Thursday, May 17, 2007

proverbs 30:23

Under three things the earth quakes,
And under four, it cannot bear up:
Under a slave when he becomes king,
And a fool when he is satisfied with food,
Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
And a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.
~ Proverbs 30:21-23 (NASB)

A couple of weeks ago I was reading at breakfast when Proverbs 30:23 caught my attention. It very clearly implies that it is a horrible thing when an unloved woman gets married. This made no sense to me. Isn’t it a good thing when the unloved find love?

With classes over and grades in, I had some time this week to study this verse. After looking up the original language in Strong’s, googling the verse, and searching Christian sites, I came up empty. There apparently isn’t much out there on this verse.

What to do? Since I doubt God got it wrong, maybe I should try to find out how it is true and therefore how I had it wrong?

Look around and you will have no problem finding unloved women. Often emotionally abused, and therefore very needy, they are very desirous of love. The problem is that when one marries, her husband never seems to be able to love her enough. In fact, she is unable to believe that she is loved. So when her spouse falls short of perfection, and of course, it is inevitable that he will, she will feel unloved and betrayed. As a victim of emotional abuse, she often becomes emotionally abusive herself, demanding works of love and respect but viewing every shortfall, real and imagined, as confirming evidence that she is unloved. Of course, this can set off a vicious cycle where she becomes even more abusive and more demanding, doing whatever she can to coerce her husband to love her.

If the earth cannot bear up under such a situation, few spouses will either. Marriage becomes a living hell. The tragedy is that the unloved woman cannot see this happening and cannot accept that she may be at fault. Everything makes perfect sense to her and she has no doubt that she is the victim in the marriage.

An unloved woman, or an unloved man for that matter, makes marriage something to fulfill one's own needs. Rather than looking for God to fulfill and meet needs, she feeds a cycle of disappointment by looking to an imperfect spouse to find perfect love.

This is not a Christian marriage; this is idolatry.

More on that next time . . . .

Be blessed.

Note: Click the underlined for more on emotional abuse and the symptoms of abuse for female victims and male victims.


Laura said...

I would have read it like this: she isn't loved but she gets married anyways. She is trapped within a loveless marraige b/c she can't be a part of society without a husband. The lovelessness is very real; she is just an object to be aquired by a man, not a valuable piece of his life.

RB said...

Hmmm… an interesting read. Thank you for your comment. Very thought provoking.

I’ve been mulling this over. I think it would be a good thing if we go back to the text and context of Pr. 30:23a, “Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband.”

Let’s start with the historical context. First, the modern feminists have it right that marriage was an economic necessity. When this was verse written a few thousand years ago, up until maybe a hundred years ago in industrialized countries, a woman needed children to support her in her later years. Also, single parenthood was not economically viable given the low incomes. Only very recently, among a very few higher-income earners, is single parenthood viable. In fact, the leading cause of living in poverty or being on public assistance in the US today is being a single parent. The leading reason for going off public assistance is getting married. In short, being a single woman ultimately meant poverty and deprivation.

Second, a few thousand years ago very few marriages were the result of pre-existing romantic love. There may have been many reasons for this, but there certainly was an economic reason. As discussed above, marriage was too important economically, especially for women, to be based merely on romantic love. Love may have been a bonus, but certainly not a necessity nor a common condition prior to marriage.

Third, let’s suppose wives were just merely chattel, the acquired property of men. This may or may not be true, but I’ll grant this just for the sake of argument.

The three historical conditions outlined above apply to marriages in general. However, Pr. 30:23a is not generalizing about marriages, but only marriages involving an “unloved” woman. The woman was unloved before she was married and for some reason this is not the usual case. We know this because elsewhere in OT Scripture marrying has a very positive connotation.

The puzzle is what is different about an ‘unloved” woman becoming married that the earth can not bear up under it.

It seems your read would mean the verse applied to most marriages and not to the exception. I think Pr. 30:23a is meant as a warning or an admonition. If so, what are we being warned about?

If you can wait, my next post may help provide more background on marriage in Scripture.

Be blessed.

FranksHelper said...

It's interesting that I found this blog. I have been looking up this verse myself because the way I heard it in the King James on a CD and the way it is written in my NIV bible are totally different. (Makes me a little wary of using anything but KJ with Strong's to study).

