Every godly husband knows the value of a wise and industrious wife, so it should not be surprising to find that this is the kind of wife that God commends in His Word. We see this particularly in today’s passage, which lists the attributes of the excellent wife, focusing particularly on her industry, though her wisdom is featured as well.
First, the industriousness of the excellent wife is on full display in Proverbs 31. Verse 13 highlights this by telling us that she “seeks wool and flax.” In the ancient world, women who became adept at spinning and weaving were highly admired, so the fact that she seeks after the raw materials that make it possible to produce textiles is a sign of her respectability. Moreover, woolen garments could be costly in the ancient world, so the woman who “seeks wool and flax” is contributing to an industry that can provide a substantial income for her family. She develops her skills and then uses them to bless her husband and children. In our own context, this would speak to the propriety of women’s developing the skills necessary to bless their households. Women, no less than men, should be encouraged in their giftings and to pursue whatever training is necessary to use these giftings for the good of the family, the church, and the world.
In addition to her industry with respect to her family’s economic well-being, the excellent wife of Proverbs 31 also focuses on the world outside of her husband and children. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (v. 20), seeking to fulfill the Lord’s command not to forget the impoverished in her community (Lev. 23:22; Deut. 15:11). She is generous to those who are not a part of her immediate household, no doubt in part because her industry has made it possible for her family to give abundantly to the poor.
Although the public good done by the excellent wife blesses those outside her family, that does not mean her family enjoys no public benefit from her. “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23). In the ancient world, the elders met at the gates of the city in order to do business, settle judicial matters, and so forth. Thus, the excellent wife’s husband serves as a leader in his community, and he is well respected. Her wisdom and support have contributed to the standing of her husband in the city. Because she has a good reputation, he has a good reputation. Her understanding and kind demeanor (v. 26) advance not only her standing but also the standing of others.