Ecclesiastes 7:1
Parallel Verses
New International Version
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.

New Living Translation
A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born.

English Standard Version
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.

New American Standard Bible
A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.

King James Bible
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one's death than the day of one's birth.

International Standard Version
A good name exceeds the value of fine perfume, and the day of someone's death exceeds the value of the day of his birth.

NET Bible
A good reputation is better than precious perfume; likewise, the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
A good name is better than expensive perfume, and the day you die is better than the day you're born.

Jubilee Bible 2000
A good name is better than precious ointment and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

King James 2000 Bible
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

American King James Version
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

American Standard Version
A good name is better than precious oil; and the day of death, than the day of one's birth.

Douay-Rheims Bible
A good name is better than precious ointments: and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Darby Bible Translation
A [good] name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

English Revised Version
A GOOD name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Webster's Bible Translation
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

World English Bible
A good name is better than fine perfume; and the day of death better than the day of one's birth.

Young's Literal Translation
Better is a name than good perfume, And the day of death than the day of birth.
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

7:1-6 Reputation for piety and honesty is more desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world. It will do more good to go to a funeral than to a feast. We may lawfully go to both, as there is occasion; our Saviour both feasted at the wedding of his friend in Cana, and wept at the grave of his friend in Bethany. But, considering how apt we are to be vain and indulge the flesh, it is best to go to the house of mourning, to learn the end of man as to this world. Seriousness is better than mirth and jollity. That is best for us which is best for our souls, though it be unpleasing to sense. It is better to have our corruptions mortified by the rebuke of the wise, than to have them gratified by the song of fools. The laughter of a fool is soon gone, the end of his mirth is heaviness.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 1 - Ecclesiastes 12:8. - Division II. DEDUCTIONS FROM THE ABOVE-MENTIONED EXPERIENCES IN THE WAY OF WARNINGS AND RULES OF LIFE. Verses 1-7. - Section 1. Though no man knows for certain what is best, yet there are some practical rules for the conduct of life which wisdom gives. Some of these Koheleth sets forward in the proverbial form, recommending a serious, earnest life in preference to one of gaiety and frivolity. Verse 1. - A good name is better than precious ointment. The paronomasia here is to be remarked, rob ahem mishemen tob. There is a similar assonance in Song of Solomon 1:3, which the German translator reproduces by the sentence, "Besser gut Gerucht als Wohlgeruch," or," gute Geruche," and which may perhaps be rendered in English, "Better is good favor than good flavor." It is a proverbial saying, running literally, Better is a name than good oil. Shem, "name," is sometimes used unqualified to signify a celebrated name, good name, reputation (comp. Genesis 11:4; Proverbs 22:1). Septuagint, Ἀγαθὸν ὄνομα ὑπὲρ ἔλαιον ἀγαθόν. Vulgate, Melius eat nomen bonum quam unguenta pre-tiosa. Odorous unguents were very precious in the mind of an Oriental, and formed one of the luxuries lavished at feasts and costly entertainments, or social visits (see Ecclesiastes 9:8; Ruth 3:3; Psalm 45:8; Amos 6:6; Wisd. 2:7; Luke 7:37, 46). It was a man's most cherished ambition to leave a good reputation, and to hand down an honorable remembrance to distant posterity, and this all the more as the hope of the life beyond the grave was dim and vague (see on Ecclesiastes 2:16, and comp. Ecclesiastes 9:5). The complaint of the sensualists in Wisd. 2:4 is embittered by the thought," Our name shall be forgotten in time, and no man shall have our works in remembrance." We employ a metaphor like that in the clause when we speak of a man's reputation having a good or ill odor; and the Hebrews said of ill fame that it stank in the nostrils (Genesis 34:30; Exodus 5:21; see, on the opposite side, Ecclus. 24:15; 2 Corinthians 2:15). And the day of death than the day of one's birth. The thought in this clause is closely connected with the preceding. If a man's life is such that he leaves a good name behind him, then the day of his departure is better than that of his birth, because in the latter he had nothing before him but labor, and trouble, and fear, and uncertainty; and in the former all these anxieties are past, the storms are successfully battled with, the haven is won (see on Ecclesiastes 4:3). According to Solon's well-known maxim, no one can be called happy till he has crowned a prosperous life by a peaceful death (Herod., 1:32; Soph., 'Trachin.,' 1-3; ('Ed. Tyr.,' 1528, sqq.); as the Greek gnome runs -

