Ecclesiastes 7:12
For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) A defence.—Literally, a shadow (Psalm 91:1; Psalm 121:5, &c). This verse harmonises with the interpretation of the preceding verse, which we prefer. “Wisdom and riches alike confer protection, but the pre-eminence of wisdom is,” &c.

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.Wisdom is a defense ... - See the margin and Psalm 121:5, i. e., He who is defended from adversity by his wisdom is in as good a position as he who is defended by his riches.

Excellency - literally, Profit.

Giveth life to - literally, "Causes to live," "makes alive" Proverbs 3:18; the deeper meaning of which is elicited by comparing these words with John 6:63; Matthew 4:4.

12. Literally, (To be) in (that is, under) the shadow (Isa 30:2) of wisdom (is the same as to be) in (under) the shadow of money; wisdom no less shields one from the ills of life than money does.

is, that—rather, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life," that is, life in the highest sense, here and hereafter (Pr 3:18; Joh 17:3; 2Pe 1:3). Wisdom (religion) cannot be lost as money can. It shields one in adversity, as well as prosperity; money, only in prosperity. The question in Ec 7:10 implies a want of it.

Is a defence, Heb. is a shadow; which in Scripture use notes both protection and refreshment. And thus far wisdom and money agree. But herein knowledge or wisdom (which commonly signifies the same thing) excels riches, that whereas riches frequently expose men to death or destruction, true wisdom doth ofttimes preserve a man from temporal, and always from eternal ruin.

For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence,.... Or, a "shadow" of refreshment and protection, under which men sit with pleasure and safety; a man by his wisdom, and so by his money, is able to defend himself against the injuries and oppressions of others, and especially when both meet in one and the same man. Jarchi renders and interprets it,

"he that is in the shadow of wisdom is in the shadow of money, for wisdom is the cause why riches come;''

and so the Targum,

"as a man is hid in the shadow of wisdom, so he is hid in the shadow of money, when he does alms with it;''

compare with this Luke 16:9; see Ecclesiastes 7:19. Theognis (o) has a saying much like this,

"riches and wisdom are always inexpugnable to mortals;''

but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it; or, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life" (p), &c. not of natural wisdom, or the knowledge of natural and civil things, the vanity of this is exposed, before by the wise man; but the knowledge of God in Christ; the knowledge of Christ, who is the Wisdom of God; and of the Gospel, and of all divine and spiritual things: this is a superior excellency to riches, which often expose a man's life to danger, cannot preserve him from a corporeal death, much less from an eternal one. When this is the excellency of spiritual knowledge, that spiritual life goes along with it; such as are spiritually enlightened are spiritually quickened; live by faith on Christ, whom they know; and, through the knowledge of him, have all things pertaining to life and godliness, and have both a right and meetness for eternal life; yea, this knowledge is life eternal, John 17:3; see 2 Peter 1:3; and this is the pure gift of Wisdom, or of Christ, and not owing to the merit of men, or works done in obedience to the law, which cannot give this life; see John 17:2, Romans 6:23.

(o) Sententiae, v. 1153. (p) "et praestantia scientiae sapientiae vivificabit", Montanus.

For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence] Better, as a shadow, or, as a shelter, in both clauses. The Hebrew, as the italics shew, has no “and.” “Shadow” as in Psalm 17:8; Psalm 91:1, stands for shelter and protection. This, the writer says, not without a touch of his wonted irony in coupling the two things together, to those who looked to wealth as their only means of safety (Proverbs 13:8), is found not less effectually in wisdom.

but the excellency of knowledge] Better, the profit, thus keeping up what we may call the catch-word of the book. Wisdom, the Debater says, does more than give shelter, as money, in its way, does. It quickens those who have it to a new and higher life. The use of the word ζωοποιήσει (“shall quicken”), by the LXX. connects the maxim with the higher teaching of John 5:21; John 6:63; 2 Corinthians 3:6. The Spirit which alone gives the wisdom that “cometh from above” does the work which is here ascribed to wisdom as an abstract quality. It is clearly out of harmony with the whole train of thought to see in the “life” which wisdom gives only that of the body which is preserved by the prudence that avoids dangers. It is as much beside the point to interpret it of the “life” of the resurrection.

