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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Ecclesiastes 9

 

 

Verse 1

Ecclesiastes 9:1 For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, [are] in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred [by] all [that is] before them.

Ver. 1. For all this I considered in mine heart.] He that will rightly consider of anything, had need to consider of many things; all that do concern it, all that do give light unto it, had need to be looked into, or else we fail too short.

Sis ideo in partes circumspectissimus omnes.

Even to declare all this.] Or, To clear up all this to myself. Symmachus rendered it, Ut ventilarem haec universa, that I might sift and search out all these things by much tossing and turning of the thoughts. Truth lies low and close, and must with much industry be drawn into the open light.

That the righteous and the wise.] These are terms convertible. The world’s wizards shall one day cry out, Nos insensati, We fools counted their lives madness, &c.

And their works.] Or, Their services, actions, employments, all which together with themselves are "in the hand of God," who knows them by name, and exerciseth a singular providence over them, so that they are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." "The enemy shall not exact upon him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him." [Psalms 89:22] What a sweet providence was it, that when all the males of Israel appeared thrice in the year before the Lord at Jerusalem, none of their neighbour nations, though professed enemies to Israel, should so much as desire their land. [Exodus 34:24] And again, that after the slaughter of Gedaliah, so pleasant a country - left utterly destitute of inhabitants, and compassed about with such warlike nations, as the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, &c. - was not invaded nor replanted by foreigners for seventy years’ time, but the room kept empty till the return of the naturals.

No man knows either love or hatred, &c.] That is, The thing he either loves or hates, say some interpreters, by reason of the fickleness of his easily alterable affections. How soon was Amnon’s heart estranged from his Tamar, and Ahasuerus from his minion Haman, the Jews from John Baptist, the Galatians from Paul, &c.! But I rather approve of those that refer this love and hatred unto God - understanding them, θεοπρεπως, in a divine manner - and make the meaning to be, that by the things of this life, "which come alike to all," as the next verse hath it, no man can make judgment of God’s love or hatred towards him. The sun of prosperity shines as well upon brambles of the wilderness, as fruit trees of the orchard; the snow and hail of adversity lights upon the best gardens, as well as upon the wild waste. Ahab’s and Josiah’s ends concur in the very circumstances. Saul and Jonathan, though different in their deportments, yet "in their deaths they were not divided." [2 Samuel 1:23] How far wide then is the Church of Rome, that borrows her marks from the market, plenty or cheapness, &c. And what an odd kind of reasoning was that of her champions with Marsh the martyr, (a) whom they would have persuaded to leave his opinions, because all the bringers up and favourers of that religion, as the Dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk for instance, had bad luck, and were either put to death, or in prison, and in danger of life. Again, the favourers of the religion then used had wondrous good luck and prosperity in all things, &c.


Verse 2

Ecclesiastes 9:2 All [things come] alike to all: [there is] one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as [is] the good, so [is] the sinner; [and] he that sweareth, as [he] that feareth an oath.

Ver. 2. All things come alike to all.] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 9:1"} Health, wealth, honours, &c., are cast upon good men and bad men promiscuously. God makes a scatter of them, as it were; good men gather them, bad men scramble for them. The whole Turkish empire, saith Luther, is nothing else but a crust (a) cast by heaven’s great housekeeper to his dogs.

And he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.] No surer sign of a profane person, than common and customary swearing. Neither any so good an evidence of a gracious heart, as not only to forbear it, for so one may do by education, and civil conversation, but to "fear an oath" out of an awful regard to the Divine Majesty. Plato and other heathens shall rise up and condemn our common swearers; for they, when they would swear, said no more but Ex animi sententia, (b) or if they would swear by their Jupiter, out of the mere dread and reverence of his name, they forbare to mention him. Clinias the Pythagorean, out of this regard, would rather undergo a mulct of three talents, than swear. The Merindolians, those ancient French Protestants, were known by this through all the country of Provence, that they would not swear, nor easily be brought to take an oath, except it were in judgment, or making some solemn covenant. (c)


Verse 3

Ecclesiastes 9:3 This [is] an evil among all [things] that are done under the sun, that [there is] one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [is] in their heart while they live, and after that [they go] to the dead.

