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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Anne Pratt :: The Excellent Woman of Proverbs 31

Anne Pratt :: Proverbs 31 Verse 15

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It is said in a proverb in the preceding part of this book, that "every wise woman buildeth her house, while the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." The stability and comfort of the household are, indeed, so dependent on the domestic arrangements of her who presides; punctuality and order in the wife are so necessary for the preservation of the property which may have been acquired, that the truth of the old Irish saying, "A man must ask his wife's leave to be rich," is very apparent. Early risers will not often be found among those whose habits are irregular and disorderly. The practice of beginning the work with the commencement of the day, is almost always found in conjunction with punctual and diligent habits, and with such love of order and management as is described in the text.

The learned Aben Ezra poetically interprets the expression of the former part of the verse, "She riseth before the ascent of day." Early rising in the East is different from that of our native land. To be up with the lark, or when the robin is first uttering his morning song; to brush away the pearls from the grass, while the sun is just driving afar the grey mists of the morning-this is, with us, to rise early. But the diligent man of eastern lands is up long before sunrise, long before

Morn, her rosy steps
Advancing, sows the earth with orient pearls;"

and has begun his labour at an hour when the European is sleeping still, with the sound sleep of midnight. And when the dawn breaks over the vineyards of Palestine, and the sun sheds his red lustre on her ruddy hills, the vine‐dresser has tended his vine, and the shepherd has led forth his flock from the fold. In the city, too, the merchant is busy in the shop; and the courtier and the king are occupied in the business of the court; and the women are spinning the web of industry. Among the Hebrews, it was also customary for the diligent women to be up earlier than the men; for adding to the usual domestic employments of females in general, the duty of manufacturing various fabrics of use or merchandise, the day was never too long for their busy skill, and they knew nothing of that weariness which belongs to the idle, and which deprives them of that freshness and energy of character which make existence a blessing.

We find continual reference in Scripture to the habit of beginning the business of the day at a very early hour in the morning. Thus when Moses was sent to Pharaoh, by the Lord God of the Hebrews, and the haughty king was commanded to let the people of Israel go out from their cruel bondage, the Jewish lawgiver was commanded to rise up early in the morning, and to stand before Pharaoh as "he cometh forth to the water" (Exd 8:20). And when the vain and deceitful Absalom sought to win away the hearts of Israel from their allegiance to his father, "he rose up early and stood beside the way of the gate" (2Sa 15:2) of the city; for he well knew, that passing through its arches, he should meet those who were going out of the town to the daily labour of the fields, or find there assembled the concourse of merchants. And in that day of Israel's affliction and reproach, when the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down, and the gates thereof burned with fire; and Nehemiah and the Jews laboured amidst danger and anxiety to build again the walls of their beloved city, we find them early at their work, cheered by the promises and prayers of the diligent prophet; and while some laboured, half of them "held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared" (Neh 4:21). And well would it be for us if we could return to the early rising and retiring, once general even in our own land, when our forefathers saw the sun set on their native hills, and slept on their less luxurious couches, at an hour far earlier than the business of the day now closes on busy multitudes.

The description given by the Hebrew writer is so graphic, that our imaginations can easily picture the Jewish matron, as surrounded by her family at early day, and apportioning to each of her household, not only daily food, but also daily work. One is going to the field, another to relieve the herdsman who has watched through the starry night on the hill side, or on the plain. Her daughters and her maidens will ply the distaff, or with the needle weave delicate embroideries; and the materials for the work of each must be selected, and, by a judicious division of labour, all be made easy. And in this diligent and well‐ordered family, not only must the domestic animals be cared for, but the young infant must be tended, and the older child taught to walk in wisdom's ways, and to know the law of the God of Israel. The word here translated "portion," seems certainly to include work as well as food. The Targum renders it by service, and interprets the passage as meaning employment, rather than a portion of daily meat. The same word is used in Exodus 5:14, when the taskmasters of the children of Israel demanded, "Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today as heretofore?" The Septuagint, as well as the Syriac and Arabic versions, render the word "works."

The ancient custom of dividing the food into separate portions, is alluded to not only in several parts of the Sacred Scripture, but is frequently mentioned by profane writers. Thus when the ambassadors of Agamemnon were received at the table of Achilles, the warrior distributed to every man his portion. Among the Romans an officer presided over this distribution at the ancient meal, and seems to have borne a similar office to him who is mentioned in the narrative of the marriage of Cana, as the governor of the feast. And when Joseph entertained his brethren who had come up to Egypt, we mark how, with the peculiar love which the man of the East feels for the brother who claims the same mother as himself, he apportioned to his beloved Benjamin a mess five times as large as that of any of his other brethren. Not but that each had a portion large enough for his refreshment, but that a stronger warmth of hospitality might mark his deeper love to him, whom his dying mother had called "the son of my sorrow."

