Ecclesiastes 10 commentary

ECCLESIASTES 10 COMMETARY EDITED BY GLE PEASE 1 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. BARES, "This verse is by its meaning so closely connected with Ecc_9:18 that the selection of it for the beginning of a new chapter seems unfortunate. Apothecary - Rather: a dealer in spices and perfumes (compare Exo_30:25 ). The swarms of flies in the East very soon corrupt and destroy any moist unguent or mixture left uncovered, and pollute a dish of food in a few minutes. So doth ... - literally, more weighty than wisdom, than honor, is a little folly. CLARKE, "Dead flies - Any putrefaction spoils perfume; and so a foolish act ruins the character of him who has the reputation of being wise and good. Alas! alas! in an unguarded moment how many have tarnished the reputation which they were many years in acquiring! Hence, no man can be said to be safe, till he is taken to the paradise of God. GILL, "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour,.... Such, as Jarchi observes, are in the winter season, which are weak and near to death, and get into precious ointment, prepared after the best manner, where they die, and corrupt and spoil it: or, "flies of deaths" (m); deadly ones, which have something in their nature poisonous and pernicious; which, when they light upon the most sweet and savoury ointment, give it an ill smell; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour; a good name is like precious ointment, valuable and fragrant; sin, which is folly, is like a dead fly; not only light and mean, and base and worthless, but hurtful and pernicious, deadly, and the cause of death; and what may seem little, a peccadillo, or, however, one single act of sin, may injure the character of a wise and honourable man, and greatly expose him to shame and contempt, and cause him to stink in the nostrils of men, Gen_36:20 ; and to be reproached by men, and religion and government to be reproached for his sake. Thus the affair of Bathsheba and Uriah, what a slur did it bring on the character of David, so famous for wisdom and honour, for religion and piety? and the idolatry of Solomon, the wisest of men; Jehoshaphat, that good king, entering into affinity with Ahab; and pious Josiah going to war with the king of Egypt, contrary to the word of the Lord; with many other instances. This teaches how careful men eminent for gifts and

Transcript of Ecclesiastes 10 commentary

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1 As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

BAR ES, "This verse is by its meaning so closely connected with Ecc_9:18 that the selection of it for the beginning of a new chapter seems unfortunate.

Apothecary - Rather: a dealer in spices and perfumes (compare Exo_30:25). The swarms of flies in the East very soon corrupt and destroy any moist unguent or mixture left uncovered, and pollute a dish of food in a few minutes.

So doth ... - literally, more weighty than wisdom, than honor, is a little folly.

CLARKE, "Dead flies - Any putrefaction spoils perfume; and so a foolish act ruins the character of him who has the reputation of being wise and good. Alas! alas! in an unguarded moment how many have tarnished the reputation which they were many years in acquiring! Hence, no man can be said to be safe, till he is taken to the paradise of God.

GILL, "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour,.... Such, as Jarchi observes, are in the winter season, which are weak and near to death, and get into precious ointment, prepared after the best manner, where they die, and corrupt and spoil it: or, "flies of deaths" (m); deadly ones, which have something in their nature poisonous and pernicious; which, when they light upon the most sweet and savoury ointment, give it an ill smell;

so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour; a good name is like precious ointment, valuable and fragrant; sin, which is folly, is like a dead fly; not only light and mean, and base and worthless, but hurtful and pernicious, deadly, and the cause of death; and what may seem little, a peccadillo, or, however, one single act of sin, may injure the character of a wise and honourable man, and greatly expose him to shame and contempt, and cause him to stink in the nostrils of men, Gen_36:20; and to be reproached by men, and religion and government to be reproached for his sake. Thus the affair of Bathsheba and Uriah, what a slur did it bring on the character of David, so famous for wisdom and honour, for religion and piety? and the idolatry of Solomon, the wisest of men; Jehoshaphat, that good king, entering into affinity with Ahab; and pious Josiah going to war with the king of Egypt, contrary to the word of the Lord; with many other instances. This teaches how careful men eminent for gifts and

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grace should be of their words and actions; since the least thing amiss in them is easily discerned, and soon taken notice of, as the least speck in a diamond, or spot in fine linen, clean and white; and there are wicked and envious persons enough watching for their halting, glad to have an occasion against them, and improve everything to the uttermost: this is a caution to wise magistrates, honourable ministers of the word, and eminent professors more especially. The Targum is,

"evil concupiscence, which dwells at the gates of the heart, is as a fly, and is the cause of death in the world; and corrupts a good name, which was before like to anointing oil, perfumed with spices:''

and to the same purpose the Midrash. One of the names of Satan is Beelzebub, the lord of a fly; who, by his temptations, solicits to sin and folly, which produce the effect here mentioned, and therefore to be shunned as a deadly fly in the ointment, Mat_12:24. Gussetius (n) renders it,

"that which is precious and worthy of honour "proceeds" from wisdom; and folly "comes" from glory, "worldly glory", in a little time.''

HE RY, "In these verses Solomon shows,

I. What great need wise men have to take heed of being guilty of any instance of folly; for a little folly is a great blemish to him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour, and is as hurtful to his good name as dead flies are to a sweet perfume, not only spoiling the sweetness of it, but making it to send forth a stinking savour. Note, 1. True wisdom is true honour, and will gain a man a reputation, which is like a box of precious ointment, pleasing and very valuable. 2. The reputation that is got with difficulty, and by a great deal of wisdom, may be easily lost, and by a little folly, because envy fastens upon eminency, and makes the worst of the mistakes and miscarriages of those who are cried up for wisdom, and improves them to their disadvantage; so that the folly which in another would not be taken notice of in them is severely censured. Those who make a great profession of religion have need to walk very circumspectly, to abstain from all appearances of evil, and approaches towards it, because many eyes are upon them, that watch for their halting; their character is soon sullied, and they have a great deal of reputation to lose.

JAMISO ,"Following up Ecc_9:18.

him that is in reputation— for example, David (2Sa_12:14); Solomon (1Ki_11:1-43); Jehoshaphat (2Ch_18:1-34; 2Ch_19:2); Josiah (2Ch_35:22). The more delicate the perfume, the more easily spoiled is the ointment. Common oil is not so liable to injury. So the higher a man’s religious character is, the more hurt is caused by a sinful folly in him. Bad savor is endurable in oil, but not in what professes to be, and is compounded by the perfumer (“apothecary”) for, fragrance. “Flies” answer to “a little folly” (sin), appropriately, being small (1Co_5:6); also, “Beelzebub” means prince of flies.“Ointment” answers to “reputation” (Ecc_7:1; Gen_34:30). The verbs are singular, the noun plural, implying that each of the flies causes the stinking savor.

COFFMAN, "This proverb is actually an illustration of the last verses of Ecclesiastes 9. A little folly by a single sinner can destroy much good. Also there is discernible in it another APPLICATION. A little folly can destroy the beauty and effectiveness of a noble character, in the same manner that a few dead flies in a small jar of expensive perfume

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can totally ruin it.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and] honour.

Ver. 1. Dead flies cause the ointment, &c.] The Preacher had said that "one sinner destroys much good"; [Ecclesiastes 9:18] here he affirms the same of "one sin"; be it but a small sin, a peccadillo, no bigger than a few "dead flies" fallen into a pot of sweet odours, it is of that stinking nature, that it stains a good man’s esteem, and blows his reputation. A great many flies may fall into a tarbox, and no hurt done. A small spot is SOON seen in a swan, not so in a swine. Fine lawn is sooner and deeper stained than coarse canvas. A city upon a hill cannot be hid; the least eclipse or aberration in the heavenly bodies is quickly noted and noticed. If Jacob, a plain man, (a) DEAL deceitfully, the banks of blasphemy will be broken down in a profane Esau thereby. If his unruly sons falsify with the Shechemites, he shall have cause to complain, "Ye have made me to stink among the inhabitants of the land." [Genesis 34:30] If Moses marry an Ethiopian woman, it shall be laid in his dish by his dearest friends. [ NUMBERS12:1] If Samson go down to Timnah, the Philistines will soon have it by the end, "told" it will be "in Gath, published in the streets of Askelon." If David do otherwise than well at home, the name of God will soon stink abroad, [2 Samuel 12:14] if Josiah go up unadvisedly against Pharaohnecho, and fall by his own folly, this "shall be his derision in the land of Egypt." [Hosea 7:16] The enemies of God will soon compose comedies out of the Church’s tragedies, and make themselves merry in her misery. She is said to be "fair as the moon," [Song of Solomon 6:10] which, though it be a beautiful creature and full of light, yet is she not without her black spots and blemishes; (Galileo used his telescope to discover mountains on her). These the Church malignant is ever eyeing and aggravating, passing by or depraving the better practices of God’s people. As vultures they hunt after carcases, (b) as swine they musk in the muck hill, as beetles they would live and die in horse dung. It must be our care as much as may be to maintain our reputation, to cut off all occasion of obloquy, to be "blameless and harmless," [Philippians 2:15] fair to the eye and sweet to the taste as that tree in paradise; without blemish from head to foot, as Absalom was; Non aliunde noscibiles quam de emendatione vitiorum pristinorum, (c) as Tertullian saith of the Christians of his time, known from all others by their innocence and patience. That was a good choice, for this purpose, that he himself made, Malo miserandum quam erubescendum, (d) I had rather be pitied than justly reproached. Strive we should to be as Paul was, a "good savour," [2 Corinthians 2:14] and not to go out, as they say the devil doth, in a stench

BENSON, "Ecclesiastes 10:1. Dead flies, &c. — Solomon seems in these words to be prosecuting what he had said in the last clause of the preceding chapter; showing how much good one foolish action may destroy, what evil may result from it, and how a man, otherwise famed for wisdom, may thereby lose his reputation. So most interpreters understand the verse. “The wiser or better,” says Bishop Patrick, “any man is, so much the more cautious ought he to be in all his words and actions, if he mean to preserve that CREDIT, esteem, and authority in the world, which give him great advantages for doing good. For, as dead flies, though very small creatures, falling into a pot of ointment,” and abiding and being putrified in it, “corrupt that precious composition, and turn the perfume into a stink; so doth a small error or miscarriage blemish him who was highly valued for his discretion and virtue.” And this comes to pass, partly, because all the

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actions, and consequently the follies of such men are most diligently observed, whereas the actions and follies of persons known to be ignorant and weak are generally disregarded; and, partly, because of that envious and malicious disposition which is in the minds of too many, and makes them quick- sighted to discover, and glad to hear, and forward to declare, the faults of such as, by their greater eminence, outshone and obscured them.

PULPIT, "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor. This is a metaphorical confirmation of the truth enunciated at the end of the last chapter, "One sinner destroyeth much good." It is like the apostle's warning to his converts, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (1Co_5:6). The Hebrew expression is literally, "flies of death," which may mean either "dead flies," as in our version and the Vulgate (muses morientes), or "deadly, poisonous flies," as in the Septuagint ( µυῖαι θανατοῦσαι ). The latter rendering seems preferable, if we regard the use of similar compound phrases, e.g. "instruments of death" (Psa_7:14 : [13]); "snares of death" (Psa_18:5); and in ew Testament Greek, ἡ πληγὴ τοῦ θανάτου , "the death-stroke" (Rev_13:3, Rev_13:12). The flies meant are such as are poisonous in their bite, or carry infection with them. Such insects corrupt anything which they touch—food, ointment, whether they perish where they alight or not. They, as the Hebrew says, make to stink, make to ferment, the oil of the perfumer. The singular verb is here used with the plural subject to express the unity of the individuals, "flies" forming one complete idea. The Septuagint rendering omits one of the verbs: Σαµπιοῦσι σκευασίαν ἐλαίου ἡδύσµατος , "Corrupt a preparation of sweet ointment." The point, of course, is the comparative insignificance of the cause which spoils a costly substance compounded with care and skill. Thus little faults mar great characters and reputations. "A good name is better than precious ointment" (Ecc_7:1), but a good name is ruined by follies, and then it stinks in men's nostrils. The term, "ointment of the apothecary," is used by Moses (Exo_30:25, etc.) in describing the holy chrism which was reserved for special occasions. So doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor. The meaning of the Authorized Version is tolerably correct, but the actual rendering will hardly stand, and one wants some verb to govern "him that," etc. The other versions vary. Septuagint, "A little wisdom is more precious ( τίµιον ) than great glory of folly;" Vulgate, "More precious are wisdom and glory than small and short-lived folly;" Jerome, "Precious above wisdom and glory is a little folly." This last interpretation proceeds upon the idea that such "folly" is at any rate free from pride, and has few glaring faults. "Dulce est desipere in loco," says Horace ('Carm.,' 4.12. 28). But the original is best translated thus: "More weighty than wisdom, than honor, is a little folly." It is a painful fact that a little folly, one foolish act, one silly peculiarity of manner or disposition, will suffice to impair the real value of a matt's wisdom and the estimation in which he was held. The little clement of foolishness, like the little insect in the ointment, obscures the real excellence of the man, and deprives him of the honor that is really his due. And in religion we know that one fault unchecked, one Secret sin cherished, poisons the whole character, makes a man lose the grace of God. (For the same effect from another cause, see Eze_3:20; Eze_33:13.) Jerome sees in the "dead flies" wicked thoughts put into the Christian's mind by Beelzebub, "the lord of flies."

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Ecc_10:2, Ecc_10:3

A tetrastich contrasting wisdom and folly.

PULPIT, "The dispraise of folly.


As one sinner destroyeth much good (Ecc_9:18), and flies of death, or poisonous flies, cause the ointment of the perfumer to send forth a stinking savor, so doth a little folly outweigh wisdom and honor.

1. It mars their beauty. As the poisonous flies so affect the perfumer's ointment that it begins to ferment and lose its fragrance, a little folly mixed up with a great deal of wisdom and honor impairs these in such a fashion and to such an extent, that they cease to attract the good opinion of beholders, and the person possessed of them is rather known as a fool than esteemed as a wise man.

2. It destroys their value. As the dealer in ointments cannot sell his corrupted pigment, so neither can the man whose wisdom and honor are tainted with folly any longer wield that power for good he might otherwise have done. The influence exerted by his wisdom and honor is directly counteracted and frequently overbalanced by the influence of his folly.

II. FOLLY CO STITUTES A U SAFE GUIDE. "The wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left." This has been thought to mean:

1. The fool's heart is in the wrong place, in contrast to the wise man's, which is always in the right place (Hengstenberg). This sentiment is true. The fool's heart is not directed towards those objects upon which its affections ought to be set, while the wise man's is. This enough to make folly an unsafe conductor.

2. The fool's heart never acts at the right time, while the wise man's does (Ginsburg), because the wise man's heart is always at his right hand, his acting hand, his working hand; while the fool's is always at the left hand, the wrong hand, the hand with which a person usually finds it difficult to act. This a second reason why no man should accept folly as a leader. It can never seize the opportunity, never strike while the iron is hot, never do anything at the proper moment or in an efficient manner.

3. The fool's heart is always unlucky in its auguries, whereas the wise man's heart is always lucky (Plumptre). If this were the correct interpretation—which we think it is not—it would state what would not be surprising, were it true, that the fool's forecasts were usually falsified, and would present another argument for not committing one's self to the directorship of folly.

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4. The fool's heart always leads in the wrong direction, as distinguished from the right direction in which the wise man's heart ever goes. This, undoubtedly, is true. The fool is a person wholly destitute of that wisdom which is profitable to direct (verse 10), and without which no man can walk safely (Pro_3:23). A final consideration against enrolling beneath the banner of folly.

III. POLLY I VARIABLY BETRAYS ITS OW STUPIDITY. "Yea also, when the fool walketh by the way, his understanding faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool." As it is certain that no man can conceal his true character for ever, or even for long, so likewise is it certain that a zany, a buffoon, a fool, will discover his sooner than most people. He will proclaim himself to be a fool:

1. By his irrational behavior. His understanding will fail him at critical times and on important subjects. He will reveal his ignorance, want of sense, lack of principle, emptiness of grace.

2. In the most public manner. As he walks by the way. As not being in the least degree ashamed of his folly, perhaps hardly conscious he is making such an exhibition of himself.

3. To the most unlimited extent. He will make himself known, not to his friends in private, but to his neighbors in the street, and not to one or two merely of these, but to every one he meets.

IV. FOLLY FREQUE TLY ASCRIBES ITS OW CHARACTER TO OTHERS. The fool saith of every one he meets, "He is a fool," i.e. the individual whom he meets is (Vulgate, Luther, Plumptre). Though this translation is doubtful, it supplies a true thought; that as insane people often count all but themselves insane, so fools—intellectual, moral, and religious—not infrequently regard themselves as the only truly wise persons, and look upon the rest of mankind as fools.

V. FOLLY IS OFTE GUILTY OF GREAT RASH ESS. "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding allayeth great offences" (verse 4). The folly here alluded to consists in three things.

1. In flaming up into indignation at an unmerited accusation. Charges of such sort were to be expected by one who served an Oriental despot, and are not uncommon in ordinary life in the experience of subordinates who serve choleric masters. "The spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes" are no doubt hard to bear; but it is not a sign of wisdom to fume against them, and fret one's self into anger.

2. In hastily RETIRI G from the post of duty. As a statesman might resign his seals of office on being reprimanded by his sovereign, or a workman lay down his tools on being challenged by his master, or a domestic servant throw up her situation on being found fault with by her mistress.

3. In failing to see the better way of meekness and submission. The advantages of

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gently and patiently bearing false accusations or unjust ebullitions of temper against one are obvious. Such yielding

(1) usually has the effect of softening the anger and checking the railing of the accuser (Pro_15:1);

(2) puts an end to further offences on the part of the irate superior, whether ruler or master, who, were his rage to be increased by resistance, might proceed to greater manifestations of his temper; and

(3) prevents the offended himself from rushing into more serious transgressions, as he might do were he to give way in turn to his angry passions.

VI. FOLLY SOMETIMES ATTAI S TO U DESERVED HO OR. "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun … folly set in great dignity, and the rich in low place … servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth" (verses 5-7).

1. The commonness of this phenomenon. "The eunuch Bagoas long all-powerful at the Persian court" (Delitzsch), Louis XI. exalting the base-born to places of honor, and Edward II; James I. of England or Henry III. of France, lavishing dignities on their minions, may be cited as examples. othing more frequent in everyday life than to see persons of small capacity and little worth promoted over the heads of their superiors in talent and goodness.

2. The cause of this phenomenon. In one sense the wisdom of God, the chief Ruler of men and things (Hengstenberg), but in another sense, and that the one here intended, the arbitrary power of men "dressed in a little brief authority."

3. The evil of this phenomenon. It discourages merit, and inflates folly with pride; rewards incapacity, and despises real ability; places influence in wrong hands, and weakens the power of good men to benefit their age.

VII. FOLLY SELDOM K OWS WHE TO HOLD ITS TO GUE. "The lips of a fool will swallow up himself," etc. (verses 12-14).

1. The wise man's words are few, the fool's endless. The former is "swift to hear, but slow to speak" (Jas_1:19); the latter hears nothing, learns less, and chatters incessantly. The former is known by his silence (Pro_17:28; Pro_29:11); the latter, by the multitude of his words (verse 3).

2. The wise man's words are gracious, the fool's ruinous. The lips of the wise are a tree of life (Pro_11:30; Pro_15:4), and disperse knowledge amongst their fellows (Pro_15:7), whilst they preserve themselves (Pro_14:3); but a fool's mouth is his own destruction (Pro_17:7), and the complete beggarment of all that listen to him (Pro_14:23; Pro_17:7).

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3. The wise man's words improve as they PROCEED, the fool's deteriorate as they flow. The former carry with them the ripe fruits of thought and experience, growing richer and weightier as they move slowly on; the latter progress from bad to worse, beginning with foolishness and ending with mischievous madness.

VIII. FOLLY IS FREQUE TLY U ABLE TO DO THE SIMPLEST THI GS. "The labor of fools wearieth every one of them, for he knoweth not how to go to the city" (verse 15).

1. The fool's ignorance is dense. So simple a matter as finding his way along a country road to the city is beyond his comprehension. Plumptre cites in illustration the proverbs, " one but a fool is lost on a straight road," and "The 'why' is plain as way to parish church."

2. The fool's presumption is immense. He who cannot do so small a matter as find his way to the city proposes to "enlighten the world and make it happy" through his words or his works. So people who know nothing about a subject often imagine themselves qualified to teach it to others, and persons of no capacity put themselves forward to attempt undertakings of greatest difficulty.

3. The fool's labor is vast. Having neither knowledge nor ability, he labors with "great travail" to expound what he does not understand, and perform what he has neither brains nor hands to execute.


1. Forsake the foolish and live (Pro_9:6).

2. Get wisdom; get understanding (Pro_4:5).


Among the Jews, oil rendered fragrant by being mixed with precious drugs was used for many different purposes. With it priests and kings were anointed when they entered upon their offices, guests at the tables of the rich were treated to it as a luxury. It was used medicinally for outward APPLICATIO to the bodies of the sick; and with it corpses, and the clothes in which they were wrapped, were besprinkled before burial. Very great care was needed in the preparation of the material used for such special purposes. Elaborately confected as the ointment was, it was easily spoiled and rendered worthless. It was accordingly necessary not only to take great pains in making it, but also in preserving it from contamination when made. A dead fly would soon corrupt the ointment, and turn it into a pestilent odour. So, says the Preacher, a noble and attractive character may be corrupted and destroyed by a little folly; an insignificant-looking fault or weakness may outweigh great gifts and attainments. The fault which shows itself in a character is not like a stain or flaw in a marble statue, which is confined to one spot, and is no worse after

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the lapse of years, but like a sore in a living body, which weakens and may destroy the whole organism. One cause why the evil influence spreads is that we are not on our guard against it, and it may grow to almost ungovernable strength before we are really convinced that there is any danger. We can recognize at once great errors and heinous vices, and the alarm and disgust they excite prepare us to resist them; but little follies and weaknesses often fill us with an amused contempt for them, which BLI DS us to their great power for evil. So numerous are the sources from which danger arises, that a long list might be made of the little sins by which the characters of many good men and women are often marred: indolence, selfishness, love of ease, procrastination, indecision, rudeness, irritability, over-sensitiveness to praise or blame, vanity, boastfulness, talkativeness, love of gossip, undue laxity, undue severity, want of self-control over appetites and passions, obstinacy, parsimony. umerous though these follies are, they may be reduced into two great classes--faults of weakness and faults of strength.

I. Faults of weakness. This class is that of those which are largely negative, and consist principally in omission to give a definite and worthy direction to the nature; want of self-control, love of ease, indolence, procrastination, indecision, selfishness, unfeelingness. Want of self-control over appetites and passions led David into the foulest crimes, which, though sincerely repented of, were most terribly avenged, and have for ever left a stain upon his name. Love of case is the only fault which is implied in the description of the rich man in the parable (Luk_16:19), a desire to be comfortable and avoid all that was disagreeable, but it led him to such callous indifference to the miseries of his fellows, as disqualified him for happiness in the world to come. A very striking illustration of the deterioration of a character through the sin of weakness and indecision is to be found in the life of Eli. His good qualities have not preserved his memory from contempt. This is the sting of the rebuke addressed to the Church of Laodicea (Rev_3:15-16). In Dante’s description of the lower world special infamy is ATTACHED to this class of offenders, that of those who have never really lived, who have never awakened to take any part either in good or evil, to care for anything but themselves. They are unfit for heaven, and hell scorns to receive them. “This miserable mode the dreary souls of those sustain who lived without blame and without praise.”

II. Faults of strength. This class includes those faults which are of a positive character, and consist largely in an abuse of qualities which might have been virtues. The very strength of character by which men and women are distinguished may lead by over-emphasis into very offensive deterioration. Thus firmness may degenerate into obstinacy, frugality into parsimony, liberality into extravagance, light-heartedness into frivolity, candour into rudeness, and so on. And these are faults which disgust and repel, and cause us to overlook even very great merits in a character; and not only so, but, if unchecked, gradually nullify those merits. We may find in the character of Christ all the virtues which go to make up holiness so

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admirably BALA CED that no one is over-prominent, and therefore no one pushed to that excess which so often mars human excellence. “His tender tone was the keen edge of His reproofs, and His unquestionable love infused solemnity into every warning.” (Homiletic Magazine.)

Dead flies

Our instances must be taken almost at random; for, like their Egyptian prototypes, these flies are too many to be counted.

I. Rudeness. Some good men are blunt in their feelings, and rough in their manners; and they apologize for their coarseness by calling it honesty, downrightness, plainness of speech. They QUOTE in self-defence the sharp words and shaggy mien of Elijah and John the Baptist, and, as affectation, they sneer at the soft address and mild manners of gentler men. The question, however, is not between two rival graces--between integrity on the one side, and affability on the other; but the question is, Are these two graces compatible? Is it possible for a man to be explicit, and open, and honest, and, withal, courteous and considerate of the feelings of others? Is it possible to add to fervour and fidelity, suavity, and urbanity, and brotherly kindness? There never was one more faithful than the Son of God, but there never was one more considerate. And just as rudeness is not essential to honesty, so neither is roughness essential to strength of character. The Christian should have a strong character; he should be a man of remarkable decision. And he should be a man of inflexible purpose. When once he knows his Lord’s will, he should go through with it, aye, through fire and water. But this he may do without renouncing the meekness and gentleness which were in Christ. He may have zeal without pugnacity, determination without obstinacy.

II. Irritability. One of the most obvious and impressive features in the Saviour’s character was His meekness. In a patience which ingenious or sudden provocation could not upset; in a magnanimity which insult could not ruffle; in a gentleness from which no folly could extract an unadvised word, men saw what they could scarcely understand, but that which made them marvel. But many Christians lack this beauty of their Master’s holiness; they are afflicted with evil tempers, they cannot rule their spirits, or rather they do not try. Some indulge occasional fits of anger; and others are haunted by habitual, daily, life-long fretfulness. The one sort is generally calm and pellucid as an Alpine lake, but on some special provocation is tossed up into a magnificent tempest; the other is like the Bosphorns, in a CO TI UAL stir, and even when not a breath is moving, by the contrariety of its internal currents vexing itself into a ceaseless whirl and eddy. But either form, the paroxysmal fury, and the perennial fretfulness, is inconsistent with the wisdom from

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above, which is peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated.

III. Selfishsess. The world expects self-denial in the Christian; and with reason, for of all men he can best afford it, and by his profession he is committed to it. Attention to the wants of others, care for their welfare, and consideration for their feelings are Scriptural graces for which all Christians ought to be conspicuous. Christianity allows us to forget our own wants, but it does not permit us to forget the necessities of our brethren. It requires us to be careless of our own ease, but it forbids us to overlook the comfort and convenience of other people. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

HAWKER, "The Preacher is still prosecuting his sermon through this Chapter;

but folding up many important sayings within short sentences.


Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

This verse may serve to show us how frequently some of the most precious things are veiled under an unpromising cover. If we take this expression in its literal sense, no doubt it is very true. Folly will give a tinge to much reputation of wisdom, as dead flies will give an unsavory cast to the ointment of the apothecary. But if this were all to be learnt from this scripture, it required not the wisdom of Solomon, much less the teaching of the Holy Ghost, to give such information. But if by the dead flies here spoken of, the blessed Spirit intended to teach the Church, that our corrupt things (nay, our best things, which from sinners by nature dead in trespasses and sin, can be no otherwise than dead,) be mingled with the righteousness of Jesus, whose name for fragrancy is as ointment poured forth; will it not cause all that is blessed in Jesus to lose in our spiritual senses, its sweetness from our ill savor? Reader! why is it that what is precious in Jesus, is not at all times alike precious to us, but from our mingling up with it what is our own?

K&D, "The second half of the foregoing double proverb introduces what now follows: “Poisonous flies make to stink, make to ferment the oil of the preparer of ointment;

heavier than wisdom, than honour, weighs a little folly.” We do not need to change מות

זב or (.as possible by Hitz) זבוגי ם on account of the foll. sing. of the pred., either into ,זבובי

both are inadmissible, for the style of Koheleth is not adorned with ;(.Luzz) ימותי

archaisms such as Chirek compaginis; and also such an attrib. clause as ימות a fly ,זבוב

which dies,” is for him too refined; but both are also unnecessary, for a plur. of the subj., in which the plurality of the individuals comes less into view than the oneness of their character, is frequently enough followed by the sing. of the pred., e.g., Gen_39:22; Joe_

1:20; Isa_59:12, etc. It is a question, however, whether by מות ,.death-bringing, i.e ,זבובי

poisonous flies (lxx, Targ., Luther)

(Note: The Targ. interprets, as the Talm. and Mid. do, deadly flies as a figure of the prava concupiscentia. Similarly Wangemann: a mind buried in the world.)

or dead flies (Symm., Syr., Jerome) is meant. We decide in favour of the former; for (1)

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death-flies” for “dead flies,” would be an“ ,(Ecc_9:4; Isa_37:36) זבובים מתים for זבובי מות

affected poetic expression without analogy; while, on the contrary, “death-flies” for

“deadly flies” is a genit. connection, such as מות instruments of death, i.e., deadly �לי

instruments and the like; Böttcher understands dung-flies; but the expression can scarcely extend to the designation of flies which are found on dead bodies. Meanwhile, it

is very possible that by the expression ם such flies are thought of as carry death from ,זב

dead bodies to those that are living; the Assyr. syllabare show how closely the Semites

distinguished manifold kinds of זבובים (Assyr. zumbi = zubbi). (2) In favour of “dead flies,”

it has been remarked that that influence on the contents of a pot of ointment is effected not merely by poison-flies, but, generally, by flies that have fallen into it.

But since the oil mixed with perfumes may also be of the kind which, instead of being changed by a dead body, much rather embalms it; so it does not surprise us that the

exciter of fermentation is thus drastically described by µυ�αι θανατο&σαι (lxx); it happens,

besides, also on this account, because “a little folly” corresponds as a contrasted figure to

the little destructive carcase, - wisdom בע (“giveth life,” Ecc_7:2), a little folly is thus +ח

like little deadly flies. The sequence of ideas .is natural (maketh the ointment stink) יב י,

The corrupting body communicates its foul savour to the ointment, makes it boil up, i.e., puts it into a state of fermentation, in consequence of which it foams and raises up small

blisters, אבעבועות (Rashi). To the asyndeton there corresponds, in 1b, the asyndeton ,יב י,

� ,the Targ., Syr., and Jerome ;מח מ

(Note: The lxx entirely remodels Ecc_10:1: τίµιον κ.τ.λ (“a little wisdom is more

honour than the great glory of folly”), i.e., רב in the sense of כבוד) יקר מעט חכמה סכלות

“great multitude”). Van der Palm (1784) regards this as the original form of the text.)

who translate by “and,” are therefore not witnesses for the phrase ומך, but the Venet. (κα9

τ:ς δόχης) had this certainly before it; it is, in relation to the other, inferior in point of


(Note: מ�בוד; thus in the Biblia rabb. 1525, 1615, Genoa 1618, Plantin 1582,

Jablonski 1699, and also v. d. Hooght and Norzi. In the Ven. 1515, 1521, 1615, ומ�בודis found with the copulat. vav, a form which is adopted by Michaelis. Thus also the

Concord. cites, and thus, originally, it stood in J., but has been corrected to מ�בוד. F.,

however, has מ�בוד, with the marginal remark: שמשון -Simson ha) מכבוד כן קבלתי מני

Nakdam, to whom the writer of the Frankf. Cod. 1294 here refers for the reading מך,

without the copul. vav, is often called by him his voucher). This is also the correct

Masoretic reading; for if ומך were to be read, then the word would be in the catalogue

of words of which three begin with their initial letter, and a fourth has introduced a vav before it (Mas. fin. f. 26, Ochla veochla, Nr. 15).)

In general, it is evident that the point of comparison is the hurtfulness, widely extending itself, of a matter which in appearance is insignificant. Therefore the meaning of Ecc_10:1 cannot be that a little folly is more weighty than wisdom, than honour, viz., in the eyes of the blinded crowd (Zöckl., Dächsel). This limitation the author ought to have

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expressed, for without it the sentence is an untruth. Jerome, following the Targ. and Midrash, explains: Pretiosa est super sapientiam et gloriam stultitia parva, understanding by wisdom and honour the self-elation therewith connected; besides, this

thought, which Luther limits by the introduction of zuweilen [“folly is sometimes better

than wisdom, etc.”], is in harmony neither with that which goes before nor with that which follows.

Luzz., as already Aben Ezra, Grotius, Geiger, Hengst., and the more recent English expositors, transfer the verbs of Ecc_10:1 zeugmatically to Ecc_10:1: similiter pretiosum

nomine sapientiae et gloriae virum foetidum facit stolidtias parva. But יביע forbids this

transference, and, besides, מן honoured on account of,” is an improbable“ ,יקר

expression; also מך ,מך presents a tautology, which Luzz. seeks to remove by glossing יקר

as the Targ. does, by ונכסים עושר יקר Already Rashi has rightly explained by taking .מרוב

(Syr. jaGîr, Arab. waGur, waGûr), in its primary meaning, as synon. of �בד: more weighty,

i.e., heavier and weighing more than wisdom, than honour, is a little folly; and he reminds us that a single foolish act can at once change into their contrary the wisdom and the honour of a man, destroying both, making it as if they had never been, cf. 1Co_5:6. The sentence is true both in an intellectual and in a moral reference. Wisdom and honour are swept away by a little quantum of folly; it places both in the shade, it outweighs them in the scale; it stamps the man, notwithstanding the wisdom and dignity

which otherwise belong to him, as a fool. The expressive רקח ;is purposely used here שמן

the dealer in ointments (pigmentarius) can now do nothing with the corrupted perfume, - thus the wisdom which a man possesses, the honour which he has hitherto enjoyed, avail him no longer; the proportionally small portion of folly which has become an ingredient in his personality gives him the character of a fool, and operates to his dishonour. Knobel construes rightly; but his explanation (also of Heiligst., Elst., Ginsb.): “a little folly frequently shows itself more efficacious and fruitful than the wisdom of an

honoured wise man,” helps itself with a “frequently” inserted, and weakens מך to a

subordinated idea, and is opposed to the figure, which requires a personality.

2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.

BAR ES, "The metaphor perhaps means “A wise man’s sense is in its place, ready to help and protect him; but a fool’s sense is missing when it is wanted, and so is useless.”

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CLARKE, "A wise man’s heart is at his right hand - As the right hand is ordinarily the best exercised, strongest, and most ready, and the left the contrary, they show,

1. The command which the wise man has over his own mind, feelings, passions, etc., and the prudence with which he acts. And,

2. The want of prudence and management in the fool, who has no restraint on his passions, and no rule or guard upon his tongue. The right hand and the left are used in Scripture to express good and evil. The wise man is always employed in doing good; the fool, in nonsense or evil.

GILL, "A wise man's heart is at his right hand,.... This is not designed to express the direct position and situation of the heart of man, wise or foolish, which is the same in both; and which, according to anatomists, is in the middle of the body, inclining to the left side; but the understanding and wisdom of men, as Aben Ezra observes; which, with a wise man, is ready a hand to direct and assist him in any affair; and which under the influence of it, he goes about with great readiness and dexterity, and performs it with great ease and facility, without sinister ends and selfish views; it inclines him to pursue the true way to honour, heaven, and happiness, which lies to the right; to seek things that are above, at the right hand of God; and, in all, his honour and glory;

but a fool's heart is at his left; he is at a loss for wisdom and understanding to direct him, when he has an affair of any moment upon his hand; which he goes about in an awkward manner, as left handed persons do, and has sinister ends in what he does; and he is to every good work reprobate and unfit, and seeks earth and earthly things, which lie to the left, and in all himself. The Targum is,

"the heart of a wise man is to get the law, which was given by the right hand of the Lord; and the heart of a fool to get the goods of gold and silver:''

so Jarchi,

"his wisdom is ready to incline him (the wise man) to the right hand way for his good; but the heart of a fool to pervert him from it.''

The ancients (o) used to call things wise and prudent the right hand and things foolish the left hand.

HE RY, ". What a deal of advantage a wise man has above a fool in the management of business (Ecc_10:2): A wise man's heart is at his right hand, so that he goes about his business with dexterity, turns his hand readily to it, and goes through it with despatch; his counsel and courage are ready to him, whenever he has occasion for them. But a fool's heart is at his left hand; it is always to seek when he has any thing to do that is of importance, and therefore he goes awkwardly about it, like a man that is left-handed; he is soon at a loss and at his wits' end.

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JAMISO ,"(Ecc_2:14).

right— The right hand is more expert than the left. The godly wise is more on his guard than the foolish sinner, though at times he slip. Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without one.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:2 A wise man’s heart [is] at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left.

