“She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.”~Proverbs 31:18
Before we dive into the verse we're studying today, let us first learn how to "harmonize" Scripture since this verse has much to do with seeking God’s Word and sharing it with others.
Now, you may be asking, “What does harmonizing Scripture mean?” It means we're going to learn how to read Scripture from God's perspective and standard and not from man's perspective and standard by using Scripture to interpret Scripture.
Helpful Bible Study Techniques and Resources
The first thing we must do is read God's Word in the context in which He inspired each writer (i.e., was God speaking to the Jews, Gentiles, saved, lost people, men, women, the church, married women, single women, women married to believing husbands, women married to unbelieving husbands, widows, children, orphans, etc.). One of the most dangerous mistakes we make is having an idea, then reading God's Word and fitting His Word into our idea. As women, we really have to watch for this because Satan, our enemy knows how much women love to gain knowledge (just like he deceived Eve in the Garden with the same temptation). So let's put up our shield of faith sisters, the belt of truth, along with every part of the Armor of God (Eph 6:10-17) and get to it!
One of the best things to use is a Study Bible (I recommend either the ESV or NASB study Bibles). Most Study Bibles have a center column that has reference verses listed on them. These reference verses tell you where you can find other places in Scripture where God speaks about the same thing. I've often had to read 12 different Scriptures before I understood what God was trying to teach me (Jeremiah 9:23-24). But I don't ever mind, because now, I know 12 more verses or passages of Scripture than I knew before....and that's NEVER a bad thing!
We will also use a couple of commentaries today. I want you to take notice though, that we will first harmonize Scripture by using Scripture so that we may not be deceived by Satan to trust a fallible man's writings over that of the LORD our God's inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word. If any commentary contradicts or even presents a "new" way of thinking that is not in accordance or in context with God's Word, then we can be sure that while it may be a nice thought, it is nothing more than that.
Now that the foundation for how we'll be studying God's word today has been laid, let us now meditate on the first portion of Proverbs 31:18, "She perceives that her merchandise is profitable." To perceive something means much more than just being able to see something or to simply take notice of it. The Hebrew word for perceive used here is ṭā ‘am1 which means: to taste, to see, to discover by experience. Now let's take a look at Matthew Henry's commentary below:
"She is one that makes what she does to turn to a good account, by her prudent management of it. She does not toil all night and catch nothing; no, she herself perceives that her merchandise is good (v. 18); she is sensible that in all her labour there is profit, and that encourages her to go on in it. She perceives that she can make things herself better and cheaper than she can buy them; she finds by observation what branch of her employment brings in the best returns, and to that she applies herself most closely."~ Matthew Henry's Commentary on Proverbs 31:18
Let us harmonize this first portion of Proverbs 31:18 with another Scripture that uses the same Hebrew word ṭā ‘am so that we may gain a better understanding of what the Proverbs 31 woman does with her merchandise and how it is that she ensures that it will bring a profit.
In 2 Samuel 19:32-38 Barzillai, a wealthy, 80 year old man lived in Mahanaim. Barzillai provided food for King David when he stayed there after fleeing from his son Absalom, who attempted to overtake his throne. We see in verse 35 of this passage, that the same Hebrew word ṭā ‘am is used to describe why Barzillai did not accept King David's generous offer to return to Jerusalem with him to personally be provided by the King for the rest of his life.
Barzillai was a humble servant, and responds to King David’s generous offer by telling the king that he is too old to "perceive" (that is, to taste through experiencing the pleasures of a young man), and that it would be better if King David took Chimham in his stead. Some other passages that use this same Hebrew word are: Job 34:1-4 and Psalm 34:8. I won't go into detail with these other passages, as we must move on. But please be sure to research and study them for yourselves.
Through harmonizing these Scriptures and with the help of Matthew Henry's Commentary, we can conclude that a biblically submissive, Proverbs 31 woman’s perception is through what she actually lives out and experiences, rather than something she merely dreams or talks about. She is a highly intelligent, extremely frugal and wise manager of her home and of her God-given gifts, talents and abilities. She does not squander all that God has given her. Instead, she realizes that God has made her to be the greatest blessing her husband will ever have on this earth, and she does well with this knowledge. She doesn't use this knowledge to lord it over her husband, but chooses to utilize everything God has bestowed upon her to honor her husband, exhort and train her children in the Way they should go, and to serve others as God provides her time and resources.
The Hebrew word used for lamp or candle in Proverbs 31:18 is nēr which means: lamp (fueled by olive oil); by extension: life (as a burning lamp); light (showing the way of truth).
