Ecclesiastes 7:26
And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoever pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
-26Ecclesiasticus 9:3; Ecclesiasticus 26:23.

Snares.—See Ecclesiastes 9:12; used for siege works, Ecclesiastes 9:14.

Nets.—Habakkuk 1:15; Ezekiel 26:5.

Bands.—Judges 15:14.

Ecclesiastes 7:26. And I find — By my own sad experience, which Solomon here records as a testimony of his true repentance for his foul miscarriages, for which he was willing to take shame to himself, not only from the present, but from all succeeding generations; more bitter than death is the woman — The strange woman, of whom he speaks so much in the Proverbs; more vexatious and pernicious, as producing those horrors of conscience, those reproaches, diseases, and other plagues, both temporal and spiritual, from God, which are far worse than the mere death of the body, and, after all these, everlasting destruction; whose heart is snares and nets — Who is full of crafty devices to ensnare men; and her hands — By gifts, or lascivious actions, as bands — Wherewith she holds them in cruel bondage, so that they have neither power nor will to forsake her, notwithstanding all the dangers and mischiefs which they know attend upon such practices. Whoso pleaseth God — Hebrew, he that is good before God, who is sincerely, and in the judgment of God, truly pious; shall escape her — Shall be preserved from falling into her hands. Hereby he intimates, that neither a good temper of mind, nor great discretion, nor a good education, nor any other thing, except God’s grace, is a sufficient preservative from the dominion of fleshy lusts; but the sinner — Who rests satisfied without the saving grace of God and true piety, and therefore lives in known and wilful sin; shall be taken by her — Shall be entangled and held in her chains.7:23-29 Solomon, in his search into the nature and reason of things, had been miserably deluded. But he here speaks with godly sorrow. He alone who constantly aims to please God, can expect to escape; the careless sinner probably will fall to rise no more. He now discovered more than ever the evil of the great sin of which he had been guilty, the loving many strange women,Compare the account of Solomon's wives 1 Kings 11:1-8 : see also Proverbs 2:16-19; Proverbs 5:3... 26. "I find" that, of all my sinful follies, none has been so ruinous a snare in seducing me from God as idolatrous women (1Ki 11:3, 4; Pr 5:3, 4; 22:14). As "God's favor is better than life," she who seduces from God is "more bitter than death."

whoso pleaseth God—as Joseph (Ge 39:2, 3, 9). It is God's grace alone that keeps any from falling.

I find, by my own sad experience; which Solomon here records, partly as an instance of that folly and madness which he expressed in general, Ecclesiastes 7:25, and partly as a testimony of his true repentance for his foul miscarriages, for which he was willing to take shame to himself, not only from the present, but from all succeeding generations.

More bitter; more vexatious and pernicious, as producing those horrors of conscience, those reproaches, and diseases, and other plagues, both temporal and spiritual, from God, which are far worse than simple death and, after all these, everlasting destruction.

The woman, the strange woman, of whom he speaks so much in the Proverbs,

whose heart is snares and nets; who being subtle of heart, Proverbs 7:10, is full of crafty devices to ensnare men; and her hands, either by gifts, or rather by lascivious actions, as bands; wherewith she holds them fast in cruel bondage; so that they have neither power nor will to forsake her, notwithstanding all the dangers and mischiefs which they know do attend upon such practices.

Whoso pleaseth God, Heb. he that is good before God; either,

1. Whom God loves and favours. Or rather,

2. Who is good sincerely, or in the judgment of God, who cannot be deceived, whereas hypocrites are frequently good in the eyes or opinions of men; which sense seems to be confirmed from the opposition of

the sinner to him, both here and Ecclesiastes 2:26. Hereby he intimates that neither a good temper of mind, nor great discretion, nor good education and instruction, nor any other thing, except God’s grace, is a sufficient preservative from the dominion of this lust.

Shall escape from her; shall be prevented from falling into that sin; or if by surprisal or strong temptation he be drawn to it, he shall be recovered out of it by true repentance. The sinner; the wilful and obstinate sinner, who gives himself up to the common practice of this or other sins; he who is a sinner before the Lord, as the Sodomites are called, Genesis 13:13, who is fitly opposed to him that is good before God; he in whom there is not a dram of true goodness; for otherwise all men are sinners, as was said, Ecclesiastes 7:20.

