Ecclesiastes 7:7–14 (BHS/WHM 4.2)
7כִּ֥י הָעֹ֖שֶׁק יְהוֹלֵ֣ל חָכָ֑ם וִֽיאַבֵּ֥ד אֶת־לֵ֖ב מַתָּנָֽה׃8ט֛וֹב אַחֲרִ֥ית דָּבָ֖ר מֵֽרֵאשִׁית֑וֹ ט֥וֹב אֶֽרֶךְ־ר֖וּחַ מִגְּבַהּ־רֽוּחַ׃9אַל־תְּבַהֵ֥ל בְּרֽוּחֲךָ֖ לִכְע֑וֹס כִּ֣י כַ֔עַס בְּחֵ֥יק כְּסִילִ֖ים יָנֽוּחַ׃10אַל־תֹּאמַר֙ מֶ֣ה הָיָ֔ה שֶׁ֤הַיָּמִים֙ הָרִ֣אשֹׁנִ֔ים הָי֥וּ טוֹבִ֖ים מֵאֵ֑לֶּה כִּ֛י לֹ֥א מֵחָכְמָ֖ה שָׁאַ֥לְתָּ עַל־זֶֽה׃11טוֹבָ֥ה חָכְמָ֖ה עִֽם־נַחֲלָ֑ה וְיֹתֵ֖ר לְרֹאֵ֥י הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃12כִּ֛י בְּצֵ֥ל הַֽחָכְמָ֖ה בְּצֵ֣ל הַכָּ֑סֶף וְיִתְר֣וֹן דַּ֔עַת הַֽחָכְמָ֖ה תְּחַיֶּ֥ה בְעָלֶֽיהָ׃13רְאֵ֖ה אֶת־מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לְתַקֵּ֔ן אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עִוְּתֽוֹ׃14בְּי֤וֹם טוֹבָה֙ הֱיֵ֣ה בְט֔וֹב וּבְי֥וֹם רָעָ֖ה רְאֵ֑ה גַּ֣ם אֶת־זֶ֤ה לְעֻמַּת־זֶה֙ עָשָׂ֣ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים עַל־דִּבְרַ֗ת שֶׁלֹּ֨א יִמְצָ֧א הָֽאָדָ֛ם אַחֲרָ֖יו מְאֽוּמָה׃
One great source of unhappiness in the world, a copious and perennial spring of bitter waters, is discontent,—dissatisfaction with the situation, as to time, place, and circumstances, in which Divine providence has placed us.
Ralph Wardlaw, Lectures on the Book of Ecclesiastes, Volume 1 (London; Glasgow: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown; Wardlaw and Cunninghame, 1821), 344.
This entire section seems to tie together by examining one’s response to the brokenness of the world in light of the sovereignty of God. In effect, Qoheleth turns the argument from harm on its head. While the skeptic argues how can God permit evil? Qoheleth presumes harm because we are on this side of the Fall – which brought on death. We are always unhappy where God has placed us, because God has placed us on this side of the Fall.
The overarching move of the book is to force out of any false comfort, any belief that the creature can make us happy or that death can be avoided. Thus, having told us to solemnly acknowledge our status, Qoheleth next rules out any complaint or avoidance of the implications. We may and should enjoy kindness which God has provided to alleviate our sorrow; but, we must not think God can be avoided. We must humbly receive what he has given:
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6–10 (ESV)
7כִּ֥י הָעֹ֖שֶׁק יְהוֹלֵ֣ל חָכָ֑ם וִֽיאַבֵּ֥ד אֶת־לֵ֖ב מַתָּנָֽה׃
For oppression/brutality/extortion makes foolish a wise man,
And it destroys his heart, a gift/bribe.
134. כִּי Surely (Eng. Vers.), or But (M. Stuart). הָעשֶׁק, see 5:7: Gesenius and Lee say it is here put by meton. for unjust gain, conf. Levit. 5:23; Ps. 62:11: the Eng. Vers. oppression may mean either that practised by the wise man, or of which he is the object, and sees others to suffer. יְהוֹלֵל makes foolish, or mad,a Poel Imperf. (§ 55, Rem. 1), conf. 1:17, LXX., περιφέρει. Desvœux and Holden render it, “gives lustre to,” and suppose allusion to be made to the beneficial effects of affliction when rightly borne, and that these are contrasted in the next clause with the injurious effect of prosperity, the gift of fortune: but rather the term refers here to the injurious effect of power on a wise man, who is tempted to its abuse;b see, e.g., the contrast between the character of Tiberius before, and after, his accession to power, Tacit. Annal. vi. 51. וִיאַבֵּד contrac. for וִיְאַבֵּד conf. ver. 3, Piel Imperf. “destroys,” i.e., corrupts (Gesen. Lex.), lit., causes to go astray, from אָבַד to be lost, to wander, 3:6; though mas. it has here a fem. subj., as is often the case when the verb precedes (§ 147, a). מַתָּנָה a gift, here a bribe, i.q., שֹׁחַד, Ex. 23:8. M. Stuart remarks that in Arabic Hakem (= חָכָם) means magistrate, and that not improbably it does so in this passage, for it is the corruption of a judge to which the gift (bribery) refers. Bribery was expressly forbidden by the Mosaic Law, Ex. 23:8; Deut. 16:19.c
J. Lloyd, An Analysis of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Reference to the Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius, and With Notes Critical and Explanatory (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1874), 89.
