Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.
These two lines comprise a single wise saying. The first offers a comparison between “starting a quarrel” and “breaching a dam.”
We’re familiar some sort of boundary holding back relative water pressure that, then, begins to leak. Once a trickle starts, it’s hard to hold back.
So it is with “a quarrel.” If we’re not able to keep (or even regain!) our emotions, a floodgate of all kind of emotions, words and even actions come rushing forth.
“So drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” The “dispute that breaks out” in the second line should probably be understood as an escalation from the “quarrel” in the first.
“Dispute” is the term used for a legal court case. Our personal quarrel is now a full-blown public legal action that just shouldn’t happen.
So, we’re advised to “drop the matter.” The Hebrew word here is also translated “leave,” “forsake” or “abandon.” Let it go!
The message of this verse is like something Isaiah once wrote:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
Well, that was either Isaiah or Kenny Rogers…but you know what I mean!
So, it will be our responsibility to see the bigger picture before things begin building up to even just a “quarrel.” We’ll also need to face and deal with some of our own attitudes.
Then, if we still need to have a discussion, that’ll be fine. But we’ll be in a better place to do so.
Still, I might relapse in my attitudes or thinking. If so — just go back to the beginning start again.
It’s not easy being the little Dutch boy who puts his finger in the dike and saves Holland…but it’s worth the effort!