The book of Proverbs concludes with a twenty-two-line poem extolling the ideal woman. Scripture scholars in our midst should perks up at that number, for yes, each line of this text in the Hebrew original begins with a sequenced letter of the alphabet.
Funeral readings may be about one of three topics. They might reveal something of God. They might describe something of church teaching on death and the afterlife. A reading is often selected because is serves as a eulogy of sorts for the deceased.
This fits in the last category. I suppose one could narrate the entire passage, but my last parish edited out the bits that were more aligned with ancient life in the Middle East:
When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs at the days to come.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
and on her tongue is kindly counsel.
Her children rise up and praise her;
her husband, too, extols her:
“Many are the women of proven worth,
but you have excelled them all.”
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.
Does this narrative of female virtue bring comfort to loved ones and friends in mourning? I’m sure it would, if it rang true.
I recommend this reading with caution. It could be a real clunker if the deceased did not exemplify these qualities.