Ecclesiastes 7:5
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ecclesiastes 7:5-6. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise — Which, though it cause some grief, yet frequently brings great benefit, even reformation, and salvation both from temporal and from eternal destruction; than the song of fools — Their flatteries, or merry discourses, which are as pleasant to corrupt nature as songs or music. For as the crackling of thorns — Which, for a time, make a great noise and blaze, but presently go out; so is the laughter of a fool — So vanishing and fruitless.

7:1-6 Reputation for piety and honesty is more desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world. It will do more good to go to a funeral than to a feast. We may lawfully go to both, as there is occasion; our Saviour both feasted at the wedding of his friend in Cana, and wept at the grave of his friend in Bethany. But, considering how apt we are to be vain and indulge the flesh, it is best to go to the house of mourning, to learn the end of man as to this world. Seriousness is better than mirth and jollity. That is best for us which is best for our souls, though it be unpleasing to sense. It is better to have our corruptions mortified by the rebuke of the wise, than to have them gratified by the song of fools. The laughter of a fool is soon gone, the end of his mirth is heaviness.House of mourning ... house of mirth - These phrases acquire a forcible significance from the Eastern custom of prolonging both festive and mournful celebrations through several days. See Genesis 50:10; Judges 14:17. This verse indicates that a life of enjoyment, does not mean the abandonment of ourselves to pleasures, but the thankful and sober use of the beautiful things which God gives us. 5. (Ps 141:4, 5). Godly reproof offends the flesh, but benefits the spirit. Fools' songs in the house of mirth please the flesh, but injure the soul. The rebuke of the wise, though it causeth some grief, yet frequently brings great benefit, even reformation and salvation, both from temporal and from eternal destruction, both which are the portion of impenitent sinners.

The song; the flatteries, or other merry discourses, which are as pleasant to corrupt nature, as songs or music.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise,.... To listen to it diligently, receive it cordially, and act according to it; though it may be disagreeable to the flesh, and give present pain, yet the effect and issue will be good, and show that man to be wise that hears it, as well as he that gives it; see Psalm 141:1;

than for a man to hear the song of fools; the vain and impure songs that foolish men sing in the house of mirth; or the flatteries of foolish men, which tickle and please the mind, as music and songs do: or, "than a man that hears the song of fools" (i), and is pleased with it.

(i) "quam vir audiens canticum stultorum", Montanus, Mercerus; "prae viro audiente canticum stultorum", Rambachius.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise] The word for “rebuke” is characteristic of the sapiential books of the Old Testament (Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10). Here also the teacher finds the moral that “pain is gain.” The “rebuke” is not pleasant, but it acts with a power to heal. The “song of fools” points to the type of lyric poetry of which we have examples in Anacreon, perhaps to the more wanton and impure poems which entered so largely into Greek life, and are preserved in such abundance in the Anthologia Græca. The comic drinking songs of a people represent at all times the lowest form of its animal life, and with these also, either in his own country or in Greek-speaking lands, the writer of the book had become acquainted. Amos 6:5 indicates the existence of a like form of revelry in the older life of Israel. Such songs left a taint behind them and the man was permanently the worse for it. In Ephesians 5:4 we may probably trace a reference to the same form of literature.

