21:9 It is better to live on a corner of the housetop 1
than in a house in company 2 with a quarrelsome wife. 3
21:19 It is better to live 4 in a desert land 5
than with a quarrelsome and easily-provoked 6 woman.
1 tn English versions which translate the Hebrew term as “roof” here sometimes produce amusing images for modern readers: TEV “Better to live on the roof”; CEV “It’s better to stay outside on the roof of your house.”
sn The reference is probably to a small room that would be built on the flat housetop primarily for guests (e.g., 1 Kgs 17:19; 2 Kgs 4:10). It would be cramped and lonely – but peaceful in avoiding strife.
2 tn The “house of company” has received numerous interpretations. The word “company” or “companionship” would qualify “house” as a place to be shared. The BHS editors propose “spacious house,” which would call for a transposition of letters (cf. NAB “a roomy house”; NLT “a lovely home”). Such an emendation makes good sense, but has no external support.
3 tn Heb “a wife of contentions”; KJV “a brawling woman”; TEV, CEV “a nagging wife.” The Greek version has no reference to a quarrelsome wife, but instead mentions justice in a common house.
4 tn The Hebrew form שֶׁבֶת (shevet) is the infinitive construct of יָשַׁב (yashav), functioning as the subject of the sentence.
5 sn The verse makes the same point as 21:9 and 25:24; but “desert land” is substituted. It would be a place sparsely settled and quiet.
6 tn The Hebrew noun כַּעַס (ka’as) means “vexation; anger.” The woman is not only characterized by a quarrelsome spirit, but also anger – she is easily vexed (cf. NAB “vexatious”; NASB “vexing”; ASV, NRSV “fretful”). The translation “easily-provoked” conveys this idea well.