Who can find a virtuous woman
This part of the chapter is disjoined from the rest in the Septuagint and Arabic versions; and Huetius F20 thinks it is a composition of some other person, and not Lemuel's mother, whose words he supposes end at ( Proverbs 31:9 ) ; but it is generally thought that what follows to the end of the chapter is a continuance of her words, in which she describes a person as a fit wife for her son. Some think that Bathsheba gave the materials, the sum and substance of this beautiful description, to Solomon; who put it in the artificial form it is, each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in order till the whole is gone through; though rather it seems to be a composition of Solomon's, describing the character and virtues of his mother Bathsheba. But, be this as it will, the description is drawn up to such a pitch, and wrote in such strong lines, as cannot agree with any of the daughters of fallen Adam, literally understood; not with Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon; nor with the Virgin Mary, as the Papists, who, they fancy, was immaculate and sinless, of which there is no proof; nor indeed with any other; for though some parts of the description may meet in some, and others in others, yet not all in one; wherefore the mystical and spiritual sense of the whole must be sought after. Some by the "virtuous woman" understand the sensitive soul, subject to the understanding and reason, as Gersom; others the Scriptures, as Lyra, which lead to virtue, contain much riches in them, far above rubies; in which men may safely confide as the rule of their faith and practice; and will do them good, and not evil, continually. Others, "Wisdom", who in the beginning of this book is represented as a woman making provision for her household, and said to be more precious than rubies; and is to be understood of Christ; which I should have readily given into, but that this virtuous woman is said to have a husband, ( Proverbs 31:11 Proverbs 31:23 Proverbs 31:28 ) ; which cannot agree with Christ, who is himself the husband of his church and people, which church of his, I think, is here meant; nor is this a novel sense of the passage, but what is given by many of the ancient Christian writers, as Ambrose, Bede, and others; and whoever compares ( Proverbs 31:28 Proverbs 31:29 ) , with ( Song of Solomon 6:8 Song of Solomon 6:9 ) , will easily see the agreement; and will be led to observe that Solomon wrote both, and had a view to one and the same person, the church of Christ, who is often represented by a "woman", ( Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah 54:5 Isaiah 54:6 ) ( Galatians 3:26 ) ( Revelation 12:1 ) ; a woman grown and marriageable, as the Gospel church may be truly said to be, in comparison of the Jewish church, which was the church in infancy; a woman actually married to Christ; a woman fruitful, bringing forth many children to him; a woman beautiful, especially in his eyes, with whom she is the fairest among women; a woman, the weaker vessel, unable to do anything without him, yet everything through him: a "virtuous" one, inviolably chaste in her love and affection to Christ, her husband; steadfast in her adherence, to him by faith, as her Lord and Saviour; incorrupt in doctrine, sincere and spiritual in worship, retaining the purity of discipline, and holiness of life; and holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience: or a "woman of strength" F21, valour, and courage, as the word signifies, when used of men, ( 1 Samuel 16:18 ) ( Psalms 76:6 ) ; The church is militant, has many enemies, and these powerful and mighty, as well as cunning and crafty; yet, with all their power and policy, cannot overcome her; the gates of hell cannot prevail against her; she engages with them all, and is more than a conqueror over them; she is of great spiritual strength, which she, has from Christ, to fight the Lord's battles, to withstand every enemy, to exercise grace, and do every good work; and all her true members persevere to the end: or a "woman of riches" F23; that gets wealth and, riches by her wisdom and prudence, so Aben Ezra; a woman of fortune, as is commonly said: such is the church of Christ, through his unsearchable riches communicated to her; riches of grace she now possesses, and riches of glory she is entitled to. But "who can find" such an one? there is but one to be found F24; though there are many particular churches, there is but one church of the firstborn, consisting of God's elect, of which Christ is the head and husband, ( Song of Solomon 6:9 ) ; and there is but one that could find her: even her surety, Saviour, and Redeemer; compare with this ( Revelation 5:3-5 ) . This supposes her lost, as she was in Adam; Christ's seeking of her, as he did in redemption, and does in effectual calling; and who perfectly knows her, and all her members, and where they are; and whom he finds out, and bestows on them the blessings of grace and goodness; for her price [is] far above rubies;
showing the value Christ her husband puts upon her, the esteem she is had in by him; who reckons her as his portion and inheritance; as preferable to the purest gold, and choicest silver; as his peculiar treasure; as his jewels, and more valuable than the most precious stones: this appears by his undertaking for her; by doing and suffering what he has on her account; the price he has paid for her is far above rubies; she is bought with a price, but not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ; the ransom price paid for her is himself, who is more precious than rubies, and all the things that can be desired, ( 1 Peter 1:18 1 Peter 1:19 ) ( 1 Timothy 2:6 ) ( Proverbs 3:15 ) .
F20 Demonstrat. Evangel. Prop. 4. p. 234.
F21 (lyx tva) "mulierem fortem", V. L. Pagninus, Mercerus; "mulierem virtutis", Montanus, Vatablus; "strenuam", Junius & Tremellus, Piscator, Cocceius, Schultens.
F23 "Mulierem opum", so Aben Ezra.
F24 "Conjux dea contigit uni", Ovid. Metamorph. l. 11. fol. 6. v. ult.