Click to donate today!
“Better is a name than precious ointment; and better is the day of death than the day when one is born.” Like ראה and ירא , so שׁם and שׁמן stand to each other in the relation of a paronomasia ( vid., Song under Song of Solomon 1:3). Luther translates: “ Ein gut Gerücht ist besser denn gute Salbe ” “a good odour (= reputation) is better than good ointment. If we substitute the expression denn Wolgeruch than sweet scent, that would be the best possible rendering of the paronomasia. In the arrangement טוב ... טוב שׁם , tov would be adj. to shem (a good reputation goes beyond sweet scent); but tov standing first in the sentence is pred., and shem thus in itself alone, as in the cogn. prov., Proverbs 22:1, signifies a good, well-sounding, honourable, if not venerable name; cf. anshē hashshem , Genesis 6:4; veli - shem , nameless, Job 30:8. The author gives the dark reverse to this bright side of the distich: the day of death better than the day in which one (a man), or he (the man), is born; cf. for this reference of the pronoun, Ecclesiastes 4:12; Ecclesiastes 5:17. It is the same lamentation as at Ecclesiastes 4:2., which sounds less strange from the mouth of a Greek than from that of an Israelite; a Thracian tribe, the Trausi, actually celebrated their birthdays as days of sadness, and the day of death as a day of rejoicing ( vid., Bähr's Germ. translat. of Herodotus, Ecclesiastes 4:4). - Among the people of the Old Covenant this was not possible; also a saying such as Ecclesiastes 7:1 is not in the spirit of the O.T. revelation of religion; yet it is significant that it was possible
(Note: “The reflections of the Preacher,” says Hitzig ( Süd. deut. ev. protest. Woch. Blatt, 1864, No. 2) “present the picture of a time in which men, participating in the recollection of a mighty religious past, and become sceptical by reason of the sadness of the present time, grasping here and there in uncertainty, were in danger of abandoning that stedfastness of faith which was the first mark of the religion of the prophets.”)
within it, without apostasy from it; within the N.T. revelation of religion, except in such references as Matthew 26:24, it is absolutely impossible without apostasy from it, or without rejection of its fundamental meaning.
Still more in the spirit of the N.T. (cf. e.g., Luke 6:25) are these words of this singular book which stands on the border of both Testaments: “It is better to go into a house of mourning than to go into a house of carousal (drinking): for that is the end of every man; and the living layeth it to heart.” A house is meant in which there is sorrow on account of a death; the lamentation continued for seven days (Sirach 22:10), and extended sometimes, as in the case of the death of Aaron and Moses, to thirty days; the later practice distinguished the lamentations ( אנינוּת ) for the dead till the time of burial, and the mournings for the dead ( אבלוּת ), which were divided into seven and twenty-three days of greater and lesser mourning; on the return from carrying away the corpse, there was a Trostmahl (a comforting repast), to which, according as it appears to an ancient custom, those who were to be partakers of it contributed (Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; Job 4:17, funde vinum tuum et panem tuum super sepulchra justorum ).
(Note: Cf. Hamb. Real Encyc. für Bibel u. Talmud (1870), article “Trauer.”)
This feast of sorrow the above proverb leaves out of view, although also in reference to it the contrast between the “house of carousal” and “house of mourning” remains, that in the latter the drinking must be in moderation, and not to drunkenness.
(Note: Maimuni's Hilchoth Ebel, iv. 7, xiii. 8.)
The going into the house of mourning is certainly thought of as a visit for the purpose of showing sympathy and of imparting consolation during the first seven days of mourning (John 11:31).
(Note: Ibid. xiii. 2.)
Thus to go into the house of sorrow, and to show one's sympathy with the mourners there, is better than to go into a house of drinking, where all is festivity and merriment; viz., because the former (that he is mourned over as dead) is the end of every man, and the survivor takes it to heart, viz., this, that he too must die. הוּא follows attractionally the gender of סוף (cf. Job 31:11, Kerı̂ ). What is said at Ecclesiastes 3:13 regarding כּל־ה is appropriate to the passage before us. החי is rightly vocalised; regarding the form החי , vid., Baer in the critical remarks of our ed. of Isaiah under Isaiah 3:22. The phrase נתן אל־לב here and at Ecclesiastes 9:1 is synon. with שׂים אל־לב שׂים על־לב ( e.g., Isaiah 57:1) and שׂים בּלב . How this saying agrees with Koheleth's ultimatum: There is nothing better than to eat and drink, etc. (Ecclesiastes 2:24, etc.), the Talmudists have been utterly perplexed to discover; Manasse ben-Israel in his Conciliador (1632) loses himself in much useless discussion.
(Note: Vid., the English translation by Lindo (London 1842), vol. ii. pp. 306-309.)
The solution of the difficulty is easy. The ultimatum does not relate to an unconditional enjoyment of life, but to an enjoyment conditioned by the fear of God. When man looks death in the face, the two things occur to him, that he should make use of his brief life, but make use of it in view of the end, thus in a manner for which he is responsible before God.
The joy of life must thus be not riot and tumult, but a joy tempered with seriousness: “Better is sorrow than laughter: for with a sad countenance it is well with the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth.” Grief and sorrow, כּעס , whether for ourselves or occasioned by others, is better, viz., morally better, than extravagant merriment; the heart is with רע פּ ( inf. as רע , Jeremiah 7:6; cf. פן ר , Genesis 40:7; Nehemiah 2:2), a sorrowful countenance, better than with laughter, which only masks the feeling of disquiet peculiar to man, Proverbs 14:13. Elsewhere לב ייטב = “the heart is (may be) of good cheer,” e.g., Ruth 3:7; Judges 19:6; here also joyful experience is meant, but well becoming man as a religious moral being. With a sad countenance it may be far better as regards the heart than with a merry countenance in boisterous company. Luther, in the main correct, after Jerome, who on his part follows Symmachus: “The heart is made better by sorrow.” The well-being is here meant as the reflex of a moral: bene se habere .
Sorrow penetrates the heart, draws the thought upwards, purifies, transforms. Therefore is the heart of the wise in the house of sorrow; and, on the other hand, the heart of fools is in the house of joy, i.e., the impulse of their heart goes thither, there they feel themselves at home; a house of joy is one where there are continual feasts, or where there is at the time a revelling in joy. That Ecclesiastes 7:4 is divided not by Athnach, but by Zakef, has its reason in this, that of the words following אבל , none consists of three syllables; cf. on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 7:7, חכם . From this point forward the internal relation of the contents is broken up, according to which this series of sayings as a concluding section hangs together with that containing the observations going before in Ecclesiastes 6:1-12.
