Ecclesiastes 12:11
Parallel Verses
New International Version
The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one shepherd.

New Living Translation
The words of the wise are like cattle prods--painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.

English Standard Version
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.

New American Standard Bible
The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.

King James Bible
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd.

International Standard Version
Sayings from the wise are like cattle prods and well fastened nails; this masterful collection was given by one shepherd.

NET Bible
The words of the sages are like prods, and the collected sayings are like firmly fixed nails; they are given by one shepherd.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Words from wise people are like spurs. Their collected sayings are like nails that have been driven in firmly. They come from one shepherd.

Jubilee Bible 2000
The words of the wise are as goads and as nails hammered into place, those of the teachers of the congregations, who are placed under one Shepherd.

King James 2000 Bible
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails firmly fixed by the masters of assemblies, which are given by one shepherd.

American King James Version
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

American Standard Version
The words of the wise are as goads; and as nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Douay-Rheims Bible
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails deeply fastened in, which by the counsel of masters are given from one shepherd.

Darby Bible Translation
The words of the wise are as goads, and the collections [of them] as nails fastened in: they are given from one shepherd.

English Revised Version
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails well fastened are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Webster's Bible Translation
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

World English Bible
The words of the wise are like goads; and like nails well fastened are words from the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Young's Literal Translation
Words of the wise are as goads, and as fences planted by the masters of collections, they have been given by one shepherd.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

12:8-14 Solomon repeats his text, VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. These are the words of one that could speak by dear-bought experience of the vanity of the world, which can do nothing to ease men of the burden of sin. As he considered the worth of souls, he gave good heed to what he spake and wrote; words of truth will always be acceptable words. The truths of God are as goads to such as are dull and draw back, and nails to such as are wandering and draw aside; means to establish the heart, that we may never sit loose to our duty, nor be taken from it. The Shepherd of Israel is the Giver of inspired wisdom. Teachers and guides all receive their communications from him. The title is applied in Scripture to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophets sought diligently, what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; and then was much more so to both than it is now. All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion, That to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man. The fear of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love, nay, where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious fear of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child. The fear of God, is often put for the whole of true religion in the heart, and includes its practical results in the life. Let us attend to the one thing needful, and now come to him as a merciful Saviour, who will soon come as an almighty Judge, when he will bring to light the things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of all hearts. Why does God record in his word, that ALL IS VANITY, but to keep us from deceiving ourselves to our ruin? He makes our duty to be our interest. May it be graven in all our hearts. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 11. - The words of the wise are as goads. The connection of this verse with the preceding is maintained by the fact that the "acceptable words," etc., are words of the wise, emanate from the same persons. Herewith he proceeds to characterize them, with especial reference to his own work. The goad was a rod with an iron spike, or sharpened at the end, used in driving oxen (see Judges 3:31; 1 Samuel 13:21; Ecclus. 38:25; Acts 9:5). Words of wisdom are called goads because they rouse to exertion, promote reflection and action, restrain from error, impel to right; if they hurt and sting, the pain which they inflict is healthful, for good and not for evil. And as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies. The proposition "by" is an interpolation, and the sentence should run: Ant/ like nails fastened [are] the, etc. - masmeroth, "nails," as in Isaiah 41:7. There is much difficulty in explaining the next words, בַּעַלִי אַסֻפות (baale asuppoth). We have had similar expressions applied to possessors in Ecclesiastes 10:11, "lord of the tongue," and "lord of wings" (Ecclesiastes 10:20); and analogy might lead us to apply the phrase here to-persons, and not things; but in Isaiah 41:15 we find a threshing-instrument termed "lord of teeth;" and in 2 Samuel 5:20 a town is called Baal-Perazim, "Lord of breaches;" so we must be guided by other considerations in our exposition. The Septuagint, taking the whole sentence together, and regarding baals as a preposition, renders, "As nails firmly planted, (οι{ παρᾶ τῶν συνθεμάτων ἐδόθησαν ἐκ ποιμένος ἑνός) which from the collections were given from one shepherd." Schleus-her takes οι{ παρὰ τῶν συνθεμάτων to mean, "Ii quibus munus datum erat collectionem faciendi," i.e. the author, of collections. The Vulgate has, Verba... quae per magistrorum consilium data sunt a pastore uno. The "masters of assemblies" can only be the chiefs of some learned conclaves, like the great synagogue supposed to exist in the time of Ezra and later. The clause would then assert that these pundits are like fastened nails, which seems rather unmeaning. One might say that their uttered sentiments became fixed in the mind as nails firmly driven in, but one could not properly say this of the men themselves. A late editor, Gietmann, suggests that "lords of collection" may mean "brave men, heroes, gathered in line of battle," serried ranks, just as in Proverbs 22:20 the term shalishim, chariot-fighters, chieftains, is applied to choice proverbs. Thus he would say that the words of the wise are as goads because they stimulate the intellect, as nails because they readily find entrance, and like men in battle array when they are reduced to writing and marshaled in a book. This is certainly ingenious, but somewhat too artificial to be regarded as the genuine intention of the writer. It seems best to take the word translated "assemblies" as denoting collections, not of people, but of proverbs; and the compound phrase would thus mean proverbs of an excellent character, the best of their sort gathered together in writing. Such words are well compared to nails; they are no longer floating loosely about, they are fixed in the memory, they secure other knowledge, and, though they are separate utterances, they have a certain unity and purpose. Nails are often used proverbially as emblems of what is fixed and unalterable. Thus AEschyl., 'Suppl.,' 944 -

