And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Moreover.—This, the first word of the epilogue, is one of the specialties of the book of Ecclesiastes. (See Ecclesiastes 2:15.) So is also the word for “set in order” (Ecclesiastes 1:15; Ecclesiastes 7:13).Ecclesiastes 12:9-12. He still taught the people knowledge — As God gave him this wisdom, that he might be a teacher of others, so he used it to that end. Gave heed — He did not utter whatever came into his mind, but seriously pondered both his matter and his words. Therefore despise not his counsel. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words — Hebrew, רבי חפצ, words of desire, or, of delight: worthy of all acceptation, such as would minister comfort or profit to the hearers or readers. And that which was written — By the preacher, in this and his other books; was upright — Hebrew, רשׁי, right, or, straight, agreeable to the mind or will of God, which is the rule of right, not crooked or perverse; even words of truth — Not fables, cunningly devised to deceive the simple; but true and certain doctrines, which commend themselves to men’s reason and consciences; wholesome and edifying counsels. The words of the wise — Of spiritually wise and holy men of God; are as goads and as nails — Piercing into men’s dull minds, and quickening and exciting them to the practice of all duties; fastened by the masters of assemblies — Fixed in men’s memories and hearts, in which they make powerful and abiding impressions, by the ministry of the teachers of God’s church and people, whether prophets or others, appointed by God for that work; which are given from one shepherd — From God, or from Christ, the great Shepherd and Teacher of the church in all ages, by whose Spirit the ancient prophets, as well as other succeeding teachers, were inspired and taught, Jeremiah 3:15; 1 Peter 1:11; and 2 Peter 1:21. And further, by these — By these wise men, and their words or writings; be admonished — Take your instructions from them; for their words are right and true, as he said, Ecclesiastes 12:10; whereas the words of other men are often false, or at best, doubtful. Of making many books there is no end — As if he had said, I could easily write many and large books upon these matters; but that would be an endless and needless work; seeing things necessary to be known and done lie in a little compass, as he informs us, Ecclesiastes 12:13. And much study — The reading and considering of many books, as well as the writing of them; is a weariness to the flesh — Wasteth a man’s strength and spirits, and yet does not give satisfaction to his mind, nor sufficiently recompense the trouble and inconvenience to which man is exposed by it.
Here, as in the beginning of the book Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, the Preacher speaks of himself Ecclesiastes 12:8-10 in the third person. He first repeats Ecclesiastes 12:8 the mournful, perplexing theme with which his musings began Ecclesiastes 1:2; and then states the encouraging practical conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 to which they have led him. It has been pointed out that the Epilogue assumes the identity of the Preacher with the writer of the Book of Proverbs.
that which is written, &c.—rather, (he sought) "to write down uprightly (or, 'aright') words of truth" [Holden and Weiss]. "Acceptable" means an agreeable style; "uprightly … truth," correct sentiment.The preacher was wise; which he affirmeth not out of vain ostentation, but partly to procure the more credit and acceptance to his doctrine and, counsel here delivered; and partly to declare his repentance for his former follies, and God’s great mercy in restoring his wisdom to him.
Taught the people knowledge; as God gave him this wisdom, that he might be a teacher of others, so he used it to that end; therefore despise not his counsel.
He gave good heed; he did not rashly and foolishly utter whatsoever came into his mind or mouth, but seriously pondered both his matter and words.
Sought out; both by the exercise of his own mind, and by reading and learning from others.
Set in order; or, directed or fitted. He selected such as were most useful.
