Ecclesiastes 5:7
For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear you God.
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(7) This verse presents some difficulties of translation springing from corruption of text, but not affecting the general sense; according to which the many words which belong to the dreams and vanities of heathendom are contrasted with the fear of the only God.

Ecclesiastes 5:7. For in the multitude, &c. — There is a great deal of folly, as in a multitude of dreams, which for the most part are vain and insignificant, so also in many words, especially in making many vows, whereby a man is exposed to many snares and temptations. But fear thou God — Fear the wrath of God, and therefore be sparing in making vows, and just in performing them.5:4-8 When a person made engagements rashly, he suffered his mouth to cause his flesh to sin. The case supposes a man coming to the priest, and pretending that his vow was made rashly, and that it would be wrong to fulfil it. Such mockery of God would bring the Divine displeasure, which might blast what was thus unduly kept. We are to keep down the fear of man. Set God before thee; then, if thou seest the oppression of the poor, thou wilt not find fault with Divine Providence; nor think the worse of the institution of magistracy, when thou seest the ends of it thus perverted; nor of religion, when thou seest it will not secure men from suffering wrong. But though oppressors may be secure, God will reckon for all.For ... vanities - Or, For so it happens through many dreams and vanities and many words. 7. (See on [660]Ec 5:3). God's service, which ought to be our chief good, becomes by "dreams" (foolish fancies as of God's requirements of us in worship), and random "words," positive "vanity." The remedy is, whatever fools may do, "Fear thou God" (Ec 12:13). There is a great deal of vanity and folly, as in

multitude of dreams, which for the most part are vain and insignificant, so also in many words, i.e. in making many vows, whereby a man is exposed to many snares and temptations.

Fear thou God; fear the offence and wrath of God, and therefore be sparing in making vows, and just in performing them; whereby he implies that this rashness in vowing, and slackness in performing vows, proceed from the want of a just reverence and dread of the Divine Majesty, who is immediately concerned in these matters. For in the multitude of dreams, and many words, there are also divers vanities,.... Or as, "in a multitude of dreams, there are many vanities, so also in a multitude of words" (s); as dreams are vain things, or there are abundance of vain things that come into the mind in dreams; so vain and idle are the many excuses which are made for the non-performance of vows; or there are many vain things which are uttered in making of them, or in long prayers to God; or in discourses concerning him; to all which is opposed the fear of God;

but fear thou God; give no heed to dreams, nor to the many words of men, which are vain and foolish; but keep close to the word of God, and worship him internally and externally, in spirit and in truth; for herein lies the sum and substance of religion; see Ecclesiastes 12:13; The Targum is,

"for in the multitude of the dreams of the false prophets believe not, nor in the vanities of the authors of enchantments, and the many speeches of ungodly men; but serve the wise and just, and of them seek doctrine, and fear before the Lord;''

see Jeremiah 23:28;

(s) So Luther, Broughton, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus.

For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
7. For in the multitude of dreams] The order of the words in the A. V. is not that of the Hebrew, which gives For in the multitude of dreams and vanities and many words, but is adopted by many commentators as representing a more correct text. The introduction of the word “vanities” (the “divers” of the A. V. has, as the italics shew, nothing answering to it in the Hebrew,) indicates the purpose of the writer in thus noting the weak points of popular religionism. They also, the dreams which seemed to them as messages from heaven, the “many words” of long and resounding prayers, took their place in the induction which was to prove that “all is vanity.” So Theophrastus (Charact. xvi.) describes the superstitious man (δεισιδαίμων) as agitated when he sees a vision and straightway going off to consult a soothsayer. In contrast with the garrulous rashness and the inconsiderate vows and the unwise reliance on dreams which Judaism was learning from heathenism (Matthew 6:7) Koheleth falls back on the “fear of God,” the temper of reverential and silent awe, which was “the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28). It is significant that here again the teaching of Koheleth has a parallel in that of the Epicurean poet who traces the “religions” of mankind (in his sense of the word) in no small measure to the influence of dreams.

“Quippe etenim jam tum divum mortalia sæcla

Egregias animo facies vigilante videbant,

Et magis in somnis mirando corporis auctu.”

