Proverbs 11:16

ESV A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
NIV A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth.
NASB A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches.
CSB A gracious woman gains honor, but violent people gain only riches.
NLT A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.
KJV A gracious woman retaineth honor: and strong men retain riches.
NKJV A gracious woman retains honor, But ruthless men retain riches.

What does Proverbs 11:16 mean?

This verse suffers from translation from one language to another. The subtle point made here is easily lost when moving to a different culture or speech pattern. In this case, Solomon is still making contrasts. Here, he points to a woman who exhibits grace, and the respect she gains from others, as opposed to the money earned by those who are graceless. The implication is that a gracious person can earn both respect and income, whereas the callous person can only gain money. The context of this passage shows the callous person's approach to be an extremely poor investment (Proverbs 11:4, 7). Some translations hint at this implication by adding the word "only," though there's no equivalent to this in the Hebrew text, itself.

First Samuel 25 reports an incident illustrating the difference between an unkind man, Nabal, and his kind wife, Abigail. Abigail was "discerning and beautiful," but Nabal was "harsh and badly behaved" (1 Samuel 25:3). In fact, Nabal's name literally means "fool," and the root Hebrew word is used exactly that way in certain verses of Proverbs (Proverbs 17:7; 30:22).

David and his men were in the wilderness and in need of food as they protected local shepherds. He dispatched ten young men to request food from Nabal, the master of some of those shepherds. Although Nabal was very rich, and had 3,000 sheep and a thousand goats, he refused to grant David's request. When Abigail, Nabal's wife, learned about this, she hurried and carried abundant provisions to David. Soon, Nabal suffered a fatal heart attack, and Abigail became David's wife. The kind woman received honor, but the violent man obtained only riches, which he left behind in death.
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