Ver. 3. This is an evil.] Hoc est pessimum - so Jerome, the Vulgate, and Tremellius render it; this is the worst evil, this is wickedness with a witness, - scil., That since "there is one event to all," graceless men should thence conclude that it is a bootless business, a course of no profit to serve God. Hence they walk about the world with hearts as full as hell of lewd and lawless lusts. Hence they run a-madding after the pleasures of sin, which with a restless giddiness they earnestly pursue; yea, they live and die in so doing, saith the wise man here, noting their final impenitence, that hate of heaven, and gate to hell.


Verse 4

Ecclesiastes 9:4 For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

Ver. 4. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope.] These are the words of those wicked ones, (a) whose lives and hopes end together, whose song is, Post mortem nulla voluptas, when life ends, there is an end of all. Is there not such language in some men’s hearts, Who knows whether there be any such thing as a life to come? &c. Now I shall know, said that dying pope, (b) whether the soul of man be immortal, yea or no; and whether that tale concerning Christ have any truth in it. Oh, wretch!

So a living dog is better than a dead lion.] But so is not a living sinner better than a dead saint; for "the righteous hath hope in his death"; and they that "die in the Lord are blessed"; [Revelation 14:13] how much more if they also die for the Lord! These "love not their lives unto the death." [Revelation 12:11] but go as willingly to die as ever they did to dine, being as glad to leave the world (for a better especially) as men are wont to be to rise from the board, when they have eaten their fill, to take possession of a lordship.

Cur non ut plenus vitae conviva recedis? ” - Lucret.


Verse 5

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Ver. 5. For the living know that they shall die.] Hence that proverb among us, As sure as death. Howbeit, that they think little of it to any good purpose, appears by that other proverb, I thought no more of it than of my dying day.

But the dead know not anything.] So it seemeth to those atheists that deny the immortality of the soul. But they shall know at death that there is another life beyond this, wherein the righteous shall be "comforted," and their knowledge perfected, but the wicked "tormented"; [Luke 16:25] and with nothing more than to know that such and such poor souls as they would have disdained to have "set with the dogs of their flocks." [Job 30:1] are now "sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and themselves thrust out into utter darkness," [Luke 13:28] in tenebras ex tenebris infeliciter exclusi, infelicius excludendi, (a)

Neither have they any more a reward.] What! not a "reward for the righteous?" [Psalms 58:11] Not a "certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour evildoers?" [Hebrews 10:27] That were strange. But wicked men would fain persuade themselves so: Ut liberius peccent, libenter ignorant, (b) - "Of these things they are willingly ignorant." [2 Peter 2:5]

For the memory of them is forgotten.] This is true in part, but not altogether. Joseph was forgotten in Egypt, [Exodus 1:1-22] Gideon in Israel. [ 9:1-57] Joash remembered not the kindness which Jehoiadah had done to him, but slew his son. [2 Chronicles 24:22] Nevertheless the "foundation of God stands firm, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his"; [2 Timothy 2:19] and there is "a book of remembrance written before him for them that fear the Lord"; [Malachi 3:16] their "names are written in heaven," [Luke 10:20] and "the memory of the just is blessed." {Proverbs 10:7; see the note there}


Verse 6

Ecclesiastes 9:6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun.

Ver. 6. Also their love and their hatred, &c.] Here is lie upon lie. The atheist, as he had denied knowledge to the dead, so here he denies affections, as love, hatred, envy, or zeal, as Jerome renders it. But it is certain that those that are dead in Jesus do very dearly love God, and hate evil with a perfect hatred. The wicked, on the other side, continue in that other world to hate God and goodness, to love such as themselves are, to stomach the happiness of those in heaven, &c.


Verse 7

Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

Ver. 7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy.] Vade, iuste, go thy way, thou righteous man; live in cheerfulness of mind, proceeding from the testimony of a good conscience: so Lyra senseth the words. God’s grace and favour turned brown bread and water into manchet and wine to the martyrs in prison. "Rejoice not thou, O Israel, for joy, as other people, for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God." [Hosea 9:1] Thou cutest thy bane, thou drinkest thy poison, because "to the impure all things are impure," and "without faith it is impossible to please God." "In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare (or a cord to strangle his joy with), but the righteous doth sing and rejoice." [Proverbs 29:6] He may do so; he must do so. What should hinder him? He hath made his peace with God, and is rectus in curia. Let him be merry at his meals, lightsome and spruce in his clothes, cheerful with his wife and children, &c. "Is any man merry at heart?" saith St James; [James 5:13] is he right set, and hath he a right frame of soul ( ευθυμει)? is all well within? "Let him sing psalms"; yea, as a traveller rides on merrily, and wears out the tediousness of the way by singing sweet songs unto himself; so should the saints. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." [Psalms 119:54]


