Wisdom strengthens the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.…
The connection between these words and those that precede them seems somewhat loose. But the Preacher has just been speaking of "the fear of God," and some one of those passages of Scripture, which assert that in it is true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28), may have been in his mind. He now speaks of the protection and strength which wisdom gives, and of the sort of conduct becoming those who possess it (ver. 19). "Wisdom strengtheneth the wise man more than ten mighty men which are in the city." Why ten mighty men are spoken of is a question difficult to answer. It may be that "ten" is meant to suggest "a full number" (cf. Genesis 31:7; Job 19:3), or perhaps we have here an allusion to some political or other arrangements of the time now unknown to us. But the evident meaning of the verse is that the wisdom that fears God is better than material force, that in it there is a ground of confidence better than weapons of war (cf. Proverbs 24:5a, "A wise man is strong"). In the words that follow we have man's fallibility strongly insisted on in words quoted from the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:46), "For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not," and the inference seems to be that "the wisest at times commit mistakes, but their wisdom enables them to get the better of their mistakes, and protects them against the evil consequences which happen in such cases to the unwise." This thought leads on to the teaching of vers. 21, 22. The wise man who remembers his own mistakes and offences will judge leniently of others, and not punish them as offenders for their occasional hasty words. Indifference to idle praise or idle blame becomes the possessor of true wisdom. For him, to use St. Paul's words, "It is a very small thing to be judged of man's judgment" (1 Corinthians 4:3). An idle curiosity to know what others think of us or say of us is the source of constant mortification. We expect praise, and forget that others are as frivolous and hasty in their criticism of us as we have been in our criticism of them. The servant who waits on us, and from whom we expect special reverence, would probably, if we could hear him without his knowledge, say much about us that would surprise and mortify us. Let us therefore not be too eager to hear our character analyzed and discussed. "Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise." Some excuse may be found for the motto of the old Scottish family which expresses this indifference to the opinion of others in the most pointed form: "They say. What say they? Let them say." - J.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.