To preserve a character for wisdom. (1-3) Respecting subjects and rulers. (4-10) Of foolish talk. (11-15) Duties of rulers and subjects. (16-20)
Verses 1-3 Those especially who make a profession of religion, should keep from all appearances of evil. A wise man has great advantage over a fool, who is always at a loss when he has anything to do. Sin is the reproach of sinners, wherever they go, and shows their folly.
Verses 4-10 Solomon appears to caution men not to seek redress in a hasty manner, nor to yield to pride and revenge. Do not, in a passion, quit thy post of duty; wait awhile, and thou wilt find that yielding pacifies great offences. Men are not preferred according to their merit. And those are often most forward to offer help, who are least aware of the difficulties, or the consequences. The same remark is applied to the church, or the body of Christ, that all the members should have the same care one for another.
Verses 11-15 There is a practice in the East, of charming serpents by music. The babbler's tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison; and contradiction only makes it the more violent. We must find the way to keep him gentle. But by rash, unprincipled, or slanderous talk, he brings open or secret vengeance upon himself. Would we duly consider our own ignorance as to future events, it would cut off many idle words which we foolishly multiply. Fools toil a great deal to no purpose. They do not understand the plainest things, such as the entrance into a great city. But it is the excellency of the way to the heavenly city, that it is a high-way, in which the simplest wayfaring men shall not err, ( Isaiah 25:8 ) . But sinful folly makes men miss that only way to happiness.
Verses 16-20 The happiness of a land depends on the character of its rulers. The people cannot be happy when their princes are childish, and lovers of pleasure. Slothfulness is of ill consequence both to private and public affairs. Money, of itself, will neither feed nor clothe, though it answers the occasions of this present life, as what is to be had, may generally be had for money. But the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained with corruptible things, as silver and gold. God sees what men do, and hears what they say in secret; and, when he pleases, brings it to light by strange and unsuspected ways. If there be hazard in secret thoughts and whispers against earthly rulers, what must be the peril from every deed, word, or thought of rebellion against the King of kings, and Lord of lords! He seeth in secret. His ear is ever open. Sinner! curse not THIS KING in thy inmost thought. Your curses cannot affect Him; but his curse, coming down upon you, will sink you to the lowest hell.
Ecclesiastes 10:1-20 .
1. Following up Ecclesiastes 9:18 .
him that is in reputation--for example, David ( 2 Samuel 12:14 ); Solomon ( 1 Kings 11:1-43 ); Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 18:1-34 , 19:2 ); Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 35:22 ). The more delicate the perfume, the more easily spoiled is the ointment. Common oil is not so liable to injury. So the higher a man's religious character is, the more hurt is caused by a sinful folly in him. Bad savor is endurable in oil, but not in what professes to be, and is compounded by the perfumer ("apothecary") for, fragrance. "Flies" answer to "a little folly" (sin), appropriately, being small ( 1 Corinthians 5:6 ); also, "Beelzebub" means prince of flies. "Ointment" answers to "reputation" ( Ecclesiastes 7:1 , Genesis 34:30 ). The verbs are singular, the noun plural, implying that each of the flies causes the stinking savor.
2. ( Ecclesiastes 2:14 ).
right--The right hand is more expert than the left. The godly wise is more on his guard than the foolish sinner, though at times he slip. Better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without one.
3. by the way--in his ordinary course; in his simplest acts ( Proverbs 6:12-14 ). That he "saith," virtually, "that he" himself, &c. [Septuagint]. But Vulgate, "He thinks that every one (else whom he meets) is a fool."
yielding pacifieth--( Proverbs 15:1 ). This explains "leave not thy place"; do not in a resisting spirit withdraw from thy post of duty ( Ecclesiastes 8:3 ).
5. as--rather, "by reason of an error" [MAURER and HOLDEN].
6. rich--not in mere wealth, but in wisdom, as the antithesis to "folly" (for "foolish men") shows. So Hebrew, rich, equivalent to "liberal," in a good sense ( Isaiah 32:5 ). Mordecai and Haman ( Esther 3:1 Esther 3:2 , 6:6-11 ).
7. servants upon horses--the worthless exalted to dignity ( Jeremiah 17:25 ); and vice versa ( 2 Samuel 15:30 ).
8. The fatal results to kings of such an unwise policy; the wrong done to others recoils on themselves ( Ecclesiastes 8:9 ); they fall into the pit which they dug for others ( Esther 7:10 , Psalms 7:15 , Proverbs 26:27 ). Breaking through the wise fences of their throne, they suffer unexpectedly themselves; as when one is stung by a serpent lurking in the stones of his neighbor's garden wall ( Psalms 80:12 ), which he maliciously pulls down ( Amos 5:19 ).
9. removeth stones--namely, of an ancient building [WEISS]. His neighbor's landmarks [HOLDEN]. Cuts out from the quarry [MAURER].
endangered--by the splinters, or by the head of the hatchet, flying back on himself. Pithy aphorisms are common in the East. The sense is: Violations of true wisdom recoil on the perpetrators.
