The famous passage on “the virtuous woman” (Proverbs 31:10-31) is often used on Mother’s Day, so the description of the attributes of such a woman is already well known. But it is not so well-known that these 22 verses were originally put together in the form of an acrostic, with each verse starting, in turn, with the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is as though the compiler of Proverbs wanted to conclude the book with a special tribute to his own mother (v. 1), and to imply in so doing that it would exhaust all the resources of human language!
However, the translators have done something of a disservice by using the word “virtuous,” which tends to make us think primarily today simply of moral purity. This woman was far more than just that. The Hebrew word, when used as an adjective or adverb describing a woman, was always translated “virtuous” (Ruth 3:11; Proverbs 12:4; 31:10) or “virtuously” (Proverbs 31:29). When used in reference to men, however (as it is far more frequently), it is always translated by such words as “strong,” “valiant,” “worthy,” etc. Its most common translation is “army.” Thus, an ideal woman is a strong, brave, industrious, trustworthy woman, worth an entire army to her husband and her children and her nation. This is woman as God intended woman to be. She is, most especially, a godly woman. “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (v. 30).
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (v. 28). This verse is usually acknowledged on Mother’s Day, but let us remember that “Honor thy . . . mother” (Exodus 20:12) means every day of the year as well! HMM