Ecclesiastes 7:12
For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom gives life to them that have it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) A defence.—Literally, a shadow (Psalm 91:1; Psalm 121:5, &c). This verse harmonises with the interpretation of the preceding verse, which we prefer. “Wisdom and riches alike confer protection, but the pre-eminence of wisdom is,” &c.

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.Wisdom is a defense ... - See the margin and Psalm 121:5, i. e., He who is defended from adversity by his wisdom is in as good a position as he who is defended by his riches.

Excellency - literally, Profit.

Giveth life to - literally, "Causes to live," "makes alive" Proverbs 3:18; the deeper meaning of which is elicited by comparing these words with John 6:63; Matthew 4:4.

12. Literally, (To be) in (that is, under) the shadow (Isa 30:2) of wisdom (is the same as to be) in (under) the shadow of money; wisdom no less shields one from the ills of life than money does.

is, that—rather, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life," that is, life in the highest sense, here and hereafter (Pr 3:18; Joh 17:3; 2Pe 1:3). Wisdom (religion) cannot be lost as money can. It shields one in adversity, as well as prosperity; money, only in prosperity. The question in Ec 7:10 implies a want of it.

Is a defence, Heb. is a shadow; which in Scripture use notes both protection and refreshment. And thus far wisdom and money agree. But herein knowledge or wisdom (which commonly signifies the same thing) excels riches, that whereas riches frequently expose men to death or destruction, true wisdom doth ofttimes preserve a man from temporal, and always from eternal ruin. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence,.... Or, a "shadow" of refreshment and protection, under which men sit with pleasure and safety; a man by his wisdom, and so by his money, is able to defend himself against the injuries and oppressions of others, and especially when both meet in one and the same man. Jarchi renders and interprets it,

"he that is in the shadow of wisdom is in the shadow of money, for wisdom is the cause why riches come;''

and so the Targum,

"as a man is hid in the shadow of wisdom, so he is hid in the shadow of money, when he does alms with it;''

compare with this Luke 16:9; see Ecclesiastes 7:19. Theognis (o) has a saying much like this,

"riches and wisdom are always inexpugnable to mortals;''

but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it; or, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life" (p), &c. not of natural wisdom, or the knowledge of natural and civil things, the vanity of this is exposed, before by the wise man; but the knowledge of God in Christ; the knowledge of Christ, who is the Wisdom of God; and of the Gospel, and of all divine and spiritual things: this is a superior excellency to riches, which often expose a man's life to danger, cannot preserve him from a corporeal death, much less from an eternal one. When this is the excellency of spiritual knowledge, that spiritual life goes along with it; such as are spiritually enlightened are spiritually quickened; live by faith on Christ, whom they know; and, through the knowledge of him, have all things pertaining to life and godliness, and have both a right and meetness for eternal life; yea, this knowledge is life eternal, John 17:3; see 2 Peter 1:3; and this is the pure gift of Wisdom, or of Christ, and not owing to the merit of men, or works done in obedience to the law, which cannot give this life; see John 17:2, Romans 6:23.

(o) Sententiae, v. 1153. (p) "et praestantia scientiae sapientiae vivificabit", Montanus.

For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence] Better, as a shadow, or, as a shelter, in both clauses. The Hebrew, as the italics shew, has no “and.” “Shadow” as in Psalm 17:8; Psalm 91:1, stands for shelter and protection. This, the writer says, not without a touch of his wonted irony in coupling the two things together, to those who looked to wealth as their only means of safety (Proverbs 13:8), is found not less effectually in wisdom.

