Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Proverbs 31 Woman--A Career Woman

The excellent wife in Proverbs 31 has been used by males who claim to be Christian to push their wives as well as other men’s wives to work harder, to carry a larger share of the workload. Women, you don’t have to hurt over this anymore. Proverbs 31 means exactly the opposite of what males have told us it means.

Look at verse 15, the one that suggests she gets by on 4-6 hours of sleep:
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
The word “maidens” is key. First of all, it does not make sense that the maidens are her daughters, because her daughters would already be a part of the "household." Strong’s Concordance, #5291 is the same word that is used in Exodus 2:5
And the daughter of Pharoah came down to wash herself at the river; and her MAIDENS walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her MAID to fetch it.
And Esther 4:16
Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my MAIDENS will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
In both these verses, the word MAIDEN is referring to HIRED HELP. If it does not refer to hired help, then the maidens with Pharoah's daughter and Esther's maidens would also have to be their daughters, and Proverbs 31 would have to be speaking of the Proverbs 31 woman's daughters as not belonging to her household, or as not normally being given food along with the household, which is ridiculous.

Although the Proverbs 31 woman is accredited for doing all those things, a reasonable interpretation of the text says she has HIRED MAIDENS to help her. She was the CEO of her business, not the main labor force. It appears she was such a wise business woman that she was wealthy, and this is what freed her husband to serve at the city gates, and brought them both respect.

I would guess at least some of the activities she, herself, did. If she sought the wool and flax, she could do this because she had maidens tending to things at home. Other activities her employees did. Perhaps when she bought food from afar, she took employees with her to load and carry the food she selected. She may personally have got up while it was still night and fed her entire household, including her staff of maidens, or she may have had a cook make the meal and a staff to serve it-—especially if she was off seeking wool, flax, food, buying a field, or had returned late from a business trip. She herself may have gone to help the poor, or she may have sent her maidens with baskets of food that the maidens prepared.

This is the opposite of what Christian wives are taught today. They are told to LIMIT their activity to their own homes. They are NOT to be CAREER women or to have goals of their own--other than those of serving their husbands. Due to economic need, some are allowed to have jobs--if their husbands agree--but generally not careers or businesses that take subtantial capital and time.

In contrast, the Proverbs 31 woman was a BUSINESS woman with female employees, probably both in her household and in her business. She makes decisions about the big stuff, like what parcels of land and what produce and resources to buy. She also went on business trips where she buys and sells items. She DOES NOT ask her husband's permission for every move. She was praised because she widened her horizons. She took a risk and started a business and hired help. She made enough money that she had plenty to give to the poor and needy, as well as plenty to cloth her family in expensive silk and purple.

Notice also that her husband trusts her and does not supervise her or boss her around. This gives her freedom to make decisions and not constantly have to second-guess herself. He treats her as the adult she is, rather than keeping her in a child-like state. In her adult state, she serves her husband by hiring help and running a business, thus bringing wealth to her family. She neither mothers her husband, nor behaves as his innocent and ignorant child-bride. She does, however, help others in need.

According to Strong’s, #5291 is “fem. of 5288, a girl (from infancy to adolescence).” But if you check 5288, which is the source of #5291, you’ll find that maiden is the feminized form of boy, lad, young man, or SERVANT. Indeed, in the other contexts where #5291 is used, it is referring to female servants or to working girls from poor families.

The male establishment has used scripture to stomp on women and hold them down, making them into their personal slaves and prostitutes and giving themselves license to control and abuse their wives with impunity. Just like they did with the wife submission and husband authority doctrine, scripture has been twisted to say exactly the opposite of what it actually says. (Remember 1 Timothy 2:14, where “younger women…guide the house” means “younger women…be ruler of the house?” And Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives, not to rule them?) see: Instead of the wife doing all that work, her hired maidens did a substantial amount of it. Her staff may be the ones who got up early to feed the family and their employees.

If males refuse to rightly divide the word of truth, but instead institute norms that are contrary to scripture, are women required to obey the oppressive males instead of God? Absolutely not! In Galatians 2:5 Paul did not subject himself to oppressive doctrine--"no, not for an hour."