Τῶν δ ἐφήλωται τορῶς`ΝΛ´Γόμφος διαμπὰξ ὡς μένειν ἀραρότως

"Through them a nail is firmly fixed, that they
May rest immovable."
Cicero, 'Verr.,' 2:5.21, "Ut hoc beneficium, quemadmodum dicitur, trabali clave figeret;" i.e. to make it sure and steadfast (comp. Horace, 'Carm.,' 1:35. 17, et seq.). Which are given from one shepherd. All these words of the wise, collections, etc., proceed from one source, or are set forth by one authority. Who is] this shepherd? Some say that he is the archisynagogus, the president of the assemblies of wise men, to whose authority all these public utterances are subjected. But we do not know that such supervision existed or was exercised at the time when Koheleth wrote; and, as we saw above, there is probably no reference to any such assemblies in the passage. The "one shepherd" is doubtless Jehovah, who is called the Shepherd of Israel, who feeds his people like a flock, etc. (see Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24; Psalm 23:1; Psalm 80:1, etc.). The appellation is here used as concinnous with the thought of the ox-goad, intimating that God watches and leads his people like a tender shepherd and a skilful farmer. This is an important claim to inspiration. All these varied utterances, whatever form they take, whether his own or his predecessor's, are outcomes of wisdom, and proceed from him who is only wise, Almighty God. It is no disparagement of this work to imply that it is not the production of the true Solomon; Koheleth is ready to avow himself the writer, and yet claims a hearing as being equally moved by heavenly influence. It is like St. Paul's assertion (1 Corinthians 7:40), "I think that I also have the Spirit of God."

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

The words of the wise are as goads,.... As the goad teacheth the ox; so the Targum. Not the words of the wise philosophers of that age, or of ages before, or since; but of the inspired penmen of the Scriptures, as Moses, David, Solomon, and of others since; and of all good men, whose doctrines are agreeably to them; these are like "goads" or "pricks", sharp pointed sticks or staves, with which men push and prick their cattle, when driving them from place to place, or ploughing with them: and of a similar use are the doctrines of the word, when attended with a divine efficacy; these are a means of pricking sinners to the heart; and of laying open their vileness and sinfulness to them; and of repentance and contrition; and of awakening them from a sleep in sin to a sense of their danger; and even of killing them, as to their own sense and apprehension of things, and, with respect to their hopes of life, by their own works; as the Philistines were slain by Shamgar with an ox goad, Judges 3:31; see Acts 2:37; and these are also of use to the saints, as goads, to stir them up, when slothful, to the discharge of duty; and to awaken them, when drowsy, out of their carnal security; and to correct them for their faults, by sharp reproofs and rebukes; as well as to excite them to go on to perfection, who are apt to sit still and lie down; and to direct them to walk straight on, without turning to the right hand or left;

