It may sound odd, but I have always been enamored with this verse. As a child I embraced it because the ruby was the birthstone for July and my grandmother and I shared a July birthday. When I was about eight years old, she bought me a small ruby ring and I was overjoyed. Being the “Tom boy” that I was, I was jumping up on our swing set, caught my ring on one of the metal hooks that held the swing and thought I would rip my finger off! Needless to say, my finger was bruised severely, and the band of my ring was completely bent out of shape. I was really upset, but the stone remained intact. That ring was precious to me so after my dad straightened it out, I put it up in my jewel box and only wore it on special occasions.
As I grew older and studied my Bible more thoroughly, I realized the value not only of a ruby, but also the value of being a virtuous woman of God. Even though I had not become a Christian, I was still studying, learning, realizing what it meant to be virtuous. Knowledge is a growth process and only recently did I really do a deep study on this passage. Because of that, I wanted to share some things that I was unaware of.
Rubies have always been held in high esteem in Asian countries. They were used to ornament armor, scabbards, and harnesses of noblemen in India and China. Rubies were laid beneath the foundation of buildings to secure good fortune to the structure We all know that rubies are precious stones and costly. Additionally, I found that they are a 9 on the Mohs scale, which determines the hardness of a stone, just beneath diamonds, which are a 10. They are extremely strong! The word “virtuous,” literally will translate “full of strength.” Rubies must also be cut in a very precise way to be able to reflect their light. If they are cut with the 58 facets as diamonds are typically cut, it takes away much of their reflective power, diminishing from their true beauty; thus they must be handled in such a way that their true beauty will shine through. Rubies, in ancient times, were known as the Ratnaraj or “King of gemstones. “An early recorded transport and trading of rubies arises in the literature on the North Silk Road of China, wherein about 200 BC rubies were carried along this ancient trackway moving westward from China. Most rubies were harvested from the caves in Myanmar (Burma), but can also be found in other areas in the Mid-East. They are the rarest and often considered the most valuable jewel. Ruby mining can be traced back to 2500 B.C.” (Ruby In History, by Yuman Hussain).
Since we are told to consider the setting when we study the Bible, I believe it is important to factor in these bits of information as we look at what King Lemuel’s mother had to say. “Who can find a vistuous woman?” (Proverbs 31:10). She is rare, strong, greatly to be desired, the greatest woman one could find. She is sought after by many, and treasured and protected when found (treated carefully so their beauty could be appreciated). Keil and Delitzsch states: “A wife, such as she ought to be, is a rare treasure, a good excelling all earthly possession. She is to him a perpetual spring of nothing but good. She is the wife who keeps the family possessions scrupulously together, and increases them by her laborious and prudent management.”
As we continue reading through the end of chapter 31 in Proverbs, we have a complete picture of a woman who brings glory to God, her family and the church. After asking the question, “Who can find a virtuous woman,” we see a most thorough description by the King’s mother. The most important verse, in my opinion is the one following her question that states, “The heart of her husband trusts her.” He can know when he walks out the door of his home that his children are in safe hands, that they will be fed, cared for, nurtured spiritually, physically and in every other aspect of their lives. He knows that she will do what has to be done. She will find a way, she will labor continually if need be. She will not complain that she has nothing to work with. She is never idle, never lazy, never found out spending what she shouldn’t, but contrariwise, is conserving, preparing for the possibility of lean instead of plenty. She is organized and she knows her job as a helpmeet, mother and woman of God (See also Titus 2:3-5).
What a goal we must strive to meet as God’s women! It will not be accomplished overnight. As I said, I am still learning the depth of these passages and have yet to fully comprehend the magnitude of what I need to be. I do, however, find a “boost” each time I read this. It spurs me on to push a little harder, try to be a little better, pray for more strength. If we each do this we will grow in grace and knowledge and be better equipped to take on our God-given role as virtuous women. It makes me feel valuable and precious to know that our Father has spoken so highly of His daughters, who are striving to be as He would have us to be.
Nancy is the wife of Bill Goring, who serves as a gospel preacher and elder for the Chipman Road church of Christ in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has 4 children, 11 grandchildren and has taught Bible class for over 40 years, speaks at Ladies Day gatherings and has published several books including: Behavior Becoming Holiness: Studies in Titus Chapter 2 and Overcoming our Self-Imposed Prisons.