Ecclesiastes 10:20
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
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.

New Living Translation
Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts. And don't make fun of the powerful, even in your own bedroom. For a little bird might deliver your message and tell them what you said.

English Standard Version
Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.

New American Standard Bible
Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.

King James Bible
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.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Do not curse the king even in your thoughts, and do not curse a rich person even in your bedroom, for a bird of the sky may carry the message, and a winged creature may report the matter.

International Standard Version
Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts. Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom. For a bird will fly by and tell what you say, or something with wings may talk about it.

NET Bible
Do not curse a king even in your thoughts, and do not curse the rich while in your bedroom; for a bird might report what you are thinking, or some winged creature might repeat your words.

New Heart English Bible
Do not curse the king, no, not in your thoughts; and do not curse the rich in your bedchamber: for a bird of the sky may carry your voice, and that which has wings may tell the matter.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Don't curse the king even in your thoughts, and don't curse rich people even in your bedroom. A bird may carry your words, or some winged creature may repeat what you say.

JPS Tanakh 1917
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.

New American Standard 1977
Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound, and the winged creature will make the matter known.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Do not curse the king, not even in thy thought; and do not curse the rich even in the secret place of thy bedchamber; for the birds of the air shall carry the voice, and those who have wings shall tell the matter.

King James 2000 Bible
Curse not the king, no not even in your thought; and curse not the rich in your bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which has wings shall tell the matter.

American King James Version
Curse not the king, no not in your thought; and curse not the rich in your bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which has wings shall tell the matter.

American Standard Version
Revile not the king, no, not in thy thought; and revile not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the heavens shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Detract not the king, no not in thy thought; and speak not evil of the rich man in thy private chamber: because even the birds of the air will carry thy voice, and he that hath wings will tell what thou hast said.

Darby Bible Translation
Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for the bird of the air will carry the voice, and that which hath wings will tell the matter.

English Revised Version
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.

Webster's Bible Translation
Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber: for a bird of the air will carry the voice, and that which hath wings will tell the matter.

World English Bible
Don't curse the king, no, not in your thoughts; and don't curse the rich in your bedroom: for a bird of the sky may carry your voice, and that which has wings may tell the matter.

Young's Literal Translation
Even in thy mind a king revile not, And in the inner parts of thy bed-chamber Revile not the rich: For a fowl of the heavens causeth the voice to go, And a possessor of wings declareth the word.
Study Bible
Wisdom and Folly
19Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything. 20Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse a king, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and the winged creature will make the matter known.
Cross References
Luke 12:3
What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.

Acts 23:5
"Brothers," Paul replied, "I was not aware that he was the high priest, for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'"

Exodus 8:3
"The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls.

Exodus 22:28
"You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

2 Kings 6:12
One of his servants said, "No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom."
Treasury of Scripture

Curse not the king, no not in your thought; and curse not the rich in your bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which has wings shall tell the matter.

curse

Exodus 22:28 You shall not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of your people.

Isaiah 8:21 And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it …

Acts 23:5 Then said Paul, I knew not, brothers, that he was the high priest: …

thought

Ecclesiastes 7:21,22 Also take no heed to all words that are spoken; lest you hear your …

Luke 19:40 And he answered and said to them, I tell you that, if these should …

in thy bedchamber

Luke 10:40 But Martha was encumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord…

Luke 12:2,3 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither …

(20) Thought.--A word of later Hebrew, found only in Daniel and Chronicles.

That which hath wings.--Literally, master of wings; and so also Proverbs 1:17. (Comp. "master of the tongue," Ecclesiastes 10:11.)

Verse 20. - 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. Exodus 22:28). In Ecclesiastes 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 (1 Samuel 24:6, l0; 26:9, etc.; 2 Samuel 1:14). Madda, "thought," "consciousness," is rare, and is supposed to belong to late Hebrew (see 2 Chronicles 1:10, 11, 12; Daniel 1:4, 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. Habakkuk 2:11; Luke 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" (2 Kings 6:12). "That which ye have spoken in the ear in closets (ἐν τοῖς ταμιείοις) shall be proclaimed upon the housetops" (Luke 12:3). For a bird of the air shall carry the voice. A proverbial saying, common to all languages, and not to be referred 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 οϊδεν τὸν θησαυρὸν τὸν ἐμὸν πλὴν εἴ τις ἄρ ὄρνις

"No one knows of my treasure, save, it may be, a bird." On which the Scholiast notes, "There is a proverb extant, ' No 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,
No 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 (haul) of a pair of wings, a periphrasis for "a bird," as in Proverbs 1:17. We had "master of the tongue," ver. 11; so in Daniel 8:6, 20, "having horns," is "master (haul) of horns."



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;

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).

(m) , Sept. "in conscientia tua", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Cocceius, Gejerus. (n) Apuleius de Mundo. (o) "dominus alarum", Piscator. 20. 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 (Ps 139:1-24), whose consciousness of every evil thought we should ever realize.

bed-chamber—the most secret place (2Ki 6:12).

bird of the air, etc.—proverbial (compare Hab 2:11; Lu 19:40); in a way as marvellous 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 [668]Job 28:21; hence the proverb). 10:16-20 The happiness of a land depends on the character of its rulers. The people cannot be happy when their princes are childish, and lovers of pleasure. Slothfulness is of ill consequence both to private and public affairs. Money, of itself, will neither feed nor clothe, though it answers the occasions of this present life, as what is to be had, may generally be had for money. But the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained with corruptible things, as silver and gold. God sees what men do, and hears what they say in secret; and, when he pleases, brings it to light by strange and unsuspected ways. If there be hazard in secret thoughts and whispers against earthly rulers, what must be the peril from every deed, word, or thought of rebellion against the King of kings, and Lord of lords! He seeth in secret. His ear is ever open. Sinner! curse not THIS KING in thy inmost thought. Your curses cannot affect Him; but his curse, coming down upon you, will sink you to the lowest hell.
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