This is an interesting but confusing proverb – how does abusing a wiseman make him foolish? Fredricks writes:
I surmise that the wise is not the victim here but instead is the one guilty of extortion. Even the wise can sin (7:20) and stoop to intimidating another person physically, emotionally, legally or even ecclesiastically. This could include requesting or implying that a bribe be made by another to receive a favorable action, as well as offering a bribe oneself to derail someone else from justice. But the result is the shattered heart of the wise person whose conscience is still not calloused enough to remain unaffected by the abuse of any leverage.
Fredricks, Ecclesiastes, 169. The mere act of sin has a destructive effect upon the one who engages in it – this makes much more sense both theologically and psychologically. Similarly:
The reason is here assigned why the happiness of fools is so short. They work their own ruin. Sin deprives them of their understanding, and when that has vanished destruction cannot be far off. First the mens sana is lost, and then follows ruin. First the soul dies out, and afterwards the body is cast on the flaying ground. Parallel is Proverbs 15:27, “he that is greedy of gain destroyeth his own house, and he that hateth gifts shall live.” For oppression maketh the wise man mad. עשק, “oppression,” as exercised by the Persian tyrants (Psalm 62:10). Oppression befools, makes mad: every tyranny has a demoralizing influence on him who wields it; it deadens all higher intelligence, and takes away consequently the preservative against destruction. “The wise man” here is not one who is still such, but who ought to be, and might be, and has in part been such. “The wise man”—so might the Persian still be designated at the time of Cyrus. And a gift destroyeth the heart. Under oriental tyrannies everything was to be had for presents. According to the parallel, “befools, makes mad,” the heart is brought under consideration as the seat of the understanding: compare Jeremiah 4:9, “and it shall come to pass at that day that the heart of the king shall perish and the heart of the princes,” that is, they shall lose their prudence, their power of reflection.
E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, trans. D. W. Simon (Philadelphia; New York; Boston: Smith, English, & Co.; Sheldon and Company; Gould and Lincoln, 1860), 164-65.
Favors and gifts blind the eyes of the wise; like a muzzle on the mouth they stop reproofs. Sirach 20:29 (NRSV)
Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live. Prov 15:27
A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers. Prov 17:8
The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice. Prov 17:23
A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath. Prov 21:14
15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, 16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. Isaiah 33:15–16 (ESV)
And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Exodus 23:8 (ESV)
But the evil falls back upon the oppressor himself. One selfish principle naturally begets another. The act of oppression is often traced to the gift tendered as the price of the oppression—destroying his heart—blotting out every principle of moral integrity, rendering him callous to suffering, and deaf to the claims of justice. (Prov. 17:23.) Good reason was there for the Mosaic veto, restraining the influence of gifts. (Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19.) There is indeed peril on both sides. Tyranny forces to irrational conduct; bribery to lack of feeling. The standard of the Bible is the only security. “He that ruleth over men must be just—ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Sam. 23:3.) When the Bible is reverenced as the Book of God—the sole rule of faith and practice, “a man’s wisdom will make his face to shine” (Chap. 8:1); and godliness will enrich the land with the precious fruit of “whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.” (Philip. 4:8.)
Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 182.
