At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide houseProverbs 21:9
We again see a typical approach to scriptural wisdom, an approach that is repeated a number of times in Proverbs. If you have two variables, x and y, in this case a pleasant wife and a big house, we are told that it would be better to have x without y than to have y without x.
A clever fellow might say that he would prefer to have both x and y. Yes, but because we are being taught how to prioritize, the path of wisdom makes you decide which of them you should prefer. And Scripture tells us which is “better.” You should prefer life in a little cubby hole in the attic, hiding behind some boxes, than to have your run of a sprawling mansion presided over by a quarrelsome wife.
The ESV renders the word brawling as quarrelsome, and NASB and NKJV as contentious. If we compare Scripture with Scripture, we can see what is likely happening here. “Every wise woman buildeth her house: But the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Prov. 14:1). Since this is almost certainly a metaphor (very few women dismantle their physical homes with their actual hands), we can see that the destruction accomplished by the foolish woman is largely done with the tongue. The wise woman builds her house with wisdom and kindness. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26).
If a woman is wise enough, she can build an expansive home with her kindness. If she is foolish enough, she can make a great house an intolerable place to be.
“Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Prov. 9:1).
Scripture does not hesitate to confront men with their sins, or women with theirs. And in this case, it is not likely that the quarrelsome wife would recognize herself in this description. That is why she is foolish. She doesn’t think she is being contentious; she just wants to make her point. Again.