A fourth proverb of that which is better ( מן טוב ) presents, like the third, the fools and the wise over against each other: “Better to hear the reproof of a wise man, than that one should hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of Nesseln (nettles) under the Kessel (kettle), so the laughter of the fool: also this is vain.” As at Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10, גּערה is the earnest and severe words of the wise, which impressively reprove, emphatically warn, and salutarily alarm. שׁיר in itself means only song, to the exclusion, however, of the plaintive song; the song of fools is, if not immoral, yet morally and spiritually hollow, senseless, and unbridled madness. Instead of משּׁמע , the words מא שׁ are used, for the twofold act of hearing is divided between different subjects. A fire of thorn-twigs flickers up quickly and crackles merrily, but also exhausts itself quickly (Psalms 118:12), without sufficiently boiling the flesh in the pot; whilst a log of wood, without making any noise, accomplishes this quietly and surely.
We agree with Knobel and Vaihinger in copying the paronomasia [ Nessel-Kessel ]. When, on the other hand, Zöckler remarks that a fire of nettles could scarcely crackle, we advise our friend to try it for once in the end of summer with a bundle of stalks of tall dry nettles. They yield a clear blaze, a quickly expiring fire, to which here, as he well remarks, the empty laughter of foolish men is compared, who are devoid of all earnestness, and of all deep moral principles of life. This laughter is vain, like that crackling.
There is a hiatus between Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:7. For how Ecclesiastes 7:7 can be related to Ecclesiastes 7:6 as furnishing evidence, no interpreter has as yet been able to say. Hitzig regards Ecclesiastes 7:6 as assigning a reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, but 6 b as a reply (as Ecclesiastes 7:7 containing its motive shows) to the assertion of Ecclesiastes 7:5, - a piece of ingenious thinking which no one imitates. Elster translates: “Yet injustice befools a wise man,” being prudently silent about this “yet.” Zöckler finds, as Knobel and Ewald do, the mediating thought in this, that the vanity of fools infects and also easily befools the wise. But the subject spoken of is not the folly of fools in general, but of their singing and laughter, to which Ecclesiastes 7:7 has not the most remote reference. Otherwise Hengst.: “In Ecclesiastes 7:7, the reason is given why the happiness of fools is so brief; first, the mens sana is lost, and then destruction follows.” But in that case the words ought to have been כסיל יהולל ; the remark, that חכם here denotes one who ought to be and might be such, is a pure volte. Ginsburg thinks that the two verses are co-ordinated by כי ; that Ecclesiastes 7:6 gives the reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, and Ecclesiastes 7:7 that for Ecclesiastes 7:5, since here, by way of example, one accessible to bribery is introduced, who would act prudently in letting himself therefore be directed by a wise man. But if he had wished to be thus understood, the author would have used another word instead of חכם , 7a, and not designated both him who reproves and him who merits reproof by the one word - the former directly, the latter at least indirectly. We do not further continue the account of the many vain attempts that have been made to bring Ecclesiastes 7:7 into connection with Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:5. Our opinion is, that Ecclesiastes 7:7 is the second half of a tetrastich, the first half of which is lost, which began, as is to be supposed, with tov. The first half was almost the same as Psalms 37:16, or better still, as Proverbs 16:8, and the whole proverb stood thus:
טוב מעט בּחדקה
מרב תּבוּאות בּלא משׁפּט׃
[and then follows Ecclesiastes 7:7 as it lies before us in the text, formed into a distich, the first line of which terminates with חכם ]. We go still further, and suppose that after the first half of the tetrastich was lost, that expression, “also this is vain,” added to Ecclesiastes 7:6 by the punctuation, was inserted for the purpose of forming a connection for כי עשק : Also this is vain, that, etc. ( כי , like asher, Ecclesiastes 8:14).
Without further trying to explain the mystery of the כי , we translate this verse: “... For oppression maketh wise men mad, and corruption destroyeth the understanding.” From the lost first half of the verse, it appears that the subject here treated of is the duties of a judge, including those of a ruler into whose hands his subjects, with their property and life, are given. The second half is like an echo of Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19. That which שׁחד there means is here, as at Proverbs 15:27, denoted by מתּנה ; and עשׁק is accordingly oppression as it is exercised by one who constrains others who need legal aid and help generally to purchase it by means of presents. Such oppression for the sake of gain, even if it does not proceed to the perversion of justice, but only aims at courting and paying for favour, makes a wise man mad ( הולל , as at Job 12:17; Isaiah 44:25), i.e., it hurries him forth, since the greed of gold increases more and more, to the most blinding immorality and regardlessness; and such presents for the purpose of swaying the judgment, and of bribery, destroys the heart, i.e., the understanding (cf. Hosea 4:11, Bereschith rabba, chap. lvi.), for they obscure the judgment, blunt the conscience, and make a man the slave of his passion. The conjecture העשׁר (riches) instead of the word העשׁק (Burger, as earlier Ewald) is accordingly unnecessary; it has the parallelism against it, and thus generally used gives an untrue thought. The word הולל does not mean “gives lustre” (Desvoeux), or “makes shine forth = makes manifest” (Tyler); thus also nothing is gained for a better connection of Ecclesiastes 7:7 and Ecclesiastes 7:6. The Venet. excellently: ἐκστήσει . Aben Ezra supposes that מתנה is here = דּבר מת ; Mendelssohn repeats it, although otherwise the consciousness of the syntactical rule, Gesen. §147 a, does not fail him.
There now follows a fourth, or, taking into account the mutilated one, a fifth proverb of that which is better: “Better the end of a thing than its beginning; better one who forbears than one who is haughty. Hasten thyself not in thy spirit to become angry: for anger lieth down in the bosom of fools.” The clause 8 a is first thus to be objectively understood as it stands. It is not without limitation true; for of a matter in itself evil, the very contrary is true, Proverbs 5:4; Proverbs 23:32. But if a thing is not in itself evil, the end of its progress, the reaching to its goal, the completion of its destination, is always better than its beginning, which leaves it uncertain whether it will lead to a prosperous issue. An example of this is Solon's saying to Croesus, that only he is to be pronounced happy whose good fortune it is to end his life well in the possession of his wealth ( Herod. i. 32).
The proverb Ecclesiastes 7:8 will stand in some kind of connection with 8 a, since what it says is further continued in Ecclesiastes 7:9. In itself, the frequently long and tedious development between the beginning and the end of a thing requires expectant patience. But if it is in the interest of a man to see the matter brought to an issue, an ארך אףּ will, notwithstanding, wait with self-control in all quietness for the end; while it lies in the nature of the רוּח גּבהּ , the haughty, to fret at the delay, and to seek to reach the end by violent means; for the haughty man thinks that everything must at once be subservient to his wish, and he measures what others should do by his own measureless self-complacency. We may with Hitzig translate: “Better is patience ( ארך ארך ) than haughtiness” ( גּבהּ , inf., as שׁפל , Ecclesiastes 12:4; Proverbs 16:19). But there exists no reason for this; גּבהּ is not to be held, as at Proverbs 16:5, and elsewhere generally, as the connecting form of גּבהּ , and so ארך for that of ארך ; it amounts to the same thing whether the two properties (characters) or the persons possessing them are compared.