IT is evident, that what is said, in the first of these verses, of the tendency of oppression to “make a wise man mad,” may be understood either of the suffering or of the exercise of oppression.—The former, it is needless to prove, serves to fret, and harass, and exasperate the spirit; so that there are not wanting instances, in which men, even eminent in reputation for wisdom, have, by its long continuance, by their being the constant victims of injustice, privation, insult, and violence, been worked up to a pitch of absolute phrenzy; have given way, after long and difficult restraint, to the burst of ungovernable indignation, and have acted the part of madness, rather than of considerate sobriety.—Moses, describing the unrighteous oppression which, amongst other curses, should befall the Israelites under the Divine visitation for their sins, concludes in these words:—“Thy sons and thy daughters (shall be) given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look and fail for them all the day long; and (there shall be) no might in thy hand. The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway: so that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.”*
I am disposed, however, to understand the expression in the passage before us, as relating to the oppressor, rather than to the oppressed. The possession of power carries in it a strong temptation to its abuse; a temptation before which even men who had borne a previous character for wisdom, have not seldom fallen. And when a man, even a wise man, exalted to power, once gives way before the tempting inducements to its corrupt employment, the very exercise of oppression tends to infatuate and bewilder him. It blinds his judgment, it perverts his principles, it hardens his heart, it changes his character. A contention arises in his bosom between the love of power, with the profit of its abuse, on the one hand, and the remonstrances and upbraidings of conscience, on the other. The reluctance too, so mighty in human nature, to own an error, produces a passionate impatience of reproof and counsel, which is proportionally the more vehement, as he is inwardly sensible he is wrong. This state of mind drives him forward to measures of new violence; the very opposition of conscience, reacting, as an irritating stimulus, in the contrary direction, the anger at its torturing remonstrances producing a desperate effort to silence and to banish them; as when a man, to show his indignant scorn of rebuke, repeats his fault more offensively than before. One step leads on to another; till his conduct, losing all the characteristics of wisdom, becomes like that of a man bereft of reason, and swayed by the derangement of passion.
One of the reasons for preferring this interpretation of the former part of the verse, is its affording so clear a connection with the latter:—“and a gift destroyeth the heart.”—“A gift” is a bribe to oppression. The taking of gifts was prohibited by the law of Moses, on account of the same corrupting tendency that is here ascribed to them. The man, indeed, who consents to receive a gift, known to be bestowed with such an intention, is already corrupted. “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment: thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”*—“A gift destroyeth the heart.” It operates as a temptation. It undermines the principles of impartial equity, and deadens the feelings of humanity and mercy. It perverts the moral sentiments, and leads to the wo denounced on the man who “calls evil good, and good evil, who puts darkness for light, and light for darkness.”
Ralph Wardlaw, Lectures on the Book of Ecclesiastes, Volume 1 (London; Glasgow: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown; Wardlaw and Cunninghame, 1821), 335-38.
ט֛וֹב אַחֲרִ֥ית דָּבָ֖ר מֵֽרֵאשִׁית֑וֹ
Better is the end of a thing, than its beginning
The construction is a standard better than construction (tob +mem + noun).
Interestingly, the words “end” and “beginning” are both plural, which the word “thing” (dabar, word, thing, matter) & the personal pronoun “its” are singular. Seow writes that it is possible that the original reading was a plural “matters” (the m which would mark matters as plural was dropped by the proximity to m which begins the next word). However, he rejects that possibility on two grounds: (1) the pronominal suffix at the end of “beginning” is singular (its); and (2) the LXX also has a singular pronoun, autou. Since the possessive pronoun refers back to “thing/matter”, the noun must have been singular also.
Dabar, thing may mean “word”. The LXX has logos (word) at the translation. Lloyd
135. This verse is connected with the foregoing, and recommends to wait patiently, and see how oppression turns out in the end, rather than haughtily to resent it. דָּבָר a business, or a thing (Eng. Vers.), i.e., the oppression just spoken of. This rendering suits the context better than the λόγων of the LXX., orationis, Vulg., which Le Clerc, Grotius, and Gousset explain of strife and contention. As a general truth the saying is applicable to every affliction which is sanctified to us; see Heb. 12:11; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7, and conf. Job 1. with Job 42:12.
J. Lloyd, An Analysis of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Reference to the Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius, and With Notes Critical and Explanatory (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1874), 90. Similarly, Stuart:
What he means is, that the end of this matter of oppressing will show at last the true state of the thing; and that it is better to wait—to exercise forbearance of mind, than haughtily to resent the injuries received. We might expect קֹצְררוּחַ, hastiness of spirit, in contrast with אֶרֶךְרוּחַ. But haughtiness is the passion which most and quickest of all resents oppression, being very sensitive to indignity. The caution is, not to move too hastily in such a matter, but to wait, and see how it will turn out in the sequel.
Moses Stuart, A Commentary on Ecclesiastes (New York: George P. Putnam, 1851), 211.
ט֥וֹב אֶֽרֶךְ־ר֖וּחַ מִגְּבַהּ־רֽוּחַ׃
Better is (one) long in spirit than one high (proud) of spirit.
Long of spirit is an idiom which means patient. Compare Exodus 9:6, “shortness of spirit” means impatience. Longmen suggests, “Better long patience than soaring pride” (187).
