The Proverbs Woman... no, not THAT one!

If prompted to think of "the Proverbs Woman", anyone who has read a handful of books, skimmed a few blogs, or heard a sermon or two aimed at Christian women will automatically call to mind the Proverbs 31 woman. Land investor, wise guru, accomplished seamstress, careful shopper, generous philanthropist, and dependable wife and mother all rolled into one, she's perhaps the most referred to biblical "example" for Christian women.

But I don't want to talk about her today. It's a different woman of Proverbs I want to talk about...

"The Forbidden Woman"
Proverbs spends a lot of time talking about this "forbidden" (sometimes translated "strange" or "foreign") woman. Much of the text is aimed at imploring the author's son not to visit or be hoodwinked by her. But there are things we, as women who want to honor God, can learn from this woman. Just like TLC's show, "What Not to Wear", we can look at this negative example in God's Word to see "what not to be".

It is easy to look at negative examples in Scripture and link them to "that woman three rows up every Sunday who wears tight clothes and distracts all the men during worship" or "those young barely-clad strumpets at the mall." (OK, moment of truth-- I just wanted to use the word "strumpet"... how many times does one have the opportunity to do so?) :) But we can't much do anything about those other women... however, we CAN "ponder the path of our feet" as Proverbs 4 instructs us to do.

We CAN look to this example and learn something for our own selves.

Traits of the Forbidden Woman (all references from Proverbs):
  • Her lips and speech seem smooth and sweet, like oil or honey (2:16, 5:3)
  • She forsakes the companion of her youth (2:17)
  • She forgets her covenant with God (2:17)
  • Her final destination is bitterness (5:4)
  • She's as sharp and dangerous as a sword (5:4)
  • She's on the path towards death & hell (2:18, 5:5)
  • She does not ponder the path of life (5:6)
  • Her ways wander and she doesn't even know it. (5:6)
  • She takes from the honor and labor of strangers (5:9-10, 23:28)
  • She's like a deep pit that you fall into and can't escape from (22:14, 23:27)
  • She increases sin among mankind (22:28)
There are many things we can learn from this. I'd like to propose a few self-examining questions we could think through as we consider this passage:
  • When speaking with married men, do I speak and carry myself carefully, in ways that will not be enticing or tempting?
  • Have I forsaken the companion of my youth? Am I growing in love or in annoyance towards my husband? Do my actions and words towards my husband give encouragement and support, or are my words discouraging and quarrelsome?
  • Have I forgotten my covenant with God? (This question assumes that we are in covenant with God. If you are not sure on that point, click here and consider this.) Do I forget my Lord as I go through my days and weeks? Is my life still being changed by God?
  • Do my decisions and attitudes lead me on the path towards bitterness? Am I quick to forgive, or do I hold onto grudges? Am I working towards contentment in all things or would it be more accurate to say that I actively seek things to gripe about?
  • Are my words sharp like swords? Do people feel lanced and bruised after being around me, or do I speak life-giving words?
  • Do I ponder the path of my feet? Do I consider where I've been, where I am, and where I'm headed? Do I live thoughtfully and intentionally? (Some Proverbs to consider and pray through: 3:6, 3:17, 3:21-23, 4:11, 4:14, 4:18, 4:25-27)
  • Am I wandering, and have I looked closely enough at my life to recognize it if I were? If my life was an airplane, and Christlikeness, wisdom, and Heaven were my ultimate destination, am I headed in the right direction, or do I need a mid-course correction? Is my life more influenced by TV personalities or by Christ? Am I more likely to make a change in my life and home based on an HGTV episode or on God's Word? Am I like the women talked about in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 that are easily led astray, "always learning", but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth? Am I bouncing around in the philosophies and lifestyles of the world, or am I seeking to honor Christ in the overall trajectory of my life?
  • Are others around me influenced towards God or towards sin after being around me? Is my mouth more likely to gossip or encourage? Do I encourage lust by the way I dress or the words I use? Do the words of God regularly pour forth from my mouth, or is my advice interlaced with tips and techniques found in any grocery store magazine, psychological daytime TV show, or best-selling book? Does the "fruit" of my life propel people Godward or sinward? Do my actions show compassion and kindness, or am I an obstacle someone would have to "get past" in order to know God more?
Just a few thoughts I had about this "Proverbs woman".

I'm enjoying reading through Proverbs each month and gleaning more wisdom for life... if you aren't already involved in a Bible study, I'd encourage you to follow Proverbs through each month (read Proverbs chapter 1 on the 1st, chapter 17 on the 17th, etc.). It's full of practical wisdom for life, and it's something even the busiest mom can make time for most days.