In this verse the author warns against this pride which, when everything does not go according to its mind, falls into passionate excitement, and thoughtlessly judges, or with a violent rude hand anticipates the end. אל־תּב : do not overturn, hasten not, rush not, as at Ecclesiastes 5:1. Why the word בּרוּחך , and not בנפשך or בלבך , is used, vid., Psychol. pp. 197-199: passionate excitements overcome a man according to the biblical representation of his spirit, Proverbs 25:28, and in the proving of the spirit that which is in the heart comes forth in the mood and disposition, Proverbs 15:13. כּעוס is an infin., like ישׁון , Ecclesiastes 5:11. The warning has its reason in this, that anger or ( כעס , taken more potentially than actually) fretfulness rests in the bosom of fools, i.e., is cherished and nourished, and thus is at home, and, as it were (thought of personally, as if it were a wicked demon), feels itself at home ( ינוּח , as at Proverbs 14:33). The haughty impetuous person, and one speaking out rashly, thus acts like a fool. In fact, it is folly to let oneself be impelled by contradictions to anger, which disturbs the brightness of the soul, takes away the considerateness of judgment, and undermines the health, instead of maintaining oneself with equanimity, i.e., without stormy excitement, and losing the equilibrium of the soul under every opposition to our wish.
From this point the proverb loses the form “better than,” but tov still remains the catchword of the following proverbs. The proverb here first following is so far cogn., as it is directed against a particular kind of ka'as (anger), viz., discontentment with the present.
“Say not: How comes it that the former times were better than these now? for thou dost not, from wisdom, ask after this.” Cf. these lines from Horace ( Poet. 173, 4):
“Difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti
Se puero, censor castigatorque minorum.”
Such an one finds the earlier days - not only the old days described in history (Deuteronomy 4:32), but also those he lived in before the present time (cf. e.g., 2 Chronicles 9:29) - thus by contrast to much better than the present tones, that in astonishment he asks: “What is it = how comes it that?” etc. The author designates this question as one not proceeding from wisdom: מח , like the Mishnic חכמה מתּוך , and על שׁאל , as at Nehemiah 1:2; 'al - zeh refers to that question, after the ground of the contrast, which is at the same time an exclamation of wonder. The כי , assigning a reason for the dissuasion, does not mean that the cause of the difference between the present and the good old times is easily seen; but it denotes that the supposition of this difference is foolish, because in truth every age has its bright and its dark sides; and this division of light and shadow between the past and the present betrays a want of understanding of the signs of the times and of the ways of God. This proverb does not furnish any point of support for the determination of the date of the authorship of the Book of Koheleth. But if it was composed in the last century of the Persian domination, this dissatisfaction with the present times is explained, over against which Koheleth leads us to consider that it is self-deception and one-sidedness to regard the present as all dark and the past as all bright and rosy.
Externally connecting itself with “from wisdom,” there now follows another proverb, which declares that wisdom along with an inheritance is good, but that wisdom is nevertheless of itself better than money and possessions: “Wisdom is good with family possessions, and an advantage for those who see the sun. For wisdom affordeth a shadow, money affordeth a shadow; yet the advantage of knowledge is this, that wisdom preserveth life to its possessor.” Most of the English interpreters, from Desvoeux to Tyler, translate: “Wisdom is as good as an inheritance;” and Bullock, who translates: “with an inheritance,” says of this and the other translations: “The difference is not material.” But the thought is different, and thus the distinction is not merely a formal one. Zצckl. explains it as undoubted that עם here, as at Ecclesiastes 2:16 ( vid., l.c.), means aeque ac; (but (1) that aeque ac has occurred to no ancient translator, till the Venet. and Luther, nor to the Syr., which translates: “better is wisdom than weapons ( מאנא זינא ),” in a singular way making Ecclesiastes 7:11 a duplette of Ecclesiastes 9:18; (2) instead of “wisdom is better than wealth,” as e.g., Proverbs 8:11; (3) the proverb is formed like Aboth ii. 2, “good is study connected with a citizen-like occupation,” and similar proverbs; (4) one may indeed say: “the wise man dieth with (together with) the fool” = just as well as the fool; but “good is wisdom with wealth” can neither be equivalent to “as well as wealth,” nor: “in comparison with wealth” (Ewald, Elster), but only: “in connection with wealth (possessions);” aeque ac may be translated for una cum where the subject is common action and suffering, but not in a substantival clause consisting of a subst. as subject and an adj. as pred., having the form of a categorical judgment. נחלה denotes a possession inherited and hereditary (cf. Proverbs 20:21); and this is evidence in favour of the view that עם is meant not of comparison, but of connection; the expression would otherwise be עם־עשׁר ויתר is now also explained. It is not to be rendered: “and better still” (than wealth), as Herzf., Hitz., and Hengst. render it; but in spite of Hengst., who decides in his own way, “ יותר never means advantage, gain,” it denotes a prevailing good, avantage; and it is explained also why men are here named “those who see the sun” - certainly not merely thus describing them poetically, as in Homer ζώειν is described and coloured by ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο . To see the sun, is = to have entered upon this earthly life, in which along with wisdom, also no inheritance is to be despised. For wisdom affords protection as well as money, but the former still more than the latter. So far, the general meaning of Ecclesiastes 7:12 is undisputed. Buthow is Ecclesiastes 7:12 to be construed? Knobel, Hitz., and others regard ב as the so-called beth essentiae: a shadow (protection) is wisdom, a shadow is money, - very expressive, yet out of harmony, if not with the language of that period, yet with the style of Koheleth; and how useless and misleading would this doubled בּ be here! Hengstenberg translates: in the shadow of wisdom, at least according to our understanding of Ecclesiastes 7:11, is not likened to the shadow of silver; but in conformity with that עם , it must be said that wisdom, and also that money, affords a shadow; (2) but that interpretation goes quite beyond the limits of gnomic brachyology. We explain: for in the shadow ( בּצל , like בּצּל , Jonah 4:5) is wisdom, in the shadow, money; by which, without any particularly bold poetic licence, is meant that he who possesses wisdom, he who possesses money, finds himself in a shadow, i.e., of pleasant security; to be in the shadow, spoken of wisdom and money, is = to sit in the shadow of the persons who possess both.