VER 2. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand.] He doth his BUSINESS discreetly and dexterously, he is handy and happy at it. And as he "ordereth his affairs with discretion," [Psalms 112:5] so he doth his affections too, reining them in with his right hand, and not suffering them to run riot, as the fool doth oft to his utter ruin. As the wise man’s "eyes are in his head," [Ecclesiastes 2:14] so his "heart is at his right hand"; he hath it at command, to think of what he will when he will; it is as a hawk brought to the falconer’s lure; or as a horse that is taught his postures. Hence he keeps his CREDIT untainted, he retains the reputation of a wise man, he rightly owns that honour that the Italians arrogate to themselves, in that proverbial speech of theirs; Italus sapit ante factum, Hispanus in facto, Germanus post factum - i.e., The Italian is well advised before the deed done, the Spaniard in, the German after it.

But a fool’s heart at his left.] At his left side, so it may be rendered, where nature placed it; he never yet sorrowed as those Corinthians did, [2 Corinthians 7:9] to a transmentation, (a) to a thorough change both of mind and manners; his heart is yet still in the old place, he follows the course of depraved nature, he is a perfect stranger to the life of God.

Or his heart is at his left hand,] i.e., He rashly rusheth upon business without due deliberation, and doth it awkwardly, as with the left hand, and like a bungler, invita Minerva, et collachrymantibus Musis, he brings it to no good upshot. See an instance of this in Hanun and his counsellors; [2 Samuel 10:2-4] Ahab and his clawbacks; [1 Kings 22:6] Antichrist and his adherers. Bellarmine bewails it in these words: Ab eo tempore, quo per vos Papa Antichristus esse coepit, non modo non crevit eius imperium, sed semper magis ae magis decrevit (Lib. iii. de Pap. Rom.

c. 2,3): Ever since you Protestants have made the Pope to be Antichrist, his authority hath not only not increased, but still more and more decreased. Or thus, His "heart is at his left hand"; that is, he puts away reason and wisdom from himself - as, for the most part, those things which men dislike are put away with the left hand. (b) Thus Junius expounds it.

PULPIT, "A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left. There is here no reference to the classical use of right and left, as ominous of success and disaster, which is never found in the Old Testament. The right hand is the place of honor, the left of inferiority, as a matter of fact, not of superstition and luck. The

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symbolism is intimated in Christ's account of the judgment (Mat_25:31, etc.). But in the present passage we should best paraphrase—The wise man's heart, his understanding and sentiments, lead him to what is right and proper and straightforward; the fool's heart leads him astray, in the wrong direction. The former is active and skilful, the latter is slow and awkward. One, we may say, has no left hand, the other has no right. To be at the right hand is to be ready to help and guard. "The Lord is at thy right band," to protect thee, says the psalmist (Psa_110:5). The wise man's mind shows him how to escape dangers and direct his course safely; the fool's mind helps him not to any good purpose, causes him to err and miss his best object.

BE SO , "Ecclesiastes 10:2-3. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand — His understanding or wisdom is always present with him, and ready to direct him in all his actions. He manages all his affairs prudently and piously. He mentions the right hand because that is the common instrument of action. But a fool’s heart is at his left — His understanding and knowledge serve him only for idle speculation and vain ostentation, but is not useful or effectual to govern his affections and actions. Yea also, when he walketh by the way — ot only in great undertakings, but in his daily conversation; his wisdom faileth him — Hebrew, לבו חסר, his heart is wanting; he acts preposterously and foolishly, as if he were without a heart. He saith, &c. —He discovers his folly to all that meet him or converse with him.

HAWKER, "A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left. (3) Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to everyone that he is a fool. (4) If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. (5) There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: (6) Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

Who that reads of the wise man’s heart and the fool’s, differing so widely from each other, but must be led therefrom to consider the blessedness of being guided by Him, whose distinguishing character is, that length of days is in his right hand, and in his left riches and honour. Pro_3:16.


I. The wise man’s heart at his right hand means that his affections are at their proper objects. The heart is the moral power or seat of principle. “With the heart man believeth.” “A new heart also will I give unto you.” Then the hand is the active power, the faculty by which principles are carried into action. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners.” “I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands to God.” The right hand, again, is the ideal hand. “The Lord hath sworn by His right hand.” Thus whatever a hand is or does, the right hand is and does pre-eminently. It is the perfection of all that is characteristic in a hand. When therefore, a wise man’s heart is said to be at his right hand, it is said by way of commendation. It means that his

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moral nature is as it ought to be. It occupies its right place. It sustains its right relations. It discharges its proper functions. It is altogether a heart right in God’s sight. ow, the heart is a most important portion of the body. It is the very seat and citadel of its life. Derangement in it means instantaneous derangement in every vital process. And in the spiritual life the thing we call the heart is no less essential. Out of it are the issues of life. It is the seat of principle. It is the HOME of the affections. It is the source of all the moral actions. The other powers are the heart’s executive to obey its rule and carry out its high behests.

II. The wise man’s heart at his right hand means that his principles are at the back of practical power. All through Scripture the right hand is the emblem of power. Our Lord styles the Father’s right hand “the right hand of power.” God is declared to have led Israel “by the right hand of Moses,” and Israel to have obtained the Land of Promise by “God’s right hand, and His arm, and the light of His countenance.” So men are spiritually saved by God’s “right hand,” and Christ in His resurrection was “by the right hand of God exalted.” The right hand of God, the right hand of man, is the organ of power in each. In the body the heart is in closest connection with the strongest hand. And in the spiritual department the same law holds. The godly man in whom exists the most perfect connection between heart and life, has for this reason a power all his own. That power is spiritual power, the mightiest power there is. It is an aspect of the force that regenerates hearts, that illuminates minds, that changes characters, that adorns lives with the transcendent beauties of holiness. ot more surely does a right hand of power connect itself with a healthy nourishing heart, than a forceful Christian life attends on and expresses the energies of a heart renewed by grace.

III. The wise man’s heart at his right hand means that his purposes are at the fittest agency for carrying them out. When the heart chooses God’s will, the hand chooses His way. It perceives the fitness of it. It believes in the policy of it. It would argue the suitableness of it in any ease from the fact that it is His way. This is true wisdom. o stronger reason for adopting a way than that it is God’s way.

IV. His resolutions are at a degree of strength in which they promptly take the form of action. There is a constitutional unreadiness in some people. They cannot be prompt. This unreadiness which distinguishes the dull from the smart, distinguishes also the left hand from the right. It responds more slowly to the will. It acts less readily in almost every work. The right hand is the hand of promptitude as well as the hand of skill. ow, in life, as every young man should consider, film element of promptitude has an important place. The few who succeed are the wise men who have their boat of action ready to launch on the advancing wave of opportunity. The many who fail are the foolish who are indolently unobservant, and therefore always

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off their guard. There is a perfectly identical treatment of the question of personal godliness. Religion has its times of opportunity which are its decisive hours. Some saving truth comes home. There are stings of conviction. There are half-formed resolves that choice shall be made of eternal things. But here the curse of spiritual unreadiness comes in. The man is not prepared for immediate action. He is a spiritual “Athelstone the Unready.” To God’s “now” he answers “soon.” To God’s “begin” he answers “wait.” The man whose heart is where and how it ought to be is a man who takes God directly at His word. The Divine “come” he takes to be the essence of duty, and the Divine “now” to be never untimely. And so, like doves to their WI DOWS, he flies for refuge to Christ. Then darting forth an eager hand, he lays hold on the hope set before him. (J. E. Henry, M. A.)

Influence of a good heart

I. A good heart is something which comprises all moral goodness, or everything truly virtuous and excellent. “God is love.” His love comprises holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. So a good heart in man consists in true benevolence, and comprises every holy and virtuous affection. And for this reason the Scripture calls a good heart a perfect heart, a pure heart, an honest heart, an upright heart, a wise and understanding heart.

II. A good heart fits men for every kind of duty.

1. A good heart fits men for all religious duties.

(1) A good heart evidently fits men to read the Scriptures. These were indited by the spirit of holiness, and ought to be read with the same spirit with which they were written.

(2) Devout meditation is a religious duty; and a good heart fits men to meditate upon God and Divine things with peculiar pleasure and satisfaction.

(3) Prayer is another religious duty of the first importance, and a good heart is the very spirit of grace and supplication.

(4) God looks at the heart in all religious services; and it is only a pure and upright heart that can prepare men to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

2. A good heart fits men for all secular as well as religious duties. It disposes them to propose a right end in all their secular concerns, which is the glory of God and the good of their fellow-creatures. So far as men are guided by a good heart, they act

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from noble and benevolent motives in all their pursuits. Whatever they do, they do it heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men.

3. A good heart fits men for all social duties. It naturally prompts those who possess it to speak and act with propriety in all companies, in all places, in all stations, and in all relations of life. It makes men quick to discover and practise the duties which they owe to each other.

4. A good heart fits men for doubtful duties, or duties in doubtful cases. If any are at a loss whether to embrace or reject any religious sentiment proposed, they have a standard in their own breasts by which to try it. It is only to appeal to their own conscience, and ask, What says benevolence in this case? Is this doctrine agreeable to disinterested benevolence, or is it an expression of selfishness? And therefore the good man’s heart is always at his right hand, and ready to decide what is true and what is false.

5. A good heart figs men for difficult duties. There is a great variety of difficult duties, but I shall mention only two sorts; dangerous duties and self-denying duties. These have always been difficult to perform. But a good heart will make them easy and pleasant, and dispose men to perform them with a degree of alacrity and delight.


1. If a good heart fits men for every kind of duty, then they can never find a solid and satisfactory excuse for their ignorance or neglect of duty.

2. If a good heart figs men for all kinds of duty, then those who have a good heart will be very apt to make it appear that their heart is good.

3. If a good heart fits men for every kind of duty, then those who have a bad heart will be very apt to show it. Men are as apt to discover their left hand as their right hand. They discover it both by not using it and by attempting to use it without ease and dexterity. As a good heart fits men for duty, so a bad heart unfits them for duty. It sometimes prevents their understanding their duty, but more frequently prevents their doing what they know to be their duty. Both their ignorance and neglect discover an evil heart at their left hand.

4. If a good heart fits men for all kinds of duty, then those who are destitute of it do no duty at all in the sight of God.

5. If a good heart fits men for all kinds of duty, then good men find a pleasure in performing every kind of duty.

6. If a good heart fits men for every duty, then all good men desire to grow in grace. They desire grace, not merely on ACCOU T of the spiritual enjoyment that grace affords them, but principally because it fits them for every duty towards God and

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7. If a good heart fits men for every duty, then those who are destitute of it CO TI UALLY live in darkness. This is certainly a very deplorable situation. ( . Emmons, D. D.)

Heart and hand

In the physical system the heart and the head are alike related to the hand. We associate the heart with feeling, the head with thought, and the hand with movement or action. Life is made up of feeling, thought and action. The motive power may be said to lie in the heart; the guiding principle in the head; and the efficient working element in the hand. But in the Scriptures the heart is almost always used to denote the whole inner being, as including the mental and moral nature, the intellect and the affections. Wisdom is the right direction of all our faculties and powers towards a given end, and it demands their harmonious co-operation. We want first of all to have concentration of power, and after that the direction of it along the right lines. In the harmony of head and heart we have wisdom in thought and action. In their contrariety we have folly. The heart or soul ought to control the hand. It is the business of a wise man to know what he can do and what he cannot do. A man need be in no doubt as to the end of his existence. If it is one’s deepest desire really to serve the Lord, He will lead one in the right way, and show one in specific form what he ought at all times to do. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand in this sense, that he always acts from within himself, or from the ground of his own personal feeling. This sentence of Solomon means that the wise man is a practical man--a man of action as well as of thought. The foolish man whose heart is at his left hand has separated thought from action. If he has a theory of life at all, his actual life is out of harmony with it. It is so with the religion of many: they have separated between their theory of the life to come and their practice in the present life. The man whose heart is at his right hand is always ready for action, and specially prepared to seize the opportunity when it comes. There is a general preparedness for action which always characterizes him, and makes him equal to the occasion, his mind being constantly made up to a very large extent. The true soldier is always ready for action. One’s facts and principles must always be at hand, ready for the occasion. To have one’s heart at his right hand is to do one’s work with his whole heart. He puts his mind and conscience into it, and really enjoys it. His motto is that what is worth doing at all ought to be done well. There is nothing so miserable as to have a work to do for which one has no heart. But to have as one’s daily work that in which he finds his highest happiness and culture is surely a most enviable condition. In opposition to all this, the man whose heart is at his left hand is living an essentially idle life. There is no unity of purpose in his existence. The deep spiritual forces of his being, separated from all that is practical and profitable, are wasted. Let us seek by all means the concentration of our powers, and the direction of them to the one true E D OF LIFE. Our heart is in the right place when our supreme affection is that love to God in Christ which goes CO TI UALLYforth in earnest and prayerful

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endeavour for the good of others. When Sir Walter Raleigh had laid his head upon the block, he was asked by the executioner whether it lay aright; whereupon, with the marvellous calmness of a man whose heart was fixed, he replied, “It matters little, my friend, how the head lies, provided the heart be right.” (Fergus Ferguson, D. D.)

K&D, "Verse 2-3A double proverb regarding wisdom and folly in their difference: “The heart of a wise man is directed to his right hand, and the heart of the fool to his left. And also on the way where a fool goeth, there his heart faileth him, and he saith to all that he is a fool.” Most interpreters translate: The heart of the wise man is at his right hand, i.e., it is in the right place. But this designation, meant figuratively and yet sounding anatomically, would be in bad taste

( ote: Christ. Fried. Bauer (1732) explains as we do, and remarks, “If we translate: the heart of the wise is at his right hand, but the heart of the fool at his left, it appears as if the heart of the prudent and of the foolish must have a different position in the human body, thus affording to the profane ground for mockery.”)

in this distinguishing double form (vid., on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 2:14). The ל is that of direction;

( ote: Accordingly, Ecclesiastes 10:2 has become a Jewish saying with reference to the STUDY of a book (this thought of as Heb.): The wise always turn over the leaves backwards, repeating that which has been read; the fool forwards, superficially anticipating that which has not yet been read, and scarcely able to wait for the end.)

and that which is situated to the right of a man is figuratively a designation of the right; and that to the left, a designation of the wrong. The designation PROCEEDS from a different idea from that at Deuteronomy 5:32, etc.; that which lies to the right, as that lying at a man's right hand, is that to which his calling and duty point him; הש denotes, in the later Hebrew, “to turn oneself to the wrong side.”

3 Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are.

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BAR ES, "“Way” may be understood either literally (compare Ecc_10:15), or figuratively, of the course of action which he follows.

He saith ... - He exposes his folly to every one he meets.

CLARKE, "When - a fool walketh by the way - In every act of life, and in every company he frequents, the irreligious man shows what he is. Vanity, nonsense, and wickedness are his themes: so that in effect he saith to every one that he is a fool.

GILL, "Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way,.... The king's highway, the common road; as he passeth along the streets, going to any place, or about any business:

his wisdom faileth him; or "his heart" (p); he appears by his gait, his manner of walking, to want a heart, to be a fool; walking with a froward mouth, winking with his eyes, speaking with his feet, and teaching with his fingers; all which shows the frowardness and folly of his heart, Pro_6:12; or he discovers it throughout his conversation, in all the actions of it, in whatsoever business he is concerned, and in all the affairs of life. The Targum is,

"when he walketh in a perplexed way;''

then his wisdom fails him; he does not know which way to take, whether to the right or left: this can never be understood of the highway of holiness, in which men, though fools, shall not err, Isa_35:8;

and he saith to everyone that he is a fool; his folly is manifest to all; he betrays it, by his words and actions, to every man he has to do with; his sins and transgressions, which are his folly, he hides not, they are evident to all; and, as the Targum expresses it,

"all say he is a fool:''

though indeed he himself says this of every other man, that he is a fool; for, according to the Vulgate Latin version, he, being a fool himself, thinks everybody else is so.

HE RY, " How apt fools are at every turn to proclaim their own folly, and expose themselves; he that is either witless or graceless, either silly or wicked, if he be ever so little from under the check, and left to himself, if he but walk by the way, soon shows what he is; his wisdom fails him, and, by some impropriety or other, he says to every one he meets that he is a fool (Ecc_10:3), that is, he discovers his folly as plainly as if he had told them so. He cannot conceal it, and he is not ashamed of it. Sin is the reproach of sinners wherever they go.

JAMISO ,"by the way— in his ordinary course; in his simplest acts (Pro_6:12-14). That he “saith,” virtually, “that he” himself, etc. [Septuagint]. But Vulgate, “He thinks

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that every one (else whom he meets) is a fool.”

COFFMAN, "Moffatt rendered this: "Even on a walk the fool shows lack of sense, for he calls everyone a fool."[2] This reminds this writer of a traffic sign on a very dangerous curve on an old Tennessee highway many years ago. It read, SLOW Down!" "You Might Meet Another Fool."

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth [him], and he saith to every one [that] he [is] a fool.

Ver. 3. Yea, also when he that is a fool walketh, &c.] In his very gait, gestures, looks, laughings, &c., he bewrays his witlessness, as Jehu did his furiousness, by the manner of his marches. [2 Kings 9:20] "He winketh with his eyes, speaketh with his feet, teacheth with his fingers, frowardness is in his heart," &c. [Proverbs 6:13-14] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:13"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:14"} Such a froward fool was Julian the apostate, as Nazianzen describes him, with his colli crebrae conversiones, oculi vagi, pedes instabiles, &c., frequent turning of his neck, tossing up his head, wild eyes, wandering feet, &c. And such were those "haughty daughters of Sion, that walked with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, mincing and making a tinkling as they went"; [Isaiah 3:16] their haughtiness and hauntiness spake them little better than harlots.

And he saith to every one that he is a fool.] Upon the matter he saith it, though he say nothing. It is said that a fool, while he holds his tongue is held a wise man; [Proverbs 17:28] that is, if neither by his tongue nor any other part of his body he discover himself: but that can hardly be, since folly flows from man as excrements do from sick folk, and they feel it not, will hardly be persuaded of it. Symmachus, Jerome, and others, refer the last he in this sentence not to the fool himself, but to every one else whom he looks upon as so many fools like himself; (a) ex suo ingenio universos iudicans, judging of others ACCORDING to his own disposition. For as the philosopher saith, Qualis quisque est tales existimat alios (b) such as any one is, the same he thinks others to be, and as men muse so they use, whether it be for the better or the worse. Jacob could not imagine that his sons were so base as to make away their brother Joseph, but said, "Surely some evil beast hath devoured him." [Genesis 37:32] Joshua never suspected the false Gibeonites, nor the rest of the disciples Judas, when our Saviour said, "What thou dost, do quickly"; and again when he said, "One of you shall betray me." On the other side, fools conceit the whole world to be made up of folly; as the Lacedemonians once, neminem bonum fieri publicis literis columna incisis sanxerunt, (c) scored it upon their public posts that there was none good, no, not one; as Claudius and Caligula, being themselves notorious whoremongers, would not be persuaded that there was any chaste person upon earth; (d) as the devil charged God with envy, which is his own proper disease. [Genesis 3:5] The old proverb saith, The mother seeks the daughter in the oven, as having been there some time herself. I daresay, quoth Bonner, that Cranmer would recant if he might have his living, (e) so judging of another by himself.

PULPIT, "Yea, also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way. As soon as ever he sets his foot outside the house, and mixes with other men, he exhibits his folly. If he

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remained at home he might keep his real ineptitude concealed; but such persons as he are unconscious of their inanity, and take no pains to hide it; they go where, they act as, their foolish heart prompts them. There is no metaphor here, nor any reference to the fool being put in the right path and perversely turning away. It is simply, as the Septuagint renders, Καί γε ἐν ὁδῷ ὅταν ἄφρων πορεύηται His wisdom (Hebrew, heart) faileth him. Ginsburg and others render, "He lacketh his mind," want of heart being CO TI UALLY taken in the Book of Proverbs as equivalent to deficiency of understanding (Pro_6:32; Pro_7:7, etc.). But Delitzsch and Wright consider the order of the words and the suffix to be against this view, and they TRA SLATE as the Authorized Version, i.e. his understanding is at fault. And he saith to every one that he is a fool. The sentence is ambiguous, and capable of two interpretations. The Vulgate has, Cumipse insipiens sit, omnes stultos aestimat. Jerome QUOTES Symmachus as rendering, "He suspects all men that they are fools." According to this view, the fool in his conceit thinks that every one he meets is a fool, says this in his mind, like the sluggard in Pro_26:16, "Who is wiser in his own conceit than ten men that can render a reason." Another explanation, more closely in accordance with the foregoing clauses, takes the pronoun in "he is a fool" to refer to the man himself, se esse stultum (comp. Ps 9:21 [20], "Let the nations know themselves to be but men"). As SOO as he goes abroad, his words and actions display his real character; he betrays himself; he says virtually to all with whom he has to do, "I am a fool" (comp. Pro_13:16; Pro_18:2). It is hard to say to which interpretation the Septuagint inclines, giving, Καὶ ἂ λογιεῖται πάντα ἀφροσύνη ἐστίν , "And all that he will think is folly."


Section 12. Illustration of the conduct of wisdom under capricious rulers, or when fools are exalted to high stations.

K&D, "This proverb forms, along with the preceding, a tetrastich, for it is divided into two parts by vav. The (Kerı) has removed the art. in כש and שה, Ecclesiastes 6:10, as incompatible with the ש. The order of the words (vegam-(baderek keshehsachal holek) is inverted for (vegam keshehsachal baderek holek), cf. Ecclesiastes 3:13, and also (rav shěyihyn), Ecclesiastes 6:3; so far as this signifies, “supposing that they are many.” Plainly the author intends to give prominence to “on the way;” and why, but because the fool, the inclination of whose heart, ACCORDI G to 2b, always goes to the left, is now placed in view as he presents himself in his public manner of life. Instead of לב־הוא חסר we have here the verbal clause חסר לבו, which is not, after Ecclesiastes 6:2, to be translated: corde suo caret (Herzf., Ginsb.), contrary to the suff. and also the order of the words, but, after Ecclesiastes 9:8: cor ejus deficit, i.e., his understanding is at fault; for לב, here and at Ecclesiastes 10:2, is thus used in a double sense, as the Greek νοῦς and the Lat. mens can also be used: there it means pure, formal, intellectual soul-life; here, pregnantly (Psychol. p. 249), as at Ecclesiastes 7:7, cf. Hosea 4:11, the understanding or the knowledge and will of what is right. The fool takes no STEP without showing that his understanding is not there, - that, so to speak, he does not take it along with him,

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but has left it at home. He even carries his folly about publicly, and prides himself in it as if it were wisdom: he says to all that he is a fool, se esse stultum (thus, CORRECTLY, most Jewish and Christian interpreters, e.g., Rashi and Rambach). The expression follows the scheme of Ps. 9:21: May the heathen know mortales se esse (vid., l.c.). Otherwise Luther, with Symm. and Jerome: “he takes every man as a fool;” but this thought has no support in the CO ECTIO , and would undoubtedly be expressed by המה סכלים. Still differently Knobel and Ewald: he says to all, “it is foolish;” Hitzig, on the contrary, justly remarks that סכל is not used of actions and things; this also is true of כסיל, against himself, Ecclesiastes 5:2, where he translates (qol kesil) by “foolish discourses.”

4 If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave YOUR post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest.

BAR ES, "If the spirit ... - i. e., If he is angry.

Leave not thy place - i. e., Do not lose thy self-control and quit his presence. Gentleness on thy part will calm both thyself and him, and prevent great wrongs being committed by either.

CLARKE, "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee - If the king get incensed against thee.

Leave not thy place - Humble thyself before him, that is thy place and duty; for yielding to him, and not standing stoutly in thy defense, pacifieth great offenses: and then, when his anger is appeased, he will hear any thing in thy justification, if thou have any thing to offer. This is good advice to a child in reference to his parents, and to an inferior of any kind in reference to his superiors.

Several of the fathers understood this differently, It the spirit of the ruler - the influence of Satan - hath risen up against and prevailed over thee, to bring thee into some sin; leave not thy place - do not despair of God’s mercy; humble thyself before him,

and seek pardon through the Son of his love, and this will be מרפא marpe, a remedy or

cure even for גדולים chataim חטאיםgedolim, great errors or sins. All this is true in itself,

whether found in this text or not.

GILL, "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee,.... The wrath of the civil magistrate, the chief ruler of the land, the sovereign prince or king, to whom men are

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and should be subject: if his wrath on any occasion breaks out in a furious manner, and, like a storm and tempest, is very blustering and threatening:

leave not thy place; at court; thine office under the prince, do not throw it up in a passion, and quit his service upon it; and much less forget thy duty and allegiance to him, and go into disloyalty and rebellion; see Ecc_8:3;

for yielding pacifieth great offences; bearing his anger patiently, submitting to his displeasure quietly, making no returns, or at least giving soft answers, and behaving in a modest and humble manner; in time his wrath will subside, and he will be pacified, and forgive the offences committed; or be convinced that there were none, or however not so great as to require such resentment; see Pro_15:1. The Targum is,

"if a spirit of evil concupiscence rules over thee; thy good place, in which thou wert used to stand, leave not:''

some understand this of a man's having a spirit of rule and government coming upon him, or of his being advanced to power and authority, that then he should not forget the low estate in which he had been. Jarchi interprets it of the spirit of the governor of the world, strictly inquiring into the actions of men; and healing their sins by chastisements, which cause them to leave them.

HE RY, "The scope of these verses is to keep subjects loyal and dutiful to the government. In Solomon's reign the people were very rich, and lived in prosperity, which perhaps made them proud and petulant, and when the taxes were high, though they had enough to pay them with, it is probable that many conducted themselves insolently towards the government and threatened to rebel. To such Solomon here gives some necessary cautions.

I. Let not subjects carry on a quarrel with their prince upon any private personal disgust (Ecc_10:4): “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, if upon some misinformation given him, or some mismanagement of thine, he is displeased at thee, and threaten thee, yet leave not thy place, forget not the duty of a subject, revolt not from thy allegiance, do not, in a passion, quit thy post in his service and throw up thy commission, as despairing ever to regain his favour. No, wait awhile, and thou wilt find he is not implacable, but that yielding pacifies great offences.” Solomon speaks for himself, and for every wise and good man that is a master, or a magistrate, that he could easily forgive those, upon their submission, whom yet, upon their provocation, he had been very angry with. It is safer and better to yield to an angry prince than to contend with him.

JAMISO ,"spirit— anger.

yielding pacifieth— (Pro_15:1). This explains “leave not thy place”; do not in a resisting spirit withdraw from thy post of duty (Ecc_8:3).

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.

VER 4. If the spirit of thy ruler rise up, &c., leave not thy place.] Thine office, duty, and obedience; a metaphor from military matters. A soldier must not start from his station, but keep to the place assigned him by his captain; (a) so here,

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“ Perdidit arma, locum virtutis descruit, &c. ” - Horat.

Others render it, "Do not persist in thy place," do not stand to affront anger, but go aside a little out of sight, as Jonathan, when his father had thrown a javelin at him, went forth shooting. {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 8:3"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 15:1"}

For yielding pacifieth great offences.] Thus by yielding David pacified Saul; Abigail, David. See Proverbs 25:15. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 25:15"} Salve the wound and save thyself. The weak reed, by bending in a rough wind, receiveth no hurt, when the sturdy oak is turned up by the roots.

BENSON, "Ecclesiastes 10:4. If the spirit of a ruler — His passion or wrath; rise up against thee — Upon some misinformation given him, or mismanagement of thine; leave not thy place — In anger or discontent. WITHDRAW not thyself rashly and hastily from his presence and service: see on Ecclesiastes 8:3. CONTINUE in a diligent and faithful discharge of thy duty, as becomes a subject, and modestly and humbly submit to him.

For yielding pacifieth, &c. — Hebrew מרפא ,יניחhealing maketh to cease great sins: that is, a

submissive, meek deportment, which is of a healing nature, appeaseth wrath conceived for great


COFFMAN, "Deane believed that this referred to some situation in which a person appointed to some place of service to the ruler (king) should not hastily resign because of some displeasure that might be manifested by the king.[3] We might paraphrase it by saying, "Don't run when accused, they might think you are guilty"!

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:4. If the spirit of the ruler rise up— If the anger of the ruler should be kindled against thee, do not resign thy place; for power kept in thy hands will make pacification for great offences. From the 17th verse of the preceding chapter to the present, we have the second instance. The excellency of wisdom is so well known, that, however fond the silly lovers of novelties maybe of hearing a war proclaimed, they will be still fonder of hearing the speeches of a wise man, when their pardons are cool. Wisdom is certainly preferable to the greatest exploits of the most famous warrior; yet no allowance is made for human frailties to excuse one who has so much got the better of them as to deserve the title of a wise man. A single fault of his is sufficient to spoil, in the opinion of mankind, all the good that he has done. They rank him among the fools, notwithstanding it is acknowledged on all hands, nay, declared in several proverbial sentences, that there is an essential difference between the wise and the fool: a difference which the fool betrays at every STEP he takes, and by his very gait; and which, therefore, ought not to be laid aside and disregarded upon a single instance of a man's deviating from his right principles, Ecclesiastes 10:2-3. Here is annexed a caution (Ecclesiastes 10:4.) given to any wise man, if he should fall under the displeasure of his prince on ACCOUNT of those small errors which were just before likened to a dead fly falling into

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a box of precious perfumes. He must not, upon the first intimation of his master's anger, give up his employments. Then he would become an inconsiderable man; whereas, whilst he is in possession of them, it may be for the prince's own interest to make up matters with him, even though he was guilty of much greater faults than what he has really committed.

PULPIT, "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee. "Spirit" (ruach) is here equivalent to "anger," as Jdg_8:3; Pro_29:11. The idea seems to be that a statesman or councilor gives wise advice to a monarch, which the latter takes in bad part, and shows strong resentment against the person who offered it. ow, when a man knows himself to be in the right, and yet finds his counsel rejected, perhaps with scorn and reproach added, he is naturally prone to feel sore, and to show by some overt act his sense of the ill treatment which he has received. But what says wisdom? Leave not thy place (makom); i.e. position, pest, office. Do not hastily resign the situation at court to which you have been appointed. Some, not so suitably, take the expression, "leave thy place," figuratively, as equivalent to "give way to anger, renounce the temper which becomes you, lose your self-possession." But Wright, from the analogous use of matstsale and maamad in Isa_22:19, confirms the interpretation which we have adopted. Compare the advice in Ecc_8:3, where, however, the idea is rather of open rebellion than of a resentment which shows itself by WITHDRAWAL. Origen ('De Princip.,' 3.2) explained "the spirit of the ruler" to be the evil spirit; and Gregory, commenting on this passage, writes ('Moral.,' 3:43), "As though he had said in plain words, 'If thou perceivest the spirit of the tempter to prevail against thee in aught, quit not the lowliness of penitence;' and that it was the abasement of penitence that he called 'our place,' he shows by the words that follow, 'for healing [Vulgate] pacifieth great offences.' For what else is the humility of mourning, save the remedy of sin?" (Oxford transl.). For yielding pacifieth great offenses. Marpe, "yielding," is rendered "healing" by the versions. Thus ἴαµα ; euratio (Vulgate). But this translation is not so suitable as that of Symmachus, σωφροσύνη , "moderation." The word is used in the sense of" gentleness," "meekness," in Pro_14:30; Pro_15:4; and the gnome expresses the truth that a calm, conciliating spirit, not prone to take offence, but patient under trying circumstances, obviates great sins. The sins are those of the subject. This quiet resignation saves him from conspiracy, rebellion, treason, etc; into which his untempered resentment might hurry him. We may compare Pro_15:1 and Pro_25:15; and Horace, 'Cam.,' 3. 3, "Justum et tenacem propositi virum," etc.

"The man whose soul is firm and strong,

Bows not to any tyrant's frown,

And on the rabble's clamorous throng

In proud disdain looks coldly down."


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They who regard the "offenses" as those of the ruler explain them to mean oppression and injustice; but it seems plain from the run of the sentence that the minister, not the monarch, is primarily in the mind of the writer, though, of course, it is quite true that the submission of the former might save the ruler from the commission of some wrong.

K&D, "This verse shows what is the wise conduct of a subject, and particularly of a servant, when the anger of the ruler breaks forth: “If the ill-humour of the ruler rise up against thee, do not leave thy post; for patience leaves out great sins.” Luther connects Ecclesiastes 10:4 and Ecclesiastes 10:3 by “therefore;” for by the potentate he understands such an one as, himself a fool, holds all who contradict him to be fools: then it is best to let his folly rage on. But the מושל is a different person from the סכל; and נחמק אל־ת does not mean, “let not yourself get into a passion,” or, as he more accurately explains in the Annotationes: “remain self-possessed” (similarly Hitzig: lose not thy mental state of composure), but, in conformity with אל… תלך , Ecclesiastes 8:3, “forsake not the post (synon. מצב and מעמד, Isaiah 22:19, cf. 23) which thou hast received.” The person addressed is thus represented not merely as a subject, but officially as a subordinate officer: if the ruler's displeasure (רוח, as at Judges 8:3; Proverbs 29:11) rises up against him (עלה, as elsewhere; cf. אף, Psalm 73:21; or 2, חמה Samuel 11:20), he ought not, in the consciousness that he does not merit his displeasure, hastily give up his situation which has been entrusted to him and renounce submission; for patience, gentleness (regarding מרפא, vid., Proverbs 12:18) ' ין'… גד .This concluding clause of the verse is usually translated: “It appeaseth (pacifieth) great sins” (lxx καταπαύσει , Symm. παύσει ). The phrase ( אף הניח) חמה is not to be compared, for it signifies quieting by an exhausting outbreak; on the contrary, יניחin the passage before us must signify quieting, as the preventing of an outbreak (cf. Proverbs 15:1). It appears more correct to render הניח in both cases in the sense of ἐᾶν , missum facere: to leave great sins is = not to commit them, to give up the lust thereto; for (hinniahh) signifies to let go, to leave off, e.g., Jeremiah 14:9; and to indulge, Esther 3:8, here as at Ecclesiastes 7:18; Ecclesiastes 11:6, “to keep the hands from something.” The great sins cannot certainly be thought of as those of the ruler; for on his part only one comes into view, if indeed, ACCORDI G to the old legal conception, it could be called such, viz., cruel PROCEEDI G with reference to him who wilfully WITHDRAWS from him, and thus proves his opposition; much rather we are to think of the great sins into which he who is the object of the ruler's displeasure might fall, viz., treason (Ecclesiastes 8:2), insubordination, self-destruction, and at the same time, since he does not stand alone, or make common cause with others who are discontented, the drawing of others into inevitable ruin (Ecclesiastes 8:3 ). All these sins, into which he falls who answers wrath with wrath, patience avoids, and puts a CHECK to them. The king's anger is perhaps justified; the admonition, however, would be otherwise expressed than by 'l-tnch mq', if it were not presupposed that it was not justified; and thus without meta'basis eis a'llo ge'nos an I-section follows the reflection regarding wise deportment as over against the king's displeasure, a section which describes from experience and from personal observation the world turned upside down in the state.

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5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, the sort of ERROR that arises from a ruler:

CLARKE, "An error which proceedeth from the ruler -What this error in the ruler is, the two following verses point out: it is simpiy this - an injudicious distribution of offices, and raising people to places of trust and confidence, who are destitute of merit, are neither of name nor family to excite public confidence, and are without property; so that they have no stake in the country, and their only solicitude must naturally be to enrich themselves, and provide for their poor relatives. This is frequent in the governments of the world; and favouritism has often brought prosperous nations to the brink of ruin. Folly was set in dignity; the man of property, sense, and name, in a low place. Servants - menial men, rode upon horses - carried every thing with a high and proud hand; and princes, - the nobles of the people, were obliged to walk by their sides, and often from the state of things to become in effect their servants. This was often the case in this country, during the reign of Thomas a Becket, and Cardinal Woolsey. These insolent men lorded it over the whole nation; and the people and their gentry were raised or depressed according as their pride and caprice willed. And, through this kind of errors, not only a few sovereigns have had most uncomfortable and troublesome reigns, but some have even lost their lives.

GILL, "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun,.... Which Solomon had observed in the course of his life, practised in some kingdoms and by some princes on earth, under the sun; for there is nothing of the like kind, as after mentioned, done in heaven, above the sun;

as an error which proceedeth from the ruler; from the supreme ruler of a nation, the king of it; and it is not only as an error, or like one, a seeming one; but it is a real error, bestowing places of honour and profit on undeserving persons: which error proceeds from ignorance of the persons; or from affection to them, and from friendship cultivated with them in the younger time of life, being educated with them; or through the misrepresentation and imposition of those about him, who have ends to serve by their promotion; or through his own lusts and passions, which these men indulge him in. It may be understood of God, the supreme ruler, who suffers such things to be; and which may seem to some an error in providence, though it is not: but the other sense is best.

