Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.0 19950520-20000211)
This most misunderstood and misapplied text is examined for its spiritual intent. Too often have women been subjected to this text by an unenlightened theology. The real meaning behind the texts gives real power to women and greater responsibility to the Church.
Understanding the Background to the Spiritual Intent of Proverbs 31
This paper is a comparison of the twentieth century Church of God against the Proverbs 31 wife. We will see how well the Church in the twentieth century was prepared to be a Proverbs 31 woman and how well the individual members of the Church of God are prepared in the twenty-first century to be hand-maidens of the Proverbs 31 wife. It is not really a story of a wife; it is the story of the Church in its relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the story of the elect.
Christ said to us quite clearly that the Gentiles lord it over their people but it should not be with us. The Church’s greatest injunction was that we were to be servant leaders. We were to uplift and empower, to bind up the broken hearted, to heal the sick stand them on their feet, and we were to prepare Israel for the Kingdom of God. We were to proclaim salvation to the Gentiles in his name.
The Church for two thousand years has been an anti-hierarchical system. We have not been allowed any hierarchical structure in the Church. Whenever it occurred, we were attacked and we were forced to separate ourselves from the apostate systems and we re-organised ourselves and started a new Church.
In the 1930s, one element of the Church of God was re-organised and it became quite a significant element among the American people. It set up a system of hierarchical government based on a catholic system. It can be correctly seen as part of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The doctrine of the Nicolaitans was allegedly from Nicolaus, but it was quite simply from two words. Nikos: meaning to conquer or to rule over, and laitoons: meaning the people hence the term laity as distinct from the ministry. Christ said that he hates the doctrine of the Nicolaitan. This matter has been examined in its complex aspects (cf. the paper The Nicolaitans (No. 202)). The reason Christ hates the doctrine in one aspect is because it breaks the brethren. It does not allow the Church to be a Proverbs 31 woman. It does not allow the handmaidens of the Church to become Proverbs 31 wives. We all are required to be Proverbs 31 wives. Proverbs 31 does not relate to women entirely. All of us are prepared to be brides of Christ as empowered spiritually directed human beings, and be prepared to become part of the Kingdom of God.
These things were not generally true of all members. What happened was that the hierarchical and non-accountable structure tended to influence people so that they became these things. People who weren’t, were identified, isolated, and removed from the Church. They were forced out. What happened was that sixty to seventy percent of all the baptised members of that Church in America, Australia and England were called in, baptised, and excluded from the Church; disfellowshiped or forced out of the Church, because they didn’t accord with the social mores and likes and dislikes of a ministry.
We have a short period of time in order to get a message to our people to bring them to repentance, and to protect them. That is because our lives and our structure are bound up with how well we deal with our own people as a nation.
The concept of a place of safety disassociates the elect from the people in which they dwell. It causes a mental division between the people and the Church. That is why that doctrine is inherently wrong and contravenes the doctrines Jesus Christ established through the prophets and the apostles (cf. the paper The Place of Safety (No. 194)).
There will come a time when we will cease praying for our own people because they will go into captivity, as the prophets were told. “Pray no more for these people”. But that is not what we are to do now. It will be quite obvious when we are to cease praying for these people.
That whole concept of elitism that is developed by a non-accountable hierarchical ministerial structure is quite simply done to engender loyalty to an institution as a business. It stems from a fundamental misapprehension of what baptism was. One is not baptised into a church. One is baptised into the body of Christ. All of us are baptised into the body of Christ, and if a church goes off track we have an obligation to re-organise and start again, as we have done for two thousand years. It doesn’t matter how many times we start again, it matters merely that we obey Jesus Christ and develop his gospel, and we gather together with likeminded people in order to do the work, and God will add to us.
The conversion process and repentance and washing of the salvation of Jesus Christ, and the placement of sins as far as East is from the West, are a reality. Ongoing repentance must be understood by all. The process is that all sorts of people are called into the Church. They are required to get over their weaknesses and it takes them a long time. Our job is to bind each other up, stand each other on his or her feet, and make each other strong. That process is reduced to nothing in the hierarchical structure. That is the reason why Christ spoke against them in the attitudes with which they rule.
The system of God is not a hierarchical system in the sense of its servant leadership. It has authority, but the authority does not produce the sort of reactions that worldly hierarchies produce. We have a hierarchy in terms of God, Christ and the Church, but that does not produce the relationships of the world. In world hierarchies, people clamber over the backs of their brethren to get status, and they see status in the most bizarre ways. They might be given little jobs to do according to their relationship with the ministry. If they are on good terms with the ministry, they are given little favours. If they are on bad terms with the ministry, they can be publicly abused. People are abused under such a system because they are not conforming to a brainwashing process. People are brainwashed by continually placing them under pressure until such time as they alter and modify their way of behaviour, to accord with the mores that have been instituted in the Church and so suspend their own judgment. The hierarchical system is designed to suspend individual judgment and to force conformity under an authoritarian system, so that there is no spiritual discernment. That is the reason that the Nazi party was able to suspend the judgment of what appeared to be reasonable human beings and force the holocaust. The holocaust was a direct result of the suspension of judgment under a dictatorial system. That system was itself produced by the Mainstream Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church system of Europe before World War II. If the Church of God, under that system, was given world government there would be no difference between it and the Nazi party, none whatsoever. They would destroy tribes and groups and peoples.