12b. The exposition of this clause is agreed upon. It is to be construed according to the accentuation: and the advantage of knowledge is this, that “wisdom preserveth life to its possessors.” The Targ. regards דעת החכמה as connected genit.; that might be possible (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 8:16), but yet is improbable. Wherever the author uses דעת as subst., it is an independent conception placed beside חך , Ecclesiastes 1:16; Ecclesiastes 2:26, etc. We now translate, not: wisdom gives life (lxx, Jerome, Venet., Luther) to its possessors; for חיּה always means only either to revive (thus Hengst., after Psalms 119:25; cf. Psalms 71:20) or to keep in life; and this latter meaning is more appropriate to this book than the former, - thus (cf. Proverbs 3:18): wisdom preserves in life, - since, after Hitzig, it accomplishes this, not by rash utterances of denunciation, - a thought lying far behind Ecclesiastes 7:10, and altogether too mean, - but since it secures it against self-destruction by vice and passions and emotions, e.g., anger (Ecclesiastes 7:9), which consume life. The shadow in which wisdom (the wise man) sits keeps it fresh and sound, - a result which the shadow in which money (the capitalist) sits does not afford: it has frequently the directly contrary effect.
There now follows a proverb of devout submission to the providence of God, connecting itself with the contents of Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which He hath made crooked! In the good day be of good cheer, and in the day of misfortune observe: God hath also made this equal to that, to the end that man need not experience anything (further) after his death.” While ראה , Ecclesiastes 1:10; Ecclesiastes 7:27, Ecclesiastes 7:29, is not different from הנּה , and in Ecclesiastes 9:9 has the meaning of “enjoy,” here the meaning of contemplative observation, mental seeing, connects itself both times with it. כּי before מי can as little mean quod, as asher, Ecclesiastes 6:12, before mi can mean quoniam. “Consider God's work” means: recognise in all that is done the government of God, which has its motive in this, that, as the question leads us to suppose, no creature is able (cf. Ecclesiastes 6:10 and Ecclesiastes 1:15) to put right God's work in cases where it seems to contradict that which is right (Job 8:3; Job 34:12), or to make straight that which He has made crooked (Psalms 146:9).
14a. The call here expressed is parallel to Sir. 14:14 (Fritz.): “Withdraw not thyself from a good day, and let not thyself lose participation in a right enjoyment.” The ב of בּטוב is, as little as that of בּצל , the beth essentiae - it is not a designation of quality, but of condition: in good, i.e., cheerful mood. He who is, Jeremiah 44:17, personally tov, cheerful (= tov lev), is betov (cf. Psalms 25:13, also Job 21:13). The reverse side of the call, 14 a b , is of course not to be translated: and suffer or bear the bad day (Ewald, Heiligst.), for in this sense we use the expression רעה ראה , Jeremiah 44:17, but not ברעה ראה , which much rather, Obadiah 1:13, means a malicious contemplation of the misfortune of a stranger, although once, Genesis 21:16, ב ראה also occurs in the sense of a compassionate, sympathizing look, and, moreover, the parall. shows that רעה ביום is not the obj., but the adv. designation of time. Also not: look to = be attentive to (Salomon), or bear it patiently (Burger), for ראה cannot of itself have that meaning.
(Note: Similarly also Sohar (Par. ( מחור ): הוי וגו , i.e., cave et circumspice , viz., that thou mayest not incur the judgment which is pronounced.)
But: in the day of misfortune observe, i.e., perceive and reflect: God has also made (cf. Job 2:10) the latter לעמּת corresponding, parallel, like to (cf. under Ecclesiastes 5:15) the former.
So much the more difficult is the statement of the object of this mingling by God of good and evil in the life of man. It is translated: that man may find nothing behind him; this is literal, but it is meaningless. The meaning, according to most interpreters, is this: that man may investigate nothing that lies behind his present time, - thus, that belongs to the future; in other words: that man may never know what is before him. But aharav is never (not at Ecclesiastes 6:12) = in the future, lying out from the present of a man; but always = after his present life. Accordingly, Ewald explains, and Heiligst. with him: that he may find nothing which, dying, he could take with him. But this rendering (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:14) is here unsuitable. Better, Hitzig: because God wills it that man shall be rid of all things after his death, He puts evil into the period of his life, and lets it alternate with good, instead of visiting him therewith after his death. This explanation proceeds from a right interpretation of the words: idcirco ut (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:18) non inveniat homo post se quidquam, scil. quod non expertus sit , but gives a meaning to the expression which the author would reject as unworthy of his conception of God. What is meant is much more this, that God causes man to experience good and evil that he may pass through the whole school of life, and when he departs hence that nothing may be outstanding (in arrears) which he has not experienced.
The first of these counsels warns against extremes, on the side of good as well as on that of evil: “All have I seen in the days of my vanity: there are righteous men who perish by their righteousness, and there are wicked men who continue long by their wickedness. Be not righteous over-much, and show not thyself wise beyond measure: why wilt thou ruin thyself? Be not wicked overmuch, and be no fool: why wilt thou die before thy time is? It is good that thou holdest thyself to the one, and also from the other withdrawest not thine hand: for he that feareth God accomplisheth it all.” One of the most original English interpreters of the Book of Koheleth, T. Tyler (1874), finds in the thoughts of the book - composed, according to his view, about 200 b.c. - and in their expression, references to the post-Aristotelian philosophy, particularly to the Stoic, variously interwoven with orientalism. But here, in Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, we perceive, not so much the principle of the Stoical ethics - τῇ φύσει ὁμολογουμένως ζῆν - as that of the Aristotelian, according to which virtue consists in the art μέσως ἔξηειν , the art of holding the middle between extremes.
(Note: Cf. Luthardt's Lectures on the Moral Truths of Christianity, 2nd ed. Edin., T. and T. Clark.)
Also, we do not find here a reference to the contrasts between Pharisaism and Sadduceeism (Zöckl.), viz., those already in growth in the time of the author; for if it should be also true, as Tyler conjectures, that the Sadducees had such a predilection for Epicurism, - as, according to Josephus ( Vit. c. 2), “the doctrine of the Pharisees is of kin to that of the Stoics,” - yet צדקה and רשׁעה are not apportioned between these two parties, especially since the overstraining of conformity to the law by the Pharisees related not to the moral, but to the ceremonial law. We derive nothing for the right understanding of the passage from referring the wisdom of life here recommended to the tendencies of the time. The author proceeds from observation, over against which the O.T. saints knew not how to place any satisfying theodicee. הבלי ימי ( vid., Ecclesiastes 6:12) he so designates the long, but for the most part uselessly spent life lying behind him. 'et-hakol is not “everything possible” (Zöckl.), but “all, of all kinds” (Luth.), which is defined by 15 b as of two kinds; for 15 a is the introduction of the following experience relative to the righteous and the unrighteous, and thus to the two classes into which all men are divided. We do not translate: there are the righteous, who by their righteousness, etc. (Umbr., Hitzig, and others); for if the author should thus commence, it would appear as if he wished to give unrighteousness the preference to righteousness, which, however, was far from him. To perish in or by his righteousness, to live long in or by his wickedness ( מאריך , scil. ימים , Ecclesiastes 8:13, as at Proverbs 28:2), is = to die in spite of righteousness, to live in spite of wickedness, as e.g., Deuteronomy 1:32: “in this thing” = in spite of, etc. Righteousness has the promise of long life as its reward; but if this is the rule, it has yet its exceptions, and the author thence deduces the doctrine that one should not exaggerate righteousness; for if it occurs that a righteous man, in spite of his righteousness, perishes, this happens, at earliest, in the case in which, in the practice of righteousness, he goes beyond the right measure and limit. The relative conceptions הרבּה and יותר have here, since they are referred to the idea of the right measure, the meaning of nimis. חתחכּם could mean, “to play the wise man;” but that, whether more or less done, is objectionable. It means, as at Exodus 1:10, to act wisely (cf. Psalms 105:25, הת , to act cunningly). And השׁ , which is elsewhere used of being inwardly torpid, i.e., being astonished, obstupescere, has here the meaning of placing oneself in a benumbed, disordered state, or also, passively, of becoming disconcerted; not of becoming desolate or being deserted (Hitz., Ginsburg, and others), which it could only mean in highly poetic discourse (Isaiah 54:1). The form תּשּׁומם is syncop., like תּךּ , Numbers 21:27; and the question, with למּה , here and at Ecclesiastes 7:17, is of the same kind as Ecclesiastes 5:5; Luther, weakening it: “that thou mayest not destroy thyself.”