HE RY, "II. Let not subjects commence a quarrel with their prince, though the public administration be not in every thing as they would have it. He grants there is an

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evil often seen under the sun, and it is a king's-evil, an evil which the king only can cure, for it is an error which proceeds from the ruler (Ecc_10:5); it is a mistake which rulers, consulting their personal affections more than the public interests, are too often guilty of, that men are not preferred according to their merit, but folly is set in great dignity,men of shattered brains, and broken fortunes, are put in places of power and trust, while the rich men of good sense and good estates, whose interest would oblige them to be true to the public, and whose abundance would be likely to set them above temptations to bribery and extortion, yet sit in low places, and can get no preferment (Ecc_10:6), either the ruler knows not how to value them or the terms of preferment are such as they cannot in conscience comply with. It is ill with a people when vicious men are advanced and men of worth are kept under hatches. This is illustrated Ecc_10:7. “I have seen servants upon horses, men not so much of mean extraction and education (if that were all, it were the more excusable, nay, there is many a wise servant who with good reason has rule over a son that causes shame), but of sordid, servile, mercenary dispositions. I have seen these riding in pomp and state as princes, while princes, men of noble birth and qualities, fit to rule a kingdom, have been forced to walk as servants upon the earth,poor and despised.” Thus God, in his providence, punishes a wicked people; but, as far as it is the ruler's act and deed, it is certainly his error, and a great evil, a grievance to the subject and very provoking; but it is an error under the sun, which will certainly be rectified above the sun, and when it shall shine no more, for in heaven it is only wisdom and holiness that are set in great dignity. But, if the prince be guilty of his error, yet let not the subjects leave their place, nor rise up against the government, nor form any project for the alteration of it; nor let the prince carry on the humour too far, nor set such servants, such beggars, on horseback, as will ride furiously over the ancient land-marks of the constitution, and threaten the subversion of it.

JAMISO ,"as— rather, “by reason of an error” [Maurer and Holden].

COFFMAN, "The teaching of these verses regards the proper conduct of kings and rulers, who should exercise the greatest care in the choice of men whom they elevate to high office. Rehoboam was guilty of the very error cited here. He chose as his advisors and appointees the senseless young fools with whom he had grown up in Solomon's harem; and they promptly lost the kingdom.

The very fact of this advice regarding the way king's should rule would hardly have been ADDRESSEDby Solomon to any others than to the children and young men of his own harem, another strong indication that Solomon is indeed the author. Adam Clarke cited the government (in England) of Cardinal Woolsey and Thomas a Becket as a wanton violator of what is taught here.[4]

Any government, especially that of an autocratic ruler, that elevates unworthy men to POSITIONS of honor and compels the true nobility of the land to stand as their inferiors is headed for disaster. As Clarke said, "Not only have a few sovereigns who did such things had very uncomfortable and troublesome reigns; but some have even lost their lives, or their kingdoms."[5]

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:5 There is an evil [which] I have seen under the sun, as an ERROR [which] proceedeth from the ruler:

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Ver. 5. As an error which proceedeth from the ruler.] Or, An ignorance, as Jerome renders it; ως ακουσιον - so the Septuagint - as a thing unwillingly done. An error, an infirmity it must be called, because committed by great ones; but in true ACCOUNT it is a gross evil, the very pest of virtue and cause of confusion - viz., the advancement of most unworthy and incapable persons, and that for the prince’s pleasure sake, because he will seem absolute. An earl of Kildare was complained of to our Henry VIII, and when his adversary concluded his invective with, Finally, all Ireland cannot rule this earl, the king replied, Then shall this earl rule all Ireland; and so, for his jest sake, made him deputy. (a)

PULPIT, "Koheleth gives his personal experience of apparent confusion in the ordering of state affairs. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun. Power gets into the hands of an unwise man, and then errors are committed and injustice reigns. As an ERROR which proceedeth from the ruler. The ëÀÌ here is caph veritatis, which denotes not comparison, but resemblance, the idealization of the individual, the harmony of the particular with the general idea. The evil which he noticed appeared to be (he does not affirm that it is) a mistake caused by the ruler; it so presented itself to his mind. The caution observed in the statement may be owing partly to the tacit feeling that such blots occasioned difficulties in the view taken of the moral government of the world. He does not intend to refer to God under the appellation "Ruler." The Septuagint renders, Ὡς ἀκούσιον ἐξῆλθεν , "As if it came involuntarily;" Vulgate, to much the same effect, Quasi per errorem egrediens. The idea here is either gnat the evil is one not produced by any intentional action of the ruler, but resulting from human imperfection, or that what appears to be a mistake is not so really. But these interpretations are unsuitable. Those who adhere to the Solomonic authorship of our book see here a prophetic intimation of the evil of Jeroboam's rule, which evil proceeded from the sins of Solomon himself and his son Rehoboam. (So Wordsworth, Motais, etc.)

BE SO , "Ecclesiastes 10:5-7. There is an evil, &c. — I have observed another great vanity and misdemeanour among men; as an error which proceedeth, &c. —Or rather, as the Hebrew may be TRA SLATED, which is indeed an ERRORPROCEEDI G from the ruler: for the following erroneous conduct must needs come from those who have power of conferring honour and authority. Folly is set in great dignity — Foolish and unworthy persons are frequently advanced by the favour or humour of princes into places of great trust and dignity, which is at once a great reproach to the prince, and a sore calamity to his people. And the rich sit in a low place — Wise and worthy men, rich in endowments of the mind, are neglected and despised, or removed from those places to which their merits had raised them. I have seen servants on horses — Men of a servile condition and disposition riding in pomp and state as princes; and princes — Men of noble birth and qualities, fit to rule a kingdom, walking as servants — In a state of poverty and degradation, despised and disregarded.

K&D, "“There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, like an ERROR which

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proceedeth from the ruler.” The introduction by the virtual relative (raithi) is as at Ecclesiastes 5:12; Ecclesiastes 6:1. Knobel, Hengst., and others give to the כ of כש the meaning of “according to,” or “in consequence of which,” which harmonizes neither with (ra'ah) nor with (raithi). Also Kleinert's translation: “There is a misery - I have seen it under the sun - in respect of an error which proceedeth from the ruler,” is untenable; for by this translation (ra'ah) is made the pred. while it is the subj. to יש, and (kishgagah) the unfolding of this subject. Hitzig also remarks: “as [wie ein] an error, instead of which we have: in respect to [um einen] an error;” for he confounds things incongruous. Hitz., however, rightly recognises, as also Kleinert, the כ as Caph veritatis, which measures the concrete with the idea. Isaiah 13:6, compares the individual with the general which therein comes to view, Ezekiel 26:10; ehemiah 7:2; cf. 2 Samuel 9:8. Koheleth saw an evil under the sun; something which was like an error, appeared to him altogether like an error which proceedeth from the ruler. If we could translate שי by quod exiit, then כ would be the usual Caph similitudinis; but since it must be translated by quod exit, וגו כשplaces the observed fact under a comprehensive generality: it had the nature of an error proceeding from the ruler. If this is correct, it is so much the less to be assumed that by השליט God is to be understood (Daniel 5:21), as Jerome was taught by his Hebraeus: quod putent homines in hac inaequalitate rerum illum non juste et ut aequum est judicare. It is a governor in a state that is meant, by whom an error might easily be committed, and only too frequently is committed, in the promotion of degradation of persons. But since the world, with its wonderful division of high and low, appears like as it were an error proceeding from the Most High, there certainly falls a shadow on the providence of God Himself, the Governor of the world; but yet not so immediately that the subject of discourse is an “error” of God, which would be a saying more than irreverent. יצה= יצא is the metaplastic form for for which at Deuteronomy 28:57 I) יצאת or יצאהCORRECTLY יצת), not an error of transcription, as Olsh. supposes; vid., to the contrary. מלפני (Symm. ἐξ ἔµπροστηεν ) with יצא is the old usus loq. There now follows a sketch of the perverted world.

6 Fools are put in many high POSITIO S, while the rich occupy the low ones.

BAR ES, "The “evil” of Ecc_10:5 is here specified as that caprice of a king by which an unworthy favorite of low origin is promoted to successive dignities, while a noble person is degraded or neglected.

GILL, "Folly is set in great dignity,.... Or "in great heights" (q); in high places of

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honour and truest; even foolish and wicked men; men of poor extraction, of low life, and of mean abilities and capacities; and, which is worse, men vile and vicious, as Doeg the Edomite, Haman the Amalekite, and others;

and the rich sit in low places; men not only of fortune and estates, and above doing mean and little actions, and so more fit for such high places; but men rich in wisdom and knowledge, of large capacities and of great endowments of mind, and so abundantly qualified for posts in the administration of government; and, above all, men rich in grace, fearing God, and hating coveteousness, as rulers ought to be, Exo_18:21; and yet these sometimes are neglected, live in obscurity, who might otherwise be very useful in public life. The Targum interprets this and the following verse of the Israelites in exile and poverty among the Gentiles for their sins; so Jarchi.

JAMISO ,"rich— not in mere wealth, but in wisdom, as the antithesis to “folly” (for “foolish men”) shows. So Hebrew, rich, equivalent to “liberal,” in a good sense (Isa_32:5). Mordecai and Haman (Est_3:1, Est_3:2; Est_6:6-11).

PULPIT, "Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. This is an instance of the error intimated in the preceding verse. A tyrannical ruler exalts incompetent persons, unworthy favorites, to "great heights", as it is literally—puts them into eminent positions. "Folly" is abstract for concrete, "fools." And the rich sit in low place. "The rich" (ashirim) are not simply those who have wealth, however obtained, but men of noble birth; ἀρχαιόπλουτοι , as Plumptre appositely notes, persons of ancestral wealth, who from natural position might be looked upon as rulers of men. Such men would seek eminent stations, not from base motives of gain, but from an honorable ambition, and yet they are often slighted by unworthy princes and kept in low estate. The experience mentioned in this and the following verses could scarcely have been Solomon's, though it has been always common enough in the East, where the most startling changes have been made, the lowest persons have been suddenly raised to eminence, mistresses and favorites loaded with dignities, and oppression of the rich has been systematically pursued.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

VER 6. Folly is set in great dignity.] Sedes prima et vita ima, (a) these suit not. Dignitas in indigno est ornamentum in luto. Royalty itself, without righteousness, is but eminent dishonour. When a fool is set in dignity, it is, saith one, (b) as when a handful of hay is set up to give light, which with smoke and smell offendeth all that are near. When as the worthy sit in low place, it is as when a goodly candle (that on a table would give a comfortable and comely light) is put under a bushel.

And the rich in low place,] i.e., The wise, as appears by the opposition, who, in true ACCOU T, are the only rich, [James 2:5] "rich in faith," [1 Timothy 6:18] "rich in good works," [Luke 12:21] rich to Godward, who hath highly honoured and advanced them, though vilipended and underrated by men; digni etiam qui

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ditentur, worthy they are also to be set in highest places, as being drained from the dregs, and sifted from the brans of the common sort of people. Dignity should wait upon desert, as it did here in England, in King Edward VI’s days, that aureum saeculum, in quo honores melioribus dabantur, as Seneca (c) hath it, that golden age in which honours were bestowed on those that best deserved them. But in case it prove otherwise, as it often doth - the golden bishopric of Carthage fell to the lot of leaden Aurelius, and little Hippo to great St Augustine; Damasus, the scholar, was advanced to the see of Rome when Jerome, his master, ended his days in his cell at Bethlehem - yet virtue is its own competent encouragement, and will rather choose to lie in the dust than to rise by wickedness. Cato said he had rather men should question why he had no statue or monument erected in honour of him, than why he had. The wise historian observed that the statues of Brutus and Cassius, eo praefulgebant quod non visebantur, (d) were the more glorious and illustrious, because they were not brought out with other images in a solemn PROCESSIO at the funeral of Germanicus. God pleaseth himself, saith Basil, in beholding a hidden pearl in a disrespected body. (e) A rich stone is of no less worth when locked up in a wicker casket, than when it is set in a royal diadem.

K&D, "Verse 6-7“Folly is set on great heights, and the rich must sit in lowliness. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes like servants walking on foot.” The word הסכל (with double seghol, Aram. סכלו) is used here instead of those in whom it is personified. Elsewhere a multiplicity of things great, such as מים, עמים , and the like, is heightened by רבים (cf. e.g., Psalm 18:17); here “great heights” are such as are of a high, or the highest DEGREE; (rabbim), instead of (harabbim), is more appos. than adject. (cf. Genesis 43:14; Psalm 68:28; Psalm 143:10; Jeremiah 2:21), in the sense of “many” (e.g., Ginsburg: “in many high POSITIO S”) it mixes with the poetry of the description dull prose.

( ote: Luzz. reads נתן: “Folly brings many into high places.” The ORDER of the words, however, does not favour this.)

('Ashirim) also is peculiarly used: divites = nobiles (cf. שוע, Isaiah 32:5), those to whom their family inheritance gives a claim to a high station, who possess the means of TRAI I G themselves for high offices, which they regard as places of honour, not as sources of gain. Regibus multis, Grotius here remarks, quoting from Sallust and Tacitus, suspecti qui excellunt sive sapientia sive nobilitate aut opibus. Hence it appears that the relation of slaves and princes to each other is suggested; hoc discrimen, says Justin, 41:3, of the Parthians, inter servos liberosque est quod servi pedibus, liberi nonnisi equis incedunt; this distinction is set aside, princes must walk ('al-(haarěts), i.e., (beregel) ((beraglēhěm)), and in their stead (Jeremiah 17:25) slaves sit high on horseback, and rule over them (the princes), - an offensive spectacle, Proverbs 19:10. The eunuch Bagoas, long all-powerful at the Persian Court, is an example of the evil consequences of this reversal of the natural relations of men.

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7 I have seen slaves on horseback, while princes go on foot like slaves.

GILL, "I have seen servants upon horses,.... Which being scarce in Judea, were only rode upon by princes and great personages, or such as were in affluent circumstances; and therefore it was an unusual and disagreeable sight to see servants upon them, which was a token of their being advanced upon the ruin and destruction of their masters; a reigning servant is not only uncomely, but one of the things by which the earth is disquieted, and it cannot bear, Pro_30:21; the Parthians and Persians distinguished their nobles and the vulgar, freemen and servants, by this; the servants went on foot, and the freemen rode on horses (r);

and princes walking as servants upon the earth; degraded from their honour; banished from their thrones and palaces, or obliged to leave them, and reduced to the lowest state and condition: so David, when his son rebelled against him, and he was forced to flee from him, and walk on foot, 2Sa_15:30; Alshech thinks it may be a prophecy of the captivity of Israel, when they walked as servants on the earth, and the Gentiles rode on horses.

JAMISO ,"servants upon horses— the worthless exalted to dignity (Jer_17:25); and vice versa (2Sa_15:30).

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:7. I have seen servants upon horses, &c.— From the fifth to this verse we have the third instance. Princes, whose character depends upon the behaviour of those whom they employ, as much as upon their own, are apt to commit great mistakes in the choice of their ministers, when they are not determined in that choice by the known, or at least rationally presumed abilities of those whom they raise to dignities and power. This was not an uncommon case in the eastern absolute monarchies, where the bare caprice of the monarch was sufficient to raise from the dust, and to set over provinces, a man of neither words nor experience, and to lay those aside, who, from their birth, EDUCATION, and circumstances, had opportunities to acquire such wisdom as is requisite to discharge properly so important a trust. See Zechariah 9:9.

PULPIT, "I have seen servants upon horses. A further description of the effect of the tyrant's perversion of equity. Such an allusion could not have been made in Solomon's reign, when the importation of horses was quite a new thing (1Ki_10:28). Later, to ride upon horses was a distinction of the nobility (Jer_17:25). Thus Amaziah's corpse was brought on horses to be buried in the city of David (2Ch_25:28): Mordecai was honored by being taken round the city on the king's own steed (Est_6:8, etc.). Princes walking as servants upon the earth. "Princes" (sarim); i.e.

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masters, lords. Some take the expressions here as figurative, equivalent to "those who are worthy to be princes," and "those who are fit only to be slaves;" but the literal is the true interpretation. Commentators quote what Justin (41.3) says of the Parthians, "Hoc denique discrimen inter serves liberos-que, quod servi pedibus, Liberi non nisi equis iuccdunt." Ginsburg notes that early travelers in the East record the fact that Europeans were not allowed by the Turks to ride upon horses, but were compelled either to use asses or walk on foot. In some places the privilege of riding upon horseback was permitted to the consuls of the great powers—an honor denied to all strangers of lower degree. Among the Greeks and Romans the possession of a horse with its war-trappings implied a certain amount of wealth and distinction. St. Gregory, treating of this passage ('Moral.,' 31.43), says, "By the name horse is understood temporal dignity, as Solomon witnesses …. For every one who sins is the servant of sin, and servants are upon horses, when sinner's are elated with the dignities of the present life. But princes walk as servants, when no honor exalts many who are full of the dignity of virtues, but when the greatest misfortune here presses them down, as though unworthy."


Section 13. Various proverbs expressing the benefit of prudence and caution, and the danger of folly. The connection with what has preceded is not closely marked, but is probably to be found in the bearing of the maxims on the conduct of the wise man who has incurred the resentment of a ruler, and might be inclined to disaffection and revolt. They are intentionally obscure and capable of a double sense—a necessary precaution if the writer lived under Persian despots.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.

Ver. 7. I have seen servants upon horses,] i.e., Servile souls, base spirited abjects, slaves to their lusts, homines ad servitutem paratos, as Tiberius said of his Romans, natural slaves born to be so, as the Cappadocians, (a) "brute beasts made and taken to be destroyed." [2 Peter 2:12] Hi perfricant frontem et digniores se dicunt quam Catonem, qui praetores fierent, as Vatinius did. These set a good face upon it many times, and leap into the saddle of authority, ride on strong and shining palfreys, (b) ride without reins in the prosecution of their ambitious ends, till, unhorsed, with Haman, they that were erst a terror become a scorn. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 30:22"}

And princes walking as servants upon the earth.] In Persia at this day the difference between the gentleman and the slave is, that the slave never rides, the gentleman never goes on foot; they buy, sell, confer, fight, do all on horseback. When Doeg, Saul’s herdsman, the Edomite, and Tobiah, the servant, the Ammonite, were got on cock horse, there was no ho! with them, but they would needs ride to the devil. When Justinian II was emperor, Stephen the Persian being made Lord High Chamberlain, grew to that height of insolence that he presumed to chastise with

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rods the emperor’s own mother, as if she had been some base slave. In the year of grace 1522 the boors of Germany rose up against their rulers, and would lay all LEVEL, that servants might ride cheek by joul, as they say, with princes. (c) Sed miserabilis et lamentabilistandem huius stultitice exitus fuit, (d) saith Lavater: But these fools paid dear for their proud attempt; and after a miserable slaughter of many thousands of them, were sent home by the weeping cross, ad beatos rastros, benedictum aratrum, sanctamque stivam, (e) as Bucholcerus phraseth it, to handle again (instead of guns and swords) their blessed rakes, plough staves, and horse whips. Their general, Muncer, was tortured to death, being so mated and amazed that he was not able to repeat his creed, &c.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, "A social scene in human life

I. This social scene is common.

1. In the political realm. We see small-minded men occupying influential offices in the State.

2. In the ecclesiastical department.

3. In the commercial department. How often do we see little men by trickery, fraud and lucky hits become the great men of the market.

4. In the literary department.

II. This social scene is incongruous.

1. It does not AGREE with what we might have expected under the government of a righteous God. That the race is not always to the morally swift and the battle to the morally strong is an undoubted anomaly in the government of God.

2. It does not agree with the moral feelings of humanity. Whilst there is a perversity in man which leads him to hurrah the successful and the prosperous, there is, nevertheless, down deep in the heart of all men a feeling that such a scene as that indicated in the text is something terribly incongruous, a great moral enormity.

III. This social scene is temporary.

1. Such a social scene does not EXIST in the other world. Death destroys all these adventitious distinctions and moral incongruities.

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2. Such a social scene will not always exist here. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

8 Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.

BAR ES, "The figures seem to be taken from the work of building up and pulling down houses. In their general application, they recommend the man who would act wisely to be cautious when taking any step in life which involves risk.


Breaketh an hedge - Rather: “breaks through a wall.”

Serpent - The habit of snakes is to nestle in a chink of a wall, or among stones (compare Amo_5:19).


Be endangered - Rather: “cut himself.”

CLARKE, "Whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him -While spoiling his neighbor’s property, he himself may come to greater mischief: while pulling out the sticks, he may be bit by a serpent, who has his nest there. Some have supposed

that נחש nachash here means a thorn; perhaps from the similarity of its prick to the

serpent’s sting. He who forces his way through a hedge will be pricked by the thorns.

GILL, "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it,.... This and the three following clauses are proverbial expressions, teaching men to be wise and cautious, lest by their conduct they bring mischief upon themselves; as it often is, the one that digs a pit for another, falls into it himself, as the wise man's father before him had observed, Psa_7:15; as kings that lay snares for their people, and subjects that plot against their sovereign; or courtiers that form schemes for the rain of those that are in their way; or any man that devises mischief against another, frequently so it is, that the same befalls them; as Haman, who prepared a gallows for Mordecai, was hanged on it himself;

and whoso breaketh an hedge a serpent shall bite him; which often lies hid in fences, in old walls, and rotten hedges (s), Amo_5:19; so he that breaks down the hedges

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and fences of kingdoms and commonwealths, and breaks through the fundamental laws of a civil constitution, and especially that transgresses the laws of God, moral or civil, may expect to smart for it. Jarchi interprets this hedge of the sayings of their wise men, which those that transgress shall suffer death by the hand of heaven: but it would be much better to apply it to the doctrines contained in the word of God, which are a hedge and fence to the church of God, and whoever transgress them will suffer for it; see 2Jo_1:8; The Targum, by the "serpent", understands an ungodly king, who bites like a serpent, into whose hands such transgressors shall be delivered: and some have thought of the old serpent the devil, as Alshech, who deceived Adam and Eve.

HE RY, " Let neither prince nor people violently attempt any changes, nor make a forcible entry upon a national settlement, for they will both find it of dangerous consequence, which he shows here by four similitudes, the scope of which is to give us a caution not to meddle to our own hurt. Let not princes invade the rights and liberties of their subjects; let not subjects mutiny and rebel against their princes; for, (1.) He that digs a pit for another, it is ten to one but he falls into it himself, and his violent dealing returns upon his own head. If princes become tyrants, or subjects become rebels, all histories will tell both what is likely to be their fate and that it is at their utmost peril, and it were better for both to be content within their own bounds. (2.) Whoso breaks a hedge, an old hedge, that has long been a land-mark, let him expect that a serpent, or adder, such as harbour in rotten hedges, will bite him; some viper or other will fasten upon his hand, Act_28:3. God, by his ordinance, as by a hedge, has inclosed the prerogatives and powers of princes; their persons are under his special protection; those therefore that form any treasonable designs against their peace, their crown, and dignity, are but twisting halters for themselves. (3.) Whoso removes stones, to pull down a wall or building, does but pluck them upon himself; he shall be hurt therewith, and will wish that he had let them alone. Those that go about to alter a well-modelled well-settled government, under colour of redressing some grievances and correcting some faults in it, will quickly perceive not only that it is easier to find fault than to mend, to demolish that which is good than to build up that which is better, but that they thrust their own fingers into the fire and overwhelm themselves in the ruin they occasion.

JAMISO ,"The fatal results to kings of such an unwise policy; the wrong done to others recoils on themselves (Ecc_8:9); they fall into the pit which they dug for others (Est_7:10; Psa_7:15; Pro_26:27). Breaking through the wise fences of their throne, they suffer unexpectedly themselves; as when one is stung by a serpent lurking in the stones of his neighbor’s garden wall (Psa_80:12), which he maliciously pulls down (Amo_5:19).

HAWKER 8-15, "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. (9) Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. (10) If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct. (11) Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better. (12) The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. (13) The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. (14) A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? (15) The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

We shall have a much clearer apprehension of the Preacher’s meaning in those several

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expressions concerning both wisdom and folly, if we always keep in remembrance that by wisdom is implied, That wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation: and by folly, the ignorance of the heart concerning Christ. This doctrine the Holy Ghost graciously explained by Job ages before, when by the mouth of his servant he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding. Job_28:28.

COFFMAN, "Haman's being hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai is the classical example of what is meant by the first line. Regarding the second line, "Breaking through a fence, one is stung by a serpent lurking in the stones of his neighbor's garden wall."[6]

PULPIT, "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it. This proverb occurs in Pro_26:27, and, as expressive of the retribution that awaits evil-doers, finds parallels in Psa_7:15, Psa_7:16; Psa_9:15; Psa_10:2; Ecclesiasticus 27:25, 26. The" pit" (gummats, ἅπαξ λεγόµενον ) is such a one as was made to capture wild animals, and the maker of it is supposed to approach it incautiously, and to fall into it. But the scope of our passage is rather to speak of what may possibly occur than to insist on the emesis that inevitably overtakes transgressors. Its object is to inspire caution in the prosecution of dangerous undertakings, whether the enterprise be the overthrow of a tyrant, or any other action of importance, or whether, as some suppose, the arraignment of the providential ordering of events is intended, in which ease there would be the danger of blasphemy and impatience. And whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him. The futures throughout verses 8 and 9 ,are not intended to express certainty, as if the results mentioned were inevitable, but rather possibility, and might be rendered, with Delitzsch, "may fall," "may bite," etc. The "hedge" is rather a wall (Pro_24:31), in the crevices of which poisonous snakes have made their abode, which are disturbed by its demolition (comp. Ames 5:19). achash, here used, is the generic name of any serpent. The majority of the snakes found in Palestine are harmless; but there are some which are very deadly, especially the cobra and those which belong to the viper family. There is no allusion here to the illegal removal of landmarks, a proceeding which might be supposed to provoke retribution; the hedge or wail is one which the demolisher is justified in removing, only in doing so he must look out for certain contingencies, and guard against them. Metaphorically, the pulling down a wall may refer to the removal of evil institutions in a state, which involves the reformer in many difficulties and perils.

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:8. And whoso breaketh an hedge— And whoso forceth his way through a hedge. See the Observations, p. 217. To shew that such a choice as that mentioned in the 7th verse is not only an evil, but likewise a great folly, our author observes, first, that the inconveniences arising from it do not affect the people only, which might be a consideration of little weight with a selfish despotic monarch; but that they reach the prince himself. This he proves by four proverbial sentences, in this and the following verse; the general meaning of which is, that the first author of any mischief or improper measure is likely to be the first sufferer by it.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso

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breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.

VER 8. He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it.] As heedless huntsmen do. He that being of base BEGI I G, and unmeet for government, seeks to set up himself upon better men’s ruins, and where he finds not a way to make it, shall fall from his high hopes into remediless misery; as he hath made a match with mischief, so he shall have his belly full of it. As he hath conceived with guile, so (though he grow never so big) he shall bring forth nothing but vanity, and worse. [Job 15:35]

And whoso breaketh an hedge.] The hedge of God’s commandments, as our first parents did, to come to the forbidden fruit. A serpent bites such, [Proverbs 23:32] and the poison cannot be gotten out. Others sense it thus (and I rather incline): He that seeks to overthrow the fundamental laws and established government of a commonwealth, and to break down the fences and mounds of sovereignty and subjection, shall no less (but much more) imperil himself than he that pulls up an old hedge, wherein serpents, snakes, and adders do usually lurk and lie in wait to do mischief. Wat Tyler the rebel dared to say that all the laws of England should come out of his mouth. (a) Stratford uttered somewhat to the like sense in Ireland. Our good laws are our hedges; so our oaths - ορκος quasi ερκος. Let us look to both, or we are lost people. Det Deus ut admonitio haec adeo sit nobis omnibus commoda quam sit accommoda.

PULPIT 8-11, "Gnomic wisdom; or, a string of double-edged proverbs.

I. DIGGI G PITS A D FALLI G I TO THEM. "He that diggeth a pit shall [or, 'may'] fall into it" (verse 8). An old proverb, borrowed from Solomon (Pro_26:27), who in turn may have learnt it from David (Psa_7:15; Psa_9:15; Psa_57:6), it may point to one or other of two thoughts.

1. The necessity of exercising caution in all works of danger. One who hollows out a trench or pit for the purpose of snaring wild animals—a perfectly legitimate design—may, either by standing too near the edge and causing the treacherous earth to give way, or by stumbling on it in the dark at an unexpected moment, fall in, in which case he will suffer not for having done wrong, but merely for having failed to act with circumspection and prudence (Pro_14:15; Pro_22:3; Pro_27:12).

2. The possibility of evildoers overreaching themselves. In this case the pit is supposed to be dug for a wicked purpose, as e.g. to ensnare another to his ruin. In this sense the proverb has found expression in almost all literatures. Shakespeare speaks of the engineer being "hoist with his own petard." Haman was hanged upon the gallows he had built for Mordecai (Est_7:10). "Plots and conspiracies are often as fatal to the conspirators as to the intended victims' (Plumptre).

II. BROKE HEDGES A D BITI G SERPE TS. "Whoso breaketh through a fence, a serpent shall bite him" (verse 8). The hedge, or rather fence, or stone wall, was a customary haunt of serpents; so that one engaged in breaking down such a

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structure had need to beware of being bitten by the reptiles infesting it. Hence a variety of lessons according as the words are viewed.

1. An admonition to workers. To go cautiously about their employments, if these are dangerous, as a person would who had to pull down or break through an old wall in which serpents were lodged. Many accidents occur, inflicting damage on the workers, for want of a little foresight.

2. A warning to transgressors. That emesis may overtake them in the very act of their evil doing. If they break through a neighbor's fence to steal his fruit, or pull down his wall so as to injure his property, they need not be surprised if they are caught in the act. Wickedness has a habit of avenging itself, sometimes with great rapidity and with terrible severity, on those who perpetrate it. This is true of all breaking down of those fences or laws with which God has girt man. Every violation of law—physical, intellectual, moral, social, religious—is visited with its own particular biting serpent of penalty.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, "Respect the hedge

We covet the apple on the tree and forget the snake in the grass; the consequence being, that when we ESSAY to bite the apple, the snake bites us. ow, there are many protective hedges about us; and the trouble is, that we are variously tempted to play tricks with these, and upon occasion to set them at naught. Therein we usually discover how great is the mistake we have made.

I. Guard the sense of shame. Whatever tends to lessen the acuteness of the soul to things false, ugly, or foul is sharply to be shunned. Beware of the literature that tends to reconcile to odious things! If the soul is to keep its virgin purity, it must turn away even from the reflection of foulness in a MIRROR. Beware of the company whose conversation and fellowship in some way, not perhaps very apparent, blights the bloom and dims the lustre of pure feeling! Beware of the amusements that filch away the quick delicacy which has been evolved in our nature at an infinite expense! Beware of the fashion that sets lighter store by old-fashioned modesty! Better pluck out as useless appendages the tender eyelashes which guarantee the sight than consent to destroy the instincts of purity which preserve the spirit. The sense of shame is a sacred thing; it is the saintliness of nature, and we ought sedulously to guard and heighten it in the fear of God. The man or woman who heedlessly violates this ethereal hedge puts himself or herself outside what is elsewhere called a wall of fire.

II. Respect the code of courtesy. Even in domestic life and between chief friends are interposed hedges, if they be not rather flower borders, which must be respected, if mutual regard and veneration are to continue. United most closely as we are, certain

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delicate observances and deferences fix the isolation of our personality, and imply the attention that must be paid to our rights and feelings. The grievous misunderstandings and animosities which wreck the peace and prosperity of households not uncommonly originate in excessive familiarities between brothers and sisters; these fail to see that refined proprieties guard the several members of a family as a scarlet cord reserves special places in great assemblies, and that “good form” must be observed in private as well as in public. Some one has wisely said, “It is no worse to stand on ceremony than to trample on it.” o, I DEED, it is often a great deal better; for social ceremonial is the fence that protects the delicate forms and flowers which are so difficult to rear. Let young people revere the pale of ceremony, for when it is broken down beauty, purity and peace are at the mercy of a ruthless world.

III. Obey the rules of business. Regulations touching hours of going out and coming in, minute directions for household conduct, rules about the handling of cash, usages in keeping ACCOU TS, and petty laws directing twenty other details of duty, are based in an expediency which really and simultaneously conserves the rights and safety of masters and servants alike. The beginner may not see the reasonableness of a system of delicate network which comprehends eating, drinking and sleeping, and the almost infinite ramifications of daily duty; but there is more reasonableness in all these worrying precepts than he sees. The laws of business are the outcome of the experience of generations, and are not lightly to be set aside. A young man can hardly pay too much deference to the customs and traditions of the establishment in which his lot is cast; he cannot; be too exactly conscientious about the prescribed obligations of time, usage, method, goods and cash: to tamper here is to be lost. Beware of the slightest infraction of your official duty, of all informality and unauthorized action, of all illicit and contraband ways and things, deadly serpents without rattles wait behind the violated precepts! Whilst, on the other hand, if you keep the least of these commandments, it shall keep you, and the discipline of obedience on a lower level will strengthen you to comply with the sublimest laws of all on the highest levels of thought and conduct. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Fences and serpents

What is meant here is, probably, not such a hedge as we are accustomed to see, but a dry stone wall, or, perhaps, an earthen embankment, in the crevices of which might lurk a snake to sting the careless hand. The “wall” may stand for the limitations and boundary lines of our lives, and the inference that wisdom suggests in that application of the saying it, “Do not pull down judiciously but keep the fence up, and be sure you keep on the right side of it.” For any attempt to pull it down--which, being interpreted, is to transgress the laws of life which God has enjoined--is sure to bring out the hissing snake with its poison.

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I. All life is given us rigidly walled up. The first thing that the child learns is that it must not do what it likes. The last lesson that the old man has to learn is, you must do what you ought. And between these two extremities of life we are always making attempts to treat the world as an open common, on which we may wander at our will. And before we have gone many steps some sort of keeper or other meets us and says to us, “Trespassers I back again to the road!” Life is rigidly hedged in and limited. There are the obligations which we owe, and the relations in which we stand, to the outer world, the laws of physical life, and all that touches the external and the material. There are the relations in which we stand, and the obligations which we owe to ourselves. And God has so made us as that obviously large tracts of every man’s nature are given to him on purpose to be restrained, curbed, coerced, and sometimes utterly crushed and extirpated. God gives us our impulses under lock and key. All our animal desires, all our natural tendencies, are held on condition that we exercise control over them, and keep them well within the rigidly marked limits which He has laid down, and which we can easily find out. We sometimes foolishly feel that a life thus hedged up, limited by these high boundaries on either side, must be uninteresting, monotonous, or unfree. It is not so. The walls are blessings, like the parapet on a mountain road that keeps the traveller from toppling over the face of the cliff. They are training-walls, as our hydrographical engineers talk about, which, built in the bed of a river, wholesomely confine its waters and make a good scour which gives life, instead of letting them vaguely wander and stagnate across great fields of mud. Freedom consists in keeping willingly within the limits which God has traced, and anything except that is not freedom, but is licence and rebellion, and at bottom servitude of the most abject type.

II. Every attempt to break down the limitations brings poison into the life. We live in a great automatic system which, by its own operation, largely avenges every breach of law. I need not remind you, except in a word, of the way in which the transgression of the plain physical laws stamped upon our constitutions avenges itself; but the certainty with which disease dogs all breaches of the laws of health is but a type in the lower and material universe of the far higher and more solemn certainty with which “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The grossest form of transgression of the plain laws of temperance, abstinence, purity, brings with itself, in like manner, a visible and palpable punishment in the majority of cases. Some serpents’ bites inflame, some paralyze; and one or other of these two things--either an inflamed conscience or a palsied conscience--is the result of all wrongdoing. I do not know which is the worst.

III. All the poison may be got out of your veins if you like. Christ has received into His own inmost life and self the whole gathered consequences of a world’s sin; and

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by the mystery of His sympathy, and the reality of His mysterious union with us men, He, the sinless Son of God, has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. For sin and death launched their last dart at Him, and, like some venomous insect that can sting once and then must die, they left their sting in His wounded heart, and have none for them that put their trust in Him. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The hedges of life

I look around upon the universe. It is a place of hedges. It is not barren moorland about which we are doubtful if it has an owner, for He has everywhere defined His rights and established His bounds.

I. Read it in the light of history, and take it as a piece of experience. It is given us by a man who brings it out of his own heart, for he had felt the bite of the serpent himself. There was scarcely a hedge upon which he did not set his foot, and there were few penalties of sin which he did not feel. Although every means was at his command for avoiding sin’s consequences, he felt the serpent’s sting; and if you will take his experience of sin, and rest satisfied in his verdict on it, it will save you from untold sorrow and infinite regrets. But this is not the experience of one man. Look around society and question men for yourselves. Hear the intemperate man express the shame and contempt which follow his intemperance; hear the worldly man as the day of life draws to its close bemoan the hollow cheat the world has played upon him; listen to the experience of those who have climbed out of the mire and have now their feet set upon the rock; and the unqualified answer you will get will be that this language is true. Or open the volume of history, and mark the solemn retributions of God upon every page. Read the history of Jacob, of Haman, of Ahab and Jezebel. Or open the book of secular history. Glance at the history of Greece and Rome, or any nation under heaven. Thrones gained by the sword have been lost by it. Fortunes won by fraud have cursed in turn every one that has held them; and tear at random any page from the archives of the world, and it will comment to you on these words, for the experience of men through 6,000 years has CO FIRMED these truths, and they express the settled experiences of mankind.

