Ecclesiastes 10:3
Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
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(3) That he is a fool.—In Hebrew, as in English, the antecedent of “he” may be taken differently, and so the Vulg. and other authorities understand the verse as meaning that the fool in his self-conceit attributes folly to everyone else. But it is better, as well as more obvious, to take the verse of the self-betrayal of the fool (Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 17:28; Proverbs 18:2).

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."Way" may be understood either literally (compare Ecclesiastes 10:15), or figuratively, of the course of action which he follows.

He saith ... - He exposes his folly to every one he meets.

3. by the way—in his ordinary course; in his simplest acts (Pr 6:12-14). That he "saith," virtually, "that he" himself, &c. [Septuagint]. But Vulgate, "He thinks that every one (else whom he meets) is a fool." Walketh by the way; not only in great undertakings, but in his daily conversation with men, in his looks, and gestures, and common talk.

His wisdom faileth him; or, he wants a heart; as if he had said, Did I say, his heart is at his left hand? I must recall it, for in truth he hath no heart in him.

He saith to every one that he is a fool; he publicly discovers his folly to all that meet him, or converse with him.

Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way,.... The king's highway, the common road; as he passeth along the streets, going to any place, or about any business:

his wisdom faileth him; or "his heart" (p); he appears by his gait, his manner of walking, to want a heart, to be a fool; walking with a froward mouth, winking with his eyes, speaking with his feet, and teaching with his fingers; all which shows the frowardness and folly of his heart, Proverbs 6:12; or he discovers it throughout his conversation, in all the actions of it, in whatsoever business he is concerned, and in all the affairs of life. The Targum is,

"when he walketh in a perplexed way;''

then his wisdom fails him; he does not know which way to take, whether to the right or left: this can never be understood of the highway of holiness, in which men, though fools, shall not err, Isaiah 35:8;

and he saith to everyone that he is a fool; his folly is manifest to all; he betrays it, by his words and actions, to every man he has to do with; his sins and transgressions, which are his folly, he hides not, they are evident to all; and, as the Targum expresses it,

"all say he is a fool:''

though indeed he himself says this of every other man, that he is a fool; for, according to the Vulgate Latin version, he, being a fool himself, thinks everybody else is so.

(p) "cor ejus", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

Also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he {b} saith to every one that he is a fool.

(b) By his doings he betrays himself.

3. Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way] The general drift of the proverb seems plain enough. “Even when the fool is in the way (either literally, ‘whenever and wherever he goes,’ or figuratively, ‘when he has been put in the right path of conduct’), his heart (i. e. his intellect) fails him, and he manifests his folly.” The last clause, however, admits of two constructions, each of which has the support of high authorities, (1) he saith to every one that he (the fool himself) is a fool, i. e. betrays his unwisdom in every word he utters; or (2) he says to every man that he (the man he meets) is a fool, i. e. in his self-conceit he thinks that he alone is wise (comp. Romans 12:16). On the whole the latter construction seems preferable. So it is notoriously the most significant symptom of insanity that the patient looks on all others as insane. It may be noted that (1) finds a parallel in Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 18:2; (2) in Proverbs 26:16.

Verse 3. - Yea, also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way. As soon as ever he sets his foot outside the house, and mixes with other men, he exhibits his folly. If he remained at home he might keep his real ineptitude concealed; but such persons as he are unconscious of their inanity, and take no pains to hide it; they go where, they act as, their foolish heart prompts them. There is no metaphor here, nor any reference to the fool being put in the right path and perversely turning away. It is simply, as the Septuagint renders, Καί γε ἐν ὁδῷ ὅταν ἄφρων πορεύηται His wisdom (Hebrew, heart) faileth him. Ginsburg and others render, "He lacketh his mind," want of heart being continually taken in the Book of Proverbs as equivalent to deficiency of understanding (Proverbs 6:32; Proverbs 7:7, etc.). But Delitzsch and Wright consider the order of the words and the suffix to be against this view, and they translate as the Authorized Version, i.e. his understanding is at fault. And he saith to every one that he is a fool. The sentence is ambiguous, and capable of two interpretations. The Vulgate has, Cumipse insipiens sit, omnes stultos aestimat. Jerome quotes Symmachus as rendering, "He suspects all men that they are fools." According to this view, the fool in his conceit thinks that every one he meets is a fool, says this in his mind, like the sluggard in Proverbs 26:16, "Who is wiser in his own conceit than ten men that can render a reason." Another explanation, more closely in accordance with the foregoing clauses, takes the pronoun in "he is a fool" to refer to the man himself, se esse stultum (comp. Psalm 9:21 [20], "Let the nations know themselves to be but men"). As soon as he goes abroad, his words and actions display his real character; he betrays himself; he says virtually to all with whom he has to do, "I am a fool" (comp. Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 18:2). It is hard to say to which interpretation the Septuagint inclines, giving, Καὶ α} λογιεῖται πάντα ἀφροσύνη ἐστίν, "And all that he will think is folly." Ecclesiastes 10:3This proverb forms, along with the preceding, a tetrastich, for it is divided into two parts by vav. The Kerı̂ has removed the art. in כש and שה, Ecclesiastes 6:10, as incompatible with the ש. The order of the words vegam-baderek keshehsachal holek is inverted for vegam keshehsachal baderek holek, cf. Ecclesiastes 3:13, and also rav shěyihyn, Ecclesiastes 6:3; so far as this signifies, "supposing that they are many." Plainly the author intends to give prominence to "on the way;" and why, but because the fool, the inclination of whose heart, according to 2b, always goes to the left, is now placed in view as he presents himself in his public manner of life. Instead of לב־הוּא חסר we have here the verbal clause חסר לבּו, which is not, after Ecclesiastes 6:2, to be translated: corde suo caret (Herzf., Ginsb.), contrary to the suff. and also the order of the words, but, after Ecclesiastes 9:8 : cor ejus deficit, i.e., his understanding is at fault; for לב, here and at Ecclesiastes 10:2, is thus used in a double sense, as the Greek νοῦς and the Lat. mens can also be used: there it means pure, formal, intellectual soul-life; here, pregnantly (Psychol. p. 249), as at Ecclesiastes 7:7, cf. Hosea 4:11, the understanding or the knowledge and will of what is right. The fool takes no step without showing that his understanding is not there, - that, so to speak, he does not take it along with him, but has left it at home. He even carries his folly about publicly, and prides himself in it as if it were wisdom: he says to all that he is a fool, se esse stultum (thus, correctly, most Jewish and Christian interpreters, e.g., Rashi and Rambach). The expression follows the scheme of Psalm 9:21: May the heathen know mortales se esse (vid., l.c.). Otherwise Luther, with Symm. and Jerome: "he takes every man as a fool;" but this thought has no support in the connection, and would undoubtedly be expressed by המּה סכלים. Still differently Knobel and Ewald: he says to all, "it is foolish;" Hitzig, on the contrary, justly remarks that סכל is not used of actions and things; this also is true of כּסיל, against himself, Ecclesiastes 5:2, where he translates qol kesil by "foolish discourses."
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