Ecclesiastes 7
Pulpit Commentary
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
Verse 1 - Ecclesiastes 12:8. - Division II. DEDUCTIONS FROM THE ABOVE-MENTIONED EXPERIENCES IN THE WAY OF WARNINGS AND RULES OF LIFE. Verses 1-7. - Section 1. Though no man knows for certain what is best, yet there are some practical rules for the conduct of life which wisdom gives. Some of these Koheleth sets forward in the proverbial form, recommending a serious, earnest life in preference to one of gaiety and frivolity. Verse 1. - A good name is better than precious ointment. The paronomasia here is to be remarked, rob ahem mishemen tob. There is a similar assonance in Song of Solomon 1:3, which the German translator reproduces by the sentence, "Besser gut Gerucht als Wohlgeruch," or," gute Geruche," and which may perhaps be rendered in English, "Better is good favor than good flavor." It is a proverbial saying, running literally, Better is a name than good oil. Shem, "name," is sometimes used unqualified to signify a celebrated name, good name, reputation (comp. Genesis 11:4; Proverbs 22:1). Septuagint, Ἀγαθὸν ὄνομα ὑπὲρ ἔλαιον ἀγαθόν. Vulgate, Melius eat nomen bonum quam unguenta pre-tiosa. Odorous unguents were very precious in the mind of an Oriental, and formed one of the luxuries lavished at feasts and costly entertainments, or social visits (see Ecclesiastes 9:8; Ruth 3:3; Psalm 45:8; Amos 6:6; Wisd. 2:7; Luke 7:37, 46). It was a man's most cherished ambition to leave a good reputation, and to hand down an honorable remembrance to distant posterity, and this all the more as the hope of the life beyond the grave was dim and vague (see on Ecclesiastes 2:16, and comp. Ecclesiastes 9:5). The complaint of the sensualists in Wisd. 2:4 is embittered by the thought," Our name shall be forgotten in time, and no man shall have our works in remembrance." We employ a metaphor like that in the clause when we speak of a man's reputation having a good or ill odor; and the Hebrews said of ill fame that it stank in the nostrils (Genesis 34:30; Exodus 5:21; see, on the opposite side, Ecclus. 24:15; 2 Corinthians 2:15). And the day of death than the day of one's birth. The thought in this clause is closely connected with the preceding. If a man's life is such that he leaves a good name behind him, then the day of his departure is better than that of his birth, because in the latter he had nothing before him but labor, and trouble, and fear, and uncertainty; and in the former all these anxieties are past, the storms are successfully battled with, the haven is won (see on Ecclesiastes 4:3). According to Solon's well-known maxim, no one can be called happy till he has crowned a prosperous life by a peaceful death (Herod., 1:32; Soph., 'Trachin.,' 1-3; ('Ed. Tyr.,' 1528, sqq.); as the Greek gnome runs -

