Ecclesiastes 7:11
Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
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(11) With.—This is the ordinary meaning of the word, and accordingly is the rendering of the older translators, but the marginal “as good as,” or “equally with,” agrees so much better with the context, that the only question is whether the word will bear that meaning. And though in some places where it is translated “like,” the rendering “with” may be substituted, yet the passages in Ecclesiastes 2:16, “no resemblance to the wise equally with the foolish,” Job 9:26, “my days have passed like the swift ships,” seem to be decisive that it will.

Profit.—In defence of the marginal “yea, better,” may be pleaded that the word is translated as an adverb (Esther 6:6; and in this book (Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 6:8; Ecclesiastes 6:11; Ecclesiastes 7:16; Ecclesiastes 12:9; Ecclesiastes 12:12).

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12. Wisdom is good — That is, very good; the positive being put for the superlative, as it frequently is in the Hebrew text; with an inheritance — When wisdom and riches meet in one man, it is a happy conjunction, for wisdom without riches wants opportunities and instruments of doing that good in the world which it is willing and desirous of doing; and riches without wisdom are like a sword in a madman’s hand, and an occasion of much sin and mischief both to himself and others. And by it there is profit — By wisdom joined with riches there comes great benefit to them that see the sun — That is, to mortal men; not only to a man’s self, but many others who live with him in this world. For wisdom is a defence — Hebrew, is a shadow; which in Scripture signifies both protection and refreshment; and money is a defence — Thus far wisdom and money agree; but the excellency of knowledge — But herein knowledge or wisdom excels riches, that whereas riches frequently expose men to destruction, true wisdom doth often preserve a man from temporal, and always from eternal ruin.

7:11-22 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, yea better. It shelters from the storms and scorching heat of trouble. Wealth will not lengthen out the natural life; but true wisdom will give spiritual life, and strengthen men for services under their sufferings. Let us look upon the disposal of our condition as the work of God, and at last all will appear to have been for the best. In acts of righteousness, be not carried into heats or passions, no, not by a zeal for God. Be not conceited of thine own abilities; nor find fault with every thing, nor busy thyself in other men's matters. Many who will not be wrought upon by the fear of God, and the dread of hell, will avoid sins which ruin their health and estate, and expose to public justice. But those that truly fear God, have but one end to serve, therefore act steadily. If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. Every true believer is ready to say, God be merciful to me a sinner. Forget not at the same time, that personal righteousness, walking in newness of life, is the only real evidence of an interest by faith in the righteousness of the Redeemer. Wisdom teaches us not to be quick in resenting affronts. Be not desirous to know what people say; if they speak well of thee, it will feed thy pride, if ill, it will stir up thy passion. See that thou approve thyself to God and thine own conscience, and then heed not what men say of thee; it is easier to pass by twenty affronts than to avenge one. When any harm is done to us, examine whether we have not done as bad to others.And by it there is profit ... - literally, And is profitable to the living. The same word as in Ecclesiastes 6:11, to the question in which it looks like an answer. 11. Rather, "Wisdom, as compared with an inheritance, is good," that is, is as good as an inheritance; "yea, better (literally, and a profit) to them that see the sun" (that is, the living, Ec 11:7; Job 3:16; Ps 49:19). Good, i.e. very good; the positive being put for the superlative, as it is frequently in the Hebrew text. When wisdom and riches meet in one man, it is a happy conjunction; for wisdom without riches is commonly contemned, Ecclesiastes 9:16, and wants opportunities and instruments of discovering itself, and of doing that good in the world which it is both able and willing to do; and riches without wisdom are like a sword in a madman’s hand, an occasion of much sin and mischief, both to himself and others.

By it there is profit; by wisdom joined with riches there comes great benefit; Heb. and it is an excellency, or privilege, or advantage.

To them that see the sun, i.e. to mortal men; not only to a man’s self, but many others who live with him in this world; whereby he intimates that riches bear no price and have no use in the other world.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance,.... It is good of itself. Or, "is as good as an inheritance" (n), as it may be rendered; it is a portion of itself, especially spiritual and divine wisdom. The Targum interprets it, the wisdom of the law, or the knowledge of that; but much more excellent is the wisdom of the Gospel, the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom; the knowledge of which, in an experimental way, is preferable to all earthly inheritances: but this with an inheritance is good, yea, better than without one; for wisdom, without riches, is generally overlooked and despised in men; see Ecclesiastes 9:16; when wealth, with wisdom, makes a man regarded; this commands respect and attention; as well as he is in a better condition to do good, if willing to share, and ready to distribute;

and by it there is profit to them that see the sun; mortals in this present state, who are described as such that see the sun rise and set, and enjoy the heat and light of it, receive much advantage from men who are both wise and rich: or, "and it is an excellency to them that see the sun"; it is an excellency to mortals and what gives them superiority to others, that they have both wisdom and riches.

