NKJV - 16 A man's gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.
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I would say that this verse is indicating that if a person offers a gift to someone who is in a position of power, that gift will have the effect of allowing the giver of the gift to gain access and influence with the person to whom the gift is given. A similar thought is expressed in the previous chapter of Proverbs (Proverbs 17:8). However, in some translations of that earlier verse, the "gift" is more graphically described as a "bribe". (In my opinion, this is not intended as a guide as to how followers of God should act, but is meant as a practical description of the way in which the "real world" often operates.)
Is this a bribe? (Proverbs 18:16; 19:6) No, and bribery is wrong, but the gift mentioned here is not a bribe. It's just not smart to seek an audience with someone great without bringing a gift. A gift shows respect and might help a prominent person remember you when he or you need to make a decision or when you need a favor. "gift", here is a more neutral word than "bribe"; "gift" is referring to an innocent courtesy. A legitimate favor can “smooth the way” for a person or facilitate a desired end (cf. 1 Sam 17:18; 25:27). To "smooth the way" is "to cultivate favorable conditions for someone to do something or for something to happen." “A person’s gift makes room for him, and leads him before important people.” The Hebrew word term translated “gift” (מַתָּ֣ן) is a more general word than “bribe” (שֹׁחַד, shokhad), used in Proverbs 17:8, 23 where disapproval of the fact stated is implied. But it also has danger (e.g., Proverbs 15:27; 21:14), for by giving gifts one might learn how influential they are and use them for bribes. The proverb simply states that a gift can speed matters up. The two verbs here show a progression, helping to form the synthetic parallelism. The gift first “makes room” (יַרְחִיב, yarkhiv) for the person, that is, extending a place for him, and then “ushers him in” (יַנְחֵנּוּ, yakhenu) among the greats. I.e. in Proverbs 18:16 -- "The gift of a person" The Hebrew word used here, mattan (מַתָּ֣ן), differs from the word for a bribe (shochad; Proverbs 17:8). Here, the gift is meant more innocently to appease or curry favor/flatter (Proverbs 19:6; 21:14).
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