“An Excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
I am so overwhelmed by the Hebrew words of these two verses, they are so significant and meaningful.
Woman is Ishisha, the feminine plural form of Ish. These are the names used in Genesis one for Man and Woman, Ish and Ishah. In the Hebrew this word comes first and it is followed by khah’yil, translated here as “excellent”. This word literally means FORCE, in the Strongs Concordance, a force of manpower, tools, or other resources. This word is likened to the force of an army, wealth, virtue, valor and strength!
“raw’khoke paw’neen mek’her” Her worth is far above jewels. Raw‘khoke literally means “remote” or long ago and far off, but here it implies it uses its specific meaning, which is precious, translated as worth. Paw’neen is more vague, it is a word related to jewels, pearls or ruby’s, but not because it is translated “Pearl” or “Ruby”, the word is actually related to the shape of the object rather than the object itself. It’s root means turn or angle and used here it can mean “round”. So, to really break it down in a Greek manner the word literally means “valuable round thing”, but as no Hebrew would ever write that it we use its connotation in translation rather than the denotation, and the connnotation is “Jewels”. Mek’her is from the verb maw’kar, meaning to sell, or pay a price. It is literally “merchandise”.
Ok, now lets put it all together and see if our translating and defining can help reveal any more of the meaning of these words!
If we take kah’yil and expand it’s meaning in our minds to its fullest extent, we will read this as, “A forceful, powerful, strong, virtuous wife who can find”. Please don’t misunderstand the use of forceful here, this is not violence. An army has much force and power without ever needing to be violent. The mere presence of such an army conveys strength, perhaps even valor and justice, or virtue. It is THIS meaning that the kah’yil is meant to express. And the phrase on the end, “who can find?” is not a purely interrogative phrase, it is an exclamation. “An excellent wife who can find!!?” The question is there but it is the question of virtue, a challanging phrase that is very Jewish. I imagine a Rabbi throwing his hands up to God with this exclamation. How often is a woman praised for this manner of forcefulness? for the power of virtue and right action? This woman is likened unto an entire army in her excellence and ability. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of this chapter. The speaker will NOT contradict himself (King Lemuel’s mother is speaking, but her son is the presumed author of this passage) and so if you seem to find contradiction, either in his words about this woman or in his explanations of her work and daily life, I would challenge you to come back to this opeing phrase of the Excellent, Virtuous wife and use it as your foundation for understanding the rest of the passage. Perhaps your definition of a powerful woman is not the same as the author’s, or do you need to redefine your idea of what a powerful woman looks like? Something to think about.
Now the last part of the verse, “her worth is far above jewels” is fairly straightforward, but lets put all this together using some different words to help us grasp the full meaning of the phrase. We have worth, but let’s use it’s literal meaning of preciousness instead, and then there are the jewels. Now this woman is being COMPARED to the jewels and when we factor in maw’kar or “merchandise, the comparison becomes clear, this woman’s preciousness is the price buying fine jewels.
Has the verse changed at all in your mind? Has it changed literally, meaning has the actual text been altered in any way? I don’t want you to think about you like or don’t like about this passage. Whether you like it or not does not change actually change its meaning, but it will change your perception of it. Be aware of this, but don’t let it overpower your judgement. ” A powerful wife, who can find?” Does this image sound to you at all like that of the woman in Genesis one? the “Powerful Equal”? Does this sound like a woman whose heart her husband can trust, a woman who would do him good and not evil? A powerful woman may have the ABILITY to OVERPOWER her husband, but that ability is meant to be used for good and not evil. I think it says a lot to Christian men and women today that we need to understand that a biblical picture of womanhood, indeed of mankind altogether, is about HOW we use our strengths, our VALOR or our VIRTUE. As we will discover, a woman’s power, when applied towards goodness and the benefit of others, is an absolutely necessary and praiseworthy attribute.