1 August. Proverbs chapters 19-21
Today, I am picking from the large number of short sayings those that relate to families, starting with husbands and wives.
“A wife’s quarrelling is a continual dripping of rain. House and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” (19:13-14); “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife.” (21:9); and a similar saying “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and fretful wife.” (21:19). It has been show by recent studies that a good relationship with one’s partner is a bigger factor in happiness than wealth or even health.
The patriarchal culture from which these sayings come assumes, of course, that the husband is head of the household, and there are no equivalent sayings about a good husband. However there is much for husbands as breadwinners to take note of. The first of the above sayings is followed by “Laziness brings on deep sleep; an idle person will suffer hunger.” (19:15) and – “Do not love sleep, or else you will come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” (20:13). There are also plenty of verses in here about how to raise children well.
Children (or perhaps rather young men) and their relationship with their parents are also the subject of many of these proverbs. “Those who do violence to their father and chase away their mother are children who cause shame and bring reproach” (19:26). “The righteous walk in integrity— happy are the children who follow them!” (20:7). “If you curse father or mother, your lamp will go out in utter darkness” (20:20). A happy family is one where the parents live in harmony with each other, and children in peace with their parents.
Of course we know that many relationships are not like that, and there have always been ‘dysfunctional’ families. It is hard for those brought up in a home where there is disrespect, argument, or even violence to learn a better way. “Even children make themselves known by their acts, by whether what they do is pure and right” (20:11). No wonder that the Bible elsewhere speaks of the sins of fathers being visited on future generations. But it is possible to break out of the cycle. Maybe Solomon’s purpose in writing these proverbs aimed at young men was to hope that they might learn from his teaching what they failed to hear from their parents.