At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion”Proverbs 11:22
We come here to a characteristic way of reasoning in the biblical wisdom literature. It is the technique of treating four variables by means of handling two of them. In this case the four variables are beauty and lack of it, and discretion and lack of it. There are two negatives traits and two positive traits, and we are taught wisdom by being instructed to choose one positive trait over the other negative one. It is better to be honest and poor than to be dishonest and rich, it is better to have good fellowship over lousy food than to have squabbling over gourmet food, and so on.
In this proverb, women are instructed to prefer discretion over beauty, and the point is made by noticing the radical nature of the juxtaposition when the choice has been made the wrong way. Suppose a woman chooses foolishly. Suppose she preferred her looks to discretion? The result is a total incongruity, like lipstick on a camel, or hoop earrings on a chimp, or a nose ring on a pig.
And we can see that we are being instructed by wisdom literature, and not by legalists or rule-mongers, in that the woman of sense is one who has “discretion.” Not a handbook of rules, not a list of ‘thou shalt nots,” but rather discretion. The word involved (taam) means taste, feeling or discernment. This does not mean that she gets to dub herself as being in that category, and therefore she must have the right to strut her stuff (via ostentatious make-up, leggings, bikinis, and so on). No, it means that she is a woman of good sense, and avoids all that kind of thing without having to be told. A woman who does have to have it explained to her, or worse, kicks at any such explanations, is a woman without discernment.
And so, the more successful she is in polishing that gold ring of “hotness,” the fatter and more bristly the pig.