Tag Archives: Matthew 25

Matthew 25: 31-46 The Judgment of Wisdom

Separation of the Sheep and the Goats, 6th Century Mosaic. This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60952241

Matthew 25: 31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This final parable in Matthew’s gospel builds upon the foundation laid by the previous five parables but also steps beyond them into cosmic setting of dividing the blessed ones of Father and the cursed ones. This final parable brings together imagery from across the gospel as well as several resonant images from the Hebrew Scriptures woven into a tightly woven tapestry. Like a tapestry, you can appreciate the pattern from an initial glance but when you look closely you can discern how the individual threads are brought together to form this final image. Unfortunately, I think this parable is sometimes treated like an ancient tapestry that seems out of place in the modern homes we’ve constructed and some would perhaps like to confine it to a museum as a witness to the artistic stylings of an ancient culture but for those with eyes to see and ears to hear it concludes the teaching of Matthew’s gospel and prepares us for the passion narrative which follows.

Matthew has, in the previous two parables, used imagery often associated with Israel’s relationship with their God: God as bridesmaid and God as ‘house master’ entrusting the stewardship of the household to slaves who wield great power on their master’s behalf. Now we are thrust into the cosmic sphere with the reintroduction of the title the Son of Man, in a way that closely links this title with Daniel’s introduction of this figure in Daniel 7:13-14:

As I watched the night visions, I saw one like a human being (Son of Man) coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Throughout the gospel the Son of Man has been linked to suffering, but here we also see it linked to glory. The suffering and glory of the Son of Man are held together in the trial before Caiaphas the high priest when Jesus states, “Form now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (26:64) But for the moment the parable looks beyond the upcoming suffering to the time when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory and the peoples are gathered to him.

There are two possible readings of this parable which rotate on how one views the ones gathered and these littlest ones who their Lord is now seen through. One reading is that the Greek ethnos is translated simply as nations indicating all the nations (Jews and Gentiles) gathered before the Son of Man and sorted by how they respond to the ‘least of these.’ In this reading “the least of these who are members of my family” are the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick/weak, and prisoners of the world. The second reading translates ethnos as Gentiles understanding the ‘least of these who are members of my family” as the followers of Jesus who carry the message of Jesus to the nations. There are strengths to both readings and the text can encompass both meanings. However, most of what follows will focus on the second reading since it highlights a way of thinking about this parable less common in the church. The reading here will also move away from an individualistic way of thinking about this parable to a framework that fits within the Jewish communal ideas of righteousness and hospitality.

Although there are portions of the Hebrew Scriptures which talk about the care for those who are less fortunate in the sense of an individual’s action, like Proverbs 19:17[1]: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and will be repaid in kind.“ But the individual’s actions are a part of the community which seeks to live in the covenant they have received from their God as a witness to the world. When Isaiah challenged the community to care for the hungry, the homeless, the naked, and the afflicted he could use singular pronouns to talk about the improper collective actions of the community:

Is this not the fast I choose; to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke: Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. Isaiah 58:6-10

Israel and the church were intended to be communities of righteousness that would be lights that would illuminate the nations. Part of this expectation includes hospitality, which these new disciples were to expect in the places they go to both in Israel (10:5-15 where they are to rely on the hospitality of the villages and towns they come to) but also in the future when they are sent to go into ‘all nations.’ Particularly in Western societies we tend to read the scriptures in terms of individual responsibility, but a community of hospitality and righteousness doesn’t allow a person to remain hungry, thirsty, naked, sick/weak, or in prison without receiving care. Mark Allan Powell, when discussing the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke, highlights this in talking to American, Russian and finally Tanzanian students for their interpretation of the parable. American students tended to highlight the son’s actions which lost his inheritance, Russian students tended to highlight the famine which brought about hunger in the land, but for me the most insightful was the answer he received in Tanzania:

The boy was in a far country. Immigrants often lose their money. They don’t know how things work—they might spend all their money when they shouldn’t because they don’t know about the famines that come. People think they are fools just because they don’t know how to live in that country. But the Bible commands us to care for the stranger and the alien in our midst. It is a lack of hospitality not to do so. This story, the Tanzanians told me, is less about personal repentance than it is about society. Specifically, it is about the kingdom of God. (Powell 2007, 27)emphasis mine

As we saw in Matthew 10:5-15, the judgment on communities that do not receive these disciples coming to them as strangers will receive a harsher judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah who failed to show hospitality to the divine visitors who entered their community.