May God's wisdom be evident in your heart and life this week! ~Jess


MrsAlbrecht said...


The verse that struck me in your post was, "Her final destination is bitterness(5:4)." Such behavior wrecks homes. It does not produce legacies of families to care for elderly women, but rather leaves them bitter and alone. She ends up falling into the very pit she has created with her own hands.

Interesting how the 'cougar' is celebrated in our culture. We are proud of older women who can still snag a young man. This passage really describes this type of woman to a "T".

God doesn't change - we think about this often - but neither does human nature, even after thousands of years.

Much love from Japan,

Becky said...

Great post Jess! I always leave your posts feeling challenged. Sure it's nice to read things that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes I like a little....I dunno...fiber in my reading!!

I loved that you wrote on the "other woman" ;-p

Unlike the Proverbs 31 woman who we often think, "I could never measure up to her," I think we can ALL find parts of ourselves in the other woman.

Hope you're feeling well,

Tanya said...

"Strumpets" it. Never heard that one. I usually refer to strumpets as hoochie mamas. But alas, by admitting that, I am admitting that I am guilty of one or two traits of the Proverbs Forbidden Woman. *Ahem* Time to go repent.

Thanks for the great post!

Catherine R. said...

LOL, Jess (in regards to what Becky said) I think the tag-line of this blog should be "Tastes great and high in fiber."

But seriously, I think the forbidden woman is pretty much what our culture holds up as the ideal - Sex in the city, anyone? I hate that show btw. Fun, naughty, sassy, enjoying pleasures. The virtuous woman also described seems to be seen as some suffering, frumpy, miserable, dutiful hag who's basically losing out on all the fun stuff.

Thanks for the reminder to look at the other Proverbs woman : )

Anna said...

Dear Jess
I just want to thank you for these edifying words. I really needed to hear this.
God bless

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Wonderful thoughts, Jess, as usual.

You ended with some excellent questions for self-examination.

Thank you for sharing this!

MrsAlbrecht said...

...and one thing to add:

Even when we do behave more like THIS Proverbs woman, God's grace is always sufficient.

It is never too late to turn away from being the 'forbidden woman', fess up to our sins, and humbly ask forgiveness from the Lord and from those whom we have hurt.

If you or someone who know is struggling in this area (or if you want to consider ways to guard your heart against falling into the snare, especially if you long for emotional comfort in your marriage), I highly recommend the book, "The Snare: Understanding Emotional and Sexual Entanglements" by Lois Mowday Rabey.

I've read this book more than once!

With love,

Trish D said...

Thanks so much for this post -- I sometimes feel that I lose the "power" of certain scriptures simply because I've heard them so often... Proverbs 31 is one of those passages. Great twist, and I appreciate the challenges you've provided. I've been feeling very convicted about my sharp words lately (hey, sarcasm is funny, right?) and I need to work on "life-giving words" as well as actively seeking contentment said...

this is such a good post!

Mrs said...

I liked. I linked. Ok? =)

Sanders said...

strumpet - new word for me :o)

Thanks Jess!

Donna said...

Just found your blog! Wonderful post, can't wait to read more!

kimberley said...

dear jess,

i just read an article that you wrote at the titus 2 site and was so encouraged that i clicked onto your website. i needed to read this post today - especially in regards to the question asking if my words are sharp like swords, and i am i living thoughtfully and intentionally.

thank you for writing this, for allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through your words.


with love,

natalie said...

Good reminders! And you're right that the Proverbs 31 woman gets a lot more attention, as the good example, but we can sure learn a lot from bad examples too, with the right perspective.

One additional thing I've heard taught on the strange woman is that we can learn a thing or two from how she entices her prey. She flatters them, dresses up for them, and plans ahead for the encounter. So we should be making sure to protect our husbands from her snares by verbally respecting them, dressing attractively for them, and making sure they're not going hungry for attention, physical or otherwise. Food for thought...

Lindsay said...

I have been reading through proverbs monthly for about 12 years now. It is the book of wisdom and is such a blessing to read over and over! Each day I glean something from it!

Meg said...

It has been 10 months since you posted this article, and today I came across it... I suppose the Spirit of God led me to it. (smile) Thank you for uncovering some of the inner struggles we go through. I am especially seeing some disagreeable traits within my own soul at present.
Hardest of all is waiting upon God to do His work following the repentance, knowing it will take perseverance and work on my part until I can say I have overcome. Praise His name for giving you the insight dear sister.
Margaret S