II. Read this not only in the light of history, but in the light of revelation, and take it not only as a piece of experience, but as the revelation of a Divine law. God’s government has another world as its theatre as well as this. Men may sin here and in some cases be comparatively free from any terrible outward consequences; in that other domain of God’s the effects of their sin will reveal themselves in all their fearfulness and terror. Poison does not always work immediately, but sometimes after days of health and happiness the serpent’s bite begins to show itself. And so

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although violation of moral order may bring with it no instantaneous punishment, punishment for all that will follow. It is a law of the eternal universe. ow, these hedges are both physical, social and moral. Break one of the laws of health, and you will induce disease; and that disease is the bite of the serpent. Or break one of the laws of society, and society will distrust you, and that distrust, that loss of respect and position, is the bite of the serpent. But break one of the higher laws--the laws of morality--and what, probably, will follow? Why, penalties severe and terrible. Even in this world the resources of God to punish are infinite. He may punish you in yourself, in your circumstances, by means of your children. He can punish you through prosperity as well as through adversity.

III. Take these words and read them in the light of the cross. God, in His infinite love, has provided salvation in Christ. The temporal effects of sin He does not remove--Divine forgiveness will not repair the shattered constitution, or mend the broken fortune. The bite of the serpent works death; but God suffers it not to work the second death. Yet do not misunderstand this, as though it were a light thing to see now that salvation through Christ is offered to all. You can never be what you might have been but for its committal. The damage you do to the sapling appears in the massive trunk of the oak, and all your machinery cannot straighten it. And though sin may be forgiven, the very omnipotence of God cannot undo that which has been done; and though in future ages you ultimately burn as a seraph or worship as an archangel, you can never be what you might have been. (H. Wonnacott.)

Sin; and the serpent’s bite

We are supplied with motives be help the right-doing. But that is not all! Our humanity is surrounded, as it were, with a wall of fire. Of God’s great mercy we do not suffer for wrong-doing merely, but in wrong-doing also. either heavenly bliss on the one hand, nor the punishment of evil on the other, are exclusively matters of faith, for God has written the truth of his Divine utterances on THE PAGE of our daily history and experience.

I. God’s laws.

1. If we go for a moment into the natural world, we find there are certain principles, or laws, received and acted upon. The law of the centre of gravity; even the clown knows that if he guides his vehicle to the edge of the precipice, so that the centre of gravity falls beyond the bounds of safety, his conveyance will fall over and be destroyed! In relation to our physical being, there are laws which we must keep, or the grave will receive us before due time. A Hercules must take nourishment; every

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man must inhale air, and that air must be composed of certain ingredients.

2. Consider man morally, and the same principles apply.

II. Man’s lawlessness.

1. Suppose a man were to reach a dangerous spot, and were to see a warning to that effect, but yet persisted in going right into destruction, he would be regarded as not competent to take care of himself; still in such a man we have an illustration of the folly of the lawless conduct of the unbeliever. God, by His providence, in His Word, and by His Spirit’s teaching, has set up a warning, in every by-path; plain enough to be read. “Trespassers shall be punished,” meets us everywhere. Would that men read, understood and obeyed!

2. We see in human nature the mischievous tendency developed in daily acts of folly. If we were compelled to do what we often choose to do, heaven would be besieged by lamentations, and the multitude would mourn over the hardness of their lot.

III. The retribution.

1. Present retribution. Look at the debauched; his face is a sign-board of hell, his heart a seat of woe.

2. Future retribution. (H. Parrish, B. A.)

The serpent behind the hedge

I. The hedges which God has placed around us.

1. God’s commandments.

2. Parental restraints. Hedges with respect to associates, books, habits, and places of amusements.

3. Imparted principles. Teachers are anxious to fix truths, sentences from Scripture, holy maxims, in the minds of the young, that they may be in them as moral hedges in the time of temptation.

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II. The young will be tempted to break these hedges.

1. By their own evil hearts.

2. By evil companions.

3. By the evil one.

III. There is a serpent behind the hedge. If we do wrong we shall certainly suffer. The path of sin is full of serpents. The way of transgressors is hard. Punishment not always visible, but surely follows the deed. In the sense of shame, in the stings of conscience, in the displeasure of God, the serpent’s bite is felt. (W. Osborne Lilley.)

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; [and] he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.

Ver. 9. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith.] So he that attempteth to loose and remove the joints and pieces of a settled government, there is danger that, like Samson, he will be crushed in the ruin. So one (a) gives the sense of it: He that goeth about to remove a ruler out of his place, and to divide a settled government that is at unity in itself, undertaketh a dangerous piece of business. As he undertaketh a desperate work, such shall his REWARD be. It is evil meddling with edged tools, &c., saith another interpreter. (b) Some by "stones" here understand landmarks, which to remove was counted sacrilege among the Romans, and worthy of death. (c) What are they guilty and worthy of, then, that abrogate the good old laws of a land, or the good old ways of God, that have given rest to so many souls? [Jeremiah 6:16] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 26:27"}

And he that cleaveth wood shall be in danger thereby,] viz., Of breaking his tools, if not his shins, especially if he be a bungler at it. This is to the same sense with the three former similitudes. Cyprian makes use of this text against schismatics, reading it thus: Scindens ligna periclitabitur in eo si exciderit ferrum, (d) He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby, if that the iron fall off. Jerome by "wood" here understands heretics, as being unfruitful and unfit for God’s building, and makes this OTE upon it, Quamvis sit prudens et doctus vir, (e) &c. Although he be a wise and a learned man, who with the sword of his discourse cutteth this knotty wood, he will be endangered by it, unless he be very careful.

BE SO , "Verse 8-9Ecclesiastes 10:8-9. He that diggeth a pit, &c. — The meaning of these verses, which may be considered as common proverbs, is, that those who are seeking and striving to injure others, often bring mischiefs thereby on their own heads; as he that digs a pit for another may, unawares, fall into it himself; and he who, in those hot

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countries, was pulling up a hedge, was in danger of being bit by a serpent lurking in it; and he that removes stones to undermine his neighbour’s house, may possibly be hurt, if not killed, by the upper stones falling on himself. It may be observed here, however, that Melancthon, Bishop Patrick, and many other interpreters, consider these verses as containing warnings to princes and people to take heed they do not rashly, and with violence, attempt to make changes in the established order of things in churches or states. “Let neither prince nor people,” says Henry, “violently attempt any changes, nor make a forcible entry upon a national settlement, for they will both find it of dangerous consequence. Let not princes invade the rights and liberties of their subjects; and let not subjects mutiny and rebel against their princes, but let both be content within their own bounds. God, by his ordinance, as by a hedge, hath enclosed the prerogatives and powers of princes, and their persons are under his special protection; those, therefore, that form any treasonable designs against their peace, their crown, and dignity, are but twisting halters for themselves. And those that go about to alter a well-modelled, well-settled government, under colour of redressing some grievances, and CORRECTI G some things amiss in it, will quickly perceive, not only that it is easier to find fault than to mend; to demolish that which is good, than to build up that which is better;” but that they pull a house down upon themselves, under the ruins of which they may perhaps be crushed to death. But this latter verse is thus interpreted by some, He that removeth stones —That rashly attempts things too high and hard for him; shall be hurt therewith —Shall suffer injury from such attempts. And he that cleaveth wood — With an iron instrument; shall be endangered thereby — May peradventure cut himself: that is, he that deals with men of knotty, stubborn tempers, shall have much vexation and trouble thereby, and probably shall find his character as well as peace much wounded.



What is meant here is, probably, not such a hedge as we are accustomed to see, but a dry-stone wall, or, perhaps, an earthen embankment, in the crevices of which might lurk a snake to sting the careless hand. The connection and purpose of the text are somewhat obscure. It is one of a string of proverb-like sayings which all seem to be illustrations of the one thought that every kind of work has its own appropriate and peculiar peril. So, says the Preacher, if a man is digging a pit, the sides of it may cave in and he may go down. If he is pulling down a wall he may get stung. If he is working in a quarry there may be a fall of rock. If he is a woodman the tree he is felling may crush him. What then? Is the inference to be, Sit still and do nothing, because you may get hurt whatever you do? By no means. The writer of this book hates idleness very nearly as much as he does what he calls ‘folly,’ and his inference is stated in the next verse-’Wisdom is profitable to direct.’ That is to say, since all work has its own dangers, work warily, and with your brains as well as your muscles, and do not put your hand into the hollow in the wall, until you have looked to see whether there are any snakes in it. Is that very wholesome maxim of prudence all that is meant to be learned? I think not. The previous clause, at all events,

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embodies a well-known metaphor of the Old Testament. ‘He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it,’ often occurs as expressing the retribution in kind that comes down on the cunning plotter against other men’s prosperity, and the conclusion that wisdom suggests in that APPLICATIO of the sentence is, ‘Dig judiciously,’ but ‘Do not dig at all.’ And so in my text the ‘wall’ may stand for the limitations and boundary-lines of our lives, and the inference that wisdom suggests in that application of the saying is not ‘Pull down judiciously,’ but ‘Keep the fence up, and be sure you keep on the right side of it.’ For any attempt to pull it down-which being interpreted is, to transgress the laws of life which God has enjoined-is sure to bring out the hissing snake with its poison.

ow it is in that aspect that I want to look at the words before us.

I. First of all, let us take that thought which underlies my text-that all life is given us rigidly walled up.

The first thing that the child learns is, that it must not do what it likes. The last lesson that the old man has to learn is, you must do what you ought. And between these two extremes of life we are always making attempts to treat the world as an open common, on which we may wander at our will. And before we have gone many steps, some sort of keeper or other meets us and says to us, ‘Trespassers, back again to the road!’ Life is rigidly hedged in and limited. To live as you like is the prerogative of a brute. To live as you ought, and to recognise and command by obeying the laws and limitations stamped upon our very nature and enjoined by our circumstances, is the freedom and the glory of a man. There are limitations, I say-fences on all sides. Men put up their fences; and they are often like the wretched wooden hoardings that you sometimes see limiting the breadth of a road. But in regard to these conventional limitations and regulations, which own no higher authority or lawgiver than society and custom, you must make up your mind even more certainly than in regard of loftier laws, that if you meddle with them, there will be plenty of serpents coming out to hiss and bite. o man that defies the narrow maxims and petty restrictions of conventional ways, and sets at nought the opinions of the people round about him, but must make up his mind for backbiting and slander and opposition of all sorts. It is the price that we pay for obeying at first hand the laws of God and caring nothing for the conventionalities of men.

But apart from that altogether, let me just remind you, in half a dozen sentences, of the various limitations or fences which hedge up our lives on every side. There are the obligations which we owe, and the relations in which we stand, to the outer world, the laws of physical life, and all that touches the external and the material. There are the relations in which we stand, and the obligations which we owe, to ourselves. And God has so made us as that obviously large tracts of every man’s nature are given to him on purpose to be restrained, curbed, coerced, and sometimes utterly crushed and extirpated. God gives us our impulses under lock and key. All our animal desires, all our natural tendencies, are held on condition that we exercise control over them, and keep them well within the rigidly marked limits which He has laid down, and which we can easily find out. There are, further, the relations in

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which we stand, and the obligations and limitations, therefore, under which we come, to the people round about us. High above them all, and in some sense including them all, but loftier than these, there is the all-comprehending relation in which we stand to God, who is the fountain of all obligations, the source and aim of all duty, who encompasses us on every side, and whose will makes the boundary walls within which alone it is safe for a man to live.

We sometimes foolishly feel that a life thus hedged up, limited by these high boundaries on either side, must be uninteresting, monotonous, or unfree. It is not so. The walls are blessings, like the parapet on a mountain road, that keeps the travellers from toppling over the face of the cliff. They are training-walls, as our hydro-graphical engineers talk about, which, built in the bed of a river, wholesomely confine its waters and make a good scour which gives life, instead of letting them vaguely wander and stagnate across great fields of mud. Freedom consists in keeping willingly within the limits which God has traced, and anything else is not freedom but licence and rebellion, and at bottom servitude of the most abject type.

II. So, secondly, OTE that every attempt to break down the limitations brings poison into the life.

We live in a great automatic system which, by its own operation, largely avenges every breach of law. I need not remind you, except in a word, of the way in which the transgression of the plain physical laws stamped upon our constitutions avenges itself; but the certainty with which disease dogs all breaches of the laws of health is but a type in the lower and material universe of the far higher and more solemn certainty with which ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Wherever a man sets himself against any of the laws of this material universe, they make short work of him. We command them, as I said, by obeying them; and the difference between the obedience and the breach of them is the difference between the engineer standing on his engine and the wretch that is caught by it as it rushes over the rails. But that is but a parable of the higher thing which I want to speak to you about.

The grosser forms of transgression of the plain laws of temperance, abstinence, purity, bring with them, in like manner, a visible and palpable punishment in the majority of cases. Whoso pulls down the wall of temperance, a serpent will bite him. Trembling hands, broken constitutions, ruined reputations, vanished ambitions, wasted lives, poverty, shame, and enfeebled will, death-these are the serpents that bite, in many cases, the transgressor. I have a man in my eye at this moment that used to sit in one of these pews, who came into Manchester a promising young man, a child of many prayers, with the ball at his foot, in one of your great WAREHOUSES, the only hope of his house, professedly a Christian. He began to tamper with the wall. First a tiny little bit of stone taken out that did not show the daylight through; then a little bigger, and a bigger. And the serpent struck its fangs into him, and if you saw him now, he is a shambling wreck, outside of society, and, as we sometimes tremblingly think, beyond hope. Young men! ‘whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.’

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In like manner there are other forms of ‘sins of the flesh avenged in kind,’ which I dare not speak about more plainly here. I see many young men in my congregation, many strangers in this great city, living, I suppose, in lodgings, and therefore without many restraints. If you were to take a pair of compasses and place one leg of them down at the Free Trade Hall, and take a circle of half a mile round there, you would get a cavern of rattlesnakes. You know what I mean. Low theatres, low music-halls, CASI OS, haunts of yet viler sorts-there the snakes are, hissing and writhing and ready to bite. Do not ‘put your hand on the hole of the asp.’ Take care of books, pictures, songs, companions that would lead you astray. Oh for a voice to stand at some doors that I know in Manchester, and peal this text into the ears of the fools, men and women, that go in there!

I heard only this week of one once in a good position in this city, and in early days, I believe, a member of my own congregation, begging in rags from door to door. And the reason was, simply, the wall had been pulled down and the serpent had struck. It always does; not with such fatal external effects always, but be ye sure of this, ‘God is not mocked; “whatsoever a man,” or a woman either, “soweth, that shall he also reap.”‘ For remember that there are other ways of pulling down walls than these gross and palpable transgressions with the body; and there are other sorts of retributions which come with unerring certainty besides those that can be taken notice of by others. I do not want to dwell upon these at any length, but let me just remind you of one or two of them.

Some serpents’ bites inflame, some paralyse; and one or other of these two things-either an inflamed conscience or a palsied conscience-is the result of all wrongdoing. I do not know which is the worst. There are men and women now in this chapel, sitting listening to me, perhaps half interested, without the smallest suspicion that I am talking about them. The serpent’s bite has led to the torpor of their consciences. Which is the worse-to loathe my sin and yet to find its slimy coils round about me, so that I cannot break it, or to have got to like it and to be perfectly comfortable in it, and to have no remonstrance within when I do it? Be sure of this, that every transgression and disobedience acts immediately upon the conscience of the doer, sometimes to stir that conscience into agonies of gnawing remorse, more often to lull it into a fatal slumber.

I do not speak of the retributions which we heap upon ourselves in loading our memories with ERRORS and faults, in polluting them often with vile imaginations, or in laying up there a lifelong series of actions, none of which have ever had a trace of reference to God in them. I do not speak, except in a sentence, of the retribution which comes from the habit of evil which weighs upon men, and makes it all but impossible for them ever to shake off their sin. I do not speak, except in a sentence, of the perverted relations to God, the incapacity of knowing Him, the disregard, and even sometimes the dislike, of the thought of Him which steal across the heart of the man that lives in evil and sin; but I put all into two words-every sin that I do tells upon myself, inasmuch as its virus passes into my blood as guilt and as habit. And then I remind you of what you say you believe, that beyond this world there lies the

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solemn judgment-seat of God, where you and I have to give ACCOU T of our deeds. O brother, be sure of this, ‘whoso breaketh an hedge’-here and now, and yonder also-’a serpent shall bite him’!

That is as far as my text carries me. It has nothing more to say. Am I to shut the book and have done? There is only one system that has anything more to say, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

III. And so, passing from my text, I have to say, lastly, All the poison may be got out of YOUR veins if you like.

Our Lord used this very same metaphor under a different aspect, and with a different historical application, when He said, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’

There is Christ’s idea of the condition of this world of ours-a camp of men lying bitten by serpents and drawing near to death. What I have been speaking about, in perhaps too abstract terms, is the condition of each one of us. It is hard to get people, when they are gathered by the hundred to listen to a sermon flung out in generalities, to realise it. If I could get you one by one, and ‘buttonhole’ you; and instead of the plural ‘you’ use the singular ‘thou,’ perhaps I could reach you. But let me ask you to try and realise each for himself that this serpent bite, as the issue of pulling down the wall, is true about each soul in this place, and that Christ endorsed the representation. How are we to get this poison out of the blood? Reform your ways? Yes; I say that too; but reforming the life will deliver from the poison in the character, when you cure hydrophobia by washing the patient’s skin, and not till then. It is all very well to repaper your dining-rooms, but it is very little good doing that if the drainage is wrong. It is the drainage that is wrong with us all. A man cannot reform himself down to the bottom of his sinful being. If he could, it does not touch the past. That remains the same. If he could, it does not affect his relation to God. Repentance-if it were possible apart from the softening influence of faith in Jesus Christ-repentance alone would not solve the problem. So far as men can see, and so far as all human systems have declared, ‘What I have written I have written.’ There is no erasing it. The irrevocable past stands stereotyped for ever. Then comes in this message of forgiveness and cleansing, which is the very heart of all that we preachers have to say, and has been spoken to most of you so often that it is almost impossible to invest it with any kind of freshness or power. But once more I have to preach to you that Christ has received into His own inmost life and self the whole gathered consequences of a world’s sin; and by the mystery of His sympathy, and the reality of His mysterious union with us men, He, the sinless Son of God, has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The brazen serpent lifted on the pole was in the likeness of the serpent whose poison slew, but there was no poison in it. Christ has come, the sinless Son of God, for you and me. He has died on the Cross, the Sacrifice for every man’s sin, that every man’s wound might be healed, and the poison cast out of his veins. He has bruised the malignant, black head of the snake with His wounded heel; and because He has

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been wounded, we are healed of our wounds. For sin and death launched their last dart at Him, and, like some venomous insect that can sting once and then must die, they left their sting in His wounded heart, and have none for them that put their trust in Him.

So, dear brother, here is the simple condition-namely, faith. One look of the languid eye of the poisoned man, howsoever bloodshot and dim it might be, and howsoever nearly veiled with the film of death, was enough to make him whole. The look of our consciously sinful souls to that dear Christ that has died for us will take away the guilt, the power, the habit, the love of evil; and, instead of blood saturated with the venom of sin, there will be in our veins the Spirit of LIFE I Christ, which will ‘make us free from the law of sin and death.’ ‘Look unto Him and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth!’

EBC, "The first of these maxims is, "He who diggeth a pit shall fall into it" (Ecc_10:8). And the allusion is, of course, to an Eastern mode of trapping wild beasts and game. The huntsman dug a pit, covered it with twigs and sods, and strewed the surface with bait; but as he dug many such pits, and some of them were long without a tenant, he might at any inadvertent moment fall into one of them himself. The proverb is capable of at least two interpretations. It may mean that the foolish despot, plotting the ruin of his wise servant, might in his anger go too far; and, betraying his intention, provoke a retaliative anger before which he himself would fall. Or it may mean that, should the wise servant seek to undermine the throne of the despot, he might be taken in his treachery and bring on himself the whole weight of the tyrant’s wrath.

The second maxim is "Whoso breaketh down a wall, a serpent shall bite him" (Ecc_10:8); and here, of course, the allusion is to the fact that snakes infect the crannies of old walls. (compare Amo_5:19) To set about dethroning a tyrant was like pulling down such a wall; you would break up the nest of many a reptile, many a venomous hanger-on, and might only get bit or stung for your pains. Or, again, in pulling out the stones of an old wall, you might let one of them fall on your foot; and in hacking out its timbers, you might cut yourself: that is to say, even if your conspiracy did not involve you in absolute ruin, it would be only too likely to do you serious and lasting injury (Ecc_10:9).

K&D, "Verse 8-9“He that diggeth a pit may fall into it; whoso breaketh down walls, a serpent may sting him. Whoso pulleth out stones may do himself hurt therewith; he who cleaveth wood may endanger himself thereby.” The futures are not the expression of that which will necessarily take place, for, thus rendered, these four statements would be contrary to experience; they are the expression of a possibility. The fut. יפול is not here meant as predicting an EVE T, as where the clause 8a is a figure of self-punishment arising from the destruction prepared for others, Proverbs 26:27. Sir. שוח= גמץ ditch, from ,שחת is, Proverbs 26:27, the Targum word for גומץ .27:26 , depressum esse. גדר (R. גד, to cut), something cutting off, something dividing, is a wall as a boundary and means of protection drawn round a garden, vineyard, or farm-court; גדר פרץ is the reverse of פרץ גדר, Isaiah 58:12. Serpents are accustomed to nestle in the crevices and holes of walls, as well as in the earth (from a city-wall is called חומה and חל); thus he who breaks into such a wall may expect that the serpent

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which is there will bite him (cf. Amos 5:19). To tear down stones, (hissi'a), is synon. of (hhatsav), to break stones, Isaiah 51:1; yet (hhotsēv) does not usually mean the stone-breaker, but the stone-cutter (stone-mason); (hissi'a), from (nasa'), to tear out, does not also signify, 1 Kings 5:18, “to transport,” and here, along with wood-splitting, is certainly to be thought of as a breaking loose or separating in the quarry or shaft. ( e'etsav) signifies elsewhere to be afflicted; here, where the reference is not to the internal but the external feeling: to suffer pain, or reflex.: to injure oneself painfully; the derivat. ('etsev) signifies also severe labour; but to find this signification in the iph. (“he who has painful labour”) is contrary to the usu loq., and contrary to the meaning intended here, where generally actual injuries are in view. Accordingly בם יסכן, for which the Mishn. יסכן בעצמו, “he brings himself into danger,” would denote, to be placed in danger of life and limb, cf. Gittin 65b, Chullin 37a; and it is therefore not necessary, with Hitzig and others, to TRA SLATE after the vulnerabitur of Jerome: “He may wound himself thereby;” there is not a denom. סכן, to cut, to wound, derived from שכין(סכין ), an instrument for cutting, a knife.

( ote: The Midrash understands the whole ethically, and illustrates it by the example of (Rabsake) we know now that the half-Assyr., half-Accad. word (rabsak) means a military chief], whom report makes a brother of Manasseh, and a renegade in the Assyrian service.)

The sum of these four clauses is certainly not merely that he who undertakes a dangerous matter exposes himself to danger; the author means to say, in this series of proverbs which treat of the distinction between wisdom and folly, that the wise man is everywhere conscious of his danger, and guards against it. These two verses (Ecclesiastes 10:8, Ecclesiastes 10:9) come under this definite point of view by the following proverb; wisdom has just this value in providing against the manifold dangers and difficulties which every undertaking brings along with it.

( ote: Thus rightly Carl Lang in his Salom. Kunst im Psalter (Marburg 1874). He sees in Ecclesiastes 10:8-10 a beautiful heptastich. But as to its contents, Ecclesiastes 10:11 also belongs to this group.)

This is illustrated by a fifth example, and then it is declared with reference to all together.

9 Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits LOGS may be endangered by

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CLARKE, "Whoso removeth stones - This verse teaches care and caution. Whoever pulls down an old building is likely to be hurt by the stones; and in cleaving wood many accidents occur for want of sufficient caution.

GILL, "Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith,.... That carries them from the quarry, where they are dug; or takes them from a heap, where they lie; or that attempts to pull them out of a building, where they are put; or removes them from places, where they are set as boundaries and landmarks; all which is troublesome, and by which men get hurt; the stones fall upon them, or are too heavy for them, or they do what they should not do, and so bring themselves into trouble; as do all such persons who are for removing the boundaries of commonwealths and communities, and for changing laws, and altering constitutions;

and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby; of cutting himself: so he that soweth discord among brethren, that makes divisions in families, neighbourhoods, kingdoms, and churches; see Pro_6:16, Rom_16:18. Jarchi renders it, "shall be warmed" or "heated", according to the sense of the word, as he thinks, in 1Ki_1:2; though he understands it of being profited by studying in the law and the commandments; of which he interprets the clause; and Ben Melech observes, that the word so signifies in the Arabic language; and Mr. Broughton renders it, "shall be heated thereby". The Targum paraphrases it,

"shall be burnt with fire, by the hand of the Angel of the Lord:''

or, however, he may be overheated and do himself hurt, as men, that kindle the flame of contention and strife, often do.

JAMISO ,"removeth stones— namely, of an ancient building [Weiss]. His neighbor’s landmarks [Holden]. Cuts out from the quarry [Maurer].

endangered— by the splinters, or by the head of the hatchet, flying back on himself. Pithy aphorisms are common in the East. The sense is: Violations of true wisdom recoil on the perpetrators.

COFFMAN, "These truisms have the simple meaning that certain tasks carry with them an element of risk and danger. "If you work in a stone quarry, you get hurt by stones; if you split wood, you get hurt doing it."[7] The spiritual APPLICATION of this is that if one is engaged in any kind of an enterprise or activity that is designed to defraud or damage other people, it will most certainly be the same thing which happens to him.

PULPIT, "Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith. It is natural to consider

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this clause as suggested by the breaking of a wall in the preceding verse; but as this would occasion a jejune repetition, it is better to take it of the work of the quarryman, as in 1Ki_5:17, where the same verb is used. The dangers to which such laborers are exposed are well known. Here, again, but unsuccessfully, some have seen a reference to the removal of landmarks, comparing 2Ki_4:4, where the word is translated "set aside." As before said, the paragraph does not speak of retribution, but advises caution, enforcing the lesson by certain homely, allusions to the accidents that may occur m customary occupations. He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. Cutting up logs of wood, a man may hurt himself with axe or saw, or be injured by splinters, etc. If we take the idea to be the felling of trees, there is the danger of being crushed in their fall, or, ACCORDI G to the tenor of Deu_19:5, of being killed inadvertently by a neighbor's axe. Vulgate, Qui scindit ligna vulnerabitur ab eis, which is more definite than the general term "endangered;" but the Septuagint has, Κινδυνεύσει ἐν αὐτοῖς , as in the Authorized Version. Plumptre sees here, again, an intimation of the danger of attacking time-honored institutions, even when decaying and corrupt.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, "Raising stones and cleaving wood

The precise meaning of the maxim is not quite clear. Some think the stone is part of a cairn that marks a neighbour’s property, which a man tries to move. The tree, likewise, belongs to a neighbour; and the teaching is, that one who commits acts of aggression upon the property of others will receive his punishment out of the acts themselves. Others find a political reference. The reformer tries to move stones, to remove ancient grievances, or to cut down trees, the upas-trees of hoary abuses, and finds that ancient and deep-seated evils have a deadly power of striking at those who dare to meddle with them. Or, again--and this, the simplest explanation, is to me at least as likely as any other--the cynical author who has found vanity of vanities in every successive sphere of human life observes in these homely words that ordinary honest labour must pay its due of misfortune in this sad world: a man cannot quarry stones to build his house, or cut LOGS to make up his fire, without risking the misfortune which a cruel fate seems to bring alike on the evil and the good. This interpretation fits in well with the Preacher’s view of life. Christ came to teach that in His right hand were pleasures for evermore. He came to join in every kind of innocent enjoyment, to teach men that the Father in heaven rejoiced in His children’s joy. He lifted stones and cleft wood in the builder’s workshop at azareth for more than twenty years out of His short life, to show that honest toil brought something else besides danger--that the stone could become a Bethel, and the wood an altar which raiseth the consecrated soul. (J. H. Moulton, D. D.)

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10 If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened,more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.

CLARKE, "If the iron be blunt - If the axe have lost its edge, and the owner do not sharpen it, he must apply the more strength to make it cut: but the wisdom that is profitable to direct will teach him, that he should whet his axe, and spare his strength. Thus, without wisdom and understanding we cannot go profitably through the meanest concerns in life.

GILL, "If the iron be blunt,.... With which a man cleaves wood: the axe, made of iron:

and he do not whet the edge; with some proper instrument to make it sharper, that it may cut the more easily;

then must he put to more strength; he must give a greater blow, strike the harder, and use more force; and yet it may not be sufficient, or; it may be to no purpose, and he himself may be in the greatest danger of being hurt; as such are who push things with all their might and main, without judgment and discretion;

but wisdom is profitable to direct; this is the "excellency" of wisdom, that it puts a man in the right way of doing things, and of doing them right; it directs him to take the best methods, and pursue the best ways and means of doing things, both for his own good and the good of others; and so it is better than strength, Ecc_9:16.

HE RY, " He that cleaves the wood, especially if, as it follows, he has sorry tools (Ecc_10:10), shall be endangered thereby; the chips, or his own axe-head, will fly in his face. If we meet with knotty pieces of timber, and we think to master them by force and violence, and hew them to pieces, they may not only prove too hard for us, but the attempt may turn to our own damage.

2. Rather let both prince and people act towards each other with prudence, mildness, and good temper: Wisdom is profitable to direct the ruler how to manage a people that are inclined to be turbulent, so as neither, on the one hand, by a supine negligence to embolden and encourage them, nor, on the other hand, by rigour and severity to exasperate and provoke them to any seditious practices. It is likewise profitable to direct the subjects how to act towards a prince that is inclined to bear hard upon them, so as not to alienate his affections from them, but to win upon him by humble remonstrances (not insolent demands, such as the people made upon Rehoboam), by patient submissions and peaceable expedients. The same rule is to be observed in all relations, for the preserving of the comfort of them. Let wisdom direct to gentle methods and

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forbear violent ones. (1.) Wisdom will teach us to whet the tool we are to make use of, rather than, by leaving it blunt, oblige ourselves to exert so much the more strength,Ecc_10:10. We might save ourselves a great deal of labour, and prevent a great deal of danger, if we did whet before we cut, that is, consider and premeditate what is fit to be said and done in every difficult case, that we may accommodate ourselves to it and may do our work smoothly and easily both to others and to ourselves. Wisdom will direct how to sharpen and put an edge upon both ourselves and those we employ, not to work deceitfully (Psa_52:2), but to work cleanly and cleverly. The mower loses no time when he is whetting his scythe. (2.) Wisdom will teach us to enchant the serpent we are to contend with, rather than think to out-hiss it (Ecc_10:11): The serpent will bite if he be not by singing and music charmed and enchanted, against which therefore he stops his ears (Psa_58:4, Psa_58:5); and a babbler is no better to all those who enter the lists with him, who therefore must not think by dint of words to out-talk him, but be prudent management to enchant him. He that is lord of the tongue (so the phrase is), a ruler that has liberty of speech and may say what he will, it is as dangerous dealing with him as with a serpent uncharmed; but, if you use the enchantment of a mild and humble submission, you may be safe and out of danger; herein wisdom, the meekness of wisdom, is profitable to direct. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, Pro_25:15. Jacob enchanted Esau with a present and Abigail David. To those that may say any thing it is wisdom to say nothing that is provoking.

JAMISO ,"iron ... blunt— in “cleaving wood” (Ecc_10:9), answering to the “fool set in dignity” (Ecc_10:6), who wants sharpness. More force has then to be used in both cases; but “force” without judgment “endangers” one’s self. Translate, “If one hath blunted his iron” [Maurer]. The preference of rash to judicious counselors, which entailed the pushing of matters by force, proved to be the “hurt” of Rehoboam (1Ki_12:1-33).

wisdom is profitable to direct— to a prosperous issue. Instead of forcing matters by main “strength” to one’s own hurt (Ecc_9:16, Ecc_9:18).

COFFMAN, "In this, the author is still talking about cleaving wood; and the iron here is a reference to the axe. "If the axe is blunt and the edge unwhetted, more strength must be put into the blow; successful skill comes from shrewd sense."[8]; Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 were summarized as saying, "Every JOB has its dangers."[9] This verse (1) is paraphrased: "Wisdom can make any job easier; if a person sharpens the knife (axe) the job is easier. Wisdom is like that."[10]

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:10. If the iron be blunt— If an iron instrument be blunt, though the edge be not quite off, and he who wanteth to make use of it increaseth his strength, skill is more profitable to succeed: or it may be rendered, If an axe be blunt, though the edge is not quite off, then the workman shall exert his utmost strength, and skill remaineth to make him succeed. Thus skill or experience is represented as a mean which is left to procure success when all others fail. Nothing can be more agreeable to Solomon's design than such a notion, especially as it carries an intimation of the necessity of a superior genius and APPLICATION in a prince who EMPLOYS unskilful ministers, that he may be able to supply their want of experience. See Desvoeux.

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PULPIT, "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge. The illustration at the end of the last verse is continued. The "iron" is the axe used in cutting wood; if this be blunted by the work to which it is put, and he, the laborer, has not sharpened the edge (Hebrew, the face, as in Eze_21:1), what is the consequence? How is he to carry on his work? Then must he put to more strength. He must put more force in his blows, he must make up for the want of edge by added power and weight. This is the simplest explanation of the passage, which contains many linguistic difficulties. These may be seen discussed at length in the commentaries of Delitzsch, Wright, owack, etc. The translation of Ginsburg is not commendable, "If the axe be blunt, and he (the tyrant's opponent)do not sharpen it beforehand (phanim, taken as an adverb of time), he (the tyrant) shall only increase the army." The Septuagint is obscure, Ἐὰν ἐκπέσῃ τὸ σιδήριον καὶ αὐτὸς πρόσωπον ἐτάραξε καὶ δυνάµεις δυναµώσει , "If the axe should fall, then he troubles his face, and he shall strengthen his forces (? double his strength);" Vulgate, Si retusum fuerit ferrurn, et hoc non ut prius, sed hebetatum fuerit, multo labore exacuetur, "If the iron shall be blunted, and it be not as before, but have become dull, it shall be sharpened with much labor." But wisdom is profitable to direct; rather, the advantage of setting right is (on the side of) wisdom. Wisdom teaches how to conduct matters to a successful termination; for instance, it prompts the worker to sharpen his tool instead of trying to accomplish his task by an exertion of mere brute strength. The gnome applies to all the instances which have been mentioned above. Wisdom alone enables a man to meet and overcome the dangers and difficulties which beset his social, common, and political life. If we apply the whole sentence to the case of disaffection with the government or open rebellion, the caution given would signify—See that your means are adequate to the end, that your resources are sufficient to conduct your enterprise to success. Septuagint Vatican, Καὶ περίσσεια τῷ ἀνδρὶ οὐ σοφία , "And the advantage to man is not wisdom." But manuscripts A and C read, Καὶ περισσεια τοῦ αηνδρίου σοφία : Vulgate, Post industriam sequetur sapientia, "After industry shall follow wisdom."

TRAPP, "lEcclesiastes 10:10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom [is] profitable to direct.

Ver. 10. If the iron be blunt.] Pliny (a) calls iron the best and worst instrument of man’s life, and shows the many uses of it, as in ploughing, planting, pruning, planing, &c., but abominates the use of it in war and murdering weapons. Porsena enjoined the Romans, e ferro nisi in agricultura uterentur, saith he, that they should not use iron but only about their husbandry. The Philistines took the like ORDER with the disarmed Israelites, [1 Samuel 13:19] among whom swords and spears were geasen; shares and coulters they allowed them, but so as that they must go down to the Philistines for sharpening. Gregory compares the devil to these Philistines, blinding and blunting men’s wits and understandings, "lest the light of saving truth should shine unto them." [2 Corinthians 4:4] These edge tools, therefore, must be whetted by the use of holy ordinances, and much strength put to, great pains taken, virtutibus corroborabitur (so the old TRA SLATIO hath it). But when all is done, he must needs be obtuse acutus, which seeth not that wisdom is profitable to direct; that is, that (whether the iron be blunt or sharp, whetted or not

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whetted, more strength added or not added) it is wisdom that rectifies all, or the benefit of rectifying is wisdom. "There is none to that," as David said of Goliath’s sword.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, "The iron blunt, and the iron whetted

I. The less facilities in work, the greater is the strength required. The woodman who has to hew the old oak with a blunt axe must throw more muscular energy into the stroke than if his instrument were keen.

1. This principle applies to secular work. The men who are placed in such temporal circumstances as seem to doom them to destitution, must, if they would overcome difficulties and rise, be strenuous in effort.