Verse 8

Ecclesiastes 9:8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

Ver. 8. Let thy garments be always white; ] i.e., Neat, spruce, cleanly, comely. Or by a metaphor it may signify, Be merry in good manner, for they used to wear white clothing on festivals and at weddings, as Philo (a) witnesseth. At this day also the Jews come to their synagogues in white raiment the day before the calends of September, which is their New Year’s tide. (b) Purple was affected by the Romans, white by the Jews. {see James 2:2} Hence Pilate clad Christ in purple, [Matthew 27:28] Herod in white. [Luke 23:11] Herod himself was "arrayed in royal apparel"; [Acts 12:21] that is, in cloth of silver, saith Josephus, which, being beaten upon by the sunbeams, dazzled the people’s eyes, and drew from them that blasphemous acclamation, "The voice of God, and not of man."

And let thine head lack no ointment.] That thou mayest look smooth and handsome. [Matthew 6:16-17] Ointments were much used with those eastern people in banquetings, bathings, and at other times. [Luke 7:46 Matthew 26:7] By "garments" here some understand the affections, {as Colossians 3:8-12} which must "always be white," i.e., cheerful, even in times of persecution, when thy garments haply are stained with thine own blood. By the "head" they understand the thoughts, which must also be kept lithe and lightsome, as anointed with the oil of gladness. Crucem multi abominantur, crucem videntes, sed non videntes unctionem: crux enim inuncta est, saith Bernard. Many men hate the cross because they see the cross only, but see not the ointment that is upon it, for the cross is anointed, and by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit helping our infirmities, it becomes not only light, but sweet - not only not troublesome, but even desirable and delectable. Martyr etiam in catena gaudet. (c) Paul gloried in his sufferings. His spirit was cheered up by the thoughts of them as by some fragrant ointment.


Verse 9

Ecclesiastes 9:9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

Ver. 9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest.] As Isaac, the most loving husband in Scripture, did with his Rebecca, whom he loved [Genesis 24:67] not only as his country woman, kinswoman, a good woman, &c., but as his woman; not with an ordinary or Christian love only, but with a conjugal love, which indeed is that which will make marriage a merry age, sweeten all crosses, season all comforts. She is called the wife of a man’s bosom because she should be loved as well as the heart in his bosom. God took one of man’s ribs, and, having built it into a wife, laid it again in his bosom, so that she is flesh of his flesh, yea, she is himself, as the apostle argues, and therehence enforceth this duty of love. [Ephesians 5:28-31] Neither doth he satisfy himself in this argument, but adds there blow to blow, so to drive this nail up to the head, the better to beat this duty into the heads and hearts of husbands.

All the days of the life of thy vanity.] Love and live comfortably together, as well in age as in youth, as well in the fading as in the freshness of beauty.

Which he hath given thee,] i.e., The wife (not the life) which he hath given thee; for marriages are made in heaven, as the heathens also held. God, as he brought Eve to Adam at first, so still he is the paranymph that makes the match and unites their affections. "A prudent wife is of the Lord," [Proverbs 18:22] for a comfort, as a froward is for a scourge.

All the days of thy vanity,] i.e., Of thy vain, vexatious life, the miseries whereof to mitigate God hath given thee a suitable mate to compassionate and communicate with thee, and to be a principal remedy, for Optimum solarium sodalitiara, no comfort in misery can be comparable to good company, that will sympathise and share with us.

For that is thy portion.] And a very good one too, if she prove good, as, if otherwise, Aristotle (a) saith right: He that is unhappy in a wife hath lost the one half, at least, of his happiness on earth.

And in thy labour which thou takest, &c.] They that will marry shall have trouble in the flesh. [1 Corinthians 7:28] Let them look for it, and labour to make a virtue of necessity. As there is rejoicing in marriage, so there is a deal of labour - i.e., of care, cost, and cumber. Is it not good therefore to have a partner, such a one as Sarah was to Abraham - a piece so just cut for him as answered him right in every joint?