Discussing the connection the two halves of the verse, Longmen writes, “R.N. Whybray has suggested a plausible connection between the two parts of the verse: ‘self-control is needed to carry though any project.’ I would go on tot add that on one can know the outcome of anything until it is completed, patience not pride is called for, the latter presuming to control the future or outcome. Crenshaw quoted the proverb in 2 Kings 20:11: ‘Let not the person putting on armor brag like the one taking it off.”” (188).
To wait calmly for the result of an action, not to be hasty in arraigning Providence, is the part of a patient man; while the proud, inflated, conceited man, who thinks all must be arranged according to his notions, is never resigned or content, but rebels against the ordained course of events. “In your patience ye shall win your souls,” said Christ (Luke 21:19);
Ecclesiastes, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 158.
1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. 3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. 4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Proverbs 16:1–4 (ESV)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6–7 (ESV)
אַל־תְּבַהֵ֥ל בְּרֽוּחֲךָ֖ לִכְע֑וֹס
Do not be quick/terrified in your spirit to be vexed
כִּ֣י כַ֔עַס בְּחֵ֥יק כְּסִילִ֖ים יָנֽוּחַ׃
For vexation in the fold of fools it rests/settles down.
On the subject of anger St. Gregory writes, “As often as we restrain the turbulent motions of the mind under the virtue of mildness, we are essaying to return to the likeness of our Creator. For when the peace of mind is lashed with anger, torn and rent, as it were, it is thrown into confusion, so that it is not in harmony with itself, and loses the force of the inward likeness. By anger wisdom is parted with, so that we are left wholly in ignorance what to do; as it is written, ‘Anger resteth in the bosom of a fool,’ in this way, that it withdraws the light of understanding, while by agitating it troubles the mind” (‘Moral.,’ v. 78).
Ecclesiastes, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 158.
As noted in the previous section’s notes, כַ֔עַס denotes the response to foolishness or vexation. The fool responds too quickly, too easily:
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (ESV)
These two (vs. 8-9) ‘better than’ phrase interpret each other and imply that if one patiently waits until the end of certain matters, withholding judgment, one’s patience will prove wiser than jumping to self-centered conclusions at the start. Thus the verse supports the earlier contention that there is a season for everything ….. (170).
Ver. 9. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry. The anger or wrath is to be conceived as directed against God and the evil doers favoured by Him, that is, in this present case, against the heathen; compare Psalm 37:1, 2, 8. For anger resteth in the bosom of fools, who only look at the present and at once fall into error with regard to God and his providence if things go otherwise than in their view they ought to do. It is folly to fix the attention only on that which lies directly before our eyes, to speak wisdom in presence of the good fortune of the wicked: “as grass shall they be cut down, and as the green herb shall they wither,” and, “evil doers shall be rooted out, but they that wait on the Lord shall possess the land.” If we only do not make haste to be angry, the Lord will in his own good time remove all occasions to wrath out of the way. As the Berleburger Bible says: “blessed, on the contrary, is he who in all the events of life maintains a calm patience, equips himself with a spirit of humble submissiveness and magnanimous contentment, accommodates himself to good and evil times alike, and ever derives strength and quickening from the petition,—“thy will be done.”
E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on Ecclesiastes, trans. D. W. Simon (Philadelphia; New York; Boston: Smith, English, & Co.; Sheldon and Company; Gould and Lincoln, 1860), 166.
אַל־תֹּאמַר֙ מֶ֣ה הָיָ֔ה שֶׁ֤הַיָּמִים֙ הָרִ֣אשֹׁנִ֔ים הָי֥וּ טוֹבִ֖ים מֵאֵ֑לֶּה
Do not say why were the days, the first ones, they were best (better than) these
כִּ֛י לֹ֥א מֵחָכְמָ֖ה שָׁאַ֥לְתָּ עַל־זֶֽה׃
For (it is) not from wisdom that you ask unto this.
שָׁאַלְתָּ has here a subjunctive signification, thou wouldst not ask, as is evident from the context, which alone must decide it, since the indicative form of the verb is used to express the different moods. The construction of שָׁאַל with עַל־ only occurs once more in later Hebrew (Nehem. 1:2), in the earlier stages of the language it is construed with לְ (Gen. 43:7). זֶה, these, refers to הַיָּמִיםהָרִאשֹׁנִים, as is evident from the preposition עַל, concerning, after. The paraphrastic rendering of the Vulgate, (STULTA ENIM EST HUJUSCEMODI INTERROGATION), which is followed by Luther (denn du fragst solches nicht weislich), Coverdale and the Bishops’ Bible (“for that were no wise question”), the Geneva Version and the Authorised Version (“for thou doest not enquire wisely of this thing or concerning this”), and most commentators, refers שָׁאַלְתָּעַל־זֶה to the question מֶההָיָח, and thereby confounds it with שָׁאַלְתָּ־זֶה.