Verse 12. - For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense; literally, in the shade is wisdom, in the shade is money; Septuagint, Ὅτι ἐν σκιᾷ αὐτῆς ἡ σοφία ὡς σκιὰ ἀργυρίου, "For in its shadow wisdom is as the shadow of money." Symmachus has, Σκέπει σοφία ὡς σκέπει τὸ ἀργύριον, "Wisdom shelters as money shelters." The Vulgate explains the obscure text by paraphrasing, Sieur enirn protegit sapientia, sic protegit petunia. Shadow, in Oriental phrase, is equivalent to protection (see Numbers 14:9; Psalm 17:5; Lamentations 4:20). Wisdom as well as money is a shield and defense to men. As it is said in one passage (Proverbs 13:8) that riches are the ransom of a man's life, so in another (Ecclesiastes 9:15) we are told how wisdom delivered a city from destruction. The literal translation given above implies that he who has wisdom and he who has money rest under a safe protection, are secure from material evil. In this respect they are alike, and have analogous claims to man's regard. But the excellency - profit, or advantage - of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. "Knowledge" (daath) and "wisdom" (chokmah) are practically here identical, the terms being varied for the sake of poetic parallelism. The Revised Version, following Delitzsch and others, renders, Wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it; i.e. secures him from passions and excesses which tend to shorten life. This seems to be scarcely an adequate ground for the noteworthy advantage which wisdom is said to possess. The Septuagint gives, Καὶ περίσσεια γνώσεως τῆς σοφίας ζωοποιήσει τόν παρ αὐτῆς "And the excellence of the knowledge of wisdom will quicken him that hath it." Something more than the mere animal life is signified, a climax to the "defense" mentioned in the preceding clause - the higher, spiritual life which man has from God. Wisdom in the highest sense, that is, practical piety and religion, is "a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is every one that retaineth her" (Proverbs 3:18), where it is implied that wisdom restores to man the gift which he lost at the Fall (camp. also Proverbs 8:35). The Septuagint expression ζωοποιήσει recalls the words of Christ, "As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth (ζωοποιεῖ) them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will;" "It is the Spirit that quickeneth (τὸ ζωοποιοῦν)" (John 5:21; John 6:63). Koheleth attributes that power to wisdom which the more definite teaching of Christianity assigns to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Some would explain, "fortifies or vivifies the heart," i.e. imparts new life and strength to meet every fortune. The Vulgate rendering is far astray from the text, and does not accurately convey the sense of the passage, running thus: Hoe autem plus habet eruditio et sapientia: quod vitam tribuunt possessori sue, "But this more have learning and wisdom, that they give life to the possessor of them." Ecclesiastes 7:12Externally connecting itself with "from wisdom," there now follows another proverb, which declares that wisdom along with an inheritance is good, but that wisdom is nevertheless of itself better than money and possessions: "Wisdom is good with family possessions, and an advantage for those who see the sun. For wisdom affordeth a shadow, money affordeth a shadow; yet the advantage of knowledge is this, that wisdom preserveth life to its possessor." Most of the English interpreters, from Desvoeux to Tyler, translate: "Wisdom is as good as an inheritance;" and Bullock, who translates: "with an inheritance," says of this and the other translations: "The difference is not material." But the thought is different, and thus the distinction is not merely a formal one. Zckl. explains it as undoubted that עם here, as at Ecclesiastes 2:16 (vid., l.c.), means aeque ac; (but (1) that aeque ac has occurred to no ancient translator, till the Venet. and Luther, nor to the Syr., which translates: "better is wisdom than weapons (מאנא זינא)," in a singular way making Ecclesiastes 7:11 a duplette of Ecclesiastes 9:18; (2) instead of "wisdom is better than wealth," as e.g., Proverbs 8:11; (3) the proverb is formed like Aboth ii. 2, "good is study connected with a citizen-like occupation," and similar proverbs; (4) one may indeed say: "the wise man dieth with (together with) the fool" equals just as well as the fool; but "good is wisdom with wealth" can neither be equivalent to "as well as wealth," nor: "in comparison with wealth" (Ewald, Elster), but only: "in connection with wealth (possessions);" aeque ac may be translated for una cum where the subject is common action and suffering, but not in a substantival clause consisting of a subst. as subject and an adj. as pred., having the form of a categorical judgment. נחלה denotes a possession inherited and hereditary (cf. Proverbs 20:21); and this is evidence in favour of the view that עם is meant not of comparison, but of connection; the expression would otherwise be עם־עשׁר. ויתר is now also explained. It is not to be rendered: "and better still" (than wealth), as Herzf., Hitz., and Hengst. render it; but in spite of Hengst., who decides in his own way, "יותר never means advantage, gain," it denotes a prevailing good, avantage; and it is explained also why men are here named "those who see the sun" - certainly not merely thus describing them poetically, as in Homer ζώειν is described and coloured by ὁρᾶν φάος ἠελίοιο. To see the sun, is equals to have entered upon this earthly life, in which along with wisdom, also no inheritance is to be despised. For wisdom affords protection as well as money, but the former still more than the latter. So far, the general meaning of Ecclesiastes 7:12 is undisputed. Buthow is Ecclesiastes 7:12 to be construed? Knobel, Hitz., and others regard ב as the so-called beth essentiae: a shadow (protection) is wisdom, a shadow is money, - very expressive, yet out of harmony, if not with the language of that period, yet with the style of Koheleth; and how useless and misleading would this doubled בּ be here! Hengstenberg translates: in the shadow of wisdom, at least according to our understanding of Ecclesiastes 7:11, is not likened to the shadow of silver; but in conformity with that עם, it must be said that wisdom, and also that money, affords a shadow; (2) but that interpretation goes quite beyond the limits of gnomic brachyology. We explain: for in the shadow (בּצל, like בּצּל, Jonah 4:5) is wisdom, in the shadow, money; by which, without any particularly bold poetic licence, is meant that he who possesses wisdom, he who possesses money, finds himself in a shadow, i.e., of pleasant security; to be in the shadow, spoken of wisdom and money, is equals to sit in the shadow of the persons who possess both.

12b. The exposition of this clause is agreed upon. It is to be construed according to the accentuation: and the advantage of knowledge is this, that "wisdom preserveth life to its possessors." The Targ. regards דעת החכמה as connected genit.; that might be possible (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 8:16), but yet is improbable. Wherever the author uses דעת as subst., it is an independent conception placed beside חך, Ecclesiastes 1:16; Ecclesiastes 2:26, etc. We now translate, not: wisdom gives life (lxx, Jerome, Venet., Luther) to its possessors; for חיּה always means only either to revive (thus Hengst., after Psalm 119:25; cf. Psalm 71:20) or to keep in life; and this latter meaning is more appropriate to this book than the former, - thus (cf. Proverbs 3:18): wisdom preserves in life, - since, after Hitzig, it accomplishes this, not by rash utterances of denunciation, - a thought lying far behind Ecclesiastes 7:10, and altogether too mean, - but since it secures it against self-destruction by vice and passions and emotions, e.g., anger (Ecclesiastes 7:9), which consume life. The shadow in which wisdom (the wise man) sits keeps it fresh and sound, - a result which the shadow in which money (the capitalist) sits does not afford: it has frequently the directly contrary effect.

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