Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:8

For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Contentment;   Poor;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 7;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

For what hath the wise more than the fool? - They must both labor for the same end. Both depend upon the labor of themselves or others for the necessaries of life. Both must eat and drink in order to live; and the rich man can no more eat two meals at a time, than he can comfortably wear two changes of raiment. The necessaries of life are the same to both, and their condition in life is nearly similar; liable to the same diseases, dissolution, and death.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For what hath the wise more than the fool,.... More delight and pleasure, in gratifying his senses, by eating and drinking: the wise man enjoys no more than the fool; the fool finds as much pleasure in the labour of his hands, which is for his mouth, as the wise man does; and the wise man can get no more satisfaction to his mind, from these outward gratifications, than the fool;

what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? either, what does the poor man want more than the rich man, that knows how to get his bread, and is diligent and industrious among men to live, and does get a livelihood for himself and family; he enjoys all the sweets and comforts of life, as well as the rich man: or what hath the poor knowing man? as Aben Ezra interprets it, according to the accents; what has he more or does he enjoy more, than the poor foolish man, provided he has but sense enough to behave himself among men, so as to have bread to eat, and clothes to wear; which is as much as any man can enjoy, be he ever so rich or so wise?

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

For — “However” [Maurer]. The “for” means (in contrast to the insatiability of the miser), For what else is the advantage which the wise man hath above the fool?

What — advantage, that is, superiority, above him who knows not how to walk uprightly

hath the poor who knoweth to walk before the living? — that is, to use and enjoy life aright (Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 5:19), a cheerful, thankful, godly “walk” (Psalm 116:9).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“For what hath the wise more than the fool; what the poor who knoweth to walk before the living?” The old translators present nothing for the interpretation, but defend the traditional text; for Jerome, like the Syr., which translates freely, follows the Midrash (fixed in the Targ.), which understands החיים, contrary to the spirit of the book, of the blessed future. The question would be easier if we could, with Bernst. and Ginsburg, introduce a comparat. min before יודע ; we would then require to understand by him who knows to walk before the living, some one who acts a part in public life; but how strange a designation of distinguished persons would that be! Thus, as the text stands, יודע,sdnat is attrib. to לעני, what preference hath the poor, such an one, viz., as understands ( vid ., regarding יודע instead of היודע, under Psalms 143:10); not: who is intelligent (Aben Ezra); יודע is not, as at Ecclesiastes 9:11, an idea contained in itself, but by the foll. הח ... לה (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:13, Ecclesiastes 4:14; and the inf . form, Exodus 3:19; Numbers 22:13; Job 34:23) obtains the supplement and colouring required: the sequence of the accents ( Zakeph, Tifcha, Silluk, as e.g., at Genesis 7:4) is not against this. How the lxx understood its πορευθῆναι κατέναντι τῆς ζωῆς, and the Venet. it's ἀπιέναι ἀντικρὺ τῆς ζωῆς, is not clear; scarcely as Grätz, with Mendelss.: who, to go against ( נגד, as at Ecclesiastes 4:12) life, to fight against it, has to exercise himself in self-denial and patience; for “to fight with life” is an expression of modern coinage. הח signifies here, without doubt, not life, but the living. But we explain now, not as Ewald, who separates יודע from the foll. inf . להלך : What profit has then the wise man, the intelligent, patient man, above the fool, that he walks before the living? - by which is meant (but how does this interrog. form agree thereto?), that the wise, patient man has thereby an advantage which makes life endurable by him, in this, that he does not suffer destroying eagerness of desire so to rule over him, but is satisfied to live in quietness.Also this meaning of a quiet life does not lie in the words הח ... הלך . “To know to walk before the living” is, as is now generally acknowledged = to understand the right rule of life (Elst.), to possess the savoir vivre (Heiligst.), to be experienced in the right art of living. the question accordingly is: What advantage has the wise above the fool; and what the poor, who, although poor, yet knows how to maintain his social position? The matter treated of is the insatiable nature of sensual desire. The wise seeks to control his desire; and he who is more closely designated poor, knows how to conceal it; for he lays upon himself restraints, that he may be able to appear and make something of himself. But desire is present in both; and they have in this nothing above the fool, who follows the bent of his desire and lives for the day. He is a fool because he acts as one not free, and without consideration; but, in itself, it is and remains true, that enjoyment and satisfaction stand higher than striving and longing for a thing.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

More — In these matters. Both are subject to the same calamities, and partakers of the same comforts of this life.

