A Chayil Woman
By Kathi Woodall –
That single Hebrew word has transformed my image of who we are, not only as wives, but as women. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10 NIV).
The Hebrew word translates to noble in the New International Version. Capable, virtuous, excellent, and worthy are also common translations. If someone used any one of these adjectives to describe us, we would take it as a compliment. The problem is that none of them fully capture the meaning of the original Hebrew word. The Hebrew word translated here as noble, virtuous and excellent is chayil (khah-yil). Even today, people of the Jewish faith refer to this passage as “Eshet Chayil,” or “A Woman of Valor.” A woman of valor is perhaps the most accurate and has become my favorite translation of this familiar passage.
The Old Testament uses chayil most often in the context of war or battle. Traditionally, the role of a man is to fight for and defend his country or his homeland. Scripture is full of stories of the Israelite men leaving their homes to go to battle; over and over it refers to them as chayil. They are the valiant warriors who crossed the Jordan to claim the Promised Land and fought alongside Joshua. They were the “elite army” of Israel who could “wage war with great power” (2 Chronicles 26:13). King David was chayil even before God chose him as king; he was “a mighty man of valor” (1 Samuel 9:1).
These are merely a sampling of the imagery behind the word chayil. Like these valiant warriors, a chayil woman fights for and defends her home. She protects it from invading negative influences and organizes those under her so that it runs smoothly and calmly. A chayil woman is strong, mighty, and efficient. She is valiant and virtuous. But, and this is a very important point, she is all of these things alongside her husband, never in opposition to him.
What is the significance of comparing to rubies? In our society, when we think of the most valuable gemstone, we immediately think of diamonds. But, just as our society doesn’t recognize the value of a good wife, neither does it recognize the value of a ruby. According to a jeweler friend of mine, a ruby of gemstone quality can be worth more than a diamond of the same size, and it is definitely rarer.
A good marriage has many balancing factors. One of them is a valiant, chayil woman for a wife and a husband who recognizes and respects that quality in her. Then, a powerful, beautiful marriage can be built that is worthy of being compared to the future marriage relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.
Like a flawless ruby, do you view yourself as being of inestimable value? If you don’t view yourself that way, will you accept that you are and begin to ask God to reveal the jewel He created you to be?