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Old 05-13-2007, 09:19 PM   #1
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Sd#339

Sunday Dispatch #339


Hymn to a Good Wife

A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
but you've outclassed them all!"
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!

~Proverbs 31:10-31 (The Message)
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Old 05-14-2007, 12:43 AM   #2
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Praise God!
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Old 05-14-2007, 03:57 AM   #3
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Does anyone really believe that?
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Old 05-14-2007, 04:00 AM   #4
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Oh, is this a wonderfully traditional (read sickenly chauvinistic and grossly outdated) "dispatch" in lieu of Mothers Day? Can't quite recall when you yanks have yours.
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Old 05-14-2007, 04:58 AM   #5
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Re: Sd#339

Quote:
Originally posted by the iron horse
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
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Old 05-14-2007, 07:36 AM   #6
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Angela, are you not wearing your "colourful linens and silks" today?
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Old 05-14-2007, 07:53 AM   #7
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Old 05-14-2007, 09:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by DrTeeth
Angela, are you not wearing your "colourful linens and silks" today?
Alas, there's nothing gay about my attire today. I'm wearing a black t-shirt and grey tracksuit pants. I got up to a brilliant sunny morning, rolled my (imaginary) sleeves up and thought 'today is the day I help the Husband.' I will scrub the house from top to bottom and discipline the children to be seen and not heard. I can dress more appropriately in time for the Husband to arrive home to a nice cool drink while dinner is served.

I sincerely doubt any woman worth her weight would undertake homely duties in her best attire.
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:22 PM   #9
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That, in a much less ridiculous translation, was read at my beloved sister-in-law's funeral. My husband (her brother) and I were simultaneously incensed and amused at the thought of Steve's incredible sister actually fitting that description.

Ah, patriarchy.
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:47 PM   #10
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^ Was she Jewish, by chance? I've heard that among certain sects it's common for that passage both to be sung by the husband to the wife every Sabbath, and then to be read at a woman's funeral. Personally, I've never known anyone who used it that way--the standard practice in my experience is for everyone in the family to sing it, not to "the lady of the house" but to greet Shabbat haMalka, the feminine personification of the Sabbath who is envisioned as a bride--it's part of a cycle of songs sung at Sabbath to welcome her presence, and that's been a tradition since the 14th century. I'm not sure where the custom that you sing it your wife/mother on special occasions to honor her comes from; it certainly isn't a particularly ancient one. I can only imagine how amused my father would have been at the idea that he was supposed to look my mother in the eye every Sabbath and earnestly sing all this stuff about tirelessly sewing and looking after the servants (they dropped that part from this translation) to her.

Of course obviously it was originally intended to honor some sort of composite ideal woman (and a decidely well-to-do one at that), but then we're talking 2500+-year-old presumptions about what qualities are needed to make a woman chayil (meaning someone of prowess, formidability, strength--not "good" as this rather blandly and soppily and puts it). In a few communities that may still apply--I have to imagine it's mostly understood allegorically among whoever it is that holds the custom of singing it to their wife, though.

