Think of a wise woman you know personally. What makes her wise in your mind? Perhaps she is knowledgeable, hospitable, charitable, loving, nurturing, self-controlled, kind, content, financially savvy, generous, a teacher, mentor, an example to the next generation, faithful friend, lover of God, etc.
Personally, I have always been inspired and captivated by strong, wise women, both in real life and also in literature and movies. As a child and even into my teen and young adult years, I wanted to be like Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, and many others. Women who were intelligent, independent, imaginative, engaging, admired, strong-willed, gifted, secure – these were my heroes growing up. But what does the Bible say makes a woman wise?
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The Bible exalts wise women
The Bible exalts strong, capable and wise women! Does that statement surprise you? Think of the female heroines of the Bible:
Jochebed courageously saved her infant son, Moses, and allowed Pharaoh’s daughter to raise him which resulted in the deliverance of the nation of Israel. Esther put her own life on the line to save her people, the Jews (“If I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:16). Ruth, in a time of great personal grief, remained faithful to her mother-in-law and married a kinsmen redeemer to save the family line. Rahab risked her life by hiding two spies of Israel in her home. Deborah was a godly woman and one of the great judges of Israel.
Abigail saved the lives of many after her scoundrel husband, Nabal, angered David endangering them all. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was obedient to God, enduring slander and scandal to be the mother of Jesus. Mary Magdalene ministered with Jesus and his disciples were the last person to leave the cross and the first person to the empty tomb.
And there are many, many more. Wise women are praised in Scripture and have much still to teach those of us living thousands of years later.
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The wise woman of Proverbs 31
Proverbs is one of the books of the Bible that scholars categorize as wisdom literature. The first verse of Proverbs lets the reader know that the book contains “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction…” Solomon was a man who prayed for wisdom and God granted him his request. 1 Kings 4:29-34 describes the wisdom of the author of Proverbs:
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations, people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
We could certainly look elsewhere in the Bible for characteristics of a wise woman and find plenty, but the final chapter in Proverbs grants us a thorough description in verses 10-31. This wisdom is compiled into a poem entitled “The Wife of Noble Character” or “The Virtuous Wife.” It is, therefore, referencing a married woman, but there is enough wisdom in this poem to apply to any woman in any state of life.
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A wise woman is…
A woman of godly character
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
“The Proverbs 31 Woman” as she is referred to by many is, first and foremost, a woman who fears the Lord (v. 30). She loves and worships God, prioritizing her relationship with Him above all others. She possesses rare virtue and noble character “worth far more than rubies” (v. 10). She is trustworthy and faithful (v. 11). People who know her well have full confidence in her. She is full of goodness and does not harm others(v. 12). Her inner beauty far surpasses her outward beauty as she reflects the beauty of her Lord.
A woman who does not waste her time, her resources, her abilities, or her life
She selects wool and flaxand works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poorand extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
She is capable (v. 13, 19, 22), an eager and willing worker (v. 13), resourceful (v. 14, 16, 21), diligent (v. 15, 17, 18, 27), a provider for everyone in her care (v. 15), financially conscientious (v. 16, 18), strong (v. 17, 25), compassionate and generous (v. 20), prepared for the future (v. 21, 25), and well-spoken choosing wise and helpful words (v. 26).
A woman worthy of praise
Her children arise and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
A wise woman does not need a husband or children to be praised. She will be praised and honored for her noble character and deeds. Those privileged to know her, will seek to emulate or imitate her way of life and her fear of God. Nothing given to her by God will be wasted. Her goals and standards for herself will be set high and she will live accordingly.
These above depictions of a wise woman must be understood as character traits, and not interpreted as specific actions to be implemented. For instance, you do not need to plant a vineyard or know how to make coverings for your bed in order to be a wise woman. Your relationship with God and character though, matter above all!
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Wise women mentor younger women
If you desire to be a wise woman or are praying for a young girl or woman in your life, this is a great list to pray through for yourself or someone else.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
“But wisdom is proved right by her actions” (Matthew 11:19).
Additionally, wise women will mentor other women. Truly wise women are rare and valuable and their wisdom needs to be shared! Mentoring does not necessarily require extra time; it involves inviting others into your everyday life, allowing them to watch and learn and grow.
Perhaps you are someone in need of a wise mentor. If in reading this article, you sense you are lacking wisdom (as we all do at times), the Bible gives very simple advice.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
“Walk with the wise and become wise…” (Proverbs 13:20).
First, pray and ask God for wisdom. He promises to give it to those who ask! Second, identify a wise person and intentionally spend time with them until they rub off on you. Third, read through Proverbs 31 asking God to use it to transform you. Like Solomon, may wisdom be our prayer!
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Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books – Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.