Verse 5. - It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise. Gearah, "rebuke," is the word used in Proverbs for the grave admonition which heals and strengthens while it wounds (see Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10). The silent lessons which a man learns from the contemplation of others' sorrow are rightly supplemented by the salutary correction of the wise man's tongue. Than for a man to hear the song of fools. Shir, "song," is a general term used of sacred or profane song; the connection here with the second clause of ver. 4, etc., leads one to think of the hoister-cue, reckless, often immodest, singing heard in the house of revelry, such as Amos (Amos 6:5) calls "idle songs to the sound of the viol" Koheleth might have heard these in his own country, without drawing his experience from the license of Greek practice or the impurity of Greek lyrics. The Vulgate renders the clause, Quum stultorum adulatione decipi, Than to be deceived by the flattery of tools." This is a paraphrase; the correctness is negatived by the explanation given in the following verse. Ecclesiastes 7:5A fourth proverb of that which is better (מן טוב) presents, like the third, the fools and the wise over against each other: "Better to hear the reproof of a wise man, than that one should hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of Nesseln (nettles) under the Kessel (kettle), so the laughter of the fool: also this is vain." As at Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10, גּערה is the earnest and severe words of the wise, which impressively reprove, emphatically warn, and salutarily alarm. שׁיר in itself means only song, to the exclusion, however, of the plaintive song; the song of fools is, if not immoral, yet morally and spiritually hollow, senseless, and unbridled madness. Instead of משּׁמע, the words מא שׁ are used, for the twofold act of hearing is divided between different subjects. A fire of thorn-twigs flickers up quickly and crackles merrily, but also exhausts itself quickly (Psalm 118:12), without sufficiently boiling the flesh in the pot; whilst a log of wood, without making any noise, accomplishes this quietly and surely.

We agree with Knobel and Vaihinger in copying the paronomasia [Nessel-Kessel]. When, on the other hand, Zckler remarks that a fire of nettles could scarcely crackle, we advise our friend to try it for once in the end of summer with a bundle of stalks of tall dry nettles. They yield a clear blaze, a quickly expiring fire, to which here, as he well remarks, the empty laughter of foolish men is compared, who are devoid of all earnestness, and of all deep moral principles of life. This laughter is vain, like that crackling.

There is a hiatus between Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:7. For how Ecclesiastes 7:7 can be related to Ecclesiastes 7:6 as furnishing evidence, no interpreter has as yet been able to say. Hitzig regards Ecclesiastes 7:6 as assigning a reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, but 6b as a reply (as Ecclesiastes 7:7 containing its motive shows) to the assertion of Ecclesiastes 7:5, - a piece of ingenious thinking which no one imitates. Elster translates: "Yet injustice befools a wise man," being prudently silent about this "yet." Zckler finds, as Knobel and Ewald do, the mediating thought in this, that the vanity of fools infects and also easily befools the wise. But the subject spoken of is not the folly of fools in general, but of their singing and laughter, to which Ecclesiastes 7:7 has not the most remote reference. Otherwise Hengst.: "In Ecclesiastes 7:7, the reason is given why the happiness of fools is so brief; first, the mens sana is lost, and then destruction follows." But in that case the words ought to have been כסיל יהולל; the remark, that חכם here denotes one who ought to be and might be such, is a pure volte. Ginsburg thinks that the two verses are co-ordinated by כי; that Ecclesiastes 7:6 gives the reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, and Ecclesiastes 7:7 that for Ecclesiastes 7:5, since here, by way of example, one accessible to bribery is introduced, who would act prudently in letting himself therefore be directed by a wise man. But if he had wished to be thus understood, the author would have used another word instead of חכם, 7a, and not designated both him who reproves and him who merits reproof by the one word - the former directly, the latter at least indirectly. We do not further continue the account of the many vain attempts that have been made to bring Ecclesiastes 7:7 into connection with Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:5. Our opinion is, that Ecclesiastes 7:7 is the second half of a tetrastich, the first half of which is lost, which began, as is to be supposed, with tov. The first half was almost the same as Psalm 37:16, or better still, as Proverbs 16:8, and the whole proverb stood thus:

טוב מעט בּחדקה

מרב תּבוּאות בּלא משׁפּט׃

[and then follows Ecclesiastes 7:7 as it lies before us in the text, formed into a distich, the first line of which terminates with חכם]. We go still further, and suppose that after the first half of the tetrastich was lost, that expression, "also this is vain," added to Ecclesiastes 7:6 by the punctuation, was inserted for the purpose of forming a connection for כי עשק: Also this is vain, that, etc. (כי, like asher, Ecclesiastes 8:14).

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