Shall be taken by her; shall be entangled and kept fast in her chains, as is implied, because this is opposed to escaping from her. And I find more bitter than death the woman,.... This was the issue of his diligent studies and researches, and the observations he had made; this was what he found by sad and woeful experience, and which he chose to take particular notice of; that he might not only expose this vanity among others, and caution men against it, even the love of women, which at best is a bitter sweet, as the poet (k) calls it, though here adulterous love is meant; but having this opportunity, might express his sincere repentance for this folly of his life, than which nothing had been more bitter to him, in the reflection of his mind upon it: death is a bitter thing, and terrible to nature, 1 Samuel 15:32; but to be ensnared by an adulterous woman is worse than that; it brings not only such diseases of body as are both painful and scandalous, but such horrors into the conscience, when awakened, as are intolerable, and exposes to eternal death; see Proverbs 5:3. By "the woman" is not meant the sex in general, which was far from Solomon's intention to reflect upon and reproach; nor any woman in particular, not Eve, the first woman, through whom came sin and death into the world; but an adulterous woman: see Proverbs 5:4. Some interpret this of original sin, or the corruption of nature, evil concupiscence, which draws men into sin, and holds them in it, the consequence of which is death eternal; but such who find favour in the eyes of God are delivered from the power and dominion of it; but obstinate and impenitent sinners are held under it, and perish eternally. Jarchi, by the woman, understands heresy; and so Jerom and others interpret it of heretics and idolaters: it may very well be applied to that Jezebel, the whore of Rome, the mother of harlots, that deceives men, and leads them into perdition with herself, Revelation 17:4; and who is intended by the harlot, and foolish and strange woman, in the book of Proverbs, as has been observed;

whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands; all the schemes and contrivances of a harlot are to ensnare men by her wanton looks and lascivious gestures; which are like snares laid for the beasts, and likeness spread for fishes, to take them in; and when she has got them, she holds them fast; it is a very difficult thing and a very rare one, ever to get out of her hands; so Plautus (l) makes mention of the nets of harlots: the same holds true of error and heresy, and of idolatry, which is spiritual adultery; the words used being in the plural number, shows the many ways the adulterous woman has to ensnare men, and the multitudes that are taken by her; see Revelation 13:3;

whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her: or, "who is good before God", or "in his sight" (m); See Gill on Ecclesiastes 2:26; to whom he gives his grace and is acceptable to him; such an one as Joseph was shall escape the snares and nets, the hands and bands, of such a woman; or if fallen into them, as Solomon fell, shall be delivered out of them, as it is observed by various interpreters: nothing but the grace of God, the true fear of God, the power of godliness and undefiled religion, can preserve a person from being ensnared and held by an impure woman; not a liberal nor religious education, not learning and good sense, nor any thing else; if a man is kept out of the hands of such creatures, he ought to esteem it a mercy, and ascribe it to the grace and goodness of God;

but the sinner shall be taken by her; a hardened and impenitent sinner, that is destitute of the grace and fear of God; who is habitually a sinner, and gives up himself to commit iniquity; whose life is a continued series of sinning; who has no guard upon himself, but rushes into sin, as the horse into the battle; he becomes an easy prey to a harlot; he falls into her snares, and is caught and held by her; see Proverbs 22:14.

(k) Musaeus, v. 166. Vid. Barthii ad Claudian. de Nupt. Honor. v. 70. (l) Epidicus, Acts 2. Sc. 2. v. 32. "Illecebrosius nihil fieri potest", ib. Bacchides, Sc. 1. v. 55. Truculentus, Acts 1. Sc. 1. v. 14-21. (m) "bonus coram Deo", Pagninus, Mercerus, Drusius, Amama, Rambachius; "qui bonus videtur coram Deo ipso", Junius & Tremellius.

