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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 12:4



An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.

Adam Clarke Commentary

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband - חיל אשת esheth chayil, a strong woman. Our word virtue (virtus) is derived from vir, a man; and as man is the noblest of God's creatures, virtue expresses what is becoming to man; what is noble, courageous, and dignified: and as vir, a man, comes from vis, power or strength; so it implies what is strong and vigorous in principle: and as in uncivilized life strength and courage were considered the very highest, because apparently the most necessary, of all virtues; hence the term itself might have become the denomination of all excellent moral qualities; and is now applied to whatever constitutes the system of morality and moral duties. In some parts of the world, however, where arts and sciences have made little progress, strength is one of the first qualifications of a wife, where the labors of the field are appointed to them. It is not an uncommon sight in different parts of Africa, to see the wives (queens) of the kings and chiefs going out in the morning to the plantations, with their mattock in their hand, and their youngest child on their back; and when arrived at the ground, lay the young prince or princess upon the earth, which when weary of lying on one side, will roll itself on the other, and thus continue during the course of the day, without uttering a single whimper, except at the intervals in which its mother gives it suck; she being employed all the while in such labor as we in Europe generally assign to our horses. In these cases, the strong wife is the highest acquisition; and is a crown to her husband, though he be king of Bonny or Calabar. It is certain that in ancient times the women in Judea did some of the severest work in the fields, such as drawing water from the wells, and watering the flocks, etc. On this account, I think, the words may be taken literally; and especially when we add another consideration, that a woman healthy, and of good muscular powers, is the most likely to produce and properly rear up a healthy offspring; and children of this kind are a crown to their parents.

Is as rottenness in his bones - Does not this refer to a woman irregular in her manners, who by her incontinence not only maketh her husband ashamed, but contracts and communicates such diseases as bring rottenness into the bones? I think so. And I think this was the view taken of the text by Coverdale, who translates thus: "A stedfast woman is a crowne unto her hussbonde: but she that behaveth herself unhonestly is a corruption in his bones."

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Virtuous - The word implies the virtue of earnestness, or strength of character, rather than of simple chastity.

A crown - With the Jews the sign, not of kingly power only, but also of joy and gladness. Compare Song of Song of Solomon 3:11 .

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 12:4

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones

False affection

Delilah’s character, though but briefly drawn, is not without terrible significance.
In her we see a violation of the ties of life and properly-poised affection which makes us start; and yet by many among us this fault is committed and scarcely considered to be a fault. We hardly know a case of more affecting and heartless treachery than that of Delilah. Under the guise of love and in the apparently trusting confidence of affection a man is induced to tell a secret. There is a mixture of treachery, hypocrisy, cruelty, and perseverance about the whole which is remarkable. Yet is the
case so uncommon after all? Delilah’s conduct has few parallels in Scripture. It is a fearful contradiction--treachery and hypocrisy stand among its foremost features; conspiring with others, and those cruel and vindictive foes, against one who trusted her, is a strong aggravation of the evil. It would be scarcely worth while to dwell on a character like Delilah’s were it not that it bears on a certain condition of things among ourselves which we continually have brought under notice, especially among our poor--the determination to defend and protect at all hazards, through evil report and good report, the husband and near relative from the mere fact of his close relationship. It is often difficult to know how to treat persons whose prominent features are so beautiful and attractive, when the deeper lines of the character may perplex us by an indifference to truth, the glory of God and the zeal needful for His service, which deviation from such a line of uncompromising affection and defence necessitates. Illustrate the devotion of a woman who has a drunken husband, of a woman who has been wronged, or whose husband is a criminal. These are cases of heroism. What is the history of these feelings, these sad perversions of rectitude, and what are the remedies which we may apply to them? What is the object of these intense natural affections? Are they intended to blind the eyes to the faults of those we love? No. And yet the moral sense of mankind condemns Delilah, and honours these other women. They may be partially in error; no doubt they are, but the question is, Which tendency is right? The very object of strong natural affections is to give a tendency or prejudice which may, to a certain degree, supersede the mere dictum of justice. We are too weak, too frail, to endure the latter only. If we cannot stand at God’s tribunal neither can we endure man’s ignorant and partial judgment, when there is no counter impulse given by some other prejudicing principle. I say it with reverence; the justice of God is tempered by the love of the Incarnation, and the stern decree of bare judgment is toned down or reversed by the examination of motives and impulses, circumstances and temptations, which He alone can do who “knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust.” The office of natural affection in us gives a strong impulse in favour of, not adverse to, the dependent. And when justice decides that the extenuating circumstance is not enough to acquit, it forces itself on the forlorn and forsaken, goes out of court with the condemned criminal, sits by his side in mournful attitude in the cell, sings sweet words of sympathy through the dreary hours of punishment, “weeps with him who weeps,” and makes his sorrows its own. We can so little trust the keen eye of the most impartial justice. We need to see with some other eye. None looks so deeply as that of affection. It lets nothing escape which can defend, justify, save. Its object and aim--its interest is to defend from false blame; to detect palliating circumstances; to discover motives which may extenuate. And do we not need that protective power? Are any of us sufficiently fair judges of one another to allow of our demanding a state of society without the protecting influence of this strong and mighty advocate? Evidently we should value, not despise, the existence and exercise of natural affections. And more than this, they are to be brought into practical account. We should in every way encourage those who are pursuing that line of self-devotion and unselfish affection by showing them how beautiful we esteem their conduct, and how well it may be the stepping-stone to higher self-sacrifice to Him who yearns for their heart’s devotion. (E. Monro.)

