Ecclesiastes 5:9
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
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(9) Is served by.—Or, is servant to. Many eminent interpreters connect this verse with what precedes, and translate, “and on the whole the profit of the land is a king devoted to agriculture,” an observation which it is hard to clear of the charge of irrelevance. I prefer, as in our version, to connect with the following verses, and the best explanation I can give of the connection of the paragraph is that it contains a consideration intended to mitigate the difficulty felt at the sight of riches acquired by oppression, namely, that riches add little to the real happiness of the possessors.

Ecclesiastes 5:9. The profit of the earth is for all — The fruits of the earth are necessary and beneficial to all men. The wise man, after some interruption, returns to his former subject, the vanity of riches; one evidence whereof he mentions in this verse, that the poor labourer enjoys the fruits of the earth as well as the greatest monarch, and that the richest man in the world depends as much upon them as the poorest. The king himself is served by the field — Is supported by the fruits of the field.

5:9-17 The goodness of Providence is more equally distributed than appears to a careless observer. The king needs the common things of life, and the poor share them; they relish their morsel better than he does his luxuries. There are bodily desires which silver itself will not satisfy, much less will worldly abundance satisfy spiritual desires. The more men have, the better house they must keep, the more servants they must employ, the more guests they must entertain, and the more they will have hanging on them. The sleep of the labourer is sweet, not only because he is tired, but because he has little care to break his sleep. The sleep of the diligent Christian, and his long sleep, are sweet; having spent himself and his time in the service of God, he can cheerfully repose in God as his Rest. But those who have every thing else, often fail to secure a good night's sleep; their abundance breaks their rest. Riches do hurt, and draw away the heart from God and duty. Men do hurt with their riches, not only gratifying their own lusts, but oppressing others, and dealing hardly with them. They will see that they have laboured for the wind, when, at death, they find the profit of their labour is all gone like the wind, they know not whither. How ill the covetous worldling bears the calamities of human life! He does not sorrow to repentance, but is angry at the providence of God, angry at all about him; which doubles his affliction.The king himself is served by the field - Rather, the king is subject to the field, i. e., is dependent on its cultivation. The higher ranks, if they oppress the lower, lose thereby their own means of subsistence. 9. "The profit (produce) of the earth is (ordained) for (the common good of) all: even the king himself is served by (the fruits of) the field" (2Ch 26:10). Therefore the common Lord of all, high and low, will punish at last those who rob the "poor" of their share in it (Pr 22:22, 23; Am 8:4-7). The profit of the earth, the fruits procured from the earth by the skill and labour of the husbandman, is for all; are necessary and beneficial to all men whatsoever. The wise man, after some interruption, returns to his former subject, to discourse of the vanity of great riches, one argument or evidence whereof he seems to mention in this verse, to wit, that the poor labourer enjoyeth the fruits of the earth as well as the greatest monarch, and that the richest man in the world depends as much upon them as the poorest.

Is served by the field; is supported by the fruits of the field; or, as many others render it, serves or is a servant to the field, depends upon it, is obliged to see that his fields be tilled and dressed, that he may have subsistence for himself, and for his servants and subjects.

Moreover, the profit of the earth is for all,.... Or, "the excellency of the earth in" or "above all things is this" (y); that God most high rules over all the earth, and is higher than the kings of it, and all oppressors in it; or in all respects there is a preference, a superior excellency in the country as opposed to the city, especially in this, that there are not so many tumults, riots, and oppressions there; though this is mostly understood of the preference and superior excellency of agriculture, or tillage of the earth. So the Targum,

"the excellency of the praise of tilling the earth is above all things:''

and to the same purpose Jarchi and Aben Ezra; and the profit arising from it is enjoyed by all; it is for all, even the beasts of the field have grass from hence, as well as man has bread corn, and all other necessaries;

the king himself is served by the field; his table is served with bread corn, and flesh, and wine, and fruits of various sorts, the produce of the earth, which spring from it, or are nourished by it; were it not for husbandry the king himself and his family could not subsist; and therefore it becomes kings to encourage it, and not oppress those who are employed in it: or "the king is a servant to the field" (z); some kings have addicted themselves to husbandry, and been great lovers of it, as Uzziah was, 2 Chronicles 26:10; and some of the Chinese emperors, as their histories (a) show; and the kings of Persia (b): Vulcan, in the shield of Achilles, represented the reapers, gatherers, and binders of sheaves at work in the field, and a king standing among the sheaves with a sceptre in his hand, looking on with great pleasure, while a dinner is prepared by his orders for the workmen (c); many of the Roman generals, and high officers, were called from the plough, particularly Cincinnatus (d); and these encouraged husbandry in their subjects, as well as took care of their own farms. There is another sense of the words given, besides many more;

"and the most excellent Lord of the earth (that is, the most high God) is the King of every field that is tilled; (that is, the King of the whole habitable world;) or the King Messiah, Lord of his field, the church, and who is the most eminent in all the earth (e).''

