Proverbs to  Ruth

The question of who can find a virtuous woman is answered.

The Virtuous Woman

FE Alef 1|22 10Who can find a virtuous woman, P Ruth 3:11 for her price is far above precious stones. Proverbs 31:10-31 (Proverbs 31:10 BRB)
11Now, my daughter, do not fear for I will do for you all that you ask of me, for all the family of our people know that you are a virtuous woman. P Proverbs 31:10 (Ruth 3:11 BRB)

Moayl, a king and prophet, writes about the "virtuous woman" at the end of Proverbs. He asks "Who can find a virtuous woman," as if to say such a lady is rare. Then he lists the traits of a virtuous woman.

In the book of Ruth, upon finding Ruth at his feet one night, Boaz exclaims "You are a virtuous woman."

The phrase used by Moayl and Boaz are identical. Ruth is the virtuous woman sought by Proverbs.

There's irony in this connection though. Moayl thinks a virtuous woman must be "found" by searching. Boaz, on the other hand, minding his own business, all but trips over one. I find this humorous and instructive.

The Other Women

Ruth sits between two other women as a contrast. One is described in Proverbs and the other in Song of Solomon.

Proverbs Woman

In the opening chapters of Proverbs there's a warning to young men to avoid unfaithful and seductive women. Solomon tells the story of a woman who seduces a young man she finds in the street, by her house. It's what the young man wants, which is the problem, but the woman is all too willing to capitalize on the youth's misguided desires. She tells him that her husband is away on business and invites him inside.

FE 1My son preserve my words, and hide my commandments inside you. 2Preserve my commandments and live, and my law as the pupil of your eye. 3Bind them about your neck; write them on the tablets of your heart. 4Say to wisdom, You are my sister, and to understanding, You are my counselor, 5that they may preserve you from the foreign woman that flatters with her words. Proverbs 7:1-56For from the window of her house, and from the balcony she looked out, 7and she saw young men; she spied among the youths, and those who lacked understanding 8passing through the street near the corner of her house 9in the twilight in the evening in the black and dark night. Proverbs 7:6-910A woman came out with the attire of a prostitute to meet 1 of them, a woman who fluttered the hearts of young men. 11She is rebellious and gluttonous; her feet do not stay in her house, 12but she roams around outside, now in the streets, and now lying in wait at the corners. 13She caught him and kissed him, and with an impudent face said to him, Proverbs 7:10-1314This day I have paid my vows; I have peace offerings with me; 15therefore I came out to meet you, for I have been waiting to see you, and now I have found you. 16I have made my bed on a carpet; I have covered it with fine linen of Mizraim. 17I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18Come let us take our fill of love until the morning; let us embrace each other with passion. 19For my husband is not at the house; he has gone on a long journey; 20he has taken a bag of silver with him, and it will be a long time before he comes to the house. Proverbs 7:14-2021With much flattering speech she misled him; with the flattering of her lips she forced him. 22He went after her as a little child, as an ox that goes to the slaughter, and as a dog to be muzzled, 23and as a stag whose liver is pierced with an arrow, as a bird hurries to the snare and does not know that he goes to his death. Proverbs 7:21-2324Now my children listen to me, and attend to the words of my mouth. 25Do not let your heart incline to her ways; do not go astray in her paths. 26For she has cast down many wounded; yes many mighty men have been killed by her. 27The ways to her house are the ways to the grave going down to the chambers of death. Proverbs 7:24-27 (Proverbs 7:1-27 BRB)

This story and Ruth's are opposites. Ruth is faithful, while this woman is not. Boaz, an older man, is minding his own business when he stumbles upon the right kind of woman, while the young man goes looking for the wrong kind of woman.

Song of Solomon Woman

The woman in Song of Solomon is not usually spoken of as morally deficient, because she is married, but I would suggest she's just as seductive as the woman in Proverbs. It's just that the young man she seduced married her.

Though Solomon had many wives and concubines, only the daughter of pharaoh is ever called Solomon's wife.

16For pharaoh king of Mizraim had gone up and conquered Gezer and burned it with fire and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city and given it as a gift to his daughter the wife of Solomon. (1 Kings 9:16 BRB)

The bride in Song of Solomon is a princess, which is consistent with being a daughter of pharaoh.

FJ 1How beautiful are your feet in sandals, prince's daughter. The form of your thighs is like cut precious stones, the work of the hands of a skilled workman. Song Of Songs 7:1-9 (Song Of Songs 7:1 BRB)

She's the only wife for which we are told Solomon built a house.

24The daughter of Pharaoh came up out of the city of David to the house which Solomon had built for her. Then he built Milo. 1 Kings 9:24 (1 Kings 9:24 BRB)

That house is referenced in Song of Solomon.

17The beams of our house are of cedar, and our rafters of cypress. Song Of Songs 1:17 (Song Of Songs 1:17 BRB)

Of course, being Egyptian in and of itself does not mean she's morally deficient. Afterall, Ruth was a foreigner. However, Ruth explicitly submitted to the covenant, but there's no story where Solomon's wife, or any of Solomon's wives, ever submit to the covenant. In fact, to the contrary, they eventually pull Solomon away from the covenant.

1King Solomon loved many foreign women, 1|6 and the daughter of pharaoh, 2|6 and Ammonite women, 3|6 and Moabite women, 4|6 and Adamite women, 5|6 and Sidonian women, 6|6 and Hethite women, A Jude 1:12 2from the peoples which the Master had said to the children of Israel, You will not mix with them nor will they mix with you lest they turn away your heart after their gods. Q Joshua 23:7-8 1 Kings 11:1-2Solomon clung to these in love. 3He had 700 wives of free women, and 300 concubines, and his wives turned away his heart. A Romans 1:24 4It came to pass when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods and his heart was not perfect with the Master his god as was the heart of David his father, 1 Kings 11:2-5 (1 Kings 11:1-4 BRB)

In the absence of even a single story about a good wife of Solomon we have to conclude there were none, even though there were many. The "wife" is pharaoh's daughter and there's nothing praiseworthy given about her like David's wife Abigail or like Ruth.

In many ways this is more about Solomon than his wives, but this study seems to be tucked into this section of the Bible to supply contrast to the model wife in Ruth.

So the general picture is that Solomon's wife is more like the woman in Proverbs than like Ruth (and Solomon is more like the young man in Proverbs than like Boaz). There may be, though, another avenue of study that more directly supports this idea, and it has to do with the question of who actually wrote the Song of Solomon.

The best clue is in the first verse.

FJ 1The Song of Songs A Revelation 2:20 A Revelation 18:22 of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, which is the Song of Songs and called in Hebrew, Song of Songs. Song Of Songs 1:1 (Song Of Songs 1:1 BRB)

The translation could be different given the Hebrew underneath. It could be translated "The song of songs, TO Solomon." This makes better use of the grammar as I understand it and, if right, changes the game. It makes Solomon the recipient, not the author.

Solomon is quoted throughout the letter, but so is she, so either of them could have written it, but she's the one initiating the interaction from the very first passage.

2Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine. Song Of Songs 1:2-4 (Song Of Songs 1:2 BRB)

If Solomon did not write the book, as we've always assumed, than maybe it's not wisdom literature in the way we've thought. It still belongs in the Bible, because systems in the Bible witness to it, like the Book Chain, but it may be like the story in Proverbs which is given as a negative example. It may be included so we can see how the woman behind the letter compares to Ruth.


The question of "Who can find a virtuous woman" makes more sense than ever when Ruth is sandwiched between two women who are not virtuous. And it means the implication that a virtuous woman is a rare and special kind of woman is correct.