2. This principle applies to educational work. Thousands have so employed the bluntest iron, that they have become the greatest apostles in science, and the most distinguished MASTERS I art. Do not find fault with thy mental tools. Use the bluntest iron with all thy might, and thou shalt rise.

3. This principle applies to religious work. Most unfavourable are the circumstances in which the millions are placed for the cultivation of a truly godly life. Albeit, though the “iron” of such a man be blunt, let him use it, and he will succeed.

4. This principle applies to evangelizing work.

II. Practical sagacity in work serves to economize strength. “Wisdom is profitable to direct.”

1. Strength may be saved in commercial pursuits by a wise system of management. It is not the sweating bustler who does the most work in the world’s trade; it is the man of forecast and philosophical measures.

2. Strength may be saved in governmental action by a wise policy.

3. Strength may be saved in self-improvement by a philosophic method.

4. Strength may be saved in the work of diffusing the Gospel by an enlightened policy. (Homilist.)

God’s provision concerning labour

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1. It may have often struck you, as a very surprising feature in God’s dealings with this earth, that though He has abundantly stored it with all the necessaries and comforts of civilized life, He has left both the discovery and employment of such materials dependent upon human industry and human ingenuity. The very metal mentioned in the text, to deprive the world of which would be to produce starvation, and which with mighty toil is wrung from the bowels of the earth, underwent many curious and necessary processes ere it came to the husbandman in the form of a plough. God no more directed men where to find, than how to prepare the iron. He only furnished them with faculties to discover the substance, and placed them in circumstances favourable to their development. Each man was left to his own ingenuity and industry; and after having experienced the benefit of these discoveries themselves, they naturally communicated them to others. And how marvellously has discovery gone on from age to age! how have EW PROPERTIES been discovered, new errors been exploded, new theories established! But with all our admiration, which the boundless stores thus laid open to us are calculated to exercise, there does seem room for something of surprise that God should have allowed a vast amount of the most beneficial productions to be brought to light, not merely by patient investigation but entirely by accident, so that the world has long been actually ignorant of many blessings which lay within its reach. This has been singularly the case with medicines. You might have expected that, having made so merciful provision for the alleviation of human pain, God would not have left the world so long ignorant of the existence of such antidotes and remedies. Yet it is very observable how close an analogy there is between God’s dealings in this respect, and those which relate to the scheme of salvation; for many ages God did not guide men, at least only a few, to the fountain open for sin and for uncleanness, and even now how many of the great mass of our race are kept in ignorance of the balm that is in Gilead. We may be sure there are some very wise ends, though not discoverable by us, subserved by this protracted concealment. And we cannot but observe a display of wisdom and benevolence in the arrangement by which our world has been peopled, by no moans inferior to that which furnished us with the treasures of the earth. If thousands of our race had been called into existence before science had been discovered, and the arts been invented, what could have resulted but universal wretchedness, inasmuch as every individual must have struggled with the ground for a disastrous subsistence, and have perpetually devoted himself to the warding off starvation! A beautiful thing in the present economy is that the labour of one man raises a sufficiency for numbers, and thus others devote themselves to various pursuit, and bring about the spectacle of a stirring and well-ordered community. But this is owing to the fact that the husbandman had the implements with which to work, whose manufacture is not to be procured and effected without much toil and thought and time. Man has not been left merely to his animal strength, but having been taught, as it were, not only to use the iron, but also to “whet its edge,” he is enabled to accomplish single-handed what, on any other supposition, must have required the joint energies of a multitude of his kind. And as it was God’s beneficent purpose to throw man, as it were, on his own industry and ingenuity, must we not always admit the goodness as well as the mercy of the appointment, through which it was ordered that there should be no excessive pressure on our race, but that we have been afforded time to advance in knowledge, equivalent to the increase and

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necessities of population? We have now taken a general view of the text, and one, we think, which has enabled us to survey Divine providence under a very interesting aspect. We will now bring before you more precise illustration of the passage, but still under such views as may best excite you to the observing the benevolence of God. It is a property, or we might rather say an infirmity of man, that he cannot give himself to incessant labour, whether it be bodily or mental, but what it soon causes him to seek relaxation and repose. The iron will grow blunt, if used a certain time; and if a man will then go on persevering in the using it, he must be prepared to the putting to more strength, which will certainly ere long bring about a total prostration, But if wisdom directeth him, so that he daily whet the edge by some lawful recreation, he may by God’s help be enabled for a long time to retain both his strength and his usefulness. And however it may be in general, there is far more cause for fear that men will be too inert rather than too active, though cases of a contrary nature frequently occur, in which the caution most needed is, that they always “whet the edge.” The proverbial saying which one so commonly hears, and which involves a great fallacy, “Better wear than rust,” would almost seem to contradict the great principle of our text; just as though it were necessary that iron should rust out, if it is not rapidly worn out, whereas the truth is, that though by putting to more strength, the iron will be worn out, it will not be rusted out through whetting the edge, seeing that the whetting of the edge brightens what it sharpens And it is melancholy to think of what frequently happens in our seminaries of learning, where youths of high promise, of fine powers of imagination, and large capacities for science, sink beneath the pressure of an overtasked mind, working out for themselves an early grave, and depriving the world of the benefit which they might have conferred on it by their literature or their piety, through that constant and incessant use of the iron, and CO TI UED neglect of whetting the edge. And it is yet more melancholy to think how many of the ministers of Christ have destroyed themselves by devoting themselves to work with an uncalculating ardour. We have, therefore, to derive an important lesson from the text; a lesson, that it is as much our duty to relax when we feel our strength overtasked, as it is to persevere when we feel that strength sufficient.

2. The man who spends his Sabbath religiously, remembering that it is God’s day, and therefore to be devoted to God’s service, necessarily abstracts his mind from secular cares, and thus allows it to recover that tone and elasticity which must have been greatly injured under one continued uniform pressure. And far more than this; in studying the Scriptures and meditating on heaven, in attending the ministrations of the sanctuary, praying with all fervency of purpose, the man is securing to himself fresh supplies of grace, which may strengthen him for the trials and duties of the week: The iron was blunt, and had he attempted to proceed without interruption in his labour, he must then have put to more strength, and thus have disabled himself for the fulfilment of his duties; but he possesses wisdom, that wisdom which cometh from above, and this taught him to WITHDRAW himself to God, and bidding farewell to earthly concerns, forget time in his anxiety for eternity. He has been brought into contact with heavenly things, and the attrition has sharpened him again for his earthly occupations, so that when “the iron” is brought into use, “its edge” is so powerfully sharp, that what seemed adamantine

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was divisible, and what seemed inseparable might be cleft. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Blunt tools: a counsel and consolation

The writer of this book had gone where the Blessed Master went, into the carpenter’s shop. And there as he looked about him he saw this--that it is not always the man who works hardest who does most: that the workman who had a blunt tool must sharpen it, or he must work harder if he would keep pace with the others.

I. Here is a lesson on service. Iron is the very emblem of service. The stone age is prehistoric, uncivilized and savage; the golden age is but a dream; the iron age is the true age. Think of the plough, the sword, the thousand uses of iron; the huge machinery with which men master the earth and lighten labour, the modern shipping, and above all, in these later times, the pen. These things build up our civilization and our strength. Iron may stand as the fittest emblem of service. Shall the dead stones be capable of such high uses and such gracious ends, and are we alone to be of no ACCOU T? Is there no power that can uplift us and enrich us for worth and blessedness? For us there must be possibilities of good and blessing. For us somewhere, somehow, there must be high ends and glorious purposes--the dullest, darkest, deadest of us. The iron is enough to proclaim it.

II. Here is a lesson on fitness for service. The iron gets blunt--that you cannot help. What you can help and must help is this--that it do not remain blunt. Let it be a matter of conscience with us that we be ever at our best for our Lord. Do you ask how shall the iron be sharpened? The wise man gives us the method. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” In this lonely London the sight of a friendly face, the touch of a kindly hand, the sound of a cheery voice is a very whetstone of the spirit. Yet better than the man’s prescription for dulness is contact and communion with the Friend of Friends, the Lord Himself. othing else will keep us fit for service. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Contact and communion with Jesus Christ alone can keep us fit for service. Then, again, let there be a daily surrender of ourselves to Him for service.

III. Some consolation for blunt folks. If the iron be blunt, what then? Well, you must use more strength. Alas, some of us sigh within ourselves, “I am not made of fine material: I cannot take a keen edge: I am not one of your very clever people. o genius am I at anything, but only a plain blunt tool. I see the steel polished and graven; the flashing sword: and I know I shall never be like that.” Well, make up

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for your dulness by your energy; and say, “If I have not so many gifts, I must get more grace. If I am lacking in skill and learning, I will be richer in love.” Some tools are the better for not being oversharp. He who was the carpenter still needs hammers as well as chisels and planes. Only give thyself to Him. (M. G. Pearse.)

Blunt axes

Solomon desires to impress upon us the truth of what a load of trouble a man may save himself by a little forethought. A little preparation, a little contrivance, will prevent in the end an enormous amount of work, whereas the neglect of common foresight must entail the waste of strength and time and toil.

I. Take education. An uneducated child growing up into man’s estate is a dull, stupid individual. He may get through a certain amount of labour, but it is only at the cost of a great expenditure of bodily strength. There are about him all the rules of science and mechanical laws, but not knowing them they cannot be used. A man who knows general principles can with a very little contriving apply those principles to almost everything he comes across. It is the man who knows the most who will make the best workman when he has learnt the trade. There is not a calling in life, from the ploughboy to the statesman, that may not be made more effective by the worker being EDUCATED in the general details of learning and science. The great error of the day is to suppose that general education may supersede particular training, and that if a child has been to school that therefore that child can turn his hand to anything.

II. Take mechanical appliances. There is just as much work done in England in one day by the help of machinery as it would take five hundred millions of men to perform without. The reason is that as a nation we sharpen our axes before we begin to work. The perfection of mechanical appliances, the power of steam, impresses into man’s service the forethought and preparation.

III. Take the principles of religion. Some may say, What has all this subject to do with religion? Much every way. Religion teaches us how to live here as well as to be saved hereafter. There is one notable thing which we should do well to lay to heart, and that is that it is in Christian nations, and in Christian nations only, that true progress in arts and science and knowledge has its being. Heathen nations, such as China and India, are the same as they were 3,000 years ago. Semi-heathen nations, such as Italy, Spain, and Turkey, are careless, dissolute, and remain as they were. But, more than this, the subject applies to the welfare and salvation of our souls to a

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LARGER extent than we should at first suppose. If men go about the world--as, alas! too many do--like a lot of blunt axes, annoying their fellow-creatures with the unnecessary toil they take to accomplish the most simple acts, they do not exalt the religion they profess. Learning and wisdom are useful to the Christian, and they are necessary to the Christian. (Homilist.)

EBC, "The next adage runs (Ecc_10:10), "if the axe be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, he must put on more strength, but wisdom should teach him to sharpen it," and is, perhaps, the most difficult passage in the book. The Hebrew is read in a different way by almost every translator. As I read it, it means, in general, that it is not well to work with blunt tools when by a little labour and delay you may whet them to a keener edge. Read thus, the political rule implied in it is, "Do not attempt any great enterprise, any revolution or reform, till you have a well-considered scheme to go upon, and suitable instruments to carry it out with." But the special political import of it may be, "Your strength is nothing to that of the tyrant; do not therefore lift a blunt axe against the trunk of despotism: wait till you have put a sharp edge upon it." Or, the tyrant himself may be the blunt axe, and then the warning is, "Sharpen him up, repair him, use him and his caprices to serve your end; get your way by giving way to him, and by skilfully availing yourself of his varying moods." Which of these may be the true meaning of this obscure disputed passage, I do not undertake to say; but the latter of the two seems to be sustained by the adage which follows: "If the serpent bite because it is not charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer." For here, I think, there can be little doubt that the foolish angry ruler is the serpent, and the wise functionary the charmer who is to extract the venom of his anger. Let the foolish ruler be never so furious, the poor wise man. who is able "to cull the plots of best advantages," and to save a city, can surely devise a charm of soft submissive words which will turn away his wrath; just as the serpent charmer of the East, by song and incantation, is at least reputed to draw serpents from their lurk, that he may pluck the venom from their teeth (Ecc_10:11). For, as we are told in the very next verse, "the words of the wise man’s mouth win him grace, while the lips of the fool destroy him."

And on this hint, on this casual mention of his name, the Preacher-who all this while, remember, is personating the sagacious man of the world, bent on rising to wealth, power, distinction-once more "comes down" on the fool. He speaks of him with a burning heat and contempt, as men versed in public affairs are wont to do, since they best know how much harm a voluble, impudent, self-conceited fool may do, how much good he may prevent. Here, then, is the fool of public life. He is a man always prating and predicting, although his words, only foolish at the first, swell and fret into a malignant madness before he has done, and although he of all men is least able to give good counsel, to seize occasions as they rise, or to foresee what is about to come to pass. Puffed up by the conceit of wisdom or of his own importance, he is forever intermeddling with great affairs, though he has no notion how to handle them, and is incapable of even finding his way along the beaten road which leads to the capital city, of taking and keeping the plain and obvious path which the exigencies of the time require; while (Ecc_10:3) he is forward to cry, "There goes a fool," of every man who is wiser than himself (Ecc_10:12-15). If he would only hold his tongue, he might pass muster; beguiled by his gravity and silence, men might give him credit for sagacity, and fit his foolish deeds with profound motives; but he will speak, and his words betray and "swallow him up." Of course we have no such fools, "full of words," to rise in their high place and wag their tongues to their own hurt-they are peculiar to antiquity or to the

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But then there were so many of them, and their influence in the state was so disastrous that, as the Preacher thinks of them, he breaks into an almost dithyrambic fervour, and cries, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes feast in the morning! Happy art thou, O land, when thy king is noble, and thy princes eat at due hours, for strength and not for revelry!" Through the sloth and riot of these foolish rulers, the whole fabric of the state was fast fading into decay-the roof rotting and the rain leaking in. To support their inopportune and profligate revelry, they imposed crushing taxes on the people, which inspired in some a revolutionary discontent, and in some the apathy of despair. The wise exile foresaw that the end of a despotism so unjust and luxurious could not be far off; that when the storm rose and the wind blew, the ancient house, unrepaired in its decay, would topple on the heads of those who sat in its halls, revelling in a wicked mirth (Ecc_10:16-19). Meantime, the sagacious servant of the state, perchance too of foreign extraction, unable to arrest the progress of decay, or not caring how soon it was consummated, would make his "market of the time"; he would carry himself warily: and, because the whole land was infested with the spies bred by despotism, he would give them no hold on him, nor so much as speak the simple truth of his foolish debauched rulers in the privacy of his own bed chamber, or mutter his thoughts on the roof, lest some "bird of the air should carry the report" (Ecc_10:20).

But if this were the condition of the time, if to rise in public life involved so many mean crafts and submissions, so many deadly imminent risks from spies and from fools clad in a little brief authority, how could any man hope to find the Chief Good in it? Wisdom did not always win promotion; virtue was inimical to success. The anger of an incapable idiot, or the whisper of an envious rival, or the caprice of a merciless despot, might at any moment undo the work of years, and expose the most upright and sagacious of men to the worst extremities of misfortune. There was no tranquillity, no freedom, no security, no dignity in such a life as this. Till this were resigned and some nobler, loftier aim found, there was no chance of reaching that great satisfying Good which lifts man above all accidents, and fixes him in a happy security from which no blow of circumstance can dislodge him.

SBC, "Ecclesiastes 10:10-12:1

I. In chap. xi. Koheleth urges upon us the necessity of diligence. He has come to the conclusion that it is not worth while to have a nicely calculated scheme of life, because at every turn our calculations may be upset by the interference of an arbitrary Providence. But, on the other hand, as he now points out, we must do something, or we shall have no enjoyment at all. We shall never reap if we do not sow. We must be ready even to throw away our labour, to "cast our bread upon the waters."

II. In the third and following verses, he warns us against being misled by a doctrine on which he has previously much insisted; the doctrine, viz., that we never know what God is going to do with us. We must do what we have to do in spite of our short-sightedness. It is worth while to be diligent on the chance that our diligence may be rewarded. Young man, says Koheleth, enjoy yourself in your youth. Make the most of that golden season. "Walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes." Only you must remember not to overdo it. God always punishes excess. In old age you will reap what you have previously sown. Remember, therefore, thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Bethink you, before it is too late, of those natural laws which cannot be broken with impunity.

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III. Notice the contrast between this worldly philosophy of Koheleth’s and the Jewish religion at its best. The precept which he here enunciates is distinctly contrary to one which we find in the Pentateuch (Num_15:39). There we read, "Seek not after your own heart and your own eyes; but remember to do all the commandments of the Lord and be holy unto your God." According to Judaism, God, righteousness, holiness, character, stand first; and to them our personal inclinations must be altogether subordinated. According to Koheleth, pleasure stands first. God is introduced only as an after-thought or a check. Communion with God was felt by the really pious Jew to be the supreme happiness of life; but according to Koheleth, God is to be obeyed merely because He will punish disobedience. True morality is devotion of the soul to goodness; true religion is the devotion of the soul to God—devotion that is not increased by the hope of profit nor diminished by the certainty of loss. If we would be true to the manhood with which we have been endowed, we too must cultivate this spirit of self-abandoning devotion to goodness and to God.

A. W. Momerie, Agnosticism, p. 266.

K&D, "“If the iron has become blunt, and he has not whetted the face, then he must give more strength to the effort; but wisdom has the superiority in setting right.” This proverb of iron, i.e., iron instruments ( רזל� , from רז�, to pierce, like the Arab. name for iron, (hadîd), means essentially something pointed), is one of the most difficult in the Book of Koheleth, - linguistically the most difficult, because scarcely anywhere else are so many peculiar and unexampled forms of words to be found. The old translators afford no help for the understanding of it. The advocates of the hypothesis of a Dialogue have here a support in אם, which may be rendered interrogatively; but where would we find, syntactically as well as actually, the answer? Also, the explanations which understand ,in the sense of war-troops, armies, which is certainly its nearest-lying meaning חיליםbring out no appropriate thought; for the thought that even blunt iron, as far as it is not externally altogether spoiled ((lo-(phanim qilqal)), or: although it has not a sharpened edge (Rashi, Rashbam), might be an equipment for an army, or gain the victory, would, although it were true, not fit the context; Ginsburg explains: If the axe be blunt, and he (who goes out against the tyrant) do not sharpen it beforehand ((phanim), after Jerome, for (lephanim), which is impossible, and besides leads to nothing, since (lephanim) means (ehedem) formerly, but not (zuvor) [prius], Ewald, §220a), he (the tyrant) only increases his army; on the contrary, wisdom hath the advantage by REPAIRING the mischief (without the war being unequal); - but the “ruler” of the foregoing group has here long ago disappeared, and it is only a bold imagination which discovers in the hu of Ecclesiastes 10:10 the person ADDRESSED in Ecclesiastes 10:4, and represents him as a rebel, and augments him into a warlike force, but recklessly going forth with unwhetted swords. The CORRECT meaning for the whole, in general at least, is found if, after the example of Abulwalîd and Kimchi, we interpret ר�D חילים of the increasing of strength, the augmenting of the effort of strength, not, as Aben-Ezra, of conquering, outstripping, surpassing; ר�D means to make strong, to strengthen, Zechariah 10:6, Zechariah 10:12; and חילים, as plur. of חיל, strength, is supported by ורי חילים�D ,1Chronicles 7:5, 1 Chronicles 7:7, 1 Chronicles 7:11, 1 Chronicles 7:40, the plur. of חיל the lxx renders by δυνάµεις δυναµώσει and he shall strengthen the forces, and the ;גבורPeshito has חילי for δυνάµεις , Acts 8:13; Acts 19:11 (cf. Chald. Syr. לZאתח, to strengthen oneself, to become strengthened). Thus understanding the words יג יח of intentio virium, and that not with reference to sharpening (Luth., Grotius), but to the splitting of wood, etc. (Geier, Desvoeux, Mendelss.), all modern interpreters, with the exception of a few who lose themselves on their own path, gain the thought, that in all

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undertakings wisdom hath the advantage in the devising of means subservient to an end. The diversities in the interpretation of details leave the essence of this thought untouched. Hitz., Böttch., Zöckl., Lange, and others make the wood-splitter, or, in general, the labourer, the subject to קהה, referring והוא to the iron, and contrary to the accents, BEGINNINGthe apodosis with (qilqal): “If he (one) has made the iron blunt, and it is without an edge, he swings it, and APPLIES his strength.”

,�נים לא without an edge” ((lo) for (belo)), would be linguistically as correct as“ ,לא־פנים“without children,” 1 Chronicles 2:30, 1 Chronicles 2:32; Ewald, §286b; and (qilqal) would have a meaning in some measure supported by Ezekiel 21:26. But granting that (qilqal), which there signifies “to shake,” may be used of the swinging of an axe (for which we may refer to the Aethiop. (ḳualḳuala), (ḳalḳala), of the swinging of a sword), yet אתו קלקל(קלקלו ) could have been used, and, besides, פנים means, not like פי, the edge, but, as a somewhat wider idea, the front, face (Ezekiel 21:21; cf. Assyr. (pan ilippi), the forepart of a ship); “it has no edge” would have been expressed by ( gה ) gיפZותמורט, מlחד(מלhi איננו והוא or by ,לא והוא ). We therefore translate: if the iron has become blunt, hebes factum sit (for the Pih. of intransitives has frequently the meaning of an inchoative or desiderative stem, like מעת, to become little, decrescere, Ecclesiastes p, hebescere, caligare, Ezekiel 21:12; Ewald, §120c), and he (who uses it) hasהה ;12:3not polished (whetted) the face of it, he will (must) increase the force. אlוה does not refer to the iron, but, since there was no reason to emphasize the sameness of the subject (as e.g., 2 Chronicles 32:30), to the labourer, and thus makes, as with the other explanation, the change of subject noticeable (as e.g., 2 Chronicles 26:1). The order of the words קל qוה , et ille non faciem (ferri) exacuit, is as at Isaiah 53:9; cf. also the position of (lo) in 2 Samuel 3:34; Numbers 16:29.

.or pointed with Pattach instead of Tsere (cf. (qarqar), Numbers 24:17) in bibl ,קלקלusage, from the root-meaning (levem esse), signifies to move with ease, i.e., quickness (as also in the Arab. and Aethiop.), to shake ACCORDING to which the lxx and Syr. render it by ταράσσειν , לחt, to shake, and thereby to trouble, make muddy); in the Mishn. usage, to make light, little, to bring down, to destroy; here it means to make light = even and smooth (the contrast of rugged and notched), a meaning the possibility of which is warranted by נח קלל, Ezekiel 1:7; Daniel 10:6 (which is compared by Jewish lexicographers and interpreters), which is translated by all the old translators “glittering brass,” and which, more probably than Ewald's “to steel” (temper), is derived from the root qal, to burn, glow.

(Note: Regarding the two roots, vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Indogerm.-Sem. Stud. p. 91f.)

With (vahhaylim) the apodosis BEGINS; the style of Koheleth recognises this vav apod. in conditional clauses, Ecclesiastes 4:11, cf. Genesis 43:9, Ruth. Ecclesiastes 3:13; Job 7:4; Micah 5:7, and is fond of the inverted order of the words for the sake of emphasis, 11:8, cf. Jeremiah 37:10, and above, under Ecclesiastes 7:22.

In 10b there follows the common clause containing the application. Hitzig, Elster, and Zöckl. INCORRECTLY translate: “and it is a profit wisely to handle wisdom;” for instead of the inf. absol. הך, they unnecessarily read the inf. constr. ירhהכ, and connect חכמה which is a phrase altogether unparalleled. (Hichsir) means to set in the right ,הכhירposition (vid., above, (kaser)), and the sentence will thus mean: the advantage which the placing rightly of the means serviceable to an end affords, is wisdom - i.e., wisdom

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bears this advantage in itself, brings it with it, concretely: a wise man is he who reflects upon this advantage. It is certainly also possible that hהכ, after the manner of the Hiph. directly means “to succeed,” or causatively: “to make to succeed.” We ,ה|כיל and הצליחmight explain, as e.g., Knobel: the advantage of success, or of the causing of PROSPERITY, is wisdom, i.e., it is that which SECURES this gain. But the meaning prevalent in post-bibl. Heb. of making fit, equipping, - a predisposition corresponding to a definite aim or result, - is much more conformable to the example from which the porisma is deduced. Buxtorf translates the Hiph. as a Mishnic word by aptare, rectificare. Tyler suggests along with “right guidance” the meaning “pre-arrangement,” which we prefer.

(Note: Also the twofold Haggadic explanation, Taanith 8a, gives to (hachshir) the meaning of “to set, à priori, in the right place.” Luther translated (qilqal) twice CORRECTLY, but further follows the impossible rendering of Jerome: multo labore exacuetur, et post industriam sequetur sapientia.)

11 If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.

BAR ES, "Rather: “If a serpent without enchantment (i. e., not being enchanted) bites, then there is no advantage to the charmer”: i. e., if the charmer is unwisely slack in exercising his craft, he will be bitten like other people. See Psa_58:4 note.

CLARKE, "The serpent will bite without enchantment - belo בלא לחשlachash,

without hissing. As a snake may bite before it hiss, so also will the babbler, talkative person, or calumniator. Without directly speaking evil, he insinuates, by innuendoes, things injurious to the reputation of his neighbor. Gif the eddir bite in silence, noyhing lasse than he hath that privily backbiteth - Old MS. Bible. “A babbler of his tongue is no better than a serpent that styngeth without hyssynge.” - Coverdale. The moral of this saying is simply this: A calumniator is as dangerous as a poisonous serpent; and from the envenomed tongue of slander and detraction no man is safe. The comparing the

serpent, נחש nachash, to a babbler, has something singular in it. I have already supposed

that the creature mentioned, Gen_3:1, was of the genus simia. This has been ridiculed, but not disproved.

GILL, "Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment,.... See Jer_8:17. Or

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rather, "without a whisper" (t); without hissing, or any noise, giving no warning at all: so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "in silence"; some serpents bite, others sting, some both; see Pro_23:32; some hiss, others not, as here;

and a babbler is no better; a whisperer, a backbiter, a busy tattling body, that goes from house to house, and, in a private manner, speaks evil of civil governments, of ministers of the word, and of other persons; and; in a secret way, defames men, and detracts from their characters: such an one is like a venomous viper, a poisonous serpent or adder; and there is no more guarding against him than against such a creature that bites secretly.

HE RY, "Wisdom will teach us to enchant the serpent we are to contend with, rather than think to out-hiss it (Ecc_10:11): The serpent will bite if he be not by singing and music charmed and enchanted, against which therefore he stops his ears (Psa_58:4, Psa_58:5); and a babbler is no better to all those who enter the lists with him, who therefore must not think by dint of words to out-talk him, but be prudent management to enchant him. He that is lord of the tongue (so the phrase is), a ruler that has liberty of speech and may say what he will, it is as dangerous dealing with him as with a serpent uncharmed; but, if you use the enchantment of a mild and humble submission, you may be safe and out of danger; herein wisdom, the meekness of wisdom, is profitable to direct. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, Pro_25:15. Jacob enchanted Esau with a present and Abigail David. To those that may say any thing it is wisdom to say nothing that is provoking.

JAMISO ,"A “serpent will bite” if “enchantment” is not used; “and a babbling calumniator is no better.” Therefore, as one may escape a serpent by charms (Psa_58:4, Psa_58:5), so one may escape the sting of a calumniator by discretion (Ecc_10:12), [Holden]. Thus, “without enchantment” answers to “not whet the edge” (Ecc_10:10), both expressing, figuratively, want of judgment. Maurer translates, “There is no gain to the enchanter” (Margin, “master of the tongue”) from his enchantments, because the serpent bites before he can use them; hence the need of continual caution. Ecc_10:8-10, caution in acting; Ecc_10:11 and following verses, caution in speaking.

COFFMAN, "If the snake-charmer is unwise in the practice of his craft, he may be bitten like anyone else."[11] "Knowing how to charm a snake is of no use if you let the snake bite you first"![12] A spiritual APPLICATION is that, "Knowing what to do to be saved is of no use to the man who puts it off till death overtakes him."

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:11. Surely, the serpent will bite without enchantment— If the serpent biteth because he is not enchanted, then nothing remaineth to the MASTER OF enchantments. The two proverbial similes made use of in this and the preceding verse, to shew the inconveniencies arising from an ill-judged choice of those who are intrusted with the administration of public affairs, are very fit for the purpose: but the manner in which Solomon passes from the last to the main subject, for the sake of which they had been alleged, looks very abrupt in all the versions. I think it is quite otherwise in the original, and have endeavoured so to express it; by which means we have a perfect CONNECTION between the two members of the sentence. If the serpent biteth because

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[either through the neglect, or through the unskilfulness, of him whose business it is to prevent it] he is not enchanted, then there is no occasion for a MASTER OF enchantments; or there remaineth nothing for him to do. The simile by this construction becomes applicable, with the greatest imaginable propriety, to the subject which Solomon had in hand; and I cannot help conjecturing from this propriety, that it was a proverbial sentence, commonly used in political matters, to signify that it was needless to appoint ministers to negociate with a subtle enemy, represented by the serpent, except they were such as to be able to gain their point with him. I must add, that the Greek, Syriac, and Arabic interpreters, who had a more exact knowledge of the customs of those times than we can pretend to, seem to have understood this place as we do, and several modern interpreters of note are of the same opinion. Now I conceive that the transition from this simile to the abilities of a wise or experienced man in the next verse, lies in the affinity of signification between the words which he had made use of to signify the charmer's office, and those which he employs to describe the eloquence of the wise.

The word לחש lachash, enchantment, has a double signification; and takes in both the charms of

magic, and the charms of eloquence: see Isaiah 3:3. So that, instead of saying, The words of a

wise man's mouth are חןchein, grace, he might as well have said that they are לחשlachash,

without any alteration in the sense. The expression, MASTER OFthe tongue, as it is read in the

margin of our Bibles, is likewise applicable to a man who knows how to manage his words as

occasion requires, and thereby to make himself acceptable to every body. Thus, from a MASTER

OF the tongue by office, who was not really master of what belonged to his employment, (viz.

לחשlachash,) to one who really had that accomplishment, or rather an accomplishment of the

same denomination, the transition was easy and natural. I do not know but that the allusion to

the enchanter, in opposition to the wise man, is still carried on in what Solomon says of the fool,

a man without experience, in opposition to the same, Ecclesiastes 10:12. The lips of a fool will

swallow up himself; at least the fool here spoken of is very like the charmer mentioned by the son

of Sirach, Sirach 12:13 whom nobody pities when he is bit by the very serpent that he should have

enchanted. Desvoeux.

PULPIT, "The last proverb of this little series shows the necessity of seizing the right opportunity. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment. The Authorized Version is not quite correct. The particle àí , with which the verse begins, is here conditional, and the rendering should be, If the serpent bite, etc.; the apodosis comes in the next clause. The idea is taken up from Ecc_10:8. If one handles a serpent without due precaution or without knowing the secret of charming it, one will suffer for it. The taming and charming of poisonous snakes is still, as heretofore, practiced in Egypt and the East. What the secret of this power is has not been accurately determined; whether it belongs especially to persons of a certain idiosyncrasy, whether it is connected with certain words or intonations of the voice or musical sounds, we do not know. Of the existence of the power from remote antiquity there can be no question. Allusions to it in Scripture are common

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enough (see Exo_7:11; Psa_58:5; Jer_8:17; Ecclesiasticus 12:13). If a serpent before it is charmed is dangerous, what then? The Authorized Version affords no sensible apodosis: And a babbler is no better. The words rendered "babbler" (baal hallashon) are literally MASTER OF the tongue," and by them is meant the ἐπαοιδός , "the serpent-charmer." The clause should run, Then there is no use in the charmer. If the man is bitten before he has time to use his charm, it is no profit to him that he has the secret, it is too late to employ it when the mischief is done. This is to shut the stable door after the steed is stolen. The maxim enforces the warning against being too late; the greatest skill is useless unless applied at the right moment. The Septuagint translates virtually as above, "If a serpent bites when not charmed ( ἐν οὐ ψιθυρισµῷ ), then there is no advantage to the charmer ( τῷ ἐπᾴδοντι )." The Vulgate departs from the context, rendering, Si mordeat serpens in silentio (i.e. probably "uncharmed"), nihil eo minus habet qui occulte detrahit, "He is nothing better who slanders secretly," which St. Jerome thus explains: the serpent and the slanderer are alike, for as the serpent stealthily infuses its poison, so the secret slanderer pours his venom into another's breast.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

VER 11. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment.] It is for want of wisdom that the babbler, or tongue master (as the original hath it), is nothing better than the most poisonous serpent; nay, in some respects, worse; for one serpent stings not another, as backbiters do their BEST FRIE DS. And whereas serpents may be charmed, or their poison kept from the vitals, contra sycophantae morsum non est remedium, as the proverb hath it, there is no help to be had for the biting of a sycophant: his tongue is "full of deadly poison," saith St James. [James 3:8] Again, serpents usually hiss and give warning (though the Septuagint here read non in sibilo, the Vulgate, in silentio, in silence and without hissing, for without enchantment), so doth not the slanderer and detractor. He is a silent serpent, and like the dogs of Congo, which bite, but bark not. (a) And therefore, as all men hate a serpent and flee from the sight of it, so will wise men shun the society of a slanderer. And as any one abhors to be like to that old serpent the devil, so let him eschew this evil.

BE SO , "Ecclesiastes 10:11. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment —Unless it be seasonably prevented by the art and care of the charmer. This is an allusion to the general opinion, then and still prevailing in the eastern countries, that serpents might be charmed so as to be prevented from biting by certain incantations, or by singing and music. See OTE on Psalms 58:4-5. And a babbler is no better — Hebrew, בעל הלשון, the MASTER OF the tongue; which may be understood either of a rash, loose talker, a mere babbler, or of a backbiter and slanderer. Each of these is in the habit of using his tongue as if he were lord of it, and often does much mischief thereby, especially the latter, who, by his malicious words, bites secretly like a serpent, and gives deadly wounds to the characters of the absent.

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K&D, "The last proverb of this series presents for consideration the uselessness of him who comes too late. “If a serpent bite without enchantment, the charmer is of no use.” The Talm. interprets this אם, like that of Ecclesiastes 10:10, also as interrog.: Does the serpent bite without its being whispered to, i.e., without a providential determination impelling it thereto? Jer. Peah, i. 1. But לחש, except at Isaiah 26:16, where whispering prayers are meant, signifies the whispering of formulas of charming; “serpents are not to be charmed (tamed),” לחשש, Jeremiah 8:17. Rather for הל בעל the meaning of slander is possible, which is given to it in the Haggada, Taanith 8a: All the beasts will one day all at once say to the serpent: the lion walks on the earth and eats, the wolf tears asunder and eats; but what enjoyment hast thou by thy bite? and it answers them: “Also the slanderer ( לבעל has certainly no profit.” ACCORDI (הלשוןGLY the Targ., Jerome, and Luther translate; but if אם is conditional, and the vav of (veēn) connects the protasis and the apodosis, then (ba'al hallashon) must denote a man of tongue, viz., of an enchanting tongue, and thus a charmer (lxx, Syr.). This name for the charmer, one of many, is not unintentional; the tongue is an instrument, as iron is, Ecclesiastes 10:10: the latter must be sharp, if it would not make greater effort necessary; the former, if it is to gain its object, must be used at the right time. The serpent bites בל לח, when it bites before it has been charmed (cf. (belo yomo), Job 15:32); there are also serpents which bite without letting themselves be charmed; but here this is the point, that it anticipates the enchantment, and thus that the charmer comes too late, and can make no use of his tongue for the intended purpose, and therefore has no advantage from his act. There appropriately follow here proverbs of the use of the tongue on the part of a wise man, and its misuse on the part of a fool.

12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.

CLARKE, "The words of a wise man’s mouth - Every thing that proceeds from him is decent and orderly, creditable to himself, and acceptable to those who hear him. But the lips of the fool, which speak every thing at random, and have no understanding to guide them, are not only not pleasant to others, but often destructive to himself.

GILL, "The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious,.... Or "grace" (u). He

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speaks kind and good things in favour of the characters of men, and not as the babbling detractor: he speaks well of civil magistrates and rulers in the state; of the ministers of the word in the church; and of all his fellow creatures, as far as can with truth be said: and a truly good and gracious man, who is Solomon's wise man, in opposition to a fool and wicked man; his discourse will run upon the grace of God, upon the doctrines of grace, and upon the experience of the truth of grace on his heart: upon the grace of God the Father, in loving and choosing men; in contriving their salvation; in making a covenant of grace with them in Christ; in sending him to die for them, and in accepting his satisfaction and righteousness for them: and on the grace of the Son, in becoming their surety; assuming their nature, dying in their room and stead, interceding for them, taking care of them, and supplying them with grace out of his fulness: and on the grace of the Spirit, in regeneration and sanctification; working in them faith, hope, and love; applying precious promises to them, and sealing them up to the day of redemption: of these things they speak often one to another, and cannot but talk of the things they have felt and seen: and such words and discourses are gracious, graceful, and grateful to truly pious souls, and minister grace unto them; and are also well pleasing and acceptable to God and Christ, as well as gain them favour among men; see Pro_22:11;

but the lips of a fool swallow up himself; his words are not only able and displeasing to others, but bring ruin upon himself; by talking too freely of rulers and others, he brings himself into trouble, and plunges himself into difficulties, out of which he cannot easily get; yea, is swallowed up in them, and destroyed. Or, his "lips swallow up him" (w); the wise man, whose words are gracious; and, by his calumny and detraction, his deceit and lies, brings him into disgrace and danger: or, "swallows it up", or "that" (x); the grace of the wise man, or his gracious words; and hinders the edification of others by them, and the good effects of them. Though the first sense seems best.

