Ecclesiastes 7:11
Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
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(11) With.—This is the ordinary meaning of the word, and accordingly is the rendering of the older translators, but the marginal “as good as,” or “equally with,” agrees so much better with the context, that the only question is whether the word will bear that meaning. And though in some places where it is translated “like,” the rendering “with” may be substituted, yet the passages in Ecclesiastes 2:16, “no resemblance to the wise equally with the foolish,” Job 9:26, “my days have passed like the swift ships,” seem to be decisive that it will.

Profit.—In defence of the marginal “yea, better,” may be pleaded that the word is translated as an adverb (Esther 6:6; and in this book (Ecclesiastes 2:16; Ecclesiastes 6:8; Ecclesiastes 6:11; Ecclesiastes 7:16; Ecclesiastes 12:9; Ecclesiastes 12:12).

Ecclesiastes 7:11-12. Wisdom is good — That is, very good; the positive being put for the superlative, as it frequently is in the Hebrew text; with an inheritance — When wisdom and riches meet in one man, it is a happy conjunction, for wisdom without riches wants opportunities and instruments of doing that good in the world which it is willing and desirous of doing; and riches without wisdom are like a sword in a madman’s hand, and an occasion of much sin and mischief both to himself and others. And by it there is profit — By wisdom joined with riches there comes great benefit to them that see the sun — That is, to mortal men; not only to a man’s self, but many others who live with him in this world. For wisdom is a defence — Hebrew, is a shadow; which in Scripture signifies both protection and refreshment; and money is a defence — Thus far wisdom and money agree; but the excellency of knowledge — But herein knowledge or wisdom excels riches, that whereas riches frequently expose men to destruction, true wisdom doth often preserve a man from temporal, and always from eternal ruin.7:11-22 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, yea better. It shelters from the storms and scorching heat of trouble. Wealth will not lengthen out the natural life; but true wisdom will give spiritual life, and strengthen men for services under their sufferings. Let us look upon the disposal of our condition as the work of God, and at last all will appear to have been for the best. In acts of righteousness, be not carried into heats or passions, no, not by a zeal for God. Be not conceited of thine own abilities; nor find fault with every thing, nor busy thyself in other men's matters. Many who will not be wrought upon by the fear of God, and the dread of hell, will avoid sins which ruin their health and estate, and expose to public justice. But those that truly fear God, have but one end to serve, therefore act steadily. If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. Every true believer is ready to say, God be merciful to me a sinner. Forget not at the same time, that personal righteousness, walking in newness of life, is the only real evidence of an interest by faith in the righteousness of the Redeemer. Wisdom teaches us not to be quick in resenting affronts. Be not desirous to know what people say; if they speak well of thee, it will feed thy pride, if ill, it will stir up thy passion. See that thou approve thyself to God and thine own conscience, and then heed not what men say of thee; it is easier to pass by twenty affronts than to avenge one. When any harm is done to us, examine whether we have not done as bad to others.And by it there is profit ... - literally, And is profitable to the living. The same word as in Ecclesiastes 6:11, to the question in which it looks like an answer. 11. Rather, "Wisdom, as compared with an inheritance, is good," that is, is as good as an inheritance; "yea, better (literally, and a profit) to them that see the sun" (that is, the living, Ec 11:7; Job 3:16; Ps 49:19). Good, i.e. very good; the positive being put for the superlative, as it is frequently in the Hebrew text. When wisdom and riches meet in one man, it is a happy conjunction; for wisdom without riches is commonly contemned, Ecclesiastes 9:16, and wants opportunities and instruments of discovering itself, and of doing that good in the world which it is both able and willing to do; and riches without wisdom are like a sword in a madman’s hand, an occasion of much sin and mischief, both to himself and others.

By it there is profit; by wisdom joined with riches there comes great benefit; Heb. and it is an excellency, or privilege, or advantage.

