Ecclesiastes 10:3
Yes also, when he that is a fool walks by the way, his wisdom fails him, and he said 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." "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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