(n) "aeque ac haereditas", Gejerus, Schmidt.

Wisdom is good with an {h} inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

(h) He answers to them who do not value wisdom unless riches are joined with it, showing that both are the gifts of God, but that wisdom is far more excellent and may be without riches.

11. Wisdom is good with an inheritance] The words fall on our ears with something like a ring of cynicism, as though the teacher said with a sneer, “wisdom is all very well if you have property to fall back upon.” If that sense were however admissible at all, it could only be by emphasizing the word “inheritance,” as contrasted with the treasure which a man heaps up for himself. The inherited estate, be it great or small, does not interfere with wisdom as money-making does. The ἀρχαιόπλουτοι (“rich with ancestral wealth”) are, as Aristotle taught, of a nobler stamp than those who make their fortunes (Rhet. ii. 9. 9). Comp. Aesch. Agam. 1043. Even so taken, however, the tone is entirely out of harmony with the immediate context, and a far more satisfactory meaning is obtained by taking the preposition as a particle of comparison (it is often so used, as in ch. Ecclesiastes 2:17; Psalm 73:5; Psalm 120:4 (probably); Job 9:20); and so we get “Wisdom is good as an inheritance.”

and by it there is profit to them that see the sun] Better, And it is profitable for them that see the sun. It stands instead of both inherited and acquired wealth. In the use of the term “those that see the sun” as an equivalent we note again an echo of Greek poetic feeling. The very phrase ὁρᾶν φάος ἡελίοιο (“to see the light of the sun”) is essentially Homeric. Here, as in chap. Ecclesiastes 12:7, it seems chosen as half conveying the thought that there is after all a bright side of life.

Verse 11. - Such hasty judgment is incompatible with true wisdom and sagacity. Wisdom is good with an inheritance; Septuagint, Ἀγαθὴ σοφία μετὰ κληρονομίας. Vulgate, Utilior eat sapientia cam divitiis. The sentence thus rendered seems to mean that wealth lends a prestige to wisdom, that the man is happy who possesses both. The inheritance spoken of is an hereditary one; the man who is "rich with ancestral wealth" is enabled to employ his wisdom to good purpose, his position adding weight to his words and actions, and relieving him from the low pursuit of money-making. To this effect Wright quotes Menander -

Μακάριος ὅστις οὐσίαν καὶ νοῦν ἕχει
Ξρῆται γὰρ οῦτος εἰς α} δεῖ ταύτῃ καλῶς.

