Ecclesiastes 5:1
Keep your foot when you go to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
V.

(1) In the Hebrew division this is the last verse of the preceding chapter; but clearly here a new section begins, containing proverbs in the second person singular, which has not hitherto been used. There is no obvious connection with what has gone before; possibly the precepts here introduced were traditionally known to have been part of Solomon’s teaching.

They consider not.—The most natural translation of this clause would be, “They know not how to do evil,” i.e., are incapable of doing evil. This would force us to understand the subject of the clause to be, not the fools, but those who are ready to hear. The Authorised Version exhibits one of the expedients resorted to in order to get a better meaning. Another is, “They are without knowledge, so that they do evil.”

Ecclesiastes

LESSONS FOR WORSHIP AND FOR WORK

Ecclesiastes 5:1 - Ecclesiastes 5:12
.

This passage is composed of two or perhaps three apparently disconnected sections. The faults in worship referred to in Ecclesiastes 5:1 - Ecclesiastes 5:7 have nothing to do with the legalised robbery of Ecclesiastes 5:8, nor has the demonstration of the folly of covetousness in Ecclesiastes 5:10 - Ecclesiastes 5:12 any connection with either of the preceding subjects. But they are brought into unity, if they are taken as applications in different directions of the bitter truth which the writer sets himself to prove runs through all life. ‘All is vanity.’ That principle may even be exemplified in worship, and the obscure Ecclesiastes 5:7 which closes the section about the faults of worship seems to be equivalent to the more familiar close which rings the knell of so many of men’s pursuits in this book, ‘This also is vanity.’ It stands in the usual form in Ecclesiastes 5:10.

We have in Ecclesiastes 5:1 - Ecclesiastes 5:7 a warning against the faults in worship which make even it to be ‘vanity,’ unreal and empty and fruitless. These are of three sorts, arranged, as it were, chronologically. The worshipper is first regarded as going to the house of God, then as presenting his prayers in it, and then as having left it and returned to his ordinary life. The writer has cautions to give concerning conduct before, during, and after public worship.

Note that, in all three parts of his warnings, his favourite word of condemnation appears as describing the vain worship to which he opposes the right manner. They who fall into the faults condemned are ‘fools.’ If that class includes all who mar their worship by such errors, the church which holds them had need to be of huge dimensions; for the faults held up in these ancient words flourish in full luxuriance to-day, and seem to haunt long-established Christianity quite as mischievously as they did long-established Judaism. If we could banish them from our religious assemblies, there would be fewer complaints of the poor results of so much apparently Christian prayer and preaching.

Fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins. So our passage commences with the demeanour of the worshipper on his way to the house of God. He is to keep his foot; that is, to go deliberately, thoughtfully, with realisation of what he is about to do. He is to ‘draw near to hear’ and to bethink himself, while drawing near, of what his purpose should be. Our forefathers Sunday began on Saturday night, and partly for that reason the hallowing influence of it ran over into Monday, at all events. What likelihood is there that much good will come of worship to people who talk politics or scandal right up to the church door? Is reading newspapers in the pews, which they tell us in England is not unknown in America, a good preparation for worshipping God? The heaviest rain runs off parched ground, unless it has been first softened by a gentle fall of moisture. Hearts that have no dew of previous meditation to make them receptive are not likely to drink in much of the showers of blessing which may be falling round them. The formal worshipper who goes to the house of God because it is the hour when he has always gone; the curious worshipper {?} who draws near to hear indeed, but to hear a man, not God; and all the other sorts of mere outward worshippers who make so large a proportion of every Christian congregation-get the lesson they need, to begin with, in this precept.

Note, that right preparation for worship is better than worship itself, if it is that of ‘fools.’ Drawing near with the true purpose is better than being near with the wrong one. Note, too, the reason for the vanity of the ‘sacrifice of fools’ is that ‘they know not’; and why do they not know, but because they did not draw near with the purpose of hearing? Therefore, as the last clause of the verse says, rightly rendered, ‘they do evil.’ All hangs together. No matter how much we frequent the house of God, if we go with unprepared minds and hearts we shall remain ignorant, and because we are so, our sacrifices will be ‘evil.’ If the winnowing fan of this principle were applied to our decorous congregations, who dress their bodies for church much more carefully than they do their souls, what a cloud of chaff would fly off!

