Summary: Wisdom can be presented by comparing one person or situation to another. A contrast is presented by the words better & than instead of “but.” There are 19 verses in Proverbs that use the “better . . . than” formula. These comparision statements challenge
In the better ... than Proverb in 16:32 having patience and a controlled temper is honored above being a great warrior. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city."
In a land where safety depended on might and skill in warfare, this statement may seem surprising. Yet conquering oneself (14:17, 29; 25:28; 29:11) is of greater virtue than conquering a city.
If you’re slow to anger, or are self-controlled, you possess an ability so great in God’s eyes that it’s more valuable than the ability to defeat an entire city.
Proverbs17:1 teaches that it’s better to have a dry biscuit in a quiet house than to have steaks with strife. "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife."
[As stated in the similar better . . . than proverbs of 15:16-17,] having a peaceful and quiet though spartan meal (dry crust) is far better than having a lot to eat (a house full of feasting, "sacrifices, " full of meat from animals sacrificed to the Lord; 7:14) in a house where there is strife.
The idea of sacrifice here comes from Leviticus 7:11–36, where we read of the peace offering in which God’s people were to offer meat to the Lord and also to partake of some themselves. We are here reminded that we can have all kinds of meat, and yet if we’re not right with the Lord, it won’t be satisfying. Harmony in one’s relationships is to be desired over a sumptuous supply of food.
Proverbs 17:12 compares what truly is extremely dangerous to your life. "Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly."
A mother bear whose cubs have been robbed is angry and therefore dangerous (Hosea 13:8). But it’s better to come face to face with a mother bear than with a fool (kesîl; Prov. 17:10, 16) who’s out of control.
Think of Herod who was so incensed that the wise men didn’t report back to him concerning the newborn King that he ordered the extermination of every boy child younger than two years old born in Bethlehem. Think of Nebuchadnezzar who stoked the furnace seven times hotter than normal rather than bow to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Think of Saul who killed eighty-five innocent priests because they had unknowingly helped David. It is certainly better to meet up with a mother bear than any of these fools.
Not all fools are equally dangerous but, as Robert L. Alden suggests, "Consider meeting a fool with a knife, or gun, or even behind the wheel of a car; a mother bear could be less dangerous" (Proverbs: A Commentary on an Ancient Book of Timeless Advice, p. 134).
Proverbs19:1 compares the upright in character and the perverse in speech. "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool."
[The first line of this verse is the same as the first line of 28:6.] It is better to be poor and honest (19:22b; blameless means morally whole; 2:7, 21; 11:5; 28:10, 18; Job 1:1) than to be a fool (kesîl, "dull, thickheaded") who speaks words that are perverse (‘iqq š; "twisted"; 2:15). The word for "poor" (r š) means destitute or hungry; it is not a dishonorable term suggesting poverty from laziness. A fool may try to get rich by devious means, but honesty is still a better policy, even if it means going hungry. [Walvoord & Zuck, Vol. 1. p. 945]