10. iron . . . blunt--in "cleaving wood" ( Ecclesiastes 10:9 ), answering to the "fool set in dignity" ( Ecclesiastes 10:6 ), who wants sharpness. More force has then to be used in both cases; but "force" without judgment "endangers" one's self. Translate, "If one hath blunted his iron" [MAURER]. The preference of rash to judicious counsellors, which entailed the pushing of matters by force, proved to be the "hurt" of Rehoboam ( 1 Kings 12:1-33 ).
wisdom is profitable to direct--to a prosperous issue. Instead of forcing matters by main "strength" to one's own hurt ( Ecclesiastes 9:16 Ecclesiastes 9:18 ).
11. A "serpent will bite" if "enchantment" is not used; "and a babbling calumniator is no better." Therefore, as one may escape a serpent by charms ( Psalms 58:4 Psalms 58:5 ), so one may escape the sting of a calumniator by discretion ( Ecclesiastes 10:12 ), [HOLDEN]. Thus, "without enchantment" answers to "not whet the edge" ( Ecclesiastes 10:10 ), both expressing, figuratively, want of judgment. MAURER translates, "There is no gain to the enchanter" (Margin, "master of the tongue") from his enchantments, because the serpent bites before he can use them; hence the need of continual caution. Ecclesiastes 10:8-10 , caution in acting Ecclesiastes 10:11 and following verses, caution in speaking.
12. gracious--Thereby he takes precaution against sudden injury ( Ecclesiastes 10:11 ).
swallow up himself--( Proverbs 10:8 Proverbs 10:14 Proverbs 10:21 Proverbs 10:32 , 12:13 , 15:2 , 22:11 ).
13. Illustrating the folly and injuriousness of the fool's words; last clause of Ecclesiastes 10:12 .
14. full of words--( Ecclesiastes 5:2 ).
a man cannot tell what shall be--( Ecclesiastes 3:22 , 6:12 , 8:7 , 11:2 , Proverbs 27:1 ). If man, universally (including the wise man), cannot foresee the future, much less can the fool; his "many words" are therefore futile.
15. labour . . . wearieth--( Isaiah 55:2 , Habakkuk 2:13 ).
knoweth not how to go to the city--proverb for ignorance of the most ordinary matters ( Ecclesiastes 10:3 ); spiritually, the heavenly city ( Psalms 107:7 , Matthew 7:13 Matthew 7:14 ). MAURER connects Ecclesiastes 10:15 with the following verses. The labor (vexation) caused by the foolish (injurious princes, Ecclesiastes 10:4-7 ) harasses him who "knows not how to go to the city," to ingratiate himself with them there. English Version is simpler.
16. a child--given to pleasures; behaves with childish levity. Not in years; for a nation may be happy under a young prince, as Josiah.
eat in the morning--the usual time for dispensing justice in the East ( Jeremiah 21:12 ); here, given to feasting ( Isaiah 5:11 , Acts 2:15 ).
17. son of nobles--not merely in blood, but in virtue, the true nobility ( Solomon 7:1 , Isaiah 32:5 Isaiah 32:8 ).
in due season--( Ecclesiastes 3:1 ), not until duty has first been attended to.
for strength--to refresh the body, not for revelry (included in "drunkenness").
18. building--literally, "the joining of the rafters," namely, the kingdom ( Ecclesiastes 10:16 , Isaiah 3:6 , Amos 9:11 ).
hands--( Ecclesiastes 4:5 , Proverbs 6:10 ).
droppeth--By neglecting to repair the roof in time, the rain gets through.
19. Referring to Ecclesiastes 10:18 . Instead of repairing the breaches in the commonwealth (equivalent to "building"), the princes "make a feast for laughter ( Ecclesiastes 10:16 ), and wine maketh their life glad ( Psalms 104:15 ), and (but) money supplieth (answereth their wishes by supplying) all things," that is, they take bribes to support their extravagance; and hence arise the wrongs that are perpetrated ( Ecclesiastes 10:5 Ecclesiastes 10:6 , Ecclesiastes 3:16 , Isaiah 1:23 , 5:23 ). MAURER takes "all things" of the wrongs to which princes are instigated by "money"; for example, the heavy taxes, which were the occasion of Rehoboam losing ten tribes ( 1 Kings 12:4 , &c.).
20. thought--literally, "consciousness."
rich--the great. The language, as applied to earthly princes knowing the "thought," is figurative. But it literally holds good of the King of kings ( Psalms 139:1-24 ), whose consciousness of every evil thought we should ever realize.
bed-chamber--the most secret place ( 2 Kings 6:12 ).
bird of the air, &c.--proverbial (compare Habakkuk 2:11 , Luke 19:40 ); in a way as marvellous and rapid, as if birds or some winged messenger carried to the king information of the curse so uttered. In the East superhuman sagacity was attributed to birds hence the proverb).