Wife and Mother (Proverbs 31)

The excellent wife and mother as described in Proverbs 31:10–31 sounds discouraging to many women. You would want to follow her shining example, but everything she’s doing sounds unachievable. In this article I would like to encourage you by giving a contemporary flavor to this chapter, showing you that you are probably doing most of this work already, but you do have to do it with the right attitude.

There are a couple of underlying principles without which the pursuits of the excellent wife will not happen, at least not to the glory of God. Here are three prerequisites for the wife and the husband.



Fear of the Lord

The description of the “excellent wife” is part of Proverbs 31, which are words that King Lemuel’s mother spoke to him. So, we are not reading this man’s description of his dream wife but the characteristics of a God-fearing woman the way an older woman knows she can exist. Proverbs provides both men and women with advice for a good spouse. Proverbs 20:6 is about finding an excellent man, but here we find advice on how to find a good wife and what kind of qualities she should have.

The overarching theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. True wisdom is seen as a life lived in wholehearted obedience to God’s revelation in His Word and world, which is called “the fear of the Lord.” How this is applied to the wife and mother we read in verse 30 (English Standard Version):Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” What King Lemuel’s mother wanted to get across to him about the importance of a God-fearing wife and mother we find here in Proverbs 31:10–31.


In marriage there is another requirement without which the situation depicted in Proverbs 31 would not be possible, and that is mutual trust. The husband trusts his wife completely (v. 11), and the wife will do him good, and not harm, all the days of her life (v. 12). Because of our sinfulness this principle can get distorted, and it is of utmost importance that if trust is broken, it is restored first and as soon as possible.

Trust needs to be earned (or earned back), and goodwill toward the other needs daily practice; both can be truly and permanently restored only with God’s—that is, the Holy Spirit’s—help. If both spouses place themselves under God and work on maintaining trust, for example, by having prayer time together regularly, they both can stay in Proverbs 3:5–6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Mutual trust will follow.

Working at Home

In the typical passage about mentoring (Titus 2), we read the advice of older women to younger women, which is to be (among other things) “working at home.” This advice is misinterpreted a lot, as though a woman shouldn’t work outside of the home, ever. I think what is meant here is that she is not lazy. She is working and not sitting still. She does what her hand finds to do anddoes not eat the bread of idleness” (Prov. 31: 27). It implies that all of her work and what she gains with it is to the benefit of her household and not just herself.


With all the underlying principles in place, what are the pursuits of the excellent wife? I will give some modern suggestions about Proverbs 31:13–31.

The good wife and mother wants the best for her husband and children and therefore works hard to provide everything necessary. All of her work is well planned and meant for the good of the family. No task is below her, and she does work when it needs to be done, considering their needs at all times (v. 13).

For example, she makes a list of what is needed (e.g., food, diapers, special detergent for the allergic child) and takes her land ship, usually a minivan, to go buy food and other things for everybody (v. 14a). If necessary, she’ll drive all the way to the store in the next town for better quality or better prices (v. 14b).

She gets up early in the morning when it is still dark to make breakfast (and lunches) for everybody (v. 15). She prepares healthy meals and brings food to the elderly widower across the street or to the young woman who just had a baby (v. 20).

She keeps the house reasonably clean and well organized (v. 19) and maintains a regular schedule for the children as much as possible (v. 27), especially if she’s home schooling (v. 26). She tries to be home when the children are home. She is also a fair disciplinarian (v. 28a).

If she likes to garden, she starts a vegetable garden (v. 16a) and later cans or freezes produce for the long winters (v. 19).

With her God-given talents for commerce or crafts, she can supplement the family income (v. 24), or she works outside the home (vv. 16, 17) to help pay for Christian school. She keeps the books if her husband is too busy and is happy to see that the family prospers (v. 25) and can pay all the bills (v. 18).

She attends a Bible study (v. 30) but has no time to sit around and gossip with the other women (v. 26a). However, she will make time to have coffee with and encourage a younger woman or the widow who just lost her husband (v. 26b).

She takes her children to the clothing store when they have (again) outgrown their clothes and makes sure they have a good winter coat and snow pants and boots before winter starts (v. 21).

She also takes care of herself, both for good health (e.g., exercise) and for what she wears, so she looks like the God-fearing, prosperous woman that she is (vv. 17, 22b, 25). Because she planned for the near future, she has nothing to fear from the world or the evening news (v. 25).

When the children are grown, they call her blessed (v. 28a), because they are starting to realize that she not only took good care of their physical needs, but they also had the privilege of her attention and wisdom, always being willing to talk and pointing them to the great Comforter and Helper (v. 26). She is always concerned about the spiritual welfare of her children and passes on the same wise advice that King Lemuel’s mother gave him.

Because of her dedication to take care of her family, her husband is free to do all the work he has to do outside of the home (v. 23), knowing that his wife is a good planner (v. 21) and that she will make sure everyone in the household and the house itself is well taken care of (v. 15). This makes her well respected in the community (vv. 29–31), and he is generous enough to praise her in public (v. 29) and trusting enough to give her free rein to run the household (v. 31). She in turn is concerned also with his spiritual welfare, and both will sharpen each other in their faith as iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17).

Now, every woman is different. Not everyone possesses boundless energy or a conspicuous talent, but we all have been given the same ability to be faithful. We are called to be faithful first to Jesus Himself and next to our earthly family. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). If we keep God’s honor at the forefront of our thoughts, we all will be excellent wives and mothers.


Mrs. Annemarieke Ryskamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She graduated with a master’s degree in Dutch Language and Literature from Utrecht University and worked for the Dutch l’Abri and as a secondary school teacher at United World College in Singapore. She attends Dutton United Reformed Church (MI).