Does Proverbs 24:7 make family a secondary priority?

Question: I need some guidance on Proverbs 24:27. It says, “Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.”

I’m having some trouble with this. It’s in the middle of the Bible with no context as to what it means. It’s just stuck in the middle of all of these other instructions. It can’t be saying that your work is more important than your family right?

I interpret as two possibilities. First, it could mean that you spend your day taking care of work so that later in the day, you can spend time with family. Second, it could mean that while you’re single you should build your fields so that later when you get a family, you can provide for them.

Either way I see it, it puts work before family and never changes the priorities to family over work. Any ideas?

Answer: Derek Kidner, one of my favorite commentators, says on this proverb: “The housebuilding probably means the founding of a family, a matter that must wait its turn till afterwards. As in a rural economy, well-worked fields justify and nourish the farmhouse, so a well-ordered life (in things material and immaterial) should be established before marriage.” So I think your second interpretation is the best one, but I don’t see how that elevates work above family, rather just the opposite. If “build your house” means begin and raise a family, it only makes sense that you would prepare yourself to do that by having a steady job or income. It’s like Jesus’ admonition to count the cost before you begin a project. In the past a man would get a job and be somewhat sure of how he could support a family before he got married. This assured that he would be able to provide the very best security for his family. That seems to be the sense of this proverb to me.

Randall Johnson


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