Proverbs 31:13 - "She finds wool and flax and busily spins it."
I know right??? Not much here! This is one of those verses that we typically read and are then done with. Since I'm doing a verse-by-verse study of this chapter, I figured I needed to look deeper into it instead of just sticking it in with another verse as if it didn't mean anything on it's own. God wouldn't put it in His Word for His ideal woman if it wasn't important. So, I scoured the Internet. There are many things bad about the Internet, but when used the proper way, it can be an awesome tool!
My search began with reading about wool and flax and what they're used for and how they're obtained. Very interesting stuff here, especially when looked at in light of the lifestyle during Bible times. (There is a lot of background information here, but it is necessary in understanding what the Virtuous Woman in Proverbs 31 is being praised for. So, please bear with me!)
USE: In addition to clothing, wool is used for "blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, wool felt, insulation, and upholstery". Ancient Greeks used it inside their helmets (used to absorb noise) and Romans used breastplates made of wool felt. It has been used in diapers since the exterior fibers repel water and the interior fibers attract water. It can absorb water up to 1/3 of its own weight. It has been used for undergarments because it prevents heat and sweat rashes. It is hypoallergenic, static resistant, and ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and has a "lower rate of flame spread, low heat release, low heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip". It retains heat well making it good for use in clothes and other items used in cold weather. I think wool would have been a perfect material for the people in cold weather in Bible times.
OBTAINING: First, it would have been plucked out of the sheep by hand or by bronze combs. Then it's separated into 4 categories (fleece, broken, bellies, lock). When taken directly from the sheep, it is known as "greasy wool". It contains a "high level of valuable lanolin, as well as dirt, dead skin, sweat, residue, pesticide, and vegetable matter". So, before spinning it into something to be made, it had to be cleaned - and they didn't have washing machines!! This would have required a lot of time-consuming work. It was a nasty job. Nothing fun about this!
I had NO clue what flax was. I had never even heard of it. So I began my search there.
Flax Flower - isn't it beautiful?
Linen comes from the fibers in the stem of the plant.
OBTAINING: First, the plant is pulled up with the roots. Then it has to dry and the seeds be removed (aka threshing). After that, the flax fibers must be separated from the stalk. To do this the inner stalk must be rotted away by leaving it in the sun/rain for 2 weeks to 2 months. The majority of what is left is the actual fiber to be used for spinning. However, at this point, there are still coarse fibers (straw) remaining. "To remove these, the flax is "broken", the straw is broken up into small, short bits, while the actual fiber is left unharmed, then "scutched", where the straw is scraped away from the fiber, and then pulled through "hackles", which act like combs and comb the straw out of the fiber." The fiber is now ready to be spun into linen.
The Bible says "she finds" wool and flax. It doesn't indicate what state they are in when she finds them, but it's not completely necessary to know. Whether she begins with the very first step of the process by finding and shearing sheep and planting flax and pulling it up by the roots or begins somewhere else along the way, she is obviously a hard worker. She doesn't mind getting dirty. This could also show her as wise with her money. She could probably find someone who would do all of this and sell it to her, but she is willing to save her money and instead get dirty and do the work herself. She is patient and doesn't mind tedious work. I mean, look at all she has to do to obtain these items just to begin spinning it!
It also says she "busily spins" it. This is not a once-in-a-while task. This isn't something she does on the side as a hobby. This is her life.
WHAT ABOUT ME???
This is all good and well for the Virtuous Woman, but what about now, in everyday life? We don't need to go out and find wool and flax and spin it. So, how do we apply it? I think God wants us to see more of "who she is" than "what she did". Do I work hard? Do I mind doing dirty work in order to save my family some money (example: growing a garden instead of buying veggies; mowing the grass instead of hiring someone; buying an entire chicken/turkey and cleaning it instead of buying boneless, skinless pieces)? Am I patient with my work or am I in such a rush to get it done that it is sloppy, and I'm stressed, and no one in the house wants to be near me?