And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. And I find more bitter than death] The result is a strange one in its contrast to the dominant tendency of Hebrew thought; especially we may add to that thought as represented by the Son of David with whom the Debater identifies himself. We think of the praises of the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon; of the language of Proverbs 5:13; and (though that is probably of later date) of the acrostic panegyric on the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10-31; and we find here nothing like an echo of them, but rather a tone of scorn, culminating in Ecclesiastes 7:28 in that which reminds us of the misogyny of the later maxim-makers of Greece, or of the Eastern king who never heard of any great calamity or crime without asking, Who is she? Such a change might, it is true, be explained as the result of the satiety into which the historical Solomon might have fallen as the penalty of his sensuality; and has its parallel in the cynical scorn of Catullus for the Lesbia whom he had once loved so tenderly (see Introduction, ch. iii.) and in that of a thousand others. Doubtless the words speak of such a personal experience on the part of the Debater. He had found no wickedness like that of the “strange woman,” such as she is painted in Proverbs 2:16-19; Proverbs 7:1-27. But we can scarcely fail to trace the influence of the Greek thought with which, as we have seen, the writer had come into contact. Of this the following may serve as samples out of a somewhat large collection.

Μεστὸν κακῶν πέφυκε φορτίον γυνή.

“A woman is a burden full of ills.”

Ὅπου γυναῖκες εἰσι, πάντʼ ἐκεῖ κακά.

“Where women are, all evils there are found.”

Θηρῶν ἁπάντων ἀγριωτέρα γυνή.

“Woman is fiercer than all beasts of prey.”

Poet. Graec. Gnomici, Ed. Tauchnitz, p. 182.

It might, perhaps, be pleaded in reference to this verse that the writer speaks of one class of women only, probably that represented in the pictures of Proverbs 2 or 7 and that the “corruptio optimi est pessima,” but the next verse makes the condemnation yet more sweeping. The suggestion that the writer allegorizes, and means by “the woman” here the abstract ideal of sensuality is quite untenable.

In the imagery of “snares” and “nets” and “bands” some critics (Tyler) have traced a reminiscence of the history of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16). Such a reference to Hebrew history is however not at all after the writer’s manner, and it is far more natural to see in it the result of his own personal experience (see Introduction, ch. iii.). The Son of Sirach follows, it may be noted, in the same track of thought, though with a somewhat less sweeping condemnation (Sir 25:15-26; Sir 26:6-12).

whoso pleaseth God] The marginal reading, whoso is good before God should be noted as closer to the Hebrew.Verse 26. - One practical result of his quest Koheleth cannot avoid mentioning, though it comes with a suddenness which is somewhat startling. And I find more bitter than death the woman. Tracing men's folly and madness to their source, he finds that they arise generally from the seductions of the female sex. Beginning with Adam, woman has continued to work mischief in the world. "Of the woman came the beginning of sin," says Siracides, "and through her we all die" (Ecclus. 25:24); it was owing to her that the punishment of death was inflicted on the human race. If Solomon himself were speaking, he had indeed a bitter experience of the sin and misery into which women lead their victims (see 1 Kings 11:1, 4, 11). It may be thought that Koheleth refers here especially to "the strange woman" of Proverbs 2:16, etc.; Proverbs 5:3, etc.; but in ver. 28 he speaks of the whole sex without qualification; so that we must conclude that he had a very low opinion of them. It is no ideal personage whom he is introducing; it is not a personification of vice or folly; but woman in her totality, such as he knew her to be in Oriental courts and homes, denied her proper position, degraded, uneducated, all natural affections crushed or undeveloped, the plaything of her lord, to be flung aside at any moment. It is not surprising that Koheleth's impression of the female sex should be unfavorable. He is not singular in such an opinion. One might fill a large page with proverbs and gnomes uttered in disparagement of woman by men of all ages and countries. Men, having the making of such apothegms, have used their license unmercifully; if the maligned sex had equal liberty, the tables might have been reversed. But, really, in this as in other cases the mean is the safest; and practically those who have given the darkest picture of women have not been slow to recognize the brighter side. If. for instance, the Book of Proverbs paints the adulteress and the harlot in the soberest, most appalling colors, the same book affords us such a sketch of the virtuous matron as is unequalled for vigor, truth, and high appreciation. And if, as in our present chapter, Koheleth shows a bitter feeling against the evil side of woman's nature, he knows how to value the comfort of married life (Ecclesiastes 4:8), and to look upon a good wife as one who makes a man's home happy (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Since the incarnation of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, "the Seed of the woman," we have learned to regard woman in her true light, and to assign her that position to which she is entitled, giving honor unto her as the weaker vessel, and, at the same time, heir with us of the glorious hope and destiny of our renewed nature (1 Peter 3:7). Whose heart is snares and nets; more accurately, who is snares, and nets in her heart; Septuagint, "The woman who is a snare, and her heart nets;" Vulgate, Quae laqueus venatorum est, et sagena cot ejus. The imagery is obvious (comp. Proverbs 5:4, 22: 7:22; 22:14; Habakkuk 1:15); the thoughts of the evil woman's heart are nets, occupied in meditating how she may entrap and retain victims; and her outward look and words are snares that captivate the foolish, Μὴ ὑπάντα γυναικὶ ἑταιριζομένη, says the Son of Sirach, "Lest thou fall 'into her snares" (Ecclus. 9:3). Plautus, 'Asin.,' 1:3. 67 -

