Ecclesiastes 10:11
Parallel Verses
New International Version
If a snake bites before it is charmed, the charmer receives no fee.

New Living Translation
If a snake bites before you charm it, what's the use of being a snake charmer?

English Standard Version
If the serpent bites before it is charmed, there is no advantage to the charmer.

New American Standard Bible
If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer.

King James Bible
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
If the snake bites before it is charmed, then there is no advantage for the charmer.

International Standard Version
If a serpent strikes despite being charmed, there's no point in being a snake charmer.

NET Bible
If the snake should bite before it is charmed, the snake charmer is in trouble.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
If a snake bites before it has been charmed, then there is no advantage in being a snake charmer.

Jubilee Bible 2000
If the serpent bites without being enchanted, then the babbler is no more.

King James 2000 Bible
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

American King James Version
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

American Standard Version
If the serpent bite before it is charmed, then is there no advantage in the charmer.

Douay-Rheims Bible
If a serpent bite in silence, he is nothing better that backbiteth secretly.

Darby Bible Translation
If the serpent bite before enchantment, then the charmer hath no advantage.

English Revised Version
If the serpent bite before it be charmed, then is there no advantage in the charmer.

Webster's Bible Translation
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

World English Bible
If the snake bites before it is charmed, then is there no profit for the charmer's tongue.

Young's Literal Translation
If the serpent biteth without enchantment, Then there is no advantage to a master of the tongue.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

10:11-15 There is a practice in the East, of charming serpents by music. The babbler's tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison; and contradiction only makes it the more violent. We must find the way to keep him gentle. But by rash, unprincipled, or slanderous talk, he brings open or secret vengeance upon himself. Would we duly consider our own ignorance as to future events, it would cut off many idle words which we foolishly multiply. Fools toil a great deal to no purpose. They do not understand the plainest things, such as the entrance into a great city. But it is the excellency of the way to the heavenly city, that it is a high-way, in which the simplest wayfaring men shall not err, Isa 25:8. But sinful folly makes men miss that only way to happiness.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 11. - 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 אם, 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 ver. 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 enough (see Exodus 7:11; Psalm 58:5; Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclus. 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" (baul 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.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment,.... See Jeremiah 8:17. Or 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 Proverbs 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.

(t) "absque susurro", Pagniuus; "absque sibilo", Tigurine version.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

11. 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 (Ps 58:4, 5), so one may escape the sting of a calumniator by discretion (Ec 10:12), [Holden]. Thus, "without enchantment" answers to "not whet the edge" (Ec 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. Ec 10:8-10, caution in acting; Ec 10:11 and following verses, caution in speaking.

Ecclesiastes 10:11 Additional Commentaries
Context
Wisdom and Folly
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. 12Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him;…
Cross References
James 3:8
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Psalm 58:4
Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,

Psalm 58:5
that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.

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

Jeremiah 8:17
"See, I will send venomous snakes among you, vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you," declares the LORD.
Treasury of Scripture

Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.

the serpent

Psalm 58:4,5 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf …

Jeremiah 8:17 For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which …

babbler

Psalm 52:2 The tongue devises mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

Psalm 64:3 Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot …

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love …

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among …

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