Exegeting Proverbs 18:22 (How I misread the meaning of “find”)

When it comes to finding a wife, I was using Proverbs 18:22 as proof positive of the belief that I needed to exert as much effort as I could to successfully find a woman worthy of marrying (and who saw me worthy of marrying too.)  I pulled this verse out again when having an argument with a dear friend who said I needed to learn how to wait on the LORD instead of taking matters into my own hands, using it once more to refute my friend’s point.

But then I went back and re-read the verse carefully, and for the first time I realized I had been too presumptuous about the meaning of the word “find.”  According to Hebrew’s lexicon, the word here is matsa’ (transliterated), and carries a variety of related meanings (based on the Hebrew tense Qal):

  • to find, secure, acquire, get (thing sought)
  • to meet, encounter
  • to learn, devise
  • to come upon, light upon
  • to happen upon, meet, fall in with
  • to befall

What the word indicated more than anything else was a state of discovery, yet I misinterpreted “find” to mean “to actively seek after,” which was not what the verse was indicating.  Had the writer meant whoever actively sought after a wife would find a good thing, he likely would have used the word “baqash” instead, which is translated, “to seek to find.”

After all, one can find or discover something without actually looking for it (which is essentially what the word “encounter” means). I’ve seen this verse used before to chide people for not actively looking for their future spouses, but it seems clear to me it wasn’t meant to be conveyed that way to the reader.

So does this mean I should no longer actively seek a wife?  No, I don’t think I’d agree with that either, it only means I no longer have the biblical justification I thought I once did to comb the entire world until I finally find my bride to be.

Some things really are better left up to God to handle, especially when it pertains to something as life changing and important as marriage.  But rather than go from one extreme to the other (from exerting all human effort to meet someone, to hiding out in the closet and expecting the world to be handed to me), it’s better that I focus on renewing my faith in the LORD’s promises to give to those who ask of Him, and mentally preparing myself to be a good husband and friend to whoever God sees fit to bring into my life.  Beyond that there’s no use fretting over things that I ultimately have no control over.

18 Comments on “Exegeting Proverbs 18:22 (How I misread the meaning of “find”)

  1. Strangely, this is the scripture verse the Lord gave to my husband when he was praying about whether to ask me out. Unbeknown to him, He had laid the same verse on my heart. It would just pop up in my head at the strangest times.

    When he finally asked me out, he shared the verse and I just laughed b/c I knew it was of God.

    • That sounds about right, he had already found you and needed confirmation from the Word, but more importantly you received the same confirmation. 🙂

      The only confirmation I’ve personally received is that I would indeed get married, but asking as to the how and when, and the heavens are as brass. Drives me nuts.

    • Lisa you gave me hope, because I still don’t understand the scripture I am friends with a girl that is a child of God for 7 months and 6 months ago I prayed God is this the one for me yes or no. This still needs to be confirmed in her heart. One night on the 18th of July 2017 , there was a voice that said go read proverbs 18 verse 22 , I am a reborn christian for almost 2 years now. so I never knew this is the verse. God showed me the verse 4 times this verse every time I prayed and said to God please confirm it’s a yes and its from you. First it was on the 18th of July in the word, so I prayed again and a friend of mine on facebook posted it to his wife on the 18th of July as well, and then the 23rd of July again I was busy making notes in Church and that day it shows as a scripture. then on the 26th of August 2017 God spoke again through Whatsapp someone just randomly sent the scripture and they don’t know nothing of all the other confirmations. So today its 6 months and I am still waiting on God and I trust it’s going to happen I don’t know when. I pray every night and God showed me to wait for the right time.

  2. Interesting word play.

    So I had an entire comment of my musings on your quest for a wife. Then I deleted it. I’m not sure what I think makes any difference in such a personal journey of a stranger.

    Even stranger still… I’m compelled to read on through your site even though “on paper” I should be uninterested or even dismissive. I guess what we think of ourselves and what others think of us really doesn’t matter when something speaks to our true selves.

    Good luck on your quest. I would say this – never settle. Along with that, you may need a lot of patience. 🙂

    • So I had an entire comment of my musings on your quest for a wife. Then I deleted it. I’m not sure what I think makes any difference in such a personal journey of a stranger.

      I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. Hearing a myriad of different opinions is what helps me grow after all.

      Good luck on your quest. I would say this – never settle. Along with that, you may need a lot of patience. 🙂

      Thank you! I always say Lord, give me patience, but I want it, RIGHT NOW! 😉

  3. Pingback: David Platt's One Sided Sermon on Marrying - A Geek in the Wilderness

  4. Effort without discernment is Foolishness.

    Discernment without effort is Sloth.