The poor — More than the poor that doth not know this. He means such a poor man as is ingenious and industrious; fit for service and business.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:8 For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

Ver. 8. For what hath the wise more than the fool?] Nothing at all in this vanity of human nature, that it needeth still new supply of nourishment to preserve it. When a wise man hath eaten, is he not again hungry? and must not his hunger again be satisfied as well as a fool’s hunger? Indeed, as any man is more wise, he is more temperate: he eats to live, not lives to eat. He needs not much, nor is a slave to his appetite, or to his palate. He can feed upon gruel for a need, with Daniel; upon coleworts, with Elisha; upon a cake on the coals and a cruise of water, with Elijah; upon locusts and wild honey, with the Baptist; upon barley bread, with the disciples; upon a herring or two, as Luther, &c. This a fool can ill frame to. He eats as a beast with the old world - Tρωγοντες [Matthew 24:38] - and "feeds without fear"; [ 1:12] he "caters for the flesh" [Romans 13:14] and "overchargeth it with surfeiting and drunkenness"; [Luke 21:34] he measureth not his cheer by that which nature requireth, but that which greedy appetite desireth, as if therein consisteth his whole happiness.

What hath the poor that knoweth to walk before the living,] viz., The poor wise man that lives by his wits can "serve the time," in St Paul’s sense (if ever he meant it there, Romans 12:11), and make an honest shift to rub through the world. What hath such a one more than a simpler man in this particular? Doth not his hunger return - his stomach crave new nourishment? Animantis cuiusque vita est fuga, saith the philosopher: Were it not for the repair of nutrition, the natural life would be soon extinguished.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ecclesiastes 6:8. What hath the poor, &c.— What remaineth also to the very beggar, who knoweth how to walk before the living? The desire of the wise man who labours, is undoubtedly to make himself more comfortable than he could expect to be, by giving himself no manner of trouble: yet, when all is duly considered, it is plain, on the one hand, that the ultimate drift of all our occupations is, to be supplied with the necessaries of life; which is thus proverbially expressed, All the labour of man is for his mouth; and we find, on, the other hand, that all that the wisest man can consume, or really enjoy, is no more than generally falls to the lot of the most wretched among men; viz. those who are forced to beg their bread; provided they behave so as not to preclude themselves from the beneficence of other men. What remaineth to the wise more than to the ignorant? What, or that which remaineth also to the most miserable wretch, who knoweth how to walk before the living. Thus the wise really has an advantage over the ignorant or fool, who either does not get, or, after he has gotten, does not enjoy (Ecclesiastes 6:2.) the necessaries of life; but that advantage does not fill his soul, or satisfy his desires; as it does not raise him above the level of those who depend upon others for their subsistence, and who seldom fail of getting that by a proper demeanour, which the most industrious attains through his labour and application.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The fool, to wit, in these matters. Both are equally subject to the same calamities, and partakers of the same comforts of this life.

Before the living, to wit, before the poor, that doth not know this; which words are easily understood by comparing this clause with the former. And such defects are usual, both in Scripture and other authors, as hath been formerly noted, by a figure which the learned call anantapodoton. And by this phrase, that knoweth, &c., he means such a poor man who is ingenious and industrious; who is fit for service and business, and knows how to carry himself towards rich men, so as to deserve and gain their favour, and to procure a livelihood.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

8.The familiar question is asked, If this be the case, What hath, etc. — The latter part should be, What hath the poor more than he who knoweth, etc. In the phraseology of the Old Testament “poor” is often synonymous with “humble,” “obscure.” To walk before the living, means, as in chap.

Ecclesiastes 4:16, to have leadership and supremacy. The contrast is between the obscure and him who is able to govern the generation living with him. Thus the verse includes the most opposite classes of men, and therefore all men.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Life. The wise poor shall be blessed. Hebrew, "the poor knowing how to walk before the living," (Haydock) in society (Calmet) among the saints. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?"

