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Bible Commentaries

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

Ecclesiastes 7

 

 

Verses 1-29

The preacher now proceeded to the inculcation of indifference toward all the facts of life as the only attitude which is in the least likely to be satisfactory. This he did, first, by a series of maxims. In all of these there is an element of truth, and yet here they express the gravest pessimism, the bitterest disappointment. "A good name is better than precious ointment," and yet "the day of death is better than the day of . . . birth"; and if these two statements are connected, it is easy to see the despair of the preacher, who evidently meant to imply that birth was an opportunity for losing the good name, while death closed such opportunity. He continued by declaring that mourning and sorrow are better than feasting and mirth, because they serve to keep the heart steady or wise, while the latter make it excited and foolish. For the same reason rebuke is better than laughter. The issue of all this is that the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit, which, in this connection, simply means that the man who can be stoical and indifferent is better than he who attempts to rise and rule. Therefore the preacher urged suppression of the passion of anger, and that there should be no wasted lament over former days.

Wisdom, that is, the power of being indifferent and cautious, is good. He finally calls on men to consider the work of God, who has placed prosperity and adversity side by side with the deliberate intention of hiding from man the issues of his own life. Therefore, take things as they come. In prosperity be joyful, and in adversity be thoughtful.

All this general inculcation of indifference is now emphasized by particular illustration. Righteousness does not always pay. Wickedness sometimes does. Therefore morality is to be a thing of calculation. Men are urged to walk the middle way. "Be not righteous overmuch . . . be not overmuch wicked." Overmuch righteousness may end in destruction. Overmuch wickedness cuts short the days. It is the calm, calculating, self-centered morality of the materialist. Moreover, if men are to find any satisfaction they are to remember that there are no righteous men and to turn a deaf ear to tales. A word of personal testimony urges still further the value of this attitude of indifference. The preacher had tried other ways. He had determined to be wise, but had failed. He had turned to find out by personal experience that wickedness is folly, and in one graphic and startling picture revealing the depths to which he had sunk, he gives the issue. He had found something more bitter than death, the evil woman. After all the excesses of material life, therefore, his final conclusion about humanity is that only one man in a thousand can be found, but that not one woman in a thousand can be found. It is a word full of cynicism, but it is the word of a man who has lived the life which according to his own philosophy is the life of the beast.

 


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Bibliography Information
Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:4". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gcm/ecclesiastes-7.html. 1857-84.

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