To them that see the sun, i.e. to mortal men; not only to a man’s self, but many others who live with him in this world; whereby he intimates that riches bear no price and have no use in the other world. Wisdom is good with an inheritance,.... It is good of itself. Or, "is as good as an inheritance" (n), as it may be rendered; it is a portion of itself, especially spiritual and divine wisdom. The Targum interprets it, the wisdom of the law, or the knowledge of that; but much more excellent is the wisdom of the Gospel, the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom; the knowledge of which, in an experimental way, is preferable to all earthly inheritances: but this with an inheritance is good, yea, better than without one; for wisdom, without riches, is generally overlooked and despised in men; see Ecclesiastes 9:16; when wealth, with wisdom, makes a man regarded; this commands respect and attention; as well as he is in a better condition to do good, if willing to share, and ready to distribute;

and by it there is profit to them that see the sun; mortals in this present state, who are described as such that see the sun rise and set, and enjoy the heat and light of it, receive much advantage from men who are both wise and rich: or, "and it is an excellency to them that see the sun"; it is an excellency to mortals and what gives them superiority to others, that they have both wisdom and riches.

(n) "aeque ac haereditas", Gejerus, Schmidt.

Wisdom is good with an {h} inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

(h) He answers to them who do not value wisdom unless riches are joined with it, showing that both are the gifts of God, but that wisdom is far more excellent and may be without riches.

11. Wisdom is good with an inheritance] The words fall on our ears with something like a ring of cynicism, as though the teacher said with a sneer, “wisdom is all very well if you have property to fall back upon.” If that sense were however admissible at all, it could only be by emphasizing the word “inheritance,” as contrasted with the treasure which a man heaps up for himself. The inherited estate, be it great or small, does not interfere with wisdom as money-making does. The ἀρχαιόπλουτοι (“rich with ancestral wealth”) are, as Aristotle taught, of a nobler stamp than those who make their fortunes (Rhet. ii. 9. 9). Comp. Aesch. Agam. 1043. Even so taken, however, the tone is entirely out of harmony with the immediate context, and a far more satisfactory meaning is obtained by taking the preposition as a particle of comparison (it is often so used, as in ch. Ecclesiastes 2:17; Psalm 73:5; Psalm 120:4 (probably); Job 9:20); and so we get “Wisdom is good as an inheritance.”

and by it there is profit to them that see the sun] Better, And it is profitable for them that see the sun. It stands instead of both inherited and acquired wealth. In the use of the term “those that see the sun” as an equivalent we note again an echo of Greek poetic feeling. The very phrase ὁρᾶν φάος ἡελίοιο (“to see the light of the sun”) is essentially Homeric. Here, as in chap. Ecclesiastes 12:7, it seems chosen as half conveying the thought that there is after all a bright side of life.Verse 11. - Such hasty judgment is incompatible with true wisdom and sagacity. Wisdom is good with an inheritance; Septuagint, Ἀγαθὴ σοφία μετὰ κληρονομίας. Vulgate, Utilior eat sapientia cam divitiis. The sentence thus rendered seems to mean that wealth lends a prestige to wisdom, that the man is happy who possesses both. The inheritance spoken of is an hereditary one; the man who is "rich with ancestral wealth" is enabled to employ his wisdom to good purpose, his position adding weight to his words and actions, and relieving him from the low pursuit of money-making. To this effect Wright quotes Menander -

Μακάριος ὅστις οὐσίαν καὶ νοῦν ἕχει
Ξρῆται γὰρ οῦτος εἰς α} δεῖ ταύτῃ καλῶς.

