Gordon Robinson | Why I don’t want a ‘virtuous woman’
By now, regular readers should know I consider the Old Testament overwhelmingly irrelevant.
It's amazing that such bigoted bunk still influences many persons' thoughts and understanding of morality. It's incredible that people ignore that the texts were written centuries ago; in the context of a world yet to meet Jesus Christ; and almost exclusively by men whose disregard for women was so driven by the prevailing culture and practices, they make Harvey Weinstein appear a feminist.
So, for this Easter Sunday's sermon, my text is Proverbs 31: 10-31, where the Old Testament argues what constitutes a "virtuous woman". That chapter's author was allegedly King Lemuel, whom I often picture behind a sound-system microphone toasting, "Blow, Roland, blow!" during the bridge in Jackie Opel's Solid Rock. I'm permitted this fantasy because King Lemuel isn't listed anywhere among the Kings of Judah or Israel.
Bible 'scholars' have twisted themselves into scriptural knots trying to identify King Lemuel. Justo J. Serrano, in his 1969 commentary Proverbios, surmises the 'Le' in 'Lemuel' was a prefix, leaving his real name as 'Muel'. But, 'Muel' doesn't appear in the Bible either, so Serrano stretched his hypothesis further and concluded 'Muel' was close enough to and therefore meant 'Nemuel', who features biblically as Simeon's son.
DWL! A more likely theory comes from Moncure Daniel Conway in his 2008 book Solomon and Solomonic Literature, based on the widely held but probably inaccurate belief that Proverbs 1-29 were written by King Solomon. The theory is that 'Lemuel' was a pseudonym and the 'message' from Lemuel's mother was really from Solomon's mother.
The most plausible explanation is, as usual, the simplest, namely, 'Lemuel' was the author's invention. Just as the myth developed that Solomon wrote Proverbs when it was more likely initially edited by Hezekiah scribes and probably again by the final draughtsman (Proverbs 25:1: "These are also the proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah King of Judah copied out") so it seems 'Lemuel' was just a cartoon characterisation of a real person similar to my own 'Haemorrhoid', 'Dunce', or 'Beast'.
Why would Proverbs' author use sleight of hand? For the same reason I use cartooned characters, namely, to send an important message in readable form. In 700 BC, this was as 'readable' as my equally lame efforts in 2018. Solomon (or his ghost writers) wanted to teach 'wisdom' and wanted those lessons read. How'd Solomon become so wise he felt obliged to pass it on? It seems God appeared as Solomon's fairy godfather (no naughty puns, please) and granted Solomon one wish. Solomon asked God for wisdom. God obliged, adding riches and honour as brawta! Ya gotta love the Old Testament!
So, now we have context and purpose, let's look at the author's antediluvian idea of 'virtuous woman'. 'Lemuel' begins:
"Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life."
Of course, we know, since 'woman' has recently been exposed as capable of independent thought, observation and analysis (egad!), that these precepts of husband's hearts being able to trust in her are conditional on HER HEART being able to safely trust in HIM.
Take me to heart
and I'll always love you
and nobody can make me do wrong.
Take me for granted, leaving love unsure,
makes will power weak
and temptation strong.
Since we're celebrating Easter, I'll repeat the mantra of a friend and former politician who maintained that only three things in life are certain: "death, taxes and bun!" So, if a husband doesn't reciprocate, we can borrow from, and paraphrase, Edward Seaga: It'll be bun for bun!
A woman's only human.
You should understand.
She's not just a plaything.
She's flesh and blood just like her man.
If you want a do-right-all-day woman
You gotta be a do-right-all-night man!
But, in 700 BC, responsibility for a happy marriage was forced entirely upon the wife. Hubby needed only turn up for 'virtuous woman' benefits. No wonder Solomon used a pseudonym. He ignored his own advice, keeping 700 wives and 300 concubines.
Here's the list of a virtuous woman's obligations according to the bigamous, misogynistic King 'Lemuel':
"She seeks wool and flax; and willingly works with her hands. She's like the merchant ships. She brings her food from afar. She also rises while it's yet night and provides food for her household ... ."
MAKING SLAVES OF WOMEN
Really? Seriously? Mark you, I gotta admit I kinda like the "willingly works with her hands" bit, but equating a "virtuous woman" to a MERCHANT SHIP? No wonder Proverbs has her working at night!
"She considers a field and buys it. From her profits, she plants a vineyard."
Is Lemuel saying a virtuous woman gets up before dawn; slaves in the kitchen; works a full-time job; then takes her earnings and buys property she can't own by law? So who gets the property? Is it the same guy off cavorting with concubines while she's slaving? THIS is 'wisdom'? 'Virtue'? ROFL!
"She perceives her merchandise IS good and her lamp doesn't go out by night ... and her hand holds the spindle ... ."
This woman ain't just 'virtuous', she's a flipping saint! Meanwhile, what's hubby doing?
"Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders ... ."
So, he sits. She labours long and hard. How does he afford this life of Riley?
"She makes linen garments; sells them and supplies sashes for merchants. Strength and honour are her clothing. She shall rejoice in time to come."
You better believe any rejoicing is reserved for the future, probably postmortem in a galaxy far, far away as there's no joy in Mudville where she's a glorified drudge.
"She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband ALSO, and he praises her ... ."
He should! What kind of God creates woman to be a working appendage of a licentious, dissolute and immoral man? What kind of wisdom measures virtue by subjugation; encourages marital rape; and licenses male degeneracy? What kind of pastor preaches this sexist poppycock weekly?
Chapter 31 closes with:
"Charm is deceitful and beauty passing, But a woman who fears the Lord ... shall be praised ... ."
I've bad news for Lemuel/Solomon or whatever the granny gungus natty his real name is. Real beauty shines from within and lasts forever. Seekers of praise by fear will be disappointed. By all means, be in awe of God's works because, as I've repeatedly taught, God is within us. We aren't here to praise or be praised but to experience the world's wonders and to help as many of our fellow travellers we can. In THAT pursuit lays the route to true wisdom and eternal reward.
Proverbs Chapter 31 has driven warped male narcissistic thought since King David fled from his rebellious son, Absalom, but left 10 of his concubines behind providing female fodder for Absalom, who routinely raped these defenceless women in broad daylight and full view of all and sundry.
None of 'Solomon' or modern pastors parroting the twaddle in Proverbs 31 has a clue what a virtuous woman looks like. A virtuous woman is highly intelligent, no matter her formal education. She understands the world and the ways of men; accepts the world for what it is and persons in it for what they are; and uses the tools God gave her to ensure her journey is as comfortable a learning experience as possible.
She doesn't judge, compete or complain. She knows how to achieve her ambitions. A truly virtuous woman kidnaps men's souls and makes them her own. The Old Ball and Chain wrote about THAT virtuous woman on March 13 ('The world according to Old BC'). Those with eyes to see, please see. Others can continue fighting an eternally tiresome gender war.
In 1967, Dan Penn and Chips Moman penned Do Right Woman for Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklyn. Rolling Stone magazine listed it among the top 500 songs of all time. It makes more sense than Proverbs 31 ever will.
Numerologists are intrigued to note Proverbs 31 contains 31 verses. In Numerology, compound number 31 = single number 4 (3+1 = 4). Number 4 persons (my beloved Uncle, J.D Hall, was one such) are contrary and unconventional. They rebel against rules and regulations. The compound number 31 stands for thoughtful deduction, retrospection, extreme self-containment, loneliness, isolation and a sense ofsuperiority. Numerologists aren't surprised Solomon anonymously sought to make rules for others he didn't feel obliged to obey.
Upon THAT rock are most churches built.
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to