The right economy of time is a highly important duty. To those who are called to exercise the duties of active life, this is very evident. The mistress, the mother, and the domestic servant, these will all feel the value of time; yet no gift is more often wasted, by those to whom God has allotted a large portion of leisure. The waste of time is a sin especially chargeable on a large number of the female sex in the present day. Hours are wasted in frivolous accomplishments; in the performance of some of the lighter works of art; in dissipated visiting; in reading novels and idle books; and in absolute lounging and indolence: so that if we could trace the history of the life of many an Englishwoman, we should find her employments of little more worth to herself and others, than those of the butterfly which skims from flower to flower, the gay creature of the summer's day. And yet to every reasonable being existence brings an amount of responsibility, which we shall comprehend only in eternity. Time is given us for duty, for the preparation for a future state, for the good of others; and every fragment of it should be gathered up, that nothing of so precious a gift may be lost. It should become a subject of deep and frequent thought to every woman, and especially to every Christian woman, whether her time is rightly spent. Owing to the great improvements in manufactures, and the high civilization of modern society, women in the middle and higher classes of life are rarely required to apply unremittingly to any pursuit which can be called toil or labour. Many have no pursuit at all. And is there nothing to do, that God should look down on the couch of the luxurious, when the morning sun has long shed his light on its drapery, and should see the sleeper still seeking repose? Is there nothing that the daughter or sister can do to lighten the cares or anxieties of parents or brothers? Is there no active duty, which, if cheerfully done, would make home happier? If we are not required, like the excellent women of old, to rise while it is yet night, and to apportion to those of our household food or work, yet there is still enough to do. There are our hearts to examine as in the sight of God. There are prayer and meditation, and reading of the Scripture, all best done in the quiet of early day, ere the noise and tumult of the tempting world have distracted the thoughts. David could say, when referring to his moments of prayer, "My soul prevented the dawning of the morning," and could deem it a "good thing" to "show forth the loving‐kindness of the Lord in the morning" (Psa 92:2) and as his soul thirsted for God, he exclaimed, "Early will I seek thee." In the solemn moment of approaching suffering, our Saviour himself rose a great while before day, that he might commune with his Father (Mar 1:35).

But besides the study of God's word, there is also the duty of mental improvement. For this end, we should seek to redeem the time, and see that the early hours are not wasted. An hour gained daily from sleep, how much might be done with this, in the study of any valuable species of knowledge! How much might we learn of any one portion of nature, by an hour of daily reading and observation! And does not nature tell of God? It is not the stars alone, and the sun and moon, which speak of God's greatness and power, and so from day unto day utter speech, and from night unto night teach knowledge. All his works praise him. The sea, with its ebb and flow, and changing tides, and all its curious store of weeds and corals, and its silver‐spangled fishes, has a wondrous lesson to teach the docile spirit, of God's power and love. The softly flowing stream, gladdening the verdant herbage, and serving as a home of happiness to the living creatures which inhabit it, and as a scene of sport to the brilliant‐winged insects of all the bright hues of earth and heaven, which hover above it: the flowery meadow, and the dark‐robed forest; the bird with its plumage dipped in hues of Paradise, and its song suggesting thoughts of poetry,-all, all have been studied by human minds, which have lived in ages before we were born, and their wonders and their histories have been traced by human pens, and we may read their records in books, and learn their teachings beneath the morning sunshine. And health, too, that valuable blessing, how greatly is it promoted by early hours! Many diseases, and especially those called nervous disorders, were almost unknown in Britain a few ages since, when luxury had not yet made it a common practice to be found in bed in full day. Many serious illnesses would take their flight before the long‐continued and diligent practice of an early morning walk; and the cheek now pale from indolent habits, and the eye now dim from want of the exercise required by the frame, might glow and sparkle with the bloom and vigour of life, if, like the country labourer, or the diligent rustic maiden, and the excellent woman of the text, we should rise with the ascent of day. And if we redeemed an hour in the morning, it might leave sus one in the after day to visit the poor and afflicted, to instruct the ignorant, to help those who need our aid. If household duties demanded exertion, then the gained hour might enable us to pass through them more leisurely and more pleasantly, and we might be saved the irritation of hurried business; or if we gave that hour to God, who shall say what blessings our prayers might bring down on ourselves, and on those dear to us, on the church of God, and on the world at large!

Proverbs 31 Verse 14 ← Prior Section
Proverbs 31 Verse 16 Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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