Ecclesiastes 4:14
For out of prison he comes to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becomes poor.
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(14) Becometh.—Instead of this translation, it is better to render, in his kingdom he was even poor; but there is ambiguity in the Hebrew, as in the English, whether the antecedent of the “his” and the “he” is the old king or the new one.

4:13-16 People are never long easy and satisfied; they are fond of changes. This is no new thing. Princes see themselves slighted by those they have studied to oblige; this is vanity and vexation of spirit. But the willing servants of the Lord Jesus, our King, rejoice in him alone, and they will love Him more and more to all eternity.Rather: For out of the house of bondage he goes forth to be a king; although he was born poor in his kingdom, i. e., in the country over which he became king.14. out of prison—Solomon uses this phrase of a supposed case; for example, Joseph raised from a dungeon to be lord of Egypt. His words are at the same time so framed by the Holy Ghost that they answer virtually to Jeroboam, who fled to escape a "prison" and death from Solomon, to Shishak of Egypt (1Ki 11:40). This unconscious presaging of his own doom, and that of Rehoboam, constitutes the irony. David's elevation from poverty and exile, under Saul (which may have been before Solomon's mind), had so far their counterpart in that of Jeroboam.

whereas … becometh poor—rather, "though he (the youth) was born poor in his kingdom" (in the land where afterwards he was to reign).

Out of prison, into which he was cast for his poverty and debt, he, the poor and wise child,

cometh to reign; is ofttimes advanced by his wisdom to the highest power and dignity; which was the case of Joseph, and Mordecai, and many others.

He that is born in his kingdom, that old king, who was born of the royal race, and had possessed his kingdom for a long time,

becometh poor; is deprived of his kingdom, either by the rebellion of his subjects provoked by his folly, or by the power of some other and wiser prince. For out of prison he cometh to reign,.... That is, this is sometimes the case of a poor and wise child; he rises out of a low, mean, abject, obscure state and condition, to the highest dignity; from a prison house, or a place where servants are, to sit among princes, and even to have the supreme authority: so Joseph, to whose case Solomon is thought to have respect, and which is mentioned in the Midrash; who was but a young man, and poor and friendless, but wise; and was even laid in prison, though innocent and guiltless, from whence he was fetched, and became the second man in the kingdom of Egypt; so David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, was taken from the sheepfold, and set upon the throne of Israel: though Gussetius (e) interprets this of the old and foolish king, who comes out of the house or family, of degenerate persons, as he translates the word, with a degenerate genius to rule; the allusion being to a degenerate vine; which sense agrees with Ecclesiastes 4:13, and with what follows;

whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor; who is born of royal parents, born to a kingdom; is by birth heir to one, has it by inheritance, and has long possessed it; and yet, by his own misconduct, or by the rebellion of his subjects, he is dethroned and banished; or by a foreign power is taken and carried captive, and reduced to the utmost poverty, as Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, and others: or if born poor, so Gussetius; with a poor genius, not capable of ruling, and so loses his kingdom, and comes to poverty. Or it may be rendered, "although in his kingdom he is born poor" (f); that is, though the poor and wise child is born poor in the kingdom of the old and foolish king; yet, out of this low estate, in which he is by birth, he comes and enjoys the kingdom in his room to such a strange turn of affairs are the highest honours subject: or, "for in his kingdom he is born poor" (g); even the person that is born heir to a crown is born a poor man; he comes as naked out of his mother's womb as the poorest man does; the conditions of both are equal as to birth; and therefore it need not seem strange that one out of prison should come to a kingdom. But the first sense seems best.

(e) Ebr. Comment. p. 553. (f) "quamvis etiam", Gejerus. (g) "Nam etiam", Tigurine version, Cocceius; "quia etiam", Pagninus, Montanus, Schmidt, Rambachius, so Aben Ezra.

For out of {h} prison he cometh to reign; though also he that is {i} born in his kingdom becometh poor.

(h) That is, from a poor and base estate or out of trouble and prison as Joseph did, Ge 41:14.

(i) Meaning, that is born a king.

