Ecclesiastes 7:16
Parallel Verses
New International Version
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise-- why destroy yourself?

New Living Translation
So don't be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself?

English Standard Version
Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

New American Standard Bible
Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?

King James Bible
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Don't be excessively righteous, and don't be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

International Standard Version
Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise. Why be self-destructive?

NET Bible
So do not be excessively righteous or excessively wise; otherwise you might be disappointed.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
Don't be too virtuous, and don't be too wise. Why make yourself miserable?

Jubilee Bible 2000
Do not be too legalistic; neither make thyself over wise in thine own eyes: why should thou destroy thyself?

King James 2000 Bible
Be not overly righteous; neither make yourself overly wise: why should you destroy yourself?

American King James Version
Be not righteous over much; neither make yourself over wise: why should you destroy yourself ?

American Standard Version
Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself overwise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

Douay-Rheims Bible
Be not over just: and be not more wise than is necessary, lest thou become stupid.

Darby Bible Translation
Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself overwise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

English Revised Version
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

Webster's Bible Translation
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?

World English Bible
Don't be overly righteous, neither make yourself overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?

Young's Literal Translation
Be not over-righteous, nor show thyself too wise, why art thou desolate?
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

7:11-22 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, yea better. It shelters from the storms and scorching heat of trouble. Wealth will not lengthen out the natural life; but true wisdom will give spiritual life, and strengthen men for services under their sufferings. Let us look upon the disposal of our condition as the work of God, and at last all will appear to have been for the best. In acts of righteousness, be not carried into heats or passions, no, not by a zeal for God. Be not conceited of thine own abilities; nor find fault with every thing, nor busy thyself in other men's matters. Many who will not be wrought upon by the fear of God, and the dread of hell, will avoid sins which ruin their health and estate, and expose to public justice. But those that truly fear God, have but one end to serve, therefore act steadily. If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. Every true believer is ready to say, God be merciful to me a sinner. Forget not at the same time, that personal righteousness, walking in newness of life, is the only real evidence of an interest by faith in the righteousness of the Redeemer. Wisdom teaches us not to be quick in resenting affronts. Be not desirous to know what people say; if they speak well of thee, it will feed thy pride, if ill, it will stir up thy passion. See that thou approve thyself to God and thine own conscience, and then heed not what men say of thee; it is easier to pass by twenty affronts than to avenge one. When any harm is done to us, examine whether we have not done as bad to others.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 16. - Be not righteous over much. The exhortation has been variously interpreted to warn against too scrupulous observance of ritual and ceremonial religion, or the mistaken piety which neglects all mundane affairs, or the Pharisaical spirit which is bitter in condemning others who fall short of one's own standard. Cox will have it that the advice signifies that a prudent man will not be very righteous, since he will gain nothing by it, nor very wicked, as he will certainly shorten his life by such conduct. But really Koheleth is condemning the tendency to immoderate asceticism which had begun to show itself in his day - a rigorous, prejudiced, indiscreet manner of life and conduct which made piety offensive, and afforded no real aid to the cause of religion. This arrogant system virtually dictated the laws by which Providence should be governed, and found fault with divinely ordered circumstances if they did not coincide with its professors' preconceived opinions. Such religionism might well be called being "righteous over much." Neither make thyself over wise; Septuagint, Μηδὲ σοφίζου περισσά; Vulgate, Neque plus sapias quam necesse est; better, show not thyself too wise; i.e. do not indulge in speculations about God's dealings, estimating them according to your own predilections, questioning the wisdom of his moral government. Against such perverse speculation St. Paul argues (Romans 9:19, etc.). "Thou wilt say unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?" A good principle carried to excess may bring evil results. Summum jus, summa injuria. The maxim, Μηδὲν ἀγάν, Ne quid nimis, "Moderation in all things," is taught here; and Aristotle's theory of virtue being the mean between the two extremes of excess and defect is adumbrated ('Ethic. Nicom.,' 2:6. 15, 16): though we do not see that the writer is "reproducing current Greek thought" (Plumptre), or that independent reflection and observation could not have landed him at the implied conclusion without plagiarism. Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Septuagint, Μή ποτὲ ἐκπλαγῇς, "Lest perchance thou be confounded;" Vulgate, Ne obstupescas, "Lest thou be stupefied." This is the primary meaning of the special form of the verb here used (hithp. of שׁמם), and Plumptre supposes that the author intends thereby to express the spiritual pride which accompanies fancied excellence in knowledge and conduct, and by which the possessor is puffed up (1 Timothy 3:6). But plainly it is not a mental, internal effect that is contemplated, but something that affects comfort, position, or life, like the corresponding clause in the following verse. Hitzig and Ginsburg explain the word, "Make thyself forsaken," "Isolate thyself," which can scarcely be the meaning. The Authorized Version is correct. A man who professes to be wiser than others, and. indeed, wiser than Providence, incurs the envy and animosity of his fellow-men, and will certainly be punished by God for his arrogance and presumption.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Be not righteous over much,.... This is not meant of true and real righteousness, even moral righteousness, a man cannot be too holy or too righteous; but of a show and ostentation of righteousness, and of such who would be thought to be more righteous and holy than others, and therefore despise those who, as they imagine, do not come up to them; and are very rigid and censorious in their judgment of others, and very severe in their reproofs of them; and, that they may appear very righteous persons, will do more than what the law requires of them to do, even works of supererogation, as the Pharisees formerly, and Papists now, pretend, and abstain from the lawful use of things which God has given to be enjoyed; and macerate their bodies by abstinence, fastings, pilgrimages, penance, scourges, and the like, as the Eremites among the Christians, and the Turks, as Aben Ezra on the place observes; and many there be, who, by an imprudent zeal for what they judge right, and which sometimes are mere trifles, and by unseasonable reproofs for what is wrong, expose themselves to resentment and danger. Some understand this of political and punitive justice, exercising it in too strict and rigorous a manner, according to the maxim, "summum jus saepe summa injuria est" (w); and Schultens (x), from the use of the word in the Arabic language, renders it, "be not too rigid"; and others, in a contrary sense, of too much mercy and pity to offenders. So the Midrash; and Jarchi illustrates it by the case of Saul, who had mercy on the wicked, and spared Agag. The Targum is,

