In yesterday’s blog, we read that the angel of the Lord greeted Gideon as “mighty warrior.” We learned that the word translated as “warrior” is chayil and means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.”

We find the word chayil used in a curious place in an unexpected way in the book of Proverbs. You’ll find it right there in Proverbs 31:10. I’m guessing that most of the women reading this are groaning and crying out “Nooooo! Please, don’t make me read about this totally perfect woman that I can’t compete with!” That was my perspective for a very long time. Learning about the word “chayil” helped change it.

A Verse in Many Translations

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

How does that make you feel, ladies? I like the part about rubies, but how do you feel about the “virtuous” part? Well, the longer I know the Lord, the more attractive “virtuous” is to me, but to tell you the truth, virtuous brings to mind words like prim and proper and…well, boring.

A wife of noble character, who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NIV)

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Proverbs 31:10 (NRSV)

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies.
Proverbs 31:10 (NLT)

If you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than precious gems!
Proverbs 31:10 (TLB)

The word that is translated as virtuous, noble, capable, truly good and excellent is chayil – which we’ve already said means “strength, might, efficiency, wealth and army.” There’s nothing prim and proper or wimpy about the word. In all honesty, it improves my self-esteem to know that God wants me to be strong, mighty, efficient and having great influence (wealthy).

There’s something interesting about the word chayil and how it’s been translated in the Bible.

What’s in a Word?

The word is used 249 times in 233 verses in the Old testament. It is only translated “virtue” or “virtuous” 4 times, always when referring to women. Hmmm. Whom else does it refer to, and how else is it translated? Well, generally, the word connotes power of some kind. Based on KJV, here’s how it’s translated:

Translated As

Approx. #
of Times

Army, Armies, Soldiers, Band of Men, Forces, Company, Able Men

Valor, Valiant, Valiantest, Valiantly (related to men)


Power, Might, Mighty, Strong, Strength


Wealth, Substance, Riches, Property/Goods, Worthy, Worthily




Virtuous, Virtuously (women or daughters)




War, Activity


Let’s use some of those words in Proverbs 31:

A powerful woman, a woman of valor is more precious than rubies. A woman of strength, who can find her?
(Sandy Hovatter translation)

That gives me a different view of myself.

I looked up virtuous in the dictionary and found:

Adj. 1. Conforming to moral and ethical principles; morally excellent; upright. 2. Chaste, as a person. 3. Archaic. Able to produce effects; potent (emphasis mine)

The King James translation, uses the word virtuous to translate chayil. In today’s language, that means morally excellent or chaste; in the time the translation was made, it most likely meant able to produce effects. Morally excellent is a wonderful, Godly thing to be. I’m just not so sure it was what the author of the Proverb was intending when he used chayil to describe what we’ve come to call The Proverbs 31 Woman.

This study, along with a study of God creating woman as a “helper” to Adam revitalized how I saw myself as a Godly woman. Perhaps another time I’ll bring you the “helper” lesson. For now, spend some time thinking about God’s Proverbs 31 Woman.

And be blessed!

2 Responses to “Valiant, Strong, Powerful – God’s Ideal Woman?”
  1. Kara Stewart says:

    I love these last two posts – God saw the whole picture for Gideon while he was feeling so helpless and low, calling him chayil. The tradition so many Christians live in is quick to remind us of how precious we are to God, which is a comfort. But this messenger wasn’t offering Gideon comfort. He was reminding Gideon that he is (not “will be”) powerful. It’s almost controversial to think of ourselves as powerful, but that’s what the Holy Spirit is: comfort and power. When you pointed out the use of chayil in Proverbs 31:10, it was like a kick in the pants. Sometimes we need comfort and sometimes we need to be reminded that we are tapped into the most powerful force in the universe and we’re expected to exercise that power. It’s so beautiful to be reminded that contrary to popular belief, the Bible is filled with examples of powerful women, and God expects no less from me.

  2. Michael says:

    hmmm gideon feeling helpless and low, surprising how many men tend to hide from that aspect. they put on a strong face and act like nothings wrong. most men dont even bother expressing their emotions, they think it makes em weak. i beleive god wants men to be more open, He gave women AND men BOTH the abilityt to express themselves, but some men chose not to exercise it. I myself am not afriad to cry or to soften. I love this verse Im fxing to point out…

    2nd corinthians 12:9

    and he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in WEAKNESS!!!.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

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