Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Notes to the Leader: This is a discussion-oriented study. The role of women in the Christian church is, unfortunately, one of the many controversies argued among denominations. While this study is not intended to put to rest those controversies, it represents one view, an Old Testament view of women’s gifts in support of God’s kingdom.
The study is intended for both men and women. It explores only a small portion of the entire Biblical perspective on the roles women should take in their work, in their families and in their church. It is strongly suggested that you group other studies together on this topic to offer a broad perspective.
Plan to build a list on a whiteboard or easel. Use this question to open up the group and get everyone to participate. There are no right or wrong answers here, just opinions.
What are the elements in society, both in the U.S. and in the other countries of the world, that serve to stereotype women as subservient to men?
- Religion (e.g. some Mid-Eastern)
- Television and the media, books (e.g. the roles women take as characters)
- Family history (early patterning)
- Educational systems
What status do you think women hold in the Old Testament Jewish society?
- Women were held in high regard.
- The Hebrew word for man is Ish; woman is Ishah, indicating she was created equal (Genesis 2:23). The four mothers, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel were always held in high esteem. This is clear from Scripture. Miriam rescued Moses (Exodus 2:1-9), led Israel in celebrating its deliverance through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-21), and was influential until her death. God’s prophet Micah lists her with Moses and Aaron among the liberators of Israel (Mica 6:4). Israel’s women contributed to the resources needed for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:22). Finally, just some of the heroines of the Bible are: Deborah (Judges 4-5), Ruth (Book of Ruth), Hannah (1 Samuel 1), Abigail (1 Samuel 25), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24-25), 1 Kings 1:11), the wise woman of Tekoa (2 Samuel 14), Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14-20), Queen Ester (Book of Ester), and many more.
- While the Book of Proverbs was primarily written as a training manual for young men, it begins with women as models (Proverbs 1:8; 1:20-33; 4:6-9; 8:1-36; 9:1-12) and ends with Proverbs 31, things a mother taught her son, including a description of a wife of noble character who exemplifies the best of Proverbs’ wisdom.
Section One: Who Was The Woman Behind the Teaching in Proverbs?
King Lemuel wrote Proverbs 31. It consists of the things his mother taught him.
Have someone in the group read Proverbs 31:1-2.
What can you tell about King Lemuel’s mother from these verses?
- We do not know her name but know she was a godly and wise woman.
- She had two sons whom she influenced, Lemuel and Agur.
- She saw the teaching of her sons as the fulfillment of vows she had made to God, perhaps before they were born (v. 2).
By what right is the queen mother expressing to teach her sons?
- By blood. “O son of my womb.” The right of motherhood and childbirth
With the challenges facing children in the world today, How is it that we can hope to teach them and influence them?
- Use this as an opportunity to build another list. Once you are completed (again there are no right or wrong answers), read 2 Timothy 3:16 to the group.
Now, how would you answer the question?
- Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not only our hope but our power.
Section Two: The Primary Concerns of a Mother
Whose responsibility does sex education fall onto? The Father, the mother, the school?
- It is the joint responsibility of both parents (Read Proverbs 6:20-35; 23:24-28; 31:1-3 to the group).
Why do you think the issue of sex is so apparent in the Bible?
- We are called by God to prepare our children before we send them out into a sex-saturated society.
Have someone read Proverbs 31:3 to the group.
What is the real message behind Lemuel’s mother’s comments?
Sex is addictive. It has the power to dissipate physical and mental energies and wealth.
Have someone read Proverbs 31:4-7 to the group.
What was the queen mother’s second concern?
- Misuse of alcohol. In this specific example, it is pointed out that drunkenness produces forgetfulness of the law, which leads to unjust judgement (v. 5).
In verse 6 and 7, Is the queen mother advocating the use of alcohol to get relief from life’s problems?
Note to the Leader: The Hebrew verb “Give” is plural, meaning the statement is not specifically addressed to Lemuel. Because of this, it is to be taken as no more than an observation on the way alcohol is used. This is an excellent example of why one should be on guard against the pure literal use of the Bible. Without study and knowledge, one could draw erroneous conclusions. Use the answers you receive to stress the point of proper Biblical study.
