|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
10:4-10 Solomon appears to caution men not to seek redress in a hasty manner, nor to yield to pride and revenge. Do not, in a passion, quit thy post of duty; wait awhile, and thou wilt find that yielding pacifies great offences. Men are not preferred according to their merit. And those are often most forward to offer help, who are least aware of the difficulties, or the consequences. The same remark is applied to the church, or the body of Christ, that all the members should have the same care one for another.
Verse 10. - 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 Ezekiel 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, Nowack, 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."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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, Ecclesiastes 9:16.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10. iron … blunt—in "cleaving wood" (Ec 10:9), answering to the "fool set in dignity" (Ec 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 counsellors, 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 (Ec 9:16, 18).
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