I would love to blog about this book a million times! It is great! Unfortunately my time is limited with it (it is a library book), so I guess I’ll just have to hit the main points that I enjoyed and that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere.
Patricia Gundry writes this book so well, and does an amazing job at balancing femininity with strength. She provides a wonderful example for how this can be done, despite what many other books on this passage try to say. She tackles important issues for all women, including being a hard worker, trustworthy, strong, beautiful, not manipulative, a bargain hunter, a planner, an investor, a provider, and praiseworthy. I have read many other books on Proverbs 31, and none of them capture the context and the relevance of what is being said to King Lemuel the way that Gundry does in this book.
Here are some of my highlights from a few chapters.
On women who manipulate (re: Proverbs 31:12 “She does him good and not harm all the days of her life”)
Women manipulate men… I always wondered why women are so tempted to do it… Why would women like Marabel Morgan or Helen Andelin justify it with Bible verses, case histories, and personal examples of their own approach to pragmatism in marriage?
I think they do it because they live in a double bind. Women are the underdogs in the family and society. So they gravitate toward survival methods common to underdogs, methods that are as old as the Fall.
Here’s how it works: the underdog is afraid to approach her superior directly. Though direct approach is effective some of the time, too often it is not. When dealing with a superior power that is also unscrupulous and unfair, being direct is often dangerous. Underdogs learn to manipulate in order to get along–or survive.
Manipulation is demeaning both to the one doing it and to the unsuspecting victim. If you’re a woman, your actions say to the man you victimize, “You aren’t very bright, or honorable. If you were smart, you would see through my tricks. If you were honorable, they wouldn’t be necessary.”
This kind of scheming has further disadvantage. It makes close, honest relationships between people impossible.
Amen. I have read so many books for Christian women that only teach women how to be manipulative. They tell you how to get your way: How to convince your husband to do what you want without him knowing it. Its sick, and it makes me so sad that Christian women stoop to that level.
On the Proverbs 31 woman and when she opens her mouth compared to other women
I think inborn nature has nothing to do with the incidence of shrewish or razor-tongued women. It’s as simple as this: those who can’t fight with their fists learn to fight with words. We develop skill with the weapons we have. We also pick up the skill by observing the skilled practicioners who precede us. It is often passed from mother to daughter with success.
Women tend to practice and gain skill on men who are vulnerable. Sometimes this involves practicing on male children who are extremely defenseless. They grow up to be easy targets for other female verbal assaults.
I found this section really interesting. I have quite the razor tongue. As a matter of fact, even long after dh and I were married, I had never “lost” a fight. My quick wit and tongue allowed me to be a more skilled arguer than any boyfriends had ever been. I ended up thinking I was always right. It was a humbling blow to find out that not only was I often wrong, but I also manipulated situations because I could argue better.
She goes on to address an interesting cycle she has noticed. I have seen this for myself, especially in church, which is so sad.
We women are too easily tempted to vent our anger on male children. I have seen it happen so often. A family who lived near us years ago went through a weekly cycle. Over the weekend the husband harassed his wife. On Monday she terrorized their oldest child, a boy (who looked like his father and had the same name) about a year older than my daughter. On Tuesday the boy was out for blood and my kids got it from him…
It is the old pecking-order sequence: we can’t hit back at those who are stronger, so we find excuses to take out our anger on those who are weaker. I firmly believe that much male hostility to women is a result of this vicious circle. Women are repressed and put down by men or by a male-dominated system. Mothers sometimes take out their resentment on their young sons; and teachers and others over children, on little boys in their charge. Those little boys grow up with an accumulated load of unconscious resentment toward women that has been years in the making. They then pass it on to the women who become vulnerable to them.
I’ve never seen this addressed in writing before, but it makes me think of a family whose son was in the Sunday School class that I taught. I would see the end of the cycle, as the mother would take her aggression out on her son as they would walk through the church. He would then come into the class and take his aggression out on the other children. He would often make the other 2 and 3 year olds so upset that they would physically shake. I would have to remove him from the classroom to protect the other children. It was heartbreaking because he was only acting out on what he knew. He was only 3.
I don’t want to make this too long, so I’ll just give one last quote from the end where she is talking about the translation of “helpmeet.”
This verse has been traditionally understood to mean that God created woman as a kind of glorified girl Friday for Adam. A nice girl, but slightly substandard and needing a man to supervise her work. The words help and meet have been condensed by common usage into helpmeet. We have been taught that this means woman should be a helper to man, not his equal.
But in Hebrew, the original language, the words ezer and neged do not have the connotations we have given them. Ezer means “help” all right, but not secondary help or assistant, as in assistant to the president. It means help in the way God helped Israel. The word is used in the Old Testament to refer to help by a superior force, such as help by God, as in Psalm 121:1,2
I raise my eyes towards the hills.
Whence shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The word ezer is never used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to subordinate or inferior help.
Neged (“meet”) is a preposition in Hebrew and cannot be translated as a preposition in English and still retain the sense. It means “corresponding to,” “fit for,” “meet for.” In other words, God created woman as a real help to Adam, someone who was like him, suitable in every way. There is no hint of inferiority for woman in the original account.
This book also has a ton of practical advice. She talks about keeping your home, ways to find your passion for a cottage / work-at-home industry, time management strategies, and ways to enjoy your work and bless your family. I really highly recommend it 🙂