This whole concept and that of failed prophecy and of critical examination of Church doctrine poses a threat to a hierarchical Church so that those people who critically evaluate things are attacked. This is not the voice of the shepherd. What were the Bereans doing? They were searching the Scriptures daily, proving all things, whether they be so. Prove things right or wrong and act on the proof. An example of this approach was seen in the reaction to the paper The Elect as Elohim (No. 1). It went on an electronic network and was discussed all over America. One American minister gave a sermon which said (attacking the writer) that the Bereans proved all things, but that meant that they searched the Scriptures daily and proved all things to be true. They didn’t prove things to be wrong, and if they couldn’t understand it they didn’t write treatises or that sort of thing. They waited until the Church got through to them, and whether it took fourteen years or so it didn’t matter. They just sat there and proved all things right, not wrong. That sort of irrational behaviour produces a mindless acquiescence, and it renders incomplete the spiritual development of the individual. The approach shatters the capacity of individuals to empower themselves in the name of Jesus Christ. It does the work of the adversary for him.
The end result of years of that sort of ministry has been to take the elect out of the world and to physiologically and psychologically traumatise them to the point where they are crippled. It is our job to try and build up people. Now we will look at what Proverbs 31 has to say.
There is a lot to be learnt from Proverbs 31 when looked at in its entirety and in relation to its spiritual intent. It has generally been treated as being split in two halves but it should not be split in two halves. Proverbs 31 is a spiritual lesson for the empowerment of the Church as well. Let’s look at Proverbs 31:1-2
Proverbs 31:1 The words of King Lemuel. The burden wherewith his mother corrected him.
Proverbs 31:2 What, my son? What, son of my womb? What, son of my vows? (RSV)
Now these two enigmatic verses have quite an impact. King Lemuel did not exist. There is no record of any King Lemuel in the history of the kings of Israel. Who was Lemuel? What does Lemuel mean? It is not about a mythical king at all. The words making up the word Lemuel are two words: Lemo (towards) and El or God, and it means towards God or dedicated to God (Isaiah da Trani, Mesudath David; see Soncino). This relates to the purpose and meaning of the text in John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was towards God and [elohim: Ps. 45:6-7] was the word (cf. A.E. Knoch, Concordant Interlinear NT)
This is also a message to the Elect. The concept is developed by the rabbis (as with Agur; Soncino) that his mother is saying basically: What oh my son? and what, oh son of my womb? and what oh son of my vows? as a censure. This mother is thought to be Bathsheba, and that Lemuel was Solomon. In tying the text to Solomon’s mother, a story in the Midrash relates that Solomon married Pharoah’s daughter on the day of the Temple’s dedication. She kept him awake the whole night with music so that he slept late into the morning, and since he kept the keys of the Temple gates under his pillow the morning sacrifice was delayed, wherewith his mother came and gave him the exhortation that follows. The significance was understood by the rabbis. They related the text to the opening of the Temple and Pharoah’s daughter who was an Egyptian. The concept of having foreign wives, or Egyptian (worldly) pre-occupations, takes the Elect away from their responsibility to the opening of the Temple by being part of the foundation and the stones from which the Temple is constructed. It was on the day of the dedication of the Temple that this negligence was alleged to have happened. The significance is that the text relates to the question of the dedication of the Temple. We are to be diligent and not to be diverted with other worldly pre-occupations. The introductory remark: “What my son and what oh son of my womb?” is perhaps abbreviated for what am I to say to thee? etc. which is a preliminary censure for dereliction of duty to the Temple (see also Isaiah da Trani).
In verse three it says:
Proverbs 31:3 Give not your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings. (RSV)
This text refers to the cares of the world. The words: to that which destroyeth kings, mean literally to the causing of kings to be blotted out – in other words, to lose our spirituality. So the literal intent to the causing of kings to be blotted out is to indulge in behaviour that leads to the revolt of the population and of the destruction of a dynasty. The plural termination of kings is the Aramaic form, (Ibn Ezra) so there is no doubt it is plural, and we are talking about kings. What is being discussed is the Elect and the fitting of the Elect to become kings and priests in the Kingdom of God. Verse four says:
Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink; (RSV) (Nor for princes to say: Where is strong drink? (Soncino))
Now this concept is: It is not seemly for kings to be intoxicated. It makes them undignified, and loses for them the respect of their subjects as well as dulls their judgment and exercises their carnality. So we are not talking about the drinking of wine of itself, we are talking about intoxication. In referring to Lemuel here, the Soncino says:
The Hebrew form of the name here is Lemoel, perhaps an allusion to its derivation, as though to say this is particularly unbecoming in one who bears a name with a signification “(dedicated) to God” (Rabbi Rashi)
Rashi understood that as being dedicated to God and that it was particularly unfitting for those who are dedicated to God. In other words, it refers to the Elect. The words to say are lacking in the text but the concept is required by the word kere or where is? (Ralbag, Isaiah da Trani; Soncino.) It is not for Princes (to say) Where is strong drink? lest they drink and forget that which is decreed and pervert the justice due to any that are afflicted. This concept means that the Elect can become intoxicated with their pre-occupations and their feastings and their own personal lives and forget the law and, also, from forgetting the law they pervert justice due to any that are afflicted.
