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If Pinterest were around in biblical times, this woman of noble character would certainly be a “Pinterest worthy” wife! She is quite the accomplished seamstress, it seems. But, dear friends, she is so much more than just that.
Proverbs 31:22 is a verse that seems to get overlooked when describing the Proverbs 31 woman. In Proverbs 31:21, she is described as a “credit” to those who watch over the affairs of the household. In Proverbs 31:10-31, she excels in hospitality, tending her household well, and being a hard working woman.
She is Clothed in Fine Linen and Purple
It is Proverbs 31:22 that describes the Proverbs 31 woman in this way, “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple [with skillfully embroidered works].” Proving to be an excellent manager of her home, she not only takes care of her own household affairs, but she makes clothes for others as well.
Proverbs 31:22 records that she made more than just coverings for her bed! She is also clothed herself in fine linen and purple with skillfully embroidered work. Proverbs 31:22 describes more lovely apparel of which this Proverbs 31 woman is responsible.
Not only is she a seamstress and excellent house manager, the Proverbs 31 woman is also embroiderer. Embroidery was indeed a skillful work at this time in history. Proverbs 31:21 describes her as “clothed with strength and dignity” so we can be sure that she does not wear just anything. Proverbs 31:22 tells us that she is clothed in fine linen and purple with skillfully embroidered works.
Proverbs 31:22 tells us more of her feminine side as well, as we see her taking pride in her work like a virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:13). Proverbs 31:14-15 tells us that she is beautiful and we know Proverbs 31:30 tells us that many women do noble things, but the Proverbs 31 woman is greater than them all.
She is a housewife who brings honor to her husband through diligence in managing her household (Proverbs 31:11-12). Proverbs 31:25 proclaims that her husband is respected at the city gate as he sits among the elders of the land. Proverbs 31:23-29 tells us how she delights in her work and takes pleasure in it, which is a very good thing indeed!
Diving Deeper in Proverbs 31:22
Strong’s commentary on the Bible gives us some context on the words used in this verse:
Makes – Strong’s 6213 – עשׂה – asah = to do, fashion, accomplish, make
Coverings – Strong’s 4765 – מרבד – marbad = [from the verb rabad (Strong’s 7234) meaning to spread], spread (as in bedspread), coverlet.
As we look at this verse, it’s important to consider the verse that comes before it.
When we look at that verse, with this one, we might assume that the coverings for her bed are part of her preparedness for winter or hard times.
While we know that she makes the coverings, we aren’t given clues to how she makes them or exactly what those coverings are. Although the King James Version translates marbad as “coverings of tapestry” both here and in Prov. 7:16, the Hebrew word itself doesn’t necessarily imply this. It is interesting to note that a derivative of this word is used to describe God’s own works of creation as well as the miracles He performed on Israel’s behalf. From that, we catch the idea of the creative process involved.
She does not fear for her household when the snow comes because Proverbs 31 tells us that she is prepared.
Proverbs 31:21 describes that her household are clothed with scarlet. Proverbs 31:22 then follows by describing how she makes covers for her bed. If we connect both verses, we might conclude that the Proverbs 31 woman may also have a handmade quilt or coverlet that she makes, but Proverbs 31:22 does not mention the word “quilt”.
So what is Proverbs 31 trying to tell us? It seems Proverbs 31 is describing more than just covers for her bed! Proverbs tells us here that she actually has many covers for her bed. Proverbs 31 is not just about preparing herself, but she makes provisions for others as well. Proverbs tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman brings “clothing” to others just as Proverbs 3:27 says she clothes herself with strength and dignity.
The Proverbs 31 woman’s clothing reflects her character. She, of course, ensures that her family’s needs are met, as well as that of the rest of her household (in biblical times, this could include house help or servants). But she also takes care to of her own appearance. She is classy and takes the time to sew herself clothing of fine linen and purple – without being showy.
Keep in mind, she couldn’t just run to the mall, to buy a purple dress. She would have had to sew her own clothing.
Notice, though, that in Proverbs 31, the focus first is on how she takes care of her family and household. Only then does she worry about what she wears. This care and compassion for her family is one of the many attributes that make her beautiful. It is inward beauty. Proverbs tells us that Proverbs 31 is about more than outward beauty; Proverbs 31 is also about inner character.
This Proverb, like many others, emphasizes the importance of inner character over external adornment. We read that her “price” or value shines brighter than the sun and she opens her mouth with wisdom. Proverbs 31 is not only about the Proverbs 31 woman being prepared, it’s also about proper priorities and character!
Not to say that she can’t look nice or care about her appearance, but as we are reminded in 1 Peter 3:3-4:
Our beauty comes from within. Our inner self. Who we are. How we show God’s love to others. Not from the clothes we wear, the makeup we apply or the jewelry we add to accessorize.
The world, however, tells us something different. It tells us that we need to keep up with trends and always look fashionable. The Bible, however, reminds us that our beauty comes from within.
So we know that the Proverbs 31 woman sewed her family’s clothing and linens. She knew that how she took care of her home reflected on her, her husband and family. (See Is Your Husband Respected at the City Gate).
In historical context, we can assume that the cloth for the coverings was woven and then sewn. We have already seen the Proverbs 31 Woman as a handspinner, but besides the added “tapestry” in the King James translation, no weaving terms are used in the passage. We don’t know if she wove the cloth herself, or had someone else do it.
The second half of this verse, mentions coverings of a different kind.
Clothing – Strong’s 3830 – לבשׁ or לבוּשׁ – lebush’ = clothing, garment, apparel, raiment
Fine linen – Strong’s 8336 – שׁשׁי or שׁשׁ – shesh or shaysh = something bleached white, linen, fine linen, marble, silk. Translated only once (Prov. 31:22) as “silk” in the KJV.
Purple – Strong’s 713 – ארגּמן – ‘argaman = purple, red-purple (either the color or the dyed goods). Due to its cost, it is associated with royalty or the favor of royalty, nobility, the priests, and the temple.
In Proverbs 31, the words “clothing” and “clothed” are used both literally, in this verse, and symbolically (verse 25). According to The Blue Letter Bible, the word lebuwsh’ implies more than just articles of clothing. It also assumes that clothing reveals something about the wearer: rank, status, or circumstance. In today’s world, we still see evidence of that, although not as overt as in biblical times. As a child, we are taught, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, however, as humans, we know that how we look does make an impression on others.
How we present ourselves to the world affects us both internally (as self-esteem and self-respect) and externally (how we are viewed by others). When we, as Christian women, wear clothing that is in conflict with our Christian values (revealing clothing, shirts with worldly or inappropriate text), we are sending a message about ourselves to others. We are ambassadors of Christ. As ambassadors, we need to dress the part. Don’t we want others to see Christ when they see us? (For more on this topic, see this post: When They See Me Do They See Jesus)
We should not be wearing clothing that calls attention to ourselves and our bodies but should dress appropriately to honor God.
The Proverbs 31 Woman was not showy with her appearance and wealth, but modest and generous. She understood both her role as wife and woman in her family and society. She, of course, took care with her appearance, but her true beauty, and what she is “clothed” in, is found in a later verse: Proverbs 31:25.
How are you “dressed”, my friend? Are you presenting yourself as a daughter of The King or as a woman of this world?
Does your family come first? Do you take care of their needs, feed them, love others as Jesus loves us?
We are daughters of the King most high!
I think wearing a nice, purple blouse would be a wonderful reminder of the royalty that we are in God’s family, don’t you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
If you want to dig deeper, check out my book, The Complete Proverbs 31 Wife: A Verse by Verse Exploration of What it Means to Be a Proverbs 31 Woman in Today’s World.
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”