Μήπω μέγαν εἴπῃς πρὶν τελευτήσαντ ἴδῃς

"Call no man great till thou hast seen him dead." So Ben-Sira, "Judge none blessed (μὴ μακάριζε μηδένα) before his death; for a man shall be known in his children" (Ecclus. 11:28).

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

A good name is better than precious ointment,.... The word "good" is not in the text, but is rightly supplied, as it is by Jarchi; for of no other name can this be said; that which is not good cannot be better. Some understand this of the name of God, which is God himself, who is the "summum bonum", and chief happiness of men, and take it to be an answer to the question Ecclesiastes 6:12; this and this only is what is a man's good, and is preferable to all outward enjoyments whatever; interest in him as a covenant God; knowledge of him in Christ, which has eternal life annexed to it; communion with him; the discoveries of his lovingkindness, which is better than little; and the enjoyment of him to all eternity. This is true of the name of Christ, whose name Messiah which signifies anointed, is as ointment poured forth, and is preferable to it, Sol 1:3; so his other names, Jesus a Saviour; Jehovah, our righteousness; Immanuel, God with us; are exceeding precious to those who know the worth of him, and see their need of righteousness and salvation by him; his person, and the knowledge of him; his Gospel, and the fame and report it gives of him; infinitely exceed the most precious and fragrant ointment; see 2 Corinthians 2:14. So the name or names given to the people of God, the new names of Hephzibah and Beulah, the name of sons of God, better than that of sons and daughters; and of Christians, or anointed ones, having received that anointing from Christ which teacheth all things, and so preferable to the choicest ointment, Isaiah 56:5. Likewise to have a name written in heaven, in the Lamb's book of life, and to have one's name confessed by Christ hereafter before his Father and his holy angels; or even a good name among men, a name for a truly godly gracious person; for love to Christ, zeal for his cause, and faithfulness to his truths and ordinances; such as the woman got, better than the box of ointment poured on Christ's head; and which the brother had, whose praise in the Gospel was throughout the churches; and as Demetrius, who had good report of all then, and of the truth itself, Matthew 26:13, 3 John 1:12. Such a good name is better than precious ointment for the value of it, being better than all riches, for which this may be put; see Isaiah 39:2; and for the fragrancy of it, emitting a greater; and for the continuance of it, being more lasting, Psalm 112:6. The Targum is,

"better is a good name the righteous get in this world, thin the anointing oil which was poured upon the heads of kings and priests.''

So Alshech,

"a good name is better than the greatness of a king, though anointed with oil;''

