I'm a christian and a woman which means I've heard my fair share of teaching on Proverbs 31. I mean, I even did a study with an organization called P31. I've joked about how much of a P31 women I am... ironically it was always while we were doing something highly domestic activity like cooking a meal from scratch or up-cycling some mason jar to use as a lamp or something, never that we were selling land and using the profits wisely.
Yet in all of this teaching, I've never once looked at verses 1-9. It seems we've treated these like two separate chapters and celebrate that Solomon remembered to include direction for women in his advise to his son. Thank about that for a second... if Proverbs is advise written to his son, why in the end would he all of a sudden say "oh yea... to you women out there... this is how you should act."
As we studied this chapter last night in my community group and I listened to the women once again become burdened by this list and I began reading the first 9 verses (yes we'd all conveniently skipped over those this time too). The very first verse says "The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him." WHAT?! Why do we skip that verse... it changed how I read the rest of the chapter. It continues "What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, the son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vow?" This is a Godly mother's rebuke to her son. I can hear it now "What are you doing? I raised you... have you forgotten?" After this what I would call classic mom line, verses 3-9 outlines, what I believe her son wad doing to deserve this rebuke ... drunkenness, chasing loose women, neglecting the poor and needy. And, that's when we get to the oh so famous verses about an excellent wife.
Proverbs 31 isn't a list of direction to us women on how to be a good wife, it's a Godly mom's holy rebuke to her son... "Son, what you are doing is not good... you need to be looking for this..." If this is true, it changes how I read this book. Now I read this as wise words from a Godly older woman. The preciousness of these verses isn't that women were finally remembered in a book written to a son, but that a son found so much wisdom in his mother's words. How amazing is it that he would keep the rebuke filled words from a woman (women didn't have the voice then that we do now).
Women: Reread these words in this context and see how it changes for you. Hear and accept these words as you would wisdom from an older woman.
Men: Hear the rebuke of this wise mother and chase after what is more precious that jewels.