Christian D. Ginsburg, Coheleth, Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes: Translated from the Original Hebrew, With a Commentary, Historical and Critical (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 375.
The same impatience leads a man to disparage the present in comparison with a past age.
Ecclesiastes, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 158.
“With verbs of speaking and looking, min often means ‘out of’” (Seow, 239).
11טוֹבָ֥ה חָכְמָ֖ה עִֽם־נַחֲלָ֑ה וְיֹתֵ֖ר לְרֹאֵ֥י הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃
Good is wisdom with an inheritance, and an advantage to those who see the sun.
The difficulty here is the word ‘im’ which may mean either “with” or “as” (Wisdom is as good as an inheritance). The “im” is translated “as” in Ecclesiastes 2:16 (For of the wise as of the fool). Seow cites Job 9:26 & 1 Chronicles 25:8 as examples of ki/im parallel mean like/the same as. The ESV/NASB95/KJV take the ‘im’ as “with”. The NIV/NRSV/NET take is as a comparative.
Verse 11a should be translated, “Wisdom, with an inheritance, is good.”165 Even the wise prefer prosperity to poverty. Those who possess both money and wisdom are under the protection of both.166 The superiority of wisdom, however, is that it guides one through difficult times and thus preserves life. Money, to the contrary, often vanishes in hard times.
Duane A. Garrett, vol. 14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 321.
12כִּ֛י בְּצֵ֥ל הַֽחָכְמָ֖ה בְּצֵ֣ל הַכָּ֑סֶף
For in a shade/shadow of wisdom, in a shade/shadow of silver
Gordis suggests reading the בּ as כִּ “the protection of wisdom is like the protection of silver” (Gordis, 274); or as wisdom & wealth are a “double” protection (ibid).
literally, in the shade is wisdom, in the shade is money; Septuagint, Ὅτι ἐν σκιᾷ αὐτῆς ἡ σοφία ὡς σκιὰ ἀργυρίου, “For in its shadow wisdom is as the shadow of money.” Symmachus has, Σκέπει σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, “Wisdom shelters as money shelters.” The Vulgate explains the obscure text by paraphrasing, Sicut enim protegit sapientia, sic protegit pecunia. Shadow, in Oriental phrase, is equivalent to protection (see Numb. 14:9; Ps. 17:8; Lam. 4:20). Wisdom as well as money is a shield and defence to men. As it is said in one passage (Prov. 13:8) that riches are the ransom of a man’s life, so in another (Ch. 9:15) we are told how wisdom delivered a city from destruction. The literal translation given above implies that he who has wisdom and he who has money rest under a safe protection, are secure from material evil. In this respect they are alike, and have analogous claims to man’s regard. But the excellency—profit, or advantage—of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. “Knowledge” (daath) and “wisdom” (chokmah) are practically here identical, the terms being varied for the sake of poetic parallelism.
Ecclesiastes, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 159.
Fredricks takes the beths as “beth essentia” and translate the line, “wisdom is a shadow – money is a shadow.” Similarly Lloyd:
The sentence is regarded as proverbial, and is expressed, like most proverbs, briefly. Others, as Hitzig and M. Stuart, consider בְּ before צֵל to be בְּ essentiœ, or pleonastic, and not translateable, which serves to introduce the predicate, see Gesen. Lex. (D) p. 99, and Gram. § 154, 3, 2nd par. γ, conf. ver. 14; thus Symm., σκέπει σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, so the Syr. and Luther; Vulg., “sicut enim protegit sapientia, sic protegit pecunia;” Eng. Vers., “For wisdom (is) a defence, (and) money (is) a defence.”
