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Proverbs 11:16

New American Standard Bible 1995

16 A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches.

Proverbs 11:16

English Standard Version

16 A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.

Proverbs 11:16

New King James Version

16 A gracious woman retains honor, But ruthless men retain riches.

Proverbs 11:16

King James Version

16 A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.

Some Biblehub.com commentaries

( Reference: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/proverbs/11-16.htm )

Matthew Poole's Commentary A gracious woman, Heb. a woman of grace and favour, i.e. one who by her meekness, and modesty, and prudence, and other virtues, renders herself acceptable and amiable to God and to men.

Retaineth honour, or holdeth fast her honour or good reputation, with no less care and resolution than strong men do riches, as it here follows.

And strong men retain riches; or, as strong men, &c.; for so this conjunction is oft used in this book, of which we have seen some, and may afterwards see more instances.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible Or, "The gracious woman wins and keeps honor, as (the conjunction may be so rendered) strong men win riches."

Most of the bible translations that I quickly reviewed seem to just equate the following 2 clauses:

A) A gracious woman attains honor

B) ruthless men attain riches

which seems wrong. The reason being is that it is understandable to view a gracious woman in a good light because she attains honor for her graciousness. However, it seems Wrong to uphold the ruthless/violent man for attaining riches due to his ruthlessness/violent nature.

However, based on the biblehub.com 's various commentaries, I'm inferring that the Hebrew conjunction used in Proverbs 11:16 to join the aforementioned 2 clauses is more like "as" or "like" as opposed to an "and" which is used in most english bible translations.

I even looked at the more thought-for-thought bible translations, however, they use "but"

Proverbs 11:16

New International Version

16 A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth.

Proverbs 11:16

New International Reader's Version

16 A woman who has a kind heart gains honor. But men who are not kind gain only wealth.

and the paraphrase bible translation even uses "but":

Proverbs 11:16

The Message

16 A woman of gentle grace gets respect, but men of rough violence grab for loot.

I'm kind of surprised that the thought-for-thought and paraphrase bible translations do Not use "as" or "like" or something to that effect in their translations for Proverbs 11:16.

11:16 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex

אֵֽשֶׁת־חֵ֭ן תִּתְמֹ֣ךְ כָּבֹ֑וד וְ֝עָרִיצִ֗ים יִתְמְכוּ־עֹֽשֶׁר׃

Could someone please read the original Hebrew, and provide some explanation as to what the original Hebrew states in Proverbs 11:16? ( More specifically, please feel free to give some explanation on the conjunction being used)

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  • The original Hebrew text is lost. We only have the Masoretic Text and ancient translations like the Septuagint available.
    – user33515
    Apr 3, 2022 at 15:24

2 Answers 2

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For the whole text, I would just repeat the something like Bible Hub interlinear, Gracious women retain glory and ruthless men retain riches (or Gracious gals get glory and ruthless rakes retain riches - but the alliteration in the Hebrew is only in the second half.).

אֵֽשֶׁת־חֵ֭ן תִּתְמֹ֣ךְ כָּבֹ֑וד וְ֝עָרִיצִ֗ים יִתְמְכוּ־עֹֽשֶׁר׃

I have put the conjunction in bold, can you see it? It is the little Wav symbol (וְ֝). It is the letter used at the start of the second clause to link the two clauses together. Normally translated as "and" or "but".

There is nothing in the Hebrew text that would lead us to think that this is a simile (thus using like or as). There are words in Hebrew for like such as דָּמָה, or perhaps instead of using wav you'd use kaf as a preposition. None of that is here. We only have "wav".

Indeed, instead of being a simile it is almost the opposite. The combining of the two clauses through the wav is making a comparison and a contrast. However, while the Hebrew wav is agnostic on the degree of contrast, the English translators have to make a choice between "and" and "but".

Is that glorifying the violent man his riches?

One could try taking it that way, but is a stretch. Really, this text is value-neutral, we have to impose our values - perhaps derived by other parts of Proverbs. If you come in thinking that glory is better than riches, then you will want to be like the gracious woman. If you think riches are better then honour, then you're wrong.

What it communicates is these things (and more):

  1. Violent/ruthless men get riches not glory.
  2. Women can get glory
  3. Women getting glory is related to being favoured
  4. Riches can be gotten by being ruthless

That fourth one is most interesting, since depending on your value system coming into the verse that can lead to a lower view or riches rather than a higher view of ruthlessness; even putting aside the gracious woman contrast.

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As another answer pointed out וְ (w) can mean either "and" or "but", depending on context. Elsewhere in the Old Testament (Masoretic + KJV):


בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth [הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ] (Genesis 1:1)


וּמֵעֵ֗ץ הַדַּ֙עַת֙ ט֣וֹב וָרָ֔ע לֹ֥א תֹאכַ֖ל מִמֶּ֑נּוּ כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם אֲכָלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת׃

But of the tree [וּמֵעֵ֗ץ] of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:17)


A popular Jewish translation, the JPS Tanakh, drops the conjunction altogether:

A graceful woman obtains honor; Ruthless men obtain wealth.

Another Jewish translation, by Rabbi Rosenberg, is consistent with the NKJV, contrasting the two people:

A charming woman draws near to honor, but strong men draw near to riches.


Interestingly, the Septuagint version of Proverbs 11:16 reads altogether differently, which may mean it is either a freer translation or that it points to a different proto-Hebrew text (I think the latter is more likely):

γυνὴ εὐχάριστος ἐγείρει ἀνδρὶ δόξαν,
[θρόνος δὲ ἀτιμίας γυνὴ μισοῦσα δίκαια.]
[πλούτου ὀκνηροὶ ἐνδεεῖς γίνονται,]
οἱ δὲ ἀνδρεῖοι ἐρείδονται πλούτῳ.

A gracious wife brings glory to her husband:
[but a woman hating righteousness is a theme of dishonour.]
[The slothful come to want:]
but the diligent support themselves with wealth.

The Vulgate, which is based on a proto-Hebrew text dating sometime between the Septuagint and the Masoretic, is consistent with the Masoretic Text rather than the Septuagint. As far as I could tell there is no Dead Sea Scroll version of Proverbs 11 available.

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