Μήπω μέγαν εἴπῃς πρὶν τελευτήσαντ ἴδῃς

"Call no man great till thou hast seen him dead." So Ben-Sira, "Judge none blessed (μὴ μακάριζε μηδένα) before his death; for a man shall be known in his children" (Ecclus. 11:28).
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Verse 2. - It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting. The thought in the last verse leads to the recollection of the circumstances which accompany the two events therein mentioned - birth and death, feasting and joy, in the first case; sorrow and mourning in the second. In recommending the sober, earnest life, Koheleth teaches that wiser, more enduring lessons are to be learned where grief reigns than in the empty and momentary excitement of mirth and joyousness. The house in question is mourning for a death; and what a long and harrowing business this was is well known (see Deuteronomy 24:8; Ecclus. 22:10; Jeremiah 22:18; Matthew 9:23, etc.). Visits of condolence and periodical pilgrimages to groves of departed relatives were considered duties (John 11:19, 31), and conduced to the growth in the mind of sympathy, seriousness, and the need of preparation for death. The opposite side, the house of carousal, where all that is serious is put away, leading to such scenes as Isaiah denounces (Isaiah 5:11), offers no wise teaching, and produces only selfishness, heartlessness, thoughtlessness. What is said here is no contradiction to what was said in Ecclesiastes 2:24, that there was nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and enjoy himself. For Koheleth was not speaking of unrestrained sensualism - the surrender of the mind to the pleasures of the body - but of the moderate enjoyment of the good things of life conditioned by the fear of God and love of one's neighbor. This statement is quite compatible with the view that sees a higher purpose and training in the sympathy with sorrow than in participation in reckless frivolity. For that is the end of all men viz. that they will some day be mourned, that their house will be turned into a house of mourning. Vulgate, In illa (dome) enim finis cunctorum admonetur hominum, which is not the sense of the Hebrew. The living will lay it to his heart. He who has witnessed this scene will consider it seriously (Ecclesiastes 9:1), and draw from it profitable conclusions concerning the brevity of life and the proper use to make thereof. We recall the words of Christ, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted;" and "Woe unto you that laugh now for ye shall mourn and weep" (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:25). Schultens gives an Arab proverb which says, "Hearest thou lamentation for the dead, hasten to the spot; art thou called to a banquet, cross not the threshold." The Septuagint thus translates the last clause, Καὶ ὁ ζῶν δώσει ἀγαθὸν εἰς καρδίαν αὐτοῦ "The living will put good into his heart;" the Vulgate paraphrases fairly, Et vivens cogitat quid futurum sit," The living thinks what is to come." "So teach us to number our days," prays the psalmist, "that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
Verse 3. - Sorrow is better than laughter. This is a further expansion of the previous maxim, כַּעַס (kaas), as contrasted with שְׂהוק, is rightly rendered "sorrow," "melancholy," or, as Ginsburg contends, "thoughtful sadness." The Septuagint has θυμός, the Vulgate ira; but auger is not the feeling produced by a visit to the house of mourning. Such a scene produces saddening reflection, which is in itself a moral training, and is more wholesome and elevating than thoughtless mirth. For by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The feeling which shows itself by the look of sadness (comp. Genesis 40:7; Nehemiah 2:2) has a purifying effect on the heart, gives a moral tone to the character. Professor Tayler Lewis renders the clause, "For in the sad. ness of the face the heart becometh fair;" i.e. sorrow beautifies the soul, producing, as it were, comeliness, spiritual beauty, and, in the end, serener happiness. The Vulgate translates the passage thus: Melter eat ira risu; quia per tristitiam vultus corrigitur animus deliquentis, "Better is anger than laughter, because through sadness of countenance the mind of the offender is corrected." The anger is that either of God or of good men which reproves sin; the laughter is that of sinners who thus show their connivance at or approval of evil. There can be no doubt that this is not the sense of the passage. For the general sentiment concerning the moral influence of grief and suffering, we may compare the Greek sayings, Τὰ παθήματα μαθήματα, and Τί μαθών τί παθών; which are almost equivalent in meaning (comp. AEschyl., 'Again.,' 170; Herod., 1:207). The Latins would say, "Quaenocent, docent," and we, "Pain is gain."
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Verse 4. - The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. This is the natural conclusion from what was said in vers. 2, 3. The man who recognizes the serious side of life, and knows where to learn lessons of high moral meaning, will be found conversant with scenes of sorrow and suffering, and reflecting upon them. But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. The fool, who thinks of nothing but present enjoyment, and how to make life pass pleasantly, turns away from mournful scenes, and goes only there where he may drown care and be thoughtless and merry.
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
Verse 5. - It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise. Gearah, "rebuke," is the word used in Proverbs for the grave admonition which heals and strengthens while it wounds (see Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10). The silent lessons which a man learns from the contemplation of others' sorrow are rightly supplemented by the salutary correction of the wise man's tongue. Than for a man to hear the song of fools. Shir, "song," is a general term used of sacred or profane song; the connection here with the second clause of ver. 4, etc., leads one to think of the hoister-cue, reckless, often immodest, singing heard in the house of revelry, such as Amos (Amos 6:5) calls "idle songs to the sound of the viol" Koheleth might have heard these in his own country, without drawing his experience from the license of Greek practice or the impurity of Greek lyrics. The Vulgate renders the clause, Quum stultorum adulatione decipi, Than to be deceived by the flattery of tools." This is a paraphrase; the correctness is negatived by the explanation given in the following verse.
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
Verse 6. - For as the crackling of thorns under a pot. There is a play of words in the Hebrew, "The crackling of sirim under a sir," which Wright expresses by translating, "Like the noise of the nettles under the kettles." In the East, and where wood is scarce, thorns, hay, and stubble are used for fuel (Psalm 58:9; Psalm 120:4; Matthew 6:30). Such materials are quickly kindled, blaze up for a time with much noise, and soon die away (Psalm 118:12). So is the laughter of the fool. The point of comparison is the loud crackling and the short duration of the fire with small results. So the fool's mirth is boisterous and noisy, but comes to a speedy end, and is spent to no good purpose. So in Job (Job 20:5) we have, "The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment." All this profitless mirth is again nothing but vanity.
Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
Verse 7. - The verse begins with ki, which usually introduces a reason for what has preceded; but the difficulty in finding the connection has led to various explanations and evasions. The Authorized Version boldly separates the verse from what has gone before, and makes a new paragraph beginning with "surely:" Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad. Delitzsch supposes that something has been lost between vers. 6 and 7, and he supplies the gap by a clause borrowed from Proverbs 16:8, "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right;" and then the sentence proceeds naturally, "For oppression," etc. But this is scarcely satisfactory, as it is mere conjecture wholly unsupported by external evidence. The Vulgate leaves ki untranslated; the Septuagint has ὅτι. Looking at the various paragraphs, all beginning with rob, rendered "better," viz. vers. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, we must regard the present verse as connected with what precedes, a new subject being introduced at ver. 8. Putting ver. 6 in a parenthesis as merely presenting an illustration of the talk of fools, we may see in ver. 7 a confirmation of the first part of ver. 5. The rebuke of the wise is useful even in the case of rulers who are tempted -to excess and injustice. The "oppression" in the text is the exercise of irresponsible power, that which a man inflicts, not what he suffers; this makes him "mad," even though he be in other respects and under other circumstances wise; he ceases to be directed by reason and principle, and needs the correction of faithful rebuke. The Septuagint and Vulgate, rendering respectively συκοφαντία and calumnia, imply that the evil which distracts the wise man is false accusation. And a gift destroyeth the heart. The admission of bribery is likewise an evil that calls for wise rebuke. So Proverbs 15:27, "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live." The phrase, "destroys the heart," means corrupts the understanding, deprives a man of wisdom, makes him no better than a fool (comp. Hosea 4:11, where the same effect is attributed to whoredom and drunkenness). The Septuagint has, ἀπόλλυσι τὴν καρδίαν εὐγενείας αὐτοῦ, "destroys the heart of his nobility;" the Vulgate, perdet robur cordis illius, "will destroy the strength of his heart." The interpretation given above seems to be the most reasonable way of dealing with the existing text; but Nowack and Volck adopt Delitzsch's emendation.
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Verses 8-14. - Section 2. Here follow some recommendations to patience and resignation under the ordering of God's providence. Such conduct is shown to be true wisdom. Verse 8. - Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof. This is not a repetition of the assertion in ver. I concealing the day of death and the day of birth, but states a truth in a certain sense generally true. The end is better because we then can form a right judgment about a matter; we see what was its purpose; we know whether it has been advantageous and prosperous or not. Christ's maxim, often repeated (see Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13; Romans 2:7; Hebrews 3:6, etc.), is, "He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved." No one living can be said to be so absolutely safe as that he can look to the great day without trembling. Death puts the seal to the good life, and, obviates the danger of falling away. Of course, if a thing is in itself evil, the gnome is not true (comp. Proverbs 5:3, 4; Proverbs 16:25, etc.); but applied to things indifferent at the outset, it is as correct as generalizations can be. The lesson of patience is here taught. A man should not be precipitate in his judgments, but wait for the issue. From the ambiguity in the expression dabar (see on Ecclesiastes 6:11), many render it "word "in this passage. Thus the Vulgate, Melior est finis orationis, quam principium; and the Septuagint, Ἀγαθὴ ἐσχάτη λόγων ὑπὲρ ἀρχὴν αὐτοῦ, where φωνή, or some such word, must be supplied. If this interpretation be preferred, we must either take the maxim as stating generally that few words are better than many, and that the sooner one concludes a speech, so much the better for speaker and hearer; or we must consider that the word intended is a well-merited rebuke, which, however severe and at first disliked, proves in the end wholesome and profitable. And the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. "Patient" is literally "long of spirit," as the phrase, "short of spirit," is used in Proverbs 14:29 and Job 21:4 to denote one who loses his temper and is impatient. To wait calmly for the result of an action, not to be hasty in arraigning Providence, is the part of a patient man; while the proud, inflated, conceited man, who thinks all must be arranged according to his notions, is never resigned or content, but rebels against the ordained course of events. "In your patience ye shall win your souls," said Christ (Luke 21:19); and a Scotch proverb declares wisely, "He that weel bides, weel betides."
Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
Verse 9. - Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry. A further warning against the arrogance which murmurs at Providence and revolts against the checks of the Divine arrangement. The injunction in Ecclesiastes 5:2 might be taken in this sense. It is not a general admonition against unrighteous anger, but is leveled at the haughty indignation which a proud man feels when things do not go as he wishes, and he deems that he could have managed matters more satisfactorily. For anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Such unreasonable displeasure is the mark of a foolish or skeptical mind, and if it rests (Proverbs 14:33), is fostered and cherished there, may develop into misanthropy and atheism. If we adopt the rendering" word" in ver. 8, we may see in this injunction a warning against being quick to take offence at a rebuke, as it is only the fool who will not look to the object of the censure and see that it ought to be patiently submitted to. On the subject of anger St. Gregory writes, "As often as we restrain the turbulent motions of the mind under the virtue of mildness, we are essaying to return to the likeness of our Creator. For when the peace of mind is lashed with anger, torn and rent, as it were, it is thrown into confusion, so that it is not in harmony with itself, and loses the force of the inward likeness. By anger wisdom is parted with, so that we are left wholly in ignorance what to do; as it is written, 'Anger resteth in the bosom of a fool,' in this way, that it withdraws the light of understanding, while by agitating it troubles the mind" ('Moral.,' 5:78).
Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
Verse 10. - The same impatience leads a man to disparage the present in comparison with a past age. What is the cause that the former days were better than these? He does not know from any adequate information that preceding times were in any respect superior to present, but in his moody discontent he looks on what is around him with a jaundiced eye, and sees the past through a rose-tinted atmosphere, as an age of heroism, faith, and righteousness. Horace finds such a character in the morose old man, whom he describes in 'De Arte Poet.,' 173 -