Proverbs 31:5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. (RSV)
The Hebrew is singular; each of them drinks and forgets from verse 5 (Daath Mikra), and that which is decreed is understood (by Meiri) to be the national laws, and hence act unconstitutionally. This concept of forgetting the national laws and acting unconstitutionally was reflected in the Elect over the last forty years. We have seen constitutions of churches effectively torn up; we have seen perjured documents submitted to the state authorities. We have seen gross improprieties in the handling of money, such that these things, as self-indulgence, contravened the intent of biblical principles as we can see from the intent of verse 5 of Proverbs 31. Officials perverted the course of justice. People could go and have gone for justice and received none. In fact, some have been disfellowshiped because they spoke out. People have been cheated and lied to and afflicted and not bound up and, hence, were broken. That concept is specifically spoken against in the Elect here, so justice and righteousness are the same word in Hebrew. If we pervert justice, we pervert righteousness. It is the same thing. We cannot be righteous without being just.
The Church has a responsibility to judge its own affairs. If somebody brings a case to the Church, the Church must judge righteously. We cannot favour persons, and we cannot ignore injustice. Neither can we delay it. It must be swift and complete, and it must be merciful. Thus major sectors of the twentieth-century Church failed in all these injunctions down to verse 5. One entire sector of the Church has been faced with the worship of a false god. Many have failed because they are not empowered to act. They are crippled; tied in the system by their conditioning. Ministers have been in tears over the whole process. It is prophesied that it will be so. They will all weep over this whole structure but they are trapped in a system that has brainwashed them such that not only are many brethren incapable of action and righteous judgment, but also the ministry themselves are incapable of righteous judgment because to be righteous requires one to act on the logic of one’s judgment. Sentence must be carried out from our judgment.
Now if we say a matter is idolatrous, we must act on the judgment we make. One cannot say, “this is wrong, yet I will continue with the error, Christ is in charge; Christ will intervene”. We are being empowered by Jesus Christ to judge and act on that judgment. When we take over the millennial structure, we will be given judgment in the name of Jesus Christ. Christ is not going to act for us. Christ is not going to intervene if we are in Asia somewhere, acting out from Jerusalem, looking over nations. We will be delegated the authority to act. We will see that later on in Proverbs. It is our delegation of authority that allows us to act and we must be empowered to act under that delegation. What is happening is that the Church has been crippled. The capacity of its people to act under delegation and to act in righteous judgment is crippled. That is, it cannot logically compel itself to action based on its knowledge of right and wrong. That is a fundamental error that renders one unfit for the Kingdom of God, and that is why that Church will be spewed out of God’s mouth.
It says in verses 6-7
Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 7 let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. (RSV)
This concept of giving strong drink although over-indulged has been deprecated and drunkenness severely denounced; it’s from Proverbs 23:29ff. It was appreciated that intoxicants have their proper use. Wine maketh glad the heart of man from Psalm 114:15 and was created by God for that purpose.
If the king had to practise abstinence, he also had the duty of supplying wine to those who needed to benefit from it, (according to Saadia Gaon; Soncino).
This provision of wine is the provision of sustenance, and the provision of spiritual strength. All leaders had the responsibility to empower their subordinates with the means to act and to understand in knowledge and righteousness. That is the preparation of the saints. Unto him that is ready to perish means it is those who are broken in spirit who are passed into or called into the Elect. They are given to the Elect to be strengthened. They are required to be bound up and given restorative support. The concept of strong drink is the concept of fortifying. Often people who are fatigued are given a nip of brandy as a strong drink as a restorative, and that was the understanding of the rabbis. Bitter in soul is understood to mean suffering mental anguish, and upon those who suffer mental anguish (Rashi holds) it would act as a stimulant. The concept is that there is a spiritual element to this wine. It refers to the wine offerings and the drink offerings, and that we are poured out as a drink offering to the Lord in many ways.
Our development is such that we have a responsibility to bind up the least of all of us, to lift everyone up, and to give them encouragement. It is not a matter of simply saying, “Oh, look at them, they are spiritually weak”. All of us are spiritually weak in some way or another. The spiritually strong have a responsibility to lift up and bring the spiritually weaker up to their level. We all have a responsibility to prepare ourselves in order to do a bigger job. We have to lift up a large number of people who are mentally crippled. This concept then goes into that of just rule. Verses 8 and 9 read:
Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. 9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy. (RSV)
The concept of the dumb is employed figuratively. If for any reason the person is unable to plead his own cause (from Metsudath David; Soncino), the able are required to be spokesmen. They are required to ensure that everyone understands the requirements of the law and of salvation. The elect are required to plead their cause in prayer. One cannot empower somebody unless one prays and fasts for them. David prayed and fasted for his enemies. There should be a concept of gentle restoration. Instead what we see is, “Lord, deal with that person, break him, humble him, drive him into the ground”. All of us, at some stage, have been guilty of that in different degrees. That thought process is inherently self- righteous. Self-righteousness is the only sin that cannot easily be dealt with by God because it places somebody else down and us up. That is why Christ dealt with the example of the Pharisee and the publican (the tax gatherer), where the publican said, have mercy on me, a sinner, and the Pharisee was saying, thank you Lord, that I am not like other men.