J. Lloyd, An Analysis of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Reference to the Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius, and With Notes Critical and Explanatory (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1874), 92. Ginsburg rejects that reading:
Symmachus (σκέπεἷ σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, wisdom protects just as money protects), and the Vulgate (SICUT ENIM PROTEGIT SAPIENTIA, SIC PROTEGIT PECUNIA), who are followed by Luther (benn die Weisheit befchirmet, fo befchirmet Geld auch), Coverdale and the Bishops’ Bible (“for wisdom defendeth as well as money”), and the Authorised Version (“for wisdom is a defence and money is a defence”), ignoring the בְּ, have made some modern commentators to to regard it here as the so-called בְּ essentiæ. But this, to say the least, is an unnecessary deviation from the natural signification of this preposition, and necessitates us to supply the בְּ comparison. The explanation of Rashi (כלמישישנובצלהחכמהישנובצלהכסףשהחכמהגורמתלעשרשיבא, whoso is under the protection of wisdom is under the protection of money, because it is wisdom that brings riches), and Ibn Ezra (אזיהיההחכםחוסהבצלהחכמהובצלהכסף, then—i.e., when he has riches with wisdom, according to Ibn Ezra’s view of the preceding verse—will the wise man be protected both by the shelter of wisdom and the shelter of money), are as far-fetched as they are at variance with the scope of the passage. וְיִתְרוֹןדַּעַת, and, moreover, an advantage of wisdom is, takes up וְיוֹתֵר of the preceding verse, and hence shews that the latter is a noun, and that דּעַת is the same as חָכְמָה, wisdom, of which וְיוֹתֵר, and there is an advantage, is the predicate. The Septuagint’s rendering of וְיִתְרוֹןדַּעַתהַחָכְמָהוְנוֹ״ by καὶ περίσσεια γνώσεως τὴς σοφίας, and the advantage of the knowledge of wisdom, &c, which is that of the Chaldee וּמוֹתַרמַנְדְּעָאחוּמְתָאדְאוֹרַיְיתָא, taking דַּעַת as the construct with חָכְמָה, is contrary to the accents, and, if admitted, would yield the same sense which we have given to the passage.
Christian D. Ginsburg, Coheleth, Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes: Translated from the Original Hebrew, With a Commentary, Historical and Critical (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 376-77.
וְיִתְר֣וֹן דַּ֔עַת הַֽחָכְמָ֖ה תְּחַיֶּ֥ה בְעָלֶֽיהָ׃
And a profit/advantage (is) knowledge; wisdom preserves the owner/master of it.
The noun is plural. Longmen writes, “Here, the plural is honorific” (181).
Wisdom giveth life to them that have it; lit., “it animates him” (תְּחַיֶה). חִיָה is not “to keep in life” (HITZIG), but “to grant life,” i.e., to bestow a genuine happy life. Comp. Job 36:6; Ps. 16:11; 38:9; Prov. 3:18; especially the last passage, which may be quoted as most decisive for our meaning. HENGSTENBERG lays too much stress on תְּחַיֶה in claiming for it the sense of reanimating, of the resurrection of that which was spiritually dead (according to Hosea 6:2; Luke 15:32, etc.); and KNOBEL too little, when he declares: “wisdom affords a calm and contented spirit.”
John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, Otto Zöckler et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Ecclesiastes (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 107.
Preserves the life of him who has it is in Hebrew “it gives life to the one who masters it.” The causative form of the Hebrew verb for “live” describes giving life to something, bringing it to life; it is a dynamic action whereby life is given, restored, or “preserved.” Thus TEV “keeps you safe” seems rather weak by comparison. The translation can be “gives life,” “makes alive,” or possibly (as FRCL) “prolongs the life.” The person who is revived or given life is expressed as him who has it, literally “its masters” or “those who master it.” The Hebrew term denotes mastery or lordship and has been used in this manner in 5:11, 13 (“owner”).
Graham S. Ogden and Lynell Zogbo, A Handbook on Ecclesiastes, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1998), 239.
13רְאֵ֖ה אֶת־מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים
Look unto the works of God
It is not the work of creation, but the work of Providence which we are commanded to consider. God is over all; we can not, by our wishes and strivings, alter the course of things which be ordains. The man who is under the influence of this doctrine of religion has a better protection against disappointment and misery, than if he had an inheritance alone, or had to contend with the ills of life, by the aid which can be derived from a cold and speculative philosophy.
James M. MacDonald, The Book of Ecclesiastes Explained (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1856), 347.
כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לְתַקֵּ֔ן אֵ֖ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר עִוְּתֽוֹ
For who is able to make straight that which he bent.