Rise up, women, make straight the paths for both yourselves, other women, and your daughters! Go forth with joy into the freedom and purpose God has given each of you.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit


  1. I guess we're on the same page.
    I totally agree with you that she was the MANAGER of her home and NOT MANAGED by her husband.
    When I took my Proverbs 31 woman break on my blog, I wasn't going into depth. I was only dealing with one aspect of it. There's an awful lot in there that a lot of male preachers simply don't want to see.

  2. Waneta: "If males refuse to rightly divide the word of truth, but instead institute norms that are contrary to scripture, are women required to obey the oppressive males instead of God? Absolutely not! In Galatians 2:5 Paul did not subject himself to oppressive doctrine--'no, not for an hour.' "

    And another thing.
    It seems women are rising up all over the place and challenging the very slanted teachings put out by many men.
    Unfortunately, most men are completely unaware of their own bias and just look at these women as unsubmissive malcontents.
    What they don't realize is that many of these women are tapping into the actual freedom that God has called us all to.
    Also, unfortunately, these men have no clue that they need to hear the teaching of women to counter-balance their bias. They don't want to hear because they don't want their privileges tampered with. They completely miss that these privileges are not biblical.

    But you are so right.
    Another thing the Proverbs woman does is she teaches.
    So keep at, Waneta. Your novel teaches, your blog teaches. And I'm going to keep teaching to.

  3. Mara,
    Welcome to my blog and thank-you for your comments.

    For the record, I didn't see the frustration in your Prov 31 blog that I have in some. usually, while I'm in the middle of a series someone will write on that virtuous woman, and it is so obvious the writer doesn't think she, herself, measures up. When I read that, I'd tell myself that one of these days I'll write a post about Prov 31, so all women can be free from guilt or resentment concerning Prov 31, and also free to soar into being what God called them to be.

    When I read your post, I wasn't in the middle of something else, I felt prompted to write, and the time was right. I have great respect for your work/ministry, and we are on the same page.

    BTW, I don't normally go any deeper than the concordance. I've never been to a theological college, and have little patience for commentaries--especially when male bias is so obvious. However, I have been deeply interested in studies, like Barbara Roberts book, "Not Under Bondage: Biblical divorce for Abuse, Adultery, and Desertion." It is fascinating to me how overlooked passages come alive when they are put into the context of what they meant in the day they happened, and when Old Testament laws (that I would have dismissed as OT) are shown to be the foundational experience of the people who were hearing the words of Jesus. Wow!

    Is there some way to get to know you on a more personal level?

  4. "Unfortunately, most men are completely unaware of their own bias and just look at these women as unsubmissive malcontents.
    What they don't realize is that many of these women are tapping into the actual freedom that God has called us all to.
    Also, unfortunately, these men have no clue that they need to hear the teaching of women to counter-balance their bias. They don't want to hear because they don't want their privileges tampered with. They completely miss that these privileges are not biblical."

    Mara, you are so right. Males don't want to hear, they don't want to change their hearts, either. I keep praying, hoping that something one or all of us says will finally wake at least one of them up to the truth of what the Bible actually says.

    As you say, you and I will keep teaching, and the males will keep sticking their fingers in their ears and saying naa naa naa naa naa naa.

    That picture actually gives me hope. I recall everytime I did that fingers in the ears move, I could STILL HEAR what the person was saying. The naa naa nass was simply noise to try to drown out the truth. Mara, we need to pray that God will give them hearts that are willing to hear and to turn from their sin. They also need to choose to renew their minds so they can be transformed, as Romans 12:1-2 puts it.

    Do you have any wise ideas on how to "provoke" males to be willing and eager to hear and be transformed to real Christ-likeness?

  5. Waneta--

    This is THE Passage I always use in the funeral of a godly woman. I had not considered how many godly women there are these days with a 50% divorce rate.

    I realize, in a few cases, the fault is more the woman than the man. In most cases it is more the man than the woman.

    In ALL cases it is 2 people not realizing that marriage is falsely presented as a 50/50 relationship.

