True Beauty is something that goes beyond the mere outward appearance of a person. The wise man realizes this and sees through a person with outward beauty who inwardly is very ugly to behold. To help with this task, God gives us a picture that is both a little bit funny as well is so graphic that we will not soon forget it.
We are first given the picture of a beautiful ring of gold. This was an ornament that was highly sought after in biblical times. It was considered a sign of beauty to have a ring of gold in a woman’s nose. If you want to debate that - you only need to turn to Genesis 24:47 where the servant of Abraham met Rebekah, as he sought a wife for Issac his son. When he saw her and learned that she was the one God had chosen for Issac, he responded by putting gold bracelets on her wrists and a gold ring in her nose. These were considered objects of beautification. But as we look at this object of beautification we see that is it firmly ensconced in the snout of a swine.
If one is honest about things, he would have to admit that a ring of gold is not going to beautify a swine. There is no pig or hog that we are going to consider beautiful simply because we give him a gold ring in his nose. It is still a pig. The ring is still a thing of beauty, but its location on a swine ruins the object of beauty completely. The pig is no more desirable than before and now the ring of gold has been devalued. God uses this picture to put a certain response into our minds. It doesn’t matter how pretty that ring is, it’s gross when it is in a pig’s snout! Now God is ready for His comparison.
God’s second picture begins with a beautiful woman. The word beautiful simply means something lovely. It was used of Sarah, Tamar, and Esther to speak of a beauty so great that others saw these women and desired them. Theirs was a striking beauty that set them apart from other women. So God speaks of this strikingly beautiful woman whose beauty should be desirable, except for one problem. She lacks discretion. When used in this kind of context, the Hebrew word for discretion speaks of someone who lacks moral or sexual discretion. To put it bluntly - this is a sexually immoral woman. To some who are unwise, this would be even better. She’s gorgeous and she’s easy. But we need to remember that when God speaks in proverbs - there is a direct comparison. What is it that we should see then?
If a woman is very good looking yet sexually immoral, she is about as pretty as a pig with a gold ring in its snout. The point God wants to get across is that she’s ugly! Doesn’t matter how “hot” she looks - if she’s immoral, she’s ugly! Things get worse when you begin to get the comparison. The swine in this picture is the immorality - it is what should gain the most notoriety in our mind’s eye. The beautiful woman . . . she’s just a ring of gold hanging from the swine’s snout. Her beauty is ruined by her lack of discretion when it comes to an understanding of sex. God is wanting us to get the picture!
There is rarely a time when I am not working on this with young men in a discipling situation. Because our culture is completely insane when it comes to sexual matters, one of the greatest threats to their spiritual growth is the problem of the lust of the eyes. Our culture throws beautiful women at us like a group of athletic boys trying to get the last kid out in a dodge ball game. Therefore, I make my guys memorize this verse of Scripture. As we learn it though, I take the liberty of describing exactly what a ring of gold would look like on the average fattened sow in the barnyard. A huge sow is not a pretty sight by itself - but I focus on the ring of gold run through its snout. I won’t go any further than to say I’ve had guys almost gagging by the time I got done with my description. Do I do this just to be gross and be one of the guys? Absolutely not! I do it for the same reason that Solomon did it for those he wrote to in this part of Proverbs. They need to have an instant thought come to their mind when they see a beautiful woman who is immoral in her behavior. This image needs to come to mind when the thought arises to look at a pornographic image - when they are tempted by a skimpily clad woman in a commercial - when they face the choice to see a movie or TV show where a female character is beautiful outwardly, but who is nothing more than a swine with a gold ring in its snout. That gross picture I described to them - is what I want coming into their minds as a direct comparison to the beautiful discretion-less woman. My hope is that rather than lust after her and enter into sin, they will see the swine, be grossed out, and choose righteousness instead. My hope is that they will remember that they have made a covenant with their eyes. My hope is that they will remember that God has not created us for the purpose of sexual immorality but in sanctification. My hope is that they will not be caught by a piece of fruit that looks good to their eyes - is desirable to them - but will only yield death.
Pictures do interesting things for us. In this one God hopes to help men, young and old, see beauty is not merely an outward attribute. True beauty is when a woman fears God and dresses and lives chaste. So guys - hope I’ve ruined you for any woman except that one God has chosen for you. That was my purpose in the first place. Just needed an indelible picture burned on the retina of your hearts. God’s picture will do just fine . . . and you’re welcome!