The Midrash interprets it of the holy blessed God.

(y) "et praestantia terrae in omnibus ipsa", Montanus; "porro excellentia terrae prae omnibus est", Vatablus; "et praecellentia terrae in omnibus est", Gejerus. (z) "rex agro sit servus", Montanus, Piscator, Gejerus; "rex agro servit", Mercerus, so some in Drusius. (a) Vid. Martin. Sinic. Histor. l. 2. p. 36. & l. 4. p. 92. & l. 3. p. 287. (b) Xenophon. Oeconom. p. 482. (c) Homer. Iliad. 18. v. 550-558. (d) Flor. Hist. Roman. l. 1. c. 11. (e) So Schmidt Rambachius.

Moreover the {g} profit of the earth is for all: the king {h} himself is served by the field.

(g) The earth is to be preferred above all things which belong to this life.

(h) Kings and princes cannot maintain their estate without tillage, which commends the excellency of tillage.

9. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all] The verse is difficult and has been very variously interpreted. The most satisfactory renderings follow: But the profit of a land every way is a king for the field under tillage, or, as some take the words, a king devoted to the field. In either case the main sense is the same. The writer contrasts the misery of the Oriental government of his time with the condition of Judah under the model kings who gave themselves chiefly to the development of the resources of the country by agriculture, such e.g. as Uzziah who “loved husbandry” (2 Chronicles 26:10). This gives, it is obvious, a much better sense than the rendering that “the king is served by the field” or “is subject to the field,” i.e. dependent on it. Assuming the Alexandrian origin of the book, we may perhaps see in the maxim a gentle hint to the Ptolemy of the time being to improve his agricultural administration and to foster the growing export-trade in corn.

Verse 9. - It has been much debated whether this verse should be connected with the preceding or the following paragraph. The Vulgate takes it with the preceding verse, Et insuper universae terrae rex imperat servienti; so the Septuagint; and this seems most natural, avarice, wealth, and its evils in private life being treated of in vers. 10 and many following. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. The writer seems to be contrasting the misery of Oriental despotism, above spoken of, with the happiness of a country whose king was content to enrich himself, not by war, rapine, and oppression, but by the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, by cherishing the natural productions of his country, and encouraging his people in developing its resources. Such was Uzziah, who" loved husbandry" (2 Chronicles 26:10); and in Solomon's own time the arts of peace greatly flourished. There is much difficulty in interpreting the verse. The Vulgate rendering, "And moreover the King of the whole earth rules over his servant," probably means that God governs the king. But the present Hebrew text does not support this translation. The Septuagint has, Καὶ περίσσεια γῆς ἑπὶ παντί ἐστὶ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ἀγροῦ εἰργασμένου, which makes more difficulties. "Also the abundance of the earth is for every one, or upon every thing; the king (is dependent on) the cultivated land, or, there is a king to the land when cultivated," i.e. the throne itself depends on the due cultivation of the country. Or, removing the comma, "The profit of the land in everything is a king of the cultivated field." The Hebrew may safely be rendered, "But the profit of a land in all things is a king devoted to the field," i.e. who loves and fosters agriculture. It is difficult to suppose that Solomon himself wrote this sentence, however we may interpret it. According to the Authorized Version, the idea is that the profit of the soil extends to every rank of life; even the king, who seems superior to all, is dependent upon the industry of the people, and the favorable produce of the land. He could not be unjust and oppressive without injuring his revenues in the end. Ben-Sirs sings the praises of agriculture: "Hate not laborious work, neither husbandry., which the Most High hath ordained" (Ecclus. 7:15). Agriculture held a very prominent position in the Mosaic commonwealth. The enactments concerning the firstfruits, the sabbatical year, landmarks, the non-alienation of inheritances, etc., tended to give peculiar importance to cultivation of the soil. Cicero's praise of agriculture is often quoted. Thus ('De Senect.,' 15. sqq.; 'De Off.,' 1:42):" Omninm return, ex quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil heroine libero dignius." Ecclesiastes 5:9The author, on the other hand, now praises the patriarchal form of government based on agriculture, whose king takes pride, not in bloody conquests and tyrannical caprice, but in the peaceful promotion of the welfare of his people: "But the advantage of a country consists always in a king given to the arable land." What impossibilities have been found here, even by the most recent expositors! Ewald, Heiligst., Elster, Zckl. translate: rex agro factus equals terrae praefectus; but, in the language of this book, not עבד but מלך עשׁה is the expression used for "to make a king." Gesen., Win., de Wette, Knobel, Vaih. translate: rex qui colitur a terra (civibus). But could a country, in the sense of its population in subjection to the king, be more inappropriately designated than by שׂדה? Besides, עבד certainly gains the meaning of colere where God is the object; but with a human ruler as the object it means servire and nothing more, and נעבּד