Then comes the direction for conduct in the act of worship. The same thoughtfulness which kept the foot in coming to, should keep the heart when in, the house of God. His exaltation and our lowliness should check hasty words, blurting out uppermost wishes, or in any way outrunning the sentiments and emotions of prepared hearts. Not that the lesson would check the fervid flow of real desire. There is a type of calm worship which keeps itself calm because it is cold. Propriety and sobriety are its watchwords-both admirable things, and both dear to tepid Christians. Other people besides the crowds on Pentecost think that men whose lips are fired by the Spirit of God are ‘drunken,’ if not with wine, at all events with unwholesome enthusiasm. But the outpourings of a soul filled, not only with the sense that God is in heaven and we on earth, but also with the assurance that He is near to it, and it to Him, are not rash and hasty, however fervid. What is condemned is words which travel faster than thoughts or feelings, or which proceed from hearts that have not been brought into patient submission, or from such as lack reverent realisation of God’s majesty; and such faults may attach to the most calm worship, and need not infect the most fervent. Those prayers are not hasty which keep step with the suppliant’s desires, when these take the time from God’s promises. That mouth is not rash which waits to speak until the ear has heard.

‘Let thy words be few.’ The heathen ‘think that they shall be heard for much speaking.’ It needs not to tell our wants in many words to One who knows them altogether, any more than a child needs many when speaking to a father or mother. But ‘few’ must be measured by the number of needs and desires. The shortest prayer, which is not animated by a consciousness of need and a throb of desire, is too long; the longest, which is vitalised by these, is short enough. What becomes of the enormous percentage of public and private prayers, which are mere repetitions, said because they are the right thing to say, because everybody always has said them, and not because the man praying really wants the things he asks for, or expects to get them any the more for asking?

Ecclesiastes 5:3 gives a reason for the exhortation, ‘A dream comes through a multitude of business’-when a man is much occupied with any matter, it is apt to haunt his sleeping as well as his waking thoughts. ‘A fool’s voice comes through a multitude of words.’ The dream is the consequence of the pressure of business, but the fool’s voice is the cause, not the consequence, of the gush of words. What, then, is the meaning? Probably that such a gush of words turns, as it were, the voice of the utterer, for the time being, into that of a fool. Voluble prayers, more abundant than devout sentiments or emotions, make the offerer as a ‘fool’ and his prayer unacceptable.

The third direction refers to conduct after worship. It lays down the general principle that vows should be paid, and that swiftly. A keen insight into human nature suggests the importance of prompt fulfilment of the vows; for in carrying out resolutions formed under the impulse of the sanctuary, even more than in other departments, delays are dangerous. Many a young heart touched by the truth has resolved to live a Christian life, and has gone out from the house of God and put off and put off till days have thickened into months and years, and the intention has remained unfulfilled for ever. Nothing hardens hearts, stiffens wills, and sears consciences so much as to be brought to the point of melting, and then to cool down into the old shape. All good resolutions and spiritual convictions may be included under the name of vows; and of all it is true that it is better not to have formed them, than to have formed and not performed them.

Ecclesiastes 5:6 - Ecclesiastes 5:7 are obscure. The former seems to refer to the case of a man who vows and then asks that he may be absolved from his vow by the priest or other ecclesiastical authority. His mouth-that is, his spoken promise-leads him into sin, if he does not fulfil it {comp. Deut. xxiii, 21, 22}. He asks release from his promise on the ground that it is a sin of weakness. The ‘angel’ is best understood as the priest {messenger}, as in Malachi 2:7. Such a wriggling out of a vow will bring God’s anger; for the ‘voice’ which promised what the hand will not perform, sins.

