As we continue to consider the grind of discontentment, we have learned that the secret ingredient to a fabulous meal is love.
As we continue to consider the grind of discontentment, we have learned that the secret ingredient to a fabulous meal is love. The book of Proverbs continues this culinary theme with another comparative couplet:
Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it
Than a house full of feasting with strife. (17:1)
The image of a “dry crust” (NIV1984) is a word picture any ancient traveler could appreciate. Without the benefit of preservatives for their food, travelers subsisted on bread or dried meat similar to beef jerky. They were definitely roughing it. And even at home during lean economic times, old bread and dried meat might have sufficed for dinner.
The proverb compares this spartan meal to “a house of sacrifice” (the literal Hebrew meaning). According to Old Testament law and tradition, a priest was allowed to take home to his family some portions of meat not completely consumed on the altar (Leviticus 10:12–14). This is how a man who had dedicated his life to ministry supported his household. The term for the ritual killing of an animal was sometimes used in the sense of preparing for a feast, for a sumptuous table, covered with delectable meat, vegetables, bread, and wine.
For the sage, the quality of the meal takes second place to the emotional environment of the house. He contrasted “quiet” with “strife.” The word quiet, however, doesn’t refer to silence; it describes a setting characterized by tranquility, ease, prosperity, and security. The Hebrew term is closely related to shalom. So the proverb describes a peaceful, harmonious household where people are free to be themselves without fear of criticism or rejection. There is a sense of ease among the people because strife—disputes, quarrels, and hostility—is not to be found or felt.
The writer of this particular proverb found contentment in most meals because he found far greater satisfaction in harmonious relationships than the most expensive meals money can buy. He might not have been able to control the flow of cash into the family bank account, but he could maintain wholesome relationships under his roof.