Ecclesiastes 7:28
Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) One man among a thousand.—See Job 9:3; Job 33:23. The disparaging estimate of the female sex here expressed is common in countries where polygamy is practised. (See Ecclesiasticus 25:24; Ecclesiasticus 42:13.) It is credible enough that Solomon, with his thousand wives, did not find a good one among them; but see Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10.

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,One man - One whose good qualities quite satisfy our expectation. Compare the expression "one among a thousand" (marginal reference).

A woman - The number of Solomon's wives and concubines 1 Kings 11:3 was a thousand.

28. Rather, referring to his past experience, "Which my soul sought further, but I found not."

one man—that is, worthy of the name, "man," "upright"; not more than one in a thousand of my courtiers (Job 33:23; Ps 12:1). Jesus Christ alone of men fully realizes the perfect ideal of "man." "Chiefest among ten thousand" (So 5:10). No perfect "woman" has ever existed, not even the Virgin Mary. Solomon, in the word "thousand," alludes to his three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. Among these it was not likely that he should find the fidelity which one true wife pays to one husband. Connected with Ec 7:26, not an unqualified condemnation of the sex, as Pr 12:4; 31:10, &c., prove.

My soul seeketh; it seemed so wonderful to me, that I suspected I had not made a sufficient inquiry, and therefore I returned to search again with more earnestness and accurateness.

I find not; that it was so he found out, as he now said, Ecclesiastes 7:27 but the whole truth and reason of the thing he could not find out.

One man; one worthy of the name of a man; a wise and virtuous man. Man is put for a worthy or good man, as name is put for a good name, above, Ecclesiastes 7:1, and wife for a good wife, as was noted before.

Among a thousand, with whom I have conversed. He is supposed to mention this number in allusion to his thousand wives and concubines, as they are numbered by parcels, 1 Kings 11:3.

A woman; one worthy of that name; one who is not a dishonour to her kind and sex, who is not brutish in her disposition and conversation.

Among all those in that thousand whom I have taken into intimate society with myself; whereby he also passeth a severe censure upon himself that he had associated himself with such persons, and not with the virtuous women, which doubtless there were in his time, as appears from Pr 31. It is not Solomon’s design to disparage this sex, nor to make a general comparison between men and women in all places and ages, but only to suggest his own experience concerning it.

Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not,.... He was very earnest and diligent in his inquiry; he took a great deal of pains, and was exceedingly solicitous; he sought with great intenseness of mind, and with an eager desire, to find out a chaste and virtuous woman among them all, but could not;

one man among a thousand have I found; it is a great rarity to find a good man (n), truly wise and gracious; there are many that walk in the broad way, and but few that find the strait gate and narrow way, and are saved; they are but as one to a thousand; see Jeremiah 5:1. Or rather, by this one of a thousand, is meant the, Messiah, the Wisdom of God, he sought for, Ecclesiastes 7:25; and now says he found; to whom he looked for peace, pardon, and atonement, under a sense of his sins; who is the messenger, an interpreter, one among a thousand; yea, who is the chiefest among ten thousands, Job 33:23; who is superior to angels and men, in the dignity of his person; in the perfection, purity, and holiness of his nature; in the excellency of his names; in his offices and relations; and in his concern in the affairs of grace and salvation; and who is to be found by every truly wise and gracious soul that seeks him early and earnestly, in the word and ordinances, under the illumination and direction of the blessed Spirit. If it is to be understood of a mere man, I should think the sense was this; of all the men that have been ensnared and taken by an adulterous woman, but one of a thousand have I observed, and perhaps Solomon has respect to himself, that was ever recovered out of her hands;

but a woman among all those have I not found; that is, among all the harlots and adulterous women I ever knew or heard of, I never knew nor heard of one that was ever reclaimed from her evil ways, and reformed or became a chaste and virtuous woman: he may have respect to the thousand women that were either his wives and concubines, and, among all these, he found not one that deserved the above character; for this is not to be understood of women in general, for Solomon must have known that there have been good women in all ages, and perhaps more than men; and that there were many in his days, though those with whom his more intimate acquaintance was were not such, which was his unhappiness; and his criminal conversation with them is what he lamented and repented of. It may be interpreted thus, One man, the Messiah, among all the sons of men, have I found, free from original sin; but one woman, among all the daughters of Eve, I have not found clear of it. The Targum is,

"there is another thing which yet my soul seeketh, and I have not found; a man perfect and innocent, without corruption, from the days of Adam, till Abraham the righteous was born; who was found faithful and just among the thousand kings who were gathered together to build the tower of Babel; and a woman among all the wives of those kings, as Sarah, I found not.''