(Note: Thus pointed rightly in J., with Sheva quiesc. and Dagesh in Beth; vid., Kimchi in Michlol 63a, and under עבד.)

can mean nothing else than "dienstbar gemacht" made subject to, not "honoured." Along with this signification, related denom. to עבד, נעבד, referred from its primary signification to שׂדה, the open fields (from שׂדה, to go out in length and breadth), may also, after the phrase עבד האדמה, signify cultivated, wrought, tilled; and while the phrase "made subject to" must be certainly held as possible (Rashi, Aben Ezra, and others assume it without hesitation), but is without example, the Niph. occurs, e.g., at Ezekiel 36:9, in the latter signification, of the mountains of Israel: "ye shall be tilled." Under Ecclesiastes 5:8, Hitzig, and with him Stuart and Zckler, makes the misleading remark that the Chethı̂b is בּכל־היא, and that it is equals בּכל־זאת, according to which the explanation is then given: the protection and security which an earthly ruler secures is, notwithstanding this, not to be disparaged. But היא is Chethı̂b, for which the Kerı̂ substitutes הוּא; בּכּל is Chethı̂b without Kerı̂; and that בּכל is thus a modification of the text, and that, too, an objectionable one, since בכל־היא, in the sense of "in all this," is unheard of. The Kerı̂ seeks, without any necessity, to make the pred. and subj. like one another in gender; without necessity, for היא may also be neut.: the advantage of a land is this, viz., what follows. And how בּכּל is to be understood is seen from Ezra 10:17, where it is to be explained: And they prepared

(Note: That כלה ב may mean "to be ready with anything," Keil erroneously points to Genesis 44:12; and Philippi, St. Const. p. 49, thinks that vǎkol ǎnāshim can be taken together in the sense of vakol haanashim.)

the sum of the men, i.e., the list of the men, of such as had married strange wives; cf. 1 Chronicles 7:5. Accordingly בכל here means, as the author generally uses הכל mostly in the impersonal sense of omnia: in omnibus, in all things equals by all means; or: in universum, in general. Were the words accentuated מלך לשדה נעבד, the adject. connection of לשׂ נע would thereby be shown; according to which the lxx and Theod. translate τοῦ αγροῦ εἰργασμένου; Symm., with the Syr., τῇ χώρα εἰργασμένη: "a king for the cultivated land," i.e., one who regards this as a chief object. Luzz. thus indeed accentuates; but the best established accentuation is מלך לשדה נעבד. This separation of נעבד from לש can only be intended to denote that נעבד is to be referred not to it, but to מלך, according to which the Targ. paraphrases. The meaning remains the same: a king subject (who has become a servus) to the cultivated land, rex agro addictus, as Dathe, Rosenm., and others translate, is a still more distinct expression of that which "a king for the well-cultivated field" would denote: an agriculture-king, - one who is addicted, not to wars, lawsuits, and sovereign stubbornness in his opinions, but who delights in the peaceful advancement of the prosperity of his country, and especially takes a lively interest in husbandry and the cultivation of the land. The order of the words in Ecclesiastes 5:8 is like that at Ecclesiastes 9:2; cf. Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 22:2. The author thus praises, in contrast to a despotic state, a patriarchal kingdom based on agriculture.

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