Verse 10

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Ver. 10. Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might.] We were made and set here to be doing of something that may do us good a thousand years hence. Our time is short, our task is long, our master urgent, an austere man, &c.; work, therefore, while the day lasteth, yea, work hard, as afraid to be taken with your task uudone. The night of death comes when none can work. That is a time not of doing work, but of receiving wages. Up, therefore, and be doing, that the Lord may be with you.

Praecipita tempus; mors atra impendet agenti.

- Silius

Castigemus ergo mores et moras. The devil is therefore more mischievous because he knows "he hath but a short time," [Revelation 12:12] and makes all the haste he can to outwork the children of light, in a quick despatch of deeds of darkness. Oh, learn for shame of the devil, as Latimer said once in another case, therefore to do your utmost, because "the time is short," or "rolled up," (a) as sails use to be when the ship draws nigh to the harbour. This argument prevailed much with St Peter to bestir him in stirring up those he wrote unto, because he knew that he must "shortly put off his tabernacle." [2 Peter 1:13-14] The life of man is the lamp of God, saith Solomon. God hath set up our lives, as Alexander, when he sat down before a city, did use to set up a light, to give those within to understand that if they came forth to him while that light lasted they might have quarter, as if otherwise, no mercy was to be expected.


Verse 11

Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Ver. 11. That the race is not to the swift.] Here the Preacher proverb - what he had found true by experience - by the event of men’s endeavours, often frustrated, that nothing is in our power, but all carried on by a Providence, which oft crosseth our likeliest projects, that God may have the honour of all. Let a man be as swift as Asahel or Atalanta, yet he may not get the goal or escape the danger. The battle of Terwin, in France, fought by our Henry VIII, was called the ‘Battle of Spurs,’ because many fled for their lives, who yet fell (as the men of Ai did) into the midst of their enemies. (a) At Musselburgh Field, many of the Scots running away, so strained themselves in their race, that they fell down breathless and dead, whereby they seemed in running from their deaths to run to it, whereas two thousand of them that lay all day as dead, got away safely in the night. (b)

Nor the battle to the strong.] As we see in the examples of Gideon, Jonathan and his armourbearer, David in his encounter with Goliath, Leonidas, who with six hundred men worsted five hundred thousand of Xerxes’ host. "They shall be holpen with a little help." [Daniel 11:34] And why a little? That through weaker means we may see God’s greater strength. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." [Zechariah 4:6] This Rabshakeh knew not, and therefore derided Hezekiah for trusting to his prayers. [Isaiah 36:5] What can Hezekiah say to embolden him to stand out? What? I say, saith Hezekiah, "I have words of my lips" - that is, prayer. Prayer! saith Rabshakeh, those are empty words, an airy thing; for "counsel and strength are for the war"; so some read the words, and not in a parenthesis, as our translation hath it.

Neither yet bread to the wise.] To the worldlywise. Those "young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." [Psalms 34:10] Their daily bread day by day, panem demensi, "food convenient for them," [Proverbs 30:8] they shall be sure of. "Dwell in the land, and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed," [Psalms 37:5] by virtue of a promise, and not by a providence only, as the young ravens are.

Nor yet riches to men of understandlng.] Plutus is said by the poets to be blind, and fortune to favour fools. Of Pope Clement V the French chronicler saith, Papa hic ditior fuit quam sapientior, This pope was rather rich than wise. (c) Aristides was so poor, that he brought a slur upon Justice, saith Plutarch, as if she were not able to maintain her followers. Phocian also, Pelopidas, Lamachus, Ephialtes, Socrates, those Greek sages, were very poor. (d) Epaminondas had but one garment, and that a sorry one too. (e) Lactantius had scarce a subsistence. Many wise men have been hard put to it. Paupertas est philosophiae vernacula, saith Apuleius.

Nor yet favour to men of skill.] Rara ingeniorum praemia, rara item est merces, saith one, (f) Wit and skill is little set by, small regard or reward is given to it; whereas popular men should esteem it as silver, said Aeneas Sylvius, noblemen as gold, princes as pearls.

But time and chance happeneth to them all,] i.e., Everything is done in its own time, and as God by his providence ordereth it, not as men will; much less by haphazard, for that which to us is casual and contingent, is by God Almighty foreappointed and effected, who must therefore be seen and sought unto in the use of means and second causes. And if things succeed not to our minds, but that we "labour in the fire," yet we must "glorify God in the fire," and live by faith.

Vivere spe vidi qui moriturus erat.


