Ecclesiastes 7:10
Say not you, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Concerning.—This preposition is used after “enquire” only in later Hebrew (Nehemiah 1:2).

Ecclesiastes 7:10. Say not thou — Namely, by way of impatient expostulation and complaint against God, either for permitting such disorders in the world, or for bringing thee into the world in such an evil time and state of things: otherwise a man may say this by way of prudent and pious inquiry, that by searching out the cause, he may, as far as it is in his power, apply remedies to make the times better; What is the cause that the former days were better? — More quiet and comfortable. For this is an argument of a mind unthankful for the many mercies which men enjoy even in evil times. And thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this — This question shows thy folly in contending with thy Lord and Governor, and opposing thy shallow wit to his unsearchable wisdom.7:7-10 The event of our trials and difficulties is often better than at first we thought. Surely it is better to be patient in spirit, than to be proud and hasty. Be not soon angry, nor quick in resenting an affront. Be not long angry; though anger may come into the bosom of a wise man, it passes through it as a way-faring man; it dwells only in the bosom of fools. It is folly to cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts; and even in these times we enjoy many mercies. It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent, and aptness to quarrel with God himself.Better - Inasmuch as something certain is attained, man contemplates the end throughout an entire course of action, and does not rest upon the beginning.

Patient ... proud - literally, "Long," long-suffering ..."high," in the sense of impatient.

10. Do not call in question God's ways in making thy former days better than thy present, as Job did (Job 29:2-5). The very putting of the question argues that heavenly "wisdom" (Margin) is not as much as it ought made the chief good with thee. Say not thou, to wit, by way of impatient expostulation and complaint against God, either for permitting such disorders in the world, or for bringing thee into the world in such an evil time and state of things. Otherwise a man may say this by way of prudent and pious inquiry, that by searching out the cause he may, as far as it is in his power, apply remedies to make them better.

Better; either,

1. Less sinful. Or rather,

2. More quiet and comfortable. For this, and not the former, is the cause of most men’s murmurings against God’s providence. And this is an argument of a mind discontented and unthankful for the many mercies which men commonly enjoy even in evil times, and impatient under God’s hand.

Thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this; this question showeth thy great folly in contending with thy Creator, and the sovereign Lord and Governor of all things, in opposing thy shallow wit to his unsearchable wisdom, and thy will to his will. Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these?.... This is a common opinion, that in all ages prevails among men, that former times were better than present ones; that trade flourished more, and men got more wealth and riches, and lived in greater ease and plenty; and complain that their lot is cast in such hard times, and are ready to lay the blame upon the providence of God, and murmur at it, which they should not do;

for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this: this is owing to ignorance of former times; which, if rightly inquired into, or the true knowledge of them could be come at, it would appear that they were no better than the present; and that there were always bad men, and bad things done; frauds, oppressions, and violence, and everything that can be complained of now: or if things are worse than they were, this should be imputed to the badness of men; and the inquirer should look to himself, and his own ways, and see if there is not a cause there, and study to redeem the time, because the days are evil; and not arraign the providence of God, and murmur at that, and quarrel with it; as if the distributions of it were unequal, and justice not done in one age as in another

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire {g} wisely concerning this.

(g) Murmur not against God when he sends adversities for man's sins.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. What is the cause that the former days were better than these] It would be a mistake to treat this as describing merely the temper of one who is a “laudator temporis acti, se puero.” That is, as the poet noted (Hor. Epist. ad Pis. 173), but the infirmity of age. What is condemned as unwise, as we should call it in modern phrase, unphilosophical, is the temper so common in the decay and decadence of national life (and pointing therefore to the age in which the Debater lived) which looks back upon the past as an age of heroes or an age of faith, idealizing the distant time with a barren admiration, apathetic and discontented with the present, desponding as to the future. Such complaints are in fact (and this is the link which connects this maxim with the preceding) but another form of the spirit which is hasty to be angry, as with individual men that thwart its wishes, so with the drift and tendency of the times in which it lives. The wise man will rather accept that tendency and make the best of it. Below the surface there lies perhaps the suggestion of a previous question, Were the times really better? Had not each age had its own special evils, its own special gains? Illustrations crowd upon one’s memory. Greeks looking back to the age of those who fought at Marathon; Romans under the Empire recalling the vanished greatness of the Republic; Frenchmen mourning over the ancien régime, or Englishmen over the good old days of the Tudors, are all examples of the same unwisdom.Verse 10. - The same impatience leads a man to disparage the present in comparison with a past age. What is the cause that the former days were better than these? He does not know from any adequate information that preceding times were in any respect superior to present, but in his moody discontent he looks on what is around him with a jaundiced eye, and sees the past through a rose-tinted atmosphere, as an age of heroism, faith, and righteousness. Horace finds such a character in the morose old man, whom he describes in 'De Arte Poet.,' 173 -

"Difficilis, querulus, laudater temporis acti
Se puero, castigator censorque minornm."


"Morose and querulous, praising former days
When he was boy, now ever blaming youth."
And 'Epist.,' 2:1.22 -

"... et nisi quae terris semota suisque
Temporibus defuncta videt, fastidit et odit."


"All that is not most distant and removed
From his own time and place, he loathes and scorns."
For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this. In asking such a question you show that you have not reflected wisely on the matter. Every age has its light and dark side; the past was not wholly light, the present is not wholly dark. And it may well be questioned whether much of the glamour shed over antiquity is not false and unreal. The days of "Good Queen Bess" were anything but halcyon; the "merrie England" of old time was full of disorder, distress, discomfort. In yearning again for the flesh-pots of Egypt, the Israelites forgot the bondage and misery which were the accompaniments of those sensual pleasures. The joy of life must thus be not riot and tumult, but a joy tempered with seriousness: "Better is sorrow than laughter: for with a sad countenance it is well with the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth." Grief and sorrow, כּעס, whether for ourselves or occasioned by others, is better, viz., morally better, than extravagant merriment; the heart is with רע פּ (inf. as רע, Jeremiah 7:6; cf. פן ר, Genesis 40:7; Nehemiah 2:2), a sorrowful countenance, better than with laughter, which only masks the feeling of disquiet peculiar to man, Proverbs 14:13. Elsewhere לב ייטב equals "the heart is (may be) of good cheer," e.g., Ruth 3:7; Judges 19:6; here also joyful experience is meant, but well becoming man as a religious moral being. With a sad countenance it may be far better as regards the heart than with a merry countenance in boisterous company. Luther, in the main correct, after Jerome, who on his part follows Symmachus: "The heart is made better by sorrow." The well-being is here meant as the reflex of a moral: bene se habere.

Sorrow penetrates the heart, draws the thought upwards, purifies, transforms. Therefore is the heart of the wise in the house of sorrow; and, on the other hand, the heart of fools is in the house of joy, i.e., the impulse of their heart goes thither, there they feel themselves at home; a house of joy is one where there are continual feasts, or where there is at the time a revelling in joy. That Ecclesiastes 7:4 is divided not by Athnach, but by Zakef, has its reason in this, that of the words following אבל, none consists of three syllables; cf. on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 7:7, חכם. From this point forward the internal relation of the contents is broken up, according to which this series of sayings as a concluding section hangs together with that containing the observations going before in Ecclesiastes 6:1-12.

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