"Blest is the man who wealth and wisdom hath,
For he can use his riches as he ought."
(Comp. Proverbs 14:24.) Many commentators, thinking such a sentiment alien front the context, render the particle עִם not "with," but "as" Wisdom is [as] good as an inheritance" (see on Ecclesiastes 2:16). This is putting wisdom on rather a low platform, and one would have expected to read some such aphorism as "Wisdom is better than rubies" (Proverbs 8:11), if Koheleth had intended to make any such comparison. It appears then most expedient to take im in the sense of "moreover," "as well as," "and" (camp. 1 Samuel 17:42, "ruddy, and (ira) of a fair countenance"). "Wisdom is good, and an inheritance is good; 'both are good, but the advantages of the former, as ver. 12 intimates, far outweigh those of the latter. And by it there is profit to them that see the sun; rather, and an advantage for those that see the, sun. However useful wealth may be, wisdom is that which is really beneficial to all who live and rejoice in the light of day. In Homer the phrase, ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο, "to see the light of the sun" ('Iliad,' 18:61), signifies merely "to live;" Plumptre considers it to be used here and in Ecclesiastes 19:7 in order to convey the thought that, after all, life has its bright side. Cox would take it to mean to live much in the sun, i.e. to lead an active life - which is an imported modern notion. A fourth proverb of that which is better (מן טוב) presents, like the third, the fools and the wise over against each other: "Better to hear the reproof of a wise man, than that one should hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of Nesseln (nettles) under the Kessel (kettle), so the laughter of the fool: also this is vain." As at Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 17:10, גּערה is the earnest and severe words of the wise, which impressively reprove, emphatically warn, and salutarily alarm. שׁיר in itself means only song, to the exclusion, however, of the plaintive song; the song of fools is, if not immoral, yet morally and spiritually hollow, senseless, and unbridled madness. Instead of משּׁמע, the words מא שׁ are used, for the twofold act of hearing is divided between different subjects. A fire of thorn-twigs flickers up quickly and crackles merrily, but also exhausts itself quickly (Psalm 118:12), without sufficiently boiling the flesh in the pot; whilst a log of wood, without making any noise, accomplishes this quietly and surely.

We agree with Knobel and Vaihinger in copying the paronomasia [Nessel-Kessel]. When, on the other hand, Zckler remarks that a fire of nettles could scarcely crackle, we advise our friend to try it for once in the end of summer with a bundle of stalks of tall dry nettles. They yield a clear blaze, a quickly expiring fire, to which here, as he well remarks, the empty laughter of foolish men is compared, who are devoid of all earnestness, and of all deep moral principles of life. This laughter is vain, like that crackling.

There is a hiatus between Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:7. For how Ecclesiastes 7:7 can be related to Ecclesiastes 7:6 as furnishing evidence, no interpreter has as yet been able to say. Hitzig regards Ecclesiastes 7:6 as assigning a reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, but 6b as a reply (as Ecclesiastes 7:7 containing its motive shows) to the assertion of Ecclesiastes 7:5, - a piece of ingenious thinking which no one imitates. Elster translates: "Yet injustice befools a wise man," being prudently silent about this "yet." Zckler finds, as Knobel and Ewald do, the mediating thought in this, that the vanity of fools infects and also easily befools the wise. But the subject spoken of is not the folly of fools in general, but of their singing and laughter, to which Ecclesiastes 7:7 has not the most remote reference. Otherwise Hengst.: "In Ecclesiastes 7:7, the reason is given why the happiness of fools is so brief; first, the mens sana is lost, and then destruction follows." But in that case the words ought to have been כסיל יהולל; the remark, that חכם here denotes one who ought to be and might be such, is a pure volte. Ginsburg thinks that the two verses are co-ordinated by כי; that Ecclesiastes 7:6 gives the reason for Ecclesiastes 7:5, and Ecclesiastes 7:7 that for Ecclesiastes 7:5, since here, by way of example, one accessible to bribery is introduced, who would act prudently in letting himself therefore be directed by a wise man. But if he had wished to be thus understood, the author would have used another word instead of חכם, 7a, and not designated both him who reproves and him who merits reproof by the one word - the former directly, the latter at least indirectly. We do not further continue the account of the many vain attempts that have been made to bring Ecclesiastes 7:7 into connection with Ecclesiastes 7:6 and Ecclesiastes 7:5. Our opinion is, that Ecclesiastes 7:7 is the second half of a tetrastich, the first half of which is lost, which began, as is to be supposed, with tov. The first half was almost the same as Psalm 37:16, or better still, as Proverbs 16:8, and the whole proverb stood thus:

טוב מעט בּחדקה

מרב תּבוּאות בּלא משׁפּט׃

[and then follows Ecclesiastes 7:7 as it lies before us in the text, formed into a distich, the first line of which terminates with חכם]. We go still further, and suppose that after the first half of the tetrastich was lost, that expression, "also this is vain," added to Ecclesiastes 7:6 by the punctuation, was inserted for the purpose of forming a connection for כי עשק: Also this is vain, that, etc. (כי, like asher, Ecclesiastes 8:14).

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