and the day of death than the day of one's birth; some render it, in connection with the preceding clause, "as a good name is better, &c. so the day of death than the day of one's birth" (f); that is, the day of a man's death than the day of his birth. This is to be understood not of death simply considered; for that in itself, abstracted from its connections and consequences, is not better than to be born into the world, or come into life, or than life itself; it is not preferable to it, nor desirable; for it is contrary to nature, being a dissolution of it; a real evil, as life, and long life, are blessings; an enemy to mankind, and a terrible one: nor of ether persons, with whom men have a connection, their friends and relations; for with them the day of birth is a time of rejoicing, and the day of death is a time of mourning, as appears from Scripture and all experience; see John 16:21. It is indeed reported (g) of some Heathenish and barbarous people in Thrace, and who inhabited Mount Caucasus, that they mourned at the birth of their children, reckoning up the calamities they are entering into, and rejoiced at the death of their friends, being delivered from their troubles: but this is to be understood of the persons themselves that are born and die; not of all mankind, unless as abstracted from the consideration of a future state, and so it is more happy to be freed from trouble than to enter into it; nor of wicked men, it would have been better indeed if they had never been born, or had died as soon as born, that their damnation might not have been aggravated by the multitude of their sins; but after all, to die cannot be best for them, since at death they are cast into hell, into everlasting fire, and endless punishment: this is only true of good men, that have a good name living and dying; have a good work of grace upon them, and so are meet for heaven; the righteousness of Christ on them, and so have a title to it; they are such who have hope in their death, and die in faith and in the Lord: their death is better than their birth; at their birth they come into the world under the imputation and guilt of sin, with a corrupt nature; are defiled with sin, and under the power of it, liable in themselves to condemnation and death for it: at the time of their death they go out justified from sin through the righteousness of Christ, all being expiated by his sacrifice, and pardoned for his sake; they are washed from the faith of sin by the blood of Christ, and are delivered from the power and being of it by the Spirit and grace of God; and are secured from condemnation and the second death: at their coming into the world they are liable to sin yet more and more; at their going out they are wholly freed from it; at the time of their birth they are born to trouble, and are all their days exercised with it, incident to various diseases of the body, have many troubles in the world, and from the men of it; many conflicts with a body of sin and death, and harassed with the temptations of Satan; but at death they are delivered from all these, enter into perfect peace and unspeakable joy; rest from all their labours and toils, and enjoy uninterrupted communion with God, Father, Son, and Spirit, angels, and glorified saints. The Targum is,

"the day in which a man dies and departs to the house of the grave, with a good name and with righteousness, is better than the day in which a wicked man is born into the world.''

So the Midrash interprets it of one that goes out of the world with a good name, considering this clause in connection with the preceding, as many do.

(f) So Schmidt, and some in Vatablus. (g) Herodot. Terpsichore, sive l. 5. c. 4. Valer. Maxim. l. 2. c. 6. s. 12. Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

CHAPTER 7

Ec 7:1-29.

1. (See on [663]Ec 6:12).

name—character; a godly mind and life; not mere reputation with man, but what a man is in the eyes of God, with whom the name and reality are one thing (Isa 9:6). This alone is "good," while all else is "vanity" when made the chief end.

ointment—used lavishly at costly banquets and peculiarly refreshing in the sultry East. The Hebrew for "name" and for "ointment," have a happy paronomasia, Sheem and Shemen. "Ointment" is fragrant only in the place where the person is whose head and garment are scented, and only for a time. The "name" given by God to His child (Re 3:12) is for ever and in all lands. So in the case of the woman who received an everlasting name from Jesus Christ, in reward for her precious ointment (Isa 56:5; Mr 14:3-9). Jesus Christ Himself hath such a name, as the Messiah, equivalent to Anointed (So 1:3).

and the day of [his] death, &c.—not a general censure upon God for creating man; but, connected with the previous clause, death is to him, who hath a godly name, "better" than the day of his birth; "far better," as Php 1:23 has it.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 Additional Commentaries
Context
The Value of Wisdom
1A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. 2It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.…
Cross References
Proverbs 22:1
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Ecclesiastes 4:2
And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.

Ecclesiastes 7:8
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

Song of Solomon 1:3
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you!

Jonah 4:3
Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."
Treasury of Scripture

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

name

Proverbs 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart: and a good report makes the bones fat.

Proverbs 22:1 A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving …

Isaiah 56:5 Even to them will I give in my house and within my walls a place …

Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject …

Hebrews 11:2,39 For by it the elders obtained a good report…

precious

Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking …

Psalm 133:2 It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down on the …

Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so does the sweetness of …

Songs 1:3 Because of the smell of your good ointments your name is as ointment …

Songs 4:10 How fair is your love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is your …

John 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of …

the day

Ecclesiastes 4:2 Why I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living …

Job 3:17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.

Isaiah 57:1,2 The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful …

2 Corinthians 5:1,8 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, …

Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write, Blessed are …

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