What does Proverbs 21:19 mean?
ESV: It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
NIV: Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
NASB: It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and irritating woman.
CSB: Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife.
NLT: It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.
KJV: It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
NKJV: Better to dwell in the wilderness, Than with a contentious and angry woman.
Verse Commentary:
Once again (Proverbs 21:9) Solomon observes that luxury and comfort cannot make up for a negative, toxic relationship with one's spouse. The harsh conditions of a desert are preferable to the harsher conditions in such a home. The wording here is literally about a "wife," but the general idea applies to either sex (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15).

Although marriage is meant to unite a man and a woman, the union may be shaky when one spouse nags, argues, berates, or complains about the other. A happy marriage is one in which both partners honor the Lord and love each other (Ephesians 5:22–33). For the sake of a tranquil home each spouse must overlook the other's faults. Self-sacrificing love is the glue that binds husband and wife together in a joyful marriage. First Corinthians 13:4–5 describes such love as "patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful."
Verse Context:
Proverbs 21:17–31 continues the recorded wisdom of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1). He contrasts the wise person with the foolish person, the righteous with the wicked, the lazy person with the diligent, and human wisdom with the Lord's sovereignty.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
Chapter Context:
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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