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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Ecclesiastes 7

 

 

Verses 1-29


Practical Aphorisms

1-6. Things useful to remember in life. The writer has just warned as that we cannot rely on either the present or the future. We can, however, guide ourselves in the conduct of life by bearing in mind useful truths. These he now proceeds to give.

1. Precious ointment] This was a much-prized luxury in the East (cp. Psalms 45:8; Amos 6:6; Matthew 26:7; Luke 7:37), but to be held in esteem is still better. There is a play on words in the Heb. (Shem, 'a name,' and Shemen, 'ointment'), which can scarcely be reproduced in English. Plumptre suggests, 'A good name is better than good nard.' The day of death] Even in this respect, however, a man's life cannot be judged happy till its end is reached.

2. The living will lay it to his heart] Oriental mourning is elaborate and prolonged. Hence there is abundant opportunity for those who take life in earnest to obtain a hearing for their counsels.

6. As the crackling of thorns] Frivolity is like the fire which the wayfarer lights from the thorns that he has gathered, and which goes out as suddenly as it has sprung up, leaving only dead ashes: cp. Psalms 58:9.

7-14. Ill-treatment may well provoke anger, yet pause and exercise control. Accept the present, with submission. Wisdom and money are both valuable, but wisdom is the better of the two. All things are in the hands of God.

7. Oppression] RV 'extortion': sufferings inflicted on the weak by the strong. Mad] RV 'foolish.' The heart] RV 'the understanding.' To be condemned by one whose decision is detennined by a bribe causes a man to lose all power of calm judgment.

8. Better is the end] The connexion seems to be this: the danger of being warped in our view by outward circumstances is such a real one that we cannot pronounce an unqualified judgment upon anything till the end is reached.

10. Thou dost not enquire wisely] We have not the materials for a just comparison.

11, 12. Some men through the attainment of wisdom or wealth have reached a vantage ground in the battle of life. Of the two wisdom is to be preferred, as possessed of a quickening power which money cannot bestow.

11. Them that see the sun] i.e. the living.

12. A defence] lit. a shadow: cp. Isaiah 30:2-3; Isaiah 32:2.

13. Who can make that straight, etc.] If trouble be God's will for us, we cannot change it.

14. Consider] Ask yourself what you may learn from it. Over against] RV 'side by side with.' Both run through the course of human life. To the end, etc.] So that we cannot forecast the part which the one and the other will play in the future.

15. The anomalies of life.

15. A just man that perisheth, etc.] It was perplexing enough that there should be but one end to the righteous and the wicked (Ecclesiastes 3:19). It is more so when we see the just man cut off by an untimely death and the evil-doer enjoying a green old age.

16-18. Extremes, whether of asceticism or of excess, are bad.

17. Over much wicked] The expression seems strange, as though moderate wickedness were allowable. But the sense is probably as follows: the author had just said, 'Be not righteous over much,' perhaps alluding to the over-scrupulousness of the Jews in observing ceremonies, etc.: cp. Matthew 23. He may now be meeting the thought of those who would reply, 'There is no fear that we shall exceed in that direction,' and he warns them that there is an opposite kind of excess to which they are more prone. Excess in either direction, and folly, tend to disturb and shorten life.

18. From this] RV 'from that.' Whatever the nature of the experience to which God subjects you, take cognisance of the evil as well as of the good. That in using such language he is not condoning sin is clear from the last part of the v. If only he fear God, he shall come forth unscathed.

19-22. Be wise enough not to be over sensitive to criticism, since you also indulge in it.

19. Wisdom strengthened] There is a power greater than brute force.

23-28. Wisdom eludes the grasp. Sweeping condemnation of the female sex.

24. That which is far off] RV 'That which is is far off.' 'That which is,' viz. God's world-plan, all the phenomena of the world and of human life, can only be realised by us in fragmentary form.

25. Madness] As in Ecclesiastes 2:12, wickedness and madness are closely connected.

26-28. The writer gives us the general result of his experience of human character. Among men he has found but one true friend. The other sex he condemns without exception. We cannot tell why, ignorant as we are of the circumstances of his life. We must, however, remember that the position of women in the East has always been favourable to the growth of habits of frivolity, cunning, and licentiousness; also that elsewhere (Ecclesiastes 9 : cp. perhaps also Ecclesiastes 4:8) he modifies this judgment. It remained for Christianity to bring woman back to her rightful position as a helpmeet for man.

29. Many inventions] From the Fall in Eden there has been a continued display of manifold ingenuity to thwart God's benevolent purposes for man.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/ecclesiastes-7.html. 1909.

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