HE RY, "Solomon, having shown the benefit of wisdom, and of what great advantage it is to us in the management of our affairs, here shows the mischief of folly and how it exposes men, which perhaps comes in as a reflection upon those rulers who set folly in great dignity.

I. Fools talk a great deal to no purpose, and they show their folly as much by the multitude, impertinence, and mischievousness of their words, as by any thing; whereas the words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, are grace, manifest grace in his heart and minister grace to the hearers, are good, and such as become him, and do good to all about him, the lips of a fool not only expose him to reproach and make him ridiculous, but will swallow up himself and bring him to ruin, by provoking the government to take cognizance of his seditious talk and call him to an account for it. Adonijah foolishly spoke against his own life, 1Ki_2:23. Many a man has been sunk by having his own tongue fall upon him, Psa_64:8. See what a fool's talk is. 1. It takes rise from his own weakness and wickedness: The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, the foolishness bound up in his heart, that is the corrupt spring out of which all these polluted streams flow, the evil treasure out of which evil things are brought. As soon as he begins to speak you may perceive his folly; at the very first he talks idly, and passionately, and like himself. 2. It rises up to fury, and tends to the hurt and injury of others: The end of his talk, the end it comes to, is madness. He will presently talk himself into an indecent heat, and break out into the wild extravagancies of a distracted man. The end he aims at is mischief; as, at first, he appeared to have little government of himself, so, at last, it appears he has a great deal of malice to his neighbours; that root of bitterness bears gall and wormwood. Note, It is not strange if those that begin foolishly

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end madly; for an ungoverned tongue, the more liberty is allowed, grows the more violent

JAMISO ,"gracious— Thereby he takes precaution against sudden injury (Ecc_10:11).

swallow up himself— (Pro_10:8, Pro_10:14, Pro_10:21, Pro_10:32; Pro_12:13; Pro_15:2; Pro_22:11).


"The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The BEGINNING of the words of his mouth is foolishness; and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also multiplieth words: yet man knoweth not what shall be; and that which shall be after him, who can tell him? The labor of fools wearieth every one of them; for he knoweth not how to go to the city."

"The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, etc." (Ecclesiastes 10:12). Delitzsch rendered this verse: "The words of the wise are heart-winning, and those of the fool self-destructive."[13] Of all the dangers that confront us, that of unwise speech is perhaps the greatest. "By the words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:37). How many kind words which are never spoken would have blessed and encouraged some struggling brother! How many critical or flippant remarks have left indelible marks upon aching hearts! O God, help us properly to control and to use the tongue!

"The beginning of the words (of the fool) is foolishness ... and the end mischievous madness" (Ecclesiastes 10:13). This verse makes it clear why the words of the fool are self-destructive. "In scripture, the fool is not dull but wicked. His speech begins, not with God, but with foolishness, and the end of it is wicked madness."[14] "His words are folly from the start, and they end in mad mischief."[15]

"A fool also multiplieth words, yet man knoweth not what shall be, etc." (Ecclesiastes 10:14). Waddey gave the meaning here as a warning that, "The fool talks too much about things of which he is ignorant."[16]

"The labor of fools wearieth every one of them; for he knoweth not how to go to the city" (Ecclesiastes 10:15). Rankin rendered this: "Fool's labor wears him out, for he does not know how to go to town."[17]

Another bit of wisdom in CONNECTION with speech is that silence is better that talk. "President Abraham Lincoln gave us his own proverb on this: `It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt'!"[18]

PULPIT, "The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; literally, are grace; i.e. they net only are pleasing in form and manner, but they conciliate favor, produce approbation and good will, convince and, what is more, persuade. So of our blessed Lord it was said, "All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words ( τοῖς

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λόγοις τῆς χάριτος ) which proceeded out of his mouth" (Luk_4:22; cutup. Psa_45:2). In distinction from the unready man, who, like the snake-charmer in the preceding verse, suffers-by reason of his untimely silence, the wise man uses his speech opportunely and to good purpose. (A different result is given in Ecc_9:11.) But the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. This is a stronger ex-prosaic, than "ruin" or "destroy." Speaking without due forethought, he compromises himself] says what he has shamefully to WITHDRAW, and brings punishment on his own head (cutup. Pro_10:8, Pro_10:21; Pro_18:7).

Ῥῆµα παρὰ καιρὸν ῥιφθὲν ἀνατρέπει βίον .

"Untimely speech has ruined many a life."

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:12 The words of a wise man’s mouth [are] gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

Ver. 12. The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious.] Heb., Are grace; they are nothing but grace, so the French TRA SLATOR hath it; (a) such as render him gracious with God and men, so Lyra glosseth it, as being usually "seasoned with salt, and ministering grace to the hearers." [Colossians 4:6]

But the lips of a fool swallow up himself.] Suddenly, utterly, unavoidably, as the whale did Jonah, as the devouring sword doth those that fall under it, as the grave doth all the living. How many of all sorts in all ages have perished by their unruly tongues, blabbing or belching out words Quae reditura per iugulum, as Pliny phraseth it that were driven down their throats again by the wronged and aggrieved parties! Take heed, saith the Arabic proverb, lest thy tongue cut thy throat; it is compared to "a sharp razor working deceitfully," [Psalms 52:3] which, instead of cutting the hair, cuts the throat. (b)

BE SO , "Verses 12-15Ecclesiastes 10:12-15. The words of a wise man are gracious — Hebrew, חן, grace: as they are profitable, so they are acceptable to others, procuring him favour with those that hear him. But the lips of a fool will swallow up himself — His discourses are ungracious and offensive to others, and therefore pernicious to himself. The beginning of his words is foolishness, &c. — All his talk, from the BEGI I G to the end, is foolish and sinful; the more he talks the more his folly and wickedness appear; and the end is mischievous madness — He PROCEEDS from evil to worse, and adds wilfulness to his weakness, and never desists till he hath done mischief to himself or others. A fool also is full of words — Forward to promise and boast what he will do; which is the common practice of foolish men, and running on endlessly, and never knowing when to cease; for he will have the last word, though it be but the same with that which was the first. A man cannot tell what shall be — What he will say next; his talk is so incoherent. And what shall be after him, who can tell? —That is, what mischief his foolish talk may produce. The labour of the foolish

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wearieth, &c. — Fools discover their folly by their wearisome and fruitless endeavours after things which are too high for them. Because he knoweth not, &c. — He is ignorant of those things which are most easy, as of the way to the great city whither he is going.

K&D, "“The words of a wise man's mouth are grace; but the lips of a fool swallow him up.” The words from a wise man's mouth are חן, graciousness, i.e., gracious in their contents, their form and manner of utterance, and thus also they gain favour, affection, approbation, for culture EDUCATIO ) produces favour, Proverbs 13:15, and its lips grace (pleasantness), which has so wide an influence that he can call a king his friend, Proverbs 22:11, although, ACCORDI G to Ecclesiastes 9:11, that does not always so happen as is to be expected. The lips of a fool, on the contrary, swallow him, i.e., lead him to destruction. The Pih. בלע, which at Proverbs 19:28 means to swallow down, and at Proverbs 21:20 to swallow = to consume in luxury, to spend dissolutely, has here the metaphorical meaning of to destroy, to take out of the way (for that which is swallowed up disappears). שפתות is parallel form to שפתי, like the Aram. ספות. The construction is, as at Proverbs 14:3, “the lips of the wise preserve them;” the idea of unity, in the conception of the lips as an instrument תשםof speech, prevails over the idea of plurality. The words of the wise are heart-winning, and those of the fool self-destructive. This is verified in the following verse.

13 At the BEGI I G their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—

GILL, "The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,.... As soon as ever he opens his mouth, he betrays his folly; the first word he speaks is a foolish one; or it is from the abundant folly in his heart that he speaks, which is the source and spring of all his foolish talk;

and the end of his talk is mischievous madness; to himself and others; as he goes on, he appears more and more foolish, and yet more confident of his own wisdom; and is resolutely set on having his own way and will; grows warm, and is violently hot, to have his own words regarded; and, if contradicted, is like a madman, scattering arrows, firebrands, and death; his talk from first to last is a circle of folly; and, though it begins with something weak, and may seem innocent, yet it ends and issues in wickedness and madness, in rage and wrath, in oaths and curses.

JAMISO ,"Illustrating the folly and injuriousness of the fool’s words; last clause of

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PULPIT, "The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness. A confirmation of the last clause of the preceding verse. The fool speaks according to his nature. "As saith the proverb of the ancients, Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness" (1Sa_24:13; cutup. Pro_15:2; Isa_32:6). As soon as he opens his month he utters folly, unwisdom, silliness. But he does not stop there. The end of his talk is mischievous madness. By the time he has finished, he has committed himself to statements that are worse than silly, that are presumptuous, frenzied, indicative of mental and moral depravity. Intemperate language about the secrets of God's providence and the moral government of the world may be intended. Some think that the writer is still alluding to dangerous talk concerning a tyrannical ruler, seditious proposals, secret conspiracies, etc. The text itself does not confirm such notion with any certainty.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:13 The BEGI I G of the words of his mouth [is] foolishness: and the end of his talk [is] mischievous madness.

Ver. 13. The beginning o f his words are folly.] He is an inconsiderate idiot, utters incoherences, pours forth a flood of follies, his whole discourse is frivolous, futilous. TO BEGI foolishly may befall a wise man: but when he sees it, or hath it showen unto him, he will not persist: "Once have I spoken," saith holy Job, "but I will not answer again: yea, twice, but I will proceed no further." [Job 40:4-5] Much otherwise the fool, and because he will be dicti sui dominus {as Ecclesiastes 10:11} having lashed out at first, he launcheth further out into the deep, as it were, of idle and evil prattle. And if you offer to interrupt or admonish him, the end of his talk is mischievous madness, he blusters and lets fly on all hands, laying about him like a madman. And so we have here, as one (a) saith, the serpent, the babbler (spoken of in the eleventh verse), wreathed into a circle, his two ends, head and tail, meeting together. And as at the one end he is a serpent, having his sting in his head; so at the other end he is a scorpion, having his sting in his tail.

K&D, "“The BEGI I G of the words of his mouth is foolishness; and the end of his mouth is mischievous madness.” From folly (absurdity) the words which are heard from a fool's mouth rise to madness, which is compounded of presumption, wantonness, and frenzy, and which, in itself a symptom of mental and moral depravity, brings as its consequence destruction on himself (Proverbs 18:17). The adjective רעה is as in רע חלי, which interchanges with רעה חו; Ecclesiastes 6:2; Ecclesiastes 5:12, etc. The end of his mouth, viz., of his speaking, is = the end of the words of his mouth, viz., the end which they at last reach. Instead of (holeloth), there is here, with the adj. following, (holeluth), with the usual ending of abstracta. The following proverb says how the words of the fool move between these two poles of folly and wicked madness: he speaks much, and as if he knew all things.

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14 and fools multiply words. o one knows what is coming— who can tell someone else what will happen after them?

BAR ES, "Full of words - Confident talking of the future is indicated rather than mere loquacity. Compare Jam_4:13.

CLARKE, "A man cannot tell what shall be - A foolish babbling man will talk on every subject, though he can say as little on the past, as he can on the future.

GILL, "A fool also is full of words,.... Or, "multiplies words" (y). Is very talkative, says the same thing over and over again; uses an abundance of waste words, that have no meaning in them; utters every thing that comes uppermost, without any order or judgment; affects to talk on every subject, whether he knows anything of it or not; and will engross all the conversation to himself, though of all in company the most unfit for it;

a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him who can tell him? what the fool is talking of; what is the drift of his discourse; or where it will end, and what he will bring it to, it is so noisy, confused, and incoherent: or no man can tell future things, or what will come to pass; nor can any man inform another of future events; and yet a fool boasts and brags of what he shall do, and what he shall have, as if he was master of the future, and knew for certain what would come to pass, which the wisest of men do not.

HE RY, " It is all the same over and over (Ecc_10:14): A fool also is full of words, a passionate fool especially, that runs on endlessly and never knows when to leave off. He will have the last word, though it be but the same with that which was the first. What is wanting in the weight and strength of his words he endeavours in vain to make up in the number of them; and they must be repeated, because otherwise there is nothing in them to make them regarded. Note, Many who are empty of sense are full of words; and the least solid are the most noisy. The following words may be taken either, (1.) As checking him for his vainglorious boasting in the multitude of his words, what he will do and what he will have, not considering that which every body knows that a man cannot tell what shall be in his own time, while he lives (Pro_27:1), much less can one tell what shall be after him, when he is dead and gone. Would we duly consider our own ignorance of, and uncertainty about, future events, it would cut off a great many of the idle words we

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foolishly multiply. Or, (2.) As mocking him for his tautologies. He is full of words, for if he do but speak the most trite and common thing, a man cannot tell what shall be,because he loves to hear himself talk, he will say it again, what shall be after him who can tell him? like Battus in Ovid:

- Sub illisMontibus (inquit) erant, et erant sub montibus illis -

Under those mountains were they,They were under those mountains, I say -

whence vain repetitions are called Battologeō, Mat_6:7.

JAMISO ,"full of words— (Ecc_5:2).

a man cannot tell what shall be— (Ecc_3:22; Ecc_6:12; Ecc_8:7; Ecc_11:2; Pro_27:1). If man, universally (including the wise man), cannot foresee the future, much less can the fool; his “many words” are therefore futile.

PULPIT, "A fool also is full of words. The word for "fool" here is oaks/, which implies a dense, confused thinker. Alive the word was kesil, which denotes rather the self-confidence of the dull and stupid man. Moreover the fool multiplieth words. He not only speaks foolishly, but he says too much (comp. Ecc_5:2). It is not mere loquacity that is here predicated of the fool, though that is one of his characteristics, but, as-the rest of the verse shows, the prating of things about which he knows nothing. He talks as though he knew everything and there were no limitation to human cognition. A man cannot tell what shall be. And yet, or although, no man can really predict the future. The fool speaks confidently of such things, and thereby proves his imbecility. Instead of "what shall be," the Septuagint has, Τί τὸ γενόµενον καὶ τί τὸ ἐσόµενον , "What has been and what shall be;" the Vulgate, Quid ante se fuerit, "What has been before him." This reading was introduced probably to obviate a seeming tautology in the following clause, And what shall be after him, who can tell? But this clause has a different signification from the former, and presents a closer definition. The future intended may be the result of the fool's inconsiderate language, which may have fatal and lasting consequences; or it may refer to the visitation of his sins upon his children, in accordance with the denunciation of Deu_5:9; Deu_29:20-22; or it may include the life beyond the grave. The uncertainty of the future is a constant theme; see Ecc_3:22; Ecc_6:11, Ecc_6:12; Ecc_7:14; Ecc_8:17; and compare Christ's parable of the rich fool (Luk_12:16-20), and St. James's warning in his Epistle (Jas_4:13-16).

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Ver. 14. A fool also is full of words.] A very wordy man he is, and a great deal of small talk he has: Voces susque deque effutit inanes, as Thuanus hath it, he lays on

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more words than the matter will well bear. (a) And this custom of his is graphically expressed by an imitation of his vain tautologies. "A man cannot tell," saith he, "what shall be after him; and what shall be after him, who can tell?" He hath got this sentence (that may well become a wise man, Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 8:7) by the end, and he wears it threadbare; he hath never done with it, misapplying and abusing it to the defence of his wilful and witless enterprises. Thus the ass in the fable would needs imitate the dog, leaping and fawning in like manner on his master, but with ill success. "The lip of excellence becomes not a fool" [Proverbs 17:7] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 17:7"} [Proverbs 10:19; Proverbs 17:27 Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 5:7] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 5:3"} {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 5:7"} But empty casks, we know, sound loudest, and baser metals ring shrillest; things of little worth are ever most plentiful. History and experience tell us that some kind of mouse breedeth one hundred and twenty young ones in one nest, αλλα λεοντα, whereas the lion and elephant bears but one at once; so the least wit yields the most words, and as any one is more wise, he is more sparing of his speeches. Hesiod saith that words, as a precious treasure, should be thriftily husbanded, and warily wasted. Christians know, that for every wasted word ACCOU T must be given at the great day. [Matthew 12:37] {See Trapp on "Matthew 12:37}

K&D, "“And the fool maketh many words: while a man yet doth not know that which shall be; and what shall be when he is no more, who can show him that?” The vav at the beginning of this verse corresponds to the Lat. accedit quod. That he who in Ecclesiastes 10:12 was named (kesil) is now named (hassachal), arises from this, that meanwhile (sichluth) has been predicated of him. The relation of Ecclesiastes 10:14 to Ecclesiastes 10:14 , Geier has rightly defined: Probatur absurditas multiloquii a communi ignorantia ac imbecillitate humana, quae tamen praecipue dominatur apud ignaros stultos. We miss before (lo-(yeda') an “although” (gam, ehemiah 6:1, or ki gam, Ecclesiastes 8:12); the clause is, after the manner of a clause denoting state or condition, subordinated to the principal clause, as at Psalm 5:10: “an open grave is their throat יח לש, although they smooth their tongue, i.e., speak flatteringly.” The lxx, Syr., Symm., and Jerome seek to rectify the tautology id quod futurum est et quod futurum est (cf. on the other hand, Ecclesiastes 8:7), for they read מה שהיה… יה . But the second quod futurum certainly preserves by מאץ its distinguishing nearer definition. Hitzig explains: “What is done, and what after this (that is done) is done.” Scarcely CORRECTLY: aharav of the parallel passage, Ecclesiastes 6:12, cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14; Ecclesiastes 9:3, requires for the suffix a personal reference, so that thus (meaharav), as at Deuteronomy 29:21, means “from his death and onwards.” Thus, first, the knowledge of the future is DE IED to man; then the knowledge of what will be done after his death; and generally, of what will then be done. The fool, without any consciousness of human ignorance, acts as if he knew all, and utters about all and everything a multitude of words; for he uselessly fatigues himself with his ignorance, which remains far behind the knowledge that is possible for man.

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15 The toil of fools wearies them; they do not know the way to town.

BAR ES, "The sense is: “The fool wearies himself with ineffectual attempts, he has not sufficient knowledge for the transaction of ordinary business.”

CLARKE, "He knoweth not how to go to the city - I suppose this to be a proverb: “He knows nothing; he does not know his way to the next village.” He may labor; but for want of judgment he wearies himself to no purpose.

GILL, "The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them,.... The labour of fools, both in speaking and doing, weary those who have any concern with them, and themselves likewise, since all their labour is vain and fruitless;

because he knoweth not how to go to the city; to any city, the road to which is usually broad, and plain and easy to be found, and yet cannot be found by the foolish man; showing, that he that talks of abstruse things, things too high and wonderful for him, which he affects to know, must needs be a stranger to them, since things the most easy to be understood he is ignorant of, and wearies himself to find; or he does not know how to behave himself in a city, among citizens, in a civil and polite manner. The Targum is,

"he learns not to go to the city, where wise men dwell, to learn instruction from it.''

Some interpret it of the city of Jerusalem, where were the temple, sanhedrim, synagogues, schools, &c. but it may be better applied to the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, which fools or wicked men know not the way unto, nor do they seek after it; see Psa_107:7; so Alshech interprets it of heaven.

HE RY, "Fools toil a great deal to no purpose (Ecc_10:15); The labour of the foolish,to accomplish their designs, wearies every one of them. 1. They weary themselves in that labour which is very foolish and absurd. All their labour is for the world and the body, and the meat that perishes, and in this labour they spend their strength, and exhaust their spirits, and weary themselves for very vanity, Hab_2:13; Isa_55:2. They choose that service which is perfect drudgery rather than that which is perfect liberty. 2. That labour which is necessary, and would be profitable, and might be gone through with ease, wearies them, because they go about it awkwardly and foolishly, and so make their business a toil to them, which, if they applied themselves to it prudently, would be a pleasure to them. Many complain of the labours of religion as grievous, which they would have no reason to complain of if the exercises of Christian piety were always under the direction of Christian prudence. The foolish tire themselves in endless

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pursuits, and never bring any thing to pass, because they know not how to go to the city,that is, because they have not capacity to apprehend the plainest thing, such as the entrance into a great city is, where one would think it were impossible for a man to miss his road. Men's imprudent management of their business robs them both of the comfort and of the benefit of it. But it is the excellency of the way to the heavenly city that it is a high-way, in which the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err (Isa_35:8); yet sinful folly makes men miss that way.

JAMISO ,"labour ... wearieth— (Isa_55:2; Hab_2:13).

knoweth not how to go to the city— proverb for ignorance of the most ordinary matters (Ecc_10:3); spiritually, the heavenly city (Psa_107:7; Mat_7:13, Mat_7:14). Maurer connects Ecc_10:15 with the following verses. The labor (vexation) caused by the foolish (injurious princes, Ecc_10:4-7) harasses him who “knows not how to go to the city,” to ingratiate himself with them there. English Version is simpler.

PULPIT, "The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city. The transition from plural to singular is here made, The work of fools wearieth him that knoweth not, etc. "Fools' work" signifies, perhaps, the vain speculations about Providence which Koheleth constantly condemns; or at any rate, all vain and objectless toil and trouble. ot to know the way to the city is probably a proverbial saying expressive of gross ignorance concerning the most obvious matters. How should one, who fails in the knowledge open to all experience, be able to investigate and give an opinion about abstruse questions (comp. Isa_35:8)? For the last clause other interpretations have been proposed, such as, the fool knows not how to transact public business (which is introducing a modern idea); the oppressed peasant knows not the way to the town where he might obtain redress; he is so foolish that he does not understand where he may find patrons whom he may bribe to plead his cause; he is an Essene, who avoids cities; he cannot make his way to the new Jerusalem, the city of God. But these artificial explanations are to be rejected, while the simple interpretation given above is plainly consistent with the context. The lesson is not to meddle with things too high, especially when you are ignorant of the commonest matters. A little wisdom would prevent endless and useless trouble.

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

VER 15. The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them.] While he laboureth in vain, and maketh much ado to little purpose. He meddleth in many things, and so createth himself many crosses; he will needs be full of BUSI ESS, and so must needs be full of trouble, since he wants wit to manage the one and improve the other. "Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way." [Isaiah 57:10] And again, "Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels," [Isaiah 47:13] saith God to such as had "wearied him also with their iniquities, and made him to serve with their sins." [Isaiah 43:24] Yea, even then, when they think they have done him very good

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service. Thus Paul, before his conversion, persecuted the saints so eagerly, and was so mad upon it, as himself speaketh, [Acts 26:11] that, like a TIRED wolf, wearied in worrying the flock, he lay panting as it were for breath; and when he could do no more, yet "breathed out threatenings." [Acts 9:1] Thus Bonner would work himself windless almost in buffeting the martyrs, and whipping them with rods, as he did Mr Bartlet Green, Mr Rough, and many others. (a) So the philosophers wearied themselves and their followers in their wild disquisitions after, and discourses of tile chief happiness; which, because it lay not in their walk, therefore ab itinere regio deviantes ad illam metropolim non potuerunt pervenire, saith Cassian; wandering from the King of heaven’s highway, they could never be able to get to that metropolitan city, called Jehovahshammah, or "the Lord is there." [Ezekiel 48:35] "They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in." [Psalms 107:4] Fools many times beat their, wings much, as if they would fly far and high, but with the bustard, (b) they cannot rise above the earth; or if they do, they are SOO pulled down again by the devil to feed upon the worst of excrements, as the lapwing doth, though it hath a coronet on the head, and is therefore fifty made a hieroglyphic of infelicity. (c)

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:15. The labour of the foolish, &c.— He will weary himself with foolish labour, not knowing how to go to the city. From the 10th to this verse, Solomon PROCEEDS to shew that such a choice as that mentioned on Ecclesiastes 10:7 answers no purpose; as he who employs unfit ministers makes the government heavier to himself, instead of getting any ease, which is the natural design of appointing ministers, or subordinate instruments of government. This is again made out from proverbial sentences, the meaning and APPLICATIO of which to the subject in hand deserves a more particular explanation. The defect of a blunt axe may be in some measure supplied by the strength, and more by the skill of the workman; but it will certainly require greater efforts than would be necessary if that tool had a sharp edge, Ecclesiastes 10:10. Likewise the BUSI ESS of the government must be much more difficult for the prince himself, let him be ever so capable, when he makes use of ignorant ministers. Again; it is not enough for a man in place to do no harm; he must do good. Why should the state be at the charge of maintaining a charmer, if that officer, through either neglect or incapacity, does not prevent serpents from being hurtful? Ecclesiastes 10:11. Men who have been bred to public affairs are used to speak in such a manner as to ingratiate themselves with the hearers; but he whose EDUCATIO was never intended to fit him for public business will rather make himself unacceptable by his speeches, and involve in his own ruin the affairs with which he is charged, Ecclesiastes 10:12. In a council he may talk a great deal at random; but as he has no knowledge in history, nor experience of his own, no one can make him sensible of the bad consequences which are likely to be the result of his measures. If his intentions be right, he will take a great deal of trouble to do good; but all to no purpose, Ecclesiastes 10:13-14. He will weary himself, like a man who wants to go to a town, the road to which he is not acquainted with. Wherefore he foolishly walks on, without knowing whether he advances toward his journey's end, or goes astray from it, Ecclesiastes 10:15.

K&D, "“The labour of the foolish wearieth him who knoweth not how to go to the

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city.” If we do not seek to explain: labour such as fools have wearies him (the fool), then we have here such a synallage numeri as at Isaiah 2:8; Hosea 4:8, for from the plur. a transition is made to the distributive or individualizing sing. A greater anomaly is the treatment of the noun עמל as fem. (greater even than the same of the noun (pithgam), Ecclesiastes 8:11, which admitted of attractional explanation, and, besides, in a foreign word was not strange). Kimchi, Michlol 10a, supposes that עמלis thought of in the sense of עמל יגיעת; impossible, for one does not use such an expression. Hitzig, and with him Hengst., sees the occasion for the synallage in the discordance of the masc. ייגענו; but without hesitation we use the expressions ייחל, Micah 5:6, ייס, Joshua 6:26, and the like. ('Amal) also cannot be here fem. unitatis (Böttch. §657. 4), for it denotes the wearisome striving of fools as a whole and individually. We have thus to suppose that the author has taken the liberty of using ('amal) once as fem. (vid., on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 2:18, Ecclesiastes 2:20), as the poet, Proverbs 4:13, in the introduction of the Book of Proverbs uses (musar) once as fem., and as the similarly formed צבא is used in two genders. The fool kindles himself up and perplexes himself, as if he could enlighten the world and make it happy, - he who does not even know how to go to the city. Ewald remarks: “Apparently proverbial, viz., to bribe the great lords in the city.” For us who, notwithstanding Ecclesiastes 10:16, do not trouble ourselves any more with the tyrants of Ecclesiastes 10:4, such thoughts, which do violence to the connection, are unnecessary. Hitzig also, and with him Elst. and Zöckl., thinks of the city as the residence of the rulers from whom oppression PROCEEDS, but from whom also help against oppression is to be sought. All this is to be rejected. ot to know how to go to the city, is = not to be able to find the open public street, and, like the Syrians, 2 Kings 6:18., to be smitten with blindness. The way to the city is via notissima et tritissima. Rightly Grotius, like Aben Ezra: Multi quaestionibus arduis se faitgant, cum ne obvia quidem norint, quale est iter ad urbem. אל־עיר is vulgar for אל־העיר. In the Greek language also the word πόλις has a definite signification, and Athens is called ἄστυ , mostly without the art. But Stamboul, the name of which may seem as an illustration of the proverbial phrase, “not to know how to go to the city,” is = εἰς τὴν πόλιν . Grätz finds here an allusion to the Essenes, who avoided the city -(habeat sibi)!



On the surface this seems to be merely a piece of homely, practical sagacity, conjoined with one of the bitter things which Ecclesiastes is fond of saying about those whom he calls ‘fools.’ It seems to repeat, under another metaphor, the same idea which has been presented in a previous verse, where we read: ‘If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength; but wisdom is profitable to direct.’ That is to say, skill is better than strength; brain saves muscle; better sharpen your axe than put yourself into a perspiration, hitting fierce blows with a blunt one. The prerogative of wisdom is to guide brute force. And so in my text the same general idea comes under another figure. Immense effort may end in nothing but tired feet if the traveller does not know his road. A man lost in the

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woods may run till he drops, and find himself at night in the place from which he started in the morning. The path must be known, and the aim clear, if any good is to come of effort.

That phrase, ‘how to go to the city,’ seems to be a kind of proverbial comparison for anything that is very plain and conspicuous, just as our forefathers used to say about any obvious truth, that it was ‘as plain as the road to London town.’ The road to the capital is sure to be a well-marked one, and he must be a fool I DEED who cannot see that. So our text, though on the surface, as I say, is simply a sarcasm and a piece of homely, practical sagacity, yet, like almost all the sayings in this Book of Ecclesiastes, it has a deeper meaning than appears on the surface; and may be applied in higher and more important directions. It carries with it large truths, and enshrines in a vivid metaphor bitter experiences which, I suppose, we can all confirm.

I. We consider, first, the toil that tires.

‘The labour wearies every one of them.’ The word translated ‘labour’ seems to carry with it both the idea of effort and of trouble. Or to recur to a familiar distinction in modern English, the word really covers both the ground of work and of worry. And it is a sad and solemn thought that a word with that double element in it should be the one which is most truly APPLICABLE to the efforts of a large majority of men. I suppose there never was a time in the world’s history when life went so fast as it does in these great centres of civilisation and commerce in which you and I live. And it is awful to have to think that the great mass of it all ends in nothing else but tired limbs and exhaustion. That is a truth to be verified by experience, and I am bold to believe that every man and woman in this chapel now can say more or less distinctly ‘Amen!’ to the assertion that every life, except a distinctly and supremely religious one, is worry and work without adequate satisfying result, and with no lasting issue but exhaustion.

Let us begin at the bottom. For instance, take a man who has avowedly flung aside the restraints of right and wrong and conscience, and does things habitually that he knows to be wrong. Every sin is a blunder as well as a crime. o man who aims at an end through the smoke of hell gets the end that he aims at. Or if he does, he gets something that takes all the gilt off the gingerbread, and all the sweetness out of the success. They put a very evil-tasting ingredient into spirits of wine to prevent its being drunk. The cup that sin reaches to a man, though the wine moveth itself aright and is very pleasant to look at before being tasted, cheats with methylated spirits. Men and women take more pains and trouble to damn themselves than ever they do to have their souls saved. The end of all work, which begins with tossing conscience on one side, is simply this-’The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them.’

Take a step higher-a respectable, well-to-do Manchester man, successful in business. He has made it his aim to build up a large concern, and has succeeded. He has a fine house, carriages, greenhouses; he has ‘J.P.’ to his name; he stands high in CREDIT

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and on Change. His name is one that gives respectability to anything that it is connected with. Has he ‘come to the city’? Has he got what he thought he would get when he began his career? He has succeeded in his immediate and smaller purpose; has that immediate and smaller purpose succeeded in bringing him what he thought it would bring him? Or has he fallen a victim to those-

‘juggling fiends . . .

That palter with us in a double sense;

That keep the word of promise to the ear,

And break it to the hope?’

They tell us that if you put down in one column the value of the ore that has been extracted from all the Australian gold-mines, and in another the amount that it has cost to get it, the latter sum will exceed the former. There are plenty of people in Manchester who have put more down into the pit from which they dig their wealth than ever they will get out of it. And their labour, too, leaves a very dark and empty aching centre in their lives, ‘and wearieth every one of them.’ And so I might go the whole round. We students, so long as our pursuit of knowledge has not in it as supreme, directing motive, and ultimate aim and issue, the glory and the service of God, come under the lash of the same condemnation as those grosser and lower forms of life of which I have been speaking. But wherever we look, if there be not in the heart and in the life a supreme regard to God and a communion with Him, then this characteristic is common to all the courses, that, whilst they may each meet some immediate and partial necessity of our natures, none of them is adequate for the whole circumference of a man’s being, nor any of them able, during the whole duration of that being, to be his satisfaction and his rest. Therefore, I say, all toil, however successful to the view of a shorter range of vision, and however noble-excluding the noblest of all-all toil that ends only in securing that which perishes with the using, or that which we leave behind us here when we pass hence, is condemned for folly and labour that wearies the men who are fools enough to surrender themselves to it.

I need not remind you of the wonderful variety of metaphor under which that threadbare thought, which yet it is so hard for us to believe and make operative in our lives, is represented to us in Scripture. Just let me recall one or two of them in the briefest way. ‘Why do ye spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which profiteth not?’ ‘They have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.’ ‘Their webs shall not become garments.’ That may want a word of explanation. The metaphor is this. You are all like spiders SPI I G carefully and diligently your web. There is not substance enough in it to make a coat out of. You will never cover yourselves with the product of your own

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brains or your own efforts. There is no clothing in the spider’s webs of a godless life.

Ah! brother, all these earthly aims which some of my friends listening to me now have for the sole aims of their lives, are as foolish and as inadequate to accomplish that which is sought for by them, as it would be to seek to quench raging thirst by lifting to the lips a golden cup that is empty. Some of us have a whole sideboard full of such, and vary our pursuits ACCORDI G to inclination and task. Some of us have only one such, but they are all empty, and the lip is parched after the cup has been lifted to it as it was before.

II. And so, consider now, secondly, the foolish ignorance that makes the toil tiresome.

The metaphor of my text says that the reason why the ‘fool’ is so wearied after the day’s march is that he does not in the morning settle where he is going, and how he is to get there; and so, having started to go nowhither, he has got where he started for. He ‘does not know how to go to the city’-which, being translated into plain and unmetaphorical English, is just this, that many men wreck their lives for want of a clear sight of their true aim, and of the way to SECURE it.

There is nothing more tragical than the absence, in the great bulk of men, of anything like deliberate, definite views as to their aim in life, and the course to be taken to secure it. There are two things obviously necessary for success in any enterprise. One is, that there shall be the most definite and clear conception of what is aimed at; and the other, that there shall be a wisely considered plan to get at it. Unless there be these, if you go at random, running a little way for a moment in this direction, and then heading about and going in the other, you cannot expect to get to the goal.

ow, what I want to ask some of my friends here is, Did you ever give ten deliberate minutes to try to face for yourselves, and put into plain words, what you are living for, and how you mean to secure it? Of course I know that you have given thought and planning in plenty to the nearer aims, without which material life cannot be lived at all. I do not suppose that anybody here is chargeable with not having thought enough about how to get on in business, or in their chosen walk of life. It is not that kind of aim which I mean at all; but it is a point beyond it that I want to press upon you. You are like men who would carefully victual a ship and take the best information for their guide as to what course to lie, and had never thought what they were going to do when they got to the port. So you say, ‘I am going to be such-and-such a thing.’ Well, what then? ‘Well, I am going to lay myself out for success.’ Be it commercial, be it intellectual, be it social, be it in the sphere of the affections, or whatever it may be. Well, what then? ‘Well, then I am going to advance in material prosperity, I hope, or in wisdom, or to be surrounded by loving faces of children and those that are dear to me.’ What then? ‘Then I am going to die.’ What then?

It is not till you get to that last question, and have faced it and answered it, that you

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can be said to have taken the whole sweep of the circumstances into view, and regulated your course according to the dictates of common sense and right reason. And a terribly large number of us live with careful adaptation of means to ends in regard of all the smaller and more immediately to be realised aims of life, but have never faced the larger question which reduces all these smaller aims to insignificance. The simple child’s interrogation which in the well-known ballad ripped the tinsel off the skeleton, and showed war in its hideousness, strips many of your lives of all pretence to be reasonable. ‘What good came of it at the last?’ Can you answer the question that the infant lips asked, and say, ‘This good will come of it at last. That I shall have God for my own, and Jesus Christ in my heart’?

Brother! if I could only get you to this point, that you would take half an hour now to think over what you ought to be, and to ask yourself whether your aims in life correspond to what your aims should be, I should have done more than I am afraid I shall do with some of you. The naturalist can tell when he picks up a skeleton something of the habits and the element of the creature to which it belonged. If it has a hollow sternum he knows it is meant to fly. On your nature is impressed unmistakably that your destiny is not to creep, but to soar. ot in vain does the Westminster Catechism lay the foundation of everything in this, the prime question for all men, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ Ask that, and do not rest till you have answered it.

