Ecclesiastes 9:8
Let your garments be always white; and let your head lack no ointment.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
-82Samuel 12:20; 2Samuel 14:2; Psalm 45:8; Psalm 104:14; Revelation 7:9.

9:4-10 The most despicable living man's state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father's love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favour. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompence. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.White garments and perfume are simply an expressive sign of joy.8. white—in token of joy (Isa 61:3). Solomon was clad in white (Josephus, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" (Mt 6:29), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear (Re 3:18; 7:14).

ointment—(Ps 23:5), opposed to a gloomy exterior (2Sa 14:2; Ps 45:7; Mt 6:17); typical, also (Ec 7:1; So 1:3).

Always; in all convenient times and circumstances; for there are times of mourning, Ecclesiastes 3:4 7:2: compare Proverbs 5:19.

White; decent, and splendid, as far as is suitable to the condition. The Eastern people of the best sort used white garments, especially in times of rejoicing, as Esther 8:15: compare Revelation 3:4,5 6:11. But by this whiteness of garments, he understands a pleasant and cheerful conversation.

Let thy head lack no ointment; which upon joyful occasions was poured upon men’s heads, Amos 6:6 Luke 7:46 John 12:3. Let thy garments be always white,.... That is, neat and clean, not vile and sordid; what is comely and decent, and suitable to a man's circumstances; this colour is particularly mentioned because much used in the eastern countries, and in Judea; hence we so often read of washing garments, and of fullers that whitened them; and especially on festival days and days of rejoicing, to which Horace (a) refers; and here it signifies that every day should be like a festival or day of rejoicing to a good man, to whom God has given the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, Isaiah 61:3; and though there may be times for mourning, and so of putting on other apparel, yet, in common and ordinarily, this should be the habit, decent and comely apparel. The ancient Jews in Aben Ezra, and so Jarchi, interpret it of an unblemished conversation; and Kimchi (b) of repentance and good works; and so the Targum,

"let thy garments be white (or washed) from all filth of sin;''

or be without any spot of sin, as Alshech; the conversation garments of the saints are made white in the blood of Christ, and his righteousness is fine linen, and white; and even eternal glory and happiness is signified by walking with him in white, Revelation 7:14;

and let thy head lack no ointment: which used to be poured plentifully on the heads of guests at feasts (c), for the refreshment of them, which gave pleasure, and a sweet odour and fragrancy, and was much in use in those hot countries; see Psalm 23:5; and is opposed to a gloomy and melancholy carriage and deportment, Matthew 6:17; hence we read of the oil of joy and gladness, Psalm 45:7. The Jews before mentioned interpreted this of a good name better than ointment, Ecclesiastes 7:1. So the Targum,

"and a good name, which is like to anointing oil, get; that blessings may come upon thy head, and thy goodness fail not.''

(a) "Ille repotia natales aliosque dierum, festos albatus celebret". Satyr. l. 2. Sat. 2. v. 60, 61. "Cum ipse epuli Dominus albatus esset", Cicero in Vatin. c. 13. (b) Comment. in lsa. lxv. 13. (c) "Coronatus nitentes malabathro Syrio capillos", Horat. Carmin. l. 2. Ode 7. v. 7, 8. "et paulo post: funde capacibus unguenta de conchis", v. 22, 23. "Unguentum (fateor) bonum dedisti convivis", Martial. l. 3. Epigr. 11.

Let thy garments be always {e} white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

(e) Rejoice, be merry and spare for no cost, thus speak the wicked belly-gods.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Let thy garments be always white] In the symbolism of colours, so universal that we may almost call it natural, white garments, cool and refreshing in the heat of an Eastern climate, have always been associated with the idea of purity and joy (2 Chronicles 5:12; Esther 8:15). In the religious symbolism of Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 6:11, the idea of purity is, perhaps, predominant over that of joy. So in Roman life the term “albatus” (clothed in white garments) was used of one who took part in a festive banquet (Hor. Sat. ii. 2. 61; Cic. in Vatin. c. 13). A singular instance of literalism is recorded in the life of Sisinnius, the Novatian bishop of Constantinople, who, as in obedience to this precept, never wore any but white garments (Socr. H. E. vi. 21). Chrysostom censures his ostentation.

let thy head lack no ointment] Here, again, illustrations from Hebrew, Greek and Roman life crowd on us. We think of the “oil of gladness” of Psalm 45:7; the “oil of joy” of Isaiah 61:3; of “the sweet smell” of Isaiah 3:24; of “the costly wine and ointments” of Wis 2:7; of the “perfusus liquidis odoribus” of Hor. Od. i. 5; of the “Assyriaque nardo potamus uncti” (“let us drink anointed with Assyrian nard”) of Hor. Od. ii. 11.Verse 8. - Let thy garments be always white. The Preacher brings into prominence certain particulars of enjoyment, more noticeable than mere eating and drinking. White garments in the East (as among ourselves) were symbols of joy and purity. Thus the singers in Solomon's temple were arrayed in white linen (2 Chronicles 5:12). Mordecai was thus honored by King Ahasuerus (Esther 8:15), the angels are seen similarly decked (Mark 16:5), and the glorified saints are clothed in white (Revelation 3:4, 5, 18). So in the pseudepi-graphal books the same imagery is retained. Those that "have fulfilled the Law of the Lord have received glorious garments, and are clothed in white" (2 Esdr. 2:39, 40). Among the Romans the same symbolism obtained. Horace ('Sat.,' 2:2. 60) -

"Ille repotia, natales aliosve dierum
Festes albatus celebret."


