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Most of the verses in the Bible's Proverbs can be read by and in themselves. In other words, in general, for the most part, we would Not need to apply hermeneutic tools like scripture-interprets-scripture in order to understand verses in Proverbs.

However, Proverbs 18:22 is a little strange.

18:22 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex מָצָ֣א אִ֭שָּׁה מָ֣צָא טֹ֑וב וַיָּ֥פֶק רָ֝צֹ֗ון מֵיְהוָֽה׃

Proverbs 18:22

New American Standard Bible 1995

22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 18:22

New American Standard Bible 1995

22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing And obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 18:22

New King James Version

22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.

18:22 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex מָצָ֣א אִ֭שָּׁה מָ֣צָא טֹ֑וב וַיָּ֥פֶק רָ֝צֹ֗ון מֵיְהוָֽה׃

Proverbs 18:22 is strange because to say that the action of finding a wife is a good thing, and furthermore saying that said action would give the person favor from The Lord seems grossly oversimplified, glib & nonchalant.

Furthermore, bible verses like ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ), ( Ezra 9:12 ) & ( 2 Corinthians 6:14 ) warn against marrying outside Christian faith. ( Proverbs 12:4 ) warns about a wife who shames her husband is like rottenness to his bones.

Essentially, I'm trying to say that ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ), ( Ezra 9:12 ) & ( 2 Corinthians 6:14 ) & ( Proverbs 12:4 ) all seem to suggest that Christians should be careful about choosing a wife.

( Deuteronomy 7:3 ) NASB 1995

“Furthermore, you shall Not intermarry with them; you shall Not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.

( Ezra 9:12 ) NASB 1995

So now do not give your daughters to their sons nor take their daughters to your sons, and never seek their peace or their prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever.’

( 2 Corinthians 6:14 ) NASB 1995

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Proverbs 12:4 New American Standard Bible 1995

4 An [a]excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.

Essentially, I'm trying to say that ( Deuteronomy 7:3 ), ( Ezra 9:12 ) & ( 2 Corinthians 6:14 ) & ( Proverbs 12:4 ) all seem to suggest that Christians should be careful about choosing a wife.

Moreover, As I was cursorily reading the Biblehub.com commentaries, a lot of them do Not seem all that convincing ( https://biblehub.com/commentaries/proverbs/18-22.htm )

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

The sense seems to require, "Whoso findeth a good wife," as in some Chaldee manuscripts; but the proverb writer may be looking at marriage in its ideal aspect, and sees in every such union the hands of God joining together man and woman for their mutual good. The Septuagint adds "He who casts out a good wife, casts away that which is good: but he that keepeth an adulteress is foolish and ungodly."

The aforementioned "Barnes' Notes on the Bible" commentary seems to assume that the wife is good as a given premise which is really Not the case when you read Proverbs 18:22 because it just says finding a wife but it does Not specify "good".

Could someone please explain in detail how we should interpret Proverbs 18:22's grossly oversimplified, glib, nonchalant view about getting married?

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    I disagree with your grossly oversimplified, glib and nonchalant dismissal of holy scripture. Down-voted -1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 8:36
  • Could you Edit out "Most of the verses in the Bible's Proverbs can be read by and in themselves. In other words, in general, for the most part, we would Not need to apply hermeneutic tools like scripture-interprets-scripture in order to understand verses in Proverbs. However…. " and start with "Proverbs 18:22 is a little strange…"? Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 21:46
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    In way is it strange to say that finding a wife is a good thing? In what way might saying that said action would give favour from The Lord be oversimplified, glib or nonchalant. You might be wholly correct, but you're Posting unsupported opinion as fact. How is that not grossly oversimplified, glib and nonchalant? Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 21:53
  • You could do to edit this so as to not presume that your view of the verse, that it is grossly oversimplified, glib, and nonchalant, is the only one. As it is now, this reads more like a rant than a genuine inquiry. Any reader of the Proverbs knows that they are general statements not exhaustive dissertations.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 12:47
  • @curiousdannii It's kind of a stretch and grossly oversimplified for you to say "Any reader of the Proverbs knows that they are general statements not exhaustive dissertations." New Christians, Immature Christians and/or NonChristians who might come across Proverbs may Not know that they are general statements. It's Not intuitive. Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 12:40

4 Answers 4

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Here's a more positive way to look at Proverbs 18:22.

Proverbs 18 is an anthology of traditional sayings for a variety of different circumstances that are not elucidated in the text itself because at the time of its writing everyone knew the circumstances for each saying.

In Hebrew, the sayings are alliterative and rhythmic. They roll off your tongue naturally.

The ability to use these sayings appropriately in day-to-day social conversation is a cultural marker of erudition that acknowledges a shared base of values and sympathies with the listener.

