A golden ring in a swine’s snout, a woman fair and foolish.

A golden ring in a swine's snout, a woman fair and foolish.

Great Lent, the Fourth Week, Vespers, Proverbs 11:22 from the selection: Prov 11:19-12:6


The Proverbs has many pithy and sometimes humorous phrases.


What a sight it would be to see a woman, beautiful in all ways, except that she has the nose of a pig, with a ring in it! I daresay it would be much easier to avoid the lust of the eyes as soon as our gaze lights upon that nose with that ring!


Perhaps you have the same humorous image I had when I read this verse. Sometimes humor can help us, and although this verse can be thought of as humorous, it speaks of a multitude of sins which we must avoid.


The “Fair (beautiful) and foolish woman (or any person)” is foolish because of their vanity. Their beauty was given by God, or perhaps they altered their image by surgery, but in any case, it was not earned. It is foolish to be proud, but even more so, to be vain about things which are trifles, or which we have no control.

It is also foolish to value external beauty, or money, or anything that is temporary.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The foolish vain person sees himself in a flattering light, but to God, and those with God's wisdom, he appears foolish. In a like way,


A golden ring in a swine's snout:

a man rich and foolish

a famous man and foolish

a man who is proud of his family, or ethnicity, or education, and foolish.


A pig is an unclean animal. We are unclean when we are proud of our few accomplishments, our looks, or wealth, or position, or anything we have, and do not cultivate the virtues.

7 Responses to “A golden ring in a swine’s snout, a woman fair and foolish.”

  1. Deborah says:

    Not only is there the foolishness of vanity over things which are gifts from God, but there is the foolishness of sin, in general.  Giving the gift of beauty (or intellect, wit, wealth, intelligence or talent) to a woman–or man, who uses these gifts selfishly, pridefully and foolishly, without discretion, is like putting a beautiful piece of jewelry on a pig.  The pig isn't made more attractive and it doesn't benefit from having a ring in its nose. In fact, it is hampered by it.  (I read that rings are put on the snouts of pigs to keep them from being able to forage deeply and tear up turf.) And the pig certainly doesn't appreciate the significance and value of a gold nose ring.

    In a culture addicted to the vain pursuit of beauty, wealth, celebrity and attention, this proverb is not only a warning to the pigs but to all those who are attracted to bright, shiny objects attached to unclean and dangerous animals.

  2. ksenia says:

              My daughter's translation reads "a beautiful woman without discretion is like a golden ring in the snout of a swine." The Jerusalem Bible had a knack for a turn of phrase, I thought, and sometimes really got poetic in the translation. It was my first real bible, so I grew up reading it, as well.  She liked the Miss Piggy illustration.  I was wondering about the meaning of "without discretion". My daughter thought it would be like Lydia Bennett chasing officers, or perhaps a chatty gossip who can't be trusted.  Are "foolish" and "without discretion" interchangeable in Proverbs?

  3. Deborah says:

    >"…this proverb is not only a warning to the pigs…"
    Making this a bit more personal, I should have written "this proverb is not only a warning to me to not behave (and thus become) like  a swine…" but also a warning for me to be wary in my admiration (or coveting) of the gifts of others.

  4. Once my former colleague, who wants desperately to get married, showed me the photos of women & men, who submitted their questionnaries/anquettas to marriage & also acquaintance agencies. I looked them through I was puzzled as I noticed one very strong tendency in practically all of them: represented people were very decorated – women with much treasure on their faces, ears, hair, much make-up…which all made them look as dolls, and the face expressions – totally artificial. I thought – if they are determined to attract a man, they should have known how to do it…The majority of people are much more aware of this subject than me:-)), thus if they used this tactic, it means it is popular, and it works with men?! 
    As for men…instead of their faces, on the photos were…pictures of cars, from all sides. Or they themselves in smart, often exquisite cars. I also thought – it should work! As people from "society" declare women seek money, and husbands with much money. 
    But one thing was unclear for me: if these people seek marriage, or serious relationship – why do they act this way? Why do they diminish themselves so much? Maybe they really feel that without their treasures, make-ups, cars and other "impressive" belongings they cost nothing? that they are absolutely good for nothing – themselves, as PEOPLE, without all this window-dressing… I don't know – maybe what they feel is emptiness, and they have nothing more to offer their future partner than all these trifles & artificial toys? 
    I wonder – people are so often complain of their wives & husbands, reproach them of indifference, lack of affection…Maybe it's worthwhile remembering what the beginning of everything was?  If it was like this – what good might have come of it?! There are of course many serious reasons for an unhappy marriage, but if people deliberately diminish themselves, the relationships from the very beginning, it will be extremely difficult to build something really worthy…Marriage, or any human relationship – is a constant labor, responsibility, shared joy & grief.
    People are afraid to remain alone, people want to have their own family…But they are ready to use all resources, act as if they are on a market place…Everything – except for praying to God & working on themselves.
    I realise I allow too much criticism, but when I see many unhappy people, I think that have what they wanted.
    We are able to share only from what we have ourselves. And if we don't share – we don't have…It is sad if we share the emptiness of our souls.

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    "Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
    Ecclesiastes 1:2

  6. Stev says:

    The true beauty of a woman is to be found in her soul, not in the mask she might wear. St Nicholai Velimirovic speaks of such a mask, and it comes from the earth. This applies to all flesh.

  7. Stev says:

    Thank you, this is a fine article!

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