The final passage of Proverbs describes this "Wife of Noble Character":
Proverbs 31:10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She senses that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness...
Women in Business
Contrary to many Christian stereotypes of proper female behavior, this passage does not depict the virtuous and praiseworthy wife as a submissive homebody whose sole purpose in life is to raise children and do dishes. No, this noble wife is a shrewd and profiting businesswoman! Even the Hebrew word for "noble character," often translated as "excellent" or "virtuous" literally means "power" or "strength." Of the 244 times this word is used in the Bible, it almost always means "strength", "army", or "wealth." The woman in Proverbs 31 is described in this manner, as is the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings (10:2) and 2 Chronicles (9:1). Her strength is mentioned several more times throughout this passage.
So what makes her so strong and noble?
As is obvious from the passage, women engaged in business as well as men in Biblical times. This particular woman profits from her skills (19), selective buying of imported raw materials (13), wise trading (24), hard work (15,17,27), managing of servants (15, 26) and money sense (18). As an effective businesswoman, this wife has a successful business plan. She creates her own wealth, not by taking advantage of the poor, but out her smart choices and hard work. After buying cheap raw materials, she sews them into linen garmets and belts and then sells them to merchants for a profit. But that' not all! After accumulating wealth with the work of her hands, she spends her seed money on an asset: land. She then proceeds to improve this asset by planting a vineyard, and she continually expands her money-making enterprise. She is "like the merchant ships" and brings riches to her household. Because she is so diligent and trustworthy in managing these affairs, the husband is free to serve in the political and judicial affairs at the court in the city gate (23,31), as is customary in those times .
Her noble use of money.
Part of what makes this virtuous wife so praiseworthy is what she does with her wealth. She provides for her family and servants, but then she helps the poor and needy out of her excess. Her wise use of time and money enables her to be charitable, just like Lydia in the New Testament.
After she has provided for the needs of many, she still has the means for a little luxury. She clothes her entire household with the finest scarlet linens and purple bed coverings. She is in a position of confidence, and doesn't need to stress about the future (25). Her household is prepared for variable conditions and disasters, such as a blizzard hitting Judea (21). While "she can laugh at the days to come," she wont let her wealth make her too comfortable. The wife of noble character will never "eat the bread of idleness" and she "fears the Lord."
Because of these characteristics, this wife gains the praise of her husband and those at the city gate (28,31). Even her children called her blessed (28).
Pictures above: 1. A depiction of business women traveling in the ancient Near East 2.The Queen of Sheba conducts business with King Solomon 3. A coin from New Testament Judea, under the reign of Vespasian.