The concept must be that we esteem others better than ourself, and in doing that we can elevate people. That is one of the reasons why the leadership of a hierarchical structure always breaks down, because the people who want to get to the top are the ones least fitted to get to the top. That is a matter of observation. The bigger and showier people will be given precedence. The sycophants are given privilege and power. Sycophantic behaviour is rewarded so that they get over the backs of the Elect, because the Elect are esteeming others better than themselves. Converted people who are quite capable of performing in power say, “oh no, he is better at doing that, I think we should give him the opportunity”. That is a converted thought process, and that is why the Elect always end up on the bottom, because they elevate people above themselves, and these people who are not converted, gravitate to those positions for the sake of power. They have to get up to the top and when they don’t get their own way they try to wreck the organisation or do something else. But the real process is that we have to build people up. If something is wrong we have an obligation to say so.
When Moses came down at Sinai and they built the golden calf Moses did one thing. He didn’t say, “Oh well, listen fellows, I think we will take a vote”, or “we will wait for Christ to do something”. Moses acted straight away. He stood on the side and pulled out his sword and with the Levites killed three thousand men (Ex. 32:24-28). Now that tells us how Jesus Christ dealt with it. We have an obligation to root out idolatry and deal with it. That’s the way Christ intervenes, because he empowers us to act, and that was the example that should have been used. When Phineus saw idolatry he walked in and thrust a javelin through those two people in the tent. He didn’t wait to be told.
The process of empowering people and speaking for people who are dumb leading into righteous judgment is such that those who cannot obtain righteous judgment must be guaranteed righteous judgment by the Elect. We are to search the earth, looking for the welfare of our people. That is what we are going to do in the Millennium. We are going to search the earth and uplift people and talk to them. A voice will be in their ear saying, this is the way, walk ye in it. That is going to be us. As spirit beings we will have to be empowered to pick up all these people. We first have to learn to do that here. We have to learn to be able to speak in the ear of people who need the guidance, and that is why we have to learn how to speak.
The concept of verse eight is, open thy mouth for the dumb, and in the cause of all who such as are appointed to destruction. Appointed to destruction literally means, all sons of passing, and Rashi explains this as orphans who have lost their defenders, and Ibn Ezra, as men liable to the death penalty. All of us were under the death penalty; that’s what this text means. All of the Elect of the nation Israel who are not called are under the death penalty. We are not under the death penalty. We are under judgment now. So we have an obligation to speak for Israel which is under the death penalty. We have to build these people up.
Meiri and Isaiah da Trani explain this text as meaning, all mortals who will eventually pass from the world. So we see, the rabbis understand the broader example of this. It is the Kingdom of Israel that has a responsibility. These are the kings (the Elect) who have a responsibility for all mortals, in lifting them up and speaking for those who are dumb. We have a responsibility to intercede with God, through the twenty-four elders, by talking directly to God in the name of Jesus Christ so that the Angelic Host under its structure, its Council, literally intercedes for them, and they will act at our request. That is why the twenty-four elders have in their possession the vials full of the prayers of the saints; the golden bowls. It is our prayers that intercede for the dumb; for the mortals who are intended for destruction. This is not just an injunction to King Solomon. This is a spiritual injunction to us. Solomon didn’t have rule over all mortals.
We then go through the first section that is dealing with the Kingship, and these kings are actually brides of Christ. That is why Proverbs 31 is in two sections. The kings themselves, the Elect, are in reality both kings and women. There is a duality to Proverbs 31. Each of us is a bride of Christ.
Proverbs 31:10-11 So a woman of valour, who can find? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doeth safely trust in her, and she hath no lack of gain.
Now this relates to the parables. Her husband, Jesus Christ trusts in the Church, and the Elect and he have no lack of gain, because the Elect work for Christ in bringing people into judgment. According to the Soncino commentaries on the ideal wife, mention has been made so often of the unfaithful wife in Proverbs that the compiler may have thought it advisable to end the book with a glowing tribute to the good wife. That is not why it was done at all. Proverbs was ended with a glowing tribute to the Elect and its responsibility under all of the Proverbs, and wisdom that is given through the Holy Spirit to empower the Elect in the last days in order to come into judgment. That is why this chapter ends the book of Proverbs.
The work is a separate and self-contained composition as evident from the fact that it is constructed within the framework of an alphabetical acrostic.
The ideal wife is described as a skilful manager of the home, and a blessing to her family. Her husband is enabled to devote himself to public affairs, and is a respected member of the community. Her life is not self centred; she is charitable to the poor, and kindly to all. It has been truly said, ‘Nothing in ancient literature equals this remarkable attestation to the dignity and individuality of a woman’ (Abrahams; Soncino). Quite possibly, the poem was the work of a teacher who advocated a monogamous home at any rate, consonant with a view held throughout Proverbs, the household was ruled over by one wife. According to the traditional usage, this poem is recited in a Jewish home on the Sabbath eve (PB. p. 123). It set a high standard of wife-hood, which was adopted, and was a reality in many Jewish homes (Soncino).