Then there is another idea connected with this ignorance of my text-viz. that it is the result of folly. ow the words ‘folly’ and ‘foolish’ and ‘foolishness,’ and their opposites, ‘wisdom’ and ‘wise,’ in this Book of Ecclesiastes, as in the Book of Proverbs, do not mean merely dull stupidity intellectually, which is a thing for which a man is to be pitied rather than to be blamed, but they always carry besides the idea of intellectual defect, also the idea of moral obliquity. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’; and, conversely, the absence of that fear is the foundation of that which this writer stigmatises as ‘folly’ He is not merely sneering at men with small brains and little judgments. There may be plenty of us who are so, and yet are wise unto salvation and possessed of a far higher wisdom than that of this world. But he tells us that so strangely intertwined are the intellectual and moral parts of our nature, that wheresoever there is the obscuration of the latter there is sure to be the perversion of the former, and the man knows not ‘how to go to the city’ because he is ‘foolish.’

That is to say, you go wrong in your judgment about your conduct because you have gone wrong morally. And your blunders about life, and your ignorance of its true end and aim, and your mistakes as to how to secure happiness and blessedness, are your own faults, and are owing to the aversion of your nature from that which is highest and noblest, even God and His service. Therefore you are not only to be pitied because you are out of the road, but to be blamed because you have darkened the eyes of your mind by loving the darkness rather than the light. And you ‘do not know how to go to the city,’ because you do not want to go to the city, and would rather huddle here in the wilderness, and live upon its poor supplies, than pass within the golden gates. My brethren! the folly which blinds a man to his true aim

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and mission in life is a folly which has in it the darker aspect of sin, and is punishable as such.

III. Lastly, OTE the plain path which the foolish miss.

He ‘does not know how to go to the city.’ What on earth will he be able to see if he cannot see that broad highway, beaten and white, stretching straight before him, over hill and dale, and going right to the gates? A man must be a fool who cannot find the way to London.

The principles of moral conduct are trite and obvious. It is plain that it is better to be good than bad. It is better to be unselfish than selfish. It is better not to live for things that perish, seeing that we are going to last for ever. It is better not to make the flesh our master here, seeing that the spirit will have to live without the flesh some day. It is better to get into training for the world to coma, seeing that we are all drifting thither. All these things are plain and obvious.

Man’s destiny for God is unmistakable. ‘Whose image and superscription hath it?’ said Christ about the coin. ‘Caesar’s!’ ‘Then give it to Caesar.’ Whose image and superscription hath my heart, this restless heart of mine, this spirit that wanders on through space and time, homeless and comfortless, until it can grasp the Eternal? Who are you meant for? God! And every fibre of your nature has a voice to say so to you if you listen to it. So, then, a godless life such as some of you, my hearers, are contentedly living, ignores facts that are most patent to every man’s experience. And while before you, huge ‘as a mountain, open, palpable,’ are the commonplaces and undeniable verities which declare that every man who is not a God-fearing man is a fool, you admit them all, and, bowing your heads in reverence, let them all go over you and produce no effect.

The road is clearer than ever since Jesus Christ came. He has shown us the city, for He has brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. He has shown us the road, for His life is the pattern of all that men ought to aim at and to be. The motto of the eternal Son of God, if I may venture upon such a metaphor, is like the motto of the heir-apparent of the English throne, ‘I serve.’ Lo! ‘I come to do Thy will’-and that is the only word which will make a human life peaceful and strong and beautiful. In the presence of His radiant and solitary perfection, men no longer need to wonder, What is the ideal to which conduct and character should be conformed? And Jesus Christ has come to make it possible to go to the city, by that cross on which He bore the burden of all sin, and takes away the sin of the world, and by that Spirit of life which He will impart to our weakness, and which makes our sluggish feet run in the way of His commandments, and not be weary, and walk and not faint.

Take that dear Lord for your revelation of duty, for your Pattern of conduct, for the forgiveness of your sins, for the Inspirer with power to do His will, and then you will see stretching before you, high up above the surrounding desert, so that no lion nor ravenous beast shall go up there, the highway on which the ransomed of the Lord

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shall walk, ‘and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein.’ ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may enter in through the gates into the City.’

16 Woe to the land whose king was a servant[a] and whose princes feast in the morning.

BAR ES, "Foolish rulers, by their weakness, self-indulgence and sloth, bring decay upon the state: nobleness and temperance insure prosperity: yet the subject must not rebel in word or thought against his king.


A child - Rather, young. The word is applied to Rehoboam 2Ch_13:7 at the time of his accession to the throne, when he was 41 years old.

Eat in the morning - A sign of intemperance (compare Isa_5:11).

CLARKE, "Wo to thee, O land, when thy king is a child -Minorities are, in general, very prejudicial to a state. Regents either disagree, and foment civil wars; or oppress the people. Various discordant interests are raised up in a state during a minority; and the young king, having been under the tutelage of interested men, acts partially and injuriously to the interests of the people when he comes to the throne; and this produces popular discontent, and a troubled reign.

Thy princes eat in the morning! - They do nothing in order; turn night into day, and day into night; sleep when they should wake, and wake when they should sleep; attending more to chamberings and banquetings, than to the concerns of the state.

GILL, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child,.... Not so much in age; though it is sometimes an unhappiness to a nation to be governed by a minor, especially if the young king has not good tutors, guardians, ministers, and counsellors, about him; but, if otherwise, a nation may be very happy under a minority, or the government of a young prince; such were Solomon, Joash, Uzziah, Josiah, and our Edward VI: but it rather respects one that is a child in understanding and judgment, in manners and conduct; that minds his pleasures, as children their play; is fickle and changeable, passionate and self-willed, unskilful in government, and yet will not be advised. The Targum applies this to the land of Israel, and instances in wicked Jeroboam, who made the morning sacrifice to cease; see Isa_3:12. From considering the bad effects of folly in men in general, in private persons and in subjects, the wise man proceeds to observe the ill consequences of it to a nation, in kings and princes, in civil magistrates: Jerom or Bede interprets this allegorically: Woe to the land whose king is the devil, who is always desirous of new things, 2Co_4:4;

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and thy princes eat in the morning; as soon as they are up, children like; and not only eat, which may be convenient and lawful to do; but eat to excess, in a riotous and intemperate manner, and so unfit themselves for any service all the day: the "morning" is particularly observed, because the fittest time for consultation about the affairs of government; and was the usual time of sitting in judgment and trying causes, Jer_21:12; and also for acts of religion and devotion. And so the Targum,

"and thy princes eat bread before they offer the daily morning sacrifice.''

Sad is the case of a nation, when not only their king is a minor, or a foolish one; but when his tutors and guardians, or his ministers of state and counsellors, give up themselves to sensual pleasures, and neglect public affairs; and, instead of being in the council chamber, or in a court of judicature, or at their early devotions, are indulging themselves in riotous eating and drinking.

HE RY, "Solomon here observes,

I. How much the happiness of a land depends upon the character of its rulers; it is well or ill with the people according as the princes are good or bad. 1. The people cannot be happy when their princes are childish and voluptuous (Ecc_10:16): Woe unto thee, O land! even the land of Canaan itself, though otherwise the glory of all lands, when thy king is a child, not so much in age (Solomon himself was young when his kingdom was happy in him) as in understanding; when the prince is weak and foolish as a child, fickle and fond of changes, fretful and humoursome, easily imposed upon, and hardly brought to business, it is ill with the people. The body staggers if the head be giddy. Perhaps Solomon wrote this with a foresight of his son Rehoboam's ill conduct (2Ch_13:7); he was a child all the days of his life and his family and kingdom fared the worse for it. Nor is it much better with a people when their princes eat in the morning, that is, make a god of their belly and make themselves slaves to their appetites. If the king himself be a child, yet if the princes and privy-counsellors are wise and faithful, and apply themselves to business, the land may do the better; but if they addict themselves to their pleasures, and prefer the gratifications of the flesh before the despatch of the public business, which they disfit themselves for by eating and drinking in a morning, when judges are epicures, and do not eat to live, but live to eat, what good can a nation expect!

JAMISO ,"a child— given to pleasures; behaves with childish levity. Not in years;for a nation may be happy under a young prince, as Josiah.

eat in the morning— the usual time for dispensing justice in the East (Jer_21:12); here, given to feasting (Isa_5:11; Act_2:15).

PULPIT, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child! "Child" is naar, which term included any age up to manhood. Some interpret the word here, as παῖς in Greek, in the sense of "slave," contrasting it with "the son of nobles" in the following verse. But it can hardly signify more than servitor, attendant; and in Ecc_10:7 the antithesis to "prince" is ebed, not naar. The child in the present case is a youthful, inexperienced ruler, who does not realize his responsibilities, and is the tool of evil advisers. What particular instance, if any, Koheleth had in view it is impossible to say. Of course, many expositors see a reference to Rehoboam. whom,

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at forty years of age, his own son Abijah calls naar (2Ch_13:7), and who was certainly childish in his conduct (1Ki_12:1-14). Hitzig connects the passage with the reign of Ptolemy Epiphanes, who was but five years old at the death of his father, B.C. 205, the reins of government being assumed by Agathocles and his sister Agathoclea, who occasioned serious disasters to the laud. To support this opinion, the date of our book has to be considerably reduced (see Introduction). It is best to take the gnome as a general expression, like that in Isa_3:12, "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them." Thy princes eat in the morning. Eating here implies feasting and banqueting, beginning the day with sensual enjoyment instead of such honest work as attending to state matters, administering justice, etc; as becomes good rulers. one but profligates would thus spend the early morning. "These are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day," says St. Peter, repudiating the charge of intoxication (Act_2:15). "Woe unto them," cries Isaiah (Isa_5:11), "that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink!" Even the heathen censured such debauchery. Cicero thus abuses Antonius: "At quam multos dies in ea villa turpissime es per-bacchatus. Ab hora tertia bibebatur, ludebatur, vomebatur" ('Philipp.,' 2.41). Curtius (5. 7. 2) reprehends "de die convivia inire." The Greeks had a proverb to denote abnormal sensuality, Ἀφ ἡµέρας πίνειν

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king [is] a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

Ver. 16. Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child,] s.c., In understanding, though not in years, such as was Shechem, [Genesis 34:19, eque distulit puer} and Rehoboam. {1 Kings 14:21 2 Chronicles 13:7] Solomon was a child king; so was Josiah, Uzziah, our Edward VI and yet it was well with the land in their days.

“ Hic regum decus et iuvenum flos, spesque honorum,

Deliciae saecli, et gloria gentis erat. ”

As Cardan sings of King Edward in his epitaph, {a} As he was the highest, so I verily believe he was the holiest in the whole kingdom, saith Mr Ridley, martyr. And whilst things were carried on by himself, in his health time, all went very well here; and si per leges fas illi fuisset omnia proprio nutu et voluntate regere, if by the laws of the land he might have done all himself without officers, all should have been far better done, saith Mr Cartwright upon this text. By "child" is here therefore meant a weak or wicked king, that lets loose the golden reins of government, is carried by his passions, lieth heavy upon his subjects. See Isaiah 3:6, compared with Ecclesiastes 10:13. Such princes are threatened as a plague to a people, [Leviticus 26:17] and they prove no less. This childhood of theirs is the maturity of their subjects’ misery; the land itself is woe, and woe itself the land, as one expositor observed from the word, אי, here used, which signifieth both woe and land. See Job 34:30 .

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And the princes eat in the morning.] As children use to call for food as SOO as they have rubbed sleep out of their eyes. If the king is a child, the state officers will be loose and luxurious; yea, like morning wolves, will devour the prey, and "nourish themselves as in a day of slaughter." [James 5:5] The morning is a time to seek God, and SEARCH for wisdom, [Proverbs 8:17] to sit in counsel, and despatch business, as was the manner of Moses, [Exodus 18:13] and of the ancient Romans. Scipio Africanus was wont before day to go iuto the capitol, in cellam Iovis into Jupiter’s chapel, and there to stay a great while quasi consultans de republica cum Iove , saith Gellius, (b) as if he were consulting with Jupiter, concerning the public welfare; whence his deeds were pleraque admiranda admirable for the most part, saith that heathen author.

K&D, "Verse 16-17“Woe to thee, O land, whose king is a child, and whose princes sit at table in the early morning! Happy art thou, O land, whose king is a noble, and whose princes sit at table at the right time, in manly strength, and not in drunkenness!” Regarding אי. Instead of שם ן, the older language would rather use the phrase מלכו נער אשר; and instead of (na'ar), we might CORRECTLY use, after Proverbs 30:22, ('ěvěd); but not as Grätz thinks, who from this verse deduces the reference of the book of Herod (the “slave of the Hasmonean house,” as the Talm. names him), in the same meaning. For (na'ar), it is true, sometimes means - e.g., as Ziba's by-name (2 Samuel 19:18 [17]) - a servant, but never a slave as such, so that here, in the latter sense, it might be the contrast of בן־חורים; it is to be understood after Isaiah 3:12; and Solomon, Bishop of Constance, understood this woe rightly, for he found it fulfilled at the time of the last German Karolingian Ludwig III.

( ote: Cf. Büchmann's Feglügelte Worte, p. 178, 5th ed. (1868).)

( a'ar) is a very extensively APPLICABLE word in regard to the age of a person. King Solomon and the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah show that (na'ar) may be used with reference to one in a high office; but here it is one of few years of age who is meant, who is incapable of ruling, and shows himself as childish in this, that he lets himself be led by bad guides in accordance with their pleasure. In 16b, the author perhaps thinks of the heads of the aristocracy who have the phantom-king in their power: intending to fatten themselves, they BEGI their feasting with the break of day. If we translate (yochēēlu) by “they eat,” 16b sounds as if to breakfast were a sin, - with us such an abbreviation of the thought so OPE to misconception would be a fault in style, but not so with a Hebrew.

( ote: Vid., Gesch. d. jüd. Poesie, p. 188.f.)

,is here eating for eating's sake, eating as its own object (Psalm 14:4 ,לחם אכל for) אכלeating which, in the morning, comes in the place of fresh activity in one's calling, consecrated by prayer. Instead of אש, Ecclesiastes 10:17 , there ought properly to have been אשריך; but (1) אשרי has this peculiarity, to be explained from its interjectional usage, that with the suff. added it remains in the form of the st.

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constr., for we say e.g., אשריך for 2(; אשריך ) the sing. form אשר, inflected אשרי, so substitutes itself that אשריך, or, more CORRECTLY, אשרך, and אשרהו, Proverbs 29:19, the latter for אשריו, are used (vid., under Song of Solomon 2:14).

Regarding (běn-(hhorim), the root-word signifies to be white (vid., under Genesis 40:16). A noble is called (hhor), Isaiah 34:12; and one noble by birth, more closely, or also merely descriptively (Gesen. Lehrgeb. p. 649), (běn-(hhorim), from his purer complexion, by which persons of rank were distinguished from the common people (Lamentations 4:7). In the passage before us, (běn-(hhorim) is an ethical conception, as e.g., also generosus becomes such, for it connects with the idea of noble by birth that of noble in disposition, and the latter predominates (cf. Song of Solomon 7:2, (nadiv)): it is well with a land whose king is of noble mind, is a man of noble character, or, if we give to (běn-(hhorim) the Mishnic meaning, is truly a free man (cf. John 8:36). Of princes after the pattern of such a king, the contrary of what is said 16b is true: they do not eat early in the morning, but (ba'et), “at the right time;” everywhere else this is expressed by (be'itto) (Ecclesiastes 3:11); here the expression - corresponding to the Greek ἐν καιρῷ , the Lat. in tempore - is perhaps occasioned by the contrast (baboqěr), “in the morning.” Eating at the right time is more closely characterized by (bighvurah velo vashshethi). Jerome, whom Luther follows, translates: ad reficiendum et non ad luxuriam. Hitz., Ginsb., and Zöckl., “for strengthening” (obtaining strength), not: “for feasting;” but that beth might introduce the object aimed at (after Hitz., PROCEEDI G from the beth of exchange), we have already considered under Ecclesiastes 2:4. The author, wishing to say this, ought to have written lshty wl' lgbwrh. Better, Hahn: “in strength, but not in drunkenness,” - as heroes, but not as drunkards (Isaiah 5:22). Ewald's “in virtue, and not in debauchery,” is also thus meant. But what is that: to eat in virtue, i.e., the dignity of a man? The author much rather represents them as eating in manly strength, i.e., as this requires it (cf. the plur. Psalm 71:16 and Psalm 90:10), only not (bashti) (“in drunkenness - excess”), so that eating and drinking become objects in themselves. Kleinert, well: as men, and not as gluttons. The Masora makes, under (bashti),' the note לית, i.e., שתי has here a meaning which it has not elsewhere, it signifies drunkenness; elsewhere it means the weft of a web. The Targ. gives the word the meaning of weakness (חלשות), after the Midrash, which explains it by בתשישו (in weakness); Menahem b. Saruk takes along with it in this sense נשתה, Jeremiah 51:30. The Talm. Shabbath 10a, however, explains it rightly by בשתיה.של־יין

HAWKER, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning! (17) Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

Similar observations to what were made in the preceding verses, will be found applicable here. As in a moral sense, temperance and moderation will tend to keep the faculties clear, and in vigour for national government and rule: so in a spiritual sense, there must be blessedness, when the inability of grace, and a ripeness in wisdom, in things pertaining to Jesus, bring a train of covenant mercies, like the land of Judea, upon the Zion of God.

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SBC, "I. The Preacher commences this section by carefully defining his position and equipment as he starts on his last course. (1) His first conclusion is that wisdom, which of all temporal goods still stands foremost with him, is incapable of yielding a true content. Much as it can do for man, it cannot solve the moral problems which daily task and afflict his heart, the problems which he must solve before he can be at peace (8:16-9:6). (2) He reviews the pretensions of Wisdom and mirth (Ecc_9:7-10). To the baffled and hopeless devotee of wisdom he says, "Go, then, eat thy bread with gladness, and drink thy wine with a cheerful heart. Whatever you can get, get; whatever you can do, do. You are on your road to the dark, dismal grave, where there is no work nor device; there is the more reason therefore why your journey should be a merry one." (3) He shows that the true good is not to be found in devotion to affairs and its rewards (9:13-10:20).

II. What the good is, and where it may be found, the Preacher now proceeds to show. (1) The first characteristic of the man who is likely to achieve the quest of the chief good is the charity which prompts him to be gracious, and show kindness, and do good, even to the thankless and ungracious. (2) The second characteristic is the steadfast industry which turns all seasons to account. Diligent and undismayed, he goes on his way, giving himself heartily to the present duty, "sowing his seed, morning and evening, although he cannot tell which shall prosper, this or that, or whether both shall prove good." (3) This man has learned one or two of the profoundest secrets of wisdom. He has learned that giving, we gain; and spending, thrive. He has also learned that a man’s true care is himself; that his true business in the world is to cultivate a strong, dutiful character which shall prepare him for any world or any fate. He recognises the claims of duty and of charity, and does not reject these for pleasure. These keep his pleasures sweet and wholesome, prevent them from usurping the whole man and landing him in the weariness and satiety of disappointment. But lest even these safeguards should prove insufficient, he has also this: he knows that "God will bring him into judgment;" that all his work, whether of charity, or duty, or recreation, will be weighed in the balance of Divine justice (Ecc_9:9). This is the simple secret of the pure heart—the heart that is kept pure amid all labours, and cares, and joys.

S. Cox, The Quest of the Chief Good, p. 221.

BENSON, "Verse 16-17

Ecclesiastes 10:16-17. Wo to thee, O land, when thy king is a child — Either in age or childish qualities; and thy princes eat in the morning — Give themselves up to eating and drinking at that time of the day which is most fit for God’s service, for the despatch of weighty affairs, and for sitting in judgment. Blessed art thou when thy king is the son of the nobles — Not so much by birth, as even the worst of kings commonly are, and have been, as by their noble and worthy dispositions and endowments, for such a one is opposed to the child in the former verse; and thy princes eat in due season — So as may further and not hinder their main BUSINESS; for strength, and not for drunkenness —To refresh and strengthen their bodies, that they may be fit to perform the duties of their station, and not to please their palates, and indulge themselves in sensuality.

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR, "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

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Wickedness in high places

(with Psa_26:10):--Those two passages are descriptive of wickedness in high places.

The morals of a nation hardly ever rise higher than the virtue of the rulers. Henry VIII. makes impurity national and popular. A William Wilberforce in the Parliament ennobles an empire. Sin, epauletted and bestarred, comes to respect and canonization; vice, elevated, is RECOMME DED. Malarias rise from the marsh, float upward and away; but moral distempers descend from the mountain to the plain.

1. In unrolling, then, this scroll of wickedness in high places, the first thing that I mark especially is incompetency for office. If a man seeks for a place and wins it when he is incompetent, he is committing a crime against God and a crime against man. It is not a sin for me to be ignorant of medical science; but if, without medical attainment, I set myself up among professional men, and trifle, in my ignorance, with the lives of those whose confidence I have won, then my charlatanism becomes high-handed knavery. The ignorance that in the one case was innocence, in the other case becomes a crime. It is not a sin for me to be ignorant of machinery; but if I attempt to engineer a steamer across the Atlantic, amid darkness and hurricane, holding the lives of hundreds of people in my grasp, then the blood of all the shipwrecked is on my garment. But what shall we say of men who attempt to engineer our State and national affairs over the rough waters without the first element of qualification?--men not knowing enough to vote “aye” or “no” until they have looked for the wink of others of their party?

2. I unroll the scroll a little further and find intemperance and the co-ordinate crimes. Oh! it is a sad thing to have a hand tremulous with intoxication holding the scales of justice, when the lives of men and the destinies of a nation are in the BALA CE; to have a charioteer with unskilful hands on the reins while the swift destinies of governments are harnessed on a road where governments have been dashed to pieces, and empires have gone down in darkness and woe!

3. I unroll the scroll of wickedness in high places still further, and I see the crime of bribery. It was that which corrupted Lord Bacon in his magnificent position--it was that which led Chief Justice Thorpe to the gallows.

There are four things for you to do:--

1. First, stand off from all political office unless YOUR own principles are thoroughly settled. Do not go into the blaze of temptation unless you are fire-proof.

2. The second thing to do is to take the counsel of Paul, and pray for your rulers; pray for all in authority. Do you know that Shadrach and Abednego did not need the Son of God beside them in the fire so much as your rulers do?

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3. In the next place, be faithful at the ballot-box. Make up your mind in a Christian way as to who are the best Men for office; then vote for the man who loves God and hates rum, and believes in having the Bible read every day, as long as the world stands, in all our common schools. But I have a better prescription than all.

4. It is the fourth thing that I have to say in the way of counsel, and that is, evangelize the people. Gospelize this country, and you will have pure representatives and pure men everywhere. (T. De Witt Talmage.)


17 Blessed is the land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time— for strength and not for drunkenness.

BAR ES, "Son of nobles - i. e., of a noble disposition.

CLARKE, "When thy king is the son of nobles - uiov eleuyerwn, the son of freemen; persons well acquainted with the principles of civil liberty, and who rule according to them - Septuagint. Such a one as comes to the throne in a legitimate way, from an ancient regal family, whose right to the throne is incontestable. It requires such a long time to establish a regal right, that the state is in continual danger from pretenders and usurpers, where the king is not the son of nobles.

And thy princes eat in due season - All persons in places of trust for the public weal, from the king to the lowest public functionary, should know, that the public are exceedingly scandalized at repeated accounts of entertainments, where irregularity prevails, much money is expended, and no good done. These things are drawn into precedent, and quoted to countenance debauch in the inferior classes. The natural division of the day for necessary repasts is, Breakfast, eight, or half after; Dinner, one, or half after; Supper, eight, or half after. And these, or even earliers hours were formerly observed in these countries. Then we had scarcely any such thing as gout, and no nervous disorders.

In ancient nations the custom was to eat but once, and then about mid-day.

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GILL, "Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles,.... Or "heroes" (z), called "Hhorim" in the Hebrew, which signifies "white"; either from the white garment they wore, or rather from the purity and ingenuity of their minds and manners; being illustrious persons, not only by birth and education, but in their lives and actions. Now a land is happy when it is governed by a king that is not only descended from a race of heroes and illustrious men, and has a princely and liberal education; but that imitates his ancestors, and treads in their steps, and is famous himself for wisdom, virtue, and real piety, in which true nobility consists; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "whose king is noble"; who is of an ingenuous mind, has princely virtues and qualifications; who is wise and prudent, skilful in the affairs of government, and assiduous and industrious therein; for as, on the one hand, kings may, as they commonly do, descend from illustrious progenitors, and yet be base and wicked, ignoble and infamous, in their administration; and, on the other hand, persons may be raised from a low estate to royal dignity, as David and others, and yet behave with great prudence and ingenuity. The Targum applies this to the land of Israel also, and instances in Hezekiah, a man mighty in the law;

and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness; that is, eat their meals at proper times, and that after they have been at business; to refresh nature, and recruit their strength, that they may be fit for further service; and do not indulge themselves, and spend their time, in rioting and drunkenness; which would render them very unfit for public business, to sit in council, or in any court of judicature: according to the Targum, the time was four o'clock, that is, ten o'clock in the morning. Or, "not unto drinking" or "drunkenness" (a); they do not eat so as to cause an appetite, or eager desire for drinking to excess: or, not "with drinking" (b); their eating is not attended with excessive drinking; they eat and drink moderately. The Egyptians had a law, which fixed such a measure of wine to be allowed their kings daily, and no more (c); and it was Solon's law, given to the Athenians, that if a prince was found drunk, death was his punishment (d); and, with the Indians, if a woman killed a drunken king, her reward was to marry his successor (e): all which show how odious drunkenness was with the Heathens, and especially in their kings and princes; see Pro_31:4. So Plato observes (f), that

"drunkenness ought to be abstained from; and rather it should be allowed to any than to a keeper, (that is, of a city and its laws, a Civil magistrate), for it would be ridiculous for a keeper to need a keeper.''

Jerom, as before observed, interprets this figuratively, "blessed is the land", of the church; whose "King" is Christ, the son of nobles, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and whose "princes" are the apostles, who seek not pleasure in this world, but shall eat in the world to come.

HE RY, "The people cannot but be happy when their rulers are generous and active, sober and temperate, and men of business, Ecc_10:17. The land is then blessed, (1.) When the sovereign is governed by principles of honour, when the king is the son of nobles, actuated and animated by a noble spirit, which scorns to do any thing base and unbecoming so high a character, which is solicitous for the public welfare, and prefers that before any private interests. Wisdom, virtue, and the fear of God, beneficence, and a readiness to do good to all mankind, these ennoble the royal blood. 2. When the subordinate magistrates are more in care to discharge their trusts than to gratify their appetites; when they eat in due season (Psa_145:15); let us not take ours unseasonable,

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lest we lose the comfort of seeing God give it to us. Magistrates should eat for strength,that their bodies may be fitted to serve their souls in the service of God and their country, and not for drunkenness, to make themselves unfit to do any thing either for God or man, and particularly to sit in judgment, for they will err through wine (Isa_28:7), will drink and forget the law, Pro_31:5. It is well with a people when their princes are examples of temperance, when those that have most to spend upon themselves know how to deny themselves.

JAMISO ,"son of nobles— not merely in blood, but in virtue, the true nobility (Son_7:1; Isa_32:5, Isa_32:8).

in due season— (Ecc_3:1), not until duty has first been attended to.

for strength— to refresh the body, not for revelry (included in “drunkenness”).

PULPIT, "Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles! cujus rex nobilis est (Vulgate), υἱὸς ἐλευθέρων , "son of free men". Some would regard "son of nobles" as a periphrasis expressive of character, equivalent to the Latin generosus, as "son of strength," equivalent to "strong man;" "son of wickedness," equivalent to "wicked man;" but the phrase may well be taken literally. Koheleth (Ecc_10:7) has expressed his disgust at the exaltation of unworthy slaves to high positions; he here intimates his adherence to the idea that those who descend from noble ancestors, and have been EDUCATED in the higher ranks of society, are more likely to prove a blessing to their land than upstarts who have been placed by caprice or favoritism in situations of trust and eminence. Of course, it is not universally true that men of high birth make good rulers; but proverbs of general tenor must not be pressed in particulars, and the author must be understood to affirm that the fact of having distinguished ancestors is an incentive to right action, stirs a worthy emulation in a man, gives him a motive which is wanting in the lowborn parvenu. The feeling, noblesse oblige, has preserved many from baseness (comp. Joh_8:39). Thy princes eat in due season; not like those mentioned in Ecc_10:16, but in tempore, πρὸς καιρόν , at the right time, the "season" which appertains to all mundane things (Ecc_3:1-8). For strength, and net for drunkenness. The preposition here is taken as expressing the object—they eat to gain strength, not to indulge sensuality; but it is more in accordance with usage to translate "in, or with, manly strength," i.e. as man's strength demands, and not degenerating into a carouse. If it is thought incongruous, as Ginsburg deems, to say, "princes eat for drunkenness," we may take drunkenness as denoting excess of any kind The word in the form here used occurs nowhere else. The Septuagint, regarding rather the consequences of intoxication than the actual word in the text, renders, Καὶ οὐκ αἰσχυνθήσονται , "And they shall not be ashamed." Thus, too, St. Jerome, Et non in confusione. St. Augustine ('De Civit.,' 17:20) deduces from this passage that there are two kingdoms—that of Christ and that of the devil, and he explains the allegory at some length, going into details which are of homiletic utility. Another interpretation is given by St. Jerome, quoted at length by Corn. a Lapide, in his copious commentary.

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TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:17 Blessed [art] thou, O land, when thy king [is] the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!

VER 17. Blessed art thou, O land, &c.] Ita nati estis ut bona malaque vestra ad Remp. pertineant. You governors are of such condition as that YOUR good or evil deeds are of public concernment, saith he in Tacitus. (a) It is either wealth or woe with the land, as it is well or ill governed.

When thy king is the son of nobles.] Well born and yet better bred; for else they will be noti magis quam nobiles, notable or notorious, but not noble (b) Our Henry I (surnamed Beauclerc) was often heard to say that an unlearned king was no better than a crowned ass. (c) Sure it is that royalty without righteousness is but eminent dishonour, gilded rottenness, golden damnation. Godly men are the excellent ones of the earth, [Psalms 16:1-11] the Beraeans were more noble, (d) or better gentlemen, than those of Thessalonica, non per civilem dignitatem, sed per spiritualem dignationem, not by civil, but by spiritual dignity; without which riches, revenue, retinue, high birth, &c., are but shadows and shapes of nobleness. "Since thou hast been precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable," saith God, [Isaiah 43:4] who is the top of good men’s kin, as religion is the root. But for want of this it was that Jehoiakim, though royally descended, is likened to an ass; [Jeremiah 22:19] and Antiochus, though a mighty monarch, is called a "vile person." [Daniel 11:21]

And thy princes eat in due season for strength, &c.] Being modest and moderate, not diffluent and debauched. Great men should not "cater for the flesh," [Romans 13:11-14] but so serve the body that the body politic may be served by it, and the Lord by both. Did ever any one see King Dejotarus dancing or drunken? saith Cicero, (e) and this he holds to be a singular commendation. See Proverbs 31:3-4. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 31:3"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 31:3"} See my Common Place of Abstinence.

18 Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

BAR ES, "The “building” or “house” represents the state. Compare Isa_3:6; Amo_9:10.

Droppeth through - i. e., Lets the rain through the roof.

CLARKE, "By much slothfulness - This is remarkably the case in some countries. Houses are not repaired till they almost fall about the ears of the inhabitants. We have

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an adage that applies to all such cases: “A stitch in time saves nine.”

GILL, "By much slothfulness the building decayeth,.... Or, "by slothfulnesses" (g), The word is in the dual number, and so may signify the slothfulness of the hands, as Aben Ezra, of both hands, and of both feet; or the various kinds of slothfulness, as the Arabic version, slothfulness both of body and mind; or of all sorts of persons, superiors and inferiors, princes and subjects; and with respect to all things present and future: and, as through slothfulness a material building decays; or a "beam", as the word signifies, the raftering of a house, the roof, which consists of rafters and beams joined together when the tiling is decayed by winds and rains, or any breaches made in the rafters, and no care taken to repair, the whole falls in, and the house is in ruins: so figurative buildings, families, churches, and kingdoms, come to nothing, through the sluggishness of masters of families, ministers of the word, and civil magistrates; to the latter of which more especially this is to be applied, who give up themselves to luxury and sloth;

and, through idleness of the hands, the house droppeth through; or, "through the letting" or "hanging down of the hands" (h); the remissness of them, as is to be observed in idle persons, who will not lift them up to work; particularly to repair a breach in a house, by means of which the rain drops through it, and makes it uncomfortable and unsafe being in it; and, in process of time, that itself drops to the ground: and this expresses the same thing, how, through the neglect of the civil magistrate, a commonwealth comes to nothing; or, however, the members of it become wretched and miserable.

HE RY, "Of what ill consequence slothfulness is both to private and public affairs (Ecc_10:18): By much slothfulness and idleness of the hands, the neglect of business, and the love of ease and pleasure, the building decays, drops through first, and by degrees drops down. If it be not kept well covered, and care be not taken to repair the breaches, as any happen, it will rain in, and the timber will rot, and the house will become unfit to dwell in. It is so with the family and the affairs of it; if men cannot find in their hearts to take pains in their callings, to tend their shops and look after their own business, they will soon run in debt and go behind-hand, and, instead of making what they have more for their children, will make it less. It is so with the public; if the king be a child and will take no care, if the princes eat in the morning and will take no pains, the affairs of the nation suffer loss, and its interests are prejudiced, its honour is sullied, its power is weakened, its borders are encroached upon, the course of justice is obstructed, the treasure is exhausted, and all its foundations are out of course, and all this through the slothfulness of self-seeking of those that should be the repairers of its breaches and the restorers of paths to dwell in, Isa_58:12.

JAMISO ,"building— literally, “the joining of the rafters,” namely, the kingdom (Ecc_10:16; Isa_3:6; Amo_9:11).

hands— (Ecc_4:5; Pro_6:10).

droppeth— By neglecting to repair the roof in time, the rain gets through.

HAWKER 18-20, "By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. (19) A feast is made for laughter, and wine

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maketh merry: but money answereth all things. (20) Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

Here again, as in things of nature, so in grace, the spiritual building will not advance, when inattention to our foundation Christ Jesus, makes the soul go out of the perpendicular. And when coldness, neglect of ordinances, and of secret prayer, beget distance between Jesus and the soul; how shall it be otherwise than that spiritual decays are induced? Money, saith the Preacher, answereth all things, that is, it becomes the universal means of procuring supply to all our earthly wants. And what money is to the carnal, such, and infinitely more, is Jesus to the spiritual. He is meat to the hungry, and water to the thirsty; a garment to the naked, medicine to the sick, warmth to the cold, in short, all things for life, for light, for peace, for joy, and comfort. I am Alpha (saith Jesus) and Omega, the beginning and the end, he that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Rev_21:6-7. If Solomon’s precept, with which he closeth this chapter, be important, in respect to earthly government; how infinitely more so, in relation to that which is divine. Precious Jesus! I would say for myself and reader, give us grace to rejoice that thou art the universal Governor, and thy kingdom ruleth over all. Dan_2:44.

BENSON, "Ecclesiastes 10:18. By much slothfulness, &c., the house droppeth through —That house which is neglected by its owner, and not REPAIRED, must needs come to ruin. Whereby he intimates that the sloth and carelessness of princes, in the management of public affairs, which is a usual attendant on that luxury of which he now spoke, is most destructive to themselves and to their people.

COKE, "Verse 18-19

Ecclesiastes 10:18-19. By much slothfulness, &c.— Through slothfulness the building will decay, and through idleness of hands the house will drop; Ecclesiastes 10:19 while they make feasts to divert themselves, and spend their life in making themselves merry with wine and oil; money supplying with them the want of every thing else. Lastly, Solomon concludes this proof, from Ecclesiastes 10:16. (see on ch. Ecclesiastes 9:15.) with a moving explanation upon the unhappy state of a nation, whose fate it is to be governed by men of such a stamp as he had before described; and, to make it more conspicuous, he opposes it to the happiness of another nation, whose king, being descended from noble ancestors, may be presumed to have had a proper EDUCATION, will imitate those virtues through which his forefathers acquired their nobility, and will make use of ministers or princes like himself; Ecclesiastes 10:16-17. The several mischiefs and disorders before complained of, are more likely to happen under the reign of an upstart king, than of an hereditary one; as he does not only want experience and EDUCATION, but is also often necessitated to support an ill-gotten authority by the worst means. Those whom he employs under him must probably be such as have helped him to the throne, or been his friends in his former life; men of no worth, who will mind nothing but eating and drinking from morning till night. While such men as these imagine that their new-gotten wealth may supply the want of all qualifications soever, the constitution must suffer from their neglect and incapacity, as much as a house, the roof of which is not repaired, through the slothfulness of the owner, Ecclesiastes 10:18-19.