Many proverbs; excellent and wise sayings, which are oft called proverbs, as was noted before upon the Book of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes 12:13; to which Ecclesiastes 12:9; are a preface; and in which the wise man recommends the reading of this book, and other writings of his, and of other wise men inspired of God; and his own he particularly recommends, from his character as wise and industrious, in this verse; and from the subject matter of them, their nature, use, and excellency, and their efficacy and authority, in the two next;
because the preacher was wise; he was a "preacher", a royal one, an extraordinary preacher, and to be regarded; he urges not his title as a king, but his character as a preacher, to recommend what he had written: every good preacher should be regarded; not such who are ignorant preachers of the law, but faithful ministers of the Gospel, who are sent of God, and have felt and experienced what they deliver to others; and especially who are wise as well as faithful, as Solomon was; he had much wisdom given him at first, 1 Kings 3:12; and in which he improved; and though he turned to folly in his old age, he recovered from that, and gained more wisdom through his fall, and to which he here seems to have reference; for "Koheleth", which some render the "gatherer", because he gathered much wisdom, and much people to hear it; others render "gathered", that is, into the flock and fold again, the church of God, from which he had strayed; See Gill on Ecclesiastes 1:1; and having seen through the follies and vanities of life, and being recovered and restored, was a fitter person to teach and instruct others; see Psalm 51:12;
he still taught the people knowledge; or "again", as the Targum; after his fall and recovery he was communicative of his knowledge; he did not hide his talent in the earth, nor in a napkin; but having freely received he freely gave, and kept back nothing from his people, the people of the house of Israel, as the Targum, that might be profitable to them; he taught them the knowledge of themselves, as fallen men, impure, impotent, and unrighteous; the knowledge of the creatures, and the vanity of them, of riches, honours, and pleasures; and of works of righteousness to save men; the knowledge of Christ the Wisdom of God, the antiquity of his person, his glories, excellencies, and beauties, as in the books of Proverbs and Canticles; the knowledge of God, his fear and worship, mind and will; and the knowledge of a future state, and of the general judgment, as in this book; and in proportion to his own knowledge so he taught: for thus the words with the preceding may be rendered, that "the more that the preacher was wise, the more he taught the people knowledge" (c); he taught according to the abilities he had received, as preachers should; the more he grew in grace and knowledge, the more largely be shared with others; and this he did "daily", as Aben Ezra renders the words, constantly, continually, incessantly, in season and out of season, as faithful Gospel ministers do;
yea, he gave good heed; to what he heard and to what be read, to which the apostle's advice agrees, 1 Timothy 4:13; or he caused others to hear, and give good heed to what is said, as Aben Ezra; he engaged their attention by his enlivening discourses; or, as Kimchi, he weighed things in his own mind, and in the balance of the sanctuary; and thoroughly considered and digested them before he delivered them to others;
and sought out; was very diligent in investigating truth, he searched into the mines of knowledge for it, the sacred writings, as one would for gold and silver, and as he himself directs, Proverbs 2:4;
and set in order many proverbs; three thousand of them, 1 Kings 4:32; particularly those which are in the book of that name, penned by him; he selected the most choice, pithy, and sententious sayings, of his own and others; and these he huddled not up, or threw them together in a disorderly and confused manner; but put them together in proper order and method, under proper heads, as well as in a correct style, that they might be more received, and more easily retained. The Targum is,
"he attended to the voice of the wise men, and searched the books of wisdom; and by a spirit of prophecy from the Lord composed books of wisdom, and very many proverbs of understanding.''
(z) "praeterea", Tigurine version, Vatablus, Schmidt. (a) "Quod reliquum est", Piscator, Gejerus, Amama. (b) "Quamobrem potius", Junius & Tremeillius; "and this is a matter of excellency", Broughton, (c) Mercerus and Cocceius.And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. And moreover, because the Preacher was wise] The opening words, closely linked on, as they are, to the preceding, confirm the conclusion just stated that Ecclesiastes 12:8 belongs to this postscript of attestation. The unknown writer of the attestation (probably the President of the Sanhedrin, or some other Master of the Wise, such as were Hillel and Gamaliel) begins by repeating the key-note of the opening of the book. So taken, the words are every way significant. They do not name Solomon as the author, but content themselves with recognising the enigmatic name with which the unknown writer had veiled himself. He, they say, belonged to the company of the sages. He “gave good heed” (literally, he hearkened or gave ear), he “sought out” (we note how exactly the word describes the tentative, investigating character of the book, as in Jdg 18:2; 2 Samuel 10:3; Proverbs 28:11; Job 5:27; Job 28:27), he “set in order” (i.e. composed) “many proverbs.” The word for “proverbs” is that which stands as the title of the Book of Proverbs, but it expresses, more than the English term does, the parabolic, half-enigmatic character which is characteristic of most sayings of this nature in the East, and as such is translated by “parables” in the LXX. here, and in the A.V. in Ezekiel 20:49; Psalm 49:4; Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18; Numbers 