(n) "Vir bonus et sapiens, qualem vix reperit unum, millibus e multio hominum, consultus Apollo." Auson. Idyll. 16. v. 1, 2.

Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. one man among a thousand have I found] We have, in the absence of an adjective, to supply the thought “a man such as he ought to be, truthful and righteous.” The form in which the rare exceptional discovery is given is as an echo from Job 9:3; Job 33:23. It represents we cannot doubt the capacity of the writer for a warm and earnest friendship. It shews that he had found one such friend. But what the seeker found among men, he sought in vain among women. Corruption there was, from his point of view, absolutely without exception. The interesting parallelism of Heine’s language has been noticed in the Introduction, ch. iii. The words may be received as recording the writer’s personal experience of the corrupt social state under the government of Persian or Egyptian kings. One commentator (Hitzig) has even ventured to identify the “woman more bitter than death” with a historical character, Agathoclea, the mistress of Ptolemy Philopator. Justin (xxx. 1) describes the King’s life “Meretricis illecebris capitur … noctes in stupris, dies in conviviis consumit.”

Here also we have an echo of the darker side of Greek thought. The Debater catches the tone of the woman-hater Euripides.

ἀλλʼ ὡς τὸ μῶρον ἀνδράσιν μὲν οὐκ ἔνι,

γυναιξὶ δʼ ἐμπέφυκεν.

“But folly does not find its home with men,

But roots in women’s hearts.”

Eurip. Hippol. 920.

So a later Rabbinic proverb gives a like judgment: “woe to the age whose leader is a woman” (Dukes, Rabbin. Blumenl. No. 32).

Verse 28. - Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not; or, which my soul hath still sought, but I have not found. The conclusion at which he did arrive was something utterly different from what he had hoped to achieve. The soul and the ego are separately regarded (comp. ver. 25); the whole intellectual faculties were absorbed in the search, and the composite individual gives his consequent experience. One man (Adam) among a thousand have I found. He found only one man among a thousand that reached his standard of excellence - the ideal that he had formed for himself, who could be rightly called by the noble name of man. The phrase, "one of a thousand," occurs in Job 9:3; Job 33:23; Ecclus. 6:6 (εϊς ἀπὸ χιλίων, as in the Septuagint here). Adam, the generic term, is used here instead of ish, the individual, to emphasize the antithetical ishah, "woman," in the following clause, or to lead the thought to the original perfection of man's nature. So in Greek ἄνθρωπος is sometimes used for ἀνήρ, though generally the distinction between the two is sufficiently marked, as we find in Herodotus, 7:210, Ὅτι πολλοὶ μὲν ἄνθρωποι εϊεν ὀλίγοι δὲ ἄνδρες. But a woman among all those have I not found; i.e. not one woman in a thousand who was what a woman ought to be. Says the Son of Sirach, "All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman; let the portion of a sinner fall upon her" (Ecclus. 25:19). So the Greek gnome -

Θάλασσα καὶ πῦρ καὶ γυνὴ κακὰ τρία.

