Ecclesiastes 7:1


1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 in Other Translations

King James Version (KJV)
1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
English Standard Version (ESV)
1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.
New Living Translation (NLT)
1 A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
The Message Bible (MSG)
1 good reputation is better than a fat bank account. Your death date tells more than your birth date.
American Standard Version (ASV)
1 A [good] name is better than precious oil; and the day of death, than the day of one's birth.
GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)
1 A good name is better than expensive perfume, and the day you die is better than the day you're born.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one's death than the day of one's birth.
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
1 A good name is better than fine perfume. People can learn more from sobbing when someone dies than from being happy when someone is born.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name [is] better than precious ointment
The word "good" is not in the text, but is rightly supplied, as it is by Jarchi; for of no other name can this be said; that which is not good cannot be better. Some understand this of the name of God, which is God himself, who is the "summum bonum", and chief happiness of men, and take it to be an answer to the question ( Ecclesiastes 6:12 ) ; this and this only is what is a man's good, and is preferable to all outward enjoyments whatever; interest in him as a covenant God; knowledge of him in Christ, which has eternal life annexed to it; communion with him; the discoveries of his lovingkindness, which is better than little; and the enjoyment of him to all eternity. This is true of the name of Christ, whose name Messiah which signifies anointed, is as ointment poured forth, and is preferable to it, ( Song of Solomon 1:3 ) ( John 1:41 ) ; so his other names, Jesus a Saviour; Jehovah, our righteousness; Immanuel, God with us; are exceeding precious to those who know the worth of him, and see their need of righteousness and salvation by him; his person, and the knowledge of him; his Gospel, and the fame and report it gives of him; infinitely exceed the most precious and fragrant ointment; see ( 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ) . So the name or names given to the people of God, the new names of Hephzibah and Beulah, the name of sons of God, better than that of sons and daughters; and of Christians, or anointed ones, having received that anointing from Christ which teacheth all things, and so preferable to the choicest ointment, ( Isaiah 56:5 ) ( Isaiah 62:3 Isaiah 62:4 ) ( 65:15 ) ( Revelation 2:17 ) ( Acts 11:26 ) ( 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ) . Likewise to have a name written in heaven, in the Lamb's book of life, and to have one's name confessed by Christ hereafter before his Father and his holy angels; or even a good name among men, a name for a truly godly gracious person; for love to Christ, zeal for his cause, and faithfulness to his truths and ordinances; such as the woman got, better than the box of ointment poured on Christ's head; and which the brother had, whose praise in the Gospel was throughout the churches; and as Demetrius, who had good report of all then, and of the truth itself, ( Matthew 26:13 ) ( 2 Corinthians 8:18 ) ( 3 John 1:12 ) . Such a good name is better than precious ointment for the value of it, being better than all riches, for which this may be put; see ( Isaiah 39:2 ) ( Proverbs 22:1 ) ; and for the fragrancy of it, emitting a greater; and for the continuance of it, being more lasting, ( Psalms 112:6 ) ( Proverbs 10:6 ) . The Targum is,

``better is a good name the righteous get in this world, thin the anointing oil which was poured upon the heads of kings and priests.''
So Alshech,
``a good name is better than the greatness of a king, though anointed with oil;''
and the day of death than the day of one's birth;
some render it, in connection with the preceding clause, "as a good name is better so the day of death than the day of one's birth" F6; that is, the day of a man's death than the day of his birth. This is to be understood not of death simply considered; for that in itself, abstracted from its connections and consequences, is not better than to be born into the world, or come into life, or than life itself; it is not preferable to it, nor desirable; for it is contrary to nature, being a dissolution of it; a real evil, as life, and long life, are blessings; an enemy to mankind, and a terrible one: nor of ether persons, with whom men have a connection, their friends and relations; for with them the day of birth is a time of rejoicing, and the day of death is a time of mourning, as appears from Scripture and all experience; see ( John 16:21 ) ( Genesis 40:20 ) ( Matthew 14:6-10 ) ( Genesis 23:2 ) ( John 11:31 John 11:33 ) . It is indeed reported F7 of some Heathenish and barbarous people in Thrace, and who inhabited Mount Caucasus, that they mourned at the birth of their children, reckoning up the calamities they are entering into, and rejoiced at the death of their friends, being delivered from their troubles: but this is to be understood of the persons themselves that are born and die; not of all mankind, unless as abstracted from the consideration of a future state, and so it is more happy to be freed from trouble than to enter into it; nor of wicked men, it would have been better indeed if they had never been born, or had died as soon as born, that their damnation might not have been aggravated by the multitude of their sins; but after all, to die cannot be best for them, since at death they are cast into hell, into everlasting fire, and endless punishment: this is only true of good men, that have a good name living and dying; have a good work of grace upon them, and so are meet for heaven; the righteousness of Christ on them, and so have a title to it; they are such who have hope in their death, and die in faith and in the Lord: their death is better than their birth; at their birth they come into the world under the imputation and guilt of sin, with a corrupt nature; are defiled with sin, and under the power of it, liable in themselves to condemnation and death for it: at the time of their death they go out justified from sin through the righteousness of Christ, all being expiated by his sacrifice, and pardoned for his sake; they are washed from the faith of sin by the blood of Christ, and are delivered from the power and being of it by the Spirit and grace of God; and are secured from condemnation and the second death: at their coming into the world they are liable to sin yet more and more; at their going out they are wholly freed from it; at the time of their birth they are born to trouble, and are all their days exercised with it, incident to various diseases of the body, have many troubles in the world, and from the men of it; many conflicts with a body of sin and death, and harassed with the temptations of Satan; but at death they are delivered from all these, enter into perfect peace and unspeakable joy; rest from all their labours and toils, and enjoy uninterrupted communion with God, Father, Son, and Spirit, angels, and glorified saints. The Targum is,
``the day in which a man dies and departs to the house of the grave, with a good name and with righteousness, is better than the day in which a wicked man is born into the world.''
So the Midrash interprets it of one that goes out of the world with a good name, considering this clause in connection with the preceding, as many do.

F6 So Schmidt, and some in Vatablus.
F7 Herodot. Terpsichore, sive l. 5. c. 4. Valer. Maxim. l. 2. c. 6. s. 12. Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 In-Context

1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.
2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
3 Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
5 It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Proverbs 22:1; Song of Songs 1:3
  • 2. S Job 10:18
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