In Matthew 5:15, our Lord and Master, Jesus uses the Greek word lychnos which means: lamp, usually of clay or metal, with olive oil to fuel its wick (not a candle). As you can perceive, both the Hebrew and Greek words used for lamp, have the same exact meaning. Therefore, we know that we can harmonize these two Scriptures. Let us more closely examine Matthew 5:15 in the context in which it is written, which is found in Matthew 5:13-16.
Here Jesus specifically addresses His true disciples, whom He has chosen to be His ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). Therefore, we can firmly identify and personalize this command Christ is giving to all His disciples, then and now—which, to the glory of God, includes us!
The essence of Jesus' command to His disciples in this passage of Matthew is that we are to be the salt of the earth and shine His light (His glory) to all people, so that everyone who sees Christ in us, whether saved or unsaved will give honor and praise to God because they will recognize that what we do, cannot be from ourselves, but must come from a higher power—who is the Lord and Master of our souls, Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.
I like how John Gill applies this truth in his exposition of Proverbs 31:18:
“her candle goeth not out by night; or "lamp"; her lamp of profession, which is always kept burning, (Luke 12:35); or the glorious light of the Gospel, which always continues in the darkest times the church ever has been in; or her spiritual prosperity, which, though it may be damped, will never be extinct; when the candle of the wicked is often put out, (Job 21:17) ; It may denote her diligence in working; who, as she rises early in the morning, (Proverbs 31:15) , so sits up late at night, and is never weary of well doing, night and day. Ambrose interprets it of the lamp of hope, which burns in the night, and by and for which men work, (Romans 8:24) (1 Corinthians 9:10).”~ The New John Gill Exposition on Proverbs 31:18
It is clear that when King Lemuel's mother wrote this acrostic poem of the Proverbs 31 woman, she was not insisting nor suggesting that a biblically submissive wife stay up all hours of the night and working until morning arrives. As we discussed in our lesson on Proverbs 31:15, rest and sleep are gifts from God and He intends that we use them - that is, in proportion and moderation as He has commanded us to do with all things.
With this understanding, we are free to search deeper into the mind of God (1 Cor 2:10-13) so that we may fully appreciate His kind and gracious admonition to us as wives; to live according to His statutes and precepts, rather than that of the worlds.
Putting It Together
Through our study today, we've learned that a biblically submissive, Proverbs 31 wife: relies solely on God as her Provider, Jesus as her Savior, and the Word of God as the lamp to her feet and the only resource she fully trusts to gain all knowledge by the power of the Holy Spirit (who imparts wisdom from Heaven [James 3:17]), that she may learn from her experiences (good and bad, successes and mistakes) to bring God's good gifts to her husband, children, and all those God given her to influence for His Name's sake.
Biblical Perspective, Practically Applied:
- Memorize, meditate on and study today's Scripture verse, Proverbs 31:18.
- Purchase a Study Bible (if you don't already have one), an exhaustive concordance, and Bible dictionary.
- Search for other Scriptures that use the same Hebrew words (for perceive and lamp) that we studied today and write them all down in your binder or journal you purchased just for this study.
- Ask your husband to pray about how God wants to use you to help with your household finances, (i.e., being more frugal with your purchases, making and selling things or possibly working a part-time job outside the home that would not interfere or hinder your first priority as a keeper of the home).
If your husband joyfully jumps at this opportunity to ask you to stop spending so much money, do not be angry, but humbly and kindly accept his rebuke and thank him for helping you become what you desire—more like Jesus. Whatever your husband tells you, receive it as from the Lord EVEN if your husband doesn't pray about it as your Father God in Heaven knows your trust is fully in Him and not your husband, nor any man. God will protect and bless you for your trust and obedience to Him as you submit to your husband without fear (1 Peter 3:6) as long as it isn’t something God clearly states is a sin (i.e., murder, stealing, lying, etc.). If for some reason your husband does ask you to sin, this is where you can submissively disobey as we discussed in “Proverbs 31:12 - A Humble Attitude Trumps Duty”.
Gracious and gentle Father, keep close watch on the hearts of your precious daughters. Guard our minds from our ruthless adversary that beats us endlessly with his corrupt thinking and foolish knowledge that only puffs up. Keep us humble that we may stand before your throne of Grace with a clear conscience as we remain in Your Son. Lead us this day and every day by Your Word, which is our Lamp in this dark world. Thank You Father for Your constant generosity to us! Thank You Lord and Master, for Your mercy and grace. May Your Name forever be praised! In the name of Jesus, I come. Thank You Father!
1. 2938 - The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - 21st Century Edition (KJV); fully revised and corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson
2. 5216 - The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - 21st Century Edition (KJV); fully revised and corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson
3. 3088 - The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - 21st Century Edition (KJV); fully revised and corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson