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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ecclesiastes 10




This chapter resembles a portion of the Book of Proverbs, consisting entirely of rhythmical sentences giving advice, more or less direct, as to conduct. It is part of the writer‘s answer to the question Ecclesiastes 2:3; Ecclesiastes 6:12 “What is good for men to do?” The thought which underlies the whole chapter is the advantage of that wisdom which includes piety and patience, as practical guidance through all the perplexities of life: various traits of wisdom are set forth in a favorable light, heightened by contrast with folly. A great part of the advice seems, in addition to its general application, to have a special reference to servants of a king.

Verse 1

This verse is by its meaning so closely connected with Ecclesiastes 9:18 that the selection of it for the beginning of a new chapter seems unfortunate.

Apothecary - Rather: a dealer in spices and perfumes (compare Exodus 30:25). The swarms of flies in the East very soon corrupt and destroy any moist unguent or mixture left uncovered, and pollute a dish of food in a few minutes.

So doth … - literally, more weighty than wisdom, than honor, is a little folly.

Verse 2

The metaphor perhaps means “A wise man‘s sense is in its place, ready to help and protect him; but a fool‘s sense is missing when it is wanted, and so is useless.”

Verse 3

“Way” may be understood either literally (compare Ecclesiastes 10:15), or figuratively, of the course of action which he follows.

He saith … - He exposes his folly to every one he meets.

Verse 4

If the spirit … - i. e., If he is angry.

Leave not thy place - i. e., Do not lose thy self-control and quit his presence. Gentleness on thy part will calm both thyself and him, and prevent great wrongs being committed by either.

Verse 6-7

The “evil” of Ecclesiastes 10:5 is here specified as that caprice of a king by which an unworthy favorite of low origin is promoted to successive dignities, while a noble person is degraded or neglected.

Verses 8-10

The figures seem to be taken from the work of building up and pulling down houses. In their general application, they recommend the man who would act wisely to be cautious when taking any step in life which involves risk.

Ecclesiastes 10:8

Breaketh an hedge - Rather: “breaks through a wall.”

Serpent - The habit of snakes is to nestle in a chink of a wall, or among stones (compare Amos 5:19).

Ecclesiastes 10:9

Be endangered - Rather: “cut himself.”

Verse 11

Rather: “If a serpent without enchantment (i. e., not being enchanted) bites, then there is no advantage to the charmer”: i. e., if the charmer is unwisely slack in exercising his craft, he will be bitten like other people. See Psalm 58:4 note.

Verse 14

Full of words - Confident talking of the future is indicated rather than mere loquacity. Compare James 4:13.

Verse 15

The sense is: “The fool wearies himself with ineffectual attempts, he has not sufficient knowledge for the transaction of ordinary business.”

Verses 16-20

Foolish rulers, by their weakness, self-indulgence and sloth, bring decay upon the state: nobleness and temperance insure prosperity: yet the subject must not rebel in word or thought against his king.

Ecclesiastes 10:16

A child - Rather, young. The word is applied to Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 13:7 at the time of his accession to the throne, when he was 41 years old.

Eat in the morning - A sign of intemperance (compare Isaiah 5:11).

Ecclesiastes 10:17

Son of nobles - i. e., of a noble disposition.

Ecclesiastes 10:18

The “building” or “house” represents the state. Compare Isaiah 3:6; Amos 9:10.

Droppeth through - i. e., Lets the rain through the roof.

Ecclesiastes 10:19

literally, For merriment they make a feast (bread), and wine gladdens the living, and money supplies all things.

Ecclesiastes 10:20

Curse - Compare Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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