She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
A woman’s hands are important and valuable. They are for more than carrying a diamond ring. They are for more than regular manicures. They are for more than holding while walking in the park. They are for manual labor, and a virtuous woman is willing to use them diligently and skillfully. She is not afraid to dirty her hands to get a job done, and she is not afraid to acquire skills with her hands to serve her family and build the estate.
Solomon mentions hands many times, because they are the principal body part for work, especially manual labor. Diligent persons use their hands well (Pr 10:4; 12:24). Slothful persons hide their hands (Pr 6:10-11; 19:24; 21:25; 26:6; Eccl 4:5). No wonder job advertisements may ask for a “hands on” type, who will “roll up his sleeves” and get a job done. A virtuous woman has busy hands that earn rewards (Pr 31:13,16,19-20,31).
Hands are important. A woman’s “elbow grease,” by using her hands diligently, can build the family estate with “sweat equity.” Anything a woman finds to do with her hands, she should do it with her might (Eccl 9:10). A lazy woman destroys the family estate by not using her hands diligently (Pr 14:1; Eccl 10:18). Spiders are in kings’ palaces, because they have numerous hands and are not discouraged at all by repetitive tasks (Pr 30:28).
The virtuous woman despises “hand outs” and the lazy women that accept them, whether from government programs or private charity, for she knows God expects her to work hard or she and her family should not get to eat (Pr 20:4; II Thess 3:6-12). Neither will she or her family live “hand to mouth,” for God also taught her to set aside some revenue for future needs – so her savings account is always growing. Full of energy as God expects, she takes the time to put forth a “helping hand” to those in need (Pr 31:20).
However, diligent hands are not enough. A woman needs to be skillful at hand tasks. God prepared wise and skilled women to spin the various fabrics for the complex decorating of the tabernacle (Ex 35:25-26). The English language originally called such skillful women spinsters, though that name now has very different connotations. A woman must know how to do domestic and other hand tasks skillfully in order to be a virtuous wife.
The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 was a very competent woman at many levels. She bought and managed commercial real estate and manufacturing businesses to help build the family estate (Pr 31:16,24), and she could also spin thread from raw materials. She could take a spinning wheel and loom and teach maidens how to make cloth perfectly (Pr 31:15). She could do the work herself, show how it should be done, and teach others.
A virtuous woman in the 21st century does not spin cloth to make clothes. It would be a waste of her talents and time. She can buy the finished product with superior construction and appearance for comparatively nothing. She is better off learning other skills and using her earnings to buy clothing and other textile products. But when the situation calls for it, she can “do it from scratch,” whether in the closet or the kitchen. When she needs to, she can make cakes fit for the LORD and savory dishes that would make a chef jealous (Gen 18:6; 27:9). This is a woman worth marrying, young man!
What should a woman learn to do skillfully today? Plan and execute great meals for two or a crowd. Keep a computer working. Know first aid and be able to converse with doctors. Use the Internet for quick research on many subjects. Know where she is going for what when she leaves the home. Communicate effectively and quickly by phone or email. Know how to source the optimal food, furnishings, and clothing at the lowest cost. Operate a calculator and balance a checkbook in minutes. Use word processing, spreadsheet, or accounting software. Decorate a house for appeal, comfort, and investment. Find and use the best appliances and tools inside and outside the house.
This is the perfect woman, as described by a queen mother for her son (Pr 31:1-2,10). She fears the LORD with all her heart (Pr 31:30). Her husband can trust in her completely, because she will do him good and right every day of her life (Pr 31:11-12). After these two priorities, she is a diligent worker to provide for her family, her home, and build the family estate in any way she can. She is diligent and skillful in the use of her hands.