Proverbs 21:9

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
– Proverbs 21:9

This proverb is one of the “better-than” statements in Proverbs. For instance, in various ways, Proverbs states it is better to be poor and wise than to be rich and foolish. The formula compares two conditions and declares one better and therefore preferable to those who have wisdom. It doesn’t exclude other possibilities. It’s better to be poor and wise than rich and foolish, but it does not follow that being both rich and wise is not better still. It does prevent the assumption so common among people—it’s better to be rich than poor no matter the other conditions that attend.

The phrase corner of the housetop likely refers to a small visitor’s quarters on the roof of the house. The word for wide means in society, or in company, and house is just that. The parallel means the roof is a lonely place of solitude and the house is a place of society. Generally speaking, loneliness is not a desirable or better condition. But loneliness is better and desirable when the society includes a brawling, or contentious, woman. The same sentiment is expressed in Proverbs 21:19, where living in the desert is better than a house with a contentious wife. We could add, it is also better to live with a leaking roof than a quarrelsome woman (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15-16). A selfish, mouthy, hyper-critical wife destroys a man’s peace, deprives him of love, and ruins whatever prosperity he has gained. So, it is better to be poor and live on low means with a good and prudent wife from the Lord than the alternative (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1; 19:14; 31:10-12). And, it works the same way around for the woman with an angry husband.

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Proverbs 21:3

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
– Proverbs 21:3

The word for justice means rightness, or doing what is right by a standard of righteousness. The word for judgment means a verdict, and so refers to our dealings with others being just dealings. The word for sacrifice means slaughter, as in a ritual sacrifice for offering. The proverb says righteous conduct is better to Yahweh than religious acts. The proverb does not disparage religious acts, but rather wisely observes that religious acts without accompanying righteous life are hollow and hypocritical. Another way to see it is that no amount of religious piety can make up for unrighteousness in life (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 58:1-14; Micah 6:6-8). This proverb is a thematic summary of what all proverbs are saying. People often approach Proverbs topically because it is easier to study the whole book that way. If you think about the various topics, i.e., marriage, children, wealth, parents, work, poverty, business, anger, speech, etc., you get a picture of wisdom that is righteousness in all of life. Men often make the mistake that pious observance of ritual without living in the way of the fear of the Lord is righteousness.

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Proverbs 19:22

The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.
– Proverbs 19:22

The word for desire means longing, or object of desire. The word for kindness means mercy, or loving kindness. Since it is contrasted with lying here, it refers to faithful, or loyal, kindness. The true worth of a man is measured in his loyalty and faithfulness, not his wealth. This makes a poor man better than a liar, though he is rich (Proverbs 19:1). Proverbs doesn’t exalt poverty of itself. There’s nothing inherently virtuous or meritorious in poverty. Poverty with wisdom is often contrasted with having wealth with folly or wickedness, and poverty is then better (Proverbs 8:11; 15:16-17; 16:8; 17:1; et al).

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Proverbs 16:16

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
– Proverbs 16:16

Verse 16 starts a new group of proverbs themed around general wisdom. This group goes through verse 30 and touches on general wisdom topics, e.g., wealth, speech, work, etc. The word for better means good in its root form and is used here comparatively. The second phrase of this proverb is likewise comparative in choosing to get understanding over silver. Comparison is common in the Proverbs and it means the things compared are not antithetical. So here, wisdom and wealth are compared, but not shown to be opposites. The proverb states it’s better, or more important, to seek and acquire wisdom than gold and silver.

Proverbs mentions many things better than wealth: righteousness or justice (Proverbs 15:27; 16:8); family love (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1); and honesty and integrity (Proverbs 19:1, 22). Proverbs emphatically teaches wisdom is better than wealth (Proverbs 3:15-18; 8:10-11, 19). Choose wisdom above all, whether wealth comes or not (Proverbs 4:7).

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Proverbs 8:11

For wisdom is better than rubies; and all things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
– Proverbs 8:11

Silver, gold, and precious stones have a sort of intrinsic value and rarity. They are the pinnacle of objective value, though all men esteem them not equally. All things that may be desired is more subjective but expands the range of prized things to include anything a man may prize. These are things men give their life for to obtain. On all accounts, wisdom is more surpassingly valuable than anything highly prized among men. It follows that men should search more diligently and attend more immediately to wisdom than all earthly riches.

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