In Proverbs 31:10-31, we are given the biblical picture of a woman who fears God and walks in His ways. The passage begins with a question: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” The question implies that such a woman is rare and precious, just like rubies. The description of the virtuous woman shows her to be an industrious, loving woman who devotes herself to the well-being of her husband and children. The center of her interest and the place of her ministry are in her home. God has called her to be “a keeper at home” (Titus 2:5), and she willingly and joyfully fulfills her calling to the great blessing of all who depend on her piety, wisdom, and homemaking skills.
Of great importance to the issue before us in this essay, are these words concerning her husband: “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23). The “gates” in Old Testament times referred to the place where the leaders of the city (i.e., “the elders of the land”) would gather to discuss community affairs, administer civil law, and judge in criminal and civil cases. The “gates,” therefore, is a reference to the “city hall,” the “capital building,” the “courthouse” or, in short, to the seat of civil government. The key for us is to note that, in the case of the virtuous woman, it is her husband who is active in the gates; the virtuous woman is not herself seated in the gates — she is active in her home. This should not surprise us, for the order of creation and the law of God establish the fact that men are to bear rule in civil government. The virtuous woman understands this, and takes the vital place that God has assigned her in the home and with her family; she does not try to intrude herself into a seat in the gates. However, we need to note that the virtuous woman’s works are to praised in the gates (Prov. 31:31). Her works are not in the gates, but they are to be praised in the gates; that is, those who are leaders in the community ought to recognize the great work that she is doing in support of the community by faithfully fulfilling her duties as a wife and mother (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:10, 14; Titus 2:3-5). This is her glorious work for the Lord and His kingdom. It is of the utmost importance!
Furthermore, it should be recognized that the virtuous woman does make her presence felt in community concerns. But it is through the influence that she has on her husband (and mature sons) that her wisdom and knowledge will help to direct the affairs of the community. Yes, it is her husband who sits in the gates, but his renown and ability as a civil leader is due, at least in part (if not largely), to her help and support. Yes, it is the husband who speaks and judges in the gates, but it is his wise and godly wife who is his chief counselor.
Let no one speak lightly or disparagingly of the woman’s appointed role and her service to Christ and His kingdom! And let no woman set aside the example of the virtuous woman and seek to sit in the gates with the rulers of the land. And let no Christian have any part in putting her there.