What might be going on here other than putting down women? What, in the larger scheme of the whole Bible, is represented by a wife?
What do you make of these verses from Proverbs?
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (Proverbs 21:19)
Twice in the same chapter! And there are others like them (19:13, 25:24, 27:15). Verses like this make us uncomfortable. They seem unfair, expressing a negative stereotype, by implication putting down women in general.
Before we go down the road of taking offense (which has become an art form in our society), we would do well to bear in mind that: (1) In the immediate context of these passages there are very positive things said about other women; so these verses are specific, not generalizations. (2) Most of the fools, scoffers, sluggards, and other assorted undesirables in Proverbs are portrayed as men; so men are most definitely not given preferential treatment. And (3) We are dealing here with inspired instruction. So maybe instead of immediately taking offense, we ought to find out if-just possibly-the problem lies in the way I’m reading it, rather than in the scripture.
What might be going on here other than putting down women? First off, why is almost the same thing said five times in the Proverbs? There’s some emphasis going on here. And it can’t be that such emphasis is placed on the mundane reality of how unpleasant it is to be around someone who is always picking fights-whether man or woman. There has to be something more.
So let’s think. What, in the larger scheme of the whole Bible, is represented by a wife? Easy question, really – Ephesians 5:32 is explicit, and the several mentions of the Bride in Revelation back it up. We, the members of Christ’s church, are his bride. He feels that way about us, that we’re the love of his life. He loves us so much he gave himself for us. To him it’s as if we are his own body. (See the full passage in Ephesians.) He’s trying to present us to himself without blemish.
How do you feel about that? Do you feel spotless? Is the church as a whole spotless? Is it fair or unfair to characterize us as a bit quarrelsome?
This handful of verses in Proverbs gives us an insight into how Jesus feels. Specifically how he feels about our inclination to be quarrelsome. He’d rather not even be in the house. And that’s a devastating thought. Our constant bickering so sickening to him that he can’t stand it.
We may find we don’t especially like the reflection we see, in the mirror held up to us in Proverbs. But if we didn’t have the mirror, how would we ever know what we look like to our fiancé?