I have seen servants on horses, and princes walking as servants on the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 10:5 is here specified as that caprice of a king by which an unworthy favorite of low origin is promoted to successive dignities, while a noble person is degraded or neglected. Servants; men of a servile condition and disposition, who are altogether unfit for places of dignity.
Upon horses; riding upon horses, as a badge of their dignity, as Esther 6:8,9 Jer 17:25 Ezekiel 23:23.
Princes walking as servants upon the earth, which was the case of his own father, 2 Samuel 15:30. Proverbs 30:21; the Parthians and Persians distinguished their nobles and the vulgar, freemen and servants, by this; the servants went on foot, and the freemen rode on horses (r);
and princes walking as servants upon the earth; degraded from their honour; banished from their thrones and palaces, or obliged to leave them, and reduced to the lowest state and condition: so David, when his son rebelled against him, and he was forced to flee from him, and walk on foot, 2 Samuel 15:30; Alshech thinks it may be a prophecy of the captivity of Israel, when they walked as servants on the earth, and the Gentiles rode on horses.I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. I have seen servants upon horses] The general fact of the previous verse is reproduced with more dramatic vividness. To ride upon horses was with the Parthians a special distinction of the nobly born (Justin xli. 3). So Mordecai rides on horseback through the city as one whom the king delighted to honour (Esther 5:8-9). So the Hippeis in the polity of Solon, and the Equites in that of Servius Tullius, took their place as representing the element of aristocratic wealth. So Aristotle notes that the keeping a horse (ἱπποτροφία) was the special distinction of the rich, and therefore that all cities which aimed at military strength were essentially aristocratic (Pol. iv. 23, vi. 7). So in the earlier days of European intercourse with Turkey, Europeans generally were only allowed to ride on asses or mules, a special exception being made for the consuls of the great powers (Maundrell, Journey from Aleppo, p. 492, Bohn’s Edition). Our own proverb “Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride to the devil” is a survival of the same feeling. The reign of Ptolemy Philopator and Epiphanes may have presented many illustrations of what the writer notes.Verse 7. - I have seen servants upon horses. A further description of the effect of the tyrant's perversion of equity. Such an allusion could not have been made in Solomon's reign, when the importation of horses was quite a new thing (1 Kings 10:28). Later, to ride upon horses was a distinction of the nobility (Jeremiah 17:25). Thus Amaziah's corpse was brought on horses to be buried in the city of David (2 Chronicles 25:28): Mordecai was honored by being taken round the city on the king's own steed (Esther 6:8, etc.). Princes walking as servants upon the earth. "Princes" (sarim); i.e. masters, lords. Some take the expressions here as figurative, equivalent to "those who are worthy to be princes," and "those who are fit only to be slaves;" but the literal is the true interpretation. Commentators quote what Justin (41:3) says of the Parthians, "Hoc denique discrimen inter serves liberos-que, quod servi pedibus, Liberi non nisi equis iuccdunt." Ginsburg notes that early travelers in the East record the fact that Europeans were not allowed by the Turks to ride upon horses, but were compelled either to use asses or walk on foot. In some places the privilege of riding upon horseback was permitted to the consuls of the great powers - an honor denied to all strangers of lower degree. Among the Greeks and Romans the possession of a horse with its war-trappings implied a certain amount of wealth and distinction. St. Gregory, treating of this passage ('Moral.,' 31:43), says, "By the name horse is understood temporal dignity, as Solomon witnesses .... For every one who sins is the servant of sin, and servants are upon horses, when sinner's are elated with the dignities of the present life. But princes walk as servants, when no honor exalts many who are full of the dignity of virtues, but when the greatest misfortune here presses them down, as though unworthy." Genesis 39:22; Joel 1:20; Isaiah 59:12, etc. It is a question, however, whether by זבובי מות, death-bringing, i.e., poisonous flies (lxx, Targ., Luther)
(Note: The Targ. interprets, as the Talm. and Mid. do, deadly flies as a figure of the prava concupiscentia. Similarly Wangemann: a mind buried in the world.)
or dead flies (Symm., Syr., Jerome) is meant. We decide in favour of the former; for (1) זבובי מות for זבוּבים מתים (Ecclesiastes 9:4; Isaiah 37:36), "death-flies" for "dead flies," would be an affected poetic expression without analogy; while, on the contrary, "death-flies" for "deadly flies" is a genit. connection, such as מות כּלי instruments of death, i.e., deadly instruments and the like; Bttcher understands dung-flies; but the expression can scarcely extend to the designation of flies which are found on dead bodies. Meanwhile, it is very possible that by the expression זב ם, such flies are thought of as carry death from dead bodies to those that are living; the Assyr. syllabare show how closely the Semites distinguished manifold kinds of זבובים (Assyr. zumbi equals zubbi). (2) In favour of "dead flies," it has been remarked that that influence on the contents of a pot of ointment is effected not merely by poison-flies, but, generally, by flies that have fallen into it.