"Difficilis, querulus, laudater temporis acti
Se puero, castigator censorque minornm."

"Morose and querulous, praising former days
When he was boy, now ever blaming youth."
And 'Epist.,' 2:1.22 -

"... et nisi quae terris semota suisque
Temporibus defuncta videt, fastidit et odit."

"All that is not most distant and removed
From his own time and place, he loathes and scorns."
For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this. In asking such a question you show that you have not reflected wisely on the matter. Every age has its light and dark side; the past was not wholly light, the present is not wholly dark. And it may well be questioned whether much of the glamour shed over antiquity is not false and unreal. The days of "Good Queen Bess" were anything but halcyon; the "merrie England" of old time was full of disorder, distress, discomfort. In yearning again for the flesh-pots of Egypt, the Israelites forgot the bondage and misery which were the accompaniments of those sensual pleasures.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
Verse 11. - Such hasty judgment is incompatible with true wisdom and sagacity. Wisdom is good with an inheritance; Septuagint, Ἀγαθὴ σοφία μετὰ κληρονομίας. Vulgate, Utilior eat sapientia cam divitiis. The sentence thus rendered seems to mean that wealth lends a prestige to wisdom, that the man is happy who possesses both. The inheritance spoken of is an hereditary one; the man who is "rich with ancestral wealth" is enabled to employ his wisdom to good purpose, his position adding weight to his words and actions, and relieving him from the low pursuit of money-making. To this effect Wright quotes Menander -

Μακάριος ὅστις οὐσίαν καὶ νοῦν ἕχει
Ξρῆται γὰρ οῦτος εἰς α} δεῖ ταύτῃ καλῶς.

