Ecclesiastes 10:2
A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.
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(2) At his right hand.—Perhaps better, towards his right hand, i.e., leads him to go to the right hand. The thought is the same as Ecclesiastes 2:13, namely, that though the actual results of wisdom are often disappointing, the superiority of wisdom over folly is undeniable.

Ecclesiastes 10:2-3. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand — His understanding or wisdom is always present with him, and ready to direct him in all his actions. He manages all his affairs prudently and piously. He mentions the right hand because that is the common instrument of action. But a fool’s heart is at his left — His understanding and knowledge serve him only for idle speculation and vain ostentation, but is not useful or effectual to govern his affections and actions. Yea also, when he walketh by the way — Not only in great undertakings, but in his daily conversation; his wisdom faileth him — Hebrew, לבו חסר, his heart is wanting; he acts preposterously and foolishly, as if he were without a heart. He saith, &c. — He discovers his folly to all that meet him or converse with him.10:1-3 Those especially who make a profession of religion, should keep from all appearances of evil. A wise man has great advantage over a fool, who is always at a loss when he has anything to do. Sin is the reproach of sinners, wherever they go, and shows their folly.The metaphor perhaps means "A wise man's sense is in its place, ready to help and protect him; but a fool's sense is missing when it is wanted, and so is useless." 2. (Ec 2:14).

right—The right hand is more expert than the left. The godly wise is more on his guard than the foolish sinner, though at times he slip. Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without one.

A wise man’s heart, i.e. his understanding or wisdom,

is at his right hand; is always present with him, and ready to direct him in all his actions. He manageth all his affairs prudently and piously. He mentions the right hand, because that is the chief and most common instrument of actions, which by most men are done with more strength, and expedition, and orderliness, and comeliness by their right hand than by their left.

A fool’s heart at his left; his understanding and knowledge serves him only for idle speculation and vain ostentation, but is not at all useful or effectual to govern his affections and actions. He acts preposterously and foolishly, like one without heart, as it follows. A wise man's heart is at his right hand,.... This is not designed to express the direct position and situation of the heart of man, wise or foolish, which is the same in both; and which, according to anatomists, is in the middle of the body, inclining to the left side; but the understanding and wisdom of men, as Aben Ezra observes; which, with a wise man, is ready a hand to direct and assist him in any affair; and which under the influence of it, he goes about with great readiness and dexterity, and performs it with great ease and facility, without sinister ends and selfish views; it inclines him to pursue the true way to honour, heaven, and happiness, which lies to the right; to seek things that are above, at the right hand of God; and, in all, his honour and glory;

but a fool's heart is at his left; he is at a loss for wisdom and understanding to direct him, when he has an affair of any moment upon his hand; which he goes about in an awkward manner, as left handed persons do, and has sinister ends in what he does; and he is to every good work reprobate and unfit, and seeks earth and earthly things, which lie to the left, and in all himself. The Targum is,

"the heart of a wise man is to get the law, which was given by the right hand of the Lord; and the heart of a fool to get the goods of gold and silver:''

so Jarchi,

"his wisdom is ready to incline him (the wise man) to the right hand way for his good; but the heart of a fool to pervert him from it.''

The ancients (o) used to call things wise and prudent the right hand and things foolish the left hand.

(o) Suidas in voce

A {a} wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart is at his left.

(a) So that he does all things well and justly, where as the fool does the contrary.

2. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand] The symbolism of the right or the left hand, the former pointing to effective, the latter to ineffective, action, is so natural that it is scarcely necessary to look for its origin in the special thoughts or customs of this or that nation. It is, however, noticeable, probably as another trace of the Greek influence which pervades the book, that this special symbolism is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament, in which to “be on the right hand” of a man is a synonym for protecting him (Psalm 16:8; Psalm 110:5), while to “sit on the right hand,” is to occupy the place of honour (Psalm 110:1). In Greece, on the other hand, the figurative significance was widely recognised. The left was with augurs and diviners the unlucky quarter of the heavens. So the suitors of Penelope see an ill-boding omen:

αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀριστερὸς ἤλυθεν ὄρνις

αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης, ἔχε δὲ τρήρωνα πέλειαν.

“But to them came an omen on the left,

A lofty eagle, holding in its claws

A timid dove.”

Od. xx. 242.

Or still more closely parallel, as indicating a mind warped and perverted by unwisdom, in Sophocles:

οὔποτε γὰρ φρενόθν γʼ ἐπʼ ἀριστερά,

ποῖ Τελαμῶνος, ἔβας τόσσον.

“For never else, O son of Telamon,

Had’st thou from reason gone so far astray,

Treading the left-hand path.”

Aias 184.