Ecclesiastes 5:7 is variously rendered. The Revised Version supplies at the beginning, ‘This comes to pass,’ and goes on ‘through the multitude of dreams and vanities and many words.’ But this scarcely bears upon the context, which requires here a reason against rash speech and vows. The meaning seems better given, either by the rearranged text which Delitzsch suggests, ‘In many dreams and many words there are also many vanities’ {so, substantially, the Auth. Ver.}, or as Wright, following Hitzig, etc., has it, ‘In the multitude of dreams are also vanities, and [in] many words [as well].’ The simile of Ecclesiastes 5:3 is recurred to, and the whirling visions of unsubstantial dreams are likened to the rash words of voluble prayers in that both are vanity. Thus the writer reaches his favourite thought, and shows how vanity infects even devotion. The closing injunction to ‘fear God’ sets in sharp contrast with faulty outward worship the inner surrender and devotion, which will protect against such empty hypocrisy. If the heart is right, the lips will not be far wrong.

Ecclesiastes 5:8 - Ecclesiastes 5:9 have no direct connection with the preceding, and their connection with the following {Ecclesiastes 5:10 - Ecclesiastes 5:12} is slight. Their meaning is dubious. According to the prevailing view now, the abuses of government in Ecclesiastes 5:8 are those of the period of the writer; and the last clauses do not, as might appear at first reading, console sufferers by the thought that God is above rapacious dignitaries, but bids the readers not be surprised if small officials plunder, since the same corruption goes upwards through all grades of functionaries. With such rotten condition of things is contrasted, in Ecclesiastes 5:9, the happy state of a people living under a patriarchal government, where the king draws his revenues, not from oppression, but from agriculture. The Revised Version gives in its margin this rendering. The connection of these verses with the following may be that they teach the vanity of riches under such a state of society as they describe. What is the use of scraping wealth together when hungry officials are ‘watching’ to pounce on it? How much better to be contented with the modest prosperity of a quiet country life! If the translation of Ecclesiastes 5:9 in the Authorised Version and the Revised Version is retained, there is a striking contrast between the rapine of the city, where men live by preying on each other {as they do still to a large extent, for ‘commerce’ is often nothing better}, and the wholesome natural life of the country, where the kindly earth yields fruit, and one man’s gain is not another’s loss.

Thus the verses may be connected with the wise depreciation of money which follows. That low estimate is based on three grounds, which great trading nations like England and the United States need to have dinned into their ears. First, no man ever gets enough of worldly wealth. The appetite grows faster than the balance at the banker’ s. That is so because the desire that is turned to outward wealth really needs something else, and has mistaken its object. God, not money or money’s worth, is the satisfying possession. It is so because all appetites, fed on earthly things, increase by gratification, and demand ever larger draughts. The jaded palate needs stronger stimulants. The seasoned opium-eater has to increase his doses to produce the same effects. Second, the race after riches is a race after a phantom, because the more one has of them the more people there spring up to share them. The poor man does with one servant; the rich man has fifty; and his own portion of his wealth is a very small item. His own meal is but a small slice off the immense provisions for which he has the trouble of paying. It is so, thirdly, because in the chase he deranges his physical nature; and when he has got his wealth, it only keeps him awake at night thinking how he shall guard it and keep it safe.

That which costs so much to get, which has so little power to satisfy, which must always be less than the wish of the covetous man, which costs so much to keep, which stuffs pillows with thorns, is surely vanity. Honest work is rewarded by sweet sleep. The old legend told of unslumbering guards who kept the treasure of the golden fruit. The millionaire has to live in a barred house, and to be always on the lookout lest some combination of speculators should pull down his stocks, or some change in the current of population should make his city lots worthless. Black care rides behind the successful man of business. Better to have done a day’s work which has earned a night’s repose than to be the slave of one’s wealth, as all men are who make it their aim and their supreme good. Would that these lessons were printed deep on the hearts of young Englishmen and Americans!Ecclesiastes 5:1. Keep thy foot — Thy thoughts and affections, by which men go to God, and walk with him. See that your hearts be upright before him, devoted to him, and furnished with those graces essential to the true worship of him, especially with reverence, humility, resignation, meekness, faith, and love. It is a metaphor taken from a person’s walking in a very slippery path, in which more than ordinary care is requisite to keep him from falling: when thou goest to the house of God — The place of God’s solemn and public worship, whether the temple or a synagogue; and be more ready to hear — To hearken to, and obey, God’s word; than to give the sacrifice of fools — Such as foolish and wicked men are wont to offer, who vainly think to please God with their sacrifices, without true piety and obedience. For they consider not that they do evil — They are not sensible of the great sinfulness of such thoughts and practices, but, like fools, think they do God good service.5:1-3 Address thyself to the worship of God, and take time to compose thyself for it. Keep thy thoughts from roving and wandering: keep thy affections from running out toward wrong objects. We should avoid vain repetitions; copious prayers are not here condemned, but those that are unmeaning. How often our wandering thoughts render attendance on Divine ordinances little better than the sacrifice of fools! Many words and hasty ones, used in prayer, show folly in the heart, low thoughts of God, and careless thoughts of our own souls.Keep thy foot - i. e., Give thy mind to what thou art going to do.

