For oftentimes also your own heart knows that you yourself likewise have cursed others.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thine own heart knoweth.—Ecclesiastes 8:5; 1Kings 2:44; Proverbs 14:10.Heart; mind or conscience, as that word is frequently used.
Hast cursed others; either upon some great provocation and sudden passion, or possibly upon a mere mistake, or false report; in which case thou hast both needed and desired the forbearance and forgiveness of others, and therefore by the rules of justice, as well as of piety and clarity, thou art obliged to deal likewise with others.
that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others; either in heart, or with the tongue; thought ill of them, wished ill to them; spoke contemptibly of them, reviled and reproached them; called them by bad names, and abused them; and said some very hard and severe words concerning them, in a passionate fit, being provoked; and afterwards repented of it, being better informed of the state of the case, or being convinced of the evil of passion and rash speaking; and therefore such should consider the like passions and infirmities of others, and pass over them, and forgive them: so Alshech,
"if thou hast cursed others, and dost desire men should forgive thee, so do thou also forgive;''
see Matthew 6:14. The word "oftentimes", in the first clause, is to be connected, not with the word "knoweth", as if a man often knew this, but with the word "cursed"; suggesting, that a man may be often guilty of this himself, and therefore should be more sparing of his censures of others; see Matthew 7:1.For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. For oftentimes also thine own heart] The rule of the previous verse is backed by an appeal to a man’s own conscience, “mutato nomine de te fabula narratur.” “Thou too art not free from the habit of censorious censure, of hard and bitter speeches; even, it may be, of ‘cursing,’ where blessing would have been better.”Verse 22. - Oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others. The appeal to a man's own conscience follows. The fact that we often speak ill of others should make us less open to take offence at what is said of ourselves, and prepared to expect unfavorable comments. The Lord has said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you" (Matthew 7:1, 2). This is a universal law. "Who is he," asks Ben-Sirs, "that hath not offended with his tongue?" (Ecclus. 19:16). Septuagint, Ὅτι πλειστάκις πονηρεύσεταί σε καὶ καθόδους πολλὰς κακώσει καρδίαν σου ὄτι ὡς καίγε σὺ κατηράσω ἑτέρους, "For many times he [thy servant] shall act ill to thee, and in many ways shall afflict thine heart, for even thou also hast cursed others." This seems to be a combination of two renderings of the passage. "It is the praise of perfect greatness to meet hostile treatment, without bravely and within mercifully some things are more quickly dismissed from our hearts if we know our own misdemeanors against our neighbors. For whilst we reflect what we have been towards others, we are the less concerned that others should have proved such persons towards ourselves, be cause the injustice of another avenges in us what our conscience justly accuses in itself" (St. Gregory, 'Moral.,' 22:26). Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, we perceive, not so much the principle of the Stoical ethics - τῇ φύσει ὁμολογουμένως ζῆν - as that of the Aristotelian, according to which virtue consists in the art μέσως ἔξηειν, the art of holding the middle between extremes.
(Note: Cf. Luthardt's Lectures on the Moral Truths of Christianity, 2nd ed. Edin., T. and T. Clark.)
Also, we do not find here a reference to the contrasts between Pharisaism and Sadduceeism (Zckl.), viz., those already in growth in the time of the author; for if it should be also true, as Tyler conjectures, that the Sadducees had such a predilection for Epicurism, - as, according to Josephus (Vit. c. 2), "the doctrine of the Pharisees is of kin to that of the Stoics," - yet צדקה and רשׁעה are not apportioned between these two parties, especially since the overstraining of conformity to the law by the Pharisees related not to the moral, but to the ceremonial law. We derive nothing for the right understanding of the passage from referring the wisdom of life here recommended to the tendencies of the time. The author proceeds from observation, over against which the O.T. saints knew not how to place any satisfying theodicee. הבלי ימי (vid., Ecclesiastes 6:12) he so designates the long, but for the most part uselessly spent life lying behind him. 'et-hakol is not "everything possible" (Zckl.), but "all, of all kinds" (Luth.), which is defined by 15b as of two kinds; for 15a is the introduction of the following experience relative to the righteous and the unrighteous, and thus to the two classes into which all men are divided. We do not translate: there are the righteous, who by their righteousness, etc. (Umbr., Hitzig, and others); for if the author should thus commence, it would appear as if he wished to give unrighteousness the preference to righteousness, which, however, was far from him. To perish in or by his righteousness, to live long in or by his wickedness (מאריך, scil. ימים, Ecclesiastes 8:13, as at Proverbs 28:2), is equals to die in spite of righteousness, to live in spite of wickedness, as e.g., Deuteronomy 1:32 : "in this thing" equals in spite of, etc. Righteousness has the promise of long life as its reward; but if this is the rule, it has yet its exceptions, and the author thence deduces the doctrine that one should not exaggerate righteousness; for if it occurs that a righteous man, in spite of his righteousness, perishes, this happens, at earliest, in the case in which, in the practice of righteousness, he goes beyond the right measure and limit. The relative conceptions הרבּה and יותר have here, since they are referred to the idea of the right measure, the meaning of nimis. חתחכּם could mean, "to play the wise man;" but that, whether more or less done, is objectionable. It means, as at Exodus 1:10, to act wisely (cf. Psalm 105:25, הת, to act cunningly). And השׁ, which is elsewhere used of being inwardly torpid, i.e., being astonished, obstupescere, has here the meaning of placing oneself in a benumbed, disordered state, or also, passively, of becoming disconcerted; not of becoming desolate or being deserted (Hitz., Ginsburg, and others), which it could only mean in highly poetic discourse (Isaiah 54:1). The form תּשּׁומם is syncop., like תּךּ, Numbers 21:27; and the question, with למּה, here and at Ecclesiastes 7:17, is of the same kind as Ecclesiastes 5:5; Luther, weakening it: "that thou mayest not destroy thyself."
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