The queen of the household

Here a virtuous woman is spoken of, and a virtuous woman is a true woman, chaste, prudent, modest, loving, faithful, patient in suffering, and brave in duty, keeping within the orbit of her sex, and lighting it with all the graces of womanhood. The language of the text implies two things.

I. That she exercises a control over her husband. A “crown” is the insignia of rule. A virtuous woman rules by the power of her love and the graces of her life. Beauty, tenderness, love, purity, are the imperial forces of life, and these woman wields.

II. That she confers a dignity upon him. A crown is a dignity.

1. Her excellence justifies his choice.

2. Her management enriches his exchequer.

3. Her influence exalts his character. Her gentle spirit and manners smooth the roughnesses of his character, refine his tastes, elevate his aims, and round the angles of his life. (Homilist.)

A husband’s crown

Woman’s place is important. God has made it so, and made her fit for filling it. Woman became the completion of man’s capacity and title--she became his crown. Let woman be content with the place that God has given her. The adaptation of the feminine character to be the companion and complement of man is one of the best defined examples of that designing wisdom which pervades creation. When the relations of the sexes move in fittings of truth and love, the working of the complicated machinery of life is a wonder to an observing man, and a glory to the Creator God. (R. F. Horton, D. D.)

Virtuous woman

The moral element is not excluded from this term “virtuous,” but it is latent and assumed rather than active and pronounced. It must be understood that the moral element is indeed essential; yet that does not impair the true etymology of the term. By “virtuous” we are to understand a woman of power--so to say, a virile woman; a woman of great capacity and faculty, of penetrating sagacity, and of ability to manage household and other affairs. She is a high-minded woman, giving the very best help to her husband in all the difficulties of life, crowning him with grace and with light, such a woman as he can trust in perplexity and exigency of every kind. She will not be less an intellectual woman or a woman of strong mind because she is morally pure, spiritually sympathetic, and religiously tender. She will not be less a philosopher because she is a true child of God. (J. Parker, D.D.)

A good wife a crown to her husband

A remarkable instance of helpfulness in a wife is presented in the case of Huber, the Geneva naturalist. Huber was blind from his seventeenth year, and yet he found means to study and master a branch of natural history demanding the closest observation and the keenest eyesight. It was through the eyes of his wife that his mind worked as if they had been his own. She encouraged her husband’s studies as a means of alleviating his privation, which at length he came to forget; and his life was as prolonged and happy as is usual with most naturalists. He even declared that he should be miserable were he to regain his eyesight. “I should not know,” he said, “to what extent a person in my situation could be beloved; besides, to me my wife is always young, fresh, and pretty, which is no light matter.” Huber’s great work on “Bees” is still regarded as a masterpiece, embodying a vast amount of original observation on their habits and natural history. Indeed, his descriptions read rather like the work of a singularly keen-sighted man than of one who had been entirely blind for twenty-five years at the time at which he wrote them. The married life of Faraday furnishes another example. In his wife he found, at the same time, a true help-mate and soul-mate. She supported, cheered, and strengthened him on his way through life, giving him “the clear contentment of a heart at ease.” In his diary he speaks of his marriage as “a source of honour and happiness far exceeding all the rest.” After twenty-eight years’ experience, he spoke of it as “an event which, more than any other, had contributed to his earthly happiness and healthy state of mind The union (he said) has in no wise changed, except only in the depth and strength of its character.” And for six-and-forty years did the union continue unbroken; the love of the old man remaining as fresh, as earnest, as heart-whole, as in the days of his impetuous youth.

Verse 5 The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.

On right thoughts

(see also Proverbs 23:7):--We are in reality what we are in our hearts, and not what we may be only in appearance. There may be a fair show, while many bad things prevail within. The Bible, therefore, teaches a religion for the heart, and it is alike suitable and necessary for every heart. We are required to keep our hearts with all diligence, but no one can be kept right who is not first set right. If a person is as he thinketh in his heart, his very salvation must depend much upon his thoughts. A due management of these must have a bearing upon everything else.