"Blest is the man who wealth and wisdom hath,
For he can use his riches as he ought."
(Comp. Proverbs 14:24.) Many commentators, thinking such a sentiment alien front the context, render the particle עִם not "with," but "as" Wisdom is [as] good as an inheritance" (see on Ecclesiastes 2:16). This is putting wisdom on rather a low platform, and one would have expected to read some such aphorism as "Wisdom is better than rubies" (Proverbs 8:11), if Koheleth had intended to make any such comparison. It appears then most expedient to take im in the sense of "moreover," "as well as," "and" (camp. 1 Samuel 17:42, "ruddy, and (ira) of a fair countenance"). "Wisdom is good, and an inheritance is good; 'both are good, but the advantages of the former, as ver. 12 intimates, far outweigh those of the latter. And by it there is profit to them that see the sun; rather, and an advantage for those that see the, sun. However useful wealth may be, wisdom is that which is really beneficial to all who live and rejoice in the light of day. In Homer the phrase, ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο, "to see the light of the sun" ('Iliad,' 18:61), signifies merely "to live;" Plumptre considers it to be used here and in Ecclesiastes 19:7 in order to convey the thought that, after all, life has its bright side. Cox would take it to mean to live much in the sun, i.e. to lead an active life - which is an imported modern notion.
For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
Verse 12. - For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense; literally, in the shade is wisdom, in the shade is money; Septuagint, Ὅτι ἐν σκιᾷ αὐτῆς ἡ σοφία ὡς σκιὰ ἀργυρίου, "For in its shadow wisdom is as the shadow of money." Symmachus has, Σκέπει σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, "Wisdom shelters as money shelters." The Vulgate explains the obscure text by paraphrasing, Sieur enirn protegit sapientia, sic protegit petunia. Shadow, in Oriental phrase, is equivalent to protection (see Numbers 14:9; Psalm 17:5; Lamentations 4:20). Wisdom as well as money is a shield and defense to men. As it is said in one passage (Proverbs 13:8) that riches are the ransom of a man's life, so in another (Ecclesiastes 9:15) we are told how wisdom delivered a city from destruction. The literal translation given above implies that he who has wisdom and he who has money rest under a safe protection, are secure from material evil. In this respect they are alike, and have analogous claims to man's regard. But the excellency - profit, or advantage - of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. "Knowledge" (daath) and "wisdom" (chokmah) are practically here identical, the terms being varied for the sake of poetic parallelism. The Revised Version, following Delitzsch and others, renders, Wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it; i.e. secures him from passions and excesses which tend to shorten life. This seems to be scarcely an adequate ground for the noteworthy advantage which wisdom is said to possess. The Septuagint gives, Καὶ περίσσεια γνώσεως τῆς σοφίας ζωοποιήσει τόν παρ αὐτῆς "And the excellence of the knowledge of wisdom will quicken him that hath it." Something more than the mere animal life is signified, a climax to the "defense" mentioned in the preceding clause - the higher, spiritual life which man has from God. Wisdom in the highest sense, that is, practical piety and religion, is "a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is every one that retaineth her" (Proverbs 3:18), where it is implied that wisdom restores to man the gift which he lost at the Fall (camp. also Proverbs 8:35). The Septuagint expression ζωοποιήσει recalls the words of Christ, "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth (ζωοποιεῖ) them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will;" "It is the Spirit that quickeneth (τὸ ζωοποιοῦν)" (John 5:21; John 6:63). Koheleth attributes that power to wisdom which the more definite teaching of Christianity assigns to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Some would explain, "fortifies or vivifies the heart," i.e. imparts new life and strength to meet every fortune. The Vulgate rendering is far astray from the text, and does not accurately convey the sense of the passage, running thus: Hoe autem plus habet eruditio et sapientia: quod vitam tribuunt possessori sue, "But this more have learning and wisdom, that they give life to the possessor of them."
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
Verse 13. - Consider the work of God. Here is another reason against murmuring and hasty judgment. True wisdom is shown by submission to the inevitable. In all that happens one ought to recognize God's work and God's ordering, and man's impotence. For who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? The things which God hath made crooked are the anomalies, the crosses, the difficulties, which meet us in life. Some would include bodily deformities, which seems to be a piece of unnecessary literalism. Thus the Septuagint, Τίς δυνήσεται κοσμῆσαι ο{ν α}ν ὁ Θεὸς διαστρέψῃ αὐτόν; "Who will be able to straighten him whom God has distorted?" and the Vulgate, Nemo possit corrigere quem ille despexerit, "No one can amend him whom he hath despised." The thought goes back to what was said in Ecclesiastes 1:15, "That which is crooked cannot be made straight;" and in Ecclesiastes 6:10, man "cannot contend with him that is mightier than he." "As for the wondrous works of the Lord," says Ben-Sirs," there may be nothing taken from them, neither may anything be put unto them, neither can the ground of them be found out" (Ecclus. 18:6). We cannot arrange events according to our wishes or expectations; therefore not only is placid acquiescence a necessary duty, but the wise man will endeavor to accommodate himself to existing circumstances
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
Verse 14. - In the day of prosperity be joyful; literally, in the day of good be in good i.e. when things go well with you, be cheerful (Ecclesiastes 9:7; Esther 8:17); accept the situation and enjoy it. The advice is the same as that which runs through the book, viz. to make the best of the present. So Ben-Sire says, "Defraud not thyself of the good day, and let not a share in a good desire pass thee by" (Ecclus. 14:14). Septuagint Ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἀγαθωσύνης ζῆθι ἐν αγαθῷ, "In a day of good live in (an atmosphere of) good;" Vulgate, in die bona fruere bonis, "In a good day enjoy your good things." But in the day of adversity consider; in the evil day look well. The writer could not conclude this clause so as to make it parallel with the other, or he would have had to say, "In the ill day take it ill," which would be far from his meaning; so he introduces a thought which may help to make one resigned to adversity. The reflection follows. Septuagint, Καὶ ἴδε ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κακίας ἴδε κ.τ.λ..; Vulgate, Et malam diem praecave, "Beware of the evil day." But, doubtless, the object of the verb is the following clause. God also hath set the one over against the other; or, God hath made the one corresponding to the other; i.e. he hath made the day of evil as well as the day of good. The light and shade in man's life are equally under God's ordering and permission. "What?" cries Job (Job 2:10), "shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Corn. Lapide quotes a saying of Plutarch to this effect: the harp gives forth sounds acute and grave, and both combine to form the melody; so in man's life the mingling of prosperity and adversity yields a well-adjusted harmony. God strikes all the strings of our life's harp, and we ought, not only patiently, but cheerfully, to listen to the chords produced by this Divine Performer. To the end that man should find nothing after him. This clause gives Koheleth's view of God's object in the admixture of good and evil; but the reason has been variously interpreted, the explanation depending on the sense assigned to the term "after him" (אַתַרָיו). The Septuagint gives ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ, which is vague; the Vulgate, contra eum, meaning that man may have no occasion to complain against God. Cheyne ('Job and Solomon') considers that Koheleth here implies that death closes the scene, and that there is then nothing more to fear, rendering the clause, "On the ground that man is to experience nothing at all hereafter." They who believe that the writer held the doctrine of a future life cannot acquiesce in this view. The interpretation of Delitzsch is this - God lets man pass through the whole discipline of good and evil, that when lie dies there may be nothing which he has not experienced. Hitzig and Nowack explain the text to mean that, as God designs that man after his death shall have done with all things, he sends upon him evil as well as good, that he may not have to punish him hereafter - a doctrine opposed to the teaching of a future judgment. Wright deems the idea to be that man may be kept in ignorance of what shall happen to him beyond the grave, that the present life may afford no clue to the future. One does not see why this should be a comfort, nor how it is compatible with God's known counsel of making the condition of the future life dependent upon the conduct of this. Other explanations being more or less unsatisfactory, many modern commentators see in the passage an assertion that God intermingle8 good and evil in men's lives according to laws with which they are unacquainted, in order that they may not disquiet themselves by forecasting the future, whether in this life or after their death, but may be wholly dependent upon God, casting all their care upon him, knowing that he careth for them (1 Peter 5:7). We may safely adopt this explanation (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 6:12). The paragraph then con-rains the same teaching as Horace's oft-quoted ode-

"Prudens futuri temporis exitum," etc.
(Carm.,' 3:29. 29.) Theognis', 1075 -

Πρήγματος ἀπρήκτου χαλεπώτατόν ἐστι τελεντὴν
Γνῶναι ὅπως μέλλει τοῦτο Θεὸς τελέσαι
Ορφνη γὰρ τέταται πρὸ δὲ τοῦ μέλλοντος ἔσεσθαι
Οὐ ξυνετὰ θνητοῖς πείρατ ἀμηχανίης,

"The issue of an action incomplete,
Tis hard to forecast how God may dispose it;
For it is veiled in darkest night, and man
In present hour can never comprehend
His helpless efforts."
Plumptre quotes the lines in Cleanthes's hymn to Zeus, vers. 18-21 ('Poet. Gnom.,' p. 24) -

Ἀλλὰ σὺ καὶ τὰ περισσά κ.τ.λ.