Up to this point all is clear: righteousness and wisdom are good and wholesome, and worth striving for; but even in these a transgressing of the right measure is possible (Luther remembers the summum just summa injuria ), which has as a consequence, that they become destructive to man, because he thereby becomes a caricature, and either perishes rushing from one extreme into another, or is removed out of the way by others whose hatred he provokes. But it is strange that the author now warns against an excess in wickedness, so that he seems to find wickedness, up to a certain degree, praiseworthy and advisable. So much the stranger, since “be no fool” stands as contrast to “show not thyself wise,” etc.; so that “but also be no wicked person” was much rather to be expected as contrast to “be not righteous over-much.” Zצckler seeks to get over this difficulty with the remark: “Koheleth does not recommend a certain moderation in wickedness as if he considered it allowable, but only because he recognises the fact as established, that every man is by nature somewhat wicked.” The meaning would then be: man's life is not free from wickedness, but be only not too wicked! The offensiveness of the advice is not thus removed; and besides, Ecclesiastes 7:18 demands in a certain sense, an intentional wickedness, - indeed, as Ecclesiastes 7:18 shows, a wickedness in union with the fear of God. The correct meaning of “be not wicked over-much” may be found if for תרשׁע we substitute תּחטא ; in this form the good counsel at once appears as impossible, for it would be immoral, since “sinning,” in all circumstances, is an act which carries in itself its own sentence of condemnation. Thus רשׁע must here be a setting oneself free from the severity of the law, which, although sin in the eyes of the over-righteous, is yet no sin in itself; and the author here thinks, in accordance with the spirit of his book, principally of that fresh, free, joyous life to which he called the young, that joy of life in its fulness which appeared to him as the best and fairest reality in this present time; but along with that, perhaps also of transgressions of the letter of the law, of shaking off the scruples of conscience which conformity to God-ordained circumstances brings along with it. He means to say: be not a narrow rigorist, - enjoy life, accommodate thyself to life; but let not the reins be too loose; and be no fool who wantonly places himself above law and discipline: Why wilt thou destroy thy life before the time by suffering vice to kill thee (Psalms 34:22), and by want of understanding ruin thyself (Proverbs 10:21)?
(Note: An old proverb, Sota 3a, says: “A man commits no transgression unless there rules in him previously the spirit of folly.”)
“It is good that thou holdest fast to the one,” - viz. righteousness and wisdom, - and withdrawest not thy hand from the other, - viz. a wickedness which renounces over-righteousness and over-wisdom, or an unrestrained life; - for he who fears God accomplishes all, i.e., both, the one as well as the other. Luther, against the Vulg.: “for he who fears God escapes all.” But what “all”? Tyler, Bullock, and others reply: “All the perplexities of life;” but no such thing is found in the text here, however many perplexities may be in the book. Better, Zצckler: the evil results of the extreme of false righteousness as of bold wickedness. But that he does not destroy himself and does not die before his time, is yet only essentially one thing which he escapes; also, from Ecclesiastes 7:15, only one thing, אבד , is taken. Thus either: the extremes (Umbr.), or: the extremes together with their consequences. The thought presents a connected, worthy conclusion. But if ěth - kullam , with its retrospective suffix, can be referred to that which immediately precedes, this ought to have the preference. Ginsburg, with Hitzig: “Whoso feareth God will make his way with both;” but what an improbable phrase! Jerome, with his vague nihil negligit , is right as to the meaning. In the Bible, the phrase ה ... יחא , egressus est urbem , Genesis 44:4, cf. Jeremiah 10:20, is used; and in the Mishna, יצא את־ידי חובתו , i.e., he has discharged his duty, he is quit of it by fulfilling it. For the most part, יצא merely is used: he has satisfied his duty; and יצא לא , he has not satisfied it, e.g., Berachoth 2:1. Accordingly יחא - since ěth - kullam relates to, “these ought he to have done, and not to leave the other undone,” Matthew 23:23 - here means: he who fears God will set himself free from all, will acquit himself of the one as well as of the other, will perform both, and thus preserve the golden via media.
“Wisdom affords strong protection to the wise man more than ten mighty men who are in the city.” We have to distinguish, as is shown under Psalms 31:3, the verbs עזז , to be strong, and עוּז , to flee for refuge; תּעז is the fut. of the former, whence מעז , stronghold, safe retreat, protection, and with ל , since עזז means not only to be strong, but also to show oneself strong, as at Eccl 9:20, to feel and act as one strong; it has also the trans. meaning, to strengthen, as shown in Psalms 68:29, but here the intrans. suffices: wisdom proves itself strong for the wise man. The ten shallithim are not, with Ginsburg, to be multiplied indefinitely into “many mighty men.” And it is not necessary, with Desvoeux, Hitz., Zöckl., and others, to think of ten chiefs (commanders of forces), including the portions of the city garrison which they commanded. The author probably in this refers to some definite political arrangement, perhaps to the ten archons, like those Assyrian salaṭ , vice-regents, after whom as eponyms the year was named by the Greeks. שׁלּיט , in the Asiatic kingdom, was not properly a military title. And did a town then need protection only in the time of war, and not also at other times, against injury threatening its trade, against encroachments on its order, against the spread of infectious diseases, against the force of the elements? As the Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 60:17) says of Jerusalem: “I will make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness,” so Koheleth says here that wisdom affords a wise man as strong a protection as a powerful decemvirate a city; cf. Proverbs 24:5: “A wise man is ba'oz ,” i.e., mighty.
