I’ve always been one of those women, who, while reading Proverbs 31, finds herself cringing at the heavy emphasis of domestication and vocational homeliness of the text. Not that I loathe domestication, or my home, in fact – it’s quite the contrary! I delight in all things home-ish. Why, my house is my castle! And I am its rightful queen. I have spent seasons of my life wholeheartedly devoted to my children, my husbands work and the labors within my home. Those are precious times that I treasure dearly. But, something shifted when I came upon the “updated version” written by the scholar E.M. Broner.
Oh my, I cannot wait for you to read it! I hope it fills you with the chills and thrills of individuation, as it did for me. It deeply resonated to a place in my heart for activism as a woman of faith. I do find it interesting that Broner wrote it in 1994, the year I graduated from high school and frantically ran from all things religious. I wonder, if I had been exposed to this updated version, this feminine infusion, during such a crucial time of questioning, that maybe I could have found resonance to a spiritual belonging that could have propelled me into a healthier direction throughout my 20’s? Possibly? But, I have read it now, so I am going to trust that this was the right moment.
Recently, I stumbled upon a book called Wise Women, 2,000 Years of Spiritual Writing by Women, by Susan Cahill. It is fantastic. And I have not even finished the introduction! It has really forced me to consider: If the bible is the inspired word of God, written by men, would an even deeper, perhaps more meaningful practice of understanding the full character of God, be to process and infuse these writings through the insights of wise women? As Cahill writes, “…[these] voices resonate beyond the boundaries of denominational identities…”. Yes. And Yes. This version of Proverbs 31 is featured in Cahills Wise Women, and I could not help but share it with whomever would listen.
Proverbs 31: An Updated Version by E.M. Broner
Who can find a wise woman?
For her price is far above rubies.
Those in her house safely trust her
For she heeds the words of her children,
She works alongside her husband,
But outside the walls of the house,
Outside the gates of her garden,
She hears the cries in the city,
The cries of women in distress.
She is their rescuer.
She rises at dawn to organize.
She rises before light to make orderly the day.
She stretches out her hand to unchain
The chained woman,
The women without recourse,
The women not paid their worth on this earth.
She taketh on the men at the gate,
The men of the law-making bodies,
The men of the Bet Din
The Judges on high.
She looks them in the eye
And says, This is unacceptable.
This is unjust.
This is cruel.
We demand a state where there is not religious rule.
In her household she is praised.
In the state she is extolled.
Many women have done wisely
but she excels them all.
As I continue to read about the first communities of women writers, searching out greater understandings and insights on life and faith through the wisdom of women in history, I will continue to share them here in this space. I hope to inspire thought, communication, discussion – even disagreement. What keeps us talking and sharing, gives us opportunity to learn and grow, in a place that allows us to develop into our fullest expression.