In this cosmic parable where the Son of Man assumes his glory before all the peoples, nations and languages and some find themselves on the right[2] and others on the left judged for the way they received this unexpected divine visitation in the presence of these ‘little ones of God’s family.’ The attentive listener may hear the way Matthew has once again has pointed to the unique ways that ‘God is with us’ in these little faith ones sent out into the world needing care, welcome and compassion. It also creates a link between the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and the two texts help interpret one another: perhaps the poor in spirit who are blessed or those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are found among those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick/weak, and imprisoned. The peoples of the world are blessed for how they receive these strangers and aliens in their midst. Are they the kind of society where their needs will be met or are they the type of society that hides themselves from their own kin?

The ‘blessed ones’ inherit the kingdom which was prepared for them from the ‘foundation of the cosmos.’ In hospitality they gave food to those hungering, drink to the thirst, gathered together[3] with the strangers, clothed the naked, visited the weak/sick,[4] and ‘came towards’ the ones in prison. On the one hand a community which does this towards the ‘little ones of God’s family’ probably practices this hospitality towards any strangers who find themselves in their midst, but probably in this parable they are blessed for the way they show hospitality for the least of God’s family[5] and by their actions show their righteousness. In contrast, the unrighteous do not practice this hospitality towards the strangers in their midst and find themselves left outside the kingdom of heaven. These ‘cursed ones’ have chosen the way of the devil and his angels and find themselves outside God’s promised ‘age of life’ enduring the ‘age of punishment’ or ‘age of fire.’[6]

Matthew’s gospel has continually pondered what the Jewish covenantal idea of righteousness looks like in practice for this community of Christ followers. Often this is framed in the wise/foolish framework of wisdom literature where the wise can take part in the celebration, or the master’s joy, or the kingdom prepared from the beginning of the cosmos while the foolish find themselves outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Righteousness does not look like individual piety, and there are those who may call on the name of the Lord, and who have heard the words of the Lord, but have not built their lives upon those words. This community of little ones go out as strangers among the nations expecting to see signs of the kingdom of God among those who welcome them, but conversely the nations are blessed or cursed based on the way they receive these humble messengers. Ultimately, any judgment remains in the hands of the Son of Man or God and not the disciples, the most they can do is shake the dust off their sandals. Just as the ‘housemaster’ continued to send slaves to his vineyard looking for the harvest from his vines, so the Son of Man continues to send slaves to the nations looking for the fruit of hospitality.

[1] See also Tobit 4:16 and Sirach 7:32-35

[2] Most translations smooth this out to be the right hand, but hand is not present in the Greek and it merely indicates the right side.

[3] This is the Greek sunegago (where the word synagogue comes from) which means to gather together with.

[4] Greek astheneo which can mean weak or sick, may be due to disease, age, or injury.

[5] Literally: ‘the least of my brothers’

[6] Most translations render the Greek aion (eon) as eternal, but as throughout this translation I’ve attempted to avoid these terms which carry a lot of baggage in Christian thought. Matthew has a conception of righteousness and condemnation for wickedness which is never fully developed. For a fuller discussion see Gehenna, Tartaros, Sheol, Hades, and Hell

Matthew 25: 14-30: Two Wise and One Unwise Slaves

By Андрей Николаевич Миронов (A.N. Mironov) -The Parable of the Talents, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30528194

Matthew 25: 14-30

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This second parable, in a group of three, shifts from feminine to assumed masculine imagery and from the setting of the wedding feast to the stewardship of the household. Jesus has used this type of imagery multiple times in parables in Matthew, and although they are now organized in a different manner the theme of a lord ‘settling words’[1]  with those charged with managing the household of the master. Keeping the framework of wise and foolish from the first parable, we know see these ideas cast within an economic metaphor. These slaves are entrusted with resources according to their power[2] and then the lord departs on a journey.

In this parable there are two slaves who act wisely and one who acts foolishly. The first two slaves who have greater power and receive a greater portion of the master’s possessions to manage immediately begin to work[3] with the property entrusted to them. As we encountered in 18:23-35, where slaves are also entrusted with ‘talents’, this is an extremely large measure of economic resources. These wise slaves continue to work from the moment of their master’s departure until his return as earnest stewards of the resources entrusted to them, and as faithful exercises of the power they have in the master’s household. In their work they gain[4]additional talents. They look forward to their master’s return in expectation instead of fear. They are called ‘good and faithful[5] and can enter into the joyful celebration of their master’s long-awaited return.

In contrast to the work of the wise slaves, the foolish slave responds in fear. His only work during the master’s long absence, that we are aware of, is the act of burying the master’s silver in the earth. While the wise slaves continue to sow and scatter, reap and gather for their master, the only thing this slave plants is the money itself. This slave’s icy words which accuse the master of benefiting from the work of those in his household and quick return the master’s possession from its place where it laid fruitless in the earth indicate the unwise posture of this slave. In contrast to the ‘good and faithful’ slaves who worked with the talents entrusted to them, this slave is ‘evil[6] and lazy.’ In contrast to the valorous woman of Proverbs 31 (see the previous section) this slave does eat ‘the bread of sloth’ in this time while the master is away. He avoids even the minimal option of investing the silver with the moneychangers or bankers which would not involve physical labor but would have returned some gain to the master’s household. Like the foolish bridesmaids this ‘evil and lazy’ slave finds himself on the outside of the celebration of the master’s return in the outer darkness.