I. Some remarks on human thoughts. What an inconceivable number of these are continually rising up in all minds! Then what a mind His must be who knoweth all these thoughts! Our thoughts are weighed and judged by Him who searcheth all hearts. Thoughts pertain to moral agents, and partake of the moral qualities of the mind that breeds them. Self-scrutiny and self-knowledge are therefore important duties. Good thoughts are such as God approves according to His Word, and they are productive of good deeds. Evil thoughts are sinful in His sight, polluting to the soul, and productive of transgressions. Human thoughts differ much in their origin and cause, and this not only in different minds, but also in the same mind. There are suggested thoughts, such as are communicated by some outward agency. There are also voluntary thoughts, such as are deliberately pursued and cherished. And there are involuntary thoughts, such as seem to come and go at random. Some are momentary, others are more permanent; others, again, grow into settled designs, full determinations of the will. Evil minds ought to be under right government and control, so as to furnish prompt restraint and influence to its numerous and various thoughts.

II. The assertion concerning the thoughts of the righteous. Consider what it does not mean. All the thoughts of the righteous are not perfect and true. And it is only thoughts that are properly the righteous man’s own for which he is responsible. The text expresses what is the true and proper influence of religion upon the mind that receives it. That influence is of the right kind. Hence the great importance of being brought under the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, since it is precisely this which rectifies the mind.

1. True religion hath a prevailing influence upon the thoughts concerning God. Righteous men’s thoughts of God are reverential and devout.

2. True religion hath a prevailing influence upon the thoughts of the righteous concerning themselves. Their thoughts awaken them to a sense of their high destiny, quicken them in the path of duty, make them watchful against temptation, and lead to prayer and communion with God. Because the prevailing bias of the unrighteous is wrong, they disregard these things. Each one should therefore inquire, What is the character and tenor of my thoughts? (Essex Remembrancer.)

The righteous and the wicked contrasted

I. In their thoughts. Thoughts are the factors of character, and the primal forces of history. By thought man builds up his own world. The righteous man is righteous in heart: therefore his thoughts will be right. The heart is the spring of the intellect. The thoughts of the wicked are false. He lives in an illusory world.

II. In their speech. Words are the incarnations, the vehicles, and the weapons of thought. The words of the wicked are mischievous. The words of the righteous are beneficent.

III. In their standing. “The wicked are overthrown and are not, but the house of the righteous shall stand.” The wicked are insecure. The righteous are safe.

IV. In their reputation. The good commands the respect of society. The consciences of the worst men are bound to reverence the right. The evil awakes the contempt of society. Servility and hypocrisy may bow the knee and uncover the head before the wicked man in affluence and power, but deep in the heart there is contempt. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The righteous man and right

The verse has been rendered, “The policy of the just is honesty; the wisdom of the wicked is cunning.” This rendering marks more strikingly the intended distinction. The righteous man, in all his thoughts, keeps by what is right. He deals in rectitude, as opposed to deceit; and from his actions you may know his thoughts. The wicked man thinks one way and acts another. (R. Wardlaw.)

The thoughts of the righteous

As odorous flowers give out their fragrance so that we may inhale it, so the thoughts and affections of our spiritual nature go forth to be inbreathed again by other souls. On this ground, Jesus taught that when the Holy Spirit dwells in man, streams of holy influence flow forth from that man’s spirit. If a frail flower breathes sweetness into the general air, how much more a holy man? If a cesspool emits a pestiferous influence, how much more a bad man? (J Pulsford.)

The difference between the thoughts of the righteous and the wicked

There is a difference between good thoughts that ascend from the frame of our hearts and those that are injected from without. For instance, a gracious man’s holy thoughts ascend from the spiritual frame that is within his soul; but now a wicked man may have holy thoughts cast into him as a flash of lightning in the night, which doth not make a day; neither doth the injection of some holy thoughts argue the frame of his heart spiritual and holy. When he hath been hearing a warm sermon, then he thinks with himself, heaven deserves his choice, and eager pursuits; this is but from without, and therefore doth not argue that he is spiritual. (J. Pulsford)

The thoughts of the righteous are right

Take a river--let it be dammed and stopped up, yet, if the course of it be natural, if the vent and stream of it be to go downward, at length it will overbear, and ride triumphantly over: or let water that is sweet be made brackish by the coming in of the salt water; yet, if it naturally be sweet, at the length it will work it out. So it is with every man; look what the constant stream of his disposition is, look what the frame of it is; if it is grace, that which is now natural and inward to a man, though it may be dammed up, and stopped in such a: course for a while, yet it will break through all at the last; and though there be some brackish and some sinful dispositions that may break in upon a man, yet by the grace of God he will wear them out, because his natural disposition, the frame: of his heart, runs another way. (J. Pulsford.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 12:4". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"A worthy woman is the crown of her husband; But she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."

