Strength of a Woman: Why You Are Proverbs 31
by Lauren Crews
Congratulations on the upcoming release of this book and its companion devotional.
Pre-order available now, releases April 16, 2020
Tell us about it.
It is a Christian Woman’s Lifestyle book for Christian women who are challenged by the Proverbs 31 passage or the value of their past. I believe women who enjoy word studies and our Jewish influence on Christianity will enjoy it.
Strength of A Woman will have you celebrating as you understand the blessing God sings over you as a woman. Look at the familiar Proverbs 31 Scripture passage and begin to understand the Jewish teachings and the true meaning of the passage. Through this study of the passage, you will:
- Discover the hidden beauty in the imagery of the Hebrew alphabet through word study;
- Understand the challenges you face now in comparison to those in biblical times;
- Embrace God’s purposes versus societies expectations; and
- Enjoy insights into a strong woman’s day-to-day life.
What are your thoughts about the Proverbs 31 woman?
She has been taught as the perfect example of biblical womanhood, and although we have much to learn from her, so many women see her as an unobtainable standard. How is a single woman, a widow or a divorced woman expected to measure up?
There are a lot of books about this chapter. How is your book different from other Proverbs 31 books?
Strength of a Woman looks at the Proverbs passage through the original Hebrew language. It is an acrostic poem of the Hebrew alphabet. Hebrew letters hold imagery and the images of each letter relates to the verse. Add to that word studies from the verses and we see interesting new insight. For example the passages has multiple references to warfare and the duties of the tabernacle priests. We begin to see the Proverbs woman shift from a homemaker to a warrior.
How will women relate to these women?
I’ve included the stories of twenty very unlikely Proverbs 31 women. If you meet them today you would see thriving Christian women, but each traveled through a dark and difficult time in their lives. Their stories reveal how they lived out the characteristic of each letter and its relation to the verse. They have truly become Proverbs 31 women.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
I want them to redefine the predefined consequences and stigmas society, and sometimes even the church, puts on women who face hard things in life. Christ alone is the author of our stories and He is the true strength of a woman.
Do you have a personal favorite Proverbs 31 verse?
Am I allowed to have more than one? I really like Proverbs 31:31, “Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gate.” It relates to the Hebrew letter Tav which represents a mark or a sign. I’d like my legacy, or my mark on life, to be one that reflects how I have partnered with Christ and drew from His strength through all seasons and struggles. I want people to remember how much I valued God’s word and my relationship with Him. That would be high praise indeed.
Your Heroic Hymn
I need to be honest with you from the start. From what I first learned about the Proverbs 31 Woman, I hated her. History portrayed her as a virtuous flower and upheld her as a glowing example of biblical womanhood. I saw her as a standard.
I’m not wealthy, I don’t know how to weave fabric, and I’m not a stay-at-home mom. Some days I’m so busy the best I can do for dinner is the drive-through. And, honestly, sometimes it’s hard to honor my husband. When you add to that the challenges other women face in divorce, as a single parent, or as a widow, or the guilt and rejection some women feel if they cannot conceive, how can we not walk away from the passage feeling judged? She is everywhere. But I. just. can’t. do. it.
I took a Facebook survey of my friends and contacts asking, “What is your first thought when you hear Proverbs 31 mentioned?” Some women replied, “A godly example like my grandmother,” or, “Something to strive for.” However, the typical response was, “Too much, a lot to achieve.” The overwhelming response was, “Unobtainable, I try but fail often”—and they felt bad for failing.
Once upon a time I too related to the Proverbs 31 Woman in this way, but I’ve changed my mind.
Would it surprise you to know the verses of Proverbs 31:10–31 have a military theme and emphasize strength? Throughout the passage, the verses make references to military activities and the spoils of war. Historically this passage is read as a heroic hymn. In The Song of a Valiant Woman, author Al Wolters says this type of literature is found in many cultures and is “characterized by the recounting of the mighty deeds of heroes, usually the military exploits of noble warriors.” Many examples of heroic hymns can be found throughout the Bible. Proverbs 31 also contains references to the work of Old Testament priests, a second theme, developed through references to the material of the priestly garments and the Tabernacle. These themes are very different from the traditional homemaker and housewife I thought she represented.
I love the Word of God. The more I study it, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But I’ve studied and learned the Bible through the English language and through the eyes of a modern, Western understanding. When we read the Bible today, we don’t necessarily know how the original reader understood the lessons taught. We read with twenty-first century eyes. When translating, we must consider the original audience and the nuances of their language and culture. This is called hermeneutics, and it is crucial for accurate interpretation.
Yet most of us don’t have a confident understanding of a foreign language like Hebrew or Greek. We aren’t familiar with the figurative language, the idioms, wordplay, and puns of those languages. We just do not “get it” like the native speakers do, and, as a result, some of the meaning gets lost in translation.
When a friend mentioned Proverbs 31:10–31 is an acrostic poem written with the Hebrew alphabet, it stirred my word-nerd juices. I had to investigate. Hebrew is a verbal language, which means it is best understood through speaking. It was common in the Jewish culture to memorize the Torah, so much so a Rabbi might mention the first few words of a passage and his disciples would be able to fully recite the rest. When we are aware of this practice and how the people of biblical times did not have the access we do to scrolls or books of the Old Testament, it is easy to see why emphasis was placed on memorization and recitation.