"be not over righteous at a time that a sinner is found guilty of slaughter in thy court of judicature, that thou shouldest spare and not kill him;''

neither make thyself over wise; above what is written, or pretend to be wiser than others. So the Arabic version, "show not too much wisdom"; do not affect, as not to be more righteous than others, so not more wise, by finding fault with present times, or with the dispensations of Providence, or with the manners and conduct of men; setting up for a critic and a censurer of men and things; or do not pry into things, and seek after a knowledge of them, which are out of your reach, and beyond your capacity;

why shouldest thou destroy thyself? either by living too strictly and abstemiously, or by studying too closely, or by behaving in such a manner to men, as that they will seek thy destruction, and bring it on thee: or "why shouldest thou", or "whereby", or "lest, thou shouldest be stupid" (y); lose thy sense and reason, as persons who study the knowledge of things they have not a capacity for: or why shouldest thou become foolish in the eyes of all men by thy conduct and behaviour? or, "why shouldest thou be desolate" (z); alone, and nobody care to have any conversation and acquaintance with thee?

(w) Terent. Heautont. Acts 4. Sc. 4. (x) De Defect. Hod. Ling. Heb. s. 230. (y) "ut quid obstupesces?" Vatablus, Amama; "cur obstupesces?" Mercerus; "cur in stuporem te dares?" Cocceius; "qua teipsum stupidum facies?" Tigurine version; "ne obstupescas", V. L. so Sept. and Syriac versions. (z) "Ne quid desolaberis?" Pagninus, Montanus; "quare desolationem tibi accerseres?" Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

16. Holden makes Ec 7:16 the scoffing inference of the objector, and Ec 7:17 the answer of Solomon, now repentant. So (1Co 15:32) the skeptic's objection; (1Co 15:33) the answer. However, "Be not righteous over much," may be taken as Solomon's words, forbidding a self-made righteousness of outward performances, which would wrest salvation from God, instead of receiving it as the gift of His grace. It is a fanatical, pharisaical righteousness, separated from God; for the "fear of God" is in antithesis to it (Ec 7:18; 5:3, 7; Mt 6:1-7; 9:14; 23:23, 24; Ro 10:3; 1Ti 4:3).

over wise—(Job 11:12; Ro 12:3, 16), presumptuously self-sufficient, as if acquainted with the whole of divine truth.

destroy thyself—expose thyself to needless persecution, austerities and the wrath of God; hence to an untimely death. "Destroy thyself" answers to "perisheth" (Ec 7:15); "righteous over much," to "a just man." Therefore in Ec 7:15 it is self-justiciary, not a truly righteous man, that is meant.

Ecclesiastes 7:16 Additional Commentaries
Context
Limits of Human Wisdom
15I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. 16Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? 17Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time?…
Cross References
Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Philippians 3:6
as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Proverbs 25:16
If you find honey, eat just enough-- too much of it, and you will vomit.
Treasury of Scripture

Be not righteous over much; neither make yourself over wise: why should you destroy yourself ?

be not

Proverbs 25:16 Have you found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for you, lest …

Matthew 6:1-7 Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: …

Matthew 9:14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the …

Matthew 15:2 Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for …

Matthew 23:5,23,24,29 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad …

Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Romans 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according …

Philippians 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness …

1 Timothy 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…

neither

Ecclesiastes 12:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books …

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that …

Job 11:12 For vain men would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.

Job 28:28 And to man he said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; …

Proverbs 23:4 Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom.

Romans 11:25 For I would not, brothers, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, …

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among …

1 Corinthians 3:18,20 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise …

Colossians 2:18,23 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and …

James 3:13-17 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show …

destroy thyself

Matthew 23:38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate.

Revelation 18:19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, …

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