The house of God - It has been said that here an ordinary devout Hebrew writer might have been expected to call it "the house of Yahweh;" but to those who accept this book as the work of Solomon after his fall into idolatry, it will appear a natural sign of the writer's self-humiliation, an acknowledgment of his unworthiness of the privileges of a son of the covenant, that he avoids the name of the Lord of the covenant (see Ecclesiastes 1:13 note).

Be more ready to hear - Perhaps in the sense that, "to draw near for the purpose of hearing (and obeying) is better than etc."

CHAPTER 5

Ec 5:1-20.

1. From vanity connected with kings, he passes to vanities (Ec 5:7) which may be fallen into in serving the King of kings, even by those who, convinced of the vanity of the creature, wish to worship the Creator.

Keep thy foot—In going to worship, go with considerate, circumspect, reverent feeling. The allusion is to the taking off the shoes, or sandals, in entering a temple (Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15, which passages perhaps gave rise to the custom). Weiss needlessly reads, "Keep thy feast days" (Ex 23:14, 17; the three great feasts).

hear—rather, "To be ready (to draw nigh with the desire) to hear (obey) is a better sacrifice than the offering of fools" [Holden]. (Vulgate; Syriac). (Ps 51:16, 17; Pr 21:3; Jer 6:20; 7:21-23; 14:12; Am 5:21-24). The warning is against mere ceremonial self-righteousness, as in Ec 7:12. Obedience is the spirit of the law's requirements (De 10:12). Solomon sorrowfully looks back on his own neglect of this (compare 1Ki 8:63 with Ec 11:4, 6). Positive precepts of God must be kept, but will not stand instead of obedience to His moral precepts. The last provided no sacrifice for wilful sin (Nu 15:30, 31; Heb 10:26-29).Vanities in divine matters, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. In murmuring and repining, Ecclesiastes 5:8. In riches and covetousness. Ecclesiastes 5:9,10; for riches rob men of ease, Ecclesiastes 5:11,12, procure their death, Ecclesiastes 5:13, fly away, Ecclesiastes 5:14, cannot be carried with them into the grave, Ecclesiastes 5:15-17. A contented life best: this is the gift of God, Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.

The seven first verses of this chapter are inserted partly as the only effectual remedy against all the foregoing vanities, and partly as a caution to take heed of bringing vanity into the service of God, or of worshipping God vainly and foolishly.

Keep thy foot; the feet of thy soul, which are the thoughts and affections, by which men go to God, and walk or converse with him. Make straight steps. See that your hearts be purged from sin, and prepared and furnished with all graces or necessary qualifications, as good intention, reverence, humility, &c. It is a metaphor from one that walketh in a very slippery path, in which there needs more than ordinary care to keep him from falling.

The house of God; the place of God’s solemn and public worship, whether the temple or synagogue.

Be more ready, Heb. more near, more forward and inclinable. Prefer this duty before the following.

To hear; to hearken to and obey God’s word, there read and preached by the priests or prophets; for hearing is very frequently put in Scripture for obeying.

The sacrifice of fools; such as foolish and wicked men use to offer, who vainly think to please God with the multitude and costliness of their sacrifices without true piety or obedience.

