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Miscellaneous Observations

10

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a foul odor;

so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

2

The heart of the wise inclines to the right,

but the heart of a fool to the left.

3

Even when fools walk on the road, they lack sense,

and show to everyone that they are fools.

4

If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post,

for calmness will undo great offenses.

5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as great an error as if it proceeded from the ruler: 6folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7I have seen slaves on horseback, and princes walking on foot like slaves.

8

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;

and whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a snake.

9

Whoever quarries stones will be hurt by them;

and whoever splits logs will be endangered by them.

10

If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge,

then more strength must be exerted;

but wisdom helps one to succeed.

11

If the snake bites before it is charmed,

there is no advantage in a charmer.

 

12

Words spoken by the wise bring them favor,

but the lips of fools consume them.

13

The words of their mouths begin in foolishness,

and their talk ends in wicked madness;

14

yet fools talk on and on.

No one knows what is to happen,

and who can tell anyone what the future holds?

15

The toil of fools wears them out,

for they do not even know the way to town.

 

16

Alas for you, O land, when your king is a servant,

and your princes feast in the morning!

17

Happy are you, O land, when your king is a nobleman,

and your princes feast at the proper time—

for strength, and not for drunkenness!

18

Through sloth the roof sinks in,

and through indolence the house leaks.

19

Feasts are made for laughter;

wine gladdens life,

and money meets every need.

20

Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts,

or curse the rich, even in your bedroom;

for a bird of the air may carry your voice,

or some winged creature tell the matter.


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Ec 10:1-20.

1. Following up Ec 9:18.

him that is in reputation—for example, David (2Sa 12:14); Solomon (1Ki 11:1-43); Jehoshaphat (2Ch 18:1-34; 19:2); Josiah (2Ch 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 (1Co 5:6); also, "Beelzebub" means prince of flies. "Ointment" answers to "reputation" (Ec 7:1; Ge 34:30). The verbs are singular, the noun plural, implying that each of the flies causes the stinking savor.

2. (Ec 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 (Pr 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."

4. spirit—anger.

yielding pacifieth—(Pr 15:1). This explains "leave not thy place"; do not in a resisting spirit withdraw from thy post of duty (Ec 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 (Isa 32:5). Mordecai and Haman (Es 3:1, 2; 6:6-11).

7. servants upon horses—the worthless exalted to dignity (Jer 17:25); and vice versa (2Sa 15:30).

8. The fatal results to kings of such an unwise policy; the wrong done to others recoils on themselves (Ec 8:9); they fall into the pit which they dug for others (Es 7:10; Ps 7:15; Pr 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 (Ps 80:12), which he maliciously pulls down (Am 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" (Ec 10:9), answering to the "fool set in dignity" (Ec 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 (1Ki 12:1-33).

wisdom is profitable to direct—to a prosperous issue. Instead of forcing matters by main "strength" to one's own hurt (Ec 9:16, 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 (Ps 58:4, 5), so one may escape the sting of a calumniator by discretion (Ec 10:12), [Holden]. Thus, "without enchantment" answers to "not whet the edge" (Ec 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. Ec 10:8-10, caution in acting; Ec 10:11 and following verses, caution in speaking.

12. gracious—Thereby he takes precaution against sudden injury (Ec 10:11).

swallow up himself—(Pr 10:8, 14, 21, 32; 12:13; 15:2; 22:11).

13. Illustrating the folly and injuriousness of the fool's words; last clause of Ec 10:12.

14. full of words—(Ec 5:2).

a man cannot tell what shall be—(Ec 3:22; 6:12; 8:7; 11:2; Pr 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—(Isa 55:2; Hab 2:13).

knoweth not how to go to the city—proverb for ignorance of the most ordinary matters (Ec 10:3); spiritually, the heavenly city (Ps 107:7; Mt 7:13, 14). Maurer connects Ec 10:15 with the following verses. The labor (vexation) caused by the foolish (injurious princes, Ec 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 (Jer 21:12); here, given to feasting (Isa 5:11; Ac 2:15).

17. son of nobles—not merely in blood, but in virtue, the true nobility (So 7:1; Isa 32:5, 8).

in due season—(Ec 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 (Ec 10:16; Isa 3:6; Am 9:11).

hands—(Ec 4:5; Pr 6:10).

droppeth—By neglecting to repair the roof in time, the rain gets through.

19. Referring to Ec 10:18. Instead of repairing the breaches in the commonwealth (equivalent to "building"), the princes "make a feast for laughter (Ec 10:16), and wine maketh their life glad (Ps 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 (Ec 10:5, 6; 3:16; Isa 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 (1Ki 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 (Ps 139:1-24), whose consciousness of every evil thought we should ever realize.

bed-chamber—the most secret place (2Ki 6:12).

bird of the air, &c.—proverbial (compare Hab 2:11; Lu 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 (see on Job 28:21; hence the proverb).




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