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It is better to live on a corner of the housetop[a]
than to share a house[b] with a quarrelsome wife.[c]
10 The appetite[d] of the wicked has desired[e] evil;
his neighbor is shown no favor[f] in his eyes.
11 When a scorner is punished, the naive[g] becomes wise;
when a wise person is instructed,[h] he gains knowledge.

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  1. Proverbs 21:9 tn English versions which translate the Hebrew term as “roof” here sometimes produce amusing images for modern readers: TEV “Better to live on the roof”; CEV “It’s better to stay outside on the roof of your house.”sn The reference is probably to a small room that would be built on the flat housetop primarily for guests (e.g., 1 Kgs 17:19; 2 Kgs 4:10). It would be cramped and lonely—but peaceful in avoiding strife.
  2. Proverbs 21:9 tn The phrase “than a house of company” has received numerous interpretations. The word “company” or “companionship” would qualify “house” as a place to be shared. The BHS editors propose “spacious house,” which would call for a transposition of letters (cf. NAB “a roomy house”; NLT “a lovely home”). Such an emendation makes good sense, but has no external support.
  3. Proverbs 21:9 tn Heb “a wife of contentions”; KJV “a brawling woman”; TEV, CEV “a nagging wife.” The Greek version has no reference to a quarrelsome wife, but instead mentions justice in a common house.
  4. Proverbs 21:10 tn Heb “soul.” The Hebrew text uses נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, traditionally, “soul”) as the formal subject of the sentence—“the soul of a wicked man desires.” This term has at its core the idea of appetites, and so its use here underscores that the cravings are deep-seated (BDB 660 s.v. 5), and the translation “appetite” reflects this.
  5. Proverbs 21:10 tn The verb אִוְּתָה (ʾivvetah) is a Piel perfect. Categorically, Piel verbs are dynamic rather than stative, so the perfect form should be understood as past or perfective. In the Qal, some verbs for “desire” are stative and some dynamic; so semantically the question could be raised whether this is a rare, or lone, stative in the Piel. If stative, it could be understood as present tense, as rendered in most translations. But it is doubtful that more recent developments in linguistics and biblical Hebrew influenced any of the translations. However, as perfective we should understand that this is what they have set their desire on, and that is ongoing, so a present time relevance is appropriate. In this proverb the first colon provides the setting as a basis, and the second colon gives the result. We may understand it as “because [he/she] has desired evil, his/her neighbor will not be shown favor.”
  6. Proverbs 21:10 tn The form יֻחַן (yukhan) is a Hophal imperfect from חָנַן (khanan); it means “to be shown mercy”—here negated to mean “he will not be shown mercy.” The person who lives to satisfy his own craving for evil will not be interested in meeting the needs of others.
  7. Proverbs 21:11 sn The contrast here is between the simple and the wise. The simple gain wisdom when they see the scorner punished; the wise gains knowledge through instruction. The scorner does not change, but should be punished for the benefit of the simple (e.g., Prov 19:25).
  8. Proverbs 21:11 tn Heb “in the instructing of the wise.” The construction uses the Hiphil infinitive construct הַשְׂכִּיל (haskil) with a preposition to form a temporal clause (= “when”). The word “wise” (חָכָם, khakham) after it is the subjective genitive. The preposition ל (lamed) on the form is probably dittography from the ending of the infinitive.

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