Ecclesiastes 10:9
Whoever removes stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that splits wood shall be endangered thereby.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Removeth.—The nearest parallel is 1Kings 5:17, where the word is used with regard to the quarryings, not the removing of stones. For the latter sense, however, there is countenance in 2Kings 4:4, where the word is translated “set aside.”

Cleaveth wood.—Or, cutteth down trees, an operation not free from danger (Deuteronomy 19:5).

10:4-10 Solomon appears to caution men not to seek redress in a hasty manner, nor to yield to pride and revenge. Do not, in a passion, quit thy post of duty; wait awhile, and thou wilt find that yielding pacifies great offences. Men are not preferred according to their merit. And those are often most forward to offer help, who are least aware of the difficulties, or the consequences. The same remark is applied to the church, or the body of Christ, that all the members should have the same care one for another.Be endangered - Rather: "cut himself." 9. removeth stones—namely, of an ancient building [Weiss]. His neighbor's landmarks [Holden]. Cuts out from the quarry [Maurer].

endangered—by the splinters, or by the head of the hatchet, flying back on himself. Pithy aphorisms are common in the East. The sense is: Violations of true wisdom recoil on the perpetrators.

Whoso removeth stones; either,

1. The stones which belong to others, and limit or distinguish their grounds, of which see Deu 27:17. Or,

2. Great stones too heavy for them; which rashly attempt things too high and hard for them; which seems better to agree with the following clause than the former interpretation doth.

Shall be hurt therewith; may easily receive hurt by the stones falling unexpectedly and violently upon him.

He that cleaveth wood, with an iron instrument, as the manner is, he being unskilful in that art. Possibly he designs a man who causeth discord and mischief among friends, or in a family, or kingdom.

Shall be endangered thereby; may peradventure cut himself. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith,.... That carries them from the quarry, where they are dug; or takes them from a heap, where they lie; or that attempts to pull them out of a building, where they are put; or removes them from places, where they are set as boundaries and landmarks; all which is troublesome, and by which men get hurt; the stones fall upon them, or are too heavy for them, or they do what they should not do, and so bring themselves into trouble; as do all such persons who are for removing the boundaries of commonwealths and communities, and for changing laws, and altering constitutions;

and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby; of cutting himself: so he that soweth discord among brethren, that makes divisions in families, neighbourhoods, kingdoms, and churches; see Proverbs 6:16, Romans 16:18. Jarchi renders it, "shall be warmed" or "heated", according to the sense of the word, as he thinks, in 1 Kings 1:2; though he understands it of being profited by studying in the law and the commandments; of which he interprets the clause; and Ben Melech observes, that the word so signifies in the Arabic language; and Mr. Broughton renders it, "shall be heated thereby". The Targum paraphrases it,

"shall be burnt with fire, by the hand of the Angel of the Lord:''

or, however, he may be overheated and do himself hurt, as men, that kindle the flame of contention and strife, often do.

Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith] The words are referred by some commentators to an act like that of the previous verse, by others to hewing stone in the quarry. In the former case, however, we get but a tame repetition, in the latter there is nothing in the act that deserves retribution. We get a more natural meaning, if we think of the curse pronounced on him who “removes his neighbour’s landmark” (Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17). Such landmarks often consisted of cairns or heaps of stones, as in Genesis 31:46-48, or a pillar, and the act of removing it would be one of wrongful aggression. For the stone to fall on a man so acting would be once more an instance of the Nemesis which is presented in these similitudes.

he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby] Better, “he that cleaveth trees or logs,” as in Genesis 1:11; Genesis 2:16; Genesis 23:16; Isaiah 40:20, and elsewhere. Here again the proverb seems to have a double edge. (1) On the one hand it might seem that an act of unjust aggression is contemplated. The special sacredness of trees as standing above most other forms of property is recognised in Deuteronomy 20:19-20, and the frequency of accidents in the process was provided for by the special legislation (Deuteronomy 19:5), which exempted from penalty one who in this way was the involuntary cause of his neighbour’s death. The primary thought in the saying, so taken, is, as before, that retribution comes on the evil-doer out of the very deed of evil. Out of our “pleasant vices” the gods “make whips to scourge us.” The attack on sacred and time-honoured institutions is not without peril. (2) On the other hand, eastern as well as western thought recognises in decayed trees the types of corrupt institutions that need to be reformed, and, as in the last proverb, the work of the reformer is not always a safe or easy one. Popular political rhetoric has made us familiar both with the appeal to “spare the tree” under the shadow of whose branches our fathers lived, and with that which bids men lop branch after branch from the “deadly Upas” of oppression and iniquity, especially of corrupt kingdoms (Isaiah 14:8; Jeremiah 51:15; Ezekiel 34:3; Daniel 9:10; Daniel 9:14; Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:7; Luke 13:9).Verse 9. - Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith. It is natural to consider this clause as suggested by the breaking of a wall in the preceding verse; but as this would occasion a jejune repetition, it is better to take it of the work of the quarryman, as in 1 Kings 5:17, where the same verb is used. The dangers to which such laborers are exposed are well known. Here, again, but unsuccessfully, some have seen a reference to the removal of landmarks, comparing 2 Kings 4:4, where the word is translated "set aside." As before said, the paragraph does not speak of retribution, but advises caution, enforcing the lesson by certain homely, allusions to the accidents that may occur m customary occupations. He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. Cutting up logs of wood, a man may hurt himself with axe or saw, or be injured by splinters, etc. If we take the idea to be the felling of trees, there is the danger of being crushed in their fall, or, according to the tenor of Deuteronomy 19:5, of being killed inadvertently by a neighbor's axe. Vulgate, Qui scindit ligna vulnerabitur ab eis, which is more definite than the general term "endangered;" but the Septuagint has, Κινδυνεύσει ἐν αὐτοῖς, as in the Authorized Version. Plumptre sees here, again, an intimation of the danger of attacking time-honored institutions, even when decaying and corrupt. This 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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