13. If the depravity of the times be so great, and injuries and corruptions so prevalent, that neither wealth nor wisdom can prove a defence against them; we are here directed to another act of wisdom, to look above the creatures, and all second causes, to the righteous hand and irresistible providence of God in them all; and where wisdom cannot improve our condition, nor render the times, or our neighbours, or our own affairs, so perfect as we could wish them, let us endeavour to manifest contentment, silence, and a humble acquiescence in the good pleasure of the Lord. There are many things which no human wisdom can rectify. In a public famine or pestilence, no ability of man can purge the air, or open the windows of heaven to supply us. In a shipwreck no wisdom of man can rebuke the winds and seas, and command a calm. But in all such cases wisdom must teach us to submit to God, and to wait upon him.—“See,” i. e. diligently view and take notice in the course of the world of God’s overruling providence. The Scripture commonly uses words applicable to the external senses to express the inward actions of the soul, ch. 2:24. and 3:10.—“The work of God;” namely, his righteous government of the world: when thou art apt to complain of the times, and the oppressions of the wicked, then remember, that how crooked soever things may appear, God orders and appoints all events; and it is vain to suppose thou canst rectify every evil of which thou art tempted to complain: for the divine decrees are unalterable, like mountains of brass, which cannot be moved, Zech. 6:1; ch. 1:15; therefore in patience possess thy soul.—“For who can make that straight which he hath made crooked?” This shews the unalterableness of God’s order, in which by his providence be has placed all things. It may be understood, first, in reference to the course of nature. Be not angry nor fretful against the Almighty in unreasonableness of winds or weather, in losses by sea or land, in sickness, infirmities, or deformities, which he suffers to befal thee or thy relatives; nor murmur at the unsuccessfulness of any means, or weakness of any endeavours, thou mayest adopt to rectify these casualties. This was the sin of Israel in the wilderness, Exod. 17:2, 3; Numb. 11:4, 5, 6; 2 Kings 6:33; Jon. 4:8, 9. Secondly, as to civil policy and the management of human societies. If thou seest great concussions of states, depopulation of countries, translation of kingdoms, plucking down, and rooting up, the sword devouring as it pleaseth; neither wonder nor murmur, but seriously consider, that an overruling providence regulates all these changes, which calls for silence and contentment under his administrations, Job 9:5–13. and 12:14–24; Ps. 75:6, 7; Isai. 2:10–19; Dan. 2:11; Jer. 18:6, 10. and 47:6, 7; Ezek. 14:17. Thirdly, in relation to the sins and miscarriages of mankind. When thou seest men incorrigible in wickedness, and so perverse that no means will reclaim or reform them, consider the work of God’s most righteous judgment in hardening whom he will; and remember, that God is so holy, that he would not suffer sin to prevail, if he were not also equally wise and powerful to order it so as to secure his own glory: hence no wickedness shall proceed further than to execute his predeterminate counsel; and the remainder of it he will restrain, Rom. 9:18; 1 Sam. 2:25; Gen. 50:20; Exod. 7:3, 4; 2 Thes. 2:11, 12; Acts 4:28; Rom. 11:8; Ps. 76:10.
Edward Reynolds, A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes, ed. Daniel Washbourn (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1811), 223-25.
Another reason for obeying the injunction given in verse 10. Complaining is vain; God has ordained it so, and, however crooked it may appear to us, no man can rectify it. רְאֵה, see, consider, bear in mind, remember. The expression moreover, which is often omitted in Hebrew, must be supplied in the translation, מַעֲשֶׂה, work, i.e., of providence, appointment, ordaining; so also לְתַקֵּן, to rectify, and עִוֵּת, to make crooked, are used in a spiritual sense. The interrogative, in which the last clause is expressed, is tantamount to an emphatic denial, i.e., no one can, &c. (vide supra, 1:3). For the pleonastic suffix in עִוְּתוֹ, see 2:12. The Septuagint’s rendering of כִּימִייוּכַללְתַקֵּןאֵתאֲשֶׁרעִוְּתוֹ by ὅτι τίς δυνήσεται τοῦ κοσμῆσαι ὅν ἄν ὁ φεὸς διαστρέψη αὐτόν; for who is able to make him straight, if God has distorted him? which is followed by the Vulgate, QUOD NEMO POSSIT CORRIGERE, QUEM ILLE DESPEXERIT, that no man can correct him whom He has despised, has evidently originated from the traditional explanation,
Christian D. Ginsburg, Coheleth, Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes: Translated from the Original Hebrew, With a Commentary, Historical and Critical (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 377.
4בְּי֤וֹם טוֹבָה֙ הֱיֵ֣ה בְט֔וֹב וּבְי֥וֹם רָעָ֖ה רְאֵ֑ה
In the good day let it be in good, but in an evil day see/consider
גַּ֣ם אֶת־זֶ֤ה לְעֻמַּת־זֶה֙ עָשָׂ֣ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים
Also this, corresponding to that God made
עַל־דִּבְרַ֗ת שֶׁלֹּ֨א יִמְצָ֧א הָֽאָדָ֛ם אַחֲרָ֖יו מְאֽוּמָה
On/onto the word/matter this not to search/find the Adam after him from something/nothing.
For לְעֻמַּת, in connection with, like, see 5:15, and for עַלדִּבְרַת giving the motive or occasion of the action, see 3:18.
Christian D. Ginsburg, Coheleth, Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes: Translated from the Original Hebrew, With a Commentary, Historical and Critical (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861), 378. Thus, the thing not to search out is the dbrth.