"Auceps sum ego;
Esca est meretrix; lectus illex est; amatores aves.

"The fowler I;
My bait the courtesan; her bed the lure;
The birds the lovers."
So ancient critics, stronger m morals than in etymology, derive Venus from venari, "to hunt," and mulier Item mollire, "to soften," or malleus, "a hammer," because the devil uses women to mould and fashion men to his will. And her hands as bands, Asurim, "bands" or "fetters," is found in Judges 15:14, where it is used of the chains with which the men of Judah bound Samson; it refers here to the wicked woman's voluptuous embraces. Whoso pleaseth God (more literally, he who is good before God) shall escape from her. He whom God regards as good (Ecclesiastes 2:26, where see note) shall have grace to avoid these seductions. But the sinner shall be taken by her; בָּהּ, "in her," in the snare which is herself. In some manuscripts of Ecclesiasticus (26:23) are these words; "A wicked woman is given as a portion to a wicked man; but a godly woman is given to him that feareth the Lord." "For among men there is not a righteous man on the earth, who doeth good, and sinneth not." The original passage, found in Solomon's prayer at the consecration of the temple, is briefer, 1 Kings 8:46 : "There is no man who sinneth not." Here the words might be וגו צדּיק אדם אין, there is no righteous man ... . Adam stands here as representing the species, as when we say in Germ.: Menschen gibt es keine gerechten auf Erden [men, there are none righteous on earth]; cf. Exodus 5:16 : "Straw, none was given." The verification of Ecclesiastes 7:19 by reference to the fact of the common sinfulness from which even the most righteous cannot free himself, does not contradict all expectation to the same degree as the ki in Ecclesiastes 7:7; but yet it surprises us, so that Mercer and Grtz, with Aben Ezra, take Ecclesiastes 7:20 as the verification of Ecclesiastes 7:16, here first adduced, and Knobel and Heiligst. and others connect it with Ecclesiastes 7:21, Ecclesiastes 7:22, translating: "Because there is not a just man ... , therefore it is also the part of wisdom to take no heed unto all words," etc. But these are all forced interpretations; instead of the latter, we would rather suppose that Ecclesiastes 7:20 originally stood after Ecclesiastes 7:22, and is separated from its correct place. But yet the sequence of thought lying before us may be conceived, and that not merely as of necessity, but as that which was intended by the author. On the whole, Hitzig is correct: "For every one, even the wise man, sins; in which case virtue, which has forsaken him, does not protect him, but wisdom proves itself as his means of defence." Zckler adds: "against the judicial justice of God;" but one escapes from this by a penitent appeal to grace, for which there is no need for the personal property of wisdom; there is thus reason rather for thinking on the dangerous consequences which often a single false step has for a man in other respects moral; in the threatening complications in which he is thereby involved, it is wisdom which then protects him and delivers him. Otherwise Tyler, who by the עז, which the wise has in wisdom, understands power over evil, which is always moving itself even in the righteous. But the sinning spoken of in Ecclesiastes 7:20 is that which is unavoidable, which even wisdom cannot prevent or make inefficacious. On the contrary, it knows how to prevent the destruction which threatens man from his transgressions, and to remove the difficulties and derangements which thence arise. The good counsel following is connected by gam with the foregoing. The exhortation to strive after wisdom, contained in Ecclesiastes 7:19, which affords protection against the evil effects of the failures which run through the life of the righteous, is followed by the exhortation, that one conscious that he himself is not free from transgression, should take heed to avoid that tale-bearing which finds pleasure in exposing to view the shortcomings of others.
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