"Blest is the man who wealth and wisdom hath,
For he can use his riches as he ought."
(Comp. Proverbs 14:24.) Many commentators, thinking such a sentiment alien front the context, render the particle עִם not "with," but "as" Wisdom is [as] good as an inheritance" (see on Ecclesiastes 2:16). This is putting wisdom on rather a low platform, and one would have expected to read some such aphorism as "Wisdom is better than rubies" (Proverbs 8:11), if Koheleth had intended to make any such comparison. It appears then most expedient to take im in the sense of "moreover," "as well as," "and" (camp. 1 Samuel 17:42, "ruddy, and (ira) of a fair countenance"). "Wisdom is good, and an inheritance is good; 'both are good, but the advantages of the former, as ver. 12 intimates, far outweigh those of the latter. And by it there is profit to them that see the sun; rather, and an advantage for those that see the, sun. However useful wealth may be, wisdom is that which is really beneficial to all who live and rejoice in the light of day. In Homer the phrase, ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο, "to see the light of the sun" ('Iliad,' 18:61), signifies merely "to live;" Plumptre considers it to be used here and in Ecclesiastes 19:7 in order to convey the thought that, after all, life has its bright side. Cox would take it to mean to live much in the sun, i.e. to lead an active life - which is an imported modern notion. Ecclesiastes 7:11Externally connecting itself with "from wisdom," there now follows another proverb, which declares that wisdom along with an inheritance is good, but that wisdom is nevertheless of itself better than money and possessions: "Wisdom is good with family possessions, and an advantage for those who see the sun. For wisdom affordeth a shadow, money affordeth a shadow; yet the advantage of knowledge is this, that wisdom preserveth life to its possessor." Most of the English interpreters, from Desvoeux to Tyler, translate: "Wisdom is as good as an inheritance;" and Bullock, who translates: "with an inheritance," says of this and the other translations: "The difference is not material." But the thought is different, and thus the distinction is not merely a formal one. Zckl. explains it as undoubted that עם here, as at Ecclesiastes 2:16 (vid., l.c.), means aeque ac; (but (1) that aeque ac has occurred to no ancient translator, till the Venet. and Luther, nor to the Syr., which translates: "better is wisdom than weapons (מאנא זינא)," in a singular way making Ecclesiastes 7:11 a duplette of Ecclesiastes 9:18; (2) instead of "wisdom is better than wealth," as e.g., Proverbs 8:11; (3) the proverb is formed like Aboth ii. 2, "good is study connected with a citizen-like occupation," and similar proverbs; (4) one may indeed say: "the wise man dieth with (together with) the fool" equals just as well as the fool; but "good is wisdom with wealth" can neither be equivalent to "as well as wealth," nor: "in comparison with wealth" (Ewald, Elster), but only: "in connection with wealth (possessions);" aeque ac may be translated for una cum where the subject is common action and suffering, but not in a substantival clause consisting of a subst. as subject and an adj. as pred., having the form of a categorical judgment. נחלה denotes a possession inherited and hereditary (cf. Proverbs 20:21); and this is evidence in favour of the view that עם is meant not of comparison, but of connection; the expression would otherwise be עם־עשׁר. ויתר is now also explained. It is not to be rendered: "and better still" (than wealth), as Herzf., Hitz., and Hengst. render it; but in spite of Hengst., who decides in his own way, "יותר never means advantage, gain," it denotes a prevailing good, avantage; and it is explained also why men are here named "those who see the sun" - certainly not merely thus describing them poetically, as in Homer ζώειν is described and coloured by ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο. To see the sun, is equals to have entered upon this earthly life, in which along with wisdom, also no inheritance is to be despised. For wisdom affords protection as well as money, but the former still more than the latter. So far, the general meaning of Ecclesiastes 7:12 is undisputed. Buthow is Ecclesiastes 7:12 to be construed? Knobel, Hitz., and others regard ב as the so-called beth essentiae: a shadow (protection) is wisdom, a shadow is money, - very expressive, yet out of harmony, if not with the language of that period, yet with the style of Koheleth; and how useless and misleading would this doubled בּ be here! Hengstenberg translates: in the shadow of wisdom, at least according to our understanding of Ecclesiastes 7:11, is not likened to the shadow of silver; but in conformity with that עם, it must be said that wisdom, and also that money, affords a shadow; (2) but that interpretation goes quite beyond the limits of gnomic brachyology. We explain: for in the shadow (בּצל, like בּצּל, Jonah 4:5) is wisdom, in the shadow, money; by which, without any particularly bold poetic licence, is meant that he who possesses wisdom, he who possesses money, finds himself in a shadow, i.e., of pleasant security; to be in the shadow, spoken of wisdom and money, is equals to sit in the shadow of the persons who possess both.

12b. The exposition of this clause is agreed upon. It is to be construed according to the accentuation: and the advantage of knowledge is this, that "wisdom preserveth life to its possessors." The Targ. regards דעת החכמה as connected genit.; that might be possible (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 8:16), but yet is improbable. Wherever the author uses דעת as subst., it is an independent conception placed beside חך, Ecclesiastes 1:16; Ecclesiastes 2:26, etc. We now translate, not: wisdom gives life (lxx, Jerome, Venet., Luther) to its possessors; for חיּה always means only either to revive (thus Hengst., after Psalm 119:25; cf. Psalm 71:20) or to keep in life; and this latter meaning is more appropriate to this book than the former, - thus (cf. Proverbs 3:18): wisdom preserves in life, - since, after Hitzig, it accomplishes this, not by rash utterances of denunciation, - a thought lying far behind Ecclesiastes 7:10, and altogether too mean, - but since it secures it against self-destruction by vice and passions and emotions, e.g., anger (Ecclesiastes 7:9), which consume life. The shadow in which wisdom (the wise man) sits keeps it fresh and sound, - a result which the shadow in which money (the capitalist) sits does not afford: it has frequently the directly contrary effect.

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