What does Proverbs 16:16 mean?
ESV: How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
NIV: How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!
NASB: How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.
CSB: Get wisdom -- how much better it is than gold! And get understanding -- it is preferable to silver.
NLT: How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!
KJV: How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
Verse Commentary:
As he does in many other places (Proverbs 1:2; 3:19; 8:1; 10:13), Solomon places an extremely high value on wisdom and understanding. Throughout history, many have striven for material wealth. They think of money—in this verse, gold and silver—as the ultimate prize. Yet from God's perspective, true worth is found in what a person learns through a right relationship with him (Proverbs 1:7). The pursuit of monetary wealth, instead of wisdom, can lead to destruction (Proverbs 15:16; 16:8). Famous, wealthy, successful people are not immune to depression, despair, unhappiness, and even suicide.

Paul gives Timothy a warning to pass along to those overly concerned with gaining wealth. He writes, "If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptations, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:8–9). The expression "money doesn't buy happiness" is oversimplified, but it's undeniably true that having money does not guarantee peace, or joy. In fact, lasting joy is found only through the spiritual growth brought by a right relationship with God (Philippians 3:7–8).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 16:16–26 focuses on righteousness, pride, humility, faith, speaking, and industrious labor. Again, we see the contrast between the upright and fools, as well as between diligence and laziness. Many of these proverbs come in a two-sentence style, where each presents the same idea from different directions of thought.
Chapter Summary:
This part of Solomon's proverbs emphasizes human motives, self-control, and common sense. Many of these proverbs are arranged in a two-part style. The first and second half of these statements make the same basic point, but from opposite perspectives. Notable verses are verses 9 and 33, speaking of God's sovereignty, and verse 18, a famous warning about arrogance. Also often cited is verse 25, which repeats Proverbs 14:12 and encourages self-reflection.
Chapter Context:
A lengthy list of Solomon's wise sayings began in chapter 10. Chapter 16 begins a section mostly composed of comparisons and completions. It extends to Proverbs 22:16. Man's thoughts, speech, motives, and conduct are examined in this chapter. The chapter also addresses pride, evil, and injustice.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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