Acrostic poems are commonly used in the Old Testament to aid the reader in memorization. Today, we also use them to help us remember information. You may have memorized the following acrostic in school to help you remember the planets.
My M for Mercury
Very V for Venus
Educated E for Earth
Mother M for Mars
Just J for Jupiter
Served S for Saturn
Us U for Uranus
Nothing N for Neptune
If you’re old school, like me, the acrostic ended with Nine Pizzas, but apparently Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore. Poor Pluto.
Like this acrostic, the Hebrew alphabet letters begin each verse of Proverbs 31:10–31 to trigger a reminder for the reader to help with memorization. I became curious how the letters might relate to the verses, and I discovered some amazing lessons we can all apply to our lives as women.
First, did you know our alphabet developed from the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabet? Our written letters began as pictures and symbols that held meaning—think cave drawings. They, in turn, developed into the letters and meanings we use today.
In Hebrew, each letter not only represents a sound but also has a picture to illustrate it. The pictograph relates to a fundamental meaning linked to the letter. As the Hebrew language developed, the word pictures for the letters were combined to form words, which included the original pictorial meaning of each letter. For example, the Hebrew word for father is ab or abba. The Hebrew letters to spell this word are א (alef) and ד (bet). The word picture that represents alef is an ox, with a fundamental symbolism of first (i.e., the first letter) and strong (i.e., “strong as an ox”). Bet’s word picture, on the other hand, is a house, so when you combine the word picture imagery for ab, you can see that father means the first strength of the house.
Hebrew letters also represent numeric values. Alef through yud represents numbers one through ten. Kaf through ayin are twenty through ninety, counting by by ten. Qof through tav are one hundred through nine hundred, counting by hundreds. Sometimes knowing the numeric value of the letter will add some insight, like what we just saw in the word pictures for ab. Because the word picture meaning, or number value, was to aid in memorization, there is often a link between it and the verse of Proverbs 31.
The intent of observing the relationship to a number or word picture is not to discover a secret Bible code in the acrostic poem. The process is used only as an observational tool to better understand the context and reasoning behind the word choice to aid in memorization. As a poem, we look at the entire passage, not just a single verse. This is important, as is acknowledging the figurative language and extended metaphors.
We can best understand the Proverbs 31 passage as a Hebrew proverb and poetic writing, which offers general life principles, not absolutes. In the Book of Proverbs, wisdom is frequently personified as Lady Wisdom. Throughout the poem of Proverbs 31:10–31, the author provides examples of wisdom in action, which are revealed from A to Z, or in Hebrew, from alef to tav. The idiom “from A to Z” describes something that has been analyzed deeply to cover all aspects of the topic. Proverbs 31 therefore provides the actions of this woman, so we can learn wisdom from her, from A to Z.
God holds women and the work of women in high regard. The fact God included a heroic poem about the various aspects of a woman’s life can be received with encouragement. Women, wives, and mothers are on the front lines and are vital when it comes to nurturing the next generation of His family, the future generation of believers. My hope is that you can lay aside any hindrances you have in embracing the life of the Proverbs 31 Woman and be strengthened and encouraged from Hebraic insight that celebrates your worth, value, and strength as a woman.
Every chapter in this book aims to provide you with some background knowledge about each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and explores how the word picture relates to the verse so we might glean the Hebrew insights that add a richer layer of understanding to the writing. Sometimes the meanings and pictographs will offer a word play we would otherwise miss. Other times they will provide a deeper definition of a word, verse, or theme. I’ve also included the stories of uncommon Proverbs 31 Women. My prayer is that their stories will inspire you to know the source of their strength and fall more in love with Jesus Christ and the grace He alone offers.
Finally, let’s discover how the word pictures of Proverbs 31 relate to women today, in all our roles of life, and how we can respond. I firmly believe these verses apply to all women in a much deeper way than just as an unattainable to-do list or a list of how to be the perfect wife. How does it apply to a divorced woman, the widow, the single mom? I offer to you that after reading this book, you will not walk away from this passage with a feeling of defeat because we fall short of this perceived representation but will walk away with encouragement and pride. I’m eager for you to discover God’s song of your heroism.
I’ll join you with the first letter, alef, from Proverbs 31:10.
Pause and Reflect—Discussion Questions
- Before this study, what were your initial thoughts on the verses of Proverbs 31:10–31?
- What would you like to learn about the Proverbs 31 Woman passage?
- What you know of the Proverbs 31 Woman might not apply to your present life, and you might feel as though you are already starting with a loss counted against you. Romans 8:1 tell us, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Strong woman, are you willing to have an open mind and consider the next layer, a deeper understanding? How can God’s voice of truth encourage you through Proverbs 31?
** Excerpt from Strength of a Woman: Why You Are Proverbs 31, Lauren Crews. Copyright (c) 2020 by Lauren Crews. Published by Ascender Books. Used with permission.
About the Author
Lauren Crews is an award-winning author and holds an MDiv from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. With twenty years’ experience in women’s ministry, she dives deep into God’s word and is eager to share the many layers with women in all roles of life. She resides in Jacksonville, FL with her husband and two brown labs who have their humans well trained.
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