Verse 12

Ecclesiastes 9:12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so [are] the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

Ver. 12. For man also knoweth not his time.] His end, say the Septuagint and Vulgate; what may befall him in after time, say others.

Flebile principium melior fortuna sequatur,

Accidit in puncto quod non speratur in anno. ”

So are the sons of men snared in an evil time.] This is the reddition of the former proposition. As the fishes are taken, &c., so are graceless men snared, &c. Security ushers in their calamity: "When they say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction breaks in upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." {1 Thessalonians 5:3} God made fair weather before Pharaoh till he was in the heart of the Red Sea. The old world, Sodom, Amnon, Belshazzar, Herod, the rich fool, were all suddenly surprised in the ruff of their jollity. Jerusalem had three years of extraordinary great plenty before her last utter destruction. (a) Philosophers tell us that before a snow the weather will be warmish; when the wind lies, the great rain falls; and the air is most quiet when suddenly there will be an earthquake.


Verse 13

Ecclesiastes 9:13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it [seemed] great unto me:

Ver. 13. This wisdom also have I seen,] i.e., This fruit and effect of wisdom have I observed, that through the iniquity of the times, it is slighted and left unrewarded if joined with a mean condition.

And it seemed great unto me.] Though not unto the many, who value not wisdom, if meanly habited, according to its worth, consider not that

Saepe sub attrita latitat sapientia veste,

that within that leathern purse may be a pearl of great price, and in those earthen pots abundance of golden treasure. "I know thy poverty, but thou art rich" [Revelation 2:9] The cock on the dunghill understands not this: That which seems great to a Solomon, Multis pro vili sub pedibusque iacet. Stultorum enim plena sunt omnia.


Verse 14

Ecclesiastes 9:14 [There was] a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:

Ver. 14. There was a little city.] Such as was Lampsacum, besieged by Alexander, and saved by Anaximenes; Rhodes, besieged by the great Turk; Rochelle, by the French king; Geneva, by the Duke of Savoy. This last, a little city, a small people surrounded with enemies, and barred out from all aid of neighbour cities and churches, yet is strangely upheld. (a) Well may they write as they do on the one side of their coin, Deus noster pugnat pro nobis, Our God fights for us. (b)


Verse 15

Ecclesiastes 9:15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.

Ver. 15. Now there was found in it a poor wise man.] Such as was Anaximenes at Lampsacum, (a) and Archimedes at Syracuse, of whose wisdom Plutarch testifieth, that it was above the ordinary possibility of a man, it was divine. (b) And of whose poverty Silius assures us, that he was

Nadus opum, sed cui coelum terraeque paterent.

By his warlike devices and engines he so defended his city against Marcellus, the Roman general, that the soldiers called him Briareus and Centimanus, a giant invincible; there was no taking of the town, as Livy relates it. The city of Abel was delivered by a wise woman that was in it. [2 Samuel 20:16-22] The city of Coecinum in the isle of Lemnos, by Marulla, a maiden of that city. (c) Hippo could not be taken while Augustine was in it; nor Heidelberg, while Pareus lived. Elisha preserved Samaria from the Syrians; and the prophet Isaiah, Jerusalem from the Assyrians. "They shall not shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it," saith the Lord. [Isaiah 37:33] Jeremiah had preserved it longer, but that his counsel was slighted. Indeed he was a physician to a dying state,

Tunc etenim docta plus valet arte malum.

Yet no man remembered that same poor man.] Had he been some Demetrius Phalereus, or suchlike magnifico, he should have had a hundred statues set up in honour of his good service. He should have heard, Saviour, saviour, as Flaminius the Roman general did, or, Father, father, as Huniades, after he had defeated Mesites the Turk. But being poor, he is soon set aside, and neither succoured nor honoured. This is merces mundi, the world’s wages. The Dutch have a proverb, that a man should bow to the tree that hath sheltered him in a storm. But many well deserving persons have cause to complain, as Elijah did when he sat under the juniper; or as Themistocles did when he compared himself to a plane tree, whereunto his countrymen, in a tempest, would run for refuge; but when once took up, they would not only leave him, but pull the leaves from him. (d) Are you weary, said he once to them, of receiving so many good turns from one man?


Verse 16

Ecclesiastes 9:16 Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom [is] despised, and his words are not heard.

