Proverbs 31.16 — A good businesswoman

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” This woman does everything. She is not only domestic, she is entrepreneurial, much like many women today. They work at home and in the marketplace. Here we see a few basic business principles: She weighs relative values, makes a capital investment from her earnings, and with that investment produces assets and profit in a business endeavor of continuing returns.

It was not out of character, nor contrary to their culture, for a woman to be a business operator. Hammurabi’s code contains several laws regulating the activities of Babylonian women who operate inns or taverns. However, this may not be construed in the same light as having the ability to buy a field or sell finely dyed and woven garments as a professional seamstress. The idealized picture of the “perfect wife” in this proverb goes beyond anything that the biblical text elsewhere suggests is open to women. Ordinarily, they did not have the legal standing to purchase land, although they certainly worked hard with their families to cultivate it and deal with its produce. The one industry mentioned in ancient Near Eastern texts that is open to female enterprise was weaving, and this may be the model for all the other activities.

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