And the brethren say, Amen! Not so fast, fellas, the ladies are listening.
Perhaps to the fairer sex, the proverb will sound rather sexist and one-sided. Surely it would not be among the proverbs that King Lemuel’s mother taught him. Indeed, it is no more pleasant for a woman to dwell in a house with a contentious man, but the proverb is what it is. There are two sides to it, of course, that might just redeem it in feminine minds.
Actually, it is a proverb repeated three more times in various words:
- Proverbs 21:9: “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
- Proverbs 21:19: “Better to dwell in the wilderness, Than with a contentious and angry woman.”
- Proverbs 25:24: “It is better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
- Proverbs 27:15-16: “A continual dripping on a very rainy day And a contentious woman are alike; Whoever restrains her restrains the wind, And grasps oil with his right hand.”
One can only imagine what the writer must have endured to reach the point where he would take the risk of writing down something like this. Inspiration surely combined with frustration to produce a solemn warning. Make your wife angry enough and you’ll wish you could go up and live in the attic or disappear into the forest.
Within these proverbs is the obvious, but not necessarily primary, warning to wives. Contentiousness is not a positive attribute; it is often disrespectful and unwarranted, at least in degree. The anger in these proverbs is not the episodic kind that goes away, but the persistent type that comes to define a person who is both unhappy and unpleasant. Resist it.
Less obvious, but of prime importance to the male reader is the instruction not to produce in one’s wife a feeling of hopelessness and exasperation. While it might be humorous to label the wife as a nag and accuse her of contentiousness, all too often that attitude is produced by a husband who is looking out for himself and denying his wife the emotional security she craves.
While they are thousands of years old, the proverbs anticipate the teaching of the apostles: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:18-19).