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PULPIT, "By much slothfulness the building decayeth. The subject is still the state. Under the image of a house which falls into ruin for lack of needful repairs, is signified the decay that surely overtakes a kingdom whose rulers are given up to indolence and debauchery, and neglect to attend to the affairs which require prompt care (comp. Amo_9:11). Such were they whom Amos (Amo_6:6) denounced, "That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." "Much slothfulness" is expressed in the original by a dual form, which gives an intensive signification. Ewald and Ginsburg take it as referring to the "two idle hands;" but the intensifications of the dual is not unprecedented (see Delitzsch, in loc.). The rest of this clause is more accurately rendered, the rafters sink, i.e. the timber framework, whether of roof or wall, gives way. This may possibly not be noticed at once, but it makes itself known unmistakably ere long. And through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through; rather, the house leaketh, the roof lets in the rain. Septuagint, Ἐν ἀρχία χειρῶν στάξει ἡ οἰκία , "Through laziness of hands the house will drip." The very imperfect construction of the fiat roofs of Eastern houses demanded continual attention. Such common and annoying occurrences as a leaky roof are mentioned in the Book of Proverbs (see Pro_19:13; Pro_27:15). Plautus, ' Mostell.,' 1.2.28—

"Ventat imber, lavit parietes; perpluunt

Tigna; putrefacit aer operam fabri."

"The rain comes down, and washes all the walls,

The roof is leaky, and the weather rough

Loosens the architect's most skilful work."

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.

Ver. 18. By much slothfulness the building decayeth.] So doth the commonwealth not sheltered with good government; for, as the householder is in his house, so is the magistrate in the city, and the king in his dominions. In his palace he may see a pattern of his kingdom, a draught of his city. Especially if it be, as George Prince of Anhalt’s was, ecclesia, academia, curia, a church, a university, and a court. For the better despatch of civil BUSI ESSES, there was daily praying, reading, writing, yea, and preaching too, as Melanchthon and Scultetus report. (a) Here was no place for sloth and sluggishness within this most pious prince’s territories. His house was built of cedar beams, [Song of Solomon 1:17] of living stones; [1 Peter 2:5] his polity a theocracy, as Josephus saith of the Jewish Government; and of his people it might be said, as Polydor Virgil saith of the English, Regnum Anglicae regnum Dei. Oh, the blessednesses of such a country!

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And through idleness of the hands the house droppeth, &c.] Stillicldia praecedunt ruinam, de poenas gravissimas, leviores, saith Jerome. If course be not timely taken, the house will run to ruiu for want of people or reparation; so will that person that takes not warning by lighter punishments. Surely, as one CLOUD follows another, till the sun disperseth them, so do judgments - greater succeed lesser, till men, meeting God by repentance, disarm his wrath.

K&D, "Since, now, Ecclesiastes 10:19 has only to do with princes, the following proverb of the consequences of sloth receives a particular reference in the frame of this MIRROR for princes: “Through being idle the roof falleth; and through laziness of the hands the house leaketh.” Ewald, Redslob, Olsh., Hitz., and Fürst, as already Aben Ezra, understand the dual עצל of the two idle hands, but a similar attribut. adject.-dual is OT FOU D in Heb.; on the contrary, (ephraim), (merathaim) Jeremiah 50:21,( rish'athaim), and, in a certain measure, also (riqmathaim), speak in favour of the intensification of the dual; ('atsaltaim) is related to ('atslah), as Faulenzen being idle, living in idleness to Faulheit laziness, it means doubled, i.e., great, constant laziness (Gesen. H. Wört., and Böttch. in the . Aehrenl., under this passage). If ('atsaltaim) were an attribut. designation of the hands, then (shiphluth hadaim) would be lowness, i.e., the hanging down of the hands languidly by the side; the former would AGREE better with the second than with the first passage. Regarding the difference between (hammeqareh) (the beams and joists of a house) and (hamqareh) (contignans), vid., note below.

( ote: המקרה, with mem Dageshed (Masora: לית דגש); in Psalm 104:3, on the contrary, the mem has Raphe, for there it is particip. (Michlol 46a; Parchon's Lex. f. 3, col. 1).)

Since exceeding laziness leaves alone everything that could support the house, the beams fall (ימך, iph. מכך), and the house drops, i.e., lets the rain through (ידלף, with o, in spite of the intrans. signification); cf. the Arab. proverb of the three things which make a house insufferable, under Proverbs 19:13. Also the community, whom the king and the nobles represent, is a בית, as e.g., Israel is called the house of Jacob. If the rulers neglect their duty, abusing their high position in obeying their own lusts, then the kingdom (state) becomes as a dilapidated house, affording no longer any protection, and at last a (machshelah), a ruined building, Isaiah 3:6. It becomes so by slothfulness, and the prodigal love of pleasure associated therewith.

19 A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and MO EY is the answer for everything.

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BAR ES, "literally, For merriment they make a feast (bread), and wine gladdens the living, and money supplies all things.

CLARKE, "A feast is made for laughter - The object of it is to produce merriment, to banish care and concern of every kind. But who are they who make and frequent such places? Epicures and drunkards generally; such as those of whom Horace speaks:

Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati.Epist. lib. i., ep. 2, ver. 27.

“Those whose names stand as indications of men, the useless many; and who appear to be born only to consume the produce of the soil.”

But money answereth all - This saying has prevailed everywhere.

Scilicet uxorem cum dote, fidemque, et amicos,Et genus, et formam Regina Pecunia donat;Ac bene nummatum decorat Suadela, Venusque.Hor. Ep. lib. i., ep. 6, ver. 36.

“For gold, the sovereign Queen of all below,Friends, honor, birth, and beauty, can bestow.The goddess of persuasion forms her train;And Venus decks the well-bemonied swain.”Francis.

GILL, "A feast is made for laughter,.... Or, "who make bread for laughter" (i). Not bakers, who make bread for common use, and for all sorts of persons, sorrowful ones as others; but luxurious men, particularly such princes as are before described; they "make bread", that is, a feast, as the phrase is used, Dan_5:1; not for mere refreshment, but to promote mirth and gaiety to an excessive degree; being attended with rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, with revellings and dancing;

and wine maketh merry; or, "and they prepare wine" (k); which is provided in plenty at feasts; and which is sometimes put for a feast itself, and called a banquet of wine, Est_7:2; which wine makes merry, and men drink of it till they become drunk with it, at such profuse feasts: or, "which maketh life cheerful" (l); as it does, when moderately used: "cheers the living"; so Aben Ezra;

but money answereth all things; is in the room of all things, and by it men obtain everything they want and wish for; it answers the requests of all, and supplies them with what they stand in need of, or can desire: particularly such expensive feasts, and sumptuous entertainments, are made by means of money; and, in this luxurious way, the coffers of princes are drained, and they are obliged to raise new levies, and impose new taxes upon their subjects, to the oppression of them. Or else the sense may be, that

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princes should consider, and not be so profuse in their manner of living, but be more frugal and careful of the public money, and lay it up against a time of need; since it is that that answers all things, is the sinew of war when that arises, and will procure men and arms, to secure and protect them from their enemies, and obtain peace and safety for them and their subjects, which otherwise they cannot expect.

HE RY, "How industrious generally all are, both princes and people, to get money, because that serves for all purposes, Ecc_10:19. He seems to prefer money before mirth: A feast is made for laughter, not merely for eating, but chiefly for pleasant conversation and the society of friends, not the laughter of the fool, which is madness, but that of wise men, by which they fit themselves for business and severe studies. Spiritual feasts are made for spiritual laughter, holy joy in God. Wine makes merry, makes glad the life, but money is the measure of all things and answers all things. Pecuniae obediunt omnia -Money commands all things. Though wine make merry, it will not be a house for us, nor a bed, nor clothing, nor provisions and portions for children; but money, if men have enough of it, will be all these. The feast cannot be made without money, and, though men have wine, they are not so much disposed to be merry unless they have money for the necessary supports of life. Money of itself answers nothing; it will neither feed nor clothe; but, as it is the instrument of commerce, it answers all the occasions of this present life. What is to be had may be had for money. But it answers nothing to the soul; it will not procure the pardon of sin, the favour of God, the peace of conscience; the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained, with corruptible things as silver and gold. Some refer this to rulers; it is ill with the people when they give up themselves to luxury and riot, feasting and making merry, not only because their business is neglected, but because money must be had to answer all these things, and, in order to that, the people squeezed by heavy taxes.

JAMISO ,"Referring to Ecc_10:18. Instead of repairing the breaches in the commonwealth (equivalent to “building”), the princes “make a feast for laughter (Ecc_10:16), and wine maketh their life glad (Psa_104:15), and (but) money supplieth (answereth their wishes by supplying) all things,” that is, they take bribes to support their extravagance; and hence arise the wrongs that are perpetrated (Ecc_10:5, Ecc_10:6; Ecc_3:16; Isa_1:23; Isa_5:23). Maurer takes “all things” of the wrongs to which princes are instigated by “money”; for example, the heavy taxes, which were the occasion of Rehoboam losing ten tribes (1Ki_12:4, etc.).

COFFMAN, ""Feasting makes you happy, and wine cheers you up, but you can't have either without money."[22] "Men make a feast for enjoyment, and wine makes life pleasant, but money is everyone's concern."[23] This relationship between drinking wine and feasting on the one hand, and providing the funds to pay for it on the other hand, reminds us of a song that became popular back during the days of the DEPRESSION, "If you've got the money, Honey, I've got the time."

PULPIT, "A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry. Here is a cause of the decay spoken of above. The rulers spend in revelry and debauchery the time and energy which they ought to give to affairs of state. More literally, for merriment they make bread, and wine [that] cheereth life; i.e. they use God's good gifts of bread and wine as means of intemperance and thoughtless pleasure. So a psalmist

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speaks of wine as making glad the heart of man (Psa_104:15); and Ben-Sira says, "Wine is as good as life to a man, if it be drunk moderately: what life is there to a man that is without wine? for it was created to make men glad. Wine measurably drunk and in season bringeth gladness of the .heart, and cheer fullness of the mind". But MO EYanswereth all things; i.e. grants all that such persons want. It requires money to provide rich food and costly wines; this they possess, and they are thus able to indulge their appetites to the utmost. It concerns them not how such resources are obtained—won by extortion from a starving people, exacted in exorbitant taxation, pillaged by unscrupulous instruments; they want gold to expend on their lusts, and they get it same-how, and with it all that in their view makes life worth living. Commentators alto Horace, ' Ep.,' 1.6.36, "Scilicet uxorem," etc.

"For why—a portioned wife, fair fame, and friends,

Beauty and birth on sovereign Wealth attends.

Blest is her votary throned his bags among?

Persuasion's self sits perched upon his tongue;

Love beams in every feature of his face,

And every gesture beams celestial grace."


Corn. a Lapide appositely quotes—

"…quidquid nummis praesentibus opta,

Et veniet; clausum possidet arca Jovem."

"If thou hast gold, then wish for anything,

And it will surely come; the money-box

Hath in it a most potent deity."

Pineda, followed by Metals, suggests that this verse may be taken in a good sense. He would make verse 18 correspond to verse 16, characterizing the government of debauchees, and verse 19 correspond to verse 17, representing the rule of temperate princes where all is peace and prosperity. But there is nothing grammatical to indicate this arrangement; and the explanation given above is doubtless correct. The Septuagint Version is not faithful in our present text, though it is followed virtually by the Syriac: Εἰς γέλωτα ποιοῦσιν ἄρτον καὶ οἶνον καὶ ἔλαιον τοῦ εὐφρανθῆναι ζῶντας καὶ τοῦ ἀργυρίου ταπεινώσει ἐπακούσεται τὰ πάντα "For gladness they

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make bread and wine and oil, that the living may rejoice, and to money all things will humble themselves, will obey" (doubly translating the word).

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but MO EY answereth all [things].

VER 19. A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry.] Slothful governors, Regni dilapidatores (so our Henry III was called for his pride and prodigality), (a) are all for feasting and frolicking. See Proverbs 31:4, Daniel 5:3-4. This cannot be maintained without money, for the getting and gathering in whereof the poor people are peeled and polled, and rich men’s GIFTS are received, to the perverting of justice by those corrupt rulers, qui vili precio nihil non humile et vile parati sunt facere, as Gregory Thaumaturgus speaketh in his OTE upon this verse.

BE SO , "Ecclesiastes 10:19. A feast is made for laughter, &c. — ot merely for caring, but chiefly for pleasant conversation, and the society of friends; not the laughter of fools, which is madness, but that of wise men, namely, that cheerfulness by which they fit themselves for BUSI ESS and severe STUDIES: and wine maketh merry — Hebrew, ישמח חיים, maketh glad the life, exhilarates the mind; but money answereth all things — Procures not only meat and drink for feasting, but all other worldly advantages. Therefore be frugal, and spend not all in luxurious eating and drinking, remembering, that MO EY is wanted for a great many other purposes. Some refer this verse to rulers, and consider this last clause as being added to aggravate the sin and folly of luxury, to which, when princes give up themselves, they not only neglect their business, but thereby waste that money and treasure which are so highly necessary for the support and preservation of themselves and their kingdoms: and, in consequence thereof, are obliged to squeeze money out of their people by oppressive taxes, and other dishonourable and dangerous practices.

But money answereth all things.] It gives a satisfactory answer to whatsoever is desired or demanded. Seneca saith, circa pecuniam multum vociferationis est, that about money there is much noise, great crying; but though never so nmch, never so great, money answereth all - it effects all. (b) What great designs did Philip bring to pass in Greece by his golds the very oracles were said, ψιλιππιξειν, to say as Philip would have them: Antipater non tenuis fuit pecuniae, et ideo praevalidae potentiae, saith Egesippus; (c) he was a well moneyed man, and therefore a very mighty man. The Hebrew, or rather Chaldee, word (d) used for money [1 Chronicles 29:7 Ezra 8:27] signifies to do some great work, because money is the monarch of the world, and therein bears most mastery. Among suitors (in love and in law especially) money drives the bargain and BUSI ESS to an upshot.

K&D, "“Meals they make into a pleasure, and wine cheereth the life, and money maketh everything serviceable.” By עשים, wicked princes are without doubt thought of-but not immediately, since Ecclesiastes 10:16 is too remote to give the subject to Ecclesiastes 10:19. The subject which ('osim) bears in itself (= ('osim hēm)) might be

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syntactically definite, as e.g., Psalm 33:5, אהב, He, Jahve, loves, thus: those princes, or, from Ecclesiastes 10:18: such slothful men; but ('osim) is better rendered, like e.g., (omrim), Exodus 5:16 (Ewald, §200a), and as in the Mishna we read קורין and the like with gramm. indefin. subj.: they make, but so that by it the slothful just designated, and those of a princely rank are meant (cf. a similar use of the inf. abs., as here of the part. in the historical style, Isaiah 22:13). Ginsburg's rendering is altogether at fault: “They turn bread and wine which cheereth life into revelry.” If ”,as its object stand together, the meaning is, “to prepare a feast לחם and עשהEzekiel 4:15; cf. ('avad lehēm), Daniel 5:1. Here, as there, ('osim lěhěm) signifies coenam faciunt (parant). The ל of לש is not the sign of the factitive obj. (as (leēl), Isaiah 44:17), and thus not, as Hitz. supposes, the conditioning ל with which adv. conceptions are formed, - e.g., Lamentations 4:5, האך למע, where Jerome rightly translates, voluptuose (vid., E. Gerlach, l.c.), - but, which is most natural and is very appropriate, it is the ל of the aim or purpose: non ad debitam corporis refectionem, sed ad hera ludicra et stulta gaudia (Geier). שחוק is laughter, as that to which he utters the sentence (Ecclesiastes 2:2): Thou art mad. It is I CORRECT, moreover, to take (lěhěm veyaim) together, and to render (yesammahh hayaim) as an attribut. clause to (yain): this epitheton ornans of wine would here be a most unsuitable weakening of the figure intended. It is only an apparent reason for this, that what Psalm 104:15 says in praise of wine the author cannot here turn into a denunciatory reproach. Wine is certainly fitted to make glad the heart of a man; but here the subject of discourse is duty-forgetting idlers, to whom chiefly wine must be brought (Isaiah 5:12) to cheer their life (this sluggard-life spent in feasting and revelry). The fut. ישמח is meant in the same modal sense as יגבר, Ecclesiastes 10:10 : wine must accomplish that for them. And they can feast and drink, for they have money, and money יע… ־הכל . Luther hits the meaning: “Money must procure everything for them;” but the clause is too general; and better thus, after Jerome, the Zürich Bible: “unto money are all things obedient.” The old Jewish interpreters compare Hosea 2:23., where ענה, with accus. petentis, signifies, “to answer a request, to gratify a desire.” But in the passage before us הכל is not the obj. accus. of petentis, but petiti; for ('anah) is connected with the accus. of that to which one answers as well as of that which one answers, e.g., Job 40:2, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:3. It is unnecessary, with Hitzig, to interpret יענה as Hiph.: MO EY MAKES all to hear (him who has the money), - makes it that nothing is refused to his wish. It is the Kal: Money answers to every demand, hears every wish, grants whatever one longs for, helps to all; as Menander says: “Silver and gold, - these are, ACCORDI G to my opinion, the most useful gods; if these have a place in the house, wish what thou wilt ( εὖξαι τί βούλει ), all will be thine;” and Horace, Epod. i. 6. 36 s.:

“Scilicet uxorem cum dote fidemque et amicos

Et genus et formam regina pecunia donat.”

The author has now described the king who is a misfortune and him who is a blessing to the land, and princes as they ought to be and as they ought not to be, but particularly luxurious idle courtiers; there is now a warning given which has for its motive not only prudence, but also, ACCORDI G to Ecclesiastes 8:2, religiousness.

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20 Do not revile the king even in YOUR thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom,because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may REPORT what you say.

BAR ES, "Curse - Compare Ecc_7:21-22.

CLARKE, "Curse not the king - Do not permit thyself even to think evil of the king; lest thy tongue at some time give vent to thy thoughts, and so thou be chargeable with treason.

For a bird of the air shall carry the voice - Does he refer here to such fowls as the carrier pigeon, which were often used to carry letters under their wings to a great distance, and bring back answers? The Targum turns it curiously: “Do not speak evil of the king in thy conscience, nor in the secret of thy heart, nor in the most hidden place in thy house, curse not a wise man; for Raziel calls daily from heaven upon Mount Horeb, and his voice goes through the whole world; and Elijah, the great priest, goes, flying through the air like a winged eagle, and publishes the words which are spoken in secret by all the inhabitants of the earth.”

Civil government is so peculiarly of God, that he will have it supported for the benefit of mankind; and those who attempt to disturb it are generally marked by his strong disapprobation. And though there have been multitudes of treasons hatched in the deepest secrecy; yet, through the providence of God, they have been discovered in the most singular manner. This shows God’s care for government.

GILL, "Curse not the king; no, not in thy thought,.... Though he is a child, and unskilful in government, gives himself to his passions and pleasures, and neglects the affairs of the kingdom; yet be so far from rebelling against him, and doing him any injury, or speaking ill of him, as not even to wish him any ill; or, within thine own breast, imprecate any evil upon him, but rather pray for him, wish him well, and do everything to promote the welfare of his person and government, and this both for the Lord's sake, and for conscience's sake; and therefore curse him not "in thy conscience" (m), as some render it. Jarchi interprets this of God the King of the world; see Job_2:9; and Jerom of Christ; who should not be blasphemed, lest the angels, that go about the earth, should carry it to heaven;

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and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber; subordinate rulers and magistrates, the king's ministers and counsellors, who are commonly rich; even those luxurious princes, before described, who give up themselves to eating and drinking, and spend the public money in profuse feasts and entertainments: yet a man should be careful how he speaks against them; and not only be cautious of what he says about them, in a vilifying way, in companies and clubs where disaffected persons speak their minds freely; but even in his own house, where his servants may hear him; nay, even in his bedchamber where only his wife and children are;

for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter; an hyperbolical expression; showing that, by some strange and unthought of ways and means, treason, though so very secret, should be brought to the knowledge of the king and his ministers; as if a bird, sitting at the window, or flying by at the same time, should hear and carry it to them: sometimes this is by means of spies and informers, that kings have in all places, to bring them news of the behaviour and sentiments of men, of whom such understand the passage; or by means of such, that bear an ill will to them, or are faithful subjects to the king. With the Persians were certain officers, called the king's ears, and the emperor's eyes; by means of whom the king was believed to be a god, since, by the ears and eyes of others, through those spies, he knew all that was done everywhere (n). Some interpret it of angels, good or bad: Jarchi, of the soul of man, which at last flies to heaven, which he thinks is the bird of the air; and of an angel that is associated to him, his guardian angel; meant, as he supposes, by that which hath wings, or "the master of wings" (o).

HE RY, " How cautious subjects have need to be that they harbour not any disloyal purposes in their minds, nor keep up any factious cabals or consultations against the government, because it is ten to one that they are discovered and brought to light, Ecc_10:20. “Though rulers should be guilty of some errors, yet be not, upon all occasions, arraigning their administration and running them down, but make the best of them.” Here, 1. The command teaches us our duty “Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought,do not wish ill to the government in thy mind.” All sin begins there, and therefore the first risings of it must be curbed and suppressed, and particularly that of treason and sedition. “Curse not the rich, the princes and governors, in thy bed-chamber, in a conclave or club of persons disaffected to the government; associate not with such; come not into their secret; join not with them in speaking ill of the government or plotting against it.” 2. The reason consults our safety. “Though the design be carried on ever so closely, a bird of the air shall carry the voice to the king, who has more spies about than thou art aware of, and that which has wings shall tell the matter, to thy confusion and ruin.” God sees what men do, and hears what they say, in secret; and, when he pleases, he can bring it to light by strange and unsuspected ways. Wouldst thou then not be hurt by the powers that be, nor be afraid of them? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same; but, if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, Rom_13:3, Rom_13:4.

JAMISO ,"thought— literally, “consciousness.”

rich— the great. The language, as applied to earthly princes knowing the “thought,” is figurative. But it literally holds good of the King of kings (Psa_139:1-24), whose consciousness of every evil thought we should ever realize.

bed-chamber— the most secret place (2Ki_6:12).

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bird of the air, etc.— proverbial (compare Hab_2:11; Luk_19:40); in a way as marvelous and rapid, as if birds or some winged messenger carried to the king information of the curse so uttered. In the East superhuman sagacity was attributed to birds (see on Job_28:21; hence the proverb).

COFFMAN, "This is a warning against any kind of seditious talk against a monarch and against even the entertainment of any uncomplimentary thoughts regarding such a ruler; because, the nature of human gossips being what it is, the ACCOUNT of your words will be relayed to the ruler, "In a manner as rapid and as marvelously as if birds or winged messengers had carried the information to the king."

BENSON, "Ecclesiastes 10:20. Curse not the king — Having spoken of the miscarriages of kings, he now gives a caution to their subjects, that they should not thence take occasion to speak irreverently or contemptuously of them, or wish or design any evil against their persons or government. For though vices may be condemned wheresoever they are, yet both reverence and obedience are due to magistrates, as they are God’s deputies and vicegerents, and that, notwithstanding their vices, as is manifest from Romans 13:1, &c.; 1 Peter 2:13. No, not in thy thought — In the most secret manner, by giving way to such thoughts and affections, for these would very probably break forth into disloyal words and practices: and curse not the rich — The princes or governors under the king, who are commonly rich; for a bird, &c., shall carry the voice — The king will hear of it by unknown and unsuspected hands, as if a bird had heard and carried the REPORT of it.

PULPIT, "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought. Under the above-mentioned circumstances, a man might be tempted to abuse and curse these ill-conditioned rulers. Koheleth warns against this error; it is dangerous to give way to it (comp. Exo_22:28). In Ecc_8:2 the motive for submission to the king is placed on religious grounds; in the present passage the ground is prudence, regard for personal safety, which might be compromised by plain speaking, especially when one has to do with such depraved and unscrupulous persons. We may compare David's generous conduct to his cruel persecutor Saul, whom he spared because he was the Lord's anointed (1Sa_24:6, l0; 1Sa_26:9, etc.; 2Sa_1:14). Madda, "thought," "consciousness," is rare, and is supposed to belong to late Hebrew (see 2Ch_1:10, 2Ch_1:11, 2Ch_1:12; Dan_1:4, Dan_1:17). The Septuagint translates it συνείδησις : Vulgate, cogitatio. To encourage such thoughts in the mind is to run the risk of openly expressing them at some unguarded moment; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Curse not the rich in thy bedchamber. In ability to injure, the rich stand in the same category as the king. You are not safe ἐν τανιείοις κοιτώνων σου , "in your very bedchamber," where, if anywhere, you would fancy yourself free from espionage. But "walls have ears," says the proverb (comp. Hab_2:11; Luk_19:40); and the King of Syria is warned, "Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the King of Israel the words thou speakest in thy bedchamber" (2Ki_6:12). "That which ye have spoken in the ear in closets ( ἐν τοῖς ταµιείοις ) shall be proclaimed upon the housetops" (Luk_12:3). For a bird of the air shall carry the voice. A proverbial saying, common to all languages, and not to be referred

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especially to the story of the cranes of Ibycus (see Erasmus,' Adag.,' s.v. "Ultio malefacti") or to the employment of carrier pigeons. We say of secret information, "a little bird told me." Plumptre quotes Aristophanes, 'Aves,' 575—

Οὐδείς οἶδεν τὸν θησαυρὸν τὸν ἐµὸν πλὴν εἴ τις ἄρ ὄρνις

" o one knows of my treasure, save, it may be, a bird."

On which the Scholiast notes, "There is a proverb extant, ' o one observes me but the passing bird'" (comp. Erasmus, ' Adag.,' s.v. "Occulta"). In Koheleth's day informers evidently plied their trade industriously, and here meet, not only with notice, but ironically with reprobation. On the general sentiment of the verse, we may quote Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 9.102, "O Corydon, Corydon," thus versified in Ginsburg's commentary—

"And dost thou seriously believe, fond swain,

The actions of the great unknown remain?

Poor Corydon! even beasts would silence break,

And stocks and stones, if servants did not, speak.

Bolt every door, stop every cranny tight,

Close every window, put out every light;

Let not a whisper reach the listening ear,

o noise, no motion; let no soul be near;

Yet all that passed at the cock's second crow,

The neighboring vintner shall, ere day-break, know."

That which hath wings (compare Latin ales); the possessor (baal) of a pair of wings, a periphrasis for "a bird," as in Pro_1:17. We had "master of the tongue," Pro_1:11; so in Dan_8:6, Dan_8:20, "having horns," is "master (baal) of horns."

K&D, "“Curse not the king even in thy thought; and in thy bed-chamber curse not the rich; for the birds of the air carry away the sound, and the winged creature telleth the matter.” In the Books of Daniel and Chronicles, מדע, in the sense of γνῶσις , is a synon. of השכל and חכמה; here it is rightly TRA SLATED by the lxx by συνείδησις ; it does not correspond with the moral-religious idea of conscience, but yet it touches it, for it designates the quiet, inner consciousness (Psychol. p. 134) which judges according to moral criteria: even (gam, as e.g., Deuteronomy 23:3) in

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the inner REGIO of his thoughts

OTE: Hengst., not finding the transition from scientia to conscientia natural, gives, after Hartmann, the meaning of “study-chamber” to the word מדע; but neither the Heb. nor the Aram. has this meaning, although Psalm 68:13 Targ. touches it.)

one must not curse the king (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:4.) nor the rich (which here, as at 6b, without distinction of the aristocracy of wealth and of birth, signifies those who are placed in a high princely POSITIO , and have wealth, the nervus rerum, at their disposal) in his bed-chamber, the innermost room of the house, where one thinks himself FREE from treachery, and thus may utter whatever he thinks without concealment (2 Kings 6:12): for the birds of the air may carry forth or bring out (Lat. deferrent, whence delator) that which is rumoured, and the possessor of a pair of wings (cf. Proverbs 1:17), after the (Chethıb) (whose ה of the art. is unnecessarily erased by the (Kerı),

( ote: הכן with unpointed He, because it is not read in the (Kerı); similarly 1(החניתSamuel 26:22). Cf. Mas. fin. f. 22, and Ochla veochla, o. 166.)

as at Ecclesiastes 3:6, Ecclesiastes 3:10): the possessor of wings (double-winged), shall further tell the matter. As to its meaning, it is the same as the proverb quoted by the Midrash: “walls have ears.”

( ote: Vid., Tendlau's Sprichwörter, o. 861.)

Geier thinks of the swallows which helped to the discovery of Bessus, the murderer of his father, and the cranes which betrayed the murderer of Ibycus, as comparisons approaching that which is here said. There would certainly be no hyperbole if the author thought of carrier-pigeons (Paxton, Kitto) in the service of espionage. But the reason for the warning is hyperbolical, like an hundred others in all languages:

“Aures fert paries, oculos nemus: ergo cavere

Debet qui loquitur, ne possint verba nocere.”

TRAPP, "Ecclesiastes 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

Ver. 20. Curse not the king, no not in thy thought.] Or, In thy conscience; but in this or any other kind,

“Turpe quid acturus, te sine teste time.” - Auson.

The present government is ever grievous, and nothing more usual than to grudge

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against it; (a) but take heed of wishing hurt to rulers (thought is not FREE), much more of uttering it, though in hugger mugger. Kings have long ears, heavy hands; walls also and hedges have ears. Some may overhear thee, as Mordecai did the two traitors, [Esther 2:22] or thou mayest unwittingly and unwillingly betray thyself, as our gunpowder plotters.

That which hath wing, &c.] It was a quill, a piece of a wing, that discovered that hellish plot. Wilful murder and treason will out by one means or other. Those two traitors sent by Mohammed to kill Scanderbeg, falling out between themselves, let fall something that brought all to light and themselves to punishment. (b) The like befell that gentleman of ormandy that confessed to a priest his intent to have killed King Francis. (c)

COKE, "Ecclesiastes 10:20. Curse not the king— Speak not evil of the king, though thou shouldest know reason for it; nay, speak not evil of the rich, not even in the recesses of thy bed-chamber; for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and a winged bird shall tell the matter. To the last instance, whereof the last proof consists, a very seasonable caution is here subjoined. Though, from the very considerations just touched upon, thinking people may often have reason to be dissatisfied with the government that they live under, yet they must not traduce either the king or other persons in high station; for that can never be done so secretly, but they may be SOO apprized of it, by means which the speakers least think of. Here an end might have been put to this discourse, as the sacred orator has gone through the three propositions wherewith he intended to support the main conclusion which he had in view; and nothing seemed to remain, but to draw that conclusion. But before he came to it, he thought proper to add four precepts, three of which have a particular retrospect to the forementioned propositions, and the last seems to be nothing else but a commendation of this useful work. See the next chapter.

REFLECTIO S.—1st, The purest white the soonest receives a soil; therefore,

1. They who have the reputation of wisdom, and make the higher professions of religion, should be the most exact and careful in their conduct, seeing that the eyes of men are upon them, ready to discern, and willing to expose, their smallest infirmities. As dead flies give the sweetest ointment into which they fall an ill favour, so doth a little folly, an inadvertent STEP, an unguarded word, or a sinful compliance, expose him to reproach that is in reputation for uniform and honour: the world will make no allowances for human infirmity, or the force of temptation; but, looking with envy on superior excellence, are happy to seize every shadow of abuse to degrade to their own LEVEL those who excel them, and to triumph that they are no better than themselves. May it make us, therefore, more circumspect in our words and works, when so many wait for our halting!

2. The wise are dexterous in the management of their affairs, their heart is at their right hand; in difficulties they have presence of mind to extricate themselves, and, in

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all their transactions, execute with vigour what they plan with prudence: but a fool's heart is at his left, he is awkward in his BUSI ESS, absurd in his contrivances, and, if put a step out of his way, confused and at a loss: nay, he has not sense enough to conceal his folly; it appears in his very gait, in his conversation, in all his transactions; and, whoever makes the most cursory remarks upon his conduct, must be convinced that he is a fool.

2nd, They who would learn to rule, or to obey, must hear these lessons of instruction.

1. Let subjects learn to SUBMIT. If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, whether through any real provocation given, or misrepresentation made by others, leave not thy place; quit not his service in passion, nor throw up thy EMPLOYME TS as being ill used, much less renounce allegiance and loyalty; but wait a while, and the storm will blow over, or an OPPORTU ITY be afforded to vindicate thy injured innocence; for yielding pacifieth great offences, and gives time for wrath to subside, which anger and opposition would but exasperate, and render more implacable.

2. Let rulers take heed whom they prefer to places of trust; and honour; for it is a great evil, yet a common ERROR through favour, recommendation, or partiality, without considering the qualifications of the persons, to put those in office who are most unfit to govern. Folly is set in great dignity, men who are weak and unable to discharge the duties of their station, or wicked and disposed to abuse their power and influence: and the rich, men of character and fortune, who were in a great measure removed by their circumstances from the temptation of doing a mean thing, or men of grace and piety, sit in low place, neglected and slighted. I have seen servants upon horses, those of a mercenary spirit and low extraction, exalted, as the tools of an iniquitous administration; and princes walking as servants upon the earth, degraded and insulted by these upstart minions of power.

3. Let both prince and people beware of innovations, and keep within their due bounds; lest, turning prerogative into tyranny, or liberty into licentiousness, the fatal consequences should (too late) be felt and lamented. For as he that diggeth a pit, is in danger of falling into it; he who breaks a hedge, of being stung by the viper which is concealed in it; he that removeth stones from a wall, of being crushed by its fall; and he that cleaveth wood, of being hurt by the chips which fly from the stroke; so where princes turn oppressive and tyrannical, break in upon the liberties of the people, seek to demolish the constitution, render the government arbitrary, and employ force to put their designs into execution; they provoke the people to rise up against them. As, on the other hand, when factious discontented spirits contrive to bring about a change in the government, would sow discord among the people under pretence of zeal for liberty, would retrench the just rights of the crown, and alter the constitution, they often by their treasonable practices make a halter for themselves, and lawless liberty terminates in abject slavery: wisdom is therefore profitable to direct, how both should behave in their stations; and hereby we save ourselves much trouble and damage; as when a tool is sharpened, it works easily;

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but, when blunt, requires more violence, and the chips fly more dangerously around.

3rdly, We have,

1. The evil of a babbling tongue. It is venomous as the poison of a serpent, it stings mortally, without enchantment, or without a whisper, or hiss, and gives no warning.

2. The opposition between the words of the foolish and the wise. The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, he gives the most favourable character of others; speaks well of those who are in authority over him; seeks some topic of conversation which may be useful, and minister grace to the hearers; none go from his company without an opportunity of being the wiser and better for it: but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself; giving a loose to his tongue, he speaks evil of dignities, involves himself in quarrels, and brings ruin upon himself. The BEGI I G of the words of his mouth is foolishness; he no sooner opens his lips, than his folly is manifest to all that hear him; and the end of his talk is mischievous madness: he talks himself into a passion, grows abusive and violent, and stops at no mischief. A fool also is full of words, never knows when to have done, and wearies the company with his nonsense; affects to understand every thing, and, though utterly ignorant, engrosses the discourse to himself; and with endless tautologies repeats his trite observations, or vain-gloriously boasts of what he will do, and what he expects hereafter, when even the wisest of men know not what a day may bring forth.

3. The works of the fool are as fruitless as his words. The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; they take the wrong way, and therefore cannot but labour in vain, because he knoweth not how to go to the city; he mistakes the path, though never so obvious, and is bewildered: and this is spiritually true of the infatuated sinner and the self-righteous, who say that they are on the road to the heavenly city, but know not Christ the way; and, therefore, every STEP they take only removes them farther from the gate of heaven.

4thly, The happiness or misery of a kingdom greatly depends on the character of its governors. A prince of a weak and childish spirit, unable to guide the reins, or debauched and luxurious, who devotes his time to the service of his lusts and pleasures, neglects public affairs, and consigns them to the management of those who are as weak or wicked as himself, is a curse to the land over which he presides. But blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, ennobled by the virtues of his royal progenitors, whom he imitates, as well as by the blood derived from them; and thy princes eat in due season for strength, and not for drunkenness, where the subordinate magistrates are wisely chosen of the most virtuous, temperate, and sober; whose CO TI UAL care is, how to discharge their office, and whom excess never disqualifies for business.

5thly, We have,

1. The great evil of sloth. By much slothfulness the building decayeth, no care being

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taken timely to REPAIR the breaches; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through, mouldering fast to ruin, and falling to the ground. Thus the state suffers under slothful magistrates, and by sloth the soul of the sinner receives irreparable damage.

2. The secret designs of treason will be detected. Curse not the king, however ill his conduct may be, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich, the inferior magistrates, even though oppressive, in thy bed-chamber—never, however secretly in thy family, or in the most PRIVATE club or association: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, their spies are ever within hearing, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter; swift the intelligence of these secret plots shall be conveyed, and the consequence be the destruction of the contrivers.


Ecclesiastes 10:16 Or king is a childNew International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.