The reason it was recited on the Sabbath eve is because we are used so that the world may enter into the Sabbath, the Millennium Rest of Jesus Christ, and we become the wives of Jesus Christ in order to help run the human family. We then act as parents with Jesus Christ in order to bring the human family into judgment and salvation. We are symbolised as wives to Christ because we become parents with Christ of the human family.
The concept of doth safely trust is that the husband has full confidence in her management of the domestic economy (according to Metsudath David). The Elect here are running the domestic economy. What happened with the hierarchical structures of the Church government as they were taught was that because authoritarianism was pushed at the ministry and from the ministry to individuals they tended to be disempowered. The men exercised what little authority there was left in telling their wives how to run the kitchens, what to do in the home, how much money to spend, or whatever. Authoritarianism actually stole authority from the levels at which it should have been exercised. The modern Church of God, by its authoritarian approach, destroyed the capacity of the people to exercise discerning judgment at all levels. That is a mistake that has to be overcome. People have to be taught how to be empowered as Proverbs empowers people.
It is not a competition for authority. It is a question of exercising rational judgment in a loving relationship. Now that extends beyond the individual families into the Church as a whole. Authority must not be taken; it actually is delegated. The more authority is delegated the more efficient and responsible and mature are the people to whom the authority is delegated. We have to serve people to get them to replace us. Our aim is to make every single person in the Church capable of doing the job of the ministry, every single one. When we have got everyone to a level of understanding where they are all empowered as brides of Christ, we will have achieved our aim and we bring more and more people in, in order to elevate them to the point where they are all empowered through the Holy Spirit. It is not a question of making up armies of slaves. It is a question of making up armies of spiritually begotten sons of God in power. Now we go through the next text.
Proverbs 31:12 She doeth him good, and not evil all the days of her life.
This means that she fully justifies the confidence he places in her.
Proverbs 31:13 She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
The meaning is that she concerns herself to see that there is an ample supply of material from which to make the necessary clothing (that is according to Rashi and Metsudath David). The concept is that the Church is preparing garments for other people, for the children or the family. We have a responsibility not only to prepare our own garments but also to prepare garments for other people to help them to come into judgment, and ensure there is an ample supply of these garments for judgment. In other words, we have a responsibility to prepare the information and spiritual food that will allow people to be clothed in garments of righteousness, and we do that not only through printing the word of God but also by our own personal care and concern for each other, and for the world, through our prayers and our development.
The concept that she works willingly with her hands is literally, she makes according to the pleasure of her hands.
She works the material into the best garments, her labour being one of pleasure. It is as though the hands themselves, have pleasure from the work, (according to Rashi; Soncino).
This is the peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. All our actions should be of peace and joy and love, and our peace passes all understanding.
Proverbs 31:14 She is like the merchant ships, she bringeth her food from afar.
Now like the merchant ships is held to mean which imports goods from distant lands;
similarly, she does not depend for her supplies from sources near at hand, but seeks them from afar, to obtain the choicest obtainable (Daath Mikra; Soncino).
Of course, the symbolism is quite clear. Our salvation comes from afar through the Holy Spirit. Thus our food comes from afar and our food is to do the will of Him who sent us (Jn. 4:34).
Proverbs 31:15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth food to her household and a portion to her maidens.
That is before daybreak, to bake the bread, and to prepare the food required during the day (according to Malbim; Soncino). This giveth food to her household, and a portion to her maidens is directly contrary to a hierarchical concept whereby the Church is required to give portions to the maidens within it. It is not in terms of telling the maidens what they will and will not think. It is giving them nourishment so that they are properly equipped to do their jobs. Her maidens means the maidservants of the household. They too are the objects of industrious care (from Malbim). If the maidservants are not kept properly instructed and given proper care then they are not able to fill their lamps with the Holy Spirit and they become part of the foolish virgins and not the wise. They are separated so that in order to keep the maidservants into the wise class – into the first resurrection – requires industrious diligent nurturing by the Church under the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 31:16 She considereth a field and buyeth it; With the fruit of her hands, she planteth a vineyard.
She examines the value of a piece of land which is for sale, and being satisfied with it, adds it to the family estates (from Metsudath David).
This concept is taken on from: each of us has a responsibility for those within our household, and those within our care, to bring them up into the estate. We then look at other fields and bring those people into the productivity of the Church.
With the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard: Christ is the vine-dresser. Christ then takes what we have planted and trims the trees. We then go through the process explained by the parable when they come into judgment. In the parable of the vine-dressers of the trees (Lk. 13:7-9) Christ brings them into the sequence of three years of productivity; fourth year, dunging or pruning back; fifth year of grace; sixth year of trials; seventh year of rest, and so on through the seven-year cycles of the Jubilee. The vines are brought into the Church systems so that Christ can dress them and make them productive. The seven-year cycles are used in order to do that in relation to a standard. Laws are established over the care of plants because there is a physical aspect of caring for plants, and there is a spiritual aspect as well. The physical reflects the spiritual. The people who come into the Church have three years where things appear out of nowhere, and they are helped, and they grow, and it is joy and gladness. In the fourth year they are dunged, and they are prepared. In the fifth year they are given a year of grace and in the sixth year the Holy Spirit is reduced to its lowest level, and they are whacked between the eyes so they see how they survive and what they have learnt.