Apparently, the actual Hebrew words in the passage read, "A hateful woman who is married." The KJ word is "odious" not "un-loved."

The older commentaries also very clearly identify the word "odious" as meaning "hateful."

So, basically, what this verse is saying is that if you are a hateful, married woman, woe unto you!!!

RB said...

Thank you for your comment. Making it a "hateful women" makes sense and this can be viewed as a warning not to marry a hateful woman.

The "unloved" translation isn't just NIV, but also in the NASB and ESV. Both are usually regarded as more literal translations than the NIV. It would be interesting to know why the separate committees for each version settled on using "unloved."
Tue Jan 08, 05:27:00 PM EST

llball said...

RB -
Not that you have purposefully done so, but interpreting this passage as you have only continues to perpetuate the ever-increasing idea that women are responsible for the abuse that they suffer. I have doen much research on this particular passage and a proper understanding of it is that of a married woman who is unloved and rejected by her spouse. Unfortunately, many translations are not fully accurate, particularly in passages that speak to the proper roles of women in relationship to men, and specifically to their spouses. Much of the rabinical traditions that were very oppressive toward women snuck into the later Biblical translations. I recommend that all passages reagarding women's roles be compared to the oldest translations available and understood in terms of the whole of scripture and not just a particular passage.
Here is my research on this verse if you are interested:

Concerning proper translation on Proverbs 30:23.

Is it properly translated by NKJV as: “a hateful woman who is married,” KJVas: “an odious woman when she is married,
or by NIV as: “an unloved woman who is married”?
(The Message goes so far as to use the word “whore.”)
(Amplified version adds the word “repugnant.”)
New Living Translation is: “a bitter woman who finally gets a husband

Lets look at where the Hebrew word (sane’) is used elsewhere in scripture to see if we can determine whether it should be properly translated “hateful,” “odious,” or “unloved”

Genesis 29:31:
NKJV, ASV, and KJV all translate (sane’) as “hated.”
NIV uses “unloved.”
NASB uses “not loved.”
The Message uses “unloved.”
The Amplified uses “despised.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) uses “unloved.”
Darby Translation (DARBY) uses “hated.”
New Living Translation (NLT) uses “unloved.”

So, Gen. 29:31 seems to be translated as either:
“When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb. But, Rachel was barren.”


“When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb. But, Rachel was barren.”

Based on the translation of (sane’) used in this verse, Prvbs 30:23 should read:
“An unloved or hated woman who is married.”

But, let’s look, now, at Genesis 29:33:
NKJV, ASV, and KJV all use “hated.”
NIV uses “not loved.”
NASB uses “unloved.”
NLT uses “unloved.”
The Message uses “unloved.”
The Amplified uses “despised.”
HCSB uses “unloved.”
DARBY uses “hated.”

Again, based on the translation of (sane’) used in this scripture passage, Gen. 29:33 would read:
“Because the LORD heard that I was unloved or hated, He gave me this one too.”

Thus, Prvbs 30:23 would, again, read as:
“An unloved or hated woman who is married.”

Now let’s look at Deuteronomy 21:15. Here the word (sane’) is translated in much the same way as the Genesis 29 passage:
NIV refers to one “not loved.”
NASB uses “unloved.”
NRSV uses “disliked.”
NKJV uses “unloved.”
KJV uses “hated.”
The Message uses “hated.”
The Amplified uses “disliked.”
ASV uses “hated.”
HCSB uses “unloved.”
DARBY uses “hated.”

Therefore, Deut. 21:15 reads:
"If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, hated, or disliked.

All of these versions contrast the one who is “disliked,” “unloved,” or “hated” with one who is “loved,” “beloved,” or “greatly loved.” It is very important to note that the one who is unloved or hated is not mentioned to be so because she is somehow unloveable or disagreeable. Just the same as in the Genesis passage—it was not because Leah was unloveable, or “odious” that she was unloved. Rather, it was because Jacob’s heart was with another. The context of Deut. 21 concerns the just treatment of woman and their children and, in this particular verse, a man is prohibited from discriminating against the firstborn son of an unloved wife. She is not in any way mentioned as deserving his disfavor or displeasure, and, in fact, her children’s rights are being protected from what seems to be the indiscriminate preferences of the man.

