Proverbs 31. This chapter instantly recalls countless Mother’s Day sermons we all have heard throughout the years. This is an interesting chapter, especially starting in verse 10 is when it gets extremely interesting to me. This verse starts out with this phrase:
An excellent woman…
That particular translation is from the ESV, and I don’t think its a great one. This particular word “chayil” isn’t normally used of women; it normally means strength, might, ability, etc. Excellent wouldn’t be a translation that I would use. If you look in a lexicon that lists the words uses, all except two uses will be about strength, ability, fitness, only twice is it translated “integrity” or something like that. While that translation surely isn’t wrong, does it really represent what the word means?
The only other place this phrase is used, “eshat chayil” is used just one book later (in the Hebrew Bible, also called the TaNaK, which I will explain in a different post) in the book of Ruth. In Ruth 2:11, Ruth is called an “eshat chayil” or a woman of valor, strength. A person reading their Hebrew Bible well would notice the reoccurrence of this phrase, because the words only occur in conjunction these two times. The author (or perhaps editor) of these two books is drawing the readers attention simultaneously to Ruth and the Proverbs 31 woman.
Could Ruth be an example of this perfect woman, that is worth more than rubies? I think the editor of the Hebrew Bible put these two books together for this specific purpose (probably with other purposes as well, but this one seems quite obvious).