“Even then the race of mortal men would see

With waking soul the mighty forms of Gods,

And in their dreams with shapes of wondrous size.”

Lucret. De Rer. Nat. v. 1169–71.Verse 7. - For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities. The Hebrew is literally, For in multitude of dreams, and vanities, and many words; i.e., as Wright puts it, "In the multitude of dreams are also vanities, and (in) many words (as well)." Koheleth sums up the sense of the preceding paragraph, vers. 1-6. The popular religion, which made much of dreams and verbosity and vows, is vanity, and has in it nothing substantial or comforting. The superstitious man who puts his faith in dreams is unpractical and unreal; the garrulous man who is rash in his vows, and in prayer thinks to be heard for his much speaking, displeases God and never secures his object. Ginsburg and Bullock render, "For it is (it happens) through the multitude of idle thoughts and vanities and much talking," the reference being either to the foolish speaking of ver. 2 or to the wrath of God in ver. 6. The Septuagint rendering is elliptical, Ὅτι ἐ πλήθει ἐνυπνίων καὶ ματαιοτήτων καὶ λόγων πολλῶν ὅτι σὺ τὸν Θεὸν φοβοῦ. To complete this, some supply, "Many vows are made or excused;" others, "There is evil." Vulgate, Ubi multa aunt somnia, plurimae aunt vanitates, et sermones innumeri.' The Authorized Version gives the sense of the passage. But fear thou God. In contrast with these spurious forms of religion, which the Jews were inclined to adopt, the writer recalls men to the fear of the one true God, to whom all vows should be performed, and who should be worshipped from the heart. "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and to go to hear is better than that fools give a sacrifice; for the want of knowledge leads them to do evil." The "house of God" is like the "house of Jahve," 2 Samuel 12:20; Isaiah 37:1, the temple; אל, altogether like אל־מ־אל, Psalm 73:17. The Chethı̂b רגליך is admissible, for elsewhere also this plur. ("thy feet") occurs in a moral connection and with a spiritual reference, e.g., Psalm 119:59; but more frequently, however, the comprehensive sing. occurs. Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 4:26., and the Kerı̂ thus follows the right note. The correct understanding of what follows depends on רע ... כּי־. Interpreters have here adopted all manner of impossible views. Hitzig's translation: "for they know not how to be sorrowful," has even found in Stuart at least one imitator; but עשׂות רע would, as the contrast of 'asoth tov, Ecclesiastes 3:12, mean nothing else than, "to do that which is unpleasant, disagreeable, bad," like 'asah ra'ah, 2 Samuel 12:18. Gesen., Ewald (336b), Elster, Heiligst., Burger, Zckl., Dale, and Bullock translate: "they know not that they do evil;" but for such a rendering the words ought to have been עשׂותם רע (cf. Jeremiah 15:15); the only example for the translation of לעשׂות after the manner of the acc. c. inf. equals se facere malum - viz. at 1 Kings 19:4 - is incongruous, for למות does not here mean se mori, but ut moreretur. Yet more incorrect is the translation of Jerome, which is followed by Luther: nesciunt quid faciant mali. It lies near, as at Ecclesiastes 2:24 so also here, to suppose an injury done to the text. Aben Ezra introduced רק before לעשׂ, but Koheleth never uses this limiting particle; we would have to write כי אם־לעשׂות, after Ezra 3:12; Ezra 8:15. Anything thus attained, however, is not worth the violent means thus used; for the ratifying clause is not ratifying, and also in itself, affirmed of the כסילים, who, however, are not the same as the resha'im and the hattaim, is inappropriate. Rather it might be said: they know not to do good (thus the Syr.); or: they know not whether it be good or bad to do, i.e., they have no moral feeling, and act not from moral motives (so the Targ.). Not less violent than this remodelling of the text is the expedient of Herzberg, Philippson, and Ginsburg, who from לשׁמע derive the subject-conception of the obedient (השּׂמעים): "For those understand not at all to do evil;" the subj. ought to have been expressed if it must be something different from the immediately preceding כסילים. We may thus render enam yod'im, after Psalm 82:5; Isaiah 56:10, as complete in itself: they (the fools) are devoid of knowledge to do evil equals so that they do evil; i.e., want of knowledge brings them to this, that they do evil. Similarly also Knobel: they concern themselves not, - are unconcerned (viz., about the right mode of worshipping God), - so that they do evil, with the correct remark that the consequence of their perverse conduct is here represented as their intention. But ידע לא, absol., does not mean to be unconcerned (wanton), but to be without knowledge. Rashbam, in substance correctly: they are predisposed by their ignorance to do evil; and thus also Hahn; Mendelssohn translates directly: "they sin because they are ignorant." If this interpretation is correct, then for לשׁמע it follows that it does not mean "to obey" (thus e.g., Zckler), which in general it never means without some words being added to it (cf. on the contrary, 1 Samuel 15:22), but "to hear," - viz. the word of God, which is to be heard in the house of God, - whereby, it is true, a hearing is meant which leads to obedience.