    My Pastoral Care Professor at SEBTS wisely pointed out: ANY GOOD MARRIAGE IS 100/100--both partners giving it all they have for better or for worse because some "worse" is inevitable. Just keep it "some--for a short time--followed by the joy of making up and forgiving!"

    I am amazed at how many women not only clean up the bathroom because he can't "hit the target," but then have to put up with an emotional "dirty diaper" hanging around his neck all the time! Many husbands put out so much filth from the "in hole" there should be no diaper needed on the "out hole!"

    My wife quickly informed me: "If you miss, clean it up---if you just can't hit it then sit down like I do!" As I get older, I'm about to have to adopt her method despite all I can do. This is why most old men smell of stale urine if not carefully helped by a kind wife!

    While my wife is helping our daughter, I am trying very hard not to have a filthy bathroom floor or nasty smelling sweat pants when she returns to inspect my batchelor living skills--frankly, I am fortunate to have her help keeping things clean beneath my nose!!!!

    I would be totally pitiful and a social outcast in warm weather were it not for Lonya's TLC.

  6. There are a couple of women now posting information on the translation of Greek words in Wade Burleson's blog which--by the way--is often flying in the face of traditional Baptist thinking about women being submissive:

    My copy and paste did not pick up the hyperlink which is in the Wade Burleson blog (

    The Intrusive Pronoun: An Index.

    Women Bible Translators: Index.

    P 46 Index.

    I found these worth considering. They give a far broader and more detailed technical slant to what Waneta is communicating from her heart.

    If we combine intellect with heart, we have a more full picture. Personally, I think Waneta's real story is more compelling than just translating Greek, but it is important!

  7. It is interesting how serious discussion of this issue is popping up many places. Here is another poster on the Burleson blog besides Mara:

    Gem has left a new comment on the post "The Only Time the Bible Uses the Word "Authority" ...":

    Benji said:
    I interpret the body/head "organically" in relation to the physical body in which the human head guides the body. I don't understand your interpretation. ENDQUOTE

    I read and just googled and found a reference that the ancient Greeks did not understand the head as "guiding the body". They believed the heart was the guide and decision maker:

    QUOTE: “The ancient Greek world through the time of Paul commonly believed that the heart, not the head, was the center of emotions and spirit, the ‘central governing place of the body.’ Aristotle held that the heart was not only the seat of control but also the seat of intelligence. Classicist Michael Wigodsky of Stanford is probably correct that many, even the doctors with the most advanced anatomical understanding of the brain, did not really believe that the brain exerted more control over the body than the heart. Such a notion seemed to contradict the nearly universal belief that, since the life is in the blood, the heart must be the center of life. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the idea of authority was not normally associated with the word for ‘head’ in Greek thought.”[l0] Although this information may be debatable, we do know that know that neither Paul nor his readers would have known what we know about how the brain controls the body. Regardless of their knowledge, or lack thereof, Paul “seems to associate intelligence and control of the body with the heart in such expressions as ‘their foolish heart was darkened’ (Rom. 1:21), ‘the law written in their hearts’(Rom. 2:15), ‘it is with your heart you believe’(Rom 10:9-10), ‘no heart has conceived God’s plans’(1 Cor. 2:9), ‘he who has decided in his own heart’(1 Cor 7:37), and ‘may the eyes of your heart be enlightened to know’ (Eph 1:18). Nowhere does he associate the mind with the head.”[11] (This last reference is in the immediate context of one of the passages where kephale is used [Eph. 1:18-23] [source] ENDQUOTE

    While I agree with you that the head/body metaphor is a picture of organic unity, do you really think its fair to impose our modern understanding of physiology onto Paul's first century metaphor?

    In my meditation upon the Ephesians text, I have thought about how a pregnant mother nourishes and cherishes her baby as her own body- quite literally. And I have noted that the instruction to "nourish and cherish as your own body" is given unilaterally to husbands. Why? Could it be that a wife lays down her life, and "nourishes and cherishes" by nature and design (when she gets pregnant, bears, and nurses young), while- for a male- such a degree of sacrifice and selflessness requires an act of the will and a conscious decision to "die to self" ?

    Post a comment.

    Unsubscribe to comments on this post.