"Thou alone knowest how to change the odd
To even, and to make the crooked straight;
And things discordant find accent in thee.
Thus in one whole thou blendest ill with good,
So that one law works on for evermore."
Ben-Sira has evidently borrowed the idea in Ecclus. 33: (36.) 13-15 from our passage; after speaking of man being like clay under the potter's hand, he proceeds, "Good is set over against evil, and life over against death; so is the godly against the sinner, and the sinner against the godly. So look upon all the works of the Mast High: there are two and two, one against the ether."
All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
Verses 15-22. - Section 3. Warnings against excesses, and praise of the golden mean, which is practical wisdom and the art of living happily. Verse 15. - All things have I seen in the days of my vanity. Koheleth gives his own experience of an anomalous condition which often obtains in human affairs. "All," being here defined by the article, must refer to the cases which he has mentioned or proceeds to mention. "The days of vanity" mean merely "fleeting, vain days" (comp. Ecclesiastes 6:12). The expression denotes the writer's view of the emptiness and transitoriness of life (Ecclesiastes 1:2), and it may also have special reference to his own vain efforts to solve the problems of existence. There is a just (righteous) man that perisheth in his righteousness. Here is a difficulty about the dispensation of good and evil, which has always perplexed the thoughtful. It finds expression in Psalm 73, though the singer propounds a solution (ver. 17) which Koheleth misses. The meaning of the preposition (בְּ) before "righteousness" is disputed. Delitzsch, Wright, and others take it as equivalent to "in spite of," as in Deuteronomy 1:32, where "in this thing" means "notwithstanding," "for all this thing." Righteousness has the promise of long life and prosperity; it is an anomaly that it should meet with disaster and early death. We cannot argue from this that the author did not believe in temporal rewards and punishments; he states merely certain of his own experiences, which may be abnormal and capable of explanation. For his special purpose this was sufficient. Others take the preposition to mean "through," "in consequence of." Good men have always been persecuted for righteousness' sake (Matthew 5:10, 11; John 17:14; 2 Timothy 3:12), and so far the interpretation is quite admissible, and is perhaps supported by ver. 16, which makes a certain sort of righteousness the cause of disaster. But looking to the second clause of the present verse, where we can hardly suppose that the wicked man is said to attain to long life in consequence of his wickedness, we are safe in adopting the rendering, "in spite of." There is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in (in spite of) his wickedness. The verb arak, "to make long," "to prolong," is used both with and without the accusative "days" (see Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13; Deuteronomy 5:33; Proverbs 28:2). Septuagint, Ἐστὶν ἀσεβῆς μένων ἐν κακίᾳ αὐτοῦ, There is an ungodly man remaining in his wickedness," which does not convey the sense of the original. According to the moral government of God experienced by the Hebrews in their history, the sinner was to suffer calamity and to be cut off prematurely. This is the contention of Job's friends, against which he argues so warmly. The writer of the Book of Wisdom has learned to look for the correction of such anomalies in another life. He sees that length of days is not always a blessing, and that retribution awaits the evil beyond the grave (Wisd. 1:9 Wisd. 3:4, 10 Wisd. 4:8, 19, etc.). Abel perished in early youth; Cain had his days prolonged. This apparent inversion of moral order leads to another reflection concerning the danger of exaggerations.
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
Verse 16. - Be not righteous over much. The exhortation has been variously interpreted to warn against too scrupulous observance of ritual and ceremonial religion, or the mistaken piety which neglects all mundane affairs, or the Pharisaical spirit which is bitter in condemning others who fall short of one's own standard. Cox will have it that the advice signifies that a prudent man will not be very righteous, since he will gain nothing by it, nor very wicked, as he will certainly shorten his life by such conduct. But really Koheleth is condemning the tendency to immoderate asceticism which had begun to show itself in his day - a rigorous, prejudiced, indiscreet manner of life and conduct which made piety offensive, and afforded no real aid to the cause of religion. This arrogant system virtually dictated the laws by which Providence should be governed, and found fault with divinely ordered circumstances if they did not coincide with its professors' preconceived opinions. Such religionism might well be called being "righteous over much." Neither make thyself over wise; Septuagint, Μηδὲ σοφίζου περισσά; Vulgate, Neque plus sapias quam necesse est; better, show not thyself too wise; i.e. do not indulge in speculations about God's dealings, estimating them according to your own predilections, questioning the wisdom of his moral government. Against such perverse speculation St. Paul argues (Romans 9:19, etc.). "Thou wilt say unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?" A good principle carried to excess may bring evil results. Summum jus, summa injuria. The maxim, Μηδὲν ἀγάν, Ne quid nimis, "Moderation in all things," is taught here; and Aristotle's theory of virtue being the mean between the two extremes of excess and defect is adumbrated ('Ethic. Nicom.,' 2:6. 15, 16): though we do not see that the writer is "reproducing current Greek thought" (Plumptre), or that independent reflection and observation could not have landed him at the implied conclusion without plagiarism. Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Septuagint, Μή ποτὲ ἐκπλαγῇς, "Lest perchance thou be confounded;" Vulgate, Ne obstupescas, "Lest thou be stupefied." This is the primary meaning of the special form of the verb here used (hithp. of שׁמם), and Plumptre supposes that the author intends thereby to express the spiritual pride which accompanies fancied excellence in knowledge and conduct, and by which the possessor is puffed up (1 Timothy 3:6). But plainly it is not a mental, internal effect that is contemplated, but something that affects comfort, position, or life, like the corresponding clause in the following verse. Hitzig and Ginsburg explain the word, "Make thyself forsaken," "Isolate thyself," which can scarcely be the meaning. The Authorized Version is correct. A man who professes to be wiser than others, and. indeed, wiser than Providence, incurs the envy and animosity of his fellow-men, and will certainly be punished by God for his arrogance and presumption.
Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
Verse 17. - Be not over much wicked neither be thou foolish. These two injunctions are parallel and correlative to those in ver. 16 concerning over-righteousness and over-wisdom. But the present verse cannot be meant, as at first sight it seems to do, to sanction a certain amount of wickedness provided it does not exceed due measure. To surmount this difficulty some have undeavored to modify the term "wicked" (rasha), taking it to mean "engaged in worldly matters," or "not subject to rule," "lax," or again "restless," as some translate the word in Job 3:17. But the word seems not to be used in any such senses, and bears uniformly the uncompromising signification assigned to it, "to be wicked, unrighteous, guilty." The difficulty is not overcome by Plumptre's suggestion of the introduction of a little "playful irony learned from Greek teachers," as if Koheleth meant, "I have warned you, my friends, against over-righteousness, but do not jump at the conclusion that license is allowable. That was very far from my meaning." The connection of thought is this: in the previous verse Koheleth had denounced the Pharisaical spirit which virtually condemned the Divine ordering of circumstances, because vice was not at once and visibly punished, and virtue at once rewarded; and now he proceeds to warn against the deliberate and abominable wickedness which infers from God's long-suffering his absolute neglect and non- interference in mortal matters, and on this view plunges audaciously into vice and immorality, saying to itself, "God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it" (Psalm 10:11). Such conduct may well be called "foolish;" it is that of "the fool who says in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1). The actual wording of the injunction sounds to us somewhat strange; but its form is determined by the requirements of parallelism, and the aphorism must not be pressed beyond its general intention, "Be not righteous nor wise to excess; be not wicked nor foolish to excess." Septuagint, "Be not very wicked, and be not stubborn (σκληρός)." Why shouldest thou die before thy time? literally, not in thy time; prematurely, tempting God to punish thee by retributive judgment, or shortening thy days by vicious excesses. (For the former, see Job 22:16; Psalm 55:23; Proverbs 10:27; and comp. 1 Samuel 2:31, 33; and for the latter, Proverbs 5:23; Proverbs 7:23-27; Proverbs 10:21.) The Syriac contains a clause not given in any other version, "that thou mayest not be hated." As is often the case, both in this book and in Proverbs, a general statement in one place is reduced by a contrariant or modified opinion in another. Thus the prolongation of the life of the wicked, noticed in ver. 15, is here shown to be abnormal, impiety in the usual course of events having a tendency to shorten life. In this way hasty generalization is corrected, and the Divine arrangement is vindicated.
It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
Verse 18. - It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand. The pronouns refer to the two warnings in vers. 16 and 17 against over-righteousness and over-wicked-ness. Koheleth does not advise a man to make trial of opposite lines of conduct, to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that from a wide experience lie may, like a man of the world, pursue a safe course; this would be poor morality, and unmeet for the stage at which his argument has arrived. Rather he advises him to lay to heart fire cautions above given, and learn from them to avoid all extremes. As Horace says ('Epist.,' 1:18. 9) -

"Virtus est medium vitiorum et utrinque reductum."