They consider not that they do evil; they are not sensible of the great sinfulness of such thoughts and practices, but, like fools, think they do God good service; which is implied, as is usual in such expressions.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God,.... The house of the sanctuary of the Lord, the temple built by Solomon; and so any place of divine worship, where the word of God is preached, and his ordinances administered. The wise man, having observed many vanities under the sun, directs men to the house of God, where they might learn the nature of them, and how to avoid them; though if care was not taken, they would find or introduce vanity there; which, of all vanities, is the worst, and ought to be guarded against. Wherefore, when men go to any place of divine worship, which to do is their duty and interest, and for their honour, pleasure, and profit, they should take care to "keep their feet", for the singular is here put for the plural, not from going into it; nor does it signify a slow motion towards it, which should be quick, in haste, showing earnestness, fervency, and zeal; but they should keep their feet in proper case, in a suitable condition. The allusion is either to the pulling off of the shoes off the feet, ordered to Moses and Joshua, when on holy ground, Exodus 3:5; and which the Jews observed, when they entered the temple on their festivals and sabbaths, even their kings, as Juvenal (k) jeers them: not that such a rite should be literally used now, or what is analogous to it; putting off of the hat, in a superstitious veneration of a place; but what was signified by it, as the putting off of the old man, with his deeds, laying aside depraved affections and sordid lusts; two apostles, James and Peter, have taught us this, when we come to the house of God to hear his word, James 1:21; or the allusion is to the custom of persons in those eastern countries dressing or washing their feet when they visited, especially those of any note; and entered into their houses on any business, as Mephibosheth, when he waited on David, 2 Samuel 19:24; or to the practice of the priests, who washed their feet when they went into the tabernacle of the Lord, Exodus 30:19. Schindler (l) says that hence (because of this text) the Jews had before their synagogues an iron fixed in the wall (which we call a "scraper"), on which they cleaned their shoes before they went into the synagogue. All which may denote the purity and cleanness of the conversation of the true worshippers of God; for, as the feet are the instruments of the action of walking, they may intend the conduct and behaviour of the saints in the house of God, where they should take care to do all things according to his word, which is a lamp to the feet, and a light unto the path: moreover, what the feet are to the body, that the affections are to the soul; and these, when a man enters into the house of God for worship, should be set on divine and spiritual things, and not on the world, and the things of it, which will choke the word heard, and make it unprofitable; the thoughts should be composed, sedate, and quiet, and the mind attentive to what is spoken or done; or otherwise, if diverted by other objects, the service will be useless;

and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools; there are sacrifices to be offered unto God in his house, which are acceptable to him; the sacrifices of beneficence and alms deeds to the poor, with which he is well pleased; and the presentation of the bodies of men, as a holy, living, and acceptable sacrifice unto him; and especially their hearts, and those as broken and contrite, which are the sacrifices of God; as also the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ: and under the former dispensation, while sacrifices were in use by divine appointment, when they were offered up in the faith of the sacrifice of Christ, they were well pleasing to God; but when they were not done in faith, and were without repentance for sin and reformation of life; when men retained their sins with them, and made these a cover for them, and thought by them to make atonement for their crimes, they were no other than the sacrifices of fools, and abominable unto God; see Isaiah 1:11; when these sacrifices were performed in the best manner, moral duties, as hearing and obeying the word of the Lord, and showing mercy to men, and offering up the spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, were preferred unto them, 1 Samuel 15:22; and much more to the sacrifices of fools. To be ready, or near (m), is to hear the word of the Lord, as Jarchi interprets it; though Aben Ezra understands it of God being near to hear his people, when they call upon him in truth. The word of the Lord was not only read publicly in the temple and synagogues, but was explained by the priests and prophets, the ecclesiastical rulers of the people; see Malachi 2:7; so the Targum,

"draw near thine ear to receive the doctrine of the law, from the priests and wise men:''

and so the people of God should draw near to hear the word; be swift to hear it, attentive to it, and receive it with all reverence, humility, love, and affection; and should not take up with mere outward forms, which is but the sacrifice of fools;

for they consider not that they do evil; or "know not" (n); they think they are doing well, and doing God good service, when they are doing ill; they know not truly the object of worship, nor the spiritual nature of it, nor the right end and true use of it: or, "they know not, only to do evil", so Aben Ezra supplies it: to do good they have no knowledge: or, "they know not to do the will", or "good pleasure" (o); that is, of God; this sense of the word Aben Ezra mentions.

