The Contentious Wife
Proverbs 21:9, 19
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.”
Rather than covering the same ground twice in this Chapter, and to save some skin on my back from the women in the audience who will want to skin me alive after preaching this, we will combine these two verses and look at the overall topic. Unfortunately though, I will have to cover this ground again when we get to Chapter 25, because vs. 24 is identical to vs. 9 in our Chapter, and in Chapter 27, vs. 15.
Prov 25:24, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
Prov 27:15, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike.”
I would like to begin by giving you various translations of this verse to see the range of topics we will discuss. I will then break the Hebrew down a bit.
The Kings James Version translates these passages as:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
The Holman Christian Standard Bible says:
Prov 21:9, “Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.”
Prov 21:19, “Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife.”
The Message translates says:
Prov 21:9, “Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.”
Prov 21:19. “Better to live in a tent in the wild than with a cross and petulant, (ill-tempered or sulky in a peevish manner), spouse.”
The ESV says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.”
The Bible in Basic English says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to be living in an angle of the house-top, than with a bitter-tongued woman in a wide house.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to be living in a waste land, than with a bitter-tongued and angry woman.”
The Living Bible says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in the corner of an attic than with a crabby woman in a lovely home.”
Prov 21:19, “Better to live in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining woman.”
The New Living Translation says:
Prov 21:9, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.”
Prov 21:19, “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.”
LA Biblia de las Americas says:
Prov 21:9, “Mejor es vivir en un rincón del terrado que en una casa con mujer rencillosa.”
Prov 21:19, “Mejor es habitar en tierra desierta que con mujer rencillosa y molesta.”
Therefore, this morning we are going to talk about the contentious, vexing, brawling, angry, nagging, hot-tempered, cross, petulant, quarrelsome, fretful, bitter-tongued, crabby, complaining, rencillosa, molesta, and as the Septuagint puts it MAXIMOS meaning, “warlike,” type of wife.
Just the type of woman every man is looking for, and if you can find one, I think Pastor Bill might be interested in meeting her… lol
So let’s take a closer look at what the Lord is saying through Solomon. And remember, Solomon knew what he was talking about. He had over 1,000 women.
Both vs. 9 and 19 begin with “it is better to live” which is the Hebrew Adjective TOB (tov), with the Qal Infinitive construct of the Verb YASHAB (yashav). TOB means, “good, pleasant, useful, or proper.” Because this is a comparison proverb, we say “it is better.” YASHAB means, “to sit or dwell,” where here “dwelling or living with” is the context. Vs. 9 also includes the Preposition LE, “to” before YASHAB, but vs. 19 does not, yet in an Infinitive construct it can be added to the English translation for context.
The “better place of dwelling” in vs. 9 is, “in a corner of a roof,” which is AL PINNAH GAGH. PINNAH most commonly is used in reference to architectural dimensions, the corners of a house, altars, streets, etc. The Noun GAGH, גָּג is used throughout Scripture, and for the first time in Proverbs, designates a roof or a top, something that covers the top of a structure. This phrase “the corner of a roof” depicts a meager and inadequate place to live, on top of the roof in only one of its corners. Linked with vs. 19, where roof is replaced by desert, and the other “better than” proverbs comparing the contentious wife to a leaky roof, (Prov 19:13; 27:15), this proverb envisions being exposed to all kinds of weather in this living condition. Yet, it is better to live there than the alternative to come in the second half of this verse.
Vs. 19 depicts the meagerness differently as “in a desert land,” which is BE MIDBAR ERETS. Also seen for the first time in Proverbs is MIDBAR, מִדְבָּר that means, “an open area of land which is sparsely populated and is generally dry in climate.” So it comes to mean, “a wilderness or desert.” It escalates “to dwell on the corner of a roof” to the solitariness, discomfort, danger, and privation of living “in a desert land,” an uncivilized land where one can barely eke out an existence.
Both verses make it clear that it is better to live alone in a secluded and dangerous area than to live with the type of woman we are about to see; one of contention and anger.
In the Hebrew both verses begin the comparison with “than a woman of,” which is the Preposition MIN with the Noun ISHSHAH that can mean, “a woman or a wife;” here it is “wife.”
Then they both give a description of this wife, saying she is “contentious,” which is the Noun MIDHYANIYM, מִדְיָנִים in vs. 9, a masculine plural noun referring to disputes or contentions. It is the plural of MADHON, מָדוֹן that is used in vs. 19 that has the same usage.
MADHON means, “dispute, contention or strife.” It is used three times in Proverbs to describe the contentious wife including Prov21:19; 25:24; 27:15. MADHON is said to be one given over to strife. This is what we would call a nag. It is someone who is easily angered and consistently complains about their situation. It is a picture of one who picks a fight. It is someone who is quarrelsome and argumentative by nature where the outcome in every case is misery in the home and misery for the man.