    Posted by Gem to Grace and Truth to You at Mon Dec 14, 07:23:00 PM 2009

  8. Gene,

    I know, Gene, I don't write so intellectually deep, although I have read quite abit in that area. Part of my reason is that I want to keep it simpler because some of my readers are not as highly educated. Someday I may splurge and buy some Greek and Hebrew language helps, but for now I find it fascinating that all those language details I read on the web, do not change the meaning I have already concluded is in the text. Sometimes a different and enriching angle opens up because of the language studies someone shares with the rest of us. Thank-you for posting those here.

    I, too, have heard that in Paul's day, the heart was thought to be the controlling organ, not the head/mind.

    I had already concluded from the context and from words Paul did not use, that head did not mean "authority over." The addition of the way head and heart are used in biblical writing solidifies this. Because of this usage, if Paul meant to say authority over, he would have had to spell it out to clarify his meaning. I would not expect a mere implied meaning to take precidence over a straightforward meaning.

    For Paul to have used a word where one has to rely on implied meaning for something as foundational and important as the comps think the authority doctrine is, would be to go against everything Paul stands for. He specifically states that he will not publically speak in tongues, because he would rather make sure he is understood. (My paraphrase.)

    From his other writing, it is clear that Paul had the vocabulary to expressly tell husbands to take "authority over" their wives. But he does not. In fact, he tells them the opposite, with the exception of I Cor 7:1-7, where he also tells wives they have authority over their husbands. .

    The word picture of a woman sacrificing her body to nurture her child--both in pregnancy and breastfeeding, adds more depth to the discussion. Any woman who has been pregnant knows the trapped feeling one has because of the risk of death and serious complications in giving birth. And women who breastfeed, know the extreme pain they may have to endure for awhile in order to nurture their baby with the very best sustainence available. This is a great description of the nurturing Paul is talking about regarding a husband's behavior and attitude toward his wife.

    In the US today, most of the educating is usually already done before a woman marries. However, by consideration, kind upbuilding words and actions, and by helping her reach her goals and the direction God is leading her to use her gifts, a husband can continue to nurture his wife.

    Another discussion I've been following is on Cheryl Schatz's "Women in Ministry" blog. The post is entitled, "Does Head mean Authority over?"

  9. "In ALL cases it is 2 people not realizing that marriage is falsely presented as a 50/50 relationship."

    Another myth is that "it takes 2 to tango," meaning both are at fault. But this is not necessarily correct.

    It takes 2 to make a marriage work, and only one to destroy it.

    My own story is the story of many other women. Although none of us are perfect, we did our best to be as perfect as we could. This was not because we were so righteous, but rather because we had a vested interest in avoiding the wrath and punishment of our husbands. Yet, in spite of us trying to be so perfect, our husbands found "reason" to trash us.

    The pressure of both church and society that abused wives must be perfect, or they will be blamed (and they often get blamed anyway) adds to the tyranny wives live with. While not all abused wives are perfect, and some turn to substance abuse in an effort to cope with their husband-inflicted misery, a great many of them are so close to perfect (humanly speaking) that there is no basis for claiming some of the fault for the breakdown of the marriage rests at their door(s).

    I attended a divorce care group, and was so angered by the teaching that it is also the abused woman's fault. They failed to acknowledge that the very behaviors they are blaming the wife for doing, (letting him walk all over her, in the name of submission) are the ones the church is insisting the wives do.

    It is very telling that they think they can have it both ways. Wives, submit and turn the other cheek, they say. But when the wife submits and turns the other cheek, they say she must have done something to enrage him, she shouldn't "let" him walk all over her, she is a push-over, doormat.

    WHEN are the going to stop blaming the victim, and start putting the full responsibility on the person who actually did the abusing??

  10. Sent you an email.

    As far as making(unwilling)men see the truth, or to provoke them to more Christlikeness, I haven't a clue.

    I have egal friends who are fighting on many fronts. They are much better at the Greek and details than me. They are also better at keeping their tempers.

    I appeal more to the 'big picture' of who God is and what His overall will is.

    Actually, I think men have a better chance at appealing to unwilling men than either you or I.
    Remember, these unwilling men have been taught that we are emotional, irrational, more easily deceived, etc. Why should they listen to us?