In the word הורות, priests are not perhaps thought of, although the comparison of Ecclesiastes 5:5 (המלאך) with Malachi 2:7 makes it certainly natural; priestly instruction limited itself to information regarding the performance of the law already given in Scripture, Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:9., and to deciding on questions arising in the region of legal praxis, Deuteronomy 24:8; Haggai 2:11. The priesthood did not belong to the teaching class in the sense of preaching. Preaching was never a part of the temple cultus, but, for the first time, after the exile became a part of the synagogue worship. The preachers under the O.T. were the prophets, - preachers by a supernatural divine call, and by the immediate impulse of the Spirit; we know from the Book of Jeremiah that they sometimes went into the temple, or there caused their books of prophecy to be read; yet the author, by the word לשׁמע of the foregoing proverb, scarcely thinks of them. But apart from the teaching of the priests, which referred to the realization of the letter of the law, and the teaching of the prophets to the realization of the spirit of the law, the word formed an essential part of the sacred worship of the temple: the Tefilla, the Beracha, the singing of psalms, and certainly, at the time of Koheleth, the reading of certain sections of the Bible. When thou goest to the house of God, says Koheleth, take heed to thy step, well reflecting whither thou goest and how thou hast there to appear; and (with this ו he connects with this first nota bene a second) drawing near to hear exceeds the sacrifice-offering of fools, for they are ignorant (just because they hear not), which leads to this result, that they do evil. מן, prae, expresses also, without an adj., precedence in number, Isaiah 10:10, or activity, Isaiah 9:17, or worth, Ezekiel 15:2. קרוב is inf. absol. Bttcher seeks to subordinate it as such to שׁמר: take heed to thy foot ... and to the coming near to hear more than to ... . But these obj. to שמר would be incongruous, and מתת וגו clumsy and even distorted in expression; it ought rather to be מתּתּך כּכסי־לים זבח. As the inf. absol. can take the place of the obj., Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 42:24; Lamentations 3:45, so also the place of the subj. (Ewald, 240a), although Proverbs 25:27 is a doubtful example of this. That the use of the inf. absol. has a wide application with the author of this book, we have already seen under Ecclesiastes 4:2. Regarding the sequence of ideas in זבח ... מתּת (first the subj., then the obj.), vid., Gesen. 133. 3, and cf. above at Ecclesiastes 3:18. זבח (זבחים), along with its general signification comprehending all animal sacrifices, according to which the altar bears the name מזבּח, early acquired also a more special signification: it denotes, in contradistinction to עולה, such sacrifices as are only partly laid on the altar, and for the most part are devoted to a sacrificial festival, Exodus 18:12 (cf. Exodus 12:27), the so-called shelamim, or also zivhhe shelamim, Proverbs 7:14. The expression זבח נתן makes it probable that here, particularly, is intended the festival (1 Kings 1:41) connected with this kind of sacrifice, and easily degenerating to worldly merriment (vid., under Proverbs 7:14); for the more common word for תּת would have been הקריב or שׁחוט; in תּת it seems to be indicated that it means not only to present something to God, but also to give at the same time something to man. The most recent canonical Chokma-book agrees with Proverbs 21:3 in this depreciation of sacrifice. But the Chokma does not in this stand alone. The great word of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:22., that self-denying obedience to God is better than all sacrifices, echoes through the whole of the Psalms. And the prophets go to the utmost in depreciating the sacrificial cultus.

The second rule relates to prayer.

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