Pro 31 (was Re: Verbs in Ps 18 ans 2 Sam 22)

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Mon Sep 7 21:10:23 EDT 1998

Dear Paul,

You wrote:

> Bryan Rocine wrote:
> >
> > In a recent post you asked me to comment on aspect in Pro 31:13-28.  


> Bryan, a side question then about verse 20 in particular.  If I read your
> description of the interaction between qatals and yiqtols correctly, it
would seem
> this verse gives two distinct qualities of the woman.  Am I reading you
> The relationship between the actions described there would have led me to
expect a
> yiqtol.  What significance, if any, would you suggest for the apparent
doubling of the
> description of care the woman has for the poor?  Could this play with
your note about
> the yiqtol in the first clause of 21?
> Paul

I can think of three things that may mark vv. 20 and 21 as the peak of the
virtuous woman poem:

1.  Paraphrase.  I wouldn't say that the two qualities of a virtuous woman
presented in v. 20 are really so distinct.  It seems that the second colon
paraphrases the first, and paraphrase is commonly a marker of peak.

2. Departure from the expected.  As you say above, we kind of expect the
quality introduced by the qatal of 20a to be developed by a yiqtol or
wayyiqtol in 20b(counting from v. 11, 8/9 verses have had a yiqtol or
wayyiqtol for their second verb).  But we see a qatal.  Then we expect 21
to have a qatal in the "a" colon(again from v. 11, 8/9 have a qatal in the
"a" colon), but it has a yiqtol.  I don't mean to reduce the factor called
"what is expected" to statistics.  I think literary and intuitive
expectations for a particular verb form in a particular place is also worth
considering along with statistics.  Departure from the expected, whether
judged objectively or subjectively, is another common marker of peak.

3.  A common Hebrew poetic convention of center-balancing.  Vv. 20-21 are
at the center of the poem, often the location of the peak of a Hebrew poem.
   I think viewing the poem as a center-balanced discourse is interesting. 
The first portion of the poem, the aleph through tet verses, depict the
variety of the virtuous woman's enterprises.  Then we have the center two
verses on which I will comment below.  In the mem through tav verses, the
focus shifts to her adornment, a well-deserved literal adornment of fine
fabrics and as well as the figurative adornment of the praises of her
children, husband, community, and the very works of her own hands.

A lot of the poem depicts the industry of the virtuous woman in or on
behalf of her own household.  The poem emphasizes that the recipients of
her _xayil_ are her household and ultimately, even herself.  V. 20 is
somewhat distinct in this regard because it is the point in the poem when
the benefits of her labors are depicted as reaching beyond her household as
well. Perhaps vv. 20-21 depict her virtue in the greatest relief: extending
to the poor and needy, yet never compromising the welfare of those closest
to her.

Question on v. 23:  Here we have this sort of incongruous comment about her
husband.  But stick, for a second, to the idea that the qatals help to
segment the poem.  Maybe v. 23 is still about her making garments.  Are we
to understand that her husband is known in the gates because he is a snappy
dresser?  Heh, isn't there another proverb somewhere (in 2nd Hezekiah
maybe?) that says "Clothes make the man"?


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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