Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Mighty men.—The word is translated “governor” Genesis 42:6, and so see Ecclesiastes 10:5; see also Ecclesiastes 8:8. The preacher returns to the topic of Ecclesiastes 7:12. Of the “For” in the next verse, only forced explanations have been given; the sentiment is Solomon’s (1Kings 8:46).Ecclesiastes 5:8.
than ten mighty—that is, able and valiant generals (Ec 7:12; 9:13-18; Pr 21:22; 24:5). These "watchmen wake in vain, except the Lord keep the city" (Ps 127:1).Wisdom; true wisdom, which is always joined with the fear of God, and which teacheth a man to keep close to the rule of his duty, without turning either to the right hand or to the left.
Strengtheneth the wise; supporteth him in and secureth him against troubles and dangers.
Ten, i.e. many, uniting the forces together. Ecclesiastes 7:12; and is better than strength of body, or weapons of war, Ecclesiastes 9:16; and a wise man does greater things by it than a strong man with them, and is safer with it than he can be by them. Some understand this of Christ, the Wisdom of God, without whom a good man can do nothing, but all things through him strengthening him; and who being a strong tower and place of refuge to him, he is safer in him than if he was in the strongest garrison, and under the protection of ever so large a number of valiant men: Christ, and grace from him, strengthen
more than ten mighty men which are in the city; that is, than many mighty men, or men of war, which guard a city; the city of Jerusalem, or any other. The Targum applies this to Joseph, and paraphrases it,Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. Wisdom strengtheneth the wise] The fact that the Debater had not forgotten that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:21) serves as the connecting link between this and the preceding verse. The “ten mighty men” stand as a vague number, certus pro incerto (comp. Genesis 31:7; Numbers 14:22), and it is a fantastic line of interpretation to connect them with any definite political organization, Assyrian viceroys, Persian vice-satraps, Roman decurions, or the like. It is, however, an interesting coincidence, pointed out by Mr Tyler, that a city was defined by the Mishna (Megila i. 3) to be a town in which there were ten Batlanim, or men of leisure, to constitute a synagogue. A striking parallel is found in Sir 37:14, “A man’s mind is wont to tell him more than seven men that sit upon a tower.” What is meant is generally that the wisdom that fears God is better than mere force, that moral strength is in the long run mightier than material. Wise statesmen may do more than generals.Verse 19. - Wisdom strengtheneth the wise. The moderation enjoined is the only true wisdom, which, indeed, is the most powerful incentive and support. "Wisdom proves itself stronger" (as the verb is put intransitively) "to the wise man." Septuagint, βοηθήσει," will help;" Vulgate, confortuvit, "hath strengthened." The spiritual and moral force of the wisdom grounded upon the fear of God is here signified, and is all the more insisted upon to counteract any erroneous impression conveyed by the caution against over-wisdom in ver. 16 (see note on ver. 17, at the end). More than ten mighty men which are in the city. The number ten indicates completeness, containing in itself the whole arithmetical system, and used representatively for an indefinite multitude. Thus Job (Job 19:3) complains that his friends have reproached him ten times, and Elkanah asks his murmuring wife, "Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8). Delitzsch thinks that some definite political arrangement is referred to, e.g., the dynasties placed by Persian kings over conquered countries; and Tyler notes that in the Mishna a city is defined to be a place containing ten men of leisure; and we know that ten men were required for the establishment of a synagogue in any locality. The same idea was present in the Angle-Saxon arrangement of tything and hundred. The number, however, is probably used indefinitely here as seven in the parallel passage of Ecclesiasticus (37:14), "A man's mind is sometime wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower." The sentence may be compared with Proverbs 10:15; Proverbs 21:22; Proverbs 24:5. The word rendered "mighty men" (shallitim) is not necessarily a military designation; it is translated "ruler" in Ecclesiastes 10:5, and "governor" in Genesis 42:6. The Septuagint here has Ἐξουσιάζοντας τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τῇ πόλει; the Vulgate, principes civitatis. The persons intended are not primarily men of valor in war, like David's heroes, but rulers of sagacity, prudent statesmen, whose moral force is far greater and more efficacious than any merely physical excellence (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:16). Ecclesiastes 7:10 : "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He hath made crooked! In the good day be of good cheer, and in the day of misfortune observe: God hath also made this equal to that, to the end that man need not experience anything (further) after his death." While ראה, Ecclesiastes 1:10; Ecclesiastes 7:27, Ecclesiastes 7:29, is not different from הנּה, and in Ecclesiastes 9:9 has the meaning of "enjoy," here the meaning of contemplative observation, mental seeing, connects itself both times with it. כּי before מי can as little mean quod, as asher, Ecclesiastes 6:12, before mi can mean quoniam. "Consider God's work" means: recognise in all that is done the government of God, which has its motive in this, that, as the question leads us to suppose, no creature is able (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:10 and Ecclesiastes 1:15) to put right God's work in cases where it seems to contradict that which is right (Job 8:3; Job 34:12), or to make straight that which He has made crooked (Psalm 146:9).
14a. The call here expressed is parallel to Sir. 14:14 (Fritz.): "Withdraw not thyself from a good day, and let not thyself lose participation in a right enjoyment." The ב of בּטובis, as little as that of בּצל, the beth essentiae - it is not a designation of quality, but of condition: in good, i.e., cheerful mood. He who is, Jeremiah 44:17, personally tov, cheerful ( equals tov lev), is betov (cf. Psalm 25:13, also Job 21:13). The reverse side of the call, 14ab, is of course not to be translated: and suffer or bear the bad day (Ewald, Heiligst.), for in this sense we use the expression רעה ראה, Jeremiah 44:17, but not ברעה ראה, which much rather, Obadiah 1:13, means a malicious contemplation of the misfortune of a stranger, although once, Genesis 21:16, ב ראה also occurs in the sense of a compassionate, sympathizing look, and, moreover, the parall. shows that רעה ביום is not the obj., but the adv. designation of time. Also not: look to equals be attentive to (Salomon), or bear it patiently (Burger), for ראה cannot of itself have that meaning.
(Note: Similarly also Sohar (Par. (מחור): הוי וגו, i.e., cave et circumspice, viz., that thou mayest not incur the judgment which is pronounced.)
So much the more difficult is the statement of the object of this mingling by God of good and evil in the life of man. It is translated: that man may find nothing behind him; this is literal, but it is meaningless. The meaning, according to most interpreters, is this: that man may investigate nothing that lies behind his present time, - thus, that belongs to the future; in other words: that man may never know what is before him. But aharav is never (not at Ecclesiastes 6:12) equals in the future, lying out from the present of a man; but always equals after his present life. Accordingly, Ewald explains, and Heiligst. with him: that he may find nothing which, dying, he could take with him. But this rendering (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:14) is here unsuitable. Better, Hitzig: because God wills it that man shall be rid of all things after his death, He puts evil into the period of his life, and lets it alternate with good, instead of visiting him therewith after his death. This explanation proceeds from a right interpretation of the words: idcirco ut (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:18) non inveniat homo post se quidquam, scil. quod non expertus sit, but gives a meaning to the expression which the author would reject as unworthy of his conception of God. What is meant is much more this, that God causes man to experience good and evil that he may pass through the whole school of life, and when he departs hence that nothing may be outstanding (in arrears) which he has not experienced.
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