Considering how many negative portraits of women are in the Proverbs (remember Dame Folly), it is interesting to me that the book ends with a very positive portrait of a woman. Yes, it is, in some ways, a traditional portrait of a good wife, a capable wife. However, there are some surprising aspects to this portrait. This wife is compared to merchant ships (Proverbs 31:14). She has a managerial role, overseeing servant-girls (31:15). She purchases property (31:16). She sells merchandise (31:18). She is a philanthropist, opening her hand to the poor (31:20). All of her activities relate back, however, to supporting the good of her household.
Writing in the 1950s to a female correspondent, C. S. Lewis had this to say:
I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr. Johnson said, “To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour.” (1st to be happy to prepare for being happy in our own real Home hereafter: 2nd, in the meantime, to be happy in our houses.) We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.