    I think gengwall on Cheryl's blog mentioned this and I agree with him. This is why, though I do what I can, I look to men like Gene, here, and gengwall on Cheryl's blog, and Don over on the cbe scroll to reach the unreachable (darn, it sound like we are talking about the unregenerate).

    But you see, you minister to Gene and his daughter and he in turn points out to other men what women have to deal with following unjust teachings on marriages and unjust behavior toward the abused.

    He has a TRUE father's heart like our Father in heaven as opposed to those who make a claim to leadership due to patriarchy and their maleness. Those men who send women back to their abuser do not have a father's heart. They have a pharisee's heart and are blind guides leading the blind.

    All we can do is continue to expose the unjust teaching and behavior in the church's 'men in charge.'

    God will have to sort out the rest.

  11. "There are a couple of women now posting information on the translation of Greek words in Wade Burleson's blog which--by the way--is often flying in the face of traditional Baptist thinking about women being submissive:"

    Gene, the Baptists aren't the only ones who push wife submission and husband authority. The doctrine is in nearly every Christian denomination, even some of the more liberal ones. The only one I know of that is free of it is the Unitarians, and I can't guarentee they are 100% free of it.

    "I have egal friends who are fighting on many fronts. They are much better at the Greek and details than me. They are also better at keeping their tempers."

    I have been on some of those blogs, too. As long as people discuss, rather than insist on their own view, I can stay in discussion mode. But when someone starts insisting on their view, I, too, find it hard to keep my cool.
    Sometimes I feel so vexed I'm wondering why any woman would marry a comp male. Why give up her freedom to a likely tyrant? Then I remember, none of them think their sweet boyfriend is a wolf in sheeps clothing. It's usually after they marry that he sheds the sheepskin and shows his fangs.

    It is a sad commentary on males, that so many of them will not even consider what a woman has to say concerning scripture and the experience of women.

    Thank God for men like Gene!

  12. Wanetta--

    Don't you dare go "intellectual" on us. The thoughts of the heart clearly spoken in simple terms will have more impact than the greatest orator the world has ever seen---I'm not quoting anyone here, but expressing my appreciation for your style!

    One of the world's greatest preachers, Harry Emerson Fosdick, once said, "Who really cares what happened to the Jebusites?" He considered his down-to-earth, yet highly intellectual sermons during WWII and the Fundamentalist era of the 30's, as group counseling. Starting with a real issue, he brought the Bible, philosophy, great writers, personal experience to try and give a common sense answer.

    When you are at the prominent "upper crust" NY church built by the Rockefellers / Rothchilds / Carnegies / etc. great intellect might be needed. When you have people walking in from the streets with hardly any formal education, a Wanetta approach means so much more.

    We seldom live in NY sophistication. I am glad Fosdick had the skills I don't possess to communicate in an ageless fashion. His ability came, more through personable honesty, than high sounding prose.

    Give me your approach anyday, Wanetta--and keep up the truth telling!

  13. Waneta--

    Give me 10 or your "from the heart" comments over any 1 of the more intellectual/heady kind!

    Keep it up!

  14. More on my daugher's situation---bet there are a bunch of ladies who have seen this!!!

    Have a great Christmas. Hopefully our daughter's greatest gift will be papers of Separation signed, sealed, and delivered so we can sing, "The Hallilujah Course,"--if only it were possible without orchestra!

  15. Here is the fine lady I cited elsewhere who has done great research on women's issues and translation. It may be a little deep for some, but her heart is where your heart is:

  16. Gene,
    You don't have to worry about me going "intellectual." The people God has sent me to reach are taught to be very skeptical of any information that they cannot verify or reason through themselves--especially if it does not agree with what they have been taught. (I was once one of them and recall how difficult it was for me to accept that Jesus, not God the Father, spoke the world into existence. But there it was, in the Bible, clear for all to see!) And like the Apostle Paul, whose focus was being understood, what use is it to use big-sounding words if people don't understand them?

    When I was taking psychology classes, I used the psychology verbage to express myself, and someone complained that I was using big words that she could not understand. Since then I have made an effort to speak in ways that those without a higher education can understand.

