Multi-tasking Gone Wild: The Wife of Noble Character Part 2
“She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like merchant ships
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
She provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night,
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”
Proverbs 31 verses 13-19
It seems that a woman’s work has never been done for quite a few centuries! Burning the candle at both ends. The wife of noble character works hard, all the time.
What is it that she does?
First of all she makes things – she has a cottage industry in textiles. By doing this she is able to get the best of the best for her household. And her household is considerable. She has servants that she looks after as well as her family. I am glad that she has some staff! Even though she is busy, at least she has some help. She keeps the servant girls in work and provides from them out of her source of income – the textiles.
This entrepreneurial scheme seems to generate some capital. My favourite verse in this whole passage is “she considers a field and buys it”. She is a woman of means, a risk taker, a go-getter. Her husband does not get a mention here – as I said yesterday, they are in a relationship of trust – she is free to make her own business decisions.
So the profit from the textiles goes into land, and then she starts another business by opening a vineyard – presumeably employing more people and generating more wealth, or, at least, some grapes.
She generates wealth, she passes some on and invests the rest, which generates wealth, and tomorrow we’ll see what she does with that.
But, it’s alright for her, we might argue: “her arms are strong for her tasks”. This wife of noble character is perhaps a formidable character. I can imagine her setting about her work “vigorously” – so much to do, so much purpose. She must know that she has responsibilities to make the most of her talents, her position and her wealth, for the benefit of her household and beyond.
She’s no fool. Her investments are under her own watchful eye. Unlike me, she is competently numerate – “She sees that her trading is profitable”. She must cut out of deals that are failing, she must be watching out for areas of growth.
More grapes, anyone?
I like verse 19 “In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers”. Which is a good literal image as it is – as she works with her hands. But I also like to see this line as a metaphor for the whole of this part of the passage. She has the raw materials all lined up, but it is through her effort and skill that something of value is created.
She is a hands-on manager, leading her household by example.
This seems to me to be a very ‘modern’ woman to have been around in the times of King Solomon, even as a conceptual ideal. She runs at least two businesses and a household that is staffed.
There have been times when the popular concept of an ideal wife is one who sits prettily and lazily, supporting the man in his work rather than seeing her own as valid in its own right. Not so the wife of noble character. She works for a living, and for the living of others. I think she’d fit right in with many aspects of current western culture.
It’s a very current business model also – make things, sell them, invest in a new project, diversify…
I wonder if this passage inspired the “burning the candle at both ends” image. She “gets up while it is still dark” to prepare for the day and “her lamp does not go out at night” as she goes over the accounts.
Again, I note (for my own sanity as much as anyone elses) is that this is a conceptual ideal. Is this woman real? As the opening of the whole passage asks “A wife of noble character who can find?”
It would be a lot to live up to, but fun to aim for. Do remember, she had staff!
Funny how millenia can pass, and things can stay the same…
Right, there’s a field. I’ll go consider it…