23:24 and elsewhere. The words have been pressed by some interpreters as a testimony to the Salomonic authorship, but it is obvious that though they fit in with that hypothesis, they are equally applicable to any one who followed in the same track and adopted the same method of teaching.Verses 9-14. - THE EPILOGUE. This contains some observations commendatory of the author, explaining his standpoint and the object of the book, the great conclusion to which it leads. Verses 9-11. - Koheleth as teacher of wisdom. Verse 9. - And moreover; וְיֹתֵר; καὶ περισσόν (Septuagint); rather, with the following שֵׁ besides that. The Preacher was wise. If we render "because the Preacher was wise," we are making an unnecessary statement, as the whole book has demonstrated this fact, which goes without saying. What the writer here asserts is that Koheleth did not merely possess wisdom, but had made good use of it for the instruction of others. The author throws aside his disguise, and speaks of his object in composing the book, with a glance at the historical Solomon whom he had personated. That he uses the third person in relation to himself is nothing uncommon in historical memoirs, etc. Thus Daniel writes; and St. John, Thucydides, Xenophon, Caesar, mask their personality by dropping their identity with the author (comp. also Ecclesiastes 1:2; Ecclesiastes 7:27). The attestation that follows is compared with that at the end of St. John's Gospel (John 21:24), and is plainly intended to confirm the authority of the writer, and to enforce on the hearer the conviction that, though Solomon himself did not compose the work, it has every claim to receive attention, and possesses intrinsic value. He still taught the people knowledge. As well as being esteemed one of the company of sages, he further (od) took pains to instruct his contemporaries (τὸν ἄνθρωπον, Septuagint), to apply his wisdom to educational purposes. Yea, he gave good heed; literally, he weighed (like our word "ponder"); only thus used in this passage. It denotes the careful examination of every fact and argument before it was presented to the public. Sought out, and set in order many proverbs. There is no copula in the original; the weighing and the investigation issued in the composition of "proverbs," which term includes not only the wit and wisdom of past ages in the form of pithy sayings and apophthegms, but also parables, truths in metaphorical guise, riddles, instructions, allegories, etc., all those forms which are found in the canonical Book of Proverbs. The same word (mishle) is used here as in the title of that book. Koheleth, however, is not necessarily referring to that work (or to 1 Kings 4:29, etc.), or implying that he himself wrote it; he is only putting forth his claim to attention by showing his patient assiduity in the pursuit of wisdom, and how that he adopted a particular method of teaching. For the idea contained in the verb taqan, "to place or make straight" (Ecclesiastes 1:15; Ecclesiastes 7:13), applied to literary composition, Delitzsch compares the German word for" author" (Schriftsteller). The notion of the mashal being similitude, comparison, the writer's pondering and searching were needed to discover hidden analogies, and, by means of the known and familiar, to lead up to the more obscure and abstruse. The Septuagint has a curious and somewhat unintelligible rendering, Καὶ οϋς ἐξιχνιάσεται κόσμιον παραβολῶν, "And the ear will trace out the order of parables," which Schleusner translates, "elegantes parabolas." Ecclesiastes 12:2, is compared: Watchers then guard the house; labourers are wearied with the labours and cares of the day; the maids who have to grind at the mill have gone to rest; and almost all have already fallen asleep; the women who look out from the windows are unrecognisable, because it has become dark. But what kind of cowardly watchers are those who "tremble," and what kind of (per antiphrasin) strong men who "bow themselves" at evening like children when they have belly-ache! Ginsburg regards Ecclesiastes 12:2-5 as a continuation of the description of the consequences of the storm under which human life comes to an end: the last consequence is this, that they who experience it lose the taste for almonds and the appetite for locusts. But what is the meaning of this quaint figure? it would certainly be a meaningless and aimless digression. Taylor hears in this verse the mourning for the dead from Ecclesiastes 12:2, where death is described: the watchers of the house tremble; the strong men bow themselves, viz., from sorrow, because of the blank death has made in the house, etc.; but even supposing that this picture had a connection in Ecclesiastes 12:2, how strange would it be! - the lookers out at the windows must be the "ladies," who are fond of amusing themselves at windows, and who now - are darkened. Is there anything more comical than such little ladies having become darkened (whether externally or internally remains undetermined)? However one may judge of the figurative language of Ecclesiastes 12:2, Ecclesiastes 12:3 begins the allegorical description of hoary old age after its individual bodily symptoms; interpreters also, such as Knobel, Hitz., and Ewald, do not shrink from seeking out the significance of the individual figures after the old Haggadic manner. The Talm. says of shomrē habbayith: these are the loins and ribs; of the anshē hehhayil: these are the bones; of harooth baarǔbboth: these, the eyes. The Midrash understand the watchers of the house, of the knees of the aged man; the men of strength, of his ribs or arms; the women at the mill, of the digestive organs (המסס,
(Note: This hamses is properly the second stomach of the ruminants, the cellular caul.)
the stomach, from omasum); those who have become few, of the teeth; the women looking out at the window, of the eyes; another interpretation, which by harooth thinks of the lungs, is not worth notice.