    Interestingly, one of the people who wrote a review of my novel, commented: "As a first-time novelist, Dawn does seem content to just get the scenes out in the plainest prose possible. The result is a highly didactic novel--one concerned more with getting a message across than with paying attention to language and style. But if 'Behind the Hedge' risks being dismissed as a lengthy illustration for a domestic violence workship, it's still a competently written story that humanizes the complexities of abuse in a home in which both the abuer and the abused think God has ordained the abuse."

    What he doesn't seem to realize, is that I worked very hard to get that prose as plain, yet explicit as I could, steering away from the passive voice and from words that describe verbs. And I did pay attention to language--keeping it to that which would be used by a family in their particular Mennonite community.

    I guess college-educated secular folk assume everyone is like they are, and that books should be written for their tastes and education level. Well, they can understand what I wrote, but if I had written for them, a huge number of people who need to understand the dynamics of abuse in a Christian setting would not be able to.

    Thank-you, Gene, for your encouragement and support! With what is going on in your life and your daughter's, I can see I am reaching slightly beyond the choir. :-)


    PS. Thanks for sending the link to the update on your site, as well as the link to Suzanne's bookshelf. She does go deep.

  17. Waneta, I admire your desire to minister to Christian women but It appears you have been thouroghly conformed to the propaganda of the women's movement rather than having your mind and thinking transformed by the Word of God. Your views and attitudes do more to set Christian husbands and wives, men and women against each other than to produce godly harmony in their relationships. The church is to bring it's light to bear on an unbelieveing world, you have apparently allowed the darkness of the world to bring it's influence to bear on you and those who read what you write. You seem to have an ax to grind with men perhaps from your own negative experiences with them? Your broad generalizations about "the male establishment" show clear prejudice toward males in general and are offensive to this reader. Perhaps you should stop instructing others and work on your own conformity to this world's mind set before you attempt to assist others to be transformed by the Word of God.

  18. Anonymous,

    It is very hard to respond to your accusations lest I stoop to your level of groundless accusation and personal attack. I am endeavoring to not do that. I will not publish any future comments of the nature of the one you wrote here unless I specifically feel led by God (as I was in this case) to respond to the charge.

    My "clear prejudice" is against the sin that is taught by and defended by males who claim to be Christian. These evil men claim to teach the scriptures (which teaching I at one time thought to be from God) while they actually teach the opposite of what the scriptures command. This teaching is confusing and deceiving the very elect. Jesus said it is better that a millstone were hanged about their necks than that they offend little ones. They are turning many men and women away from Christ with their doctrine that sets men against women. The men are going deeper and deeper into the sin of controlling others, while far too many women and children reject Christ altogether because they cannot stomach the abuse which they have been told is decreed by God to be righteous and good.

    I challenge you to find the scripture that commands husbands to lead or take authority over their wives. With the exception of the book of Esther, you will not find it.

    The darkness of the world has taken over the church in their husband-authority doctrine. Have you ever noticed that the world is just as concerned with "manliness," male power, and the useage of women as those who teach husband authority are? The husband-authority doctrine is bringing increasing domestic violence into Christian families, and that violence (which includes a pattern of non-physical abuse) does break the marriage covenant (in which both parties promised to love and cherish, not to chew out, beat, or disrespect), and results in the victim choosing divorce for health and safety for herself and her children.

    I truly hope and pray you become open to the Holy Spirit and study what the Word actually says, instead of what men claim it says.

    You are in my prayers.
    ~Waneta Dawn

  19. These same churches who say women should stay home usually employ a female church secretary.

    I'm sure they are also quite willing to accept the tithes of women who work outside the home.

    They also fail to realize all the female support they get in the church kitchen is work outside of the home. But who can resist all that free labor?


  20. Shoemaker,
    Good point! Somehow FREE work for the church is ok, even though PAID work for the church is not. My snarky conclusion is the reason they don't want women to hold down a job outside the home, is so the women are available to do free labor at church. Think Bible School. The complaint is that with so many women holding down jobs, churches can't get enough Bible school teachers...