14. For out of prison he cometh to reign] The pronouns are ambiguous in the Hebrew as in English, and the clauses have consequently been taken in very different ways, as referring to one and the same person, or to the two who had been named in the preceding verse (1) “For one cometh out of prison to reign, though he (the young successor) was born poor in his kingdom” (that of the old king, or that which was afterwards to be his own); or (2) “For one cometh out of prison to reign, while a king becomes a beggar in his kingdom.” Here also a reference has been found to the history of Onias under Ptolemy Euergetes. Josephus describes him (Ant. xii. 4) as “of a little soul and a great lover of money” while his nephew Joseph “young in age” was “of great reputation for gravity, wisdom and justice,” and obtained from the king permission to farm the revenues of Cœlesyria, Phœnicia, Samaria and Judæa. It can scarcely be said however that the case thus narrated is parallel with what we find in the verse before us. There is no king old or young, coming out of prison, or reduced to poverty. On the whole, unless the words refer to some unrecorded incident, some vague reminiscence of Cyrus and Astyages seems more likely to have been before the writer’s mind. According to one version of that history Cyrus had been brought up in poverty (Herod. i. 112), and was so strictly guarded that Harpagus had recourse to stratagem to convey a letter into his hands (Herod. i. 123).Verse 14. - For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor. The ambiguity of the pronouns has induced different interpretations of this verse. It is plain that the paragraph is intended to corroborate the statement of the previous verse, contrasting the fate of the poor, clever youth with that of the old, foolish king. The Authorized Version makes the pronoun in the first clause refer to the youth, and those in the second to the king, with the signification that rich and poor change places - one is abased as the other is exalted. Vulgate, Quod de carcere catenisque interdum quis egrediatnr ad regnum; et alius natus in regno inopia consummatur. The Septuagint is somewhat ambiguous, Ὅτι ἐξ οἴκου τῶν δεσμίων ελξελεύσεται τοῦ βασιλεῦσαι ὅτι καί γε ἐν βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐγενήθη πένης, "For from the house of prisoners he shall come forth to reign, because in his kingdom he [who?] was born [or, 'became'] poor." It seems, however, most natural to make the leading pronouns in both clauses refer to the youth, and thus to render: "For out of the house of prisoners goeth he forth to reign, though even in his kingdom he was born poor." Beth hasurim is also rendered "house of fugitives," and Hitzig takes the expression as a description of Egypt, whither Jeroboam fled to escape the vengeance of Solomon. Others see here an allusion to Joseph, who was raised from prison, if not to be king, at least to an exalted position which might thus be designated. In this case the old and foolish king who could not look to the future is Pharaoh, who could not understand the dream which was sent for his admonition. Commentators have wearied themselves with endeavoring to find some other historical basis for the supposed allusion in the passage. But although many of these suggestions (e.g., Saul and David, Joash and Amaziah, Cyrus and Astyages, Herod and Alexander) meet a part of the case, none suit the whole passage (vers. 13-16). It is possible, indeed, that some particular allusion is intended to some circumstance or event with which we are not acquainted. At the same time, it seems to us that, without much straining of language, the reference to Joseph can be made good. If it is objected that it cannot be said that Joseph was born in the kingdom of Egypt, we may reply that the words may be taken to refer to his cruel position in his own country, when he was despoiled and sold, and may be said metaphorically to have "become poor;" or the word nolad may be considered as equivalent to "came," "appeared," and need not be restricted to the sense of "born." "There is one without a second, also son and brother he has not; and there is no end of his labour; his eyes nevertheless are not satisfied with riches: For whom do I labour, then, and deny all good to my soul? Also this is vain, and it is a sore trouble." That ואין, as in Psalm 104:25; Psalm 105:34, has the meaning of בּאין, absque, Nolde has already observed in his Partik.-Concordanz: a solitarius, without one standing by his side, a second standing near him, i.e., without wife and without friend; also, as the words following show, without son and brother. Regarding ואח, for which, with the connect. accus., ואח might be expected (cf. also Ecclesiastes 2:7, וצאן with Mahpach; and, on the other hand, Ecclesiastes 2:23, וכעס with Pashta), vid., under Psalm 55:10. Gam may be interpreted in the sense of "also" as well as of "nevertheless" (Ewald, 354a); the latter is to be preferred, since the endless labour includes in itself a restless striving after an increase of possession. The Kerî<, in an awkward way, changes עיניו into עינו; the taking together the two eyes as one would here be unnatural, since the avaricious man devours gold, silver, and precious things really with both his eyes, and yet, however great be his wealth, still more does he wish to see in his possession; the sing. of the pred. is as at 1 Samuel 4:15; Micah 4:11.

With ulmi ani, Koheleth puts himself in the place of such a friendless, childless man; yet this change of the description into a self-confession may be occasioned by this, that the author in his old age was really thus isolated, and stood alone. Regarding חסּר with the accus. of the person, to whom, and min of the matter, in respect of which there is want, vid., under Psalm 8:6. That the author stands in sympathy with the sorrowful condition here exposed, may also be remarked from the fact that he now proceeds to show the value of companionship and the miseries of isolation:

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