But since the oil mixed with perfumes may also be of the kind which, instead of being changed by a dead body, much rather embalms it; so it does not surprise us that the exciter of fermentation is thus drastically described by μυῖαι θανατοῦσαι (lxx); it happens, besides, also on this account, because "a little folly" corresponds as a contrasted figure to the little destructive carcase, - wisdom בע תּח ("giveth life," Ecclesiastes 7:2), a little folly is thus like little deadly flies. The sequence of ideas יב יבּ (maketh the ointment stink) is natural. The corrupting body communicates its foul savour to the ointment, makes it boil up, i.e., puts it into a state of fermentation, in consequence of which it foams and raises up small blisters, אבעבועות (Rashi). To the asyndeton יב יבּ, there corresponds, in 1b, the asyndeton מח מ כּ; the Targ., Syr., and Jerome,
(Note: The lxx entirely remodels Ecclesiastes 10:1: τίμιον κ.τ.λ ("a little wisdom is more honour than the great glory of folly"), i.e., יקר מעט חכמה סכלות רב (כבוד in the sense of "great multitude"). Van der Palm (1784) regards this as the original form of the text.)
who translate by "and," are therefore not witnesses for the phrase וּמך, but the Venet. (καὶ τῆς δόχης) had this certainly before it; it is, in relation to the other, inferior in point of evidence.
(Note: מכּבוד; thus in the Biblia rabb. 1525, 1615, Genoa 1618, Plantin 1582, Jablonski 1699, and also v. d. Hooght and Norzi. In the Ven. 1515, 1521, 1615, וּמכּבוד is found with the copulat. vav, a form which is adopted by Michaelis. Thus also the Concord. cites, and thus, originally, it stood in J., but has been corrected to מכּבוד. F., however, has מכּבוד, with the marginal remark: מכבוד כן קבלתי מני שמשון (Simson ha-Nakdam, to whom the writer of the Frankf. Cod. 1294 here refers for the reading מך, without the copul. vav, is often called by him his voucher). This is also the correct Masoretic reading; for if וּמך were to be read, then the word would be in the catalogue of words of which three begin with their initial letter, and a fourth has introduced a vav before it (Mas. fin. f. 26, Ochla veochla, Nr. 15).)
In general, it is evident that the point of comparison is the hurtfulness, widely extending itself, of a matter which in appearance is insignificant. Therefore the meaning of Ecclesiastes 10:1 cannot be that a little folly is more weighty than wisdom, than honour, viz., in the eyes of the blinded crowd (Zckl., Dchsel). This limitation the author ought to have expressed, for without it the sentence is an untruth. Jerome, following the Targ. and Midrash, explains: Pretiosa est super sapientiam et gloriam stultitia parva, understanding by wisdom and honour the self-elation therewith connected; besides, this thought, which Luther limits by the introduction of zuweilen ["folly is sometimes better than wisdom, etc."], is in harmony neither with that which goes before nor with that which follows.
Luzz., as already Aben Ezra, Grotius, Geiger, Hengst., and the more recent English expositors, transfer the verbs of Ecclesiastes 10:1 zeugmatically to Ecclesiastes 10:1: similiter pretiosum nomine sapientiae et gloriae virum foetidum facit stolidtias parva. But יביע forbids this transference, and, besides, מן יקר, "honoured on account of," is an improbable expression; also מך יקר presents a tautology, which Luzz. seeks to remove by glossing מך, as the Targ. does, by ונכסים עושר מרוב. Already Rashi has rightly explained by taking יקר (Syr. jaḳîr, Arab. waḳur, waḳûr), in its primary meaning, as synon. of כּבד: more weighty, i.e., heavier and weighing more than wisdom, than honour, is a little folly; and he reminds us that a single foolish act can at once change into their contrary the wisdom and the honour of a man, destroying both, making it as if they had never been, cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6. The sentence is true both in an intellectual and in a moral reference. Wisdom and honour are swept away by a little quantum of folly; it places both in the shade, it outweighs them in the scale; it stamps the man, notwithstanding the wisdom and dignity which otherwise belong to him, as a fool. The expressive רקח שׁמן is purposely used here; the dealer in ointments (pigmentarius) can now do nothing with the corrupted perfume, - thus the wisdom which a man possesses, the honour which he has hitherto enjoyed, avail him no longer; the proportionally small portion of folly which has become an ingredient in his personality gives him the character of a fool, and operates to his dishonour. Knobel construes rightly; but his explanation (also of Heiligst., Elst., Ginsb.): "a little folly frequently shows itself more efficacious and fruitful than the wisdom of an honoured wise man," helps itself with a "frequently" inserted, and weakens מך to a subordinated idea, and is opposed to the figure, which requires a personality.
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