What does Proverbs 18:16 mean?
ESV: A man 's gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.
NIV: A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.
NASB: A person’s gift makes room for him And brings him before great people.
CSB: A person’s gift opens doors for him and brings him before the great.
NLT: Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!
KJV: A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
NKJV: A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.
Verse Commentary:
The comment made here resembles other observations in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 17:8; 21:14). Scripture does not endorse something unethical but notes the reality of gifts and influence. In this context, the "gift" is not an outright bribe—as in English, Hebrew uses separate terms for the two concepts. Using presents to create a favorable impression is a common technique (Proverbs 19:6). Scripture includes multiple instances where gifts were offered to demonstrate sincere goodwill (Genesis 24:53; 33:10; 1 Samuel 25:27; Daniel 2:48).

Every culture has seen examples of money purchasing favor from influential people. Rich people have sometimes gained admission for their children into prestigious colleges. Lobbyists spend large amounts of money seeking the favor of politicians. Occasionally, an overt bribe has brought a favorable decision from a corrupt judge. However, neither money nor any gift can earn one's way into heaven. The apostle Peter writes: "that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Peter 1:18–19). Eternal life cannot be bought; it is "the free gift of God…in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 18:16–24 provides practical advice on a variety of matters. Other proverbs in this chapter are echoed in statements about objectivity and unity. Solomon addresses areas such as bribery, quarrels, reconciliation, the power of speech, marriage, and an unfortunate difference between the poor and the rich. The last remark in the section notes the difference between quality and quantity in friendships.
Chapter Summary:
This segment of Solomon's wise sayings includes several well-known and often-repeated remarks. Among these are references to God's "name" as a place of safety, the connection between pride and catastrophe, the value of a godly spouse, and the intimate loyalty of a good friend. As in other parts of the book of Proverbs, these teachings are tied to warnings about the consequences of poor decisions.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 18 continues a long string of wise sayings attributed to Solomon. These began in chapter 10 and will continue through chapter 22. This section contains numerous references to fair-mindedness and seeking out truth from multiple sources. Diligent responsibility—in words, actions, and beliefs—is a notable emphasis in this segment.
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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