"A good wife is her husband's pride and joy; but a wife who brings shame on her husband is like a cancer in his bones."[5] The Coverdale Bible translated this place, "A stedfast woman is a crowne unto her hussbonde, but she that behaveth herself unhonestly is a corruption in his bones."[6]

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband,.... One that is loving and chaste, constant and faithful, obsequious and submissive to him; that is diligent in the affairs of her house, takes care of her family, brings up her children, and keeps up a good order and decorum among her servants, is an honour and credit to her husband. Such is the true church of Christ, who is compared to a woman, Revelation 12:1; to a woman of purity and chastity, whose members are virgins, not defiled with the corruptions, errors, and superstition of the apostate church; to a woman of fortitude and courage, as the wordF13אשת חיל "mulier virtutis", Montanus, Vatablus; "uxor strenua", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius; "mulier fortis", Pagninus, Gejerus. signifies, who resists sin, temptation, error, heresy, and idolatry, even unto blood; and whose true members love not their lives unto death, but freely lay them down in the cause of truth; such an one is an honour to Christ her husband;

but she that maketh ashamed; makes her husband ashamed, by her levity and wantonness, her negligence and slothfulness, so that he is ashamed to be seen with her, or to be known that he stands in such a relation to her; she

is as rottenness in his bones; a constant grief to his mind, a pressure upon his spirits, a wasting of his body, and a consumption of his estate; she is, as the Targum has it, "as a worm in wood", which rots and consumes itF14Such as are called Cossi, Tabani, Teredines, Thrypes; Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 1. c. 33. & l. 16. c. 41. ; so the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions. Thus the apostate church of Rome, that professes to be the spouse of Christ, has made him ashamed of her; as being the Jezebel, that seduces his servants to fornication or idolatry; and whose doctrine and superstition eat, like a canker, the vitals of religion.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

A virtuous woman — in the wide sense of well-disposed to all moral duties (Proverbs 31:10).

maketh ashamed — that is, by misconduct.

rottenness — an incurable evil.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

We now place together Proverbs 12:4-12. One proverb concerning the house-wife forms the beginning of this group, and four regarding the management of the house and business form the conclusion.

4 A good brave wife is the crown of her husband,

But as rottenness in his bones is one that causeth shame.

As Proverbs 11:16 says of אושׁת חן , the pleasant wife ( חן = χάρις ), that she obtaineth honour, so this proverb of אושׁת חיל , the good wife ( חיל = ἀρετή , virtus ), that she raises her husband to higher honour: she is for his self-consciousness στέφανος καυχήσεως (1 Thessalonians 2:19), and is also to him such a crown of honour before the world (cf. Proverbs 31:23). On the contrary, a מבישׁה , conducting herself shamefully (cf. regarding the double meaning of this Mishle word, which only here occurs in the fem., at Proverbs 10:5), is to her husband instar cariei in ossibus . רקב ( רקב , Proverbs 10:7) denotes both the caries and the worm-hole (cf. Job 41:19, עץ רקּבון , worm-eaten wood). Like as the caries slowly but continuously increases, till at last the part of the body which the bone bears and the whole life of the man falls to ruin; so an unhappy marriage gnaws at the marrow of life, it destroys the happiness of life, disturbs the pursuit, undermines the life of the husband.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Note, 1. He that is blessed with a good wife is as happy as if he were upon the throne, for she is no less than a crown to him. A virtuous woman, that is pious and prudent, ingenious and industrious, that is active for the good of her family and looks well to the ways of her household, that makes conscience of her duty in every relation, a woman of spirit, that can bear crosses without disturbance, such a one owns her husband for her head, and therefore she is a crown to him, not only a credit and honour to him, as a crown is an ornament, but supports and keeps up his authority in his family, as a crown is an ensign of power. She is submissive and faithful to him and by her example teaches his children and servants to be so too. 2. He that is plagued with a bad wife is as miserable as if he were upon the dunghill; for she is no better than rottenness in his bones, an incurable disease, besides that she makes him ashamed. She that is silly and slothful, wasteful and wanton, passionate and ill-tongued, ruins both the credit and comfort of her husband. If he go abroad, his head is hung down, for his wife's faults turn to his reproach. If he retire into himself, his heart is sunk; he is continually uneasy; it is an affliction that preys much upon the spirits.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

A wife who is pious, prudent, and looks well to the ways of her household, who makes conscience of her duty, and can bear crosses; such a one is an honour and comfort to her husband. She that is the reverse of this, preys upon him, and consumes him.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 12:4 A virtuous woman [is] a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed [is] as rottenness in his bones.

