"As a ring of gold in a swine's snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion"
This is the word yapeh, which means fair, beautiful. This refers to outward appearance. The physical beauty of a woman is of high value.
Beauty is something of high value. It is, in this proverb, parallel to the ring of gold – something of value; something that one wants to bring close; something one wants to look at and possess. But then it is attached to something of incredible ugliness and distain. In the human case, it is the lack of discretion; in the animal parallel, it is the swine. Solomon is comparing a lack of discretion with the ugliness and emotional reaction to a swine.
Now both in our day and in Solomon's day people did not have this kind of strong reaction to a lack of discretion. This is why Solomon uses this word picture. He thinks we should. It is a great travesty of what is right in the world. We should not allow a person – any person – to grow up without discretion, or Solomon says it will turn that person into the most ugly, reviled thing in culture. Without discretion people become spiritually, emotionally, physically, and sociologically ugly.
This is the Hebrew word hazir, which means swine or boar. This was the symbolic unclean animal. Therefore Solomon chooses this animal that is the ultimate symbol of ugliness. It was spiritually ugly, physically ugly, and it liked to live in filth. In this culture there would be absolutely no conception of a pig as a pet. They were not even allowed to raise them as food. It was emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically reviled. So the mental picture that he is painting would be severe.
A completely ugly, reviled animal with a beautiful ornamental piece of jewelry with high value placed in its nose – this is the height of contrast.
This is the Hebrew word taam, which means taste, discretion, discernment. This word is very interesting and is clearly the key to the understanding of the lesson in this proverb.
Since the root meaning is to taste and evaluate with the tongue, Solomon is saying that when a beautiful woman is impulsive and unwilling to evaluate the various things that she is being led into, it will render her despicable. She will ultimately be a joke. Her impulsiveness and unwillingness to evaluate will destroy her beauty and make it of no value. We have all witnessed this.
Solomon is saying that the high value of beauty must be coupled with that ability to make good judgments, or you will end up being reviled. If you are drawn to people because of their handsomeness and beauty but they have no ability to make good judgments about what they do, where they go, and who they are with, then they will become reviled. Beauty attracts flies just as it attracts productive bees. So a beautiful woman must have the ability to discern and to evaluate the who, the what, and the where or they will become a pig with a ring of gold.
Beauty is a given quality but discretion is a learned skill. Make sure your sons and daughters learn this or they will become a source of constant sorrow to you. We live in a culture that elevates folly and that tries to convince the most handsome, the most beautiful, and the most gifted to use these gifts for selfish pleasure and impulsive desires.
We must train our children to think. Where does this path go if I walk down it? What will be the typical result of taking drugs, of going to these parties, of cheating on my tests, etc?
The classic example of this verse is the movie and television industry that takes beautiful people and leads them down a destructive path in which almost all of them develop a drug and/or alcohol addiction and need therapists to recover from what they did in the early stages of their career. They become swine with a ring of gold because they did not evaluate where the road of fame was about to take them. Some have escaped this path and when they are interviewed, they always show a high degree of judgment, foresight, and critical thinking. They all talk about where they didn't want to end up. They usually had a mentor who helped them evaluate the choices before them. They also usually kept the Hollywood industry at arms-distance.
When you are handsome or beautiful, you will have options and opportunities that will come streaming towards you. You must evaluate them. Just because it is offered to you does not mean it is good. Just because it means a lot of money or fame or power does not mean that it is a healthy thing to do.
Don't become a swine with a ring of gold.