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Proverbs 16:31

Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.

Why is gray hair is a crown of glory? I think when people get old, their hair is just automatically turned into gray. Am I missing something here?

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The Hebrew word used here for "gray head" appears to be שֵׂיבָה, "gray head" or simply "old age". As far as I know, this may be translated as plain as "old age". In various other biblical places this is simply "old age" (Genesis 15:15; Ruth 4:15; 1 Kings 2:6 etc)

As one of the concluding reminders of chapter 16, the verse 31 is a statement saying that the length of days, the old age, is viewed as a blessing of the Lord upon the life of one who lives by God’s will - which is an important teaching in the Proverbs. In other words, old age (long life) is seen as a reward of right doing, of a life lived with wisdom:

Proverbs 3:2

... for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. (ESV) - please see context

Proverbs 3:16

Long life is in her [wisdom's] right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. (ESV)

See also: Sirach 1:12

The fear of the Lord maketh a merry heart, and giveth joy, and gladness, and a long life. (KJV+Apocrypha)

The author of the book of Proverbs assumes that a bad man may not live to be old, he will perish early. See:

Proverbs 2:22

... but the wicked will be cut off from the land ... (ESV)

  • here, the KJV goes:

"shall be cut off from the earth"

Proverbs 12:7

The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.

See also: Sirach 16:4

For by one that hath understanding shall the city be replenished: but the kindred of the wicked shall speedily become desolate (KJV+Apocrypha)

In this perspective, the verse is a sign of the respect for the aged, according to Leviticus 19:32

Leviticus 19:32 You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Just as in

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.

Now considering the relation between right doing and length of days (old age) as a blessing, please do keep in mind that this is an important teaching in Proverbs, not in the whole of the Bible.

See more in: Smith, J. E. Smith, "The wisdom literature and Psalms (Pr 16:31-33)", College Press Pub. Co., Joplin, Mo., 1966

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