Ver. 4. A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.] Heb., A valiant woman; an able housewife, such as Bathsheba commends to her son, [Proverbs 31:10-31] and as Paul describes. [Titus 2:4-5] She is said to be a crown to her husband - not a ring for his finger, or a chain of gold for his neck, but a crown or garland for his head, a chief and choice ornament, as Sarah was to Abraham, as Livia to Augustus, as Placilla to Theodosius, as Nazianzen’s mother to her husband. (a)

Is as rottenness in his bones.] Not a disgrace only to him, but a disease, and such a disease, as is far worse than a quartan ague: for there be two good days for one bad; but here a continual pain, and hardly curable. The wise man here expresseth the mischief of an evil wife, by a very apt similitude. And that of Jerome is not much behind it, Sicut in ligno vermis, ita perdit virum suum uxor malefica. As the worm eats into the heart of the tree, and destroys it, so doth a haughty wife her husband. All evils, as elements, are most troublesome, when out of their proper place, as impiety in professors, injustice in judges, dishonour and discomfort in a wife, &c.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 4. A virtuous woman, a wife of moral power and probity, as shown in her pious activity in the home, is a crown to her husband, an emblem of honor and glory before the whole world; but she that maketh ashamed, causing him shame by her misconduct, is as rottenness in his bones, like a gnawing worm, a canker slowly undermining and destroying.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 12:4. A virtuous woman A strong woman, in the Hebrew, a woman of diligence or oeconomy. Solomon seems to intend by his appellation, a woman who has all the perfections of her sex; wisdom, modesty, prudence, virtue, and oeconomy and good management: and by her who maketh ashamed, he means the contrary; and particularly, a woman who dissipates her husband's substance in expensive follies; in the same manner as he called a libertine and prodigal son, a son that causeth shame. Chap. Proverbs 10:5. See chap. Proverbs 14:1 and Calmet.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

A crown; a singular ornament and matter of his glorying and joy.

That maketh ashamed; that by her folly or wickedness bringeth shame to herself and to her husband. As rottenness in his bones; loathsome, and vexatious, and pernicious.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. A virtuous woman אשׁת חיל, (esheth hhayil.) Hhayil denotes, primarily, strength, firmness, of body or mind; hence ability, capability, virtue, worth, etc. The probable meaning here is, a worthy woman or wife; or a capable woman; one having all the good qualities of her sex, and the necessary qualifications — physical, mental, and moral — for her position as a wife and mother. Compare Proverbs 31:10, and note; Proverbs 31:23; Proverbs 31:28; Ruth 3:11. Such a wife is, indeed, a crown of glory to her husband.

Husband — Literally, her lord. Compare Proverbs 31:10; Proverbs 31:23; 1 Corinthians 11:7.

She that maketh ashamed — Because she lacks these qualities — and qualifications, and has their opposites; but, especially, because of that disqualification and cause of shame — unfaithfulness to her marriage vows. See Proverbs 2:17.

Is as rottenness in his bones — Carries putrefaction through the bones; a metaphor, says Gesenius, of terror. The figure is sufficiently explicit and terrible. Compare Proverbs 14:30; Hebrews 3:16. The crown among the Hebrews was the sign of joy and gladness, as well as of royalty. Compare Song of Solomon 3:11.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 12:4. A virtuous woman — אשׁת חיל, a woman of strength, or vigour, (namely, of minds) of diligence, or economy. Thus אישׁ חיל, is rendered, Ruth 1:2. A man of valour. “Solomon seems to intend by this appellation, a woman who has all the perfections of her sex; wisdom, modesty, prudence, virtue, and, above all, economy and good management; and by her who maketh ashamed, he means the contrary; and particularly a woman who dissipates her husband’s substance in expensive follies; in the same manner as he called a libertine a prodigal son, a son that causeth shame,” chap. 10:5: see Calmet.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Diligent. Hebrew, "strong or virtuous," (Haydock) including all the perfections of the sex, and in particular those of economy and chastity, chap. xiv. 1., and xxxi. 10.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

virtuous = worthy. See Proverbs 31:10 and Ruth 31:11.

crown. Always used of a bridal or royal crown.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

A virtuous (literally, strenuous [ chayil (H2428)], as Ruth is called, Ruth 3:11) woman is a crown to her husband - "a crown" i:e., his chief ornament. "Her husband" - literally, her lord (cf. Proverbs 31:10; Proverbs 31:23; 1 Corinthians 11:7).

But she that maketh ashamed - by want of strenuousness, virtue, and prudence.