and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies; like these are the truths and doctrines of the word, when they have a place in the heart, and become the "ingrafted word" there; when they are "planted" (e) in the soul, as the word signifies; when they are fixed in the mind and memory, and dwell and abide there: and when as nails, driven into anything, fasten what they are drove into; so these are the means of fastening souls; of causing them to cleave to God and Christ; to the church, and his people, and to one another; and to the Gospel, and their profession of it; hence they are not like children, tossed to and fro, wavering and unstable: of all which "the masters of the assemblies" are the instruments; that is, ministers and pastors of churches. As there were assemblies for religious worship under the law, in which the prophets, priests, and Levites, assisted; so there are assemblies or churches under the Gospel dispensation, which are gathered and meet together for the service of God, and over these the ministers of the word preside; these are set over the churches in the Lord, and have the rule of them; though they are not to lord it over God's heritage, or have the dominion over their faith; but are helpers of their joy, and useful in the above things, through their ministry. Some choose to render "masters of collections", or "gatherings" (f); and think it may respect their gathering truths out of the sacred writings, as the bee gathers honey out of the flowers; in allusion to those that gathered together the choice and pithy sentences and sayings of others, like the men of Hezekiah, Proverbs 25:1; or to undershepherds, gathering the sheep into the fold (g), by the order of the principal one; who made use of goads, to drive away thieves or wild beasts; and nails, to preserve the sheepfold whole. And others think that not the words, but the of the assemblies themselves, are compared to "nails", and read them, "and the masters of the assemblies are as nails fastened" (h); are well established, firm and sure; see Isaiah 22:23; and others take it to be no other than an epithet of the nails themselves, and render it, "as nails fixed, which are binders"; that is, great binding nails, which, being fixed in boards, bind, compact, and hold them together; to which the words of the wise may be compared, being the means of compacting and holding together the church of God, comparable to a sheepfold; hence mention is made of the shepherd in the next clause: or of fixing the attention of the minds of men unto them, and of retaining them in memory, and to which they speak of as first principles, and never swerve from them (i); but, that not ministers, the instruments, but the principal and efficient cause, may have the glory, is added,

which are given from one Shepherd; not Zerubbabel, as Grotius; nor Moses, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Alshech; but Christ, the one Shepherd, set over the flock; and under whom the masters of assemblies, or pastors of churches, are, Ezekiel 37:23; from whom they have their gifts and qualifications, their mission and commissions; and are given to the churches, as pastors and teachers, to feed them, Ephesians 4:10; and from whom they have their food, the Gospel and the doctrines of it, to feed the flocks with, assigned to their care, John 17:8; though this is to be understood not to the exclusion of God, the Father of Christ, by whom all Scripture is inspired; nor of the Spirit, by whom holy men of God spake as they were moved, 2 Timothy 3:16.

(e) "plantati", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Rambachius. (f) "auctores, vel dominos collectionum", Montanus, Vatablus, Mercerus, Gejerus. (g) Vid. Lightfoot, vol. 2. p. 575. (h) "Veluti clavi. infixi sunt domini, vel magistri congregationum", Schmidt. (i) Vid. De Dieu & Cocceium in loc. & Vitringam de Synag. Vet. l. 1. par 2. c. 8. p. 377. & Hyde Not. in Peritzol. Itinera Mundi, p. 94.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

11. goads—piercing deeply into the mind (Ac 2:37; 9:5; Heb 4:12); evidently inspired words, as the end of the verse proves.

fastened—rather, on account of the Hebrew genders, (The words) "are fastened (in the memory) like nails" [Holden].

masters of assemblies—rather, "the masters of collections (that is, collectors of inspired sayings, Pr 25:1), are given ('have published them as proceeding' [Holden]) from one Shepherd," namely, the Spirit of Jesus Christ [Weiss], (Eze 37:24). However, the mention of "goads" favors the English Version, "masters of assemblies," namely, under-shepherds, inspired by the Chief Shepherd (1Pe 5:2-4). Schmidt translates, "The masters of assemblies are fastened (made sure) as nails," so Isa 22:23.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 Additional Commentaries
Context
The Fear of God is Utmost
10The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. 11The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. 12But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.…
Cross References
Acts 2:37
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Ezra 9:8
"But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

Proverbs 1:6
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Proverbs 22:17
Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach,

Ecclesiastes 7:5
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

Ecclesiastes 10:12
Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.

Isaiah 22:23
I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father.
Treasury of Scripture

The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

as goads

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? said the LORD; and like a hammer that …

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, …

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said …

2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through …

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any …

masters

John 3:10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you a master of Israel, and know …

given

Genesis 49:24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made …

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 80:1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you that lead Joseph like a flock; …

Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs …

Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, …

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, …

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown …

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