Understanding Proverbs 31:16

A field of vines in the Barossa Valley - this region of South Australia is famous for its grape growing thanks to the early German settlers. My ancestors settle close by. Photography by Joluise. 

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: 
with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.


Proverbs 31:16 is an fascinating verse however it is also controversial for many Christian women. I have seen many and varied interpretations of this verse which has led me to have a closer look at it to see it I can understand it any better. There are those that strongly believe that this has nothing to do with a business savvy woman running her own business (usually those who have very strong views about women working outside the home) all the way through to those who see this verse as legitimizing their decision to work outside the home or running their own business. 

What does the verse say? 

On face value the verse says:

1. "She considered a field" - to me, this means that before rushing in and making a rash decision, she took her time to carefully consider the purchase. This involved doing her homework, perhaps looking at the price of other fields, its long term potential, yield,  possible return on her money etc..

2. After her research she "buyeth it". She now owns a piece land. How big, we simply do not know. 

3. "From the the fruits of her hands she planteth a vineyard". This meant she used money from her own earnings to buy the necessary tools and crop to create her new vineyard. Money she had put aside until the right opportunity came along. And we know about the source of these earnings from verse 24 "She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant".  

Nothing more is said about this verse. We no nothing more. In some ways it raises more questions. 
How big was the field - a small field would yield enough grapes just her family, a large field would yield enough to sell and make a profit.  We simply do not no these facts. We can guess, but we may wrong. And the problem is, many are guessing this next step (filling in the blanks) and that is never a wise thing to do - particularly if you are guessing to simply support your argument about women working. 

What we do know is that she was an entrepreneur, a savvy business woman (one her husband trusted). No only did she have one venture - the selling of fine linen, we know she started a second venture. I don't think it is important to guess how much money she made or what it was used for - what is important is that it illustrates that she was an intelligent woman who looked to the future for the benefit of her family.  Everything she did was for her family and she always put them first. 

A vineyard near where my dad lives. Taken one very cold July morning. Photography by Joluise

Whatever the answer, this particular woman was hard-working, shrewd, prudent, wise in her words and talented with her hands, intelligent, diligent and dignified, knew how to provide for her family and her servants, a skilful manager of her household, careful in her decision making and handling of finances. She was not idle or lazy in any way, in fact she was an incredibly strong woman. Her husband had full confidences in her (and her decision making) and considered her invaluable, likewise her children. 

She was one very capable woman that didn’t have time for sitting around relaxing or having cups of tea. She was far too busy.  

For us, she is the perfect example of a good and faithful wife and mother. And whether she ran a number of ventures (making garments for selling or running her vineyard), her main focus was on providing for her family and those around her first and foremost. She wasn't concerned about what others thought of her and her activities. And we need to do likewise. 

If you are a woman running your own business from home or one that needs to work, what is fundamental about Proverbs 31 is not whether she ran a business - but where her heart and commitment was - on her husband, her children, her home and most importantly with the Lord. 


This is not a verse to quarrel over. 

A field of vines not far from where I grew up. Photography by Joluise
*****

Comments

  1. Absolutely, Jo, I completely agree. I think the point of Proverbs 31 is to point out this woman's diligence, her hard work, her strength, her inner beauty and the fact that she was doing everything for the right reason - not to become rich or impress anyone or preach at anyone on the rights and wrongs of THEIR lifestyle, but rather to support and do good to her husband, her household and the poor and needy all the days of her life. She worked for a purpose, and she put her heart into it. She wasn't idle, she wasn't a gossiper and she didn't just *dream* - she *worked* and kept herself busy and thinking perceptively.
    We can all go away from reading Proverbs 31 a little wiser if we apply ourselves to this woman's wisdom and teach our daughters to do likewise and our sons to seek out such a woman - there is something for everyone in this passage. And yes, as you say, there is absolutely no cause for contention in it - each woman must seek the Lord in how to apply the words it contains to their own life and situation. I can't believe how people can find such contention in something that is really so straight forward - and really it highlights to me the way some people must have far too much idle time on their hands if all they can do with their time is contend about how others should occupy their time. It comes down to hypocrisy and a critical spirit, I believe. Idleness never results in righteousness.

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    1. As I was doing my research for this I came across many blogs who were all keen to make this verse fit their argument (paradigm) as if this is a verse to argue over. Its almost as if the size of the field is more important that this woman’s character - which is what IS important. This is a very straight forward verse as you point out so why try and find a hidden message when its not there. We can learn a lot from this verse and one being - don’t look over the fence to see what your neighbour is doing (and frowning upon what you think is wrong) - look to your family and do what is right for them.

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    2. People make me just shake my head sometimes. It's hard enough to get our own lives and families right - who has time to worry about how everyone else is going with getting it right??!

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  2. A lovely post. :) I really love the vineyard photos you posted as well! Have a lovely week!

    Warmly,
    Katy

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    1. Thankyou, those vineyards are in beautiful parts of the country.

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  3. I love the Proverbs 31 woman (she is my version of Wonder Woman :)! Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays...

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    1. She is the perfect role model for us women and she hasn't dated at all.

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  4. this is pretty interesting to me because for a long time the Proverbs 31 woman has intimidated me and actually made me feel like I was not good enough. In many ways I was reading this from the perspective of the old me-- someone who made a lot of mistakes. Once I fully grasped that I am no longer that person, reading about the Proverbs 31 woman became more like the role model I want to strive to be when I become a wife.

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    1. Hi - thanks for dropping by. The point of Proverbs 31 isn't that we can achieve everything she did (she was very remarkable) - but understand that all that she did, she did for her family - her husband and children and her household. It is her attitude that we need to follow: hard-working, shrewd, prudent, wise in her words and talented with her hands, intelligent, diligent and dignified, knew how to provide for her family and her servants, a skilful manager of her household, careful in her decision making and handling of finances. She was not idle or lazy in any way, in fact she was an incredibly strong woman. Her husband had full confidences in her (and her decision making) and considered her invaluable, likewise her children.

      We should never argue over the nitty gritty such as the size of the vineyard as it is not important. I also think she did what she believed was best and didn't get caught up in what others think - this is something we do far too much of these days. Especially in blog world.

      Thankyou for dropping by :))

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  5. This is a lovely post. :-)
    I personally think God is more concerned with where our hearts are at, than wither we work out of the home or not ;-)

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    1. Thanks Sandy - Thats how i see it, sadly some don't and make such a song and dance about it.

      Hope you are having a lovely weekend:)

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