Unfortunately, the best known line from this parable is the penultimate one, “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. Taken out of context this has often been read as a statement of the reality that the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, but this is not a proverb which can be extracted faithfully from this parable. Although the parable uses the metaphor of economics to talk about the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God as we will see in our final parable, is a place where the hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner are all places the master is met in the world. It also forms a contrast from the reality of most of Jesus’ early followers who were not the wealthy of the world. It is important to understand that the language of the parable is the language of metaphor which creates a word comparison to highlight an aspect of the kingdom.  The kingdom of heaven is certainly not an acceptance of the status quo of the power structures at work in the world, but Jesus’ parables use the experiences that his hearers would understand to point beyond themselves to a different type of household or kingdom.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who build his house on a rock.” (7:24) and now these slaves of the master who await the master’s return must settle their action (or lack of action) on these words. The foolish may proclaim, in the words of José A. Pagola:

Here is your gospel, your project of the reign of God, your message of love for those who suffer. We have kept it faithfully. We haven’t used it to transform our life or to introduce your kingdom to the world. We didn’t want to take chances. But here it is, undamaged. (Pagola 2012, 39)

The darkness of the earth that enclosed the entrusted silver of the master granted to do the work of the household are now matched by the outer darkness which forms the life separated from the master’s joy. The foolish in these parables are foils to those who wisely work in hopeful expectation of their master’s return. These ‘faithful and wise slaves’ that the master places over the household to work on its behalf and who are at work when their master arrives (24:45-47) are the ones who await the return of the Son of Man with persistent hope and joyful expectation.

[1] Greek suvairei logon is literally settling words and although most translations smooth this to settling accounts, the older language points to the importance of words spoken and written in agreements.

[2] Greek dunamis is a common word meaning power. Ability has nuances in English of skill or intelligence that power does not.

[3] Most translations link the action of the first two slave to the minimum option given to the final slave of ‘investing it with the moneychanger/bankers, but the word here is not trading or investing in a modern sense of financial markets but instead ‘to work.’ (Greek ergazomai) This probably is invested in the household of the master for future harvests in a primarily agricultural world rather than trading in merchandise and stock. There is an active sense that these two wise slaves’ continued work gains the additional talents.

[4] Greek kerdaivo. In English the idea of receiving has the connotation of payment for a job, but here the ‘gain’ is not held by the slaves except to return to the master’s estate.

[5] Greek pistos has been used to talk about faith throughout the gospel. While there is an element of trust in this term, to translate it ‘trustworthy’ here obscures the linkage with faith throughout Matthew.

[6] Greek ponere

Matthew 25: 1-13: Wise and Foolish Virgins

By Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1838-1842) – Flickr, Photographer: oar square from Frankfurt/M., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5296396

Matthew 25: 1-13

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaidstook their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaidsgot up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaidscame also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew concludes his final teaching discourse with three parables found only in Matthew about how a wise disciple responds to the unknown day and hour of the coming of the Son of Man in glory. Those who are wise will be able to enter into the joy of their master and celebrate the long-awaited banquet, and those who are foolish may find themselves on the outside desiring to be a part of the celebration of the wise with the bridegroom. There are a number of connections throughout these parables with the Sermon on the Mount in particular and Jesus’ teaching and parables in general, and Matthew as a skillful editor has structurally used these parables of faithful preparation and stewardship to highlight the need for a community of wise disciples who can live faithfully in uncertain times when their master seems delayed or distant.

There will be wise and foolish in any community, but Matthew in this initial parable brings together a group of wise and a group of foolish virgins[1] who are awaiting the wedding feast and the bridegroom who the wedding feast celebrates. Throughout Matthew, we have seen Jesus use the wise/foolish pattern that is frequently used throughout the scriptures, particularly in wisdom literature, to help individuals and the community discern what wisdom looks like in practice. Here as Jesus begins his final trio of parables, wisdom is reflected in being prepared for the delayed coming of the bridegroom. As M. Eugene Boring can state:

Readiness in Matthew is, of course, living the life of the kingdom, living the quality of life described in the Sermon on the Mount. Many can do this for a short while; but when the kingdom is delayed, the problems arise. Being a peacemaker for a day is not as demanding as being a peacemaker year after year when hostility breaks out again and again, and the bridegroom is delayed. Being merciful for an evening can be pleasant; being merciful for a lifetime, when the groom is delayed, requires preparedness. (NIB VIII: p. 451)