"Folly, as usual, in extremes is seen,
While virtue nicely hits the happy mean."

(Howes.) The Vulgate has interpolated a word, and taken the pronoun as masculine, to the sacrifice of the sense and connection: Bonum est te sustentare justum, sed el ab illo ne subtrahas manum tuam, "It is good that thou shouldst support the just man, nay, from him withdraw not thy hand." For he that feareth God shall come forth of them all; shall escape both extremes together with their evil re-suits. The fear of God will keep a man from all excesses. The intransitive verb yatsa, "to go forth," is here used with an accusative (comp. Genesis 44:4, which, however, is not quite analogous), as in Latin ingrediurbem (Livy, 1:29). Vulgate, Qui timet Deum nihil negligit. So Hitzig and Ginsburg, "Goes, makes his way with both," knows how to avail himself of piety and wickedness, which, as we have seen, is not the meaning. St. Gregory, indeed, who uses the Latin Version, notes that to fear God is never to pass over any good thing that ought to be aerie ('Moral.,' 1:3); but he is not professing to comment on the whole passage. Wright, after Delitzsch, takes the term "come out of" as equivalent to "fulfill," so that the meaning would be, "He who fears God performs all the duties mentioned above, and avoids extremes," as Matthew 23:23, "These ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone." But this is confessedly a Talmudic use of the verb; and the Authorized Version may be safely adopted. The Septuagint gives, "For to them that fear God all things shall come forth well."
Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
Verse 19. - Wisdom strengtheneth the wise. The moderation enjoined is the only true wisdom, which, indeed, is the most powerful incentive and support. "Wisdom proves itself stronger" (as the verb is put intransitively) "to the wise man." Septuagint, βοηθήσει," will help;" Vulgate, confortuvit, "hath strengthened." The spiritual and moral force of the wisdom grounded upon the fear of God is here signified, and is all the more insisted upon to counteract any erroneous impression conveyed by the caution against over-wisdom in ver. 16 (see note on ver. 17, at the end). More than ten mighty men which are in the city. The number ten indicates completeness, containing in itself the whole arithmetical system, and used representatively for an indefinite multitude. Thus Job (Job 19:3) complains that his friends have reproached him ten times, and Elkanah asks his murmuring wife, "Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8). Delitzsch thinks that some definite political arrangement is referred to, e.g., the dynasties placed by Persian kings over conquered countries; and Tyler notes that in the Mishna a city is defined to be a place containing ten men of leisure; and we know that ten men were required for the establishment of a synagogue in any locality. The same idea was present in the Angle-Saxon arrangement of tything and hundred. The number, however, is probably used indefinitely here as seven in the parallel passage of Ecclesiasticus (37:14), "A man's mind is sometime wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower." The sentence may be compared with Proverbs 10:15; Proverbs 21:22; Proverbs 24:5. The word rendered "mighty men" (shallitim) is not necessarily a military designation; it is translated "ruler" in Ecclesiastes 10:5, and "governor" in Genesis 42:6. The Septuagint here has Ἐξουσιάζοντας τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τῇ πόλει; the Vulgate, principes civitatis. The persons intended are not primarily men of valor in war, like David's heroes, but rulers of sagacity, prudent statesmen, whose moral force is far greater and more efficacious than any merely physical excellence (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:16).
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Verse 20. - The wisdom above signified is, indeed, absolutely necessary, if one would escape the consequences of that frailty of nature which leads to transgression. Wisdom shows the sinner a way out of the evil course in which he is walking, and puts him back in that fear of God which is his only safety. For there is not a just man upon earth. The verse confirms ver. 19. Even the just man sinneth, and therefore needs wisdom. That doeth good, and sinneth not. This reminds us of the words in Solomon's prayer (1 Kings 8:46; Proverbs 20:9). So St. James (James 3:2) says, "In many things we all offend;" and St. John, "It' we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). A Greek gnome runs - Ἁμαρτάνει τι καὶ σοφοῦ σοφώτερος. "Erreth at times the very wisest man."
Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
Verse 21. - Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; literally, give not thy heart, as Ecclesiastes 1:13, etc. Here is another matter in which wisdom will lead to right conduct. You will not pay serious attention to evil reports either about yourself or others, nor regulate your views and actions according to such distortions of the truth. To be always hankering to know what people say of us is to set up a false standard, which will assuredly lead us astray; and, at the same time, we shall expose ourselves to the keen-eat mortification when we find, as we probably shall find, that they do not take us at our own valuation, but have thoroughly marked our weaknesses, and are ready enough to censure them. We have an instance of patience under unmerited reproof in the case of David when cursed by Shimei (2 Samuel 16:11), as he, or one like minded, says (Psalm 38:13), "I, as a deaf man, hear not; and I am as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Yea, I am as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs." Corn. a Lapide comments in words to which no translation would do justice, "Verbaenim non aunt verbera; aerem feriunt non hominem, nisi qui its attendit mordetur, sauciatur." Lest thou hear thy servant curse thee. The servant is introduced as an example of a gossip or calumniator, because he, if any one, would be acquainted with his master's faults, and be most likely to disseminate his knowledge, and blame from such a quarter would be most intolerable. Commentators appositely quote Bacon's remarks on this passage in his 'Advancement of Learning,' 8:2, where he notes the prudence of Pompey, who burned all the papers of Sertorius reread, containing, as they did, information which would fatally have compromised many leading men in Rome.
For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
Verse 22. - Oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others. The appeal to a man's own conscience follows. The fact that we often speak ill of others should make us less open to take offence at what is said of ourselves, and prepared to expect unfavorable comments. The Lord has said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you" (Matthew 7:1, 2). This is a universal law. "Who is he," asks Ben-Sirs, "that hath not offended with his tongue?" (Ecclus. 19:16). Septuagint, Ὅτι πλειστάκις πονηρεύσεταί σε καὶ καθόδους πολλὰς κακώσει καρδίαν σου ὄτι ὡς καίγε σὺ κατηράσω ἑτέρους, "For many times he [thy servant] shall act ill to thee, and in many ways shall afflict thine heart, for even thou also hast cursed others." This seems to be a combination of two renderings of the passage. "It is the praise of perfect greatness to meet hostile treatment, without bravely and within mercifully some things are more quickly dismissed from our hearts if we know our own misdemeanors against our neighbors. For whilst we reflect what we have been towards others, we are the less concerned that others should have proved such persons towards ourselves, be cause the injustice of another avenges in us what our conscience justly accuses in itself" (St. Gregory, 'Moral.,' 22:26).
All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
