Woman of Valor, the Hebrew meaning

By Elze Erwteman

A woman of valor: a woman of strength
It is a Jewish tradition to read or sing at the beginning of Erev shabbat, Friday night Proverbs 31:10-31. Husbands sing it to their wives to honor them for making the house a home. For me this verse is a great tool for women to become the woman G-d wants us to be. Because this is the only place where is spoken of: woman of valor or in Hebrew: eshet chayil, we will research in this column the text in order to learn. Because there is only one other place in the Bible where is spoken about a woman of valor and that is Ruth so called by Boaz, we know that you do not have to be married to be a woman of valor. (Ruth 3:11)In Proverbs 31:10 we read: “An excellent wife, who can find her”. “Excellent wife” can also be translated with: woman of valor. In Hebrew the terminology: Woman of valor is: eshet chayil. Chayil means: power, resources, army, effective. Eshet (smichut) comes from “isha” and means: wife, woman, feminine, a wife opposite her husband, female of animals. We see here a powerful woman. One who is rich in her relationship with God. We learn this in the verses 11-31.

Watch out for the trap in the development of our character
A woman of valor is powerful because of her relationship with her Creator. This does not mean that she is powerful in her own strength. If she would be powerful in her own strength than this woman could develop easily a character that wants to control others in a possessive way and takes freedom away from people around her. In this case she seems god-fearing, but in fact she is performing idolatry. She will use the name of God to manipulate others and control. This is an easy trap for us women. Quite often these type of women call themselves prophets. We will find out that the prophecy is often false, so the prophet is false. We have to be able to discern this and confront a person who acts like this. This does not sound very nice, but I have learned in being a leader in the congregation that this is unfortunately true and we women are loved so much by Adonai that the enemy does everything to destroy our calling and us.

The trap of feeling a victim
We also have to watch  whether we feel ourselves as a victim and we are not growing into a direction of healing. Our G-d is so tremendously loving that He wants us to be whole as a person. He wants us to reach out to Him to experience how much He loves us. Even if we experienced bad things in our lives, than God still can make a change for us as women. If we stay in our victim state our emotional life can become an hindrance to grow. Everything is colored by our past. But dear one we have to press on and experience our exodus from the oppression of Pharao or satan who did already too much damage to us. Seek professional help so that our emotions never become so important that they take control over us and lead us finally into a state of emotional idolatry that can control us and eventually will start to control the people around us by way of manipulation. So in order to become a woman of valor, a woman in the strength of Adonai, we have to be careful not to step into the tricks of God’s enemy. It is important to serve Adonai in a congregation that we can call our own. This is a very good protection for children of God against the traps we have mentioned, especially for us women. Often it is easier to see this kind of wrong behavior in an other  person than to discern this in ourselves and see the damage that this kind of behavior does to our family and congregation. So respect your leaders if you need correction in this direction. It can be your life-saver.

Serving God as a woman of valor
We will see when we continue this study of a woman of valor what her strength is and how she is using her power, her short-term and long-term goals. How she is part of an army and functions as it were as a soldier. We also see that she can oppose her husband and in doing so she helps him to return to God or to strengthen his relationship with God. That means she will always do him good and no harm. Because her husband is given her as head she should never rule over her husband. So when she opposes her husband she has a drive to warn him because he is going astray from God.

A feminine woman
She is by all means a feminine woman but not in the way the world is showing us today. She is feminine in the way she acts towards the people around her. People that are given in her care: family, her congregation, her community and her influence in greater circles, we could say the world. A woman of valor is a very powerful instrument in the service of God and this will unfold in the rest of the song.