By Elizabeth Prata
I was raised by an unbelieving feminist who taught that a woman’s calling is to be out in the world, making a name for herself. “You can do anything” it was said.
Except houswifery. THAT was definitely not part of the ‘anything’ a woman could become. No, never that.
I often wondered about this hypocritical stance, especially since housewifery seemed good. (I still wasn’t saved, but the notion of keeping a house for my husband was cozy to me). No, a woman should be in the world, marching, yelling, claiming, staking, pushing.
This was the vaunted ideal in the 1960s and ’70s:
Many years later the Lord saved me by His grace, and I learned from the Bible exactly what a woman’s role was and what to do in life. This was a relief. It was chiefly to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I learned in Proverbs 31:23 that “Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.“
We are often referred to Proverbs 31 as a standard outline of a virtuous wife. But let’s take a closer look at what it means that a wife makes her husband known at the gates.
What is the Gate?
The city gates is where official business was conducted. Legal rulings were done there, serious business, controversies settled. The elders of the city sat there and adjudicated. In Genesis 19:1 we learn that righteous Lot was an elder who sat at the gate. Mordecai sat at the King’s gate. (Esther 2:21).
What is a virtuous woman/wife?
One reason it is a relief to be a Christian is that the Bible gives instruction for how to live. We know exactly how to satisfy God. We glorify Him when we obey His commands. In turn, He grows us in holiness and the holier we strive to be the more He is pleased-and glorified.
Matthew Henry wrote: “She is very industrious to recommend herself to her husband’s esteem and affection. A good woman, if she be brought into the marriage state, will be a good wife, and make it her business to please her husband, 1 Co. 7:34. Though she is a woman of spirit herself, yet her desire is to her husband, to know his mind, that she may accommodate herself to it, and she is willing that he should rule over her. She conducts herself so that he may repose an entire confidence in her.”
“She contributes so much to his content and satisfaction that he shall have no need of spoil; he needs not be griping and scraping abroad, as those must be whose wives are proud and wasteful at home.” Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1026). Hendrickson.
So that’s the foundation.
How does she help at the Gates?
First, she helps by NOT going to the gates. Her work is all background. It’s all support.
Matthew Henry again: “She adds to his reputation in the world (v. 23): Her husband is known in the gates, known to have a good wife. By his wise counsels, and prudent management of affairs, it appears that he has a discreet companion in his bosom, by conversation with whom he improves himself.“
She does all she can for him at home SO THAT when he goes out into the world he is ready for it. Have you thought about how hard it is for him to be in the world? All he must do to provide for the family, be a model for the family, engage in spiritual warfare in the world to protect the family?
Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. Prov 31
23. in the gates—(compare Pr 22:22). His domestic comfort promotes his advancement in public dignity. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 402). Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Today’s woman wants to replace her husband at the gate. But our job is to be the rebar in his concrete. Support. If this is your joy to do, then wonderful! If this is a mean job, a lowly job for you, then examine your heart to see why. Likely it’s pride, wanting notice and fame for yourself. But our audience is ONE. What does Jesus say? What will He say when you meet Him?
Proverbs 31 ends this way: “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31).
What does this mean?
Praise will come. An outstanding women WILL be praised as her works become known. (See: Dorcas). It also means Jesus will praise you. Finally,
If it be open to us, let us join her ranks. To be a woman living under the commanding influence of Christian principle, breathing a Christian spirit, and shedding a Christian influence in the home in which we live, – what is there, this side the gate of heaven, that any human spirit could more wisely wish to be? To be such is to be doing a most excellent work of God; it is to be filling a most honourable and useful sphere. – W. Clarkson