Ecclesiastes 9:16
Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
9:13-18 A man may, by his wisdom, bring to pass that which he could never do by his strength. If God be for us, who can be against us, or stand before us? Solomon observes the power of wisdom, though it may labour under outward disadvantages. How forcible are right words! But wise and good men must often content themselves with the satisfaction of having done good, or, at least, endeavoured to do it, when they cannot do the good they would, nor have the praise they should. How many of the good gifts, both of nature and Providence, does one sinner destroy and make waste! He who destroys his own soul destroys much good. One sinner may draw many into his destroying ways. See who are the friends and enemies of a kingdom or a family, if one saint does much good, and one sinner destroys much good.A parable probably without foundation in fact. Critics who ascribe this book to a late age offer no better suggestion than that the "little city" may be Athens delivered 480 b.c. from the host of Xerxes through the wisdom of Themistocles, or Dora besieged 218 b.c. by Antiochus the Great.

Ecclesiastes 9:16-17 are comments on the two facts - the deliverance of the city and its forgetfulness of him who delivered it - stated in Ecclesiastes 9:15.

16. Resuming the sentiment (Ec 7:19; Pr 21:22; 24:5).

poor man's wisdom is despised—not the poor man mentioned in Ec 9:15; for his wisdom could not have saved the city, had "his words not been heard"; but poor men in general. So Paul (Ac 27:11).

Wisdom is better than strength, as was manifest in the foregoing instance.

The poor man’s wisdom is despised, because men are generally vain and foolish, and have a greater value for outward ornaments than for true worth. Then said I, wisdom is better than strength,.... Wisdom of mind, even in a poor man, is better than strength of body, even of the, most potent prince and powerful army, as may be concluded from the above instance; since the poor wise man could do more by his wisdom than the great king with his mighty army; who was obliged to break up the siege, in consequence of the counsel given, or the methods directed to, or taken, by the poor man;

nevertheless, the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard; notwithstanding such a flagrant instance and example as this just mentioned; yet men still retain their prejudices against a poor man, and despise his wise counsels and advice, for no other reason but because he is poor, and will not attend to what he says: or, "though the poor man's wisdom", &c. (k), as Aben Ezra; Solomon drew the above conclusion from that instance; though this is usually the case, that men despise the wisdom of a poor man, and will not listen to his advice, this did not lessen the wise man's opinion of it. The words may be rendered, "even the poor man's wisdom despised, and his words not heard" (l); these are better than outward force and strength, and more serviceable and useful; which the Septuagint version favours: the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "how is the poor man's wisdom despised!" &c. as wondering at it that so it should be, when so much profit and advantage arose to the city from it.

(k) "quamvis sapientia", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Mercerus, Gejerus, Amama; "etsi", Drusius. (l) "Et pauperis sapientiam contemptam", &c. Tigurine version.

Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Wisdom is better than strength] The maxim of ch. Ecclesiastes 7:19 is reproduced, but it is traversed by the fact that the wisdom must often be content to remain unrecognised. The power of the purse too often prevails against the wisdom of the poor. At the best, often, in words already quoted (Ecclesiastes 9:11),

“Probitas laudatur et alget.”

“Virtue is praised, and left out in the cold.”

Juvenal, Sat. i. 74.

The marginal reference in the A. V. to Mark 6:2-3 is not without significance as indicating the highest illustration of the maxim, in the question which asked “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is he not himself a carpenter?” The chief butler’s forgetfulness of Joseph (Genesis 40:23) supplies another obvious parallel.Verse 16. - Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength. The latter part of the verse is not a correction of the former, but the whole comes under the observation introduced by "I said." The story just related leads to this assertion, which reproduces the gnome of Ecclesiastes 7:19, wherein it is asserted that wisdom effects more than mere physical strength. There is an interpolation in the Old Latin Version of Wisd. 6. I which seems to have been compiled from this passage and Proverbs 16:13, "Melter est sapientia quam vires, et vir prudens quam fortis." Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, etc. In the instance above mentioned the poor man's wisdom was not despised and his words were heard and attended to; but this was an abnormal case, occasioned by the extremity of the peril. Koheleth states the result which usually attends wisdom emanating from a disesteemed source. The experience of Ben-Sire pointed to the same issue (see Ecclus. 13:22, 23). Horace, 'Epist.,' 1:1.57 -

"Est animus tibi, sunt mores et lingua fidesque,
Sed quadringentis sex septem millia desunt;
Plebs erie."


"In wit, worth, honor, one in vain abounds;
If of the knight's estate he lack ten pounds,
He's low, quite low!"


(Howes.) Is not this the carpenter's Son? asked the people who were offended at Christ (Mark 6:2, 3). The author, however, recommends no continual dolce far niente, no idle, useless sluggard-life devoted to pleasure, but he gives to his exhortation to joy the converse side: "All that thy hand may reach (i.e., what thou canst accomplish and is possible to thee, 1 Samuel 10:7; Leviticus 12:8) to accomplish it with thy might, that do." The accentuation is ingenious. If the author meant: That do with all might (Jerome: instanter operare), then he would have said bechol-kohhacha (Genesis 31:6). As the words lie before us, they call on him who is addressed to come not short in his work of any possibility according to the measure of his strength, thus to a work straining his capacity to the uttermost. The reason for the call, 10b, turns back to the clause from which it was inferred: in Hades, whither thou must go (iturus es), there is no work, and reckoning (vid., Ecclesiastes 7:25), and knowledge (דּעתו)

(Note: Not ודעת, because the word has the conjunctive, not the disjunctive accent, vid., under Psalm 55:10. The punctuation, as we have already several times remarked, is not consistent in this; cf. דּעתו, Ecclesiastes 2:26, and וערב, Psalm 65:9, both of which are contrary to the rule (vid., Baer in Abulwald's Rikma, p. 119, note 2).)

and no wisdom. Practice and theory have then an end. Thus: Enjoy, but not without working, ere the night cometh when no man can work. Thus spake Jesus (John 9:4), but in a different sense indeed from Koheleth. The night which He meant is the termination of this present life, which for Him, as for every man, has its particular work, which is either accomplished within the limits of this life, or is not accomplished at all.

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