Ver. 16. Then said I, Wisdom is better, &c.] This he had said before, [Ecclesiastes 7:19 Proverbs 21:22] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 7:19"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 21:22"} but now upon this new occasion. Nunquam satis dicitur, quod nunquam satis discitur. (a)

Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised.] Jerome reads it thus, Et sapientia pauperis quae despecta est, et verba eius quae non sunt audita; that is, And the wisdom of the poor man which is despised, and his words which are not heard. According to which reading, the sense is, wisdom is better than strength, yea, even the despised wisdom of the poor man, &c. The Septuagint and Vulgate read it, Quomodo ergo sapientia pauperis contempta est et verba eius non audita! How therefore is the wisdom of the wise man despised, and his words not heard! As making a wonder and a strange thing of it. Too often it befalls God’s poor ministers, either to be rejected with scorn, or if heard, yet not regarded, much less rewarded, unless it be as Micaiah was by Ahab, and Jeremiah by his countrymen of Anathoth, Jesus Christ by the proud Pharisees, [John 7:14-15; John 7:27] St Paul by the ungrateful Corinthians; [1 Corinthians 4:7] "His bodily presence," said they, "is weak," his sermons without philosophy and rhetoric. [2 Corinthians 10:10]


Verse 17

Ecclesiastes 9:17 The words of wise [men are] heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

Ver. 17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet.] The submissive words of a poor man speaking with good understanding, are rather heard than the big and boisterous words of proud fools. Fuit Nestorius homo indoctus, superbus, audax et magnae loquentiae, saith Zanchy. (a) Nestorius, the heretic, was an ignorant, proud, bold, big spoken man, and prevailed very much thereby with some silly simples. How much better Chrysostom, of whom it is said that he was graviter suavis, et suaviter gravis, gravely sweet, and sweetly grave, and he was much admired for it! Gentle showers and dews that distil leisurely, comfort the earth; when dashing storms drown the seed. The words of wise men are by one well compared to the river Indus, which is said both to sow the East, and to water it; for so it may be said of the words of the wise, that they are both semina et flumina, both seeds and rivers: seeds, because they sow goodness in their hearers; rivers, because they water that which is sown to make it to grow in them. (b) But the cry of fools is like a violent torrent, which washeth away that which it soweth, and doth not suffer it to continue in the ground.

More than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.] Tremellius reads it, cum stolidis suis, with his fools; i.e., cum suo stulto senatu, with his foolish counsellors, who do commonly comply with him, to obtrude, with great authority, his unreasonable and tyrannical edicts and mandates.


Verse 18

Ecclesiastes 9:18 Wisdom [is] better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.

Ver. 18. Wisdom is better than weapons of war.] As David found it in his encounter with Goliath, Gideon in his stratagem against the Midianites, and our renowned Drake in dissipating that Invincible Armada, which being three years in preparing with incredible cost, was by his wisdom within a month overthrown and confounded, with the loss of one English ship only, and not a hundred persons. Romani sedendo vincunt. This was the glory of the Romans, that they conquered the world by wisdom, not by weapons.

Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem.

Not Achilles, but Ulysses is termed πολιοπορθος, the sacker of cities; (a) Cyneas took mere towns by his policy than Pyrrhus by his prowess.

But one sinner destroyeth much good.] He may be as an Achan in the army, as a Jonah in the ship, a trouble-town, a common mischief, a traitor to the state; especially if he be an eminent man, as Jeroboam, that ringleader of rebellion, and Manasseh, who "made Judah also to sin," [2 Kings 21:11] and so brought such evil upon them, that whosoever heard of it, "both his ears tingled." [Ecclesiastes 9:12] Great men’s sins do more hurt (1.) By imitation; for Regis ad exemplnm, &c.; ( 2.) By imputation, for plectuntur Achivi; the poor people pay for such men’s faults, as they did for David’s. [2 Samuel 24:15-17] I shall close up this chapter with that memorable passage of a reverend writer, yet alive: If England’s fears were greater, thy reformation may save it. [Jeremiah 5:1] If our hopes were greater, thy sin and security might undo it. [Ecclesiastes 9:18] One sinner destroys much good. I only add, how much more a rabble of rebels, conspiring to provoke God. Sure I am, we have great cause to wish for our country, as Ferus did for the Romish synagogue; I would we had some Moses, said he, to take away the evils, Non enim unum tantum vitulum, sed multos habemus, for we have not only one golden calf, but many among us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-9.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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