Taken together the Genesis 29 passage and the Deut. 21 passage demonstrate the favor and protection of the Lord toward the (sane’) or unloved woman. The idea being conveyed is that the (sane’) woman is rejected by the man even though she is married to him. God responds to this woman by opening her womb and blessing her with children and by making it unlawful for a man to discriminate against the (sane’) woman’s children in terms of their inheritance, particularly with regard to the firstborn. God is portrayed as having compassion on this (sane’) woman, and no where is it stated or suggested that she is “odious” or “hateful”.

llball said...

Here is the rest of my research since it was too long to fit on one post:

Now, let’s study Malachi 1:2-3:
NIV, KJV, NASB, ASV, NKJV, The Message, The Amplified, HCSB, and DARBY all use “hated.”
NLT uses “rejected.”

So, Mal. 1:2-3 reads: “the LORD says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated or rejected.

Thus, Pvbs 30:23 would be read: “An hated or rejected woman who is married.”

It is also important to note the context of this passage. Esau was hated or rejected, because God’s chose to favor Jacob. Esau was not inherently more wicked or unlovable than Jacob, but God chose Jacob. The comment on this passage on the NextBible website says, “The context indicates this is technical covenant vocabulary in which “love” and “hate” are synonymous with “choose” and “reject” respectively.” If we apply this understanding to the Pvbs 30:23 passage, then we can see that the (sane’) wife (the hated wife) is one who has been rejected by the chooser (the man/husband) not necessarily because of any improper behavior on her part but because of his choice or preference.

It, therefore, seems clear that a proper understanding of Pvbs 30:23 is that of a married woman who is, nevertheless, unloved and rejected.

Anonymous said...

I feel it is refering the husband who fails to love their wives as christ has loved the church.

Anonymous said...

Wow! this verse can be very confusing if you read it literally from KJV: "...a hateful woman..." sounds more like she is the problem in such context. I guess like other people who replied and your original posting states: it is better to seek versions closest tp the real meaning. I am thinking about finding the original words t was written in and then get the meaning of them in that sentence. Different translations just make it more confusing.
This verse caught my attention because i got myself into a situation where scripture couldn't had hit the nail better. Like some people say: it was talking to me. I married my husband knowing he wasn't ready, and that it wasn't for love. I was young, needy, stupid. And i've reaped the consecuences of not being able to wait, being patient, and settling for what i knew was not for me. I can't blame him completely for the problems we've had, it takes 2 to succeed or to mess things up in marriage and not letting God work on it. I feel like i have become into that hateful woman, because i've taken some decisions i am not proud of and have brought grief into my home. Including hating my husband. God has worked on him a lot, he stopped drinking, smiking and lately he can control his rages better and doesn't get verballyor physically abussive. I have calmed down too, and try to to focus on my kids and their well being. I feel more peaceful but there is still guilt inside of me. I can't stop being over critical with my husband or myself and it's eating me. I have asked God to help me...i can see how we ourselves get into hairy situations when we don't wait on God and act our way. I am now waiting on Him, i couldn't have any better option.

RB said...

I find it interesting to look at the variety of responses to this verse posted above. This verse can speak to people in so many different ways.

Anonymous said...

I am an unloved woman and it was a balm to my soul when another told me of this verse and the Lord's love for me and extra care to note how awful it is to me that woman.

Q said...


I'm not sure who you are, but you are lead by The Holy Spirit, with TRUE Godly insight concerning this scripture, and I forever thank you for this. The Lord prompted me to search this passage out, and your revelation brought insight to not how I (a wife) treat my spouse, but how/why my husband treats me the way that he does... THANK YOU, AND GOD BLESS YOU!

Anonymous said...

I agree - this explanation with all of the scripture references is awesome! Thanks! I have a very low key husband who us unemotional and uninterested in who I am or how to love me. After a year of counseling, with many great suggestions by the counselors, no change. However, I'm the one who appears 'odious.' or, as the original poster said, 'idolatrous.' When will the light shine on the perpetrator of the neglect of the marriage? God says He cares. He gave me this verse this morning through my tears as I opened my Bible 'randomly' to see what He had to say to me. He also showed me, a few verses down, not to stir my anger and create strife. :) I heard both messages loud and clear. :)

Anonymous said...

