Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing. A good wife is meant, a virtuous, prudent helpmate, as in Proverbs 12:4 ; Proverbs 19:14 ; and 31. The epithet is omitted, because the moralist is thinking of the ideal wife, the one whoso union is blessed, who alone deserves the holy name of wife. Thus in Proverbs 19:4 we had the ideal man spoken of. Septuagint, εὖρε χάριτας , " findeth graces," viz. peace, union, plenty, ruder (see a different view, Ecclesiastes 7:26-28 ). And obtaineth favour of the Lord ( Proverbs 8:35 ; Proverbs 12:2 ); or, hath obtained ( Proverbs 3:13 ), as shown by the consort whom God has given him. Ratson, "good will," "favour," is rendered by the Septuagint ἱλαρότητα , and by the Vulgate, jucunditatem, "cheerfulness," "joyousness" (see on Proverbs 19:12 ). Ecclesiasticus 26:1, etc; "Blessed is the man that hath a good wife, for the number of his days shall be double. A virtuous ( ἀνδρεία ) woman rejoiceth her husband, and he shall fulfil the years of his life in peace. A good wife is a good portion which shall be given in the portion of them that fear the Lord." "A good wife," says the Talmud. "is a good gift; she shall be given to a man that feareth God." And again, "God did not make woman from man's head, that she should not rule over him; nor from his feet, that she should not be his slave; but from his side, that she should be near his heart". A Greek gnome runs—
γυνή δικαζα τοῦ βίου σωτηρία
The Septuagint and Vulgate here introduce a paragraph which is not in the Hebrew, and only partly in the Syriac. It seems to be a further explanation of the statement in the text, founded on the practice prevalent at the time when the Septuagint Version was composed, which appears to have made divorce a recognized necessity in the case of adultery: "He who casteth away a good a wife casteth away good things; but he who retaineth an adulteress is a fool and impious." The advice of Siracides concerning a wicked wife is austere: "If she go not as thou wouldest have her, cut her off from thy flesh" (Ecclesiasticus 25:26). Nothing is here said about the marriage of divorced persons; but the absolute indissolubility of the marriage bond was never held among the Jews, a certain laxity being allowed because of the hardness of their heart ( Matthew 5:32 ; Matthew 19:8 , etc.). The original intently of the marriage contract was re-established by Christ.
The blessedness of true marriage
The Bible does not regard marriage as "a failure," nor does it treat celibacy as a more saintly condition. Even St. Paul, who does not seem to have been a married man, and who is thought by some to undervalue marriage, gives to it a eulogium in describing the union of husband and wife as a copy of the mystical union of Christ and his Church ( Ephesians 5:22-32 ).
I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF MARRIAGE .
1 . The companionship of love. The creation of woman is ascribed to the need of this. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone" ( Genesis 2:18 ). In a true marriage a man's wife is his best friend. Fellowship of soul makes the union more than a mere contract of external relationship. Now, this fellowship is greatly needed for solace amid the cares of life, and strength to face its difficulties. The wife is able to give it to her husband, and the husband to the wife, as no persons in the outer circle of social relationship can hope to offer it.
2 . Mutual helpfulness. In the narrative of the creation, God says, concerning Adam, "I will make him a help meet for him" ( Genesis 2:18 ). Woman is degraded when she is treated as a toy of idle hours, to amuse in the drawing room, but not to take her share in the serious concerns of life. No true woman would desire so idle a position. The wife who understands the Christian calling will aim at ministering to her husband in all ways of helpfulness that are within her power, but chiefly in helping his higher life; and the duty of the husband towards the wife will be similar.
3 . Variety of ministration. The wife is not the counterpart of the husband, but the complement. Human nature is completed in the union of the two. Therefore it is not the part of women to imitate men, nor is inferiority to be assigned to women because they differ from men. The rich, fall, perfect human life is attained by the blending of differences.
II. THE SECRET OF THIS BLESSEDNESS . No ideal of human life can be more beautiful than that of the happy home. The serious question is how it shall be realized.
1 . By adaptation. Every woman is not suitable forevery man. Hasty courtships may lead to miserable marriages. So serious a matter as the choice of a companion for life is not to be lightly undertaken if there is to be any hope of its issuing in happiness.
2 . By sympathy. There must be mutual confidence between husband and wife if the marriage is to be one of true and lasting blessedness. The Oriental cruelty of imprisonment in the harem, and the Western cruelty of degradation in domestic drudgery, are both fatal to the idea of marriage. Whatever be their position in the social scale, it is possible for husbands and wives to share one another's interests and enlarge one another's lives by conceding the fullest mutual confidence.
3 . By self-sacrifice. Selfishness is fatal to marriage. Love must learn to give, to suffer, to endure. The happiness is most complete when each seeks it chiefly for the other.
4 . By religion. The true marriage must be ratified in heaven. Its happiness may be wrecked on so many hidden rocks that it is not safe to venture on to the unknown sea without the assurance that God is guiding the voyage.
Love in different relations
I. CONJUGAL LOVE . ( Proverbs 18:22 .) The blessing of a good wife. "Young men's mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men's nurses" (Lord Bacon). On the choice of a with none but a recluse or a pedant would pretend to lay down infallible precepts or counsels. But every man who has been happy in the married relation will recognize his happiness as among the chiefest of blessings from above. It is indeed a good that is found, cannot be inherited nor deserved.
II. COMPASSION . ( Proverbs 18:23 .) Here, as so often, the duty is suggested by means of a dark picture of the opposite, of its neglect. The rich man who "against the houseless stranger shuts the door," or who, like Dives, fares luxuriously while Lazarus lies in sores at his gate,—these revolt the heart and may more move the conscience than declamations on the positive duty. When chilled by the coldness and severity of selfish man, let the poor and afflicted turn to the "God of all compassion," and to the revelation of him in the "good Samaritan," in Jesus Christ.
III. FRIENDSHIP . ( Proverbs 18:24 .)
1 . The spurious friendship. The more correct rendering of the first half of the verse seems to be, "a man of many companions will prove himself to be worthless." Mere agreeableness may be a surface quality, may spring more from variety than anything else, will soon wear out, cannot be counted on. Number counts for little in friendship.
2 . The genuine friendship. More tenacious than the mere natural love of kindred, because founded on the affinity of soul with soul. All the purest types of earthly affection and friendship are but hints of the eternal love of him who calls the soul into espousal, friendship, and eternal communion with himself.—J.