(k) "Observant ubi festa mero pede sabbata reges", Satyr. 6. v. 158. (l) Lexic. Pentaglott. col. 1692. (m) "propinquus", Montanus; "propinquior", Mercerus, Schmidt. (n) "non ipsi scientes", Montanus; "nesciunt", Pagninus, Mercerus, Cocceius; "scire nolunt", Schmidt. (o) "facere veluntatem ejus", Pagninus, Mercerus.

Keep thy {m} foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of {n} fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

(m) That is, with what affection you come to hear the word of God.

(n) Meaning, of the wicked, who think to please God with common uses, and have neither faith nor repentance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Keep thy foot] In the Heb., LXX. and Vulg. this verse forms the conclusion to chap. 4. The English version is obviously right, however, in its division of the chapter. The moralist reviews a new region of experience. “Vanity” has been found in all that belongs to the outward secular life of men. Is their higher life, that which we call their religion, free from it? Must not the Debater, from his standpoint, rebuke the follies and sins even of the godly? Here, as might be expected, we have an intermingling of two elements of thought, the traditional teaching which the thinker has learnt from psalmist and prophet, and the maxims which have come to him from his Greek, probably from his Epicurean, teachers. Both, it will be seen, find echoes in the precepts that follow. The precepts are suggestive as shewing the kind of religion which the Debater had seen in Palestine, the germs of the formalism and casuistry which afterwards developed into Pharisaism. To “keep the foot” was to walk in the right way, the way of reverence and obedience (Psalm 119:32; Psalm 119:101). The outward act of putting the shoes off the feet on entering the Temple (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15), from the earliest times to the present, the custom of the East, was the outward symbol of such a reverential awe. We note, as characteristic, the substitution of the “house of God” for the more familiar “house of the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:20; Isaiah 33:1, and elsewhere). Possibly the term may be used, as in Psalm 74:8; Psalm 83:12, to include synagogues as well as the Temple. The precept implies that he who gives it had seen the need of it. Men went to the place where they worshipped with little thought that it was indeed a Beth-el, or “house of God.”

and be more ready to hear] The words have been differently interpreted: (1) “And to draw near to hear is better than to offer the sacrifice …;” and (2) “To hear (= obey) is nearer (i.e. is the truer way for thy foot to take) than to offer the sacrifice …” The general spirit of the maxim or precept is identical with that of 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 50:8-14; Psalm 51:16-17. The “sacrifice of fools” as in Proverbs 21:27 is that offered by the ungodly, and therefore an abomination.

for they consider not that they do evil] The A.V. is perhaps sufficiently expressive of the meaning, but the following various renderings have been suggested: (1) “they know not, so that they do evil,” i.e. their ignorance leads them to sin; (2) “they (those who obey, hear) know not to do evil,” i.e. their obedience keeps them from it. Of these (1) seems preferable. Protests against a superstition that was not godliness, the δεισιδαιμονία of the Greeks (Acts 17:22), were, it need scarcely be said, part of the current teaching of Epicurus and his followers. So Lucretius;

“Nec pietas ullast velatum sæpe videri

Vertier ad lapidem atque omnes accedere ad aras,

Nec procumbere humi prostratum et pandere palmas

Ante deûm delubra, nec aras sanguine multo

Spargere quadrupedum, nec votis nectere vota,

Sed mage pacata posse omnia mente tueri.”

“True worship is not found in veiled heads

Turned to a statue, nor in drawing near

To many an altar, nor in form laid low

Upon the ground, nor sprinkling it with blood

Of bulls and goats, nor piling vows on vows;

But rather in the power which all surveys

With mind at rest and calm.”

