Sunday, 7 June 2015

Proverbs 11 - The beauty with the gold nose ring

In this second blog on the Book of Proverbs, I have gender assigned the word 'unrighteous' to a woman and 'righteous' to a man. Contained in Proverbs 11 is the startling image of a beautiful woman wearing a gold nose ring (known as a 'nezem'). Some women in the West wear small ones, today. Women in the East wore, and still sometimes wear, a ring pierced through the nostril. Abraham's servant gave one to Rebekah but the female imagined in Proverbs 11 has lost all ‘taste’ in terms of the purity and virtue of her soul. She really loves 'dirt', not beauty. Verse 22 says:

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

The Bible is saying that beauty bestowed on an unrighteous woman is like fitting a gold ring through the nose of an animal that enjoys wallowing in the mud. William Shakespeare called female beauty a "jewel". The precious jewel loses its lustre as people experience the reality. Not only is the pig in the Hebrew tradition unclean - but the strange incongruity is clear for all to see. Shakespeare developed this idea in Sonnet 94. He felt that those whose inner character is unrighteous are only the 'stewards' of their own faces, not the owners.

The Unrighteous Woman
This unrighteous, if beautiful and ambitious woman is devious, duplicitous and cruel. She habitually uses dishonest scales to judge and destroy others. She backbites, potentially destroying her family and bringing about her own ruin. She is the 'material girl’, seeking and possibly attaining riches, fine houses and fine clothes, only to find herself trapped by them, since their promise of power comes to nothing. She lacks reputation. She is not known for her charitable giving, instead ruled by her desires. She is an untrustworthy gossip, a troublemaker. If people tell her secrets, she shouts them from the rooftops, destroying others. When she dies, people sigh with relief.

The Righteous Man
The righteous man is humble and just, guided by his integrity. His path is not crooked. He is saved by knowledge. He does not trust in men but in God. He does not slander others and keeps secrets shared with him. He gains honour, through his kind heartedness, concern and generosity. He refreshes others. He reaches out with what he has to share it with others in need. His life is like a flourishing tree, its 'fruit' literally saving lives.

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