Verses 23-29. - Section 4. Further in sight into essential wisdom was not obtain able; but Koheleth learned some other practical lessons, viz. that wickedness was folly and madness; that woman was the most evil thing in the world; that man had perverted his nature, which was made originally good. Verse 23. - All this have I proved by wisdom; i.e. wisdom was the means by which he arrived at the practical conclusions given above (vers. 1-22). Would wisdom solve deeper questions? And if so, could he ever hope to attain it? I said, I will be wise. This was his strong resolve. He desired to grow in wisdom, to use it in order to unfold mysteries and explain anomalies. Hitherto he had been content to watch the course of men's lives, and find by experience what was good and what was evil for them; now he craves for an insight into the secret laws that regulate those external circumstances: he wants a philosophy or theosophy. His desire is expressed by his imitator in the Book of Wisdom (9.), "O God of my fathers,... give me Wisdom, that sitteth by thy throne.... O send her out of thy holy heavens, and from the throne of thy glory, that being present she may labor with me." But it was far from me. It remained in the far distance, out of reach. Job's experience (28.) was his. Practical rules of life he might gain, and had mastered, but essential, absolute wisdom was beyond mortal grasp. Man's knowledge and capacity are limited.
That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
Verse 24. - That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out? The broken, interjectional style of the original in this passage, as Professor Taylor Lewis terms it, is better brought out by translating, "Far off is that which is, and deep, deep: who can find it out?" Professor Lewis renders, "Far off! the past, what is it? Deep - a deep - oh, who can find?" and explains "the past" to mean, not merely the earthly past historically unknown, but the great past before the creation of the universe, the kingdom of all eternities with its ages of ages, its worlds of worlds, its mighty evolutions, its infinite variety. We prefer to retain the rendering, "that which is," and to refer the expression to the phenomenal world. It is not the essence of wisdom that is spoken of, but the facts of man's life and the circumstances in which he finds himself, the course of the world, the phenomena of nature, etc. These things - their causes, connection, interdependence - we cannot explain satisfactorily (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 8:17). In the Book of Wisdom (7:17-21) Solomon is supposed to have arrived at this abstruse knowledge, "for," he says, "God hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are (τῶν ὄντων γνῶσιν ἀψευδῆ)," and he proceeds to enumerate the various departments which this "universitas literarum" has opened to him. The Septuagint (and virtually the Vulgate) connects this verse with the preceding, thus: . 'I said, I will be wise, and it (αὔτη) was far from me, far beyond what was (μακρὰν ὑπὲρ ο{ η΅ν), and deep depth: who shall find it out?" (For the epithet "deep" applied to what is recondite or what is beyond human comprehension, comp. Proverbs 20:5; Job 11:8.)
I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
Verse 25. - I applied mine heart to know; more literally, I turned myself, and my heart was [set] to know. We have the expression, "tamed myself," referring to a new investigation in Ecclesiastes 2:20 and elsewhere; but the distinguishing the heart or soul from the man himself is not common in Scripture (see on ch. 11:9), though the soul is sometimes apostrophized, as in Luke 12:19 (comp. Psalm 103:1; Psalm 146:1). The writer here implies that he gave up himself with all earnestness to the investigation. Unsatisfactory as his quest had been hitherto. He did not relinquish the pursuit, but rather turned it in another direction, where he could hope to meet with useful results. The Septuagint has, "I and my heart traveled round (ἐκύκλωσα) to know;" the Vulgate, Lustravi universa animo meo ut scirem. And to search, and to seek out wisdom. The accumulation of synonymous verbs is meant to emphasize the author's devotion to his self-imposed task and his return from profitless theoretical investigation to practical inquiry. And the reason of things. Cheshbon (ver. 27; Ecclesiastes 9:10) is rather "account," "reckoning," than "reason " - the summing-up of all the facts and circumstances rather than the elucidation of their causes. Vulgate, rationem; Septuagint, ψῆφον. The next clause ought to be rendered, And to know wickedness as (or, to be) folly, and foolishness as (to be) madness. His investigation led him to this conclusion, that all infringement of God's laws is a misjudging aberration - a willful desertion of the requirements of right reason - and that mental and moral obtuseness is a physical malady which may be called madness (comp. Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:12; Ecclesiastes 10:13).
And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
Verse 26. - One practical result of his quest Koheleth cannot avoid mentioning, though it comes with a suddenness which is somewhat startling. And I find more bitter than death the woman. Tracing men's folly and madness to their source, he finds that they arise generally from the seductions of the female sex. Beginning with Adam, woman has continued to work mischief in the world. "Of the woman came the beginning of sin," says Siracides, "and through her we all die" (Ecclus. 25:24); it was owing to her that the punishment of death was inflicted on the human race. If Solomon himself were speaking, he had indeed a bitter experience of the sin and misery into which women lead their victims (see 1 Kings 11:1, 4, 11). It may be thought that Koheleth refers here especially to "the strange woman" of Proverbs 2:16, etc.; Proverbs 5:3, etc.; but in ver. 28 he speaks of the whole sex without qualification; so that we must conclude that he had a very low opinion of them. It is no ideal personage whom he is introducing; it is not a personification of vice or folly; but woman in her totality, such as he knew her to be in Oriental courts and homes, denied her proper position, degraded, uneducated, all natural affections crushed or undeveloped, the plaything of her lord, to be flung aside at any moment. It is not surprising that Koheleth's impression of the female sex should be unfavorable. He is not singular in such an opinion. One might fill a large page with proverbs and gnomes uttered in disparagement of woman by men of all ages and countries. Men, having the making of such apothegms, have used their license unmercifully; if the maligned sex had equal liberty, the tables might have been reversed. But, really, in this as in other cases the mean is the safest; and practically those who have given the darkest picture of women have not been slow to recognize the brighter side. If. for instance, the Book of Proverbs paints the adulteress and the harlot in the soberest, most appalling colors, the same book affords us such a sketch of the virtuous matron as is unequalled for vigor, truth, and high appreciation. And if, as in our present chapter, Koheleth shows a bitter feeling against the evil side of woman's nature, he knows how to value the comfort of married life (Ecclesiastes 4:8), and to look upon a good wife as one who makes a man's home happy (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Since the incarnation of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, "the Seed of the woman," we have learned to regard woman in her true light, and to assign her that position to which she is entitled, giving honor unto her as the weaker vessel, and, at the same time, heir with us of the glorious hope and destiny of our renewed nature (1 Peter 3:7). Whose heart is snares and nets; more accurately, who is snares, and nets in her heart; Septuagint, "The woman who is a snare, and her heart nets;" Vulgate, Quae laqueus venatorum est, et sagena cot ejus. The imagery is obvious (comp. Proverbs 5:4, 22: 7:22; 22:14; Habakkuk 1:15); the thoughts of the evil woman's heart are nets, occupied in meditating how she may entrap and retain victims; and her outward look and words are snares that captivate the foolish, Μὴ ὑπάντα γυναικὶ ἑταιριζομένη, says the Son of Sirach, "Lest thou fall 'into her snares" (Ecclus. 9:3). Plautus, 'Asin.,' 1:3. 67 -

"Auceps sum ego;
Esca est meretrix; lectus illex est; amatores aves.

