A home should be a place of refuge for its residents, and when relationships are harmonious and things are going well, a home is exactly that. However, when a home is full of strife, its residents desire to flee from it far more than they hope to dwell in it. The book of Proverbs recognizes this reality, and many of its sayings capture both the joy and the sorrow that can be found in the home.
Today’s passage is one such saying. Employing a contrast between a foolish son and wife on the one hand and a wise family on the other, the saying encourages sons and wives to seek wisdom, parents to raise their children to be wise, and men to find prudent wives. First, we read that “a foolish son is ruin to his father” (Prov. 19:13a). A foolish son cannot be counted on to provide for his father in his father’s old age, for he is not a trustworthy steward (21:20). The son who is a fool is also unable to preserve his family’s good name. He brings disgrace and ruin on his heritage, as Eli learned firsthand (1 Sam. 2:12–36).
Proverbs 19:13b warns that “a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain” (Prov. 19:13b). In the ancient Near East, roofs were constructed from wooden sticks and boards laid crosswise and then sealed with clay and other materials. It was not uncommon for them to leak during heavy rain. One expects to find shelter and protection under a roof, but a leaky roof fails to provide them. Similarly, a man expects the protection of encouragement in the arms of his wife, but a quarrelling wife betrays him, providing no refuge.
A foolish son and a quarreling wife are curses, but a sound heritage and a prudent wife are great blessings (v. 14). Yet unlike houses and wealth that can be passed down for generations from father to son to grandson if one follows the financial wisdom that is the common possession of all mankind, it takes divine intervention to find a good wife. “A prudent wife is from the LORD” (v. 14b), and an excellent, prudent wife who can be trusted not only to manage a household well but to increase its abundance is a special gift indeed (31:10–31). Wise men marry women who are better than what they actually deserve, and they ask the Lord to bring them godly wives who look out for their husbands’ best interests and conduct the affairs of the house well. A wise husband recognizes that such a wife is a precious jewel, a rare and priceless treasure, and he continually thanks the Lord for bringing her to him.