Original Research - Special Collection: Biblical values on social change

‘Wealthy women’ in Antiquity: The ‘capable woman’ of Proverbs 31:10–31 and Mibtahiah from Elephantine

Antje Labahn
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 48, No 1 | a1832 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v48i1.1832 | © 2014 Antje Labahn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 April 2014 | Published: 17 December 2014

About the author(s)

Antje Labahn, Privatdozentin, Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel, Germany and Extraordinary Associate Professor, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus,, South Africa


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Abstract

This article compares the anonymous ‘capable woman’ of Proverbs 31 with Mibtahiah of Elephantine. Both women are presented as wealthy occupiers of estates with economic success and influence in society. Both literary portraits unfold positive attitudes towards female characters, but present two divergent gender conceptions. The construction of Proverbs 31 depicts the ‘capable woman’ as an ideal character who amalgamates various social female roles and benefits from acting according to the wisdom teachings. The ‘capable woman’ provides a literary model of identification and imitation with an offer to share one’s identity with her. The Elephantine papyri reveal a divergent conception of another wealthy woman with influence insociety. Mibtahiah inherits an estate and enlarges her domain through additional economical purchase. She also takes a leading role in her family. The social role of Mibtahiah seems to be comparatively progressive, since the documents clearly indicate a juridical equalisation of men and women. The two conceptions of influential female characters present wealthy woman with potential in society. Thus, the positive attitude towards the two women is based on their wealth.

 

‘Welvarende vroue’ in antieke tye: Die ‘knap vrou’ van Spreuke 31:10−31 en Mibtahiahvan Elephantine. Hierdie artikel vergelyk die anonieme ‘knap vrou’ van Spreuke 31 met Mibtahiah van Elephantine. Albei vroue word voorgehou as die welvarende, invloedryke en ekonomies suksesvolle eienaars van landgoedere. Albei letterkundige weergawes openbaar ’n positiewe ingesteldheid teenoor vroulike karakters, maar verteenwoordig twee uiteenlopende geslagskonsepte. Spreuke 31 beeld die ‘knap vrou’ uit as die ideale karakter wat die verskeie rolle van die vrou met gemak hanteer en voordeel uit wysheidsonderrig trek. Die ‘knap vrou’ is ’n navolgenswaardige model met wie iemand sou wou identifiseer. Die Elephantine papyri openbaar ’n verskillende perspektief op ’n ander welgestelde en invloedryke vrou, Mibtahiah, wat ’n landgoed erf en deur verdere aankope. Sy speel ook ’n leidende rol in haar familie. Dit blyk asof die sosiale rol wat Mibtahiah gespeel het betreklik progressief was omdat die geskrifte ’n duidelike juridiese gelykmaking van mans en vroue aandui. Hierdie twee konsepte van invloedryke vroulike karakters stel die vermoënde vrou met potensiaal in die samelewing voor. Dus is die positiewe houding teenoor die twee vroue op hulle welvarendheid gebaseer.

 


Keywords

Women; Proverbs; Elephantine; Egypt; Wealthy estate

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