but the excellency of knowledge] Better, the profit, thus keeping up what we may call the catch-word of the book. Wisdom, the Debater says, does more than give shelter, as money, in its way, does. It quickens those who have it to a new and higher life. The use of the word ζωοποιήσει (“shall quicken”), by the LXX. connects the maxim with the higher teaching of John 5:21; John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6. The Spirit which alone gives the wisdom that “cometh from above” does the work which is here ascribed to wisdom as an abstract quality. It is clearly out of harmony with the whole train of thought to see in the “life” which wisdom gives only that of the body which is preserved by the prudence that avoids dangers. It is as much beside the point to interpret it of the “life” of the resurrection.Verse 12. - For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense; literally, in the shade is wisdom, in the shade is money; Septuagint, Ὅτι ἐν σκιᾷ αὐτῆς ἡ σοφία ὡς σκιὰ ἀργυρίου, "For in its shadow wisdom is as the shadow of money." Symmachus has, Σκέπει σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, "Wisdom shelters as money shelters." The Vulgate explains the obscure text by paraphrasing, Sieur enirn protegit sapientia, sic protegit petunia. Shadow, in Oriental phrase, is equivalent to protection (see Numbers 14:9; Psalm 17:5; Lamentations 4:20). Wisdom as well as money is a shield and defense to men. As it is said in one passage (Proverbs 13:8) that riches are the ransom of a man's life, so in another (Ecclesiastes 9:15) we are told how wisdom delivered a city from destruction. The literal translation given above implies that he who has wisdom and he who has money rest under a safe protection, are secure from material evil. In this respect they are alike, and have analogous claims to man's regard. But the excellency - profit, or advantage - of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. "Knowledge" (daath) and "wisdom" (chokmah) are practically here identical, the terms being varied for the sake of poetic parallelism. The Revised Version, following Delitzsch and others, renders, Wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it; i.e. secures him from passions and excesses which tend to shorten life. This seems to be scarcely an adequate ground for the noteworthy advantage which wisdom is said to possess. The Septuagint gives, Καὶ περίσσεια γνώσεως τῆς σοφίας ζωοποιήσει τόν παρ αὐτῆς "And the excellence of the knowledge of wisdom will quicken him that hath it." Something more than the mere animal life is signified, a climax to the "defense" mentioned in the preceding clause - the higher, spiritual life which man has from God. Wisdom in the highest sense, that is, practical piety and religion, is "a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is every one that retaineth her" (Proverbs 3:18), where it is implied that wisdom restores to man the gift which he lost at the Fall (camp. also Proverbs 8:35). The Septuagint expression ζωοποιήσει recalls the words of Christ, "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth (ζωοποιεῖ) them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will;" "It is the Spirit that quickeneth (τὸ ζωοποιοῦν)" (John 5:21; John 6:63). Koheleth attributes that power to wisdom which the more definite teaching of Christianity assigns to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Some would explain, "fortifies or vivifies the heart," i.e. imparts new life and strength to meet every fortune. The Vulgate rendering is far astray from the text, and does not accurately convey the sense of the passage, running thus: Hoe autem plus habet eruditio et sapientia: quod vitam tribuunt possessori sue, "But this more have learning and wisdom, that they give life to the possessor of them." A fourth proverb of that which is better (מן טוב) presents, like the third, the fools and the wise over against each other: "Better to hear the reproof of a wise man, than that one should hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of Nesseln (nettles) under the Kessel (kettle), so the laughter of the fool: also this is vain." As at Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10, גּערה is the earnest and severe words of the wise, which impressively reprove, emphatically warn, and salutarily alarm. שׁיר in itself means only song, to the exclusion, however, of the plaintive song; the song of fools is, if not immoral, yet morally and spiritually hollow, senseless, and unbridled madness. Instead of משּׁמע, the words מא שׁ are used, for the twofold act of hearing is divided between different subjects. A fire of thorn-twigs flickers up quickly and crackles merrily, but also exhausts itself quickly (Psalm 118:12), without sufficiently boiling the flesh in the pot; whilst a log of wood, without making any noise, accomplishes this quietly and surely.

We agree with Knobel and Vaihinger in copying the paronomasia [Nessel-Kessel]. When, on the other hand, Zckler remarks that a fire of nettles could scarcely crackle, we advise our friend to try it for once in the end of summer with a bundle of stalks of tall dry nettles. They yield a clear blaze, a quickly expiring fire, to which here, as he well remarks, the empty laughter of foolish men is compared, who are devoid of all earnestness, and of all deep moral principles of life. This laughter is vain, like that crackling.

There is a hiatus between Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:7. For how Ecclesiastes 7:7 can be related to Ecclesiastes 7:6 as furnishing evidence, no interpreter has as yet been able to say. Hitzig regards Ecclesiastes 7:6 as assigning a reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, but 6b as a reply (as Ecclesiastes 7:7 containing its motive shows) to the assertion of Ecclesiastes 7:5, - a piece of ingenious thinking which no one imitates. Elster translates: "Yet injustice befools a wise man," being prudently silent about this "yet." Zckler finds, as Knobel and Ewald do, the mediating thought in this, that the vanity of fools infects and also easily befools the wise. But the subject spoken of is not the folly of fools in general, but of their singing and laughter, to which Ecclesiastes 7:7 has not the most remote reference. Otherwise Hengst.: "In Ecclesiastes 7:7, the reason is given why the happiness of fools is so brief; first, the mens sana is lost, and then destruction follows." But in that case the words ought to have been כסיל יהולל; the remark, that חכם here denotes one who ought to be and might be such, is a pure volte. Ginsburg thinks that the two verses are co-ordinated by כי; that Ecclesiastes 7:6 gives the reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, and Ecclesiastes 7:7 that for Ecclesiastes 7:5, since here, by way of example, one accessible to bribery is introduced, who would act prudently in letting himself therefore be directed by a wise man. But if he had wished to be thus understood, the author would have used another word instead of חכם, 7a, and not designated both him who reproves and him who merits reproof by the one word - the former directly, the latter at least indirectly. We do not further continue the account of the many vain attempts that have been made to bring Ecclesiastes 7:7 into connection with Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:5. Our opinion is, that Ecclesiastes 7:7 is the second half of a tetrastich, the first half of which is lost, which began, as is to be supposed, with tov. The first half was almost the same as Psalm 37:16, or better still, as Proverbs 16:8, and the whole proverb stood thus:

טוב מעט בּחדקה

מרב תּבוּאות בּלא משׁפּט׃

[and then follows Ecclesiastes 7:7 as it lies before us in the text, formed into a distich, the first line of which terminates with חכם]. We go still further, and suppose that after the first half of the tetrastich was lost, that expression, "also this is vain," added to Ecclesiastes 7:6 by the punctuation, was inserted for the purpose of forming a connection for כי עשק: Also this is vain, that, etc. (כי, like asher, Ecclesiastes 8:14).

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