With the sentiment conf. 8:15; 9:7–9, and mark the reason given, Deut. 28:47, for the curses which should come upon Israel, “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things.” The next clause is rendered by the Arab. Vers. “look upon the day of adversity,” i.e., keep it in view, be prepared for it; malam diem prœcave, Vulg.; but this rendering does not preserve the evident sameness of construction between בְּיוֹםטוֹבָה and בְּיוֹםרָעָה, hence rightly the Eng. Vers., “in the day of adversity consider.” What we should consider is, that affliction comes from God, and therefore calls for submission (Micah 6:9), that it is sent for our good, to show us the vanity of the world, to bring us to repentance for sin, and to earnest preparation for a better life. “Let no man flatter himself that any thing external will make him wise or virtuous, without his taking pains to learn wisdom or virtue from it.” (Archbp. Whately’s Notes on Essay V. of Lord Bacon, p. 59.) Observe the paronomasia or alliteration between טוֹבָה and טוֹב; רָעָה and רְאֵה. לְעֻמַּת over against, Eng. Vers., or equally with, even as, Gesen. Lex., see עֻמַּת, 5:15. עָשָׂה hath ordered, or hath arranged. עַל־דִּבִרַתשֶ to the end that, Gesen. Lex., conf. 3:18. אַחֲרָיו after him; if the suff. is used as a reflex pron. (§ 124, 1, b), referring to הָאָדָם, as in 3:22, 6:12, the meaning is that God has so ordered the vicissitudes of good and evil that man may never find out what shall be after himself, i.e., be able to foresee with certainty the future; but if the suff. refers to Elohim, that man may not after God find out any thing, i.e., any thing wiser or more suitable than the arrangements of God’s Providence, nor be able to follow in God’s track, and trace His footsteps, God’s ways being inscrutable, conf. 8:17; Rom. 11:33.
J. Lloyd, An Analysis of the Book of Ecclesiastes: With Reference to the Hebrew Grammar of Gesenius, and With Notes Critical and Explanatory (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1874), 93-94.
Doct. Whatsoever the estate of times be, it is our part to consider the work of God as so disposing the times, and in setting good and evil times one against another; and accordingly in good times to be in goodness, and in ill times to look at God’s hand as only able to amend therein. As who should say, Look not at the creature as the chief agent in the estate of the times, but consider his hand in all estates, and make use of them, as his hand leadeth unto, Job 1:21.
1 It is God’s work, first, To send. 1. Good times, 2 Chron. 2:11; 2. Evil times, Prov. 28:2. Secondly, To set good and evil times in a vicissitude or interchange, one contrary over against another, Jer. 18:7, 9. In good times, first, God maketh men’s, or at least some chief men’s, hearts and ways right before him, 1 Sam. 13:14; secondly, God giveth them a right course, and good success in their proceedings, Jer. 22:15, 16; 2 Chron. 17:3–5. In evil times, first, God giveth men up to the crookedness of their own hearts and ways, Ps. 125:5, and 81:11, 12; 2 Chron. 28:1; secondly, God sendeth them cross and crooked issues of their ways, 2 Chron. 28:1–6, 16–20; Jer. 22:17–19; Ps. 18:26.
2. God setteth these good and evil times interchangeably one against another. Saul’s times were, bad; the times of David and Solomon good. Reho—boam and Abijam bad; Asa and Jehoshaphat good.Joram and Joash bad; Uzziah and Jotham good. Ahaz bad; Hezekiah good. Manasseh and Amonbad; Josias good; his successors, to the captivity bad, after the captivity good.
Reason 1. From God’s people’s abuse of prosperity into self—confidence. Ps. 30:6, 7, and luxury, Deut. 32:15; hence followeth calamity and adversity.
Reason 2. From the humiliation and reformation of God’s people in adversity. Hosea 5:15, with 6:1, 2.
Reason 3. To the end we should find nothing after God. as in the text—to wit, first. No stability in the creature, but unsettled vicissitudes; secondly, No fault in God and his administrations. So the phrase and word is taken, John 14:30 Job 31:7.
John Cotton, A Brief Exposition With Practical Observations Upon the Whole Book of Ecclesiastes, Nichol’s Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet & Co.; G. Herbert, 1868), 67-68.
God has set prosperity and adversity over against each other in men’s history. Why? “To the end that man should find (find out) nothing after him.” The meanings somewhat obscure at the first glance. But the sentiment corresponds with 9:1, where it says, “No man knoweth either love or hatred (whether God loves or hates him) by all that is before them.” God’s outward dealings furnish no clue as to God’s love to us. They are various, that we may not know what is to be our future lot. “Man can find out nothing after him;” i. e., no satisfactory explanation after all his inquiries, if this life is man’s entire existence. And the next verse corroborates this view.
Loyal Young, A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1865), 168.