Thursday, 11 October 2012

Above Rubies

Just pondering the "above rubies" matter again.
Here it is from the American King James (because why not) though I've corrected a couple of spellings.
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  
The heart of her husband does safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands. 
She is like the merchants' ships; she brings her food from afar. 
She rises also while it is yet night, and gives meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 
She considers a field, and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 
She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good: her candle goes not out by night.
She lays her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 
She stretches out her hand to the poor; yes, she reaches forth her hands to the needy. 
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. 
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes fine linen, and sells it; and delivers girdles to the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  
 She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looks well to the ways of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness. 
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but you excel them all. 
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates."
Now the thing is - there's nothing wrong with any of this. It's no good complaining about the passage, because it's describing a working mother - somebody who, these days, would have to do her shopping from her iPad on the train because it's only then that she has time. The only real problem with the description is that she is in fact such a hero that it gives a pretty-well unachievable example - and yet one so many people get close to.

Somebody on Facebook remarked that she had heard this reading at a wedding, and it made her want to walk out. But I think she's missing the point. Apart from the problem of over-expectation and the danger of burnout, it's actually singing the praises of a capable woman. What the selection of this reading for a wedding says is "Look at this woman - she's a real star. I wonder what she sees in that muffin? It's all very well him sitting in the gates with the elders - but she's busy bringing the food from afar. He wants to get off his aris, get himself back home and do the bloody washing up."


  1. When I rise 'while it is yet night' my children have also been known to arise and call me 'blessed'

  2. But if you have stiven to be that woman and then your husband walks out on you anyway and then stands up in church to read this, you would feel cheated to.

    Because what's wrong with this woman is that she does not ask anything for herself, that she only exists in service for others and that anyone not measuring up to this ideal is clearly not the ideal woman.

    So any completely unideal slob of a husband can expect his wife to strive for servanthood. But if she leaves him to do the cooking, or asks him to share the cleaning while she goes to the pub with her girlfriends, she departs from the ideal and is worthy of condemnation.

    Where is the equivalent list for the ideal husband?

    1. I think if any man does that he should be bashed over the head with the Big Church Bible until he is shorter. And then, if in an Anglican church, have a churchwarden's wand inserted into each nostril.

      It's only fair.

  3. I'd feel cheated on if my husband walked out, with or without quoting from the Bible as he went.

    Aren't we all supposed to aspire to servanthood? And the fact that none of us can reach the ideal isn't supposed to stop us from trying.

    Maybe there isn't an equivalent list praising husbands, but I don't think that means anything negative about the female list.

  4. I have a spouse like this. She is a diamond, not a Ruby and has put up with my sometimes infantile behaviour for nearly 25 years.

    Love her to bits and now that I'm retired, doing all that I can to make her life easier. Not as a servant, but as an equal in a blessed union.

  5. I have never aspired to be that kind of woman. The aspiration either results in becoming a doormat or in being so successful that you infantilise the rest of your family.

    My ideal is to live in a family where everyone knows how to gather the flax, where everyone can make fine linens and also sit among the elders of the land.

    Where making sure candles don't go out at night is everyone's responsibility.

    The only key to a successful family is 100% equality and where no-one places anyone else on a pedestal of servanthood.

    And where not doing all those things successfully all the time does not make anyone into less of a ruby.


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