"Though he in whitened toga celebrate
His wedding, birthday, or high festival."
Let thy head lack no ointment. Oil and perfumes were used on festive occasions not only among Eastern nations, but by Greeks and Romans (see on Ecclesiastes 7:1). Thus Telemachus is anointed with fragrant oil by the fair Polykaste (Homer, 'Od,' 3:466). Sappho complains to Phaen (Ovid,' Heroid.' 15:76) -

"Non Arabs noster rore capillus olet."

"No myrrh of Araby bedews my hair." Such allusions in Horace are frequent and commonly cited (see 'Carm.,' 1:5. 2; 2:7. 7, 8; 2:11. 15, etc.). Thus the double injunction in this verse counsels one to be always happy and cheerful. Gregory Thaumaturgus (cited by Plumptre) represents the passage as the error of "men of vanity;" and other commentators have deemed that it conveyed not the Preacher's own sentiments, but those of an atheist whom he cites. There is, as we have already seen, no need to resort to such an explanation. Doubtless the advice may readily be perverted to evil, and made to sanction sensuality and licentiousness, as-we see to have been done in Wisd. 2:6-9; but Koheleth only urges the moderate use of earthly goods as consecrated by God's gift. "All is the same which comes to all: one event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the pure and the impure; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as with the good, so is it with the sinner; with him that sweareth, as with him that feareth an oath." Hitzig translates: "All are alike, one fate comes on all," adding the remark, that to make מקרה אחד at the same time pred. to הכל and subm. to כאשר לכל was, for the punctator, too much. This translation is indeed in matter, as well as in point of syntax, difficult to be comprehended. Rather, with Ewald, translate: All is as if all had one fate (death) but why then this useless hevel haasher, only darkening the thought? But certainly, since in הכּל

(Note: The lxx, Syr., and Aq. have read together the end of Ecclesiastes 9:1 and the beginning of Ecclesiastes 9:2. Here Jerome also is dependent on this mode of reading: sed omnia in futurum servantur incerta (הבל).)

the past is again resumed, it is to be supposed that it does not mean personally, omnes, but neut., omnia; and לכּל, on the contrary, manifestly refers (as at Ecclesiastes 10:3) to persons. Herein agreeing with Ewald, and, besides, with Knobel, Zckl., and others, we accept the interpunction as it lies before us. The apparently meaningless clause, omnia sicut omnibus, gives, if we separate sicut into sic and ut, the brief but pregnant thought: All is (thus) as it happens to all, i.e., there is no distinction of their experiences nor of their persons; all of every sort happens in the same way to all men of every sort. The thought, written in cyphers in this manner, is then illustrated; the lameds following leave no doubt as to the meaning of לכל. Men are classified according to their different kinds. The good and the pure stand opposite the impure; טמא is thus the defiled, Hosea 5:3, cf. Ezekiel 36:25, in body and soul. That the author has here in his mind the precepts of the law regarding the pure and the impure, is to be concluded from the following contrast: he who offers sacrifice, and he who does not offer sacrifice, i.e., he who not only does not bring free-will offerings, but not even the sacrifices that are obligatory. Finally, he who swears, and he who is afraid of an oath, are distinguished. Thus, Zechariah 5:3, he who swears stands along with him who steals. In itself, certainly, swearing an oath is not a sin; in certain circumstances (vid., Ecclesiastes 8:2) it is a necessary solemn act (Isaiah 65:16). But here, in the passage from Zechariah, swearing of an unrighteous kind is meant, i.e., wanton swearing, a calling upon God when it is not necessary, and, it may be, even to confirm an untruth, Exodus 20:7. Compare Matthew 5:34. The order of the words יר שׁב (cf. as to the expression, the Mishnic חטא ירא) is as at Nahum 3:1; Isaiah 22:2; cf. above, Ecclesiastes 5:8. One event befalls all these men of different characters, by which here not death exclusively is meant (as at Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 2:14), but this only chiefly as the same end of these experiences which are not determined according to the moral condition of men. In the expression of the equality, there is an example of stylistic refinement in a threefold change; כּטוב כּח denotes that the experience of the good is the experience of the sinner, and may be translated, "wie der Gute so der Snder" as the good, so the sinner, as well as "so der Gute wie der Snder" so the good as the sinner (cf. Khler, under Haggai 2:3). This sameness of fate, in which we perceive the want of the inter-connection of the physical and moral order of the world, is in itself and in its influence an evil matter.

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