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Enduring Honor of a Gracious Godly Woman
Proverbs 11:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 A gracious woman attains honor,
and ruthless men take hold of riches.
The discussion around this verse has been about what exactly is being contrasted here. Is the contrast between graciousness and ruthlessness so as to attain or take hold of something, between women and men, or between honor and wealth? It should be noted as well that it is only here in this verse in Proverbs that men are contrasted with women.
A gracious woman attains honor: The Hebrew word (chen) rendered gracious is an attractiveness about a person that interests or pleases others, such as being courteous, kind, pleasant, elegant, and tasteful. The woman here is lovely, graceful, elegant, and attractive. Such a woman attains honor (כָּבוֹד kabod), that is, high praise and respect because of her good name or reputation.
and ruthless men take hold of riches: Ruthless (עָרִיץ arits) men are cruel, fierce, acting very harsh, and having no mercy or pity for another. These men instill terror or fear in others. Riches (עָשַׁר ashar) refers to an abundance of material possessions and resources. It is having possessions, finances, and resources above and beyond the norm, emphasizing wealth.
The contrast here is between the enduring honor that a gracious godly woman may attain and the fleeting, temporary, momentary riches (wealth) that a ruthless man takes hold of (acquires). The book Proverbs and the Psalms show us that wisdom, common sense, good judgment, and the choice of the right words give a person value and charm. (Proverbs 3:21-22; 4:7-9; 22:11; Psalm 45:1-2) This is true of a man or a woman. And the truly genuine woman of God who attains true honor through her wisdom, her reasonableness, sensibleness, shrewdness, and the wise use of her tongue will receive honor. She will achieve honor in the eyes of God, her husband, and her family. And she will be well spoken of by others. Proverbs 22:1 says: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches …” The good name of a truly genuine worshiper has enduring, eternal value in the eyes of our God.
Then, the Proverb contrasts that with the ruthless man, and elsewhere God’s Word categories such ones as wicked men and men who are adversaries of God’s true servants. (Job 6:23; 27:13) Ruthless men seek to harm God’s people and “do not set God before themselves.” (Psalm 54:3) In this imperfect, fallen world, such men, by overpowering and taking advantage of the innocent; may “pile up silver like dust itself.” (Job 27:16, 19; compare Luke 12:16-21) The ruthless man has taken hold of riches and has placed his trust in wealth; this confidence is seriously misplaced, for it is momentary at best. Later in the same chapter of Proverbs, we read: “He who trusts in his riches will fall.” – Proverbs 11:28.
Hence, Proverbs 11:16 should wake us up to a crucial lesson. The ruthless man’s riches may seem like a mark of success in Satan’s world, yet there is no value in the eyes of God. However, it is possible to find favor with God. The honor attained by those fearing God is exemplified by the history of women servants, such as Sarah, Ruth, Abigail, Esther, and Mary.