“For among men there is not a righteous man on the earth, who doeth good, and sinneth not.” The original passage, found in Solomon's prayer at the consecration of the temple, is briefer, 1 Kings 8:46: “There is no man who sinneth not.” Here the words might be וגו צדּיק אדם אין , there is no righteous man ... . Adam stands here as representing the species, as when we say in Germ.: Menschen gibt es keine gerechten auf Erden [men, there are none righteous on earth]; cf. Exodus 5:16: “Straw, none was given.” The verification of Ecclesiastes 7:19 by reference to the fact of the common sinfulness from which even the most righteous cannot free himself, does not contradict all expectation to the same degree as the ki in Ecclesiastes 7:7; but yet it surprises us, so that Mercer and Grätz, with Aben Ezra, take Ecclesiastes 7:20 as the verification of Ecclesiastes 7:16, here first adduced, and Knobel and Heiligst. and others connect it with Ecclesiastes 7:21, Ecclesiastes 7:22, translating: “Because there is not a just man ... , therefore it is also the part of wisdom to take no heed unto all words,” etc. But these are all forced interpretations; instead of the latter, we would rather suppose that Ecclesiastes 7:20 originally stood after Ecclesiastes 7:22, and is separated from its correct place. But yet the sequence of thought lying before us may be conceived, and that not merely as of necessity, but as that which was intended by the author. On the whole, Hitzig is correct: “For every one, even the wise man, sins; in which case virtue, which has forsaken him, does not protect him, but wisdom proves itself as his means of defence.” Zöckler adds: “against the judicial justice of God;” but one escapes from this by a penitent appeal to grace, for which there is no need for the personal property of wisdom; there is thus reason rather for thinking on the dangerous consequences which often a single false step has for a man in other respects moral; in the threatening complications in which he is thereby involved, it is wisdom which then protects him and delivers him. Otherwise Tyler, who by the עז , which the wise has in wisdom, understands power over evil, which is always moving itself even in the righteous. But the sinning spoken of in Ecclesiastes 7:20 is that which is unavoidable, which even wisdom cannot prevent or make inefficacious. On the contrary, it knows how to prevent the destruction which threatens man from his transgressions, and to remove the difficulties and derangements which thence arise. The good counsel following is connected by gam with the foregoing. The exhortation to strive after wisdom, contained in Ecclesiastes 7:19, which affords protection against the evil effects of the failures which run through the life of the righteous, is followed by the exhortation, that one conscious that he himself is not free from transgression, should take heed to avoid that tale-bearing which finds pleasure in exposing to view the shortcomings of others.
“Also give not thy heart to all the words which one speaketh, lest thou shouldest hear thy servant curse thee. For thy heart knoweth in many cases that thou also hast cursed others.” The talk of the people, who are the indef. subj. of ילבּרוּ (lxx, Targ., Syr. supply ἀσεβεῖς ), is not about “thee who givest heed to the counsels just given” (Hitz., Zöckl.), for the restrictive עליך is wanting; and why should a servant be zealous to utter imprecations on the conduct of his master, which rests on the best maxims? It is the babbling of the people in general that is meant. To this one ought not to turn his heart ( ל ... נתן , as at Ecclesiastes 1:13, Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 8:9, Ecclesiastes 8:16), i.e., gives wilful attention, ne ( לא אשׁר פּן , which does not occur in the Book of Koheleth) audias servum tuum tibi maledicere ; the particip. expression of the pred. obj. follows the analogy of Genesis 21:9, Ewald, §284 b, and is not a Graecism; for since in this place hearing is meant, not immediately, but mediated through others, the expression would not in good Greek be with the lxx ... τοῦ δούλου σου καταρωμένου σε , but τὸν δοῦλόν σου καταρᾶσθαι σε . The warning has its motive in this, that by such roundabout hearing one generally hears most unpleasant things; and on hearsay no reliance can be placed. Such gossiping one should ignore, should not listen to it at all; and if, nevertheless, something so bad is reported as that our own servant has spoken words of imprecation against us, yet we ought to pass that by unheeded, well knowing that we ourselves have often spoken harsh words against others. The expression וגו ידע , “thou art conscious to thyself that,” is like פּע ר , 1 Kings 2:44, not the obj. accus. dependent on ידע (Hitz.), “many cases where also thou ...,” but the adv. accus. of time to קּלּלתּ ; the words are inverted (Ewald, §336 b), the style of Koheleth being fond of thus giving prominence to the chief conception (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 3:13). The first gam, although it belongs to “thine, thy,” as at Ecclesiastes 7:22 it is also connected with “thou,”
(Note: גּם־אתּ , on account of the half pause, accented on the penult. according to the Masora.)
stands at the beginning of the sentence, after such syntactical examples as Hosea 6:11; Zechariah 9:11; and even with a two-membered sentence, Job 2:10.
“All this have I proved by wisdom: I thought, Wise I will become; but it remained far from me.” The ב in בּחכמה is, as at Ecclesiastes 1:13, that designating the organon, the means of knowledge. Thus he possessed wisdom up to a certain degree, and in part; but his purpose, comprehended in the one word אחכּמה , was to possess it fully and completely; i.e., not merely to be able to record observations and communicate advices, but to adjust the contradictions of life, to expound the mysteries of time and eternity, and generally to solve the most weighty and important questions which perplex men. But this wisdom was for him still in the remote distance. It is the wisdom after which Job, chap. 28, made inquiry in all regions of the world and at all creatures, at last to discover that God has appointed to man only a limited share of wisdom. Koheleth briefly condenses Job 28:12-22 in the words following:
“For that which is, is far off, and deep, - yes, deep; who can reach it?” Knobel, Hitz., Vaih., and Bullock translate: for what is remote and deep, deep, who can find it? i.e., investigate it; but mah - shehayah is everywhere an idea by itself, and means either id quod fuit , or id quod exstitit , Ecclesiastes 1:9; Ecclesiastes 3:15; Ecclesiastes 6:10; in the former sense it is the contrast of mah - shěihyěh , Ecclesiastes 8:7; Ecclesiastes 10:14, cf. Ecclesiastes 3:22; in the latter, it is the contrast of that which does not exist, because it has not come into existence. In this way it is also not to be translated: For it is far off what it (wisdom) is (Zöckl.) [= what wisdom is lies far off from human knowledge], or: what it is (the essence of wisdom), is far off (Elst.) - which would be expressed by the words מה־שּׁהיא . And if מה־שׁהיה is an idea complete in itself, it is evidently not that which is past that is meant (thus e.g., Rosenm. quod ante aderat ), for that is a limitation of the obj. of knowledge, which is unsuitable here, but that which has come into existence. Rightly, Hengst.: that which has being, for wisdom is τῶν ὄντων γνῶσις ἀψευδής , Wisd. 7:17. He compares Judges 3:11, “the work which God does,” and Ecclesiastes 8:17, “the work which is done under the sun.” What Koheleth there says of the totality of the historical, he here says of the world of things: this (in its essence and its grounds) remains far off from man; it is for him, and also in itself and for all creatures, far too deep ( עמק עמק , the ancient expression for the superlative): Who can intelligibly reach ( ימץ , from מצא , assequi, in an intellectual sense, as at Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 8:17; cf. Job 11:7) it (this all of being)? The author appears in the book as a teacher of wisdom, and emphatically here makes confession of the limitation of his wisdom; for the consciousness of this limitation comes over him in the midst of his teaching.