    I find a good way to think about what the Lord is doing, and asking us to do, goes back to a number of references to “doors” in the New Testament. God opens doors all of the time. It’s a matter of: 1) testing the spirit behind that door and 2) walking through it in Faith.

    He’s the Creator of the Universe. He gives us all opportunities. The least we can do is walk through them. 🙂 But the bounding point is not to lose sight of the Lord in the process. So you “tune your ears” to God while walking through the doors he’s given you. No one knows what’s on the other side of the door, so be in a “state” of finding rather than actively searching every nook & cranny. God has a better search algorithm than we do.

  5. I think that Matthew 7:8 (“the one who seeks finds”) applies here too…

    In my church is quite ingrained teaching of “just wait, God will send great wife just for you”, which I now partly blame for being almost 25 and never having girlfriend (other reasons are being introvert, spending most of my time in front of PC and not really caring too much up till recently) , so I’d probably emphasize actually giving God opportunity to introduce somebody to your life…

    But I generally find this proverb to be observation, not an advice.

    • Yeah, it’s always from one extreme to the other (from passive waiting to all out effort.) Yet there are numerous examples in Scripture where the Lord specifically tells the believer who to marry, or He brings the girl to the man without any effort on his part needed (Rebekah and Isaac is my favorite example of this.)

      It’s similar to finding a great job though. As much as you might make a great resume and pass them out like candy and go door to door and nail job interviews with charm, nothing is going to come of it until God finally opens a door. I wonder how much agony, despair and frustration I could have avoided if I hadn’t been so bent on going scorched earth, desperate to find SOMETHING, and had just learned to rely on God’s direction instead. In the end the job I did get was one where the employer literally went after me and cajoled me into working for them.

      With marriage, the only thing I can do is mentally and physically prepare myself to be a good husband. In that I’m demonstrating my faith that I believe it will happen. But beyond that I can’t manipulate life and circumstances to place my future wife in front of me anymore than I could have manipulated myself into getting the job I wanted.

      God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. But if I don’t seek Him first in this, then He can’t bless me. My priority has to be in order first before I can ever hope to meet the “girl of my dreams.”

  6. I had to learn to be patience in all things, he prevents all our needs. Seek and ye shall find knock and the door will be opening. Waiting upon the Lord is something I had to learn to have faith that all things or possible, it takes patience to endure anything in life and hope waits for things to come about things that not seen, and that God have everything plan before the foundation of this world. he has order in places and time. He said I will supply your every need.
    Margaret

  7. I am not sure If I do not understand this or just do not agree with this. I am a single man who has been extremely kind and caring to my relationships and still find myself single. I can not believe that Jesus would say that if you are married you will receive more favor; as if you are in better with God if you are married than if you were not. What does being married have to do with being a good person that cares for people and the environment around them? Just because I can not get at date to get a 2nd date to get a long term relationship with a woman I think could be the one for me, I don’t feel makes me any less in favor with God. What about women that do not give me a chance because I have scars or a handicap or can’t happen to portray myself in the absolute best possible way for a woman to notice the person I really am and give me a chance? Proverbs 18:22 is one I just don’t feel in my heart is true that God would be like this. Is anyone else with me on this?

    • Reading too much into it. It doesn’t say you’ll find MORE favor. Favor here is a kindness that just happens to come in the form of a wife, but there are many ways we receive kindness from God, this is just one of them.

      If what you’re asserting was the case, Paul wouldn’t tell his readers those who marry do good, but those who remain as him (single) “doeth better.”

    • i totally agree with you. The bible verse is always used in my country to cajole guys to get married. I have heard a Pastor saying the reason some of us who are of marriageable age have not been blessed is because we are not married according to Proverbs 18 v 22.

      We are being coaxed.

  8. YOU got great revelation! This can only be revealed by the Father. Holy Spirit was telling me to study this verse out for some time now as a reference to why I believe and teach what I do as it pertains to just waiting on God and building friendships and having fellowship only prior to marriage. I really felt it today and was led to study out the real meaning and intent of the word “finds” in the text according to the Hebrew translation. I was excited and obedient…and my findings were much; it was explained in the fullness of what was already revealed to me yet with more depth so when I teach preparation and process before marriage for the unmarried that I will be able to explain the truth of this word (Proverbs 18:22). I and my beloved are examples of this truth….you don’t have to look and look, and date year after year and share your heart and life until you “find” the mate for you. Trusting God and preparing yourself to be your best self for His best for you is the best thing we can do. After being prepared by God and getting one’s self together, The Lord will present her to you (and for women, you will be discovered by God’s divine best for you if you just wait on and in God).

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