Questions From Readers
▪ Why does the rendering of Proverbs 11:16 in the New World Translation differ from some other translations, and how is this verse to be understood?
According to the New World Translation, Proverbs 11:16 reads: “A woman of charm is the one that takes hold of glory; but the tyrants, for their part, take hold of riches.”
This is a careful rendering of the verse as preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic text, and it is similarly translated in many other modern versions.—Revised Standard Version, The Jerusalem Bible, Moffatt, Darby.
Yet, because of having difficulty understanding this verse, some Bible translators have attempted to make it plainer. They have done so after the pattern of the Septuagint Version, an early translation from Hebrew into Greek. In the following quotation from that version we italicize the portion that is not rendered from the Hebrew text:
“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 [footnote, “manly”] support themselves with wealth.”—Proverbs 11:16, Bagster’s Septuagint Version.
Today’s English Version and the Catholic New American Bible are two recent versions in the English language that expand the verse in this way. The German-language Göttinger Bibelwerk does also, but says: “The Greek translation that we have followed has added two lines and thereby made two distinct and separate proverbs, both of which convey a clear thought; whether they are in agreement with the original text, however, is still questionable.”—Volume 16, page 51.
There is, though, no need to follow a “questionable” rendering. The sense of this verse can be understood from the Hebrew text, such as the Biblia Hebraica by Rudolf Kittel upon which the New World Translation is based. The verse draws a contrast between the enduring glory that a godly woman may obtain and the transitory riches that a tyrant acquires.
The Bible shows that practical wisdom, thinking ability and proper use of the tongue contribute to a person’s value and charm. (Proverbs 3:21, 22; 4:7-9; 22:11; Psalm 45:1, 2) Certainly that can be true of a woman, as we can see from Abigail, the wife of foolish Nabal. Though she was “good in discretion and beautiful in form,” David particularly praised Abigail for her “sensibleness.”—1 Samuel 25:3, 33.
Any godly woman who acquires true charm through wisdom, sensibleness and wise use of her tongue will receive “glory.” She will achieve “glory” in the eyes of her husband, if married, and be well spoken of by others. This reflects well on and brings “glory” to the entire family. Nor need hers be a fleeting glory. Proverbs 22:1 says: “A name is to be chosen rather than abundant riches; favor is better than even silver and gold.” The good name of a true worshiper has permanent value in the eyes of our God and Life-Giver.—See Acts 9:36-39.
Contrast that with a tyrant, as the proverb does. The Scriptures categorize tyrants with ‘wicked men’ and men who are ‘adversaries’ of those worshiping Jehovah God. (Job 6:23; 27:13) Tyrants “have not set God in front of them.” (Psalm 54:3) Such a man, by suppressing and taking advantage of the innocent, may “pile up silver like dust itself.” Yet at any time he may lie down and not arise. Or any day that he opens his eyes may be his last. Then all his wealth and accomplishment amount to nothing.—Job 27:16, 19; compare Luke 12:16-21.
Though a tyrant may have taken hold of riches and trust in these, his confidence is misplaced. Later in the same chapter of Proverbs we read: “The one trusting in his riches—he himself will fall.”—Proverbs 11:28.
Hence, Proverbs 11:16 should bring home to us an important lesson. The tyrant’s riches, which may seem to be a mark of success in this world, have no lasting value with God. It is possible, though, to win His approval. The “glory” gained by those who fear God—well illustrated by Christian women—can bring endless blessing.—1 Peter 3:1-6.