But, on the other side, he can bear testimony to himself that he has honestly exercised himself in seeking to go to the foundation of things: “I turned myself, and my heart was there to discern, and to explore, and to seek wisdom, and the account, and to perceive wickedness as folly, and folly as madness.” Regarding sabbothi , vid., under Ecclesiastes 2:20: a turning is meant to the theme as given in what follows, which, as we have to suppose, was connected with a turning away form superficiality and frivolity. Almost all interpreters-as also the accentuation does - connect the two words ולבּי אני ; but “I and my heart” is so unpsychological an expression, without example, that many Codd. (28 of Kennicott, 44 of de Rossi) read בּלבּי daer )i with my heart. The erasure of the vav (as e.g., Luther: “I applied my heart”) would at the same time require the change of סבותי into הסבּותי . The Targ., Jerome, and the Venet. render the word בלבי ; the lxx and Syr., on the contrary, ולבי ; and this also is allowable, if we place the disjunctive on אני and take ולבי as consequent: my heart, i.e., my striving and effort, was to discern (Aben Ezra, Herzf., Stuart), - a substantival clause instead of the verbal את־לבּי ונתתּי , Ecclesiastes 1:13, Ecclesiastes 1:17. Regarding tur in an intellectual sense, vid., Ecclesiastes 1:13. Hhěshbon , with hhochmah , we have translated by “ Rechenschaft ” account, ratio; for we understand by it a knowledge well grounded and exact, and able to be established, - the facit of a calculation of all the facts and circumstances relating thereto; נתן חשׁבין is Mishnic, and = the N.T. λόγον ἀποδιδόναι . Of the two accus. Ecclesiastes 7:25 following לדעת , the first, as may be supposed, and as the determination in the second member shows, is that of the obj., the second that of the pred. (Ewald, §284 b): that רשׁע , i.e., conduct separating from God and from the law of that which is good, is kěsěl , Thorheit , folly (since, as Socrates also taught, all sinning rests on a false calculation, to the sinner's own injury); and that hassichluth , Narrheit , foolishness, stultitia ( vid., sachal , and Ecclesiastes 1:17), is to be thus translated (in contradistinction to כּסל ), i.e., an intellectual and moral obtuseness, living for the day, rising up into foolery, not different from holeloth , fury, madness, and thus like a physical malady, under which men are out of themselves, rage, and are mad. Koheleth's striving after wisdom thus, at least is the second instance ( ולדעת ), with a renunciation of the transcendental, went towards a practical end. And now he expresses by ומוצא one of the experiences he had reached in this way of research. How much value he attaches to this experience is evident from the long preface, by means of which it is as it were distilled. We see him there on the way to wisdom, to metaphysical wisdom, if we may so speak - it remains as far off from him as he seeks to come near to it. We then see him, yet not renouncing the effort after wisdom, on the way toward practical wisdom, which exercises itself in searching into the good and the bad; and that which has presented itself to him as the bitterest of the bitter is - a woman.
“And I found woman more bitter than death; she is like hunting-nets. and like snares is her heart, her hands are bands: he who pleaseth God will escape from her; but the sinner is caught by them.” As א ושׁ , Ecclesiastes 4:2, so here וּם א gains by the preceding אני וסבּותי a past sense;
(Note: With reference to this passage and Proverbs 18:22, it was common in Palestine when one was married to ask מצא או מוחא = happy or unhappy? Jebamoth 63 b.)
the particip. clause stands frequently thus, not only as a circumstantial clause, Genesis 14:12., but also as principal clause, Genesis 2:10, in an historical connection. The preceding pred. מר , in the mas. ground-form, follows the rule, Gesen. §147. Regarding the construction of the relative clause, Hitzig judges quite correctly: “ היא is copula between subj. and pred., and precedes for the sake of the contrast, giving emphasis to the pred. It cannot be a nomin., which would be taken up by the suff. in לבהּ , since if this latter were subject also to מץ היא would not certainly be found. Also asher here is not a conj.” This הוּא היא ), which in relative substantival clauses represents the copula, for the most part stands separated from asher, e.g., Genesis 7:2; Genesis 17:12; Numbers 17:5; Deuteronomy 17:15; less frequently immediately with it, Numbers 35:31; 1 Samuel 10:19; 2 Kings 25:19; Leviticus 11:26; Deuteronomy 20:20. But this asher hu ( hi) never represents the subj., placed foremost and again resumed by the reflex. pronoun, so as to be construed as the accentuation requires: quae quidem retia et laquei cor ejus = cajus quidem cor sunt retia et laquei (Heiligst.). מצוד is the means of searching, i.e., either of hunting: hunting-net ( mitsodah , Ecclesiastes 9:12), or of blockading: siege-work, bulwarks, Ecclesiastes 9:14; here it is the plur. of the word in the former meaning. חרם , Habakkuk 1:14, plur. Ezekiel 26:5, etc. (perhaps from חרם , to pierce, bore through), is one of the many synon. for fishing-net. אסוּרים , fetters, the hands (arms) of voluptuous embrace. The primary form, after Jeremiah 37:15, is אסוּר אסוּר ; cf. אבוּס אב , Job 39:9. Of the three clauses following asher, vav is found in the second and is wanting to the third, as at Deuteronomy 29:22; Job 42:9; Psalms 45:9; Isaiah 1:13; cf. on the other hand, Isaiah 33:6. Similar in their import are these Leonine verses:
Femina praeclara facie quasi pestis amara,
Et quasi fermentum corrumpit cor sapientum .
That the author is in full earnest in this harsh judgment regarding woman, is shown by 26 b: he who appears to God as good (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:26) escapes from her (the fut. of the consequence of this his relation to God); but the sinner ( חוטאו ) is caught by her, or, properly, in her, viz., the net-like woman, or the net to which she is compared (Psalms 9:16; Isaiah 24:18). The harsh judgment is, however, not applicable to woman as such, but to woman as she is, with only rare exceptions; among a thousand women he has not found one corresponding to the idea of a woman.
