A kind-hearted woman gains honour,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.
An English teacher would have given this proverb poor marks for its attempt at making a contrasting parallel. It goes from singular to plural, from woman to man, and the objects do not match. One would think that violent men would get dishonor. But they get the money. And as far as they are concerned, they get the better end of the bargain.
But then, the writer would note, they are fools. Their very problem is that they get what they value, and only what they value. And, as other proverbs note, they get the wrong end of the bargain. Consider these:
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death (11:4).
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf (11:28).
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold (22:1).
An implied contrast between the gracious woman and the violent men is that the latter obtain mere money. To be gracious, by its very nature, means that the woman’s goal is to bless others. One can feign to be gracious in order to win honor, but one cannot actually be gracious with the same goal in mind. Virtue actually is its own reward, or achieves its reward. For honor will come from other people, but especially from God the Just Rewarder, and the only rewarder who matters.
1 Samuel 13
13 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel for forty-two years.
2 Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Michmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.
3 Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, ‘Let the Hebrews hear!’ 4 So all Israel heard the news: ‘Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.’ And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.
5 The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand[c] chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Michmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.
Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited for seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, ‘Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.’ And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
11 ‘What have you done?’ asked Samuel.
Saul replied, ‘When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12 I thought, “Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favour.” So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.’
13 ‘You have done a foolish thing,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.’
15 Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.
Israel without weapons
16 Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeah of Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17 Raiding parties went out from the Philistine camp in three detachments. One turned towards Ophrah in the vicinity of Shual, 18 another towards Beth Horon, and the third towards the borderland overlooking the Valley of Zeboyim facing the wilderness.
19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, ‘Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!’ 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their ploughshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. 21 The price was two-thirds of a shekel for sharpening ploughshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.
22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.
Jonathan attacks the Philistines
23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Michmash.