Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gleanings from Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom and instruction in so many different areas of our lives. From what words we should speak, to being industrious vs. laziness, to the description of an “excellent wife”, to warnings against drunkenness and perverseness, to exhortations to walk in humility and not pride, to showing the difference between the wise and the fool. 

It is a book that we would do well to read again and again and to strive to apply the vast array of principles to our own lives.

Many verses in this book have been quite meaningful to me, particularly the ones that speak directly to women. The beautiful passage in Proverbs 31 is perhaps one of the most well-known of these, and it is so refreshing, encouraging and convicting! 

Then there are verses such as the one in chapter 11: “A gracious woman attains honor, but ruthless men attain riches” (Proverbs 11:16) and in chapter 14: “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1.) 

Also found in the book of Proverbs are several verses that speak specifically of women that are very similar to each other in context . . .

It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” Proverbs 21:19

It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 21:9

. . . the contentious of a wife are a constant dripping.”
Proverbs 19:13b

It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Proverbs 25:24

A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike;” Proverbs 27:15

Contentiousness is the common theme throughout, and one thing that these verses all show so clearly is the seriousness of this negative attribute. It is compared with a constant dripping; it is said that it is better to live in a desert land or on a corner of a roof than with a woman who is contentious.

But what is contentiousness? Is it just arguing? Or is it something deeper and broader? And in one of the verses the word “vexing” is also used. What does it mean to be vexing?

The definitions of these words (and others similar) present a fairly clear picture of what these words encompass:

Contentious: Apt to contend; given to angry debate; quarrelsome; perverse; exciting or adapted to provoke contention or disputes;*

Contend: To dispute; to contest*

The definition of vexing is equally sobering:

Vexing: Provoking; irritating; afflicting.*

Vex: to irritate; to make angry by little provocations; to plague; to torment; to harass; to afflict; to disturb; to disquiet; to agitate; to trouble; to distress*

When we look at these definitions, I am sure that we can all see ourselves in at least some of them! And we also see that being contentious and vexing not only includes arguing, but also exciting strife – saying or doing things that would cause others to become angry or upset. 

The word ‘contend’ also extends the defining by describing it as to dispute or to contest. Meaning, that when someone says or does something, we contradict it; we challenge what they have shared or have done.

The defining of the word ‘vexing’ is what convicted my heart the greatest when studying these verses for it is a more subtle thing than being contentious, and can often sneak in unawares. Vexing is saying or doing those little things that we know irritate or bother others. It is to stir up controversy or to draw others into arguments or conflict by our own words and actions – by “little provocations.”

The contrast of vexing is to “aid, assist, help, please and soothe.”** When reading these words, I am reminded of a cool breeze on a hot day; a gentle rain on a parched earth. Gentle, calming, soothing . . . radiating the love of the Lord and love of others to those we are around. 

Other ‘opposites’ of being contentious are to be peaceful, submissive, and having a gentle and quiet spirit. This is what the condition of our heart should be which is then expressed in our words, actions and demeanor.

As ladies desiring to follow the Lord in obedience to His word, we must strive to rid our hearts of the negative attributes of being contentious and vexing. We must “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19.) We must “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11.)

When instances arise in our lives that would cause us to become contentious, argumentative or angry, pause for a moment, pray to the Lord for His peace, joy and love, and respond with graciousness. 

Speak words that do indeed make for peace and the edification of one another. And may each one of us, no matter the situation we find ourselves in, be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3.)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful,” Colossians 3:15

*Definitions taken from Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language
**Taken from an online dictionary

-Posted by Sarah


  1. What a beautiful insight! I had never noticed how many times the Proverbs talk about a contentious woman. I certainly see my need to grow in that area.

  2. Thank you for this post!
    Proverbs is at the top of my favorites list. I am making it a goal to memorize it.

  3. Thank you for your post, Sarah.

    I think that we all are apt to be contentious. I know that I am. And we try not to think too hard on the passages in Proverbs...

    I was able to do a study in the first 9 chapters of Proverbs, and I learnt a lot from that course. I should really start reading a chapter of Proverbs each day.

  4. It is interesting, Anna, how many times this particular area of "contentious women" is addressed in Proverbs. It certainly shows the importance of not being this type of woman!

  5. That is wonderful that you are working on memorizing Proverbs, Bria!

  6. The study on the first nine chapters of Proverbs sounds like it was a blessing to you, Anna! Reading a chapter of Proverbs once a day is a wonderful idea.

  7. These passages are indeed convicting, Sarah. I think the definition of "vexing" can really be applied to teasing among siblings as well. How often when one sibling teases another does the harmony of the household suddenly seem disrupted! Even when they say, "oh, I was just kidding," we see that the Bible looks upon it differently.

    Thank you for an eye-opening examination of this portion of Scripture!

    Betsy O.

  8. Welcome to our blog, Betsy, and thank you for your comment!

    What you shared regarding ‘teasing’ among siblings sounds familiar. :) It is so true that even in teasing we must not be contentious. Thank you for sharing that insight!