Is as rottenness in his bones - an incurable evil, affecting the inmost and most vital powers of mind and body; a plague in the privacy of home, as well as in public life. A disease in the bones is hard to cure.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) A virtuous woman.—Literally, of power, i.e., of ability and character, like the wife described in Proverbs 31, or the “able” men of Exodus 18:21.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.
14:1; 19:13,14; 31:10-25; 1 Corinthians 11:7,11
21:9,19; 27:15,16
14:30; Habakkuk 3:16

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Pro . Virtuous, literally "strenuous," "capable" (used in Rth 3:11).



I. A woman possessed of a quality which time will not destroy or impair. Virtue is not a mere negative good—it is not simply an absence of evil. A virtuous person is one who has overcome evil—one who is prevented from being a worker of evil by being a worker of good. Virtue is a thing of growth—human nature has to struggle to acquire moral excellence—to attain that strength of goodness which we call virtue. It has its seat in the regenerated heart. The river that is always flowing with pure, living water, is not fed from a cistern, but from a living spring which is in communication with the parent of waters. So virtue is not a native of this fallen world—it is of celestial birth—it is derived from the source of all goodness and consequently partakes of the indestructibility of all eternal things. There is no annihilation of virtue. Stabbing cannot kill it. Burning cannot destroy it. It will break the bonds of calumny and rise from the dead. Virtue adorns either sex, but it is especially attractive in a woman. It is her crown, and because she is so crowned, she crowns her husband.

II. Man needs such a woman to complete, or crown his life. Even the first man in his sinless condition, with all the peculiar joys springing from his sinless nature, felt his existence incomplete until God gave him the woman as the filling up—the crown and finish of his life. But this woman was crowned herself with innocence and purity or she could not have crowned her husband. If man in his sinless condition needed a wife to complete his life, how much more does he need now a virtuous woman to be a helpmeet for him.

1. He needs her because he needs help from virtue outside himself. The most perfect of imperfect men must lean upon some human support, and they will consciously or unconsciously do so. A man who has a virtuous wife has ever about him an atmosphere which is strengthening to his own virtue. She will help him to preserve his integrity more effectually than any other person because she is so constantly about his path. She will give him that moral sympathy which is so helpful to men struggling to keep a good conscience in an evil world, which is like oil to the wheels of life, and makes what would otherwise be very difficult easy and pleasant.

2. He needs an intellectual companion. He must have a rational and intelligent spirit in his home if his life is to be what God intended it to be—one with whom he can converse and to whom he can impart his thoughts on things human and divine. He cannot be crowned, in the full sense of the word, unless he has such a wife, and the word virtue may embrace intellectual vigour as well as moral excellence. (See Comments on the verse). When a man has such a wife as we have described his life is completed or crowned. The word among the Hebrews was also symbolic of joy and gladness (Son ), and such a woman is of necessity a joy to her husband.

III. The man who would be thus crowned must be wise in his choice of a wife. The most precious things are not generally to be obtained without some amount of seeking. Pebbles can be gathered upon any shore, but diamonds are only to be had for patient seeking. Pinchbeck ornaments are to be had for a trifle, but a golden diadem costs much money. There are plenty of women who may be won without much seeking, but a wife who is virtuous in the sense of the text is not to be met with every day or in every place. To find such an one he must ask counsel of Him who provided the first man with the woman who supplied his need in this respect. Though we have no record that Adam asked God for a helpmeet for him, yet we do not know that he did not. This we do know, that God's best gifts, as a rule, are only had for asking. And when we reflect upon the terrible blight that an ungodly, unsympathetic, incapable wife is to a man, causing him such shame as is "rottenness to his bones," we can fully see the need of seeking Divine guidance in forming a relationship which has so much to do with "making" or "marring" a man.


Here we have a king and a crown, a holy woman the crown; a happy man, the king. I. Inasmuch as a woman of grace is here called her husband's crown we learn that a good wife is the husband's best outward blessing, the worthiest mercy that a man may have in this world. It follows:

1. That as he who would be introduced into the crown of any kingdom or monarchy must match himself into the king's race, so, he that would be sure to have a crown for his wife must take the same course, he must marry into the house of heaven, with some one to whom the King of Kings is a father, and who is by grace of the lineage and offspring of the Lord of Hosts.

2. The wife being the husband's crown must be much respected by her husband. Crowns are no contemptible things. The Apostle Peter is exact in commanding this (1Pe ). She is called the "glory of the man" (1Co 11:7) and his companion (Mal 2:14) his second-self (Eph 5:28-29). If in these regards God hath made a woman an honour to a man, the Lord looks that man should give honour to a woman.

