TODAY’S READING: PROVERBS 30-31
Proverbs 31:10-31 is about a wife, a bride. We often talk this bride as the ideal Christian woman. And, some take it so far as to say since this ideal Christian woman does her work in the home then a true Christian woman works in the home.
But, what if these verses, this wife, this bride, are not any one woman in particular? What if these verses are about a very special woman, the most special woman in scripture, the bride of Christ?
THE BRIDEGROOM AND THE BRIDE
We think of the book of Proverbs as a group of wise sayings. However, there are definite sections within the book.
Proverbs 1-9 contain the instructions of a father to a son, specifically Solomon to his sons. The main point of these nine chapters comes Proverbs 1:7, which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
These nine chapters are concerned with the fear of the Lord for it is the fear of the world that starts us on the path of knowledge, instruction, and wisdom.
In these nine chapters, wisdom is portrayed as a woman. But, wisdom is not literally a woman. First Corinthians 1:23-24 tells us that Christ, indeed Christ crucified, is the wisdom of God. Therefore, in Jesus Is the Wisdom of God Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, I wrote about how we see Jesus, the bridegroom, in these first nine chapters of Proverbs.
The last chapter of Proverbs, even one of the last statements about “the proverbs 31 woman,” connects us back to the first nine chapters, which are ultimately about having the bridegroom, Jesus, the wisdom of God, who is attained through the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom or knowledge.
Proverbs 31:30 says, “But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praise.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of having Jesus, the beginning of having the bridegroom. And, the Proverbs 31 woman is a wife to be praised because she fears the Lord. Therefore, she has the bridegroom and has become the bride of Christ.
THE ACROSTIC OF THE BRIDE
Knowing something about the original of language scripture is written in is very helpful for understanding its deeper meaning.
While it doesn’t, and can’t, come through at all in English, the original Hebrew reveals that Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic. An acrostic is a form of writing, generally a poem as is Proverbs 31:10-31, where each line paragraph, or other recurring feature of the poem starts with a different letter of the alphabet, spells out a word, or creates a message.
In Proverbs 31:10-31, each of the 22 verses of the poem starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used as the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. And, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are used in order, starting with the aleph, then the bet, and ending with the tav.
Why is this acrostic important? How does it help us understand this poem?
Revelation 21:6 says, “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.'”
Revelation 22:13 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet. Therefore, Jesus it the aleph and the tav, which are the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Interestingly, the very first sentence of the Bible is made up of seven words. The fourth word, the middle word in the whole sentence, is et, which in Hebrew is spelled aleph tav.
So, the acrostic of the Proverbs 31 woman, the bride of Christ starts with the aleph and ends with the tav. In other words, the bride of Christ is completely composed of “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” The bride of Christ is made up of the entirety of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, the Word of God, which is consists of all the letters of alphabet. Therefore, the bride of Christ fears the Lord and is to be praised.
In English, most of the verses of Proverbs 31:10-31 start with the word “she.” But, this is not the case in Hebrew. Each of the words that start the verse are different as they each start with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
Following are the 22 words, each starting with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order, that the 22 verses of the describe the bride of Christ.
- then (together with)
- linen garment
Somewhere in here is the story of the bridegroom and his bride, Jesus and the church. I am not sure exactly what it is yet, but I think the outline can be seen.
THE CHIASM OF THE BRIDE
In addition to being an acrostic poem, Proverbs 31:10-31 is a chiasm. A chiasm is a literary device that uses a symmetrical pattern used to highlight or illustrate important ideas or deeper concepts. A simple chiasm might have the structure
A, B, B’, A’
where A and A’ represent similar or contrasting ideas and B and B’ represent similar ideas. But, the idea or concept the writer truly wants to stress or highlight is the relationship between B and B’ since they are at the center of the chiasm.
Here is the structure of the chiasm found in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Notice how A and A’ are related ideas, which move to the related ideas of B and B’.
But, take note of the very central idea of this chiasm, the letter H. The bride of Christ has public respect for her bridegroom, Jesus. We as the bride of Christ, the true Proverbs 31 woman, are to be the visible expression in the earth of our bridegroom, Jesus. The entirety of this poem is meant to explain this central point.
So, it’s nice that we talk about this passage of scripture as a model of a virtuous Christian woman. But, it is not, and was never meant to be something women are to be bound to and beholden to. Rather, this virtuous women is picture of us, the bride of Christ, and how all of us are to relate to our bridegroom, Jesus.