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An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but one who puts him to shame is like decay in his bones. Bible

“excellent.” The Hebrew word is chayil (#02428 חַיִל), and it basically refers to strength. There are many kinds of strengths, and none is specifically mentioned in this context. The word chayil is used of physical strength (Ps. 33:17; Ecc. 12:3), including strength for battle (Ps. 18:39). “Strength” (chayil) can also refer to wealth (Job 20:18; Ezek. 28:5); strength of character (Gen. 47:6; Exod. 18:21, 25; 1 Chron. 26:7, 9, 30; Ruth 3:11), and sexual potency (Prov. 31:3). When a woman has strength of character, she is usually called “noble” or “virtuous.”

Because chayil, “strong” can refer to different kinds of strength, including physical strength, strength of character, and the strength of wealth, the English versions are divided as to how to translate this verse. Women, like men, have many different and even multiple strengths. English translations include “worthy” (ASV; NLT; cp. NAB); “virtuous” (ERV; KJV; BBE; YLT); “capable” (CJB; HCSB; NJB); “diligent” (Rheims-Douay); “excellent” (ESV; NASB; NKJ); “a wife with strength of character” (GWN); “noble” (NET); “noble character” (NIV); and “good” (NRSV; RSV).

There is a real sense in which an amplified Bible could say, “A strong, virtuous, excellent, diligent, capable wife of noble character is the crown of her husband,” because all those attributes can be reflected in the word chayil. Because the English word “excellent” can be understood in a multitude of ways, we went with “excellent” in the REV.


Commentary for: Proverbs 12:4