3. A wife being a crown, requireth maintenance as much as her husband's estate will afford. The crown must be maintained, it is for the honour and safety of the king, and for the content of the subjects that it have meet support. II. If the wife be the crown, the husband is the king. Therefore:

1. She must acknowledge him and obey him in all matrimonial loyalty and love. The proverb is, there is no service to compare with that of a king, but, certainly there is no king's service to this. Kings can give the greatest about them, but rewards when they have done their best; but the husband gives the wife himself for her obedience.

2. It is her duty to grace him. To be a woman, and to be a wife, is not enough to be a crown, a man may have both these and yet she that he hath may be a shame unto him. There go more than two words to this bargain; to be a woman, a wife, and gracious, and she that is so cannot fail of her glory.—John Wing (1620).

Man, though made for the throne of the world, was found unfit for the final investiture until he got woman as a help.… When the relations of the sexes move in fittings of truth and love, the working of the complicated machinery of life is a wonder to an observing man and a glory to the Creator God.… We need not be surprised by the announcement of the horrid contrast. It is according to law; the best things abused become the worst. Woman is the very element of home. When that element is tainted, corruption spreads over all its breadth and sinks into its core.—Arnot.

The word implies the virtue of earnestness, or strength of character, rather than of simple chastity.—Plumptre.

The weakness of women is never a reproach unto them, but when it appeareth in not resisting sin. And therefore the original is a woman of strength, such a woman as is by God's grace strong enough to withstand sin: a manlike woman, the Syriac hath it, in spiritual courage. But contrariwise she, who is not ashamed of her sinful weakness in yielding unto sin maketh him ashamed for whom she was created, and as rottenness in his bones destroyeth his strength, making him weak through grief, as she is through folly, for such grief enters deeply, and it is the bones that it wasteth, when she is naught who was made of man's bone.—Jermin.

Let man learn to be grateful to woman for this undoubted achievement of her sex, that it is she—she far more than he, and she, too often, in despite of him—who has kept Christendom from lapsing back into barbarism, kept mercy and truth from being utterly overborne by those two greedy monsters, money and war. Let him be grateful for this, that almost every great soul that has led forward, or lifted up the race, has been furnished for each noble deed, and inspired with each patriotic and holy aspiration, by the retiring fortitude of some Spartan—some Christian mother. Moses, the deliverer of his people, drawn out of the Nile by the king's daughter, some one has hinted, is only a symbol of the way that woman's better instincts outwit the tyrannical diplomacy of the man. Let him cheerfully remember, that though the sinewy sex achieves enterprises on public theatres, it is the nerve and sensibility of the other that arm the mind and inflame the soul in secret. Everywhere a man executes the performance, but woman trains the man.—Anon.

The figure in the second clause is strong. We may consider it as conveying two ideas!

1. The "bones" are the strength of the frame. Upon them the whole is built. There is, therefore, in the idea of caries, or rottenness in them, that of the wasting of the vigour of body and mind, and the bringing of the man prematurely to his grave; and that, too, by means which cost him, ere this result is effected, exquisite suffering.

2. The "bones" are unseen. The poor man is pierced with inward and secret agony, which he cannot disclose; pines in unseen distress—distress of which the cause is hidden, while the effects are sadly and rapidly visible.—Wardlaw.

"Capable;" sometimes "virtuous," literally strong. "It is well observed by Michaelis (Supp. No. 17), that in the early stages of society, when the government and laws had little influence, fortitude was the first and most necessary virtue; and might therefore naturally give its name to the other virtues. Hence virtus in Latin, and αρετη in Greek, which, according to their etymology, denote mainly strength and fortitude, came, at length, to signify virtue in general (Holder)." "Crown," that is

(1) ornament, and

(2) source of power. A virtuous woman is both to her husband. A spendthrift, drunken, or adulterous wife is so entrenched in our being, that our very bone, that is, our dearest interests (Psa ; Joh 19:36), are rotten, when these qualities begin their influence. A man, linked with such disorders, cannot complain of his inevitable reproof (Pro 12:1). Does he link himself with evil, he must partake of the storms that buffet it. Women, however, in all this book, seem to be types of qualities;—of Grace (Pro 11:16); of Wisdom (Pro 14:1); of Folly (Pro 9:13). The "virtuous woman" has not stood before us in all her true light, till she stands as Wisdom; nor "One that causes shame," till we make her Impenitency. "The virtuous or capable woman" is our "crown," for, with faith, all things are ours; and her great rival is our shame, for, with unbelief, there is "rottenness" in our very "bones." This disposition always to see a figure must not be set down as fanciful, till the Woman of Grace, of Folly, and of Wisdom, and other still more artificial cases (Rev 12:1), have been thoroughly considered.—Miller.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Proverbs 12:4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 12:4 — "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband" - Word Study on "virtuous" - Strong says the Hebrew word "virtuous" ( חַיִל) (H 2428) means "a force," and "an army, wealth, virtue, valor, strength." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 243times in the Old Testament Scriptures, being translated in the KJV as, "army 56, man of valour 37, host 29, forces 14, valiant 13, strength 12, riches 11, wealth 10, power 9, substance 8, might 6, strong 5, misc 33."

