Summary: The Hebrew word translated "strife" or "contention" occurs some 15 times in Proverbs & describes the kind of person who is apt to cause an argument or a conflict, one who is predisposed to quarreling or dispute. Let's look at 3 aspects of contentions so w



[James 3: 1-16]

The Hebrew word translated "strife" or "contention" occurs some fifteen times in the book of Proverbs and describes the kind of person who is apt to cause an argument or a conflict, one who is predisposed to quarreling or dispute. In short, it describes a person who is disagreeable, who has not learned to disagree without being disagreeable.

The nature of strife is set forth with a vivid simile in Proverbs 17:14 where we read, "The beginning of strife is like letting out water..." Strife, then, is similar to a tiny hole in a dam releasing only a small trickle of water that gets bigger and bigger. The nature of contention is to move from "trickles to torrents!" There's a Talmudic proverb that says, "strife is like the aperture of a leak; as the aperture widens so the stream of water increases." A person, then, who continues to create little disruptions here and there, will someday be the source of an eruption of major proportions. [Three things can be said of a trickle that becomes a torrent: It lets out more water than is possible to predict, it lets out more water than is possible to control, and it lets out more water than is ever possible to retrieve.]

What then, should we do when a quarrel arises? The second half of Proverbs 17:14 gives a terse answer, " ... abandon the quarrel before it breaks out." And if the quarrel is abandoned, what will happen to it? Where there are no combatants, contention will die its own well-deserved death.

Let's look then at three aspects of contentions so well be capable of spotting it and putting it out. [The word for quarrelsome (môn) is used more often in Proverbs than in any other Old Testament book. It is also translated "dissension" (6:14, 19; 10:12; 15:18; 28:25; 29:22), "disputes" (18:18-19), "quarrel(s)" (17:14; 22:10; 26:20), and "strife" (23:29). Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy; The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983. S. 946.]


Of the fifteen references to strife and contention, five of them deal with the same subject--the contentious woman. The first is Proverbs 21:9 which observes, "It is better to live in a corner of a roof, than in a house shared with a contentious woman." The woman described as having a disposition of strife and not simply a mood, which is temporary.

Whenever Proverbs labels a person, such as a man of deceit, a fool, a sluggard, etc., it is because this is his most common characteristic. So, the contentious woman is one for whom strife and quarrels are a normal part of the day. She sleeps well knowing she has caused or stirred up strife. It certainly does not mean she must remain this way, but it does give a fair assessment of her at the present time. Yet the hope exists that she would take these proverbs seriously, and thus find healing for herself.

Since the context of the verse is "the home," it is obvious that the quarrels which she precipitates are private, not public. Indeed, she may get along quite nicely with her neighbors and friends, but "behind closed doors" a different tale is told. Furthermore, the quarrels may not just be with her husband, for he prefer a cot in the attic. It should also be noted that quarrelsomeness carries its own built in penalty. The husband's preference is to live apart from her where he is exposed to the elements of the weather, and the result is her loss of his companionship. We do not seek the company and fellowship of quarrelsome people.

We pick up the same theme again in Proverbs 19:13. "A foolish son is destruction to his father and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping." This poor man has double trouble--a bad son and a bad wife. The word "destruction" is plural, showing his life is filled with repeated unpleasantries. The foolish son delivers many painful blows to his father.

Moffett translated contentions "naggings." An old Arabic proverbs says, "Three things make a house intolerable: Tak (rain leaks), nak (a wife's nagging), and bak (bugs)." Constant dripping indicates her irritating quarreling continues relentlessly (27:16). Proverbs 21:19, 25:24 and 27:15 all reiterate the pain of living with a contentious wife.


1st Slander May Accompany Contention

Proverbs 16:28 teaches us that a contentious person sows discord even among friends. "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends."

The words "perverse man" are literally, "a man of upside down." This means that he upsets things, he is never straight. In English, we speak of a person who twists things. The verb translated spreads is very colorful. It is used in Judges 15:4 to described the actions of Sampson when he caught three hundred foxes and released them into the grain fields of the Philistines. The raging fire "spread" by the foxes is a vivid picture of the strife spread by a twisted or upsetting man.

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