It is better to live on the corner of a rooftop
than in a house with a contentious wife. Bible other translations

“the corner of a rooftop.” This proverb is sometimes taught as if it is just a disparagement of women and how emotional, contentious or nagging they can be. While there can be people who are contentious like that, and it is best to retreat from them, knowing the heart of our Father God, we can also see this verse as good advice from our heavenly Father about how to preserve and improve a marriage or relationship in difficult times. The man going to the roof for a while likely happened more often than we might think. Houses had flat roofs, and when the weather was nice it was common to relax and even sleep on the roof. Some roofs even had a little room built on them (2 Kings 4:10). Even if the husband felt he was chased to the corner of the housetop, he still had space to get calm which was better than being attacked or being in a fight in the house.

If the woman of the house was being contentious, as the proverb says, or if the couple was having a hard time communicating without a lot of hurtful words and actions, it is quite likely that the man of the house would go to the roof to create some space between the couple. It is often the case when a couple is having serious trouble that it is good for them to have some time apart, and that is exactly what the proverb says, that it is “better” to live on the roof than to continue to live in the tension in the house. Culture dictated why the man would be the one to go onto the roof: women were generally not subjected to public view and also the work of the women, including the cooking and the care of the children, would be done inside the house, so she couldn’t really leave it.

The Bible never says how long the man would stay on the roof, and it seems clear he is not making the roof a permanent residence but rather giving some time for the contention to cease. Couples are usually able to work out how and when to get back together and in that culture there was a lot of family support and advice for both the men and the women that would help them through difficult times.

Commentary for: Proverbs 21:9