Comments- Regarding the definition of "force," this is what Jesus meant in Luke 8:46, when He said that virtue had gone out of Him.

Luke 8:46, "And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me."

The New Testament epistles list virtues and vices of men, their good characteristics and their bad ones. Therefore, the word "virtuous" here describes a woman of good moral character.

This Hebrew word describes a woman who is strong in godly character and well rounded in every area of her life. One authors translated this phrase as a woman of moral courage.

Word Study on "woman" - Strong says the Hebrew word "woman" ( אִשָּׁה) (H 802) means, "a woman." This word can be used broadly to refer to both a married and an unmarried woman. The Enhanced Strong says it is used 780 times in the Old Testament Scriptures, being translated in the KJV as, "wife 425, woman 324, one 10, married 5, female 2, misc 14."

Comments- In this passage of Scripture, there is a reference to a husband in Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 12:28, so scholars interpret this as "wife."

Comments- The phrase "a virtuous woman" literally, "a woman of strength," or "a woman of worth." A person"s strength is measured not by the outward Prayer of Manasseh , but by the inner Prayer of Manasseh , by a person who has a character with godly qualities and virtues. We see this idea of a person"s inner strength in other verses in Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:32, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

Proverbs 25:28, "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."

The word "virtuous" is the same word that is used in Exodus 18:21 to describe men of strong moral character.

Exodus 18:21, "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:"

It is the same word that describes Gideon as a might man of valour.

Judges 6:12, "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."

She is a woman that has control of her own spirit. This stability is in stark contrast to the instability of the whorish woman.

Proverbs 5:6, "Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them."

Note other verses that use the phrase, "a virtuous woman":

Ruth 3:11, "And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."

Proverbs 12:4, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."

Adam Clarke also notes the importance of the literal use of this word "virtuous" which means "strength." He notes how hard the woman works in agricultural societies and states that a strong woman is of great value to her husband. 101]

101] Adam Clarke, Proverbs , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Proverbs 12:4.

Word Study on "a crown" - To the Hebrew, the crown not only represents a reward of exaltation and recognition ( 1 Peter 5:4), but also of joy and gladness ( 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Song of Solomon 3:11).

1 Peter 5:4, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

1 Thessalonians 2:19, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"

Song of Solomon 3:11, "Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart."

Word Study on "husband" - Strong says the Hebrew word "husband" ( בַּעַל) (H 1167) means, "a master, hence, a husband." However, this word is seldom used as "husband in the Old Testament." The Enhanced Strong says it is used 82times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, " Prayer of Manasseh 25, owner 14, husband 11, have 7, master 5, man given 2, adversary 1, archers 1, babbler + 039561, bird + 036711, captain 1, confederate + 012851, misc 12."

Comments- Within the context of this verse in Proverbs , a woman who places herself under the authority of her husband is in a position to raise him up in honor.

Comments- The statement "a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: is a summary of the twenty-two (22) verses in Proverbs 31:10-31 that gives a description of a virtuous woman. This woman makes her husband stand out above other men and look like a leader. He is known in the gates of the city and sits among the wise men and elders ( Proverbs 31:23).

Proverbs 31:23, "Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land."

Proverbs 12:4 — "but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones" - Comments- The is the woman that embarrasses her husband, making him ashamed by her vices becomes a heaviness to his soul.

A heavy spirit affects his health wellbeing.

Proverbs 14:30, "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones."

Proverbs 17:22, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

Habakkuk 3:16, "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops."

The problem begins small and works itself into every area of the marriage and home, much as rottenness grows and spreads itself throughout the entire body. Such a man is not qualified to stand with the elders and speak wisdom.

Proverbs 12:4Comments- A woman is the glory of the man ( 1 Corinthians 11:7). Therefore, when the woman shines as a light of virtue, so does the man shine forth. The opposite is true. A foolish woman makes her husband also look foolish. By strengthening her husband, a virtuous woman establishes her home, but a foolish woman brings her household to ruin ( Proverbs 14:1).

1 Corinthians 11:7, "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man."

Proverbs 14:1, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands."

A man with a virtuous wife is full of gladness. He is made strong by the support and stability of a faithful wife. He is exalted among those in his society. In contrast, a man with a foolish woman carries around sorrow and grief. She brings him shame that lowers his reputation in the community. She takes away his strength and ultimately causes his downfall.

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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

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