Eshet Chayil

Eshet Chayil

This is another blog post in a series reviewing Rachel Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  (Here are the other blogs, if you want to have a look: Three-Thousand-Year-Old Inferiority ComplexGirl Gone MildMartha Stewart TheologyObedience: My Husband, My Master, and Bird’s Eye View of Rachel Evans’ Book.)

Evans begins her year of hell, I mean, year of Biblical womanhood in October, so by January, she’s learned a thing or two about “Biblical” womanhood.  In this chapter “Valor: Will the Real Proverbs 31 Woman Please Stand Up?” Evans writes,

An empire of books, conferences, products, and media has evolved from a subtle repositioning of the [Proverbs 31] poem’s intended audience from that of men to that of women.  One of the more popular books is titled Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be: A 90 Day Guide to Living the Proverbs 31 Life. No longer presented as a song through which a man offers his wife praise, Proverbs 31 is presented as a task list through which a woman earns it.

Evans puts herself in the shoes of a woman who takes Proverbs 31 in this a way and creates a to-do list, which includes, but is definitely not limited to getting up before dawn, avoiding “idleness” like TV, Facebook, and Twitter, and working until 9:00 pm.  She learns to sew, praises her husband Dan “at the city gate,” and volunteers at a health clinic.

Evans writes her frustrations in such a cartoonishly funny way that reader’s can’t help but laugh along.  For example, she writes,

There seems to be a universal consensus among people of faith that God is a morning person.  The Dalai Lama rises at 3:30 am to meditate… my Proverbs 31 morning routine went something like this: wake up, make coffee, choose a centering word for meditation, fall back asleep, wake up again, feel guilty, drink coffee, lift my five-pound weights for three minutes, practice knitting, give up, write.

One very interesting tidbit I learn from this chapter is that orthodox Jewish husbands memorize Proverbs 31 so that “they can recite [the poem] to their wives at the Sabbath meal, usually in song.” (Eshet Chayil) How romantic!  This puts an entirely different spin on that to-do list approach.  The husbands apparently do this in front of everyone who has been invited into their home for the Sabbath celebration.  Evan’s husband Dan said, “It’s like their version of ‘You go, girl!'”

Spouses should praise one another.  It really helps the strength of a marriage to know that your spouse thinks highly of you.  And this concept applies outside of marriage as well.  Think about it.  When was the last time you bragged about someone else’s accomplishments?  Hopefully it hasn’t been long.  You don’t have to take it to extremes (see the photo below), just a few words go a long way.

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 12.15.10 AM

Evans praises her husband Dan “at the city gate.”

Comments
  • Stephen Helbig March 18, 2013 at 1:12 am

    ~ Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord ~

    ~ Endeavoring to edify ONE ANOTHER, and to promote purity of heart, by songs of praise ~

    ~ Let all things be done for edification.

    • Stephen Helbig March 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      If we search the Bible we find only one woman who is described in the words “eshet chayil” ~ Ruth, ~ the Moabite widow who decided to become Jewish and follow her destitute mother-in-law to Israel. After her husband-to-be Boaz finds her sleeping at his feet in the field and hears her story, he cries out “for you are an eshet chayil!” (Ruth 3, 11).

      p.s. ~ OUR KINSMAN REDEEMER, ~ who should the King marry? ~ In other words, the husband is none other than the King of Israel.
      ~ Remember that our Lord is the King of Kings and we are his Woman of Valor.

      p.s.s. ~ Here is the hymn of Eshet Chayil (Mishlei 31, 10-31) in Hebrew transliteration and English:(Proverbs 31, 10-31)

      Eshet chayil mi yimtza v’rachok mip’ninim michrah
      An accomplished woman, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.

      Batach bah lev ba’lah v’shalal lo yechsar
      Her husband’s heart relies on her and he shall lack no fortune.

      G’malathu tov v’lo ra kol y’mei chayeiha
      She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life.

      Darshah tzemer ufishtim vata’as b’chefetz kapeiha
      She seeks wool and flax, and works with her hands willingly.

      Haitah ka’oniyot socher mimerchak tavi lachmah
      She is like the merchant ships, she brings her bread from afar.

      Vatakom b’od lailah vatiten teref l’vetah v’chok l’na’aroteiha
      She arises while it is still night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidservants.

      Zam’mah sadeh vatikachehu mip’ri chapeiha nat’ah karem
      She plans for a field, and buys it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

      Chagrah b’oz motneiha vat’ametz zro’oteiha
      She girds her loins in strength, and makes her arms strong.

      Ta’amah ki tov sachrah lo yichbeh balailah nerah
      She knows that her merchandise is good. Her candle does not go out at night.

      Yadeha shilchah bakishor v’chapeiha tamchu falech
      She sets her hands to the distaff, and holds the spindle in her hands.

      Kapah parsah le’ani v’yadeiha shil’chah la’evyon
      She extends her hands to the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy.

