|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:13-16 People are never long easy and satisfied; they are fond of changes. This is no new thing. Princes see themselves slighted by those they have studied to oblige; this is vanity and vexation of spirit. But the willing servants of the Lord Jesus, our King, rejoice in him alone, and they will love Him more and more to all eternity.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king,.... The wise man proceeds to show the vanity of worldly power and dignity, in the highest instance of it, which is kingly; and, in order to illustrate and exemplify this, he supposes, on the one hand, a person possessed of royal honour; who has long enjoyed it, is settled in his kingdom, and advanced in years; and who otherwise, for his gravity and dignity, would be venerable; but that he is foolish, a person of a mean genius and small capacity; has but little knowledge of government, or but little versed in the arts of it, though he has held the reins of it long in his hand; and, which is worst of all, is vicious and wicked: on the other hand, he supposes one that is in his tender years, not yet arrived to manhood; and so may be thought to be giddy and inexperienced, and therefore taken but little notice of; and especially being poor, becomes contemptible, as well as labours under the disadvantage of a poor education; his parents poor, and he not able to get books and masters to teach him knowledge; nor to travel abroad to see the world, and make his observations on men and things; and yet being wise, having a good genius, which he improves in the best manner he can, to his own profit, and to make himself useful in the world; and especially if he is wise and knowing in the best things, and fears God, and serves him; he is more happy, in his present state and circumstances, than the king before described is in his, and is fitter to take his place, and be a king, than he is; for though he is young, yet wise, and improving in knowledge, and willing to be advised and counselled by others, older and wiser than himself; he is much to be preferred to one that is old and foolish;
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
"Better is a youth poor and wise, than a king old and foolish, who no longer understands how to be warned," - i.e., who increases his folly by this, that he is "wise in his own eyes," Proverbs 26:12; earlier, as עוד denotes, he was, in some measure, accessible to the instruction of others in respect of what was wanting to him; but now in his advanced age he is hardened in his folly, bids defiance to all warning counsel, and undermines his throne. The connection of the verb ידע with ל and the inf. (for which elsewhere only the inf. is used) is a favourite form with the author; it means to know anything well, Ecclesiastes 5:1; Ecclesiastes 6:8; Ecclesiastes 10:15; here is meant an understanding resting on the knowledge of oneself and on the knowledge of men. נזהר is here and at Ecclesiastes 12:12, Psalm 19:12, a Niph. tolerativum, such as the synon. נוסר, Psalm 2:10 : to let oneself be cleared up, made wiser, enlightened, warned. After this contrast, the idea connected with חכם also defines itself. A young man (ילד, as at Daniel 1:4, but also Genesis 4:23) is meant who (vid., above, p. 639, under misken) yet excels the old imbecile and childish king, in that he perceives the necessity of a fundamental change in the present state of public matters, and knows how to master the situation to such a degree that he raises himself to the place of ruler over the neglected community.
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
These verses set forth the vanity of earthly prosperity even on a throne. Opinion as to their application is chiefly divided between considering them a parable or fiction like that of the childless man in Ecclesiastes 4:8 : or as setting forth first the vicissitudes of royal life in two proverbial sayings Ecclesiastes 4:13-14, and then Ecclesiastes 4:15-16, the vicissitudes or procession of the whole human race, one generation giving place to another, Which in its turn will be forgotten by its successor. On the whole, the first appears to have the better claim.
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Better is a poor and a wise child - The Targum applies this to Abraham. "Abraham was a poor child of only three years of age; but he had the spirit of prophecy, and he refused to worship the idols which the old foolish king - Nimrod - had set up; therefore Nimrod cast him into a furnace of fire. But the Lord worked a miracle and delivered him. Yet here was no knowledge in Nimrod, and he would not be admonished." The Targum proceeds:
Geneva Study Bible
Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
4:13 Better - More happy. Now he proceeds to another vanity, That of honour and power. Than a king - Who hath neither wisdom to govern himself, nor to receive the counsels of wiser men.
King James Translators' Notes
who...: Heb. who knoweth not to be admonished
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. The "threefold cord" [Ec 4:12] of social ties suggests the subject of civil government. In this case too, he concludes that kingly power confers no lasting happiness. The "wise" child, though a supposed case of Solomon, answers, in the event foreseen by the Holy Ghost, to Jeroboam, then a poor but valiant youth, once a "servant" of Solomon, and (1Ki 11:26-40) appointed by God through the prophet Ahijah to be heir of the kingdom of the ten tribes about to be rent from Rehoboam. The "old and foolish king" answers to Solomon himself, who had lost his wisdom, when, in defiance of two warnings of God (1Ki 3:14; 9:2-9), he forsook God.
will no more be admonished-knows not yet how to take warning (see Margin) God had by Ahijah already intimated the judgment coming on Solomon (1Ki 11:11-13).
Ecclesiastes 4:13 Parallel Commentaries
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