“Behold what I have found, saith Koheleth, adding one thing to another, to find out the account: What my soul hath still sought, and I have not found, (is this): one man among a thousand have I found; and a woman among all these have I not found.” It is the ascertained result, “one man, etc.,” which is solemnly introduced by the words preceding. Instead of אם קה , the words ראמר הקּה are to be read, after Ecclesiastes 12:8, as is now generally acknowledged; errors of transcription of a similar kind are found at 2 Samuel 5:2; Job 38:12. Ginsburg in vain disputes this, maintaining that the name Koheleth, as denoting wisdom personified, may be regarded as fem. as well as mas.; here, where the female sex is so much depreciated, was the fem. self-designation of the stern judge specially unsuitable. Hengst. supposes that Koheleth is purposely fem. in this one passage, since true wisdom, represented by Solomon, stands opposite to false philosophy. But this reason for the fem. rests on the false opinion that woman here is heresy personified; he further remarks that it is significant for this fem. personification, that there is “no writing of female authorship in the whole canon of the O.T. and N.T.” But what of Deborah's triumphal song, the song of Hannah, the magnificat of Mary? We hand this absurdity over to the Clementines! The woman here was flesh and blood, but pulchra quamvis pellis est mens tamen plean procellis ; and Koheleth is not incarnate wisdom, but the official name of a preacher, as in Assyr., for חזּנרם , curators, overseers, hazanâti
(Note: Vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Assyr. Stud. (1874), p. 132.)
is used. זה , Ecclesiastes 7:27, points, as at Ecclesiastes 1:10, to what follows. אחת ל , one thing to another (cf. Isaiah 27:12), must have been, like summa summarum and the like, a common arithmetical and dialectical formula, which is here subordinate to מצא , since an adv. inf. such as לקוח is to be supplemented: taking one thing to another to find out the חשׁבּון , i.e., the balance of the account, and thus to reach a facit, a resultat.
(Note: Cf. Aboth iv. 29, וגו ליתן , “to give account;” וגו הכל , “all according to the result.”)
That which presented itself to him in this way now follows. It was, in relation to woman, a negative experience: “What my soul sought on and on, and I found not, (is this).” The words are like the superscription of the following result, in which finally the זה of Ecclesiastes 7:27 terminates. Ginsburg, incorrectly: “what my soul is still seeking,” which would have required מבקּשׁת . The pret. בּקשׁה (with ק without Dagesh, as at Ecclesiastes 7:29)
(Note: As generally the Piel forms of the root בקשׁ , Masor. all have Raphe on the , ק except the imper. בּקּשׁוּ ; vid., Luzzatto's Gramm. §417.)
is retrospective; and עוד , from עוּד , means redire, again and again, continually, as at Gen.. Genesis 46:29. He always anew sought, and that, as biqshah naphshi for בקשׁתי denotes, with urgent striving, violent longing, and never found, viz., a woman such as she ought to be: a man, one of a thousand, I have found, etc. With right, the accentuation gives Garshayim to adam; it stands forth, as at Ecclesiastes 7:20, as a general denominator - the sequence of accents, Geresh, Pashta, Zakef, is as at Genesis 1:9. “One among a thousand” reminds us of Job 33:23, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:3; the old interpreters ( vid., Dachselt's Bibl. Accentuata), with reference to these parallels, connect with the one man among a thousand all kinds of incongruous christological thoughts. Only, here adam, like the Romanic l'homme and the like, means man in sexual contrast to woman. It is thus ideally meant, like ish , 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Samuel 6:15, and accordingly also the parall. אשּׁה . For it is not to be supposed that the author denies thereby perfect human nature to woman. But also Burger's explanation: “a human being, whether man or woman,” is a useless evasion. Man has the name adam κατ ̓ ἐξ . by primitive hist. right: “for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man,” 1 Corinthians 11:8. The meaning, besides, is not that among a thousand human beings he found one upright man, but not a good woman (Hitz.), - for then the thousand ought to have had its proper denominator, אדם בני , - but that among a thousand persons of the male sex he found only one man such as he ought to be, and among a thousand of the female sex not one woman such as she ought to be; “among all these” is thus = among an equal number. Since he thus actually found the ideal of man only seldom, and that of woman still seldomer (for more than this is not denoted by the round numbers), the more surely does he resign himself to the following resultat, which he introduces by the word לבד (only, alone), as the clear gain of his searching:
“Lo, this only have I found, that God created man upright; but they seek many arts.” Also here the order of the words is inverted, since זה , belonging as obj. to מץ (have I found), which is restricted by לבד , is amalgamated with ראה (Lo! see!). The author means to say: Only this ( solummodo hocce ) have I found, that ...; the ראה is an interjected nota bene. The expression: God has made man ישׁר , is dogmatically significant. Man, as he came from the Creator's hand, was not placed in the state of moral decision, nor yet in the state of absolute indifference between good and evil; he was not neither good nor bad, but he was טוב , or, which is the same thing, ישׁר ; i.e., in every respect normal, so that he could normally develope himself from this positively good foundation. But by the expression ישׁר שׁ , Koheleth has certainly not exclusively his origin in view, but at the same time his relative continuation in the propagation of himself, not without the concurrence of the Creator; also of man after the fall the words are true, ישׁר עשׂה , in so far as man still possesses the moral ability not to indulge sinful affections within him, nor suffer them to become sinful actions. But the sinful affections in the inborn nature of weak sinful man have derived so strong a support from his freedom, that the power of the will over against this power of nature is for the most part as weakness; the dominance of sin, where it is not counteracted by the grace of God, has always shown itself so powerful, that Koheleth has to complain of men of all times and in all circles of life: they seek many arts (as Luther well renders it), or properly, calculations, inventions, devices ( hhishshevonoth ,
(Note: If we derive this word from hhěshbon , the Dagesh in the שׁ is the so-called Dag. dirimens.)
as at 2 Chronicles 26:15, from hhishshevon , which is as little distinguished from the formation hhěshbon , as hhizzayon from hhězyon ), viz., of means and ways, by which they go astray from the normal natural development into abnormities. In other words: inventive refined degeneracy has come into the place of moral simplicity, ἁπλότης (2 Chronicles 11:3). As to the opinion that caricatures of true human nature, contrasts between the actual and that which ought to be (the ideal), are common, particularly among the female sex, the author has testimonies in support of it from all nations. It is confirmed by the primitive history itself, in which the woman appears as the first that was led astray, and as the seducer (cf. Psychol. pp. 103-106). With reference to this an old proverb says: “Women carry in themselves a frivolous mind,” Kiddushin 80 b.
(Note: Cf. Tendlau's Sprichw. (1860), No. 733.)
And because a woman, when she has fallen into evil, surpasses a man in fiendish superiority therein, the Midrash reckons under this passage before us fifteen things of which the one is worse than the other; the thirteenth is death, and the fourteenth a bad woman.
(Note: Duke's Rabb. Blumenl. (1844), No. 32.)
Hitzig supposes that the author has before him as his model Agathoclea, the mistress of the fourth Ptolemy Philopator. But also the history of the Persian Court affords dreadful examples of the truth of the proverb: “Woe to the age whose leader is a woman;”
(Note: Ibid. No. 118.)
and generally the harem is a den of female wickedness.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13