      Lo tira l’vetah mishaleg ki chol betah lavush shanim
      She fears not for her household because of snow, because her whole household is warmly dressed.

      Marvadim astah lah shesh v’argaman l’vushah
      She makes covers for herself, her clothing is fine linen and purple.

      Noda bash’arim ba’lah b’shivto im ziknei aretz
      Her husband is known at the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.

      Sadin astah vatimkor vachagor natnah lak’na’ani
      She makes a cloak and sells it, and she delivers aprons to the merchant.

      Oz v’hadar l’vushah vatischak l’yom acharon
      Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.

      Piha patchah b’chochma v’torat chesed al l’shonah
      She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.

      Tzofi’ah halichot betah v’lechem atzlut lo tochel
      She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.

      Kamu vaneha vay’ash’ruha ba’lah vay’hal’lah
      Her children rise and praise her, her husband lauds her.

      Rabot banot asu chayil v’at alit al kulanah
      Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.

      Sheker hachen v’hevel hayofi ishah yir’at Hashem hi tit’halal
      Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears God shall be praised.

      T’nu lah mip’ri yadeiha vihal’luha vash’arim ma’aseha
      Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

      • admin March 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        I think my favorite line is, “Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.”

        • Stephen Helbig March 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

          I Like ~
          She is clothed with “strength and honour” ~ honourable garments, ~ suitable to her rank and dignity in the Lord; ~ in clothing of gold, ~ in raiment of needlework; ~ with the garments of salvation, and the robe of righteousness; ~ a clothing that never waxes old, a righteousness that will answer; our bread is given, and our waters are sure; all our need is supplied from Christ; we have hope in our death, and rejoice and sing, “O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55); ~ we shall come to Zion with everlasting joy; and shall rejoice with Christ, to all eternity.

          Isaiah 61:10
          “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
          My soul will exult in my God;
          For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
          He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
          As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
          And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

          (Notice vs. 21b). “For ALL her household are clothed with scarlet” ~ which color is an emblem of the blood of Christ, by which all her household is justified, Romans 5:9; and all the household of faith, the whole family and the whole household of God, are all justified by the same righteousness of Christ of which we are clothed, for the whole of which his crimson blood is put; it is a garment down to the feet, which covers all his people; they are all made righteous by the one obedience of Christ; they are all clothed in scarlet alike, all kings and priests unto God, all alike justified, and shall be glorified alike. Her household are clothed in scarlet to protect them from the cold in winter, and yes indeed we can SMILE at our future.

          p.s. ~ There are periods in the history of mankind that we get a bit out of balance. Our ideals become twisted, and then we try to fit normal people into these contorted imaginary shapes. The Eishet Chayil withstands all efforts to cripple with unrealistic expectations. This is how God speaks of his wife, ~ This song is sung on our behalf by our husband God

  • Lanny A. Eichert March 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Spouses should praise one another. It really helps the strength of a marriage to know that your spouse thinks highly of you.

    The spouse who needs it the most is the wife.

    Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. {Colossians 3: 19} is not written without reason of the inclusion of that word bitter.

    When are you, dear Alice, going to get Luke 14: 26 saved by Jealous?

    • admin March 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      What does this mean —> When are you, dear Alice, going to get Luke 14: 26 saved by Jealous?

  • Mary Vanderplas March 18, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I like what Evans says about Proverbs 31 being not a set of tasks that women should do (and by which their acceptability is to be measured), but a song of praise for one who exemplifies wisdom and the fear of the Lord. I’m not sure that I agree, though, that the intended audience is only men, even though it likely was written by a man and it came to be used by men as a vehicle for singing the praises of their wives. I agree with what you say about the beauty and power of this act on the part of husbands.

    I agree that her expressed frustration in trying to do the to-do list is amusing. Her experience, in my view, only underscores the ridiculousness of the whole project. When it comes to how she implements “biblical womanhood,” it strikes me that sometimes she misses the mark. In performing the task of praising her husband “at the city gate,” for instance, what she does seems not to compare to the meaning of the text. The city gates in ancient Israel were the place where the political and judicial activities of the community took place. Standing by the welcome sign along the highway that leads into town bearing a sign that extols her husband’s awesomeness doesn’t cut it; she would do better to sing his praises among a group of influential leaders convened to do business.

    I like what you say about the importance of speaking praise. In healthy unions characterized by mutual love and respect, the act of expressing authentic praise for the other shouldn’t be difficult. And for those who know God, the behavior of praising another’s accomplishments is always possible. Assured of our worth, which comes from being loved and accepted by God, we are able freely to lift up the other. Thanks for the encouragement to practice generosity in giving verbal praise to the important people in my life.

    • admin March 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      “The city gates in ancient Israel were the place where the political and judicial activities of the community took place. Standing by the welcome sign along the highway that leads into town bearing a sign that extols her husband’s awesomeness doesn’t cut it; she would do better to sing his praises among a group of influential leaders convened to do business.” – Yes, that’s true!

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