Verse 22 is a wonderful blessing that you can bestow when you hear that someone is getting married. It is both a positive statement about marriage and women and also a blessing of God's favor (they will need it ;-) for the person getting married, whether a man or a woman.

This is the sense that this verse is still used today in the Jewish community, particularly the Sephardi and Yemeni communities in Israel. If you say it to a bride-to-be, it is a direct compliment. If you say it to a groom-to-be, it's saying "you are doing the right thing". If you say it when you hear the news from a third party, you are acknowledging the shared value of a positive view of marriage.

How much richer this is than just saying "Congratulations!".

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I liked the other answers and have upvoted; this answer is not intended to compete with them but to complement them.

Passages like Prov 18:22 appear glib and simplistic, somewhat akin to a motherhood statement. However, I think we should try to appreciate the need for such a proverb in the times in which it was written.

Ancient Israelite society was, at times and in some areas, curmudgeonly chauvinist and misogynistic; not all part of Israel was like this but many were. (Modern society shares this in some quarters!) Thus, the people then and now need the reminder that (my translation of Prov 18:22)

Find a wife, find good; and obtain favor from [the] LORD.

That is, (unlike the fictional James Bond) women are not gadgets and play things to be discarded when men get bored. People than and now need to be reminded that marriage and the union with a wife is a divine gift and privilege that comes with divine blessing and great responsibility.

This (and many other such texts) elevated the status of women to something quite distinct but equal with men. Women could not be treated as chattels, slaves or personal servants (see especially Prov 31:10-31). A good wife was a blessing directly from the Creator and should be treated as such!

Lastly, this proverb is deliberately ambiguously worded to maximize its applicability.. It could mean:

  • he who finds a wife finds a good thing - such come only from God
  • he who finds a wife had better find/search well; if you succeed, you have evidence of God's favor
  • he who finds a wife has found the key to a good life - this will better help one understand the LORD's blessing
  • etc.

None of these meanings should be excluded.

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Proverbs is laden with short, pithy statements, and the author frequently gives emphasis through hyperbole (e.g. vs. 19 of the same chapter).

3 points to consider here:

  • Some translations understand that finding the wife is the gift from the Lord--in which case, it is implied that the Lord has led a man to a good companion. A gift/blessing from God will be a good thing (e.g. Matt. 7:11)
  • This passage can be clarified by considering its opposite: finding a spouse brings blessings that don't come from not finding a spouse. Even Paul himself condemned those who forbid to marry (see 1 Tim 4:3)
  • The modifier "good" before "wife" has some weight to it: this is how the Jews who translated the Septuagint understood the passage.

Proverbs elsewhere provides advice for finding a good spouse and having a happy marriage - this verse certainly does not represent the text's full views on marriage. But it celebrates marriage as a good thing and a gift from God.

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Keep in mind that the culture, history, taboos, paradigm, and mindset if you will, of people in the Middle East, specifically Israel and Judea, were very different compared to what "Western" or Occidental thought, culture, etc. is today. Our Western culture is very secularized in contrast to the vast majority of people there in Israel and Judea who believed in God (or gods, as the case may be). There were very few "agnostics" and even less true "atheists".

Now, as part of the culture of that time, it was very common for marriages to be arranged by parents, and in some cases, even grandparents, depending on how wealthy the family was. Said a different way, it was very uncommon for young people to just say "We are in love and are going to marry." That kind of occurrence flouted or hugely defied social convention. Arranged marriages didn't go out of "vogue" really until the latter part of the 14th century CE in Western civilization, and not until the late 19th century in the Middle East.

So, for the Proverb to say when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing and finds favor in the eyes of the Lord, keep in mind that the future husband's family (most likely his mother, grandmother, and aunt) is choosing the wife for him. There were lots of negotiations that went on in this. The future wife's family usually (not always) paid a "dowry" to the future husband's family.

That "good wife" he finds was pre-screened by the future husband's family for many qualities up to and including "compatibility" and "suitability" (if the respective families didn't get along for instance). Lots of details that the couple didn't have to really worry about.

Just stating facts not commenting on the psychological ramifications of an arranged marriage. They still occur today too in the Middle East, all the way to the Far East. We here in the West would call that barbaric and totally "patriarchal" driven. Again, not making judgments about it, just stating what happened then and continues to happen comparatively on a smaller scale today.

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  • I just wanted to mention one particular marriage that failed in the bible was between David and Michal, daughter of King Saul. It's debatable if said marriage was arranged because on one hand, King Saul did sort of arrange the marriage by requesting his servants to urge David to marry Michal in 1 Samuel 18:22 verse. However, it does say in 1 Samuel 18:20 that Michal loved David which suggests that Michal knew David beforehand. Therefore, in said case, we might Not expect David to sort of relate to what Proverbs 18:22 was saying. Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 20:24
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