MIDHYANIYM is used only in Proverbs and refers to the contentious person who consistently brings quarrels and disputes, Prov 18:18; 19:13.
Prov 19:13, “A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.”
Notice that contention is the opposite of being content. This is a woman who is not content with her situation in life and therefore causes strife and quarrels amongst others so that they too are miserable as she is.
No creature is more lovely than a woman who exhibits the precious graces of the Spirit of God and is content with God’s plan for her life.
Phil 4:11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
But a woman who lacks thoughtfulness, kindliness and love seems almost to be a misnomer. A contentious and angry woman, no matter how physically attractive she may be, is disagreeable beyond all words, and can by her tongue and her wretched ways produce untold misery. Therefore, where there is an argumentative woman who seeks to rule and will not be content unless she has things her own way, the home will be very unpleasant – like the constant dripping of a leaking roof.
Prov 27:15-16, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; 16He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand.”
Next we have a variation in our two passages. Vs. 9 states, “in a house shared with,” and vs. 19 states, “and vexing.”
Vs. 9 reads, BAYITH CHEBER (chever), for “a house of association,” that is “a shared house.” CHEBER has another meaning of a “spell or enchantment” of witchcraft or Pagan worship. Prov 21:9; 24:24; Hosea 6:9 use CHEBER for association, while the other four occurrences, Deut 18:11, Psa 58:5; Isa 47:9, 12 use spell or enchantment. Therefore, we see that this word has the meaning of joining together, but in an evil practice.
In comparison, vs. 19 reads, “and vexing,” which is the Conjunction WA with the Noun KA’AS, כַּעַס that means, “anger, vexation or grief,” cf. Prov 12:15; 17:25; 27:3. It describes the contentious wife who is filled with anger and causes grief to her husband. Vex or vexing means, “to make somebody slightly annoyed or upset, especially over a relatively unimportant matter, or to cause somebody anxiety or distress by provoking irritability or anxiety.” In other words she, “makes a mountain out of a mole hill.” Since “contentious” denotes to stir up conflicts with others, KA’AS here refers to the provocation she incites in her husband, Prov 17:25a, not her own irritation, Prov 12:16a.
So combined, vs. 9 and 19 tell us, “It is better to live by yourself in some secluded area, than to live in an tumultuous house with a wife who is contentious, (quarrels and disputes), and makes you annoyed and upset over relatively unimportant matters, causing you anxiety and distress.”
A woman who lacks a compatible personality may drive her husband away; out of the house, town, etc. A contentious wife destroys the peace of the household, so that the goal becomes to get away or escape from her presence.
Like the verses that commend a peaceful but simple meal, over a feast accompanied by strife and hatred, Prov 15:17; 17:1, these proverbs commend choosing a wife based on her personality.
Prov 17:1, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife.”
This implies the positive spiritual condition of peace and quiet that comes with contentment.
These proverbs also indirectly admonish the wife to submit to wisdom and caution her against pride; for when there is pride, there is strife, Prov13:10a, “Through insolence comes nothing but strife.”
“God’s plan for the wife is to be an encouragement and help to her husband. Men need attention, affection, adoration, and admiration. A wise wife will endeavor to daily meet these needs of her husband. Some of the cockiest men that I have ever met are very insecure men. Behind men that have accomplished great things or have become very successful are usually very supportive, loving, and caring wives. Yet, if the wife becomes embittered, cold, unfeeling, uncaring, or unfaithful, she creates distress and distractions for her husband. Her bitterness or coldness may be caused by sin that has gripped her heart or by her husband that has been acting like a jerk. When husbands are harsh, impatient, and selfish, they create emotional barriers with their spouses. Like rose petals that have been damaged by rough treatment, the tender emotions of a wife can be bruised or scarred. If you have bruised your wife physically or emotionally, then seek her forgiveness. Give her time to emotionally heal. In most cases, it takes time for her spirit to trust you and open back up to you.” (Mattoon’s Treasures from Proverbs)
A gracious woman is a woman of appreciation and a woman of affection. She knows how to appreciate others and she is very comfortable showing affection. Therefore, wives are to be women of virtue and great contentment, not argumentative and quarrelsome, but loving and peacemakers as exhorted to be in Prov 11:16, 22; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14, see also Col 3:18; Eph 5:22-24, 32-33; 1 Peter 3:1-6.
Prov 11:16a, “A gracious woman attains honor.”
Prov 12:4a, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”
Col 3:18, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
Eph 5:22-24, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Eph 5:32-33, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
1 Peter 3:1-6, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”