I find the grouping of five wise virgins helpful in this first parable because it is a group of the invited ones who have acted in a way that the parable views as wise and responsible, while the foolish are like those sown on the rocky soil without roots who are unprepared when the life of discipleship becomes challenging (13:5, 20). The community will endure suffering for their testimony and faith, and the metaphor of the wise virgins who come prepared for the delay reflects the course on both wise individuals and wise communities whose practices form faithful disciples that live each day in perseverance, preparation and hope. Sometimes preachers and readers have become focused on the foolish virgins, but scripture never calls on the reader to focus on the foolish, but instead to focus on the wise. The consequences of foolishness in the parable may be an encouragement to take the path of the wise, but preachers and readers should never become focused on the foolish to the point of ignoring the positive portrayal of these wise virgins who do participate in the long-awaited wedding banquet. Women throughout Matthew’s gospel have both been exemplars of faith [see for example the highlighting of women in the genealogy (1:1-17), the Canaanite woman (15:21-28), and the unnamed woman at Bethany (26:6-13)] and have been used in parables as illustrations of the kingdom of heaven (13:33) and although less frequently noted than men, their references have generally been positive.

With the next parable dealing with an economic illustration, it may be worth looking at wisdom as an economic concept. In the words of E. F. Schumacher: 

From an economic point of view, the central concept of wisdom is permanence…Nothing makes economic sense unless its continuance for a long time can be projected without running into absurdities. (Schumacher 1989, 33-34)

In her discussion of wisdom and sloth, Ellen Davis highlights the ‘valorous woman’[2] which Proverb 31: 10-31 praises.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness (sloth). Proverbs 31:26-27

This final character of wisdom in the book of Proverbs is a woman who can speak wisdom and in Ellen Davis’ words:

This woman who “does not eat the bread of sloth” (v.27), is a consummate practitioner of the economics of permanence as Israel understood it, maintaining the integrity of her household. (Davis 2009, 154)

These wise virgins, which become a metaphor for the faithful community, bring permanence to the practices of the Sermon on the Mount in this time of delay, but those who cry out to the closed gates “Lord, Lord’ find they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (7:21-23) and they are like foolish builders who built their house on sand. (7:24-27)

The identity of the bridegroom traditionally in scripture for Israel has been God. The image of God becoming Israel’s husbands (or Israel’s infidelity to that relationship) are a frequent theme in the prophets.[3] But in Matthew, Jesus has already referred to himself as the bridegroom (9:15) and has used the image of a wedding banquet for the son of the king in a previous parable. (22:1-14) In Matthew, Jesus continues to weave images and roles that have been traditionally used to talk about the God of Israel in evocative ways which point to the identity of Jesus. Those wise women and men whose continue to persevere in faithful lives in their time of awaiting the advent of the kingdom of heaven continue to illuminate the way that in Jesus they have met their bridegroom and even in the bridegrooms delay they remain ready to light their lamps and enter the banquet in joy.

There are many times in history where large groups of people choose paths that are foolish, that choose short term gain over permanence. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflecting on the foolishness or stupidity of people in his own time (Germany at the end of 1942) could state:

It would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. (DBWE 8:43)

Bonhoeffer knew people who could remain “remarkable agile intellectually yet stupid” because they were captured by the societal pressures, rhetoric, and they become a “mindless tool…capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil” (DBWE 8:44) In Bonhoeffer’s time the Third Reich and its power to shape a stupid or foolish society were to be resisted in a church where the community was formed for faithfulness of wisdom. Even when the church and society both failed to resist the sociological problem of the stupidity of the people under the sway of the Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer still, even in prison, attempts to reimagine a church that can faithfully bear light to Christ in the darkness of a ‘world come of age.” In the United States many faithful have been concerned about the foolishness of the church and people who have made easy alliances between political and religious groups for the sake of gaining political power and influence. The temptation to abandon the practices of the Christian community for the sake of power, wealth, and influence have always been a powerful alternative for those initially drawn to Christ. The wise are called to form communities that can still maintain wisdom’s light in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming darkness of foolishness in the world.

[1] The Greek parthenos is a term for virgin in general. Although virgins may serve as bridesmaids, the bride is never mentioned in the parable. Most translations by translating the virgins as ‘bridesmaids’ assigns greater specificity than the parable requires. This is also the same term used in 1:23 (quoting Isaiah 7:14) in reference to Mary as a virgin. Foolish throughout this parable is the Greek moros where we get the English ’moron’ from.

[2] Even though English translations often render this ‘a capable wife’ the woman in the poem is viewed in her relationship to her work, and even though the woman in the poem is married the focus is on her and not her husband or their relationship.

[3] For example: Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 31:32 and Hosea 2:16, although for both Jeremiah and Hosea this is a recurring theme condemning the people for their unfaithfulness to this marriage.