Proverb 17

Today is April 17th so the corresponding chapter of the book of Proverbs in the Bible is the 17th chapter. I’ll focus on the first verse which reads…

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

A “morsel” is a small piece of food so a “dry morsel” would be something like a plain or even stale piece of bread, a cracker, plain toast, a crouton, etc. These kinds of food are not appetizing but they will keep you alive if you have enough of them. However in this case because the Bible is speaking of a morsel it is hardly enough to do even that and yet it is said to be better than an alternative spoken of.

“Quietness” is the absence of noise and in context it is the absence of the noise of an argument or fighting. “Therewith” means that the quietness is joined in the tense of the sentence to the dry morsel so that the person in question has both at the same time.

The “house” being spoken of is the house of the person being spoken of. Often a “house” in the Bible is not just the physical house, but the whole family situation within the house abstractly. Likewise a “house full of” could not only refer a physical house which contains a physical thing, but also, but the presence of a mood within a household situation abstractly.

“Sacrifices” were animals which the Jews, especially those of the Levitical class (Jewish priests), killed and ate as part of their semi-regular diets or for special occasions which were part of their culture and religious ceremonies. Because simple foods like bread, other grains, fruit, herbs, and vegetables, were the more abundant foods during Biblical times eating the expensive meat of animal flesh was not something common people could do every day and because only the best animals were to be sacrificed the meat of a sacrificial animal was particularly good and desirable.

Strife is conflict, argument, fighting, or war.

And so we can begin analysis in this way; In the first clause the dry morsel is a physical thing which is a concrete object and not something abstract. It is food. This corresponds to the physical thing spoken of in the third clause which is also food; that would be the sacrifices. The second clause speaks of an abstract thing; that is the quietness, which corresponds to the last abstract thing spoke of in the verse found in the third clause which is strife.

So then the proverb is saying that it is better to have very little physical food, but to be in a peaceful situation than to have a lot of physical food and be upset all of the time.

Being upset can make food difficult to digest and can make you lose your appetite. It takes the joy out of eating and eating is one of the simple pleasures in life and we should try to enjoy the food God has given us and to do that we must have peace in our lives and avoid unnecessary arguments.

Life is often about making choices between two things. A job which is more profitable will stock our pantries and refrigerators with more food and food which tastes better, but if our jobs cause stress we are more likely to take that stress out on our families or neglect them and so they will take out their stress on us or each other. To be able to maintain a peaceful attitude and environment we should choose a life of less material wealth with less stress than more material wealth with more stress. All studies show that people with less stress add years to their lives and we would all lose some weight by eating a bit less because we have to maintain a tighter budget and losing weight is also a health benefit as long as necessary nutrition is not neglected. A two-income family also generates more wealth, but without a wife to maintain a happy home the peaceful environment that a righteous woman can foster is lost. Distance grows between the husband and spouse as they are focused on their jobs and children have to occupy their own time without input, guidance, discipline, love, and attention, from their parents. The house falls into disarray and disrepair which adds stress due to the clutter and filth and entropy and there is an increased risk of injury and a loss of the value of the home from lack of proper upkeep. Furthermore some people marry just for the financial benefits of combined incomes without regard to how spiritual their respective spouses are and so inevitably create future stress for themselves when their spouse fails to fulfill their financial responsibilities or else fall into sins of irresponsible money handling like overspending, gambling, or neglecting bills, or incurring debts. In these cases the couple who at first joined for financial gain split due to financial stress and are left in debt and long term obligations to collection agencies, lawyers, and child support, or spousal support payments. When the spirituality of a potential spouse is neglected not marrying is the more financially sound choice in the long run even though marriage may appear to be a benefit in short term.

If the analysis is correct there should be corresponding verses which reinforce these principles (called cross references) and few (if any) verses which appear to contradict them. Here are a few:

Proverbs 15:16 Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Proverbs 15:17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Proverbs 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.

Proverbs 21:9 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 3:9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

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