Though this post is old perhaps the words can heal and strengthen me 1st as it passes thru me and another passerby.
Unloved happens b4 the marriiage if you are raised as a spiritual and or physical orphan unaccustomed to real love and it's. Characteristics. You are wounded and needy
It also applies if you have a husband unwilling or unable to gird himself with the love of God and express it to you gracefully peacefully constantly and unconditionally. When he makes excuses why he can't or won't. (You don't make him feel like expressing it or you are too demanding). You in fact become odious and hated by him b/c he doesn't want to grow and odious to yourself b/c the nature of love is to always be active and at work not stagnant and a facisimile. It is also not what a marriage should be... A stifling death box

Anonymous said...

This verse was so apt for me. I am in that situation presently. I feel like that unloved, hateful woman. I am in a marriage were my husband is depriving me of a basic responsibility as my husband. I tried to remain unaffected, but his obvious disregard for my need is frustrating me to the point of being hateful. Also his behavior toward other women is like salt in an open wound for me. I'm rapidly becoming that 'hateful' woman. I don't want our marriage to become 'A stifling death box.'

Rich1 said...


Anonymous said...

I am a woman who since youth have considered myself 'odious'. I like things done a certain way and don't want my things bothered. I knew I would make a man miserable 'bossing' him how things should be done. There are women who would not make good mothers or wives for that matter.
So, I have lived a happy single life. And every time I pass that verse in my Bible study I remember why. Now, there are 2 people happy!

Anonymous said...

I need to say that RB'S first statement is so true. I was reading proverbs this morning and came acroos this scripture. I've read this a 1000 times but I have a friend that I know that has been speaking to me for some time now about her problems with her husband and after doing research and finding this site, it is very clear and apparent that she is exactly what RB wrote about. So much that it's scary. I don't know what proverbs 30-23 means but I do know for a fact that a woman, and I'm sure a man too, can be exactly like the abused woman stated by RB. The links that were provided with them are dead on too. I wanted to read her these things I found and when I told I had something she needed to hear, not even hinting to her problem, she stopped me in my tracks and said don't upset me. Freaky!!! She is a Cristain and as we all do, we fail and sin. I was just blown away by the accuracy. Take care!!!

Anonymous said...

Hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman. An unloved woman is scorned of her vey be loved. God created women to be is in their nature...MORE THAN ANY OTHER be loved. It was NEVER the Almighty's deign for a woman to be unloved. It is unnatural to the very nature of the woman's existance. Scorn and fury were NEVER meant to be put in a woman's heart. REJECTION is scorn...the more rejection a woman undergoes...the more fury likened unto hell grows in her. Who can endure that??? Not even the women who is scorned. is my theory that AN UNLOVED WOMEN...that the earth cannot bear has the hell downloaded into her heart that God never meant for her to taste of or experience. Let's let God off the hook here. The devil is the Pervert that has perverted the design of God. How can the earth bear a woman that has the fury of hell inside of her. We must be compassionate. Men scorn women. Men put that fury in the heart of a woman.It is against God's nature and the nature he put in man to scorn woman. The Pervert perverts men towards woman and the result is an earth that cannot bear what a woman CANNOT bear it.The spirit of ANTICHRIST does NOT regard women or the deire of them(Daniel 11:37)...hmmmmmmm? What does that mean? If you do not regard scorn it. The very spirit of what is ANTICHRIST does not even consider woman. That's a scarey thought! Who's nature do you bear? Wouldnt it be an amazing thing if men truly lead by REPENTANCE being that God ordained them to be the HEAD of woman and repented of the SCORN they have put in woman's heart, because THE PERVERT perverted them against woman. If a movement occurred to redeem woman and be opposite of antichrist...which would make our nature truly the essence of Christ. Women were made in the image of God as well and the female attributes of the godhead evident at woman's existance prove so. YET. however, we were taken from the very DNA/side of man our nature comes out of man or is defined by men. CANT deny that. If the HEAD were not sick the BODY would not faint(Isaiah 1:5 & 6) If the head is sick because of rebellion the heart will faint. That scipture is indicative of a nations refusal to repent making men sick in their leadership and women sick in their heats. The result is antichrist...beast stinkin thinkin' did all of this! Do you follow a beast or the Lamb?

Anonymous said...

Wow... that is quite the diatribe. How did you get all of that from reading Proverbs 30 verse 23?