Today’s proverb requires a little understanding of the architecture of homes in the ancient Near East. In our culture, it would be extremely odd indeed for a spouse to crawl up on the roof and set up a living space for themselves. In biblical times, however, we can see from our illustration that the roof was used as an “extra area for eating, working and sleeping during warm weather” It was already a commonly used space for living, so setting up shop there wouldn’t be as odd as it would be for us.
What’s more, we see that it was a place to go and “cool off” when the weather was hot. This was the imagery being used in this proverb. Better to go find a place to “cool off” when things are tense than continue to live in conflict on a daily basis. Rooftops are often seen as places of prayer, reflection, and relaxation. Daniel went to the roof to pray, as did Peter, and scripture is full of descriptions of the Israelites going up to their rooves to worship God during the Festival of Booths as well as offering sacrificial worship to false gods there as well. Jesus and Nicodemus likely had their conversation on the roof of his home.
The roof was a place for relaxation, reflection, and sharing time with others. So, this proverb is telling us, in a way, when things get heated, it’s ok to take some time to go cool off. Today’s equivalent would probably be spending the night on the couch when there is a sharp disagreement.
Ephesians 4:26-27 is likely wisdom along the same lines of thought, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Typically, one did not “live” on the roof, when the sun went down, if it was not too hot to sleep inside, you’d come down from the roof to the shared living quarters. Telling us “do not let the sun go down on your anger” could be an allusion to going up on the roof for a time of reflection and prayer to cool down, but once the sun is set, don’t bring that conflict back down to the rest of the family with you.
Scripture is full of commands and examples of reconciliation. Restoration of relationships is a major theme in the Bible. This proverb should not be seen as permission to remain in conflict indefinitely. In fact, the roof in biblical times was only seen as a place of temporary use. It was not intended to be a permanent dwelling.
So today, if you are in conflict with someone, be intentional to find a place and set aside some time to sit and reflect before God. Pray, journal, and read scripture, asking the God of forgiveness and restoration to guide you by the Holy Spirit to find a resolution to the issue. Ongoing conflict is not the desire of God. And he knows that sometimes it’s best if we take some time and find some space to let our anger subside, so we do not sin when we are feeling such strong emotions.
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for being slow to anger when it comes to my sins. Jesus, teach me by your example how to be wise when I am in conflict with someone else, and show me how to make peace whenever possible. Help me to always find time in my day to spend in prayer and reflection on your word, especially when I am in a heated disagreement with someone else. Send your Holy Spirit to help me live in peace, to “cool down” when I am angry, and to live out your will for my life. Guide me today as I follow you. Help me to be a peacemaker, and take the time to reflect on my words and my choices, especially when I am angry. Amen.