Ecclesiastes 5:2
Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and you on earth: therefore let your words be few.
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(2) Few.—Ecclesiasticus 7:14; Ecclesiasticus 18:22.

Ecclesiastes 5:2. Be not rash with thy mouth — Speak not without due consideration; and let not thy heart be hasty — Do not give way to every sudden motion of thy heart, nor suffer it to break out of thy lips till thou hast well weighed it. We must think, and think twice, before we speak, when we are to speak, either from God in preaching, or to God in prayer, or in solemn vows and promises made in his presence; which were very much in use in those times, and of which he speaks in the following verses. For God is in heaven — Is a God of infinite majesty, holiness, and knowledge, and therefore not even to be thought of, and much more not to be worshipped, without profound veneration, great solemnity, and much serious consideration; and thou upon earth — Thou art a poor worm of the earth, infinitely below him, and therefore oughtest to stand in awe of him, and fear to offend him; therefore let thy words be few — 1st, In prayer: use not vain repetitions, nor a multitude of words, as if they were necessary to inform God of thy wants, or to prevail with him to grant thy requests; or as if thou shouldest certainly be heard upon that very account: see Matthew 6:7. 2d, In vowing: be not too prodigal in making more vows and promises than thou art either able or willing and resolved to perform. Remember that God looks down from heaven, hears all thy vows, and expects a punctual accomplishment of them.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."

2. rash—opposed to the considerate reverence ("keep thy foot," Ec 5:1). This verse illustrates Ec 5:1, as to prayer in the house of God ("before God," Isa 1:12); so Ec 5:4-6 as to vows. The remedy to such vanities is stated (Ec 5:6). "Fear thou God."

God is in heaven—Therefore He ought to be approached with carefully weighed words, by thee, a frail creature of earth.

Be not rash with thy mouth; speak not without good understanding and due consideration.

Let not thine heart be hasty; do not give way to every sudden motion of thine heart, nor suffer it to break out of thy lips till thou hast well weighed it.

To utter any thing before God; either,

1. In prayers directed to him. Or,

2. In solemn vows and promises made in God’s presence; which were very much in use in those times, and of which he speaks in the following verses, where he presseth us to pay our vows when we have made them, as here he seems to caution us in making them.

God is in heaven; is a God of infinite majesty, not to be despised or abused; of infinite holiness, not to be polluted or offended; of infinite knowledge. observing all our words and carriages, not to be deceived.

Thou upon earth; thou art a poor earth-worm, infinitely below him, and therefore shouldst stand in awe of him, and fear to offend him.

Let thy words be few; either

1. In prayer. Use not vain repetitions nor multitude of words in prayer, as if they were necessary to inform God of thy state, or to prevail with God to grant thy requests, or as if thou shouldst certainly be heard upon that very account, as Christ also cautions us, Matthew 6:7. For otherwise it is not unlawful, nay, sometimes it is a duty, to use long prayers, and consequently many words, and to repeat the same words in prayer, as is manifest from Nehemiah 9:3 Daniel 9:18,19 Mt 26:44 Luke 6:12, and many other places. Or,

2. In vowing. Be not too prodigal in making more vows and promises than thou art either able or willing and resolved to perform, remembering that God looks down from heaven, and heareth all thy vows, and expects a punctual accomplishment of them. See Poole "Ecclesiastes 5:3". Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God,.... In private conversation care should be taken that no rash and unadvised words be spoken in haste, as were by Moses and David; and that no evil, nor even any idle word he uttered, since from, the abundance of the heart the mouth is apt to speak, and all is before, the Lord; not a word in the tongue but is altogether known by him, and must be accounted for to him, Psalm 106:33. Jerom interprets this of words spoken concerning God; and careful men should be of what they say of him, of his nature and perfections, of his persons, and of his works; and it may be applied to a public profession of his name, and of faith in him; though this should be done with the heart, yet the heart and tongue should not be rash and hasty in making it; men should consider what they profess and confess, and upon what foot they take up and make a profession of religion; whether they have the true grace of God or no: and it will hold true of the public ministry of the word, in which everything that comes uppermost in the mind, or what is crude and undigested, should not be, uttered; but what ministers have thought of, meditated on, well weighed in their minds, and properly digested. Some understand this of rash vows, such as Jephthah's, is supposed to be, which are later repented of; but rather speaking unto God in prayer is intended. So the Targum,

"thy, heart shall not hasten to bring out speech at the time thou prayest before the Lord;''

anything and everything that comes up into the mind should not be, uttered before God; not anything rashly and hastily; men should consider before they speak to the King of kings; for though set precomposed forms of prayer are not to be used, yet the matter of prayer should be thought of beforehand; what our wants are, and what we should ask for; whether for ourselves or others; this rule I fear we often offend against: the reasons follow;

for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; his throne is in the heavens, he dwells in the highest heavens, though they cannot contain him; this is expressive of his majesty, sovereignty, and supremacy, and of his omniscience and omnipotence; he is the high and lofty One, that dwells in the high and holy place; he is above all, and sees and knows all persons and things; and he sits in the heavens, and does whatever he pleases; and therefore all should stand in awe of him, and consider what they say unto him. Our Lord seems to have respect to this passage when he directed his disciples to pray, saying, "Our Father, which art in heaven", Matthew 6:9; and when we pray to him we should think what we ourselves are, that we are on the earth, the footstool of God; that we are of the earth, earthly; dwell in houses of clay, which have their foundation in the dust; crawling worms on earth, unworthy of his notice; are but dust and ashes, who take upon us to speak unto him;

therefore let, by words be few; of which prayer consists; such was the prayer of the publican, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner", Luke 18:13; and such the prayer which Christ has given as a pattern and directory to his people; who has forbid vain repetitions and much speaking in prayer, Matthew 6:7; not that all lengthy prayers are to be condemned, or all repetitions in them; our Lord was all night in prayer himself; and Nehemiah, Daniel, and others, have used repetitions in prayer, which may be done with fresh affection, zeal, and fervency; but such are forbidden as are done for the sake of being heard for much speaking, as the Heathens; and who thought they were not understood unless they said a thing a hundred times over (p); or when done to gain a character of being more holy and religious than others, as the Pharisees.