The called are given a trial. Some people fail their test and they have to pick themselves up again. In the seventh year they are given rest, and the cycle goes on in higher levels. We see how that is done from the example of Samson (see Samson and the Judges (No. 73)).
It sounds as though it is a serious problem but that is the concept of planting a vineyard. God produces the plants and tells us what the vines are and who the vines are but we are the ones who plant the vineyard. Jesus Christ then dresses the vines. God gives us a plant, we plant it, Jesus Christ dresses it, and the Holy Spirit ensures its growth. Prophecy tells us at Isaiah 5:7 who this vineyard is: For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel.
We will examine this concept of verse 16 –planting the vineyard – a little more from the comments of the Soncino. The fruit of her hands is understood to be the money accumulated from her skilful management (according to Metsudath David). It is the fruit of the hands of the Church, which is actually the increase to the Lord.
And she planteth is like the statements the house which I (Solomon) have built from 1Kings 8:44. This does not imply that the work of planting was done with her own hands (according to Ibn Ezra). Solomon is cited as building the temple, and Solomon hardly laid a brick. It was Solomon who built it, under direction. That is the concept: that everyone produces this building and everyone in the Church develops the concept as part of it. So a vineyard was part of a properly equipped homestead, the ideal scene of 1Kings 5:5, every man under his vine tree. We see the spiritual understanding of that from the New Testament.
Proverbs 31:17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and maketh strong her arms.
The verse draws a picture of her setting about her task with vigour. The girding of her loins with strength: Ibn Ezra and Metsudath David understand this to be a figure of speech, with strength as a girdle. It is so used of God in Psalm 93:1: He hath girded Himself with strength (Soncino). She girds her loins with strength as God has girded Himself with strength. So we are talking about the Church as girding itself with the strength of God. It relates back to the Psalm and also to Zechariah 12:8 Where the household of David shall be as Elohim as the Angel of Yahovah before them.
And maketh strong her arms: Making strong her arms refers to the right arm of God and right hand which is effectively Jesus Christ (Ps. 44:3), and we are the arms of God if we like to put it that way.
Proverbs 31:18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. (RSV)
That is, she tastes her merchandise and she finds from experience (cf. Ps. 34:9 where the verb is translated consider). So she contemplates on what her produce is, what she does. We are required to judge what the fruits of our activities are that we may meditate on God’s law and determine what we do, or how we deal with one another, and how we are empowering the Church.
The lamp goeth not out by night. This is a traditional concept from the Middle East. Metsudath David interprets the words as she works during the early part of the night, and rises early (verse 15) to increase her earnings with which to do business (Soncino).
There is a diligent application of study involved and (from the Soncino), possibly, the reference is to the fact that in the East they used to keep a light constantly burning in the house (cf. Jer. 25:10; Job 18:6). Its going out was considered to be an omen of misfortune. A modern Bedouin saying is that he sleeps in darkness to indicate a condition of abject poverty (Soncino). Of course to us, a lamp goeth not out by night is understood.
Christ prepares the lamp of the Church and the Holy Spirit keeps the oil of the lamp burning. This lamp will then go into the marriage supper of the Lamb. The lamps belong to the wise rather than the foolish virgins, where their lamps didn’t go out at night. The bridegroom came in the middle of the night and they were ready to enter into judgment and to the marriage supper of the Lamb because their lamps did not go out. The foolish virgins allowed their lamps to go out. So the Proverbs 31 woman is a diligent person who keeps the lamp constantly burning in the house. We will find in the end that God and Christ will be the lights of the Temple of God.
Proverbs 31:19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. (RSV)
The commentaries say that this verse is to be connected with what follows; no time is wasted in idleness. Her other work being finished, she spends her leisure in spinning and making garments for the poor and the members of her household (according to Malbim). So the Church is not idle and the members of the Church are not idle. When they are not concerned with day-to-day chores they are making garments for the poor. They are preparing and helping the brethren to come into judgment, and helping the brethren who have come into judgment to be elevated. They are helping their children to be educated and they are making the household strong.
Proverbs 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. (RSV)
Although she is occupied with her work, she does not disregard the poor and needy who approach her but she stretches out her hand to give them alms. Alternatively, the profits she has gained from her work she does not hesitate to give to the poor (from Meiri) so that the profit obtained from all the works are poured back into understanding. We work in order to develop and expand the Elect. We develop and empower them individually and expand them numerically.
Proverbs 31:21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. (RSV)
It is cold weather, and she is not afraid of snow. This scarlet is a reference to luxurious clothing. We can compare 2Samuel 1:24 and Jeremiah 4:30. Since the family ordinarily wore these expensive garments, they were obviously provided with warm clothing for the winter (i.e. according to Isaiah da Trani). The concept being that: it doesn’t matter if they are set upon by adversity. The clothing of the Elect is ample to ward off adversity, to protect the young and the weak and the infirm, and to provide them with the clothing and apparel befitting their rank, for they are kings and priests.
