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Jane Austen began her famous novel Pride and Prejudice with the words, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Although a rich, single man in the 19th century had all he needed to live comfortably, he found himself longing for a wife. He needed someone whom he could spend his life with, to have a companion in his everyday experiences.
Proverbs 18:22 presents an equally memorable statement to Jane Austen’s opening line. Men throughout time have generally found that when and if they marry, having a wife is good.
Man’s longing for a wife stretches back to the beginning of creation when Adam was lonely and in want of a helper. God knew that “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Eve was the answer to Adam’s loneliness.
Christians uphold and celebrate the biblical sanctity of marriage. However, we should properly interpret the proverb and not go beyond its meaning. For instance, what does it mean that a man receives favor from the Lord for having a wife?
How does this apply to men or women who choose to remain single to serve Christ? Is it a secure promise that a wife will be treasured by her husband? We need to consider questions like these when meditating on this proverb.
Reading Proverbs: Important Reminders for Interpretation
The Book of Proverbs is part of Scripture, which is divinely inspired and completely inerrant as the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).
When interpreting Proverbs, though, or any book of the Bible, we need to keep many things in mind, such as historical and immediate context and literary genre.
As part of wisdom literature, the Book of Proverbs presents general truths through memorable sayings, often by using contrasts. Solomon presented the purpose of Proverbs as gaining wisdom, which starts with fear, or reverence, of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).
Those who fear the Lord and think deeply about the proverbial sayings will gain “wisdom and instruction,” learn to do what is “right and just and fair,” and the young will receive training in “knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:2-4).
A proverb presents a general truth, but we need to remember that things in life do not always end up the way a proverb teaches. Also, they do not apply to every situation and are not meant to be promises.
For example, we read in Proverbs 21:21 that “whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” Although this is true, those who follow God’s righteousness and seek to do what is loving and good will sometimes find that they are opposed and hated by others.
Many faithful followers of Christ around the world, who try to do good, live in harsh conditions, facing mistreatment and persecution.
Furthermore, believers are not promised financial prosperity in life. If someone is rich and honored by others, this does not always mean they are believers who pursue righteousness and love.
Therefore, we need to remember that the Book of Proverbs is an inspired book of the Bible and can help us grow in godly wisdom.
However, the sayings are not meant to serve as secure promises. They are general truths that are usually observable in life but are not strict rules of how situations in life will occur. We need to be careful in how we apply them.
In Proverbs 18:22, we read, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (ESV). If we read this proverb with the idea that it is a promise from God, then we might expect that every marriage is good and enduring.
We may also assume that those who are married are more blessed or favorable to God than those who are single.
The Amplified Bible provides further context to the first part of this verse: “He who finds a [true and faithful] wife finds a good thing and obtains favor and approval from the LORD.”
The clarifying phrase “true and faithful” contrasts with the many warnings in Proverbs about the contentious or quarrelsome wife and a morally deficient wife (Proverbs 21:19; 25:24; Proverbs 11:22; 12:4; 14:1).
A wife with moral strength and character is a good thing to find. Hence, we see the model wife (and woman) in Proverbs 31, who is compassionate, faithful, and strong in faith.
A man who finds a Christ-loving wife finds what is good, which is a gift from the Lord. Such a man does not earn salvation, merit, or favor because he marries a virtuous wife. Rather, his wife is a treasure, worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).
The NET Bible translation conveys this in Proverbs 18:22: “The one who finds a wife finds what is enjoyable, and receives a pleasurable gift from the LORD.”
In the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint translations of this verse, there is an extra part that contrasts a good wife with an adulterous wife.
In the Brenton Septuagint Translation, the added part of the verse reads, “He that puts away a good wife, puts away a good thing, and he that keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly” (Proverbs 18:22).
We need to remember that most versions of the Bible do not retain this addition because it is not found in Hebrew manuscripts.
A devoted Christian husband would know from the rest of Scripture that divorcing his wife is denounced. Jesus explained that the only basis for divorce is adultery (Matthew 5:31-32).
Is There More to This Verse?
Proverbs 18:22 is true since a man who finds a good wife finds what is good and receives a gift from God. Problems occur, though, when we try to apply this proverb to every situation. First, not every Christ-following wife will be treasured by her husband.
Many women find themselves in unhappy marriages. When a woman’s husband does not see her worth, she can receive comfort in the truth that the Lord loves and values her more than anyone else.
Similarly, Proverbs 18:22 does not apply to every marriage. For example, Ahab married Jezebel, and he did not receive what is good. He was already a wicked king, but Jezebel urged him to do more evil (1 Kings 21:25).
Also, Solomon married multitudes of women, which is unbiblical, and his wives led him astray (1 Kings 11:3).
As I mentioned above, the proverb generally applies when a man finds a wife that is virtuous, specifically a follower of Christ. Proverbs 18:22 would not apply to a Christian man who marries a non-believing woman.
Furthermore, there are limitations to the verse. A man (or woman, for that matter) who never marries due to situations in life and chooses to remain single to serve Christ is not missing out on blessings or favor (1 Corinthians 7:38).
The Apostle Paul explains that married couples will experience difficulties that single people will not (1 Corinthians 7:28). Those who are married will struggle with giving undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
Both marriage and singleness come with their own hardships, but one state is not better than the other. We should not misuse verses like Proverbs 18:22 to make those who are single feel unfulfilled or less than whole. In Christ, we are complete (Colossians 2:10).
What Does This Mean?
When reading Proverbs 18:22, we need to remember that a proverb conveys a general truth. A man who finds a wife does find what is good, but the proverb is not meant to serve as a promise or rule.
There is more to Proverbs 18:22 in that it is not a promise that every wife will be cherished by her husband, that marriage based on unbiblical grounds will be blessed, or that a married person gains special approval from God that a single person does not.
We need to recognize the limitations of applying this proverb to avoid misusing and misinterpreting it.
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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.
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