Here also the Targ. principally follows the Midrash: it translates the watchers of the house by "thy knees;" strong men by "thine arms;" the women at the mill by "the teeth of thy mouth;" the women who look out at the window by "thine eyes." These interpretations for the most part are correct, only those referable to the internal organs are in bad taste; references to these must be excluded from the interpretation, for weakness of the stomach, emphysema of the lungs, etc., are not appropriate as poetical figures. The most common biblical figures of the relation of the spirit or the soul to the body is, as we have shown, Psychol. p. 227, that of the body as of the house of the inner man. This house, as that of an old man, is on all sides in a ruinous condition. The shomrē habbayith are the arms terminating in the hands, which bring to the house whatever is suitable for it, and keep away from it whatever threatens to do it injury; these protectors of the house have lost their vigour and elasticity (Genesis 49:24), they tremble, are palsied (יזעוּ, from זוּע, Pilp. זעזע, bibl. and Mishn.: to move violently hither and thither, to tremble, to shake),
(Note: Vid., Friedr. Delitzsch's Indogerm.-Sem. Stud. p. 65f.)
so that they are able neither to grasp securely, to hold fast and use, nor actively to keep back and forcibly avert evil. Anshē hěhhayil designates the legs, for the shoqē haish are the seat of his strength, Psalm 147:10; the legs of a man in the fulness of youthful strength are like marble pillars, Sol 5:15; but those of the old man hith'authu (Hithpa. only here) have bowed themselves, they have lost their tight form, they are shrunken (כּרעות, Job 4:4, etc.) and loose; 4 Macc. 4:5 calls this τὴν ἐκ τοῦ γήρως νωθρότητα ποδῶν ἐπικύφοον. To maidens who grind (cf. טח בר, Numbers 11:8 and Isaiah 47:2) the corn by means of a hand-mill are compared the teeth, the name of which in the old language is masc., but in the modern (cf. Proverbs 29:19), as also in the Syr. and Arab., is fem.; the reference of the figure to these instruments for grinding is not to be missed; the Arab. ṭḥinat and the Syr. ṭaḥonto signify dens molaris, and we now call 6 of the 32 teeth Mahlzhne (molar teeth, or grinders); the Greeks used for them the word μύλαι (Psalm 57:7, lxx). Regarding בּטלוּ, lxx ἤργησαν ( equals ἀερτοὶ ἐγενήθησαν)
(Note: We find a similar allegory in Shabbath 152a. The emperor asked the Rabbi Joshua b. Chananja why he did not visit בי אבידן (a place where learned conversation, particularly on religious subjects, was carried on). He answered: "The mount is snow ( equals the hair of the head is white), ice surrounds me ( equals whiskers and beard on the chin white), its (of my body) dogs bark not (the voice fails), and its grinders (the teeth) grind not." The proper meaning of בי אבידן, Levy has not been able clearly to bring to light in his Neuhebr. u. Chald. W.B.)
The clause מעטוּ כּי (lxx ὃτι ὠλιγώθησαν) assigns the reason that the grinders rest, i.e., are not at work, that they have become few: they stand no longer in a row; they are isolated, and (as is to be supposed) are also in themselves defective. Taylor interprets mi'etu transitively: the women grinding rest when they have wrought a little, i.e., they interrupt their labour, because on account of the occurrence of death, guests are now no longer entertained; but the beautiful appropriate allegory maintains its place against this supposed lamentation for the dead; also מעט does not signify to accomplish a little (Targ.), but to take away, to become few (lxx, Syr., Jerome, Venet. Luther), as such as Pih. as Ecclesiastes 10:10, קהה, to become blunt. And by הראות בּא we are not to think, with Taylor, of women such as Sidera's mother or Michal, who look out of the window, but of the eyes, more exactly the apples of the eyes, to which the orbita (lxx ἐν ταῖς ὀπαῖς; Symm. διὰ τῶν ὀπῶν) and the eyelids with the eye-lashes are related as a window is to those who look out; ארבּה (from ארב, R. רב, to entwine firmly and closely) is the window, consisting of a lattice of wood; the eyes are, as Cicero (Tusc. i. 20) calls them, quasi fenestrae animi; the soul-eyes, so to speak, without which it could not experience what sight is, look by means of the external eyes; and these soul-bodily eyes have become darkened in the old man, the power of seeing is weakened, and the experiences of sight are indistinct, the light of the eyes is extinguished (although not without exception, Deuteronomy 34:7).
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