Proverbs 31:22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. (RSV)
She was herself attired in the costliest garments (Metsudath David). Her garments were purchased by the sacrifice of the Lamb and washed in his blood.
Proverbs 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. (RSV)
This is taken by the commentators to mean is known for the excellence of his clothes (according to Rashi), which raises him in the estimation of his townsmen. What it means is that the husband of the woman is made known by the promulgation of doctrine of the Elect; and that the word of the gospel of the Kingdom of God is promulgated by the Church so that the husband, Jesus Christ, is made known to the world.
He sits among the Elders of the land is a concept of issuing judgment. The concept also concerns the establishment of the Kingdom of God which is by Christ. It is then maintained by the Church that is the Elect in the millennial structure. The Elect necessarily take part in the judgment, which is a form of ongoing correction as well as the judgment activities of the second resurrection.
Proverbs 31:24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant. (RSV)
This text is actually not quite correct. Linen garments: the word occurs again in Judges 14:12ff. and Isaiah 3:23.
In the latter passage, it is included in a list of women’s apparel. It was a square or rectangular piece of fine linen worn as an outer garment, or as a wrapper around the body when in bed (according to Daath Mikra).
The linen garments also were worn by the high priest in the early stages of Atonement, when he was the atoning priest, before he donned (or established) the royal apparel to become the high priest at the end of the Atonement sequence (see also Atonement (No. 138)). The concept and delivereth girdles unto the merchants is actually translated tradeth (from literally gave), so the verb then is not gave. We traded, according to Ezekiel 27:12, and its force here is taken by the commentator Daath Mikra to mean traded rather than gave. She delivereth or gave girdles, or linen garments. The noun for girdles is the collective singular, and sashes or belts are commonly worn around the waist and, as for the wealthy, were elaborately embroided. The merchant is literally the Canaanites or a Phoenician trader. So what she is doing is giving or providing girdles, strengthening supports, to aliens, to Gentiles. The sequence is that the Church is actually supporting and is the light to the Gentiles as providing this means of support and the garments to the Gentile nations.
Proverbs 31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. (RSV)
A strong financial position and the esteem that comes from it were held to be the meaning of the text. Of course, strength and dignity are strength in the Holy Spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit. The dignity of the Holy Spirit is that we are clothed with righteousness and the armour of the Lord as Paul says.
She laughs at the time to come: Her characteristics and her salvation are her clothing. These characteristics are borne by one as one wears clothes (according to Ibn Ezra). This comes from the texts: Thou art clothed with glory and majesty (from Ps. 114:1) and also, let thy priests be clothed with righteousness (from Ps. 132:9). The priesthood are clothed with righteousness and this strength and dignity comes from the power of the Holy Spirit in righteousness. The text at the time to come is literally at the latter day (Ibn Ezra, Meiri). This is the Church in the last days.
Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (RSV)
The Soncino says, when she speaks, her words are distinguished by good sense and discretion (from Meiri). So the concepts of speech are measured. The concept of speaking is to uplift people, to censure error in kindness, and to use speech in a measured and kindly way to correct error and expose evil.
Proverbs 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. (RSV)
In addition to giving orders, she sees that they are duly carried out and supervises every detail of the home that it be with modesty and fear of God (according to Metsudath David). Everything is done in order, correctly, and in fear of God.
Eating not the bread of idleness means she is full of energy and always well occupied. Study is important to us all, in order to prepare ourselves to complete these tasks and help our brethren.
Proverbs 31:28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: (RSV)
Rising up: Ibn Ezra understands the verb as rise up in the morning and, finding every thing well prepared, the children express their thankfulness to her. It might signify stand up in her presence as a mark of respect, coming from Leviticus 19:32.
Now in the end, they will not only rise up in the presence of the Philadelphian Church, they will also be made to lie down on their face in prostration. Those who say they are Jews and are not will be made to worship, that is prostrate themselves, before the Philadelphians.
It is not just a matter of rising up in respect in terms of the Church, and that is the significance. It’s taken a step further from simply rising up in the presence of the Church, generally to the Philadelphians. Those in the false system are actually made to prostrate themselves because the Philadelphians were thought of as being incorrect, by the people who said that they were Jews and were not.
The Talmud, from Kiddushin 31(b) relates of a Rabbi that, whenever he heard his mothers footsteps, he used to exclaim--’I stand up before the Shechina (the Divine Presence)’ (Soncino).
So this rabbinical commentator in the Talmud understood that the Divine Presence we are talking about here is the Shechina, for which the Church is the repository (1Cor. 3:16-17). The rabbi is taking it to refer to his mother, but the Shechina is present in the Church. The Holy Spirit, the power of God, is the thing that empowers the Church so that the children of our people and the individuals, the Elect, rise up and call them blessed, and Christ confesses us before the council of the Elect. Calls her blessed is more literally, and praises her (from Ps. 72:17 and Song of Sol. 6:9 (Canticle 6:9)).