And yes, it's a highly eccentric translation, to put it mildly.
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
^ Was she Jewish, by chance?
No. Church of Christ.
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Old 05-14-2007, 10:53 PM   #12
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Would someone be so kind as to post some other translations? I don't know what to search for myself. And is anyone willing to also post what their own interpretations are? Yours is interesting, Yolland, though like you I cannot see its relevance for today's times.
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Old 05-15-2007, 02:09 AM   #13
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אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל מִי יִמְצָא וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ
eshet chayil mi yimtza verachok mippeninim michrah
בָּטַח בָּהּ לֵב בַּעְלָהּ וְשָׁלָל לֹא יֶחְסָר
batach bah lev ba'lah veshalal lo yechsar
גְּמָלַתְהוּ טוֹב וְלֹארָע כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיהָ
gemalathu tov velo-ra kol yemei chaiyeiha
דָּרְשָׁה צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים וַתַּעַשׂ בְּחֵפֶץ כַּפֶּיהָ
dareshah tzemer ufishtim vatta'as bechefetz kappeiha
הָיְתָה כָּאֳנִיּוֹת סוֹחֵר מִמֶּרְחָק תָּבִיא לַחְמָהּ
hayetah ka'oniyot socher mimmerchak tavi lachmah
וַתָּקָם בְּעוֹד לַיְלָהוַתִּתֵּן טֶרֶף לְבֵיתָהּ וְחֹק לְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ
vattakam be'od laylah vattitten teref leveitah vechok lena'roteiha
זָמְמָה שָׂדֶה וַתִּקָּחֵהוּ מִפְּרִי כַפֶּיהָ נָטְעָה כָּרֶם
zamemah sadeh vattikkachehu mipperi chappeiha nate'ah karem
חָגְרָה בְעוֹז מָתְנֶיהָ וַתְּאַמֵּץ זְרוֹעֹתֶיהָ
chagerah ve'oz mateneiha vatte'ammetz zero'oteiha
טָעֲמָה כִּי-טוֹב סַחְרָהּ לֹא-יִכְבֶּה בַלַּיְלָה נֵרָהּ
ta'amah ki-tov sachrah lo-yichbeh vallaylah nerah
יָדֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָה בַכִּישׁוֹר וְכַפֶּיהָ תָּמְכוּ פָלֶךְ
yadeiha shillechah vakkishor vechappeiha tamechu falech
כַּפָּהּ פָּרְשָׂה לֶעָנִי וְיָדֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָה לָאֶבְיוֹן
kappah paresah le'ani veyadeiha shillechah la'evyon
לֹאתִירָא לְבֵיתָהּ מִשָּׁלֶג כִּי כָלבֵּיתָהּ לָבֻשׁ שָׁנִים
lo-tira leveitah mishaleg ki chol-beitah lavush shanim
מַרְבַדִּים עָשְׂתָהלָּהּ שֵׁשׁ וְאַרְגָּמָן לְבוּשָׁהּ
marvaddim asetah-lah shesh ve'argaman levushah
נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעְלָהּ בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ עִםזִקְנֵיאָרֶץ
noda bashe'arim ba'lah beshivto imzik nei-aretz
סָדִין עָשְׂתָה וַתִּמְכֹּר וַחֲגוֹר נָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי
sadin asetah vattimkor vachagor natenah lakkena'ani
עֹזוְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ וַתִּשְׂחַק לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן
oz-vehadar levushah vattischak leyom acharon
פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַללְשׁוֹנָהּ
piha patechah vechachemah vetorat chesed al-leshonah
צוֹפִיָּה הֲלִיכוֹת בֵּיתָהּ וְלֶחֶם עַצְלוּת לֹא תֹאכֵל
tzofiyah halichot beitah velechem atzlut lo tochel
קָמוּ בָנֶיהָ וַיְאַשְּׁרוּהָ בַּעְלָהּ וַיְהַלְלָהּ
kamu vaneiha vay'asheruha ba'lah vayhallah
רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת עָשׂוּ חָיִל וְאַתְּ עָלִית עַלכֻּלָּנָה
rabbot banot asu chayil ve'atte alit al-kullanah
שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי אִשָּׁה יִרְאַתיְהוָה הִיא תִתְהַלָּל
sheker hachen vehevel haiyofi ishah yir'at-hashem hi tithallal
תְּנוּלָהּ מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ
tenu-lah mipperi yadeiha vihalluha vashe'arim ma'aseiha




The Hebrew is kind of cool because it's written in the form of an acrostic. Honestly I don't know much about the various translations out there as I don't use one, but without spending a lot of time on it, this is roughly how I'd translate it (this is fairly literal, BTW):


A woman of prowess is priceless, her worth far beyond rubies.
Her husband trusts her with all his heart, and wants for nothing.
She requites him good, never evil, all the days of her life.
She seeks out wool and flax, and sets her hand to them with a will.
Like the merchants' ships, she brings in the bread from afar.
She rises before dawn to provide meat for her household, and a share for the servants.
She considers an estate and buys it; with the fruit of her labors she plants a vineyard.
She clothes herself in strength, and exerts herself vigorously.
She sees that her yield is good; her lamp burns into the night.
She keeps one hand to the spinning-staff; the other works the spindle.
Her palm is open to the poor, her hand extended to the needy.
She fears not for her household in the snow, for they are clothed in twice-dipped scarlet.
She makes quilts of tapestry, and for herself clothes of fine linen and purple.
Her husband is distinguished in the city, and sits among the elders of the land.
She makes fine cloth and sells it, and waist-belts for the merchants.
Strength and honor are her clothing; she rejoices for the future.
Her words are full of wisdom, the teaching of kindness her tongue.
She looks to the goings of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness.
Her children call her blessed, and her husband praises her:
"Many women are accomplished, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, beauty a vain illusion, but the woman who reveres God shall be praised.
Let her savor the fruits of her labors; let her works be praised throughout the land.



The passage is preceded, within the same chapter, by an obscure exhortation attributed to the mother of Lemuel, king of a (non-Hebrew) north Arabian tribe. Apparently Lemuel had both a drinking problem and a chasing-after-women (the wrong kind) problem; his mother chides him that he is abdicating his responsibilities as a king, and exhorts him to devote his energies to championing the poor, the needy and the persecuted. The passage which follows it could thus be seen as a coda of sorts illustrating the sort of woman a wise man ought to desire, although in fact it was almost certainly a later addition.