"Three evils are there - sea, fire, and woman." Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines, and his experience might well have been that mentioned in this passage. Ecclesiastes 7:28"Behold what I have found, saith Koheleth, adding one thing to another, to find out the account: What my soul hath still sought, and I have not found, (is this): one man among a thousand have I found; and a woman among all these have I not found." It is the ascertained result, "one man, etc.," which is solemnly introduced by the words preceding. Instead of אם קה, the words ראמר הקּה are to be read, after Ecclesiastes 12:8, as is now generally acknowledged; errors of transcription of a similar kind are found at 2 Samuel 5:2; Job 38:12. Ginsburg in vain disputes this, maintaining that the name Koheleth, as denoting wisdom personified, may be regarded as fem. as well as mas.; here, where the female sex is so much depreciated, was the fem. self-designation of the stern judge specially unsuitable. Hengst. supposes that Koheleth is purposely fem. in this one passage, since true wisdom, represented by Solomon, stands opposite to false philosophy. But this reason for the fem. rests on the false opinion that woman here is heresy personified; he further remarks that it is significant for this fem. personification, that there is "no writing of female authorship in the whole canon of the O.T. and N.T." But what of Deborah's triumphal song, the song of Hannah, the magnificat of Mary? We hand this absurdity over to the Clementines! The woman here was flesh and blood, but pulchra quamvis pellis est mens tamen plean procellis; and Koheleth is not incarnate wisdom, but the official name of a preacher, as in Assyr., for חזּנרם, curators, overseers, hazanâti

(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. (1874), p. 132.)

is used. זה, Ecclesiastes 7:27, points, as at Ecclesiastes 1:10, to what follows. אחת ל, one thing to another (cf. Isaiah 27:12), must have been, like summa summarum and the like, a common arithmetical and dialectical formula, which is here subordinate to מצא, since an adv. inf. such as לקוח is to be supplemented: taking one thing to another to find out the חשׁבּון, i.e., the balance of the account, and thus to reach a facit, a resultat.

(Note: Cf. Aboth iv. 29, וגו ליתן, "to give account;" וגו הכל, "all according to the result.")

That which presented itself to him in this way now follows. It was, in relation to woman, a negative experience: "What my soul sought on and on, and I found not, (is this)." The words are like the superscription of the following result, in which finally the זה of Ecclesiastes 7:27 terminates. Ginsburg, incorrectly: "what my soul is still seeking," which would have required מבקּשׁת. The pret. בּקשׁה (with ק without Dagesh, as at Ecclesiastes 7:29)

(Note: As generally the Piel forms of the root בקשׁ, Masor. all have Raphe on the ,ק except the imper. בּקּשׁוּ; vid., Luzzatto's Gramm. 417.)

is retrospective; and עוד, from עוּד, means redire, again and again, continually, as at Gen.. Genesis 46:29. He always anew sought, and that, as biqshah naphshi for בקשׁתי denotes, with urgent striving, violent longing, and never found, viz., a woman such as she ought to be: a man, one of a thousand, I have found, etc. With right, the accentuation gives Garshayim to adam; it stands forth, as at Ecclesiastes 7:20, as a general denominator - the sequence of accents, Geresh, Pashta, Zakef, is as at Genesis 1:9. "One among a thousand" reminds us of Job 33:23, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:3; the old interpreters (vid., Dachselt's Bibl. Accentuata), with reference to these parallels, connect with the one man among a thousand all kinds of incongruous christological thoughts. Only, here adam, like the Romanic l'homme and the like, means man in sexual contrast to woman. It is thus ideally meant, like ish, 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Samuel 6:15, and accordingly also the parall. אשּׁה. For it is not to be supposed that the author denies thereby perfect human nature to woman. But also Burger's explanation: "a human being, whether man or woman," is a useless evasion. Man has the name adam κατ ̓ ἐξ. by primitive hist. right: "for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man," 1 Corinthians 11:8. The meaning, besides, is not that among a thousand human beings he found one upright man, but not a good woman (Hitz.), - for then the thousand ought to have had its proper denominator, אדם בני, - but that among a thousand persons of the male sex he found only one man such as he ought to be, and among a thousand of the female sex not one woman such as she ought to be; "among all these" is thus equals among an equal number. Since he thus actually found the ideal of man only seldom, and that of woman still seldomer (for more than this is not denoted by the round numbers), the more surely does he resign himself to the following resultat, which he introduces by the word לבד (only, alone), as the clear gain of his searching:

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