Question: "What does it mean to be more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10)?"
Answer: Two things in the Bible are considered more precious than rubies: the virtue of wisdom (Proverbs 3:15) and a woman of noble character: “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10, NLT). A woman who is more prized than rubies is one with godly traits that are rare and valuable.
The book of Proverbs was written to teach young men how to obtain wisdom and build moral character. It is packed with practical guidelines and ethical principles for developing integrity and making wise and beneficial decisions in life. The question in Proverbs 31:10, “A wife of noble character who can find?” indicates that the reader ought to look long and hard to find such a wife for himself.
“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones,” warns Proverbs 12:4. For the sake of his future happiness, success, and well-being, a young man ought to choose his wife wisely and carefully. Thus, Proverbs 31 goes into great detail describing the attributes of a wife who is more precious than rubies—the kind of woman the wise young man should seek.
The first qualities mentioned are trustworthiness and devotion: “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11–12, NLT). A virtuous wife is an asset to her husband and not a liability. She is supportive and encouraging, not like the quarrelsome and nagging wife who is like the “constant dripping of a leaky roof” (Proverbs 19:13; see also Proverbs 21:9, 19).
A worthy woman is diligent and hard-working: “She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar” (Proverbs 31:13–14, NLT). She carefully manages her household: “She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls” (Proverbs 31:15, NLT). Like the wise woman of Proverbs 14:1, she works hard to build up her home. She’s not like the foolish one who tears it down with her own hands.
A woman who is more precious than rubies is also intelligent and capable: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16). She is strong and energetic, with a healthy work ethic (Proverbs 31:17). She has good business sense, her “trading is profitable,” and she increases her family’s wealth (Proverbs 31:17–18, 24). The description that “her lamp does not go out at night” in verse 18 implies that she has the foresight to plan for the future. In the parable of the ten virgins, the five whose lamps did not go out had thought ahead to buy oil and were praised for their prudence and forethought (Matthew 25:1–13).
A woman who is more precious than rubies is generous and kind: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). She spares no expense to protect her family (verses 21–22). “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land,” says verse 23. A virtuous woman brings honor and respect to her husband and family. Verses 25–26 applaud her dignity, wisdom, kindness, and strength of character. Her family members, who are at the center of her devotion, adore and express their fondness for her with blessings and praise (verses 27–28).
The chapter concludes with the writer recognizing the significance of such a woman: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:29). While she may be physically beautiful and charming, her crowning achievement is that she fears the Lord (verse 30). Such a woman is more precious than rubies because of her godly character—a rare and priceless jewel.
Ruth is an excellent example of a woman in the Bible who is more precious than rubies. Boaz described her as a virtuous woman (Ruth 3:11). She was devoted and faithful; she worked hard and took the initiative; and, like the Proverbs 31 woman, she was praised in the gates (Ruth 2:2; 4:11; cf. Proverbs 31:31).