"The fowler I;
My bait the courtesan; her bed the lure;
The birds the lovers."
So ancient critics, stronger m morals than in etymology, derive Venus from venari, "to hunt," and mulier Item mollire, "to soften," or malleus, "a hammer," because the devil uses women to mould and fashion men to his will. And her hands as bands, Asurim, "bands" or "fetters," is found in Judges 15:14, where it is used of the chains with which the men of Judah bound Samson; it refers here to the wicked woman's voluptuous embraces. Whoso pleaseth God (more literally, he who is good before God) shall escape from her. He whom God regards as good (Ecclesiastes 2:26, where see note) shall have grace to avoid these seductions. But the sinner shall be taken by her; בָּהּ, "in her," in the snare which is herself. In some manuscripts of Ecclesiasticus (26:23) are these words; "A wicked woman is given as a portion to a wicked man; but a godly woman is given to him that feareth the Lord."
Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
Verse 27. - Behold, this have I found. The result of his search, thus forcibly introduced, follows in ver. 28. He has carefully examined the character and conduct of both sexes, and he is constrained to make the unsatisfactory remark which he there puts forth. Saith the preacher. Koheleth is here treated as a feminine noun, being joined with the feminine form of the verb, though elsewhere it is grammatically regarded as masculine (see on Ecclesiastes 1:1). Many have thought that, after speaking so disparagingly of woman, it would be singularly inappropriate to introduce the official preacher as a female; they have therefore adopted a slight alteration in the text, viz. אָמַר חַקֹּחֶלֶת instead of אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת, which is simply the transference of he from the end of one word to the beginning of the next, thus adding the article, as in Ecclesiastes 12:8, and making the term accord with the Syriac and Arabic, and the Septuagint, εϊπεν ὁ Ἐκκλησιαστής. The writer here introduces his own designation in order to call special attention to what is coming. Counting one by one. The phrase is elliptical, and signifies, adding one thing to another, or weighing one thing after another, putting together various facts or marks. To find out the account; to arrive at the reckoning, the desired result.
Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
Verse 28. - Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not; or, which my soul hath still sought, but I have not found. The conclusion at which he did arrive was something utterly different from what he had hoped to achieve. The soul and the ego are separately regarded (comp. ver. 25); the whole intellectual faculties were absorbed in the search, and the composite individual gives his consequent experience. One man (Adam) among a thousand have I found. He found only one man among a thousand that reached his standard of excellence - the ideal that he had formed for himself, who could be rightly called by the noble name of man. The phrase, "one of a thousand," occurs in Job 9:3; Job 33:23; Ecclus. 6:6 (εϊς ἀπὸ χιλίων, as in the Septuagint here). Adam, the generic term, is used here instead of ish, the individual, to emphasize the antithetical ishah, "woman," in the following clause, or to lead the thought to the original perfection of man's nature. So in Greek ἄνθρωπος is sometimes used for ἀνήρ, though generally the distinction between the two is sufficiently marked, as we find in Herodotus, 7:210, Ὅτι πολλοὶ μὲν ἄνθρωποι εϊεν ὀλίγοι δὲ ἄνδρες. But a woman among all those have I not found; i.e. not one woman in a thousand who was what a woman ought to be. Says the Son of Sirach, "All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman; let the portion of a sinner fall upon her" (Ecclus. 25:19). So the Greek gnome -

Θάλασσα καὶ πῦρ καὶ γυνὴ κακὰ τρία.

"Three evils are there - sea, fire, and woman." Solomon had a thousand wives and concubines, and his experience might well have been that mentioned in this passage.
Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
Verse 29. - Lo, this only (or, only see! this) have I found. Universal corruption was that which met his wide investigations, but of one thing he was sure, which he proceeds to specify - he has learned to trace the degradation to its source, not in God's agency, but in man's perverse will. That God hath made man upright. Koheleth believes that man's original constitution was yasbar, "straight," "right," "morally good," and possessed of ability to choose and follow what was just and right (Genesis 1:26, etc.). Thus in the Book of Wisdom (2:23) we read, "God created man to be immortal, and made him an imago of his own nature (ἰιότητος). Nevertheless, through envy of the devil, came death into the world, and they that are his portion tempt it." But they (men) have sought out many inventions (chishshebonoth); 2 Chronicles 26:15, where the term implies works of invention, and is translated "engines," i.e. devices, ways of going astray and deviating from original righteousness. Man has thus abased his free-will, and employed the inventive faculty with which he was endowed in excoriating evil (Genesis 6:5). How this state of things came about, how the originally good man became thus wicked, the writer does not tell. He knows from revelation that God made him upright; he knows from experience that he is now evil; and he leaves the matter there. Plumptre quotes, as illustrating our text, a passage from the 'Antigone' of Sophocles, vers. 332, 365, 366, which he renders-

"Many the things that strange and wondrous are,
None stranger and mere wonderful than man....
And lo, with all this skill,
Wise and inventive still,
Beyond hope's dream,
He now to good inclines,
And now to ill."
We may add AEschylus, 'Choeph.,' vers. 585, etc. -

Πολλὰ μέν γᾶ τρέφει
δεινὰ δειμάτων ἄχη...
ἀλλ ὑπέρτολμον
ἀνδρὸς φόνημα τίς λέγοι;

"Many fearful plagues
Earth nourishes...
But man's audacious spirit
Who can tell?"
Horace, 'Carm.,' 1:3. 25 -

"Audax omnia perpeti
Gens humans ruit per vetitum nefas."

"The race of man, bold all things to endure,
Hurries undaunted to forbidden crime."
Vulgate, Et ipse se infinitis miscuerit quaestionibus, "And he entangled himself in multitudinous questions." This refers to unhallowed curiosity and speculation; but, as we have seen, the passage is concerned with man's moral declension, declaring how his "devices" lead him away from "uprightness."

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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