The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that rules among fools.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 9:17. The words of wise men — Though poor; are heard in quiet — Are uttered with a modest and low voice, and are, or should be, heard by wise men; more than the cry — The clamorous and senseless discourses; of him that ruleth among fools — Of a rich and potent, but foolish man, who has some influence on fools like himself, but is justly neglected, and his words disregarded by wise men. Or, as Aben Ezra interprets the verse, connecting it with the preceding, “The words of the wise are despised by the people when they are in prosperity, but when they are in distress, and silenced by fear and grief, then they listen eagerly and diligently.”
ruleth—as the "great king" (Ec 9:14). Solomon reverts to "the rulers to their own hurt" (Ec 8:9).Wise men, though poor, as may be gathered both from the foregoing relation, and because he is opposed to the ruling fool in the next clause, are heard, to wit, by wise men; or should be heard, as such words are oft taken, as Malachi 1:6, and elsewhere; for that they were not always actually heard, he declared in the last words of the foregoing verse.
In quiet; uttered with a modest and low voice, to which the following cry is opposed.
The cry, the clamorous and senseless discourses, of him that ruleth among fools; of a rich and potent, but foolish man, who hath some influence upon fools, like himself, but is justly neglected, and his words disregarded, by wise men.
more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools; more than the noisy words of a foolish governor; or than the dictates of an imperious man, delivered in a clamorous and blustering way; by which he obtains authority among such fools as himself, who are influenced more by the pomp and noise of words than by the force of true wisdom and reason; but all right judges will give the preference to the former. The Targum interprets it of the silent prayer of the wise being received by the Lord, more than the clamour of the wicked.The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet] The thought is like that of the “great cry and little wool” of the English proverb. That which tells on men, in the long run, is the wisdom whose words are wary, and calm, and few, not the declamation of the wind-bags of popular oratory. Comp. the description of the highest type of wisdom in Isaiah 42:2; Matthew 12:19. He that “ruleth among fools” is not the foolish ruler, but the man who takes the highest place in the company of fools, and graduates, as it were, as the Senior Wrangler in that class-list. Such an one is as the “prating fool” of Proverbs 10:10.Verses 17, 18. - Section 10. Here follow some proverbial sayings concerning wisdom and its opposite, which draw the moral from the story in the text. Verse 17. - The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. This verse would be better translated, Words of the wise in quiet are heard better than the shout of a chief among fools. The Vulgate takes the tranquility to appertain to the hearers, thus: Verbs sapientium audiuntur in silentio; but, as Delitzsch points out, the contrast between "quiet" and "cry" shows that it is the man, and not his auditors, who is quiet. The sentence says that a wise man's words, uttered calmly, deliberately, without pompous declamation or adventitious aids, are of more value than the blustering vociferation of an arch-fool, who seeks to force acceptance for his folly by loudness and swagger (comp. Isaiah 30:15; and see Isaiah 42:2 and Matthew 12:19, passages which speak of the peacefulness, reticence, and unobtrusiveness of true wisdom, as seen in the Son of God). The verse introduces a kind of exception to the general rejection of wisdom mentioned above. Though the multitude turn a deaf ear to a wise man's counsel, yet this tells in the long run, and there are always some teachable persons-who sit at his feet and learn from him. "He that ruleth among fools" is not one that governs a silly people, but one who is a prince of fools, who takes the highest place among such. Ecclesiastes 8:17. Instead of redii et videndo quidem equals rursus vidi (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:9 and under Ecclesiastes 9:1), we had at Ecclesiastes 4:1 the simpler expression, redii et vidi. The five times repeated ל is that of property, of that, viz., by virtue of which one is master of that which is named, has power over it, disposes of it freely. The race belongs not to the swift (מרוץ, masc. to מרוּצה, only here), i.e., their fleetness is yet no guarantee that on account of it they will reach the goal. Luther freely: "To be fleet does not help in running," i.e., running to an object or goal. "The war belongs not to the heroes," means that much rather it belongs to the Lord, 1 Samuel 17:47. - God alone gives the victory (Psalm 33:16). Even so the gaining of bread, riches, favour (i.e., influence, reputation), does not lie in wisdom, prudence, knowledge of themselves, as an indispensable means thereto; but the obtaining of them, or the not obtaining of them, depends on times and circumstances which lie beyond the control of man, and is thus, in the final result, conditioned by God (cf. Romans 9:16);
(Note: But not Jeremiah 9:22; this passage, referred to by Bernstein, is of a different nature.)
time and fate happen to all whose ability appears to warrant the issue, they both time and fate encounter them and bar to them the way; they are in an inexplicable manner dependent on both, and helplessly subject to them. As the idea of spiritual superiority is here expressed in a threefold manner by הח (whence לה of the plur., also with the art. Ecclesiastes 9:1; Exodus 36:4; Esther 1:13), 'הן, and היּ, so at Isaiah 11:2, the gifts of "wisdom," "counsel," and "knowledge" follow each other. 'Eth is here "time" with its special circumstances (conjunctures), and pega', "accident," particularly as an adversity, disappointment of the word is used also without any addition (1 Kings 5:18) of misfortune (cf. שיר פגעים, Psalm 3:1-8; 91). The masc. יק is regulated after וף; 'eth can, however, be used in the masc., Sol 2:12; Bttch. 648, viz., "with the misapprehension of its origin" (v. Orelli).
This limitation of man in his efforts, in spite of all his capacity, has its reason in this, that he is on the whole not master of his own life:
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