"does the wise man have over the fool?"-"When we object that men have more in them than this, and better things to live for, verse 8 does not let this pass without a challenge" (Kidner p. 61). Once again, "advantage" means "lasting advantage". Someone might argue that the wise man will be better off financially, but even this temporary material advantage isn"t true in every case (Ecc. ). In addition, the wise man"s wisdom may bring him pain-rather than peace of mind (Ecc. 1:18 "Because in much wisdom there is much grief"). How many secular "deep thinkers" have committed suicide? How many secular writers or poets have been men and women who went from one emotional extreme to the other and basically lived very miserable lives?

"What advantage does the poor man have"-and lest we are tempted to glorify the life of the hard working peasant (as it done in various communist writings), Solomon challenges us on this point also. "What does a poor man, however well thought of, actually get for his pains?" (Kidner pp. 61-62). Lest we say that the hard working and moral peasant will find happiness-not if they also ignore God. The good life isn"t found on the farm or working the land when God is excluded from the picture.

"knowing how to walk before the living"-that is the poor man who doesn"t use his poverty as an excuse to break the law or sin. The hard working blue color worker who is a good neighbor. The man who knows how to behave himself in the company of his fellowman. But even such a poor man can have dreams, big dreams, dreams which never are fulfilled. One might be rich, a fool or a prudent poor man, but if you can"t enjoy what you have-then you are all equal! The rich man who is miserable and frustrated is on the same level as the man or woman living on the street because of their own foolishness.

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

what = what [advantage].

the wise = a wise one, or sage.

the fool = a fool. Hebrew. kesil. See note on Proverbs 1:7.

the poor = a wretched one. Heb "anah. See note on "poverty", Proverbs 6:11.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?

For what hath the wise more than the fool? The "for" means (in contrast to the insatiability of the miser), For what else but this, namely, that 'his appetite is satisfied,' is the advantage which the wise man hath above the fool? What (other advantage but this, i:e., what superiority, above him who knows not how to walk upright) hath the godly poor who knoweth to walk before the living? i:e., to use and enjoy life aright among and in the presence of the living (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19), with a cheerful, thankful, godly "walk" (Psalms 116:9).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(8) That knoweth to walk.—Understands how to conduct himself. But why this should be limited to the poor is not obvious.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
what hath the wise
2:14-16; 5:11
the poor
Genesis 17:1; Psalms 101:2; 116:9; Proverbs 19:1; Luke 1:6; 1 Timothy 6:17
Reciprocal: Ecclesiastes 2:16 - how;  Ecclesiastes 2:22 - hath man;  Romans 3:1 - advantage

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ecclesiastes-6.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ecclesiastes 6:8. In this verse are advanced the grounds of the proposition laid down with such generality in Ecclesiastes 6:7, "that the soul of man is not satisfied." So deep laid is that hereditary disease of the human race, avarice, that not even the covenant people, not even the congregation of the chosen, is free from it. Wisdom is invariably represented in this book as the prerogative of Israel, folly as belonging to the heathen. The wise man ought in all fairness to be free from such a disease. But in reality it is otherwise. Even in the midst of the covenanted people must the Lord preach: "Take heed that ye be not covetous, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." To a Timothy even, St. Paul felt it necessary to write: σὺ δέ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ, ταῦτα φεῦγε (1 Timothy 6:11). In the Old Testament the members of the kingdom of God are frequently styled "poor and wretched." For them many sources of pain open themselves up, which the world does not know: in all the sufferings which befal them they confess a visitation of their sins, and receive them as a token of God's wrath: they do not try to distract their minds nor give themselves up to illusions, they do not gild over their misery but take up their cross willingly: and finally they are hated by the world because God has chosen them out of the world. That these miserable ones should also be assailed by earthly desires is the more to be wondered at since "they know to walk before the living," since they are the nation of revelation, the only people on the wide earth to whom God has given, in his law, a rule to regulate their conduct. Compare Deuteronomy 4:5-6 : "Behold I teach you to-day statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me: and ye shall keep them and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people:" also Psalms 147:19-20—"He sheweth His word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He does not deal so with any heathen, and his judgments, they know thee not." The reverse of those who know to walk before the living, are "the fools who do not know to go into the city," (Ecclesiastes 10:15) the heathen.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:8". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/ecclesiastes-6.html.