- If your group is comprised of youth, discuss peer pressure and how it affects their decisions on alcohol.
- If your group is comprised of singles, discuss the dating scene and how alcohol can distort or destroy relationships.
- If your group is comprised of people with children, discuss how they set an example for their children.
- If your group is comprised of older people, discuss the impact alcohol has had within their lives. You will be surprised by the openness and willingness of those affected by alcohol to share their stories.
Please note: There are separate studies with regard to alcohol. See Alcohol, is it wrong to drink it? for more information.
Have someone in the group read Proverbs 31:8-9.
What is it that the queen mother considers important for the role of a king (leader)?
- Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
- All who are destitute.
- The poor, afflicted and humbled.
- The needy and helpless.
Does this mean that we should all rush to the “Liberal Left” and become a society taking care of everyone?
- We must be careful to understand the purpose of leadership. A leader must organize, protect, care about the moral character of his people. The queen mother points out that it is the most needy, the destitute, those on their last legs that have no power and cannot speak for themselves that must not be forgotten. She says nothing about taking the responsibility over for the masses of society. If one examines our society in America today, we have missed the mark. Our leadership has stepped in to organize and direct life for a large group who, with proper incentives, could care for themselves. Yet, at the same time, ignored the real poverty, “street people”, those who have no hope. There are other groups too that fall into the category of being in “real poverty.” This section can offer the opportunity for a lively debate on government policies, the role of the Church and the individual responsibilities of citizens.
Section Three: The Perfect Woman (Biblical Definition)
Proverbs climaxes with an alphabetic poem. Each verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet from aleph to tau.
Why do you think the Book of Proverbs would end with such a poem?
- Several possible reasons:
- The queen mother taught her son, Lemuel, in this way so he would not forget this when he when to choose a wife.
- Lemuel may have written this as a tribute to his mother.
- It may have been chosen to end the Proverbs as a model for the young men to remember, a godly woman makes the difference (unlike the pagan women who were liberated and strong).
Have someone in the group read Proverbs 31:10-31.
For the men, How do you interpret these verses?
For the women, How do you interpret these verses?
- Notice that there is not one use of the words should, ought, or must. This poem is a tribute, not a directive.
What can you tell about the woman in Proverbs 31?
- She does not feel chained to the kitchen sink, imprisoned by housework, or held back by her husband or her responsibilities as wife and mother.
- She realizes her potential as a person.
- She has independence within an interdependent relationship.
- She has power and freedom to do what she is capable of doing, not in competition but in partnership with her husband.
What to you see as far as the husband’s response to this woman in Proverbs 31?
- He has full confidence in her, encouraging here to be everything she can be (v. 11, also Ephesians 5:25-28).
- He makes a point to praise her and affirm her abilities (vv. 28-29).
- He values her (v. 10) and shows his approval publicly (v. 31). There is no attempt to “keep her in her place” or “lord over her” in order to assert his supremacy. He is not here rival but her ally.
- He respects her as queen of the house and she functions not a slave but as the responsible leader she is capable of being (vv. 15, 27).
- She, in turn, respects him, works with him to provide a secure and orderly home (vv 18, 21, 25), and enhances his position in the community (v. 23). Her energies are “noble.” (v.29) or in Hebrew, hayil, meaning virtuous, worthy, reputable, capable, strong, resourceful, active.
Note: The woman in Proverbs 31 has some advantages: she has servants to help manage the household and her business enterprises (v. 15). She and her family wear the best of clothes (vv. 21-22). She has money to invest (v. 16). He husband is a leader in the community (v. 23).
Bible Truth Being Taught
The Bible acknowledges the worth and influence of godly women, and describes them as possessing a full complement of capabilities and gifts as persons created in the image of God.
To recognize and accept that a Christian women’s gifts and abilities are from God and for all to support godly women in becoming everything they were created to be.