Ecclesiastes 7:10
Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Concerning.—This preposition is used after “enquire” only in later Hebrew (Nehemiah 1:2).

Ecclesiastes 7:10. Say not thou — Namely, by way of impatient expostulation and complaint against God, either for permitting such disorders in the world, or for bringing thee into the world in such an evil time and state of things: otherwise a man may say this by way of prudent and pious inquiry, that by searching out the cause, he may, as far as it is in his power, apply remedies to make the times better; What is the cause that the former days were better? — More quiet and comfortable. For this is an argument of a mind unthankful for the many mercies which men enjoy even in evil times. And thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this — This question shows thy folly in contending with thy Lord and Governor, and opposing thy shallow wit to his unsearchable wisdom.

7:7-10 The event of our trials and difficulties is often better than at first we thought. Surely it is better to be patient in spirit, than to be proud and hasty. Be not soon angry, nor quick in resenting an affront. Be not long angry; though anger may come into the bosom of a wise man, it passes through it as a way-faring man; it dwells only in the bosom of fools. It is folly to cry out upon the badness of our times, when we have more reason to cry out for the badness of our own hearts; and even in these times we enjoy many mercies. It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times; as if former ages had not the like things to complain of that we have: this arises from discontent, and aptness to quarrel with God himself.Better - Inasmuch as something certain is attained, man contemplates the end throughout an entire course of action, and does not rest upon the beginning.

Patient ... proud - literally, "Long," long-suffering ..."high," in the sense of impatient.

10. Do not call in question God's ways in making thy former days better than thy present, as Job did (Job 29:2-5). The very putting of the question argues that heavenly "wisdom" (Margin) is not as much as it ought made the chief good with thee. Say not thou, to wit, by way of impatient expostulation and complaint against God, either for permitting such disorders in the world, or for bringing thee into the world in such an evil time and state of things. Otherwise a man may say this by way of prudent and pious inquiry, that by searching out the cause he may, as far as it is in his power, apply remedies to make them better.

Better; either,

1. Less sinful. Or rather,

2. More quiet and comfortable. For this, and not the former, is the cause of most men’s murmurings against God’s providence. And this is an argument of a mind discontented and unthankful for the many mercies which men commonly enjoy even in evil times, and impatient under God’s hand.

Thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this; this question showeth thy great folly in contending with thy Creator, and the sovereign Lord and Governor of all things, in opposing thy shallow wit to his unsearchable wisdom, and thy will to his will.

Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these?.... This is a common opinion, that in all ages prevails among men, that former times were better than present ones; that trade flourished more, and men got more wealth and riches, and lived in greater ease and plenty; and complain that their lot is cast in such hard times, and are ready to lay the blame upon the providence of God, and murmur at it, which they should not do;

for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this: this is owing to ignorance of former times; which, if rightly inquired into, or the true knowledge of them could be come at, it would appear that they were no better than the present; and that there were always bad men, and bad things done; frauds, oppressions, and violence, and everything that can be complained of now: or if things are worse than they were, this should be imputed to the badness of men; and the inquirer should look to himself, and his own ways, and see if there is not a cause there, and study to redeem the time, because the days are evil; and not arraign the providence of God, and murmur at that, and quarrel with it; as if the distributions of it were unequal, and justice not done in one age as in another

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire {g} wisely concerning this.

(g) Murmur not against God when he sends adversities for man's sins.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. What is the cause that the former days were better than these] It would be a mistake to treat this as describing merely the temper of one who is a “laudator temporis acti, se puero.” That is, as the poet noted (Hor. Epist. ad Pis. 173), but the infirmity of age. What is condemned as unwise, as we should call it in modern phrase, unphilosophical, is the temper so common in the decay and decadence of national life (and pointing therefore to the age in which the Debater lived) which looks back upon the past as an age of heroes or an age of faith, idealizing the distant time with a barren admiration, apathetic and discontented with the present, desponding as to the future. Such complaints are in fact (and this is the link which connects this maxim with the preceding) but another form of the spirit which is hasty to be angry, as with individual men that thwart its wishes, so with the drift and tendency of the times in which it lives. The wise man will rather accept that tendency and make the best of it. Below the surface there lies perhaps the suggestion of a previous question, Were the times really better? Had not each age had its own special evils, its own special gains? Illustrations crowd upon one’s memory. Greeks looking back to the age of those who fought at Marathon; Romans under the Empire recalling the vanished greatness of the Republic; Frenchmen mourning over the ancien régime, or Englishmen over the good old days of the Tudors, are all examples of the same unwisdom.

Verse 10. - The same impatience leads a man to disparage the present in comparison with a past age. What is the cause that the former days were better than these? He does not know from any adequate information that preceding times were in any respect superior to present, but in his moody discontent he looks on what is around him with a jaundiced eye, and sees the past through a rose-tinted atmosphere, as an age of heroism, faith, and righteousness. Horace finds such a character in the morose old man, whom he describes in 'De Arte Poet.,' 173 -

"Difficilis, querulus, laudater temporis acti
Se puero, castigator censorque minornm."


"Morose and querulous, praising former days
When he was boy, now ever blaming youth."
And 'Epist.,' 2:1.22 -

"... et nisi quae terris semota suisque
Temporibus defuncta videt, fastidit et odit."


"All that is not most distant and removed
From his own time and place, he loathes and scorns."
For thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this. In asking such a question you show that you have not reflected wisely on the matter. Every age has its light and dark side; the past was not wholly light, the present is not wholly dark. And it may well be questioned whether much of the glamour shed over antiquity is not false and unreal. The days of "Good Queen Bess" were anything but halcyon; the "merrie England" of old time was full of disorder, distress, discomfort. In yearning again for the flesh-pots of Egypt, the Israelites forgot the bondage and misery which were the accompaniments of those sensual pleasures. Ecclesiastes 7:10"Say not: How comes it that the former times were better than these now? for thou dost not, from wisdom, ask after this." Cf. these lines from Horace (Poet. 173, 4):

"Difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti

Se puero, censor castigatorque minorum."

Such an one finds the earlier days - not only the old days described in history (Deuteronomy 4:32), but also those he lived in before the present time (cf. e.g., 2 Chronicles 9:29) - thus by contrast to much better than the present tones, that in astonishment he asks: "What is it equals how comes it that?" etc. The author designates this question as one not proceeding from wisdom: מח, like the Mishnic חכמה מתּוך, and על שׁאל, as at Nehemiah 1:2; 'al-zeh refers to that question, after the ground of the contrast, which is at the same time an exclamation of wonder. The כי, assigning a reason for the dissuasion, does not mean that the cause of the difference between the present and the good old times is easily seen; but it denotes that the supposition of this difference is foolish, because in truth every age has its bright and its dark sides; and this division of light and shadow between the past and the present betrays a want of understanding of the signs of the times and of the ways of God. This proverb does not furnish any point of support for the determination of the date of the authorship of the Book of Koheleth. But if it was composed in the last century of the Persian domination, this dissatisfaction with the present times is explained, over against which Koheleth leads us to consider that it is self-deception and one-sidedness to regard the present as all dark and the past as all bright and rosy.

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