Ecclesiastes 9:17
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.” 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.

17. The words of wise, &c.—Though generally the poor wise man is not heard (Ec 9:16), yet "the words of wise men, when heard in quiet (when calmly given heed to, as in Ec 9:15), are more serviceable than," &c.

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. The words of wise men are heard in quiet,.... That is, by some persons and at some times, though not by all persons and always; or they are to be heard, or should be heard, though they seldom be, even the words of wise men that are poor: these are to be heard quietly and patiently, without any tumult and contradiction; or should be heard, being delivered with a low and submissive voice, without any noise, or blustering pride, or passion, sedately and with great humility, submitting them to the judgment of others; which sense the comparison seems to require;

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. "Further, I came to see under the sun, that the race belongs not to the swift, and the war not to the heroes, and also not bread to the wise man, and not riches to the prudent, and not favour to men of knowledge; for time and chance happeneth to them all." The nearest preceding רא, to which this ורב ורא suitably connects itself, is at 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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