Proverbs 31:29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." (RSV)
This verse gives the wording of the husband’s praise (Daath Mikra). This is the praise of Christ. Daughters is a poetical synonym for women (from Gen. 30:13; 34:1; Cant. ii.2 and vi.9),
As is apparent from the various verse quotes, this does not refer only to unmarried women, who are still members of their father’s households, but also to married women, the peers of our ‘woman of valour’. Neither is it to be conjectured that even after marriage, the woman remained always a member of her father’s family, and was therefore called his daughter, since it is evident from Num. , that among the Hebrews the daughter, on marriage, not only passed from her father’s house, but also from his tribe (Soncino).
On marriage, we pass into the household of God.
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (RSV)
The concluding verses are the poet’s reflection upon the picture here as drawn up, and the lessons he wishes to impress upon the reader. He does not decry feminine beauty, but it is not the essential and most important qualification in a wife; character is the true criterion (Isaiah da Trani; Soncino)
Grace is deceitful. A graceful exterior is no index of a woman’s nature. Beauty is skin deep. Rabbinic literature preserves a report that on two occasions in the year, ‘the daughters of Jerusalem used to go out dressed in white garments, which were borrowed, so as not to put to shame anybody who did not posses her own. The daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards. (The beautiful women would cry), ‘Young man, raise thine eyes, and see whom thou will choose as thy wife.’ The women of distinguished families would cry, ‘pay not attention to beauty, but rather to family,’ and (the homely ones possessing neither beauty nor nobility), quoted this verse. The criterion of ‘family’ indicated that the girl had a good heredity and upbringing, and was therefore likely to be of good character (Soncino).
All of these lessons, while they happened in Jerusalem, are good lessons for us. The concept is that Grace is given to us through the salvation of Jesus Christ. We cannot tell the strength of a Church and its people by appearances. We tell them by its spiritual fruits. The Laodicean Church was rich, powerful and strong so it thought, yet in the eyes of God it was poor, pitiful, blind and naked. It needed to buy gold refined in the fire and a white robe. They had to wash themselves in the blood of Jesus Christ, basically, because they were not fit to come into judgment and they were spewed out of God’s mouth, yet they looked good. In their case, beauty was deceitful.
The woman that feareth the Lord shall be praised. This is an indispensable characteristic to be possessed by a wife who deserves the above praise (according to Isaiah da Trani) and that is the indispensable characteristic of the Elect. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and it is indispensable to the Elect in their understanding. John 17:3 is quite clear that there is only one true God, and that Jesus Christ is His son, and that is a requirement to inherit eternal life. If we do not fear the One True God, and we think we can worship other gods and play around with the concepts of where we are and who our husband is and whom we prepare for, then we will not be there.
Where a church develops a cult mentality and a theological dictatorship or hierarchy, they cannot prepare themselves to come into judgment. We cannot empower the Church under hierarchical structures. That is why they are condemned and have been for two thousand years. The Church of God is based on servant leadership, and it is based on empowering one another in love and self-sacrifice.
Proverbs 31:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (RSV)
Let her have full credit for all that she does (according to Metsudath David). We will be judged according to what we do. We will be given full credit, according to the parable of the talents, if we are given ten talents and we use it and return it tenfold. We will be given the proceeds of what we do. If we are given a talent and we bury it, we will simply be removed. It says let her works praise her in the gates. It means that, although her activities are confined to the home, due recognition should be paid publicly in the gates for the vital contribution she makes to the welfare of the community. Now it doesn’t say anything at all about that, as Rashi interprets it. It doesn’t say that her activities are confined to the home at all. This is typical Judaic mentality. It has also crippled the twentieth century Church of God. Women’s activities were not confined to the home. And the Church’s activities are not confined to the home. Women are to be empowered by their husbands and empowered by the Holy Spirit and empowered to take their position in the Kingdom of God. The Church similarly, and all of us as the brides of Christ, are to be empowered. We are empowered by the activities of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit and we take our place in the Kingdom of God. We make a vital contribution to the community and we attempt to be praised in the gates although Christ has said there is not going to be all that much praise. It is when we take over the government that we will be praised in the gates because we will usher in an era of righteous rule in the Millennium.
They will see, under Jesus Christ, what we can do. Hitler said, under the influence of a demon, translated from the German: After the war, they would see just what we were made of. That, more appropriately, applies to the Elect than it ever did to the German people. There will be another war but it is after the final wars they will all see just what we were made of because we will restore this planet. Israel will come from the north hand in hand with Assyria. We will do it all as the Elect by empowering each other to a spirit of power and of a sound mind in the Holy Spirit. We can appropriately judge and deal with people who cannot understand or misapply the doctrines of Jesus Christ. We now have a fair yardstick to review what has happened over the last forty years and where we have got to go.
Regardless of how much time there is, and it is difficult to work out, we are in the last days. Few would argue over that point. It is just a matter of when. We need to be empowered and to empower each other to get through that process and to help the Elect, and help our nation; for we will stand with our nation and fall with our nation and go into captivity with our nation. They are not going to get it if we are in a place of safety. We are part of them. We are the Elect, and this nation is like the seedling area where we take the vine plants out, according to God’s direction, and put them in the vineyards.
We will be given all those people at some stage between now and the second resurrection to deal with. What we should be doing is helping them in love and kindness. We should overcome this hierarchical structure and understand that what we do empowers everyone else and that we act as servants and lead by serving, not by lording it over each other.