Originally appeared as “A Study on Proverbs 31:30” on the now defunct Outside the Camp website around April of 2007:
Just nine words, but a whole lot of meaning packed in there:
sheqer chen hebal yophiy nashiym yare yhovah hiy halal
8267 2580 1892 3308 802 3373 3068 1931 1984
8267 – untruth, sham, deceit, deceitful, false, lie
2580 – gracefulness, favorableness
1892 – empty, vain, worthless
3308 – beauty
802 – woman
3373 – fearing, reverent
3069 – Jehovah
1931 – she
1984 – to be praised, to be commended
[untruth, sham, deceit, deceitful, false, lie] [gracefulness, favorableness] [empty, vain] [beauty] [woman] [fearing, reverent] [Jehovah] [she] [to be praised, to be commended]
Put into English syntax:
Deceitful [is] gracefulness, empty [is] beauty; a woman fearing Jehovah, she shall be praised.
Favorableness [is] a sham, beauty [is] worthless; a woman revering Jehovah, she shall be commended.
What a contrast we have in this verse. And what a contrast this entire verse is with this wicked world’s thinking!!
In the first phrase, we see that gracefulness or favorableness is deceitful or a sham. The Septuagint has “pseudes areskia” – “deceitful/untrue/erroneous [is] pleasantness/being pleasing.” In the context, this is obviously talking about being pleasing, graceful, and favorable to the eye. And being pleasing to the eye is DECEITFUL! Why is that? Because it deceives as to what is truly inside, as to what is truly important.
In the second phrase, we see that beauty is empty or vain or worthless. The Septuagint has “mataios kallos” – “empty/profitless/vain/worthless [is] beauty.” Outward beauty is EMPTY! Outward beauty is PROFITLESS! Outward beauty is VAIN! It is UTTERLY WORTHLESS! Now where do you hear that in today’s wicked society? The beauty of women is put forth as something of great value. The women that society considers beautiful are held in high esteem and worshipped. The women that society considers ugly are made fun of and ostracized. The wicked men are out to find the most outwardly beautiful woman to lust after, date, and/or marry. Yet GOD says that this BEAUTY is VAIN, EMPTY, WORTHLESS, PROFITLESS.
Then we come to the contrast. What is the opposite of something that is false, deceitful, a sham, vain, empty, worthless, profitless? It is a WOMAN who FEARS JEHOVAH. A God-fearing woman is the one whom the TRUE believers praise. When a believing man seeks a wife, his question is this: DOES THIS WOMAN FEAR GOD? The question is NOT this: Does this woman look good? Beauty is fleeting; it quickly fades with age. But what is in the heart lasts forever.
Yet what does the world say? They would tell a believing man that he’s crazy or stupid for marrying someone who is not physically beautiful (by whatever standard that is, which is always shifting in this wicked world) yet who is a devout, godly woman. Of course, the believing man doesn’t pay attention to that wickedness. If he marries, he will marry in the Lord, no matter if the woman is physically beautiful (by whatever standard) or not. He will recognize the true beauty of the heart — the woman who believes the true gospel and will be a submissive wife and godly mother, NO MATTER WHAT she looks like on the outside.
As always, the world calls what is good “bad” and calls what is bad “good.” There is nothing new under the sun. And the people of God are always called to judge not by outward appearance but by what is in the heart.
Who can find a woman of virtue? For her value [is] far above jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)
Outwardly beautiful women are not rare, but who can find a woman of virtue? Women of virtue ARE RARE, and their value is PRICELESS.