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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 10

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-15

Verses 1-20

Ecclesiastes 9:17 to Ecclesiastes 10:15 . Experience Crystallised in Proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 to Ecclesiastes 10:3 forms a series of proverbs perhaps due to the sage who worked over the original book. In Ecclesiastes 9:17 follow mg.; the contrast is between the quiet but sure voice of the wise and the noisy pretentious clatter of an arch-fool. With Ecclesiastes 9:18, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:13-16.— sinner: better, blunderer. Evil is wrought by want of thought as well as by want of heart. Ecclesiastes 10:1 a is obvious, Ecclesiastes 10:1 b less so; it is simplest to say that “ as dead flies corrupt the perfumer’ s ointment so little follies in a man outweigh and thus spoil his better qualities and name.” A wise man’ s heart (intelligence plus conscience plus will) leads him in the right direction, that of a fool has a sinister bent ( Ecclesiastes 10:2); when he walks out he thinks all the people he meets are fools ( Ecclesiastes 10:3 mg.) . In Ecclesiastes 10:4 Qoheleth resumes his observations on princes; the counsel is similar to that of Ecclesiastes 8:2-5. The courtier will do best by bending to the storm, his safety is in complaisance. Yet the ruler is by no means always right ( Ecclesiastes 10:5), especially when like Edward II or, nearer Qoheleth’ s time, Ptolemy Philopator (p. 62), he advances the unworthy to positions of trust and honour at the expense of the nobles and aristocracy, here called “ the rich” ( Ecclesiastes 10:6 f.). The mention of horses is an indication of late date; in earlier Israel kings rode on asses or mules. Cf. also Proverbs 19:10.

Ecclesiastes 10:8-9 are isolated proverbs though they illustrate caution as an element of wisdom. “ He who breaks through a fence” or a wall, is perhaps a robber, perhaps simply a wanton destroyer, perhaps even a reformer who is stung by a jealous opponent. For serpents in walls, cf. Amos 5:19. The quarryman and woodcutter must be careful; Ecclesiastes 10:9 a is probably not to be taken of “ removing a neighbour’ s landmark” ( mg.) .

Ecclesiastes 10:10 f. The advantage of wisdom is to give success; it teaches the woodcutter to sharpen his blunt axe instead of wearying himself with brute force; it teaches the snake-charmer to exercise his skill before the snake bites (disregard mg.) . Wisdom is foresight and wins favour, the ineffectual man is a fool and suffers ( Ecclesiastes 10:12). His course may even be a progress from stupidity to criminal (perhaps “ pitiful” ) madness ( Ecclesiastes 10:13); he is a perpetual babbler ( Ecclesiastes 10:14 a) whose verbosity is the measure of his ignorance ( Ecclesiastes 10:14 b). But perhaps Ecclesiastes 10:14 b is a fragment of Qoheleth ( cf. Ecclesiastes 6:12, Ecclesiastes 7:14) strayed from its context into this collection of proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 10:15 is obscure, but probably means that he who asks a fool the way to a city is likely to be weary before he gets there, or perhaps that the simpleton who doesn’ t know the way to town is likely to have a deservedly tiresome life.

Verses 16-20

Ecclesiastes 10:16-20 . Reflections on Government.— These verses are in the strain of Ecclesiastes 10:4-7.

Ecclesiastes 10:16 . whose king is a child: e.g. like Ptolemy Epiphanes, who became king of Egypt (205 B.C.) at the age of five. Such a one is often in the hands of unworthy regents. The word may be also translated “ servant” (contrast Ecclesiastes 10:17) or even “ young man” ; hence some see a reference to Herod the Great, who was of ignoble birth, or to Alexander Balas ( 1Ma_10:47 ). Feasting in the morning is a sure sign of decadence ( cf. Isaiah 5:11, Acts 2:15).

Ecclesiastes 10:17 . It is just possible that Qoheleth is eulogising Antiochus III, whose accession in 198 B.C. was well received by the Jews (p. 62).

Ecclesiastes 10:18 is the writer’ s way of saying that when the rulers of a state do not attend to business the structure of government falls to pieces. Feasting means revelry instead of serious attention to state affairs— those who indulge in it have only to spend money, perhaps from the public funds ( Ecclesiastes 10:19).

Ecclesiastes 10:20 recalls Ecclesiastes 10:4 f.; the courtiers must be cautious, walls have ears. Kings and lords get to hear things in mysterious ways.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/ecclesiastes-10.html. 1919.
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