(p) "Ohe jam desine deos obtundere----Ut nihil credas intelligere, nisi idem dictum eat centies." Terent. Heautont. Acts 5. Sc. 1. v. 6, 8.

Be not {a} rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be {b} few.

(a) Either in vowing or in praying, meaning, that we should use all reverence toward God.

(b) He hears you not for the sake of your many words or often repetitions, but considers your faith and servant's mind.

2. Be not rash with thy mouth] The rule follows the worshipper from the threshold into the Temple-court and tells him how he is to act there. We are reminded of our Lord’s warning against “vain repetitions,” after the manner of the heathen (Matthew 6:7). The second clause, though parallel to the first, carries the thought further. The “heart” or mind of the worshipper also is to be calm and deliberate. We are not to turn every hasty wish into a prayer, but to ask ourselves whether it is one of the things for which we ought to pray. Here also the precept has its analogies in the counsels of the wise of heart outside the covenant of Israel. See especially Juven. Sat. x.

therefore let thy words be few] The Son of Sirach gives the same rule for our speech when in the presence of the “great men” of earth (Sir 32:9), and à fortiori the reverence due to God should shew itself in the same form as our reverence for them. In a Talmudic precept we find the rule in nearly the same words, “the words of a man should always be few in the presence of God” (Berachoth, 61 a, quoted by Ginsburg). Comp. also Hooker E. P. 1. 2. § 3.Verse 2. - Koheleth warns against thoughtless words or hasty professions in prayer, which formed another feature of popular religion. Be not rash with thy mouth. The warning is against hasty and thoughtless words in prayer, words that go from the lips with glib facility, but come not from the heart. Thus our Lord bids those who pray not to use vain repetitions (μὴ βαττολογήσατε), as the heathen, who think to be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7). Jesus himself used the same words in his prayer in the garden, and he continually urges the lesson of much and constant prayer - a lessen enforced by apostolic admonitions (see Luke 11:5, etc.; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17); but it is quite possible to use the same words, and yet throw the whole heart into them each time that they are repeated. Whether the repetition is vain or not depends upon the spirit of the person who prays. Let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God. We should weigh well our wishes, arrange them discreetly, ponder whether they are such as we can rightly make subjects of petition, ere we lay them in words before the Lord. "Before God" may mean in the temple, the house of God, where he is specially present, as Solomon himself testified (1 Kings 8:27, 30, 43). God is in heaven. The infinite distance between God and man, illustrated by the contrast of earth and the illimitable heaven, is the ground of the admonition to reverence and thoughtfulness (comp. Psalm 115:3, 16; Isaiah 4:8, 9; 66:1). Therefore let thy words be few, as becomes one who speaks in the awful presence of God. Ben-Sirs seems to have had this passage in mind when he writes (Ecclus. 7:14), "Prate not in a multitude of elders, and repeat not (μὴ δευτερώσης) the word in prayer." We may remember the conduct of the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:26). Ginsburg and Wright quote the Talmudic precept ('Beraehoth,' 68. a), "Let the words of a man always be few in the presence of God, according as it is written," and then follows the passage in our text. "And if one shall violently assail him who is alone, two shall withstand him; and (finally) a threefold cord is not quickly broken asunder." The form yithqepho for yithqephehu, Job 15:24, is like hirdepho, Hosea 8:3 equals hirdephehu, Judges 9:40. If we take תקף in the sense of to overpower, then the meaning is: If one can overpower him who is alone, then, on the contrary, two can maintain their ground against him (Herzf.); but the two אם, Ecclesiastes 4:10, Ecclesiastes 4:11, which are equivalent to ἐάν, exclude such a pure logical εἰ. And why should תקף, if it can mean overpowering, not also mean doing violence to by means of a sudden attack? In the Mishnic and Arab. it signifies to seize, to lay hold of; in the Aram. אתקף equals החזיק, and also at Job 14:20; Job 15:24 (vid., Comm.), it may be understood of a violent assault, as well as of a completed subjugation; as נשׂא means to lift up and carry; עמד, to tread and to stand. But whether it be understood inchoat. or not, in any case האחד is not the assailant, who is much rather the unnamed subj. in יתקפי, but the one (the solitarius) who, if he is alone, must succumb; the construction of hithqepho haehhad follows the scheme of Exodus 2:6, "she saw it, the child." To the assault expressed by תקף, there stands opposed the expression נגד עמד, which means to withstand any one with success; as עמד לפני, 2 Kings 10:4; Psalm 147:17; Daniel 8:7, means to maintain one's ground. Of three who hold together, 12a says nothing; the advance from two to three is thus made in the manner of a numerical proverb (vid., Proverbs, vol. 1 Peter 13). If two hold together, that is seen to be good; but if there be three, this threefold bond is likened to a cord formed of three threads, which cannot easily be broken. Instead of the definite specific art. הח הם, we make use of the indefinite. Funiculus triplex difficile rumpitur is one of the winged expressions used by Koheleth.
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