Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 27:16
"He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand"
This is the continuation of Solomon's instruction about the contentious woman; the woman who knows nothing about the indirect approach to difficulty. What irritates her or needs change will be incessantly talked about. She barrels ahead talking about the thing that bothers her with relentless irritation. She usually irritates the person she is trying to change more than changing them.
There are a number of reasons why Solomon could bring up this issue:
To talk about dealing with the contentious person and to point out in a subtle way that one should just look at changing in the area that the contentious person is pointing out because there will be no hiding from their issue. Find a way of compromising on their issue or getting away from them because it will not be possible to hide from them on their particular issue.
Solomon could also be helping the contentious person realize that they are irritating and hard to be around. He could also be suggesting that this contentious person should try and approach their change campaign in a much more subtle way.
Solomon is warning those around this contentious person that trying to help them is difficult if not impossible. Once their mind is set on something that bothers them, they will not be dissuaded from regularly bringing it up.
This is the Hebrew word tsaphan, which means to hide or treasure up, conceal, restrain. The idea here is clearly that Solomon notices that the husband or friend of this contentious woman is trying to keep her from constantly harping on something. They are trying to hide her rage and relentless push on the thing that bothers her, but it is impossible to hide her displeasure. It will break out of the hiding place. Just when you think that you have gotten them to be quiet about something that really bothers them, they will bring it up. That issue refuses to be restrained in them so they refuse to be restrained.
Solomon is saying that no matter how much good it does for the person to not harp on the subject that bothers them, they just can't let it go.
It is interesting that the next verse is about what the contentious woman should do. She should leave it to a colleague or friend of the person to bring about the change needed because her voice has become shrill... like a dripping faucet.
How many times have we all said to someone: "Just chill" on that and things would go a lot better. But the contentious person cannot let it go; they have to win. It does not meet their expectation so it must be broached.
This is the Hebrew word ruach, which is the typical word for wind, breath, spirit. The idea is clearly that Solomon is saying that just as you cannot hold back the wind, so trying to stop a person from nagging or harping on the subject that is their hobby horse is like holding back the wind. They will talk about it and often at the most inopportune times.
He writes to every person who has a nagging contentious person in their life but especially to husbands. There are two subtle messages in this proverb. This person will not ever shut up about this issue until it is the way they want it. Second, don't believe that the person has forgotten about the issue that irritates them. You have not successfully hidden it, and they have not forgotten it.
In my opinion when this kind of person starts riding your tail about something, you would do well to figure out how to change to meet at least the minimum standards of the person or get away from the person. Because hiding the issue will not work.
Now the only choice to stop the wind in this case is for the contentious person to realize that they are being contentious over something that doesn't really matter. If they keep this up, they will drive a wedge in their relationship with whomever they are being contentious. We do not choose as our friends those who keep needling us about a weakness in our life. We choose as our friends people who overlook our weakness, focus on our strengths, and love us anyway.
This is the Hebrew word qara, which means to encounter, befall, to come upon. The translators felt that the idea was best conveyed by the picture of trying to grasp oil, but the actual literal translates encounters oil. The idea is that you cannot stop the contentious person even with your best effort. The right hand is typically our best hand for stopping, grasping, or holding (apologies to the left-handed among us). Solomon is saying that our best abilities and our best efforts are useless against a person who is contentious in the area of their contention.