Ecclesiastes 7:20
For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.The connection of this verse with Ecclesiastes 7:18-19 becomes clearer if it is borne in mind that the fear of God, wisdom, and justice, are merely different sides of one and the same character, the formation of which is the aim of all the precepts in this chapter. The words "just" Ecclesiastes 7:15, Ecclesiastes 7:20 and "righteous" Ecclesiastes 7:16 are exactly the same in Hebrew. 20. Referring to Ec 7:16. Be not "self-righteous," seek not to make thyself "just" before God by a superabundance of self-imposed performances; "for true 'wisdom,' or 'righteousness,' shows that there is not a just man," &c. For; so this is a reason either,

1. Of the foregoing counsels, Ecclesiastes 7:10-18, the 19th verse being interposed only as a proof of the last clause of Ecclesiastes 7:18. Or,

2. To show the necessity and advantage of that wisdom commended Ecclesiastes 7:19, because all men are very prone to folly and sin, and therefore need that wisdom which is from above to direct and keep them from it. But this particle may be, and elsewhere is, commonly rendered yet; and so the sense is, Although wisdom doth exceedingly strengthen a man, yet it doth not so strengthen him, as if it would keep him from falling into all sin. Or, because; or, seeing that; and so this relates to the following verse, Seeing all men sin, we should be ready to pardon the offences of others against us, either by word or deed. Or, surely; and so it is an entire sentence, such as there are many in this book.

There is not a just man upon earth, whereby he manifestly implies that the just in heaven are perfect and sinless, that doeth good, and sinneth not; who is universally and perfectly good, and free from all sin. For there is not a just man upon earth,.... Or "although", or "notwithstanding" (d), wisdom is so beneficial, and guards and strengthens a good man, yet no man has such a share of it as to live without sin; there was not then one on earth, there never had been, one, nor never would be, nor has been, excepting the man Christ Jesus; who indeed, as man, was perfectly just, while here on earth, and went about doing good, and never sinned in all his life; but this cannot be said of any other, no, not of one that is truly and really just; not externally and in his own opinion only, but who is made so by the obedience of Christ, or by his righteousness imputed to him, while he is here on earth; otherwise in heaven, where the spirits of just men are made perfect, there it may be said of them what follows, but nowhere else;

that doeth good, and sinneth not; it is the character of a just man to do good, to do that which is according to the will of God, from a principle of love to him, through faith in him, in the name and strength of Christ, and with a view to the glory of God; to do good in such a sense wicked men cannot; only such who are made good by the grace of God, are regenerated and made new creatures in Christ, are quickened by his Spirit, and are true believers in him; who appear to be what they are, by the fruits of good works they bring forth; and this not in a mercenary way, or in order to obtain life and righteousness, but as constrained by the grace of God, by which they are freely justified; and yet these are not free from sin, as appears by their confessions and complaints, by their backslidings, slips, and falls, and their petitions for fresh discoveries of pardoning grace; and even are not without sin, and the commission of it, in religious duties, or while they are doing good; hence their righteousness is said to be as filthy rags, and mention is made of the iniquity of holy things, Isaiah 64:6. The Targum is,

"that does good all his days, and sins not before the Lord.''

Aben Ezra justly gives the sense thus,

"who does good always, and never sins;''

and observes that there are none but sin in thought, word, or deed. The poet (e) says,

"to sin is common to all men;''

no man, though ever so good, is perfect on earth, or free from sin; see 1 Kings 8:46. Alshech's paraphrase is,

"there is not a righteous man on earth, that does good, and sins not; , "in that good";''

which is the true sense of the words.

(d) "quamvis", Junius & Tremelllus, Amama, so Broughton; "attamen", Grotius. (e) Sophoclis Antigone, v. 1140.

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. For there is not a just man upon earth] The sequence of thought is again obscure. We fail at first to see how the fact of man’s sinfulness is the ground of the maxim that wisdom is a better defence than material strength. The following train of associations may perhaps supply the missing link. There had been a time when the presence of ten righteous men would have preserved a guilty city from destruction (Genesis 18:32). But no such men were found, and the city therefore perished. And experience shews that no such men—altogether faultless—will be found anywhere. No one therefore can on that ground claim exemption from chastisement. What remains for the wise man but to fall back on the wisdom which consists in the “fear of God” (Ecclesiastes 7:13), the reverential awe which will at least keep him from presumptuous sins. Substantially the thought is that of a later teaching, that “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2), and therefore that a man is justified by faith (the New Testament equivalent for “the fear of the Lord” as the foundation of a righteous life), and not by works, though not without them. Here again we may compare the Stoic teaching, “Wise men are rare. Here and there legends tell of one good man, or it may be two, as of strange præter-natural being rarer than the Phœnix.… All are evil and on a level with each other, so that this differs not from that, but all are alike insane” (Alex. Aphrod. de Fato 28).Verse 20. - The wisdom above signified is, indeed, absolutely necessary, if one would escape the consequences of that frailty of nature which leads to transgression. Wisdom shows the sinner a way out of the evil course in which he is walking, and puts him back in that fear of God which is his only safety. For there is not a just man upon earth. The verse confirms ver. 19. Even the just man sinneth, and therefore needs wisdom. That doeth good, and sinneth not. This reminds us of the words in Solomon's prayer (1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9). So St. James (James 3:2) says, "In many things we all offend;" and St. John, "It' we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). A Greek gnome runs - Ἁμαρτάνει τι καὶ σοφοῦ σοφώτερος. "Erreth at times the very wisest man." There now follows a proverb of devout submission to the providence of God, connecting itself with the contents of 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.)

But: in the day of misfortune observe, i.e., perceive and reflect: God has also made (cf. Job 2:10) the latter לעמּת corresponding, parallel, like to (cf. under Ecclesiastes 5:15) the former.

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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