Ecclesiastes 10:10
Parallel Verses
New International Version
If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.

New Living Translation
Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That's the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.

English Standard Version
If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.

New American Standard Bible
If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.

King James Bible
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.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength; however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.

International Standard Version
If someone's ax is blunt—the edge isn't sharpened— then more strength will be needed. Putting wisdom to work will bring success.

NET Bible
If an iron axhead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge, he must exert a great deal of effort; so wisdom has the advantage of giving success.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
If an ax is blunt and the edge isn't sharpened, then one has to use more strength. But wisdom prepares the way for success.

Jubilee Bible 2000
If the iron is blunt, and he does not whet the edge, then he must put forth more strength, but the advantages of wisdom excel.

King James 2000 Bible
If the iron is blunt, and he does not sharpen the edge, then must he use more strength: but wisdom helps one to succeed.

American King James Version
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.

American Standard Version
If the iron be blunt, and one do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

Douay-Rheims Bible
If the iron be blunt, and be not as before, but be made blunt, with much labour it shall be sharpened: and after industry shall follow wisdom.

Darby Bible Translation
If the iron be blunt, and one do not whet the edge, then must he apply more strength; but wisdom is profitable to give success.

English Revised Version
If the iron be blunt, and one do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

Webster's Bible Translation
If the iron is blunt, and he doth not whet the edge, then must he use more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.

World English Bible
If the axe is blunt, and one doesn't sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but skill brings success.

Young's Literal Translation
If the iron hath been blunt, And he the face hath not sharpened, Then doth he increase strength, And wisdom is advantageous to make right.
Parallel Commentaries
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.

Pulpit Commentary

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).

Ecclesiastes 10:10 Additional Commentaries
Context
Wisdom and Folly
9He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. 10If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. 11If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.…
Cross References
Deuteronomy 32:41
when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Ecclesiastes 2:13
I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.

Ecclesiastes 10:9
Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.

Ecclesiastes 10:11
If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.
Treasury of Scripture

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.

wisdom

Ecclesiastes 10:15 The labor of the foolish wearies every one of them, because he knows …

Ecclesiastes 9:15-17 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered …

Genesis 41:33-39 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set …

Exodus 18:19-23 Listen now to my voice, I will give you counsel, and God shall be …

1 Kings 8:9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which …

1 Chronicles 12:32 And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding …

2 Chronicles 23:4-11 This is the thing that you shall do; A third part of you entering …

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you …

Acts 6:1-9 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, …

Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation …

Romans 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad to all men. I am glad therefore …

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, be not children in understanding: however, in malice be …

Ephesians 5:15-17 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise…

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all …

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