De Rer. Nat. v. 1198–1203.Verses 1-7. - Section 6. Man's outward and secular life being unable to secure happiness and satisfaction, can these be found in popular religion? Religious exercises need the observation of strict rules, which are far from meeting with general attention. Koheleth proceeds to give instruction, in the form of maxims, concerning public worship, prayer, and vows. Verse 1. - This verse, in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bibles, forms the conclusion of Ecclesiastes 4, and is taken independently; but the division in our version is more natural, and the connection of this with the following verses is obvious. Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, Some read "feet" instead of "foot," but the singular and plural numbers are both found in this signification (comp. Psalm 119:59, 105; Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 4:26, 27). To "keep the foot" is to be careful of the conduct, to remember what you are about, whither you are going. There is no allusion to the sacerdotal rite of washing the feet before entering the holy place (Exodus 30:18, 19), nor to the custom of removing the shoes on entering a consecrated building, which was a symbol of reverential awe and obedient service. The expression is simply a term connected with man's ordinary life transferred to his moral and religious life. The house of God is the temple. The tabernacle is called "the house of Jehovah" (1 Samuel 1:7; 2 Samuel 12:20), and this name is commonly applied to the temple; e.g., 1 Kings 3:1; 2 Chronicles 8:16; Ezra 3:11. But "house of God" is applied also to the temple (2 Chronicles 5:14; Ezra 5:8, 15, etc.), so that we need not, with Bullock, suppose that Koheleth avoids the name of the Lord of the covenant as "a natural sign of the writer's humiliation after his fall into idolatry, and an acknowledgment of his unworthiness of the privileges of a son of the covenant." It is probable that the expression here is meant to include synagogues as well as the great temple at Jerusalem, since the following clause seems to imply that exhortation would be heard there, which formed no part of the temple service. The verse has furnished a text on the subject of the reverence due to God's house and service from Chrysostom downwards. And be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools. Various are the renderings of this clause. Wright, "For to draw near to hear is (better) than the fools offering sacrifices." (So virtually Knobel, Ewald, etc.) Ginsburg, "For it is nearer to obey than to offer the sacrifice of the disobedient;" i.e. it is the straighter, truer way to take when you obey God than when you merely perform outward service. The Vulgate takes the infinitive verb as equivalent to the imperative, as the Authorized Version, Appropinqua ut audias; but it is best to regard it as pure infinitive, and to translate, "To approach in order to hear is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools." The sentiment is the same as that in 1 Samuel 15:22, 'Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." The same thought occurs in Proverbs 21:3; Psalm 50:7-15; and continually in the prophets; e.g., Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6, etc. It is the reaction against the mere ceremonialism which marked the popular religion. Koheleth had seen and deplored this at Jerusalem and elsewhere, and he enunciates the great troth that it is more acceptable to God that one should go to his house to hear the Law read and taught and expounded, than to offer a formal sacrifice, which, as being the offering of a godless man is called in proverbial language "the sacrifice of fools" (Proverbs 21:27). The verb used here, "give" (nathan), is not the usual expression for offering sacrifice, and may possibly refer to the feast which accompanied such sacrifices, and which often degenerated into excess (Delitzsch). That the verb rendered "to hear" does not mean merely "to obey" is plain from its reference to conduct in the house of God. The reading of the Law, and probably of the prophets, formed a feature of the temple service in Koheleth's day; the expounding of the same in public was confined to the synagogues, which seem to have originated in the time of the exile, though there were doubtless before that time some regular occasions of assembling together (see 2 Kings 4:23). For they consider not that they do evil; Ὅι οὐκ εἰσὶν εἰδότες τοῦ ποιῆσαι κακόν (Septuagint); Qui nesciunt quid faciunt mali (Vulgate); "They are without knowledge, so that they do evil" (Delitzsch, Knobel, etc.); "As they (who obey) know not to do evil" (Gins-burg). The words can scarcely mean, "They know not that they do evil;" nor, as Hitzig has, "They know not how to be sorrowful." There is much difficulty in understanding the passage according to the received reading, and Nowack, with others, deems the text corrupt. If we accept what we now find, it is best to translate, "They know not, so that they do evil;" i.e. their ignorance predisposes them to err in this matter. The persons meant are the "fools" who offer unacceptable sacrifices. These know not how to worship God heartily and properly, and, thinking to please him with their formal acts of devotion, fall into a grievous sin. "Moreover, if two lie together, then there is heat to them: but how can it be warm with one who is alone?" The marriage relation is not excluded, but it remains in the background; the author has two friends in his eye, who, lying in a cold night under one covering (Exodus 22:26; Isaiah 28:20), cherish one another, and impart mutual warmth. Also in Aboth de-Rabbi Nathan, c. 8, the sleeping of two together is spoken of as an evidence of friendship. The vav in vehham is that of the consequent; it is wanting 10a, according to rule, in haehhad, because it commonly comes into use with the verb, seldom (e.g., Genesis 22:1) with the preceding subj.
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