshet Chayil.
Would it surprise you to learn the Proverbs 31 passage has a military theme? Hebrews, verse 10 opens referencing this woman's strength, her Chayil. English has translated Eshet Chayil as a woman of excellence or a woman of valor, but in Hebrew, valor is the word strength. The same word always used to describe the strength of a soldier and the military. Overall, the passage refers to this woman's strength five times, as well as other military references such as girding, spoils of war, and acting as a watchman on a wall.
Proverbs 31 also holds the rhythmic beat of poetry. The passage is an acrostic poem of the Hebrew alphabet. That means that each of the verses, 10-31 begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Hebrew letters hold more than just a sound. They have a word picture image linked to them as well as a numeric value. Acrostics help with memorization, and we still use acrostics today to jog our memory. For example, the acrostic F.R.O.G. reminds us to Fully Rely On God.
The passage also refers to the works of the tabernacle priest. Proverbs 31 sprinkles reference of the material worn by the priest, and colors seen in the tabernacle throughout the twenty-two verses. It even alludes to the sacrificial work of the priests. A beautiful reminder that those sacrifices I made for my family are holy and honoring to God.
Finally, we must honor the context and understand that the passage was written to a man seeking a wife. Still, the reading can be a source of strength and encouragement for the single woman, and even men. This idea of strength is revealed immediately in verse 10, which begins with the Hebrew letter alef. Alef holds a word picture of an ox. As a man seeks a wife, the first thing he should do is yoke himself to a strong woman. It might not seem like a compliment to be referred to as strong as an ox, but in the yoking process, they become a working team, and depend on each other's strengths.
A believer’s priority is to yoke ourselves to the strength of our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. He tells us in (Matthew 11:30), that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. As we partner with Him, we draw from His strength. Likewise, the heart of our bridegroom Jesus will trust in us (Proverbs 31:11), and we can make His name known at the city gates, our places of activity (Proverbs 31:23). And ultimately, it is the goal of every believer to hear from Jesus that elusive, “well done.” (Proverbs 31:29-30).
This passage holds so much more. At first glance, it is tempting to turn the page and think that this woman is an unobtainable standard. When we acquaint ourselves with the unfamiliar language and the judgment often tied to the passage, we can experience the melody of a heroic song scripted by God, who sings over us as a celebration of our worth.
To help learn this new song, ask yourself:
Before reading this, what was my first thought of the Proverbs 31 woman?
What have I learned today that might change how I receive the words of Proverbs 31?
What burdens do I carry that can be eased through yoking myself to the strength of Christ?
Join me in prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank you for the strength you offer. I am eager to join your yoke and work with you. Lord, thank you for this song, which honors our strength. Amen.
*Ideas and phrases were taken from Lauren’s article, “Sing a New Song,” which first appeared in Refresh Magazine, June 2020.