In the Talmud there are various interpretations offered for the passage, ranging from the prosaic (it describes the ideal wife, and by extension the ideal lifestyle) to the allegorical (it depicts how the relationship between God and the people of Israel ought to be) to the whimsical (it's a puzzle of sorts in which each sentence refers to some particular woman in Jewish history, and the reader is meant to deduce who each is). But the former is doubtless the most 'realistic'; it perfectly fits the plain meaning of the text, which makes sense as a description of what the composite ideal woman of the day would have been like. It couldn't possibly ever have been very 'representative' though, as it lists too many behaviors which the average woman wouldn't have had the resources to engage in...purchasing real estate, having servants, producing fine fabrics and running a brisk business selling them, etc.--clearly it depicts, among other things, a wealthy businesswoman with sharp business sense. To that extent, perhaps there's also a do-good-and-you-will-do-well-(financially) message intended. In any case, ultimately the 'main point' seems to be something roughly along the lines of: The ideal woman is hardworking and ambitious, but also wise, kind, and devout. Pretty much what the rest of the book of Proverbs describes the ideal man as being.

But, as far as anyone today trying to treat the passage literally as some laundry list of expectations for what any "good woman" (apparently as opposed to any "good man") ought to be skilled in--sewing, cooking, "gardening" etc.--then yes, obviously in our culture that much is pretty irrelevant, or at least should be. Although it wouldn't be a bad thing if more people, male and female alike, knew how to cook and to select basic necessities like clothing and food wisely and economically...
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Old 05-15-2007, 07:17 AM   #14
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Well, I think Yolland covered that one pretty nicely. . .

I will add that The Message--the paraphrase (NOT the translation--there is a difference. The Message is bascially Eugene Peterson, the author, writing the Bible in his own words) from which the orignal SD was taken from is not really one of my favorites.

It's written in a sort of conversational style, that while admittedly easy to read also comes across--at least to me--as overly wordy and a bit corny.

I also think that trying to rewrite Proverbs 31 in a "modern" context is a bit of a fool's errand--at least the way it was done here. You're taking something written in a particular cultural context and removing that context so that you're left with a lady that likes to knit sweaters. . .
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Old 05-15-2007, 09:54 AM   #15
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^ While I certainly didn't think it was a bad translation of the passage--just 'highly eccentric,' as I said earlier--one thing I quite disliked about it was that it struck me at several points as crossing the line between paraphrasing for clarity and force of meaning's sake, on the one hand, and projecting contemporary notions and attitudes onto the text so as to make it seem falsely and contrivedly familiar, on the other. Obviously there's a place for suggesting applications of scripturally derived principles and ideas to present-day circumstances--but IMHO, that's what sermons, commentaries and popular religious literature are for. If you really believe some scripture(s) has great value in its own right, then I don't understand why you wouldn't be willing to make the effort to give it a close reading in a translation that approximates the original language reasonably well, and if there are footnotes and interpretive overviews and so forth to help you better appreciate some of the layers of nuance and meaning inevitably lost in the translation process, so much the better. To me, that doesn't make the text frozen in amber or hopelessly and alienatingly irrelevant-seeming; on the contrary, it makes it far more powerful, poignant, and rich with meaning, and actually puts you in a better position to appreciate what's timeless and enduring and alive in it in a way that inspires much more profoundly than some zingily catchy and easy-to-swallow "paraphrase" can. This doesn't just apply to scriptural study; I would say the same about literature as well.

I Googled for a little info about him, and ironically (I mean with regard to the apparent intent of the translation, not the quality of it) Peterson himself holds a Master's in Hebrew and studied New Testament Greek in seminary school as well. So I'm sure his determination to "make it real" is, for him, firmly anchored in a deep appreciation of the language and historic context of the original, which is wonderful. But for many more years than that he was also a pastor, so perhaps it's his sermonizing instincts more than anything else coming to the fore here. Nothing wrong with those, no doubt he was a great pastor, but that kind of work is usually much more about outreach and immersion in community and nurturing a particular type of lifestyle and ethos than it is about leading people in study, and coming to know and love the world these texts grew out of--even though, IMHO, that's what's needed to fully and profoundly appreciate them. That said, especially as a teacher, I can sympathize with his desire to reach an audience who may lack the motivation to really grapple with the text; but, I'm skeptical as to how much capacity "paraphrasing" (again, especially when it strays into projecting) ultimately has to make up for what motivation can't supply.

I will say, though, that the line between "translation" and "paraphrasing" is a very fuzzy and murky one--all translation is paraphrasing to some extent, and while for example I played it fairly conservative with how I translated that passage, there were a couple instances where I substituted an English idiom for a Hebrew one because I felt it conveyed the sense of the original better, and a couple others where I hesitated before rendering it more or less directly, because there were nuances obvious to me in the Hebrew that I knew would get lost...yet would yield something both clunky and misleading if I tried too hard to spell it out. Most of all, what I wanted to get across was that it's clear in the original that this ideal woman is chayil, formidable, a "woman of prowess" who literally brings (and manages) profit, as well as wisdom and kindness, into her household...not simply a proverbial--to us--'happy homemaker' whose sole joy is to wait on her husband and children and make pretty "sweaters" and tasty "breakfasts". Hopefully I succeeded in that...
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