Our own use of the word “sinister” is of course, a survival of the same feeling. The highest application of the symbolism is found in those that are set “on the right hand” and “on the left” in the parable of Matthew 25:31-46.Verses 2, 3. - A tetrastich contrasting wisdom and folly. Verse 2. - A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left. There is here no reference to the classical use of right and left, as ominous of success and disaster, which is never found in the Old Testament. The right hand is the place of honor, the left of inferiority, as a matter of fact, not of superstition and luck. The symbolism is intimated in Christ's account of the judgment (Matthew 25:31, etc.). But in the present passage we should best paraphrase - The wise man's heart, his understanding and sentiments, lead him to what is right and proper and straightforward; the fool's heart leads him astray, in the wrong direction. The former is active and skilful, the latter is slow and awkward. One, we may say, has no left hand, the other has no right. To be at the right hand is to be ready to help and guard. "The Lord is at thy right band," to protect thee, says the psalmist (Psalm 110:5). The wise man's mind shows him how to escape dangers and direct his course safely; the fool's mind helps him not to any good purpose, causes him to err and miss his best object. "A little city, and men therein only a few, - to which a great king came near, and he besieged it, and erected against it high bulwarks. And he met therein a poor wise man, and who saved the city by his wisdom; and no man thought of that poor man." What may be said as to the hist. reference of these words has already been noticed. The "great king" is probably an Asiatic monarch, and that the Persian; Jerome translates verbally: Civitas parva et pauci in ea viri, venit contra eam - the former is the subj., and the latter its pred.; the object stands first, plastically rigid, and there then follows what happened to it; the structure of the sentence is fundamentally the same as Psalm 104:25. The expression אל בּוא, which may be used of any kind of coming to anything, is here, as at Genesis 32:9, meant of a hostile approach. The object of a siege and a hostile attack is usually denoted by על, 2 Kings 16:5; Isaiah 7:1. Two Codd. of de Rossi's have the word מצורים, but that is an error of transcription; the plur. of מצור is fem., Isaiah 29:4. מצודים is, as at Ecclesiastes 7:26, plur. of מצוד (from צוּד, to lie in wait); here, as elsewhere, בּחן and דּיק is the siege-tower erected on the ground or on the rampart, from which to spy out the weak points of the beleaguered place so as to assail it.

The words following בהּ וּמצא are rendered by the Targ., Syr., Jerome, Arab., and Luther: "and there was found in it;" most interpreters explain accordingly, as they point to Ecclesiastes 1:10, יאמר, dicat aliquis. But that מץ taht in this sequence of thought is equals ונמצא (Job 42:15), is only to be supposed if it were impossible to regard the king as the subject, which Ewald with the lxx and the Venet. does in spite of 294b. It is true it would not be possible if, as Vaih. remarks, the finding presupposed a searching; but cf. on the contrary, e.g., Deuteronomy 24:1; Psalm 116:3. We also say of one whom, contrary to expectation, a superior meets with, that he has found his match, that he has found his man. Thus it is here said of the great king, he found in the city a poor wise man - met therein with such an one, against whom his plan was shattered. חכם is the adjective of the person of the poor man designated by ish miskēn (cf. 2 Chronicles 2:13); the accents correctly indicate this relation. Instead of וּמלּט־הוּא, the older language would use וימלּט; it does not, like the author here, use pure perfects, but makes the chief factum prominent by the fut. consec. The ē of millēt is that of limmēd before Makkeph, referred back to the original a. The making prominent of the subject contained in millat by means of hu is favourable to the supposition that umatsa' has the king as its subject; while even where no opposition (as e.g., at Jeremiah 17:18) lies before us this pleonasm belongs to the stylistic peculiarities of the book. Instead of adam lo, the older form is ish lo; perhaps the author here wishes to avoid the repetition of ish, but at Ecclesiastes 7:20 he also uses adam instead of ish, where no such reason existed.

Threatened by a powerful assailant, with whom it could not enter into battle, the little city, deserted by its men to a small remainder capable of bearing arms (this idea one appears to be under the necessity of connecting with מעט ... ואן), found itself in the greatest straits; but when all had been given up as lost, it was saved by the wisdom of the poor man (perhaps in the same way as Abel-beth-maacha, 2 Samuel 20, by the wisdom of a woman). But after this was done, the wise poor man quickly again fell into the background; no man thought of him, as he deserved to have been thought of, as the saviour of the city; he was still poor, and remained so, and pauper homo raro vifit cum nomine claro. The poor man with his wisdom, Hengst. remarks, is Israel. And Wangemann (1856), generalizing the parable: "The beleaguered city is the life of the individual; the great king who lays siege to it is death and the judgment of the Lord." But sounder and more appropriate is the remark of Luther: Est exemplum generale, cujus in multis historiis simile reperitur; and: Sic Themistocles multa bona fecit suis civibus, sed expertus summam intratitudinem. The author narrates an actual history, in which, on the one hand, he had seen what great things wisdom can do; and from which, on the other hand, he has drawn the following lesson:

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