Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroys much good.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Than weapons of war; than armed power.
Sinner; a wicked fool; by which expression and opposition of a sinner to a wise man he gives us a key to understand his meaning in divers places of his books, that by wisdom he means true piety, and by folly wickedness; and withal, showeth that sin, as it is the greatest folly, so it is more pernicious to men than mere folly properly so called.
Destroyeth much good; by his wicked counsels and courses brings much damage and mischief, both to himself and others. Ecclesiastes 7:10;
but one sinner destroyeth much good: his own soul by his sins, and the souls of others by his counsels, example, and conversation, which corrupt good manners; so does one sinner in a family, neighbourhood, and town; as one poor wise man does much good, one sinner mars much; one Achan in a camp or army, one bad counsel for in a cabinet, one false teacher in the church, will do a great deal of mischief, as well as one debauchee in a town or city. The Vulgate Latin version is, "who sins in one"; offends or sins in one, as in James 2:10; so the Syriac version, "one sin destroys much good", or many good things; and to the same purpose the Arabic version, "he that committeth one sin".Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. Wisdom is better than weapons of war] The maxim presents another illustration of the irony of history. The excellence of wisdom is acknowledged. Counsel is more than the materiel of war; the statesman more than the general, and yet one man by his guilt or folly, by the perversity which includes both (the Hebrew verb for “sinneth” has this meaning, as in Proverbs 8:36), may mar what it has taken years to bring to a good issue. The defeat of an army, the most terrible catastrophe, may often be traced to the fact that “some one has blundered,” in carelessness or passion. It is probable enough that, as in Ecclesiastes 9:14, the writer had some definite historical fact present to his thoughts which we are unable to identify. The history of Achan, in Joshua 7:1-12, presents a sufficient illustration.Verse 18. - Wisdom is better than weapons of war. Such is the moral which Koheleth desires to draw from the little narrative given above (see vers. 14-16; and Ecclesiastes 7:19). Wisdom can do what no material force can effect, and often produces results which all the implements of war could not command. But one sinner destroyeth much good. The happy consequences which the wise man's counsel might accomplish, or has already accomplished, may be overthrown or rendered useless by the villany or perversity of a bad man. The Vulgate, reading differently, has, Qui in uno peccaverit, multa bona perdet. But this seems to be out of keeping with the context. Adam's sin infected the whole race of man; Achau's transgression caused Israel's defeat (Joshua 7:11, 12); Rehoboam's folly occasioned the great schism (1 Kings 12:16). The wide° reaching effects of one little error are illustrated by the proverbial saying which every one knows, and which runs in Latin thus: "Clavus unus perdit equi soleam, soles equum, equus equitem, eques castra, castro rempublicam."
Ecclesiastes 8:12; Ecclesiastes 4:14, where, more correctly, the pointing should be גּם כּי (ki with the conjunct. accent); ki rules the sentence; and gam, as to its meaning, belongs to etḣ'itto. The particular has its reason from the general: man is not master of his own time, his own person, and his own life, and thus not of the fruits of his capabilities and his actions, in spite of the previously favourable conditions which appear to place the result beyond a doubt; for ere the result is reached of which he appears to be able to entertain a certainty, suddenly his time may expire, and his term of life be exhausted. Jerome translate 'itto (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:17) rightly by finem suum; עת, with the gen. following, frequently (vid., under Job 24:1) means the point of time when the fate of any one is decided, - the terminus where a reckoning is made; here, directly, the terminus ad quem. The suddenness with which men are frequently overtaken with the catastrophe which puts an end to their life, is seen by comparison with the fishes which are suddenly caught in the net, and the birds which are suddenly caught in the snare. With שׁן (that are caught) there is interchanged, in two variations of expression, האחזות, which is incorrectly written, by v. d. Hooght, Norzi, and others, האחזּ.
(Note: Vid., Ed. Knig, Gedanke, Laut u. Accent (1874), p. 72.)
מצו, a net, - of which the plur. form Ecclesiastes 7:26 is used, - goes back, as does the similar designation of a bulwark (Ecclesiastes 9:14), to the root-conception of searching (hunting), and receives here the epithet "evil." Birds, צפּרים (from a ground-form with a short terminal vowel; cf. Assyr. itṣtṣur, from itṣpur), are, on account of their weakness, as at Isaiah 31:5, as a figure of tender love, represented in the fem.
The second half of the verse, in conformity with its structure, begins with כּהם (which more frequently occurs as כּמוהם). יוּק .)כּ is part. Pu. for מיקּשׁים (Ewald, 170d); the particip. מ is rejected, and ק is treated altogether as a guttural, the impracticable doubling of which is compensated for by the lengthening of the vowel. The use of the part. is here stranger than e.g., at Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 15:32; the fact repeating itself is here treated as a property. Like the fish and the birds are they, such as are caught, etc. Otherwise Hitz.: Like these are they caught, during the continuance of their life in the evil time ... ; but the being snared does not, however, according to the double figure, precede the catastrophe, but is its consequence. Rightly, Ginsb.: "Like these are the sons of men ensnared in the time of misfortune." רעה might be adj., as at Amos 5:13; Micah 2:3; but since it lies nearer to refer כּשׁתּ to ra'ah than to 'eth, thus ra'ah, like the frequently occurring yom ra'ah (Ecclesiastes 7:14; cf. Jeremiah 17:17 with Jeremiah 15:11), may be thought of as genit. An example of that which is here said is found in the fatal wounding of Ahab by means of an arrow which was not aimed at him, so that he died "at the time of the going down of the sun," 2 Chronicles 18:33-34.
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