Ecclesiastes 10:16
Parallel Verses
English Standard Version
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes feast in the morning!

King James Bible
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

American Standard Version
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

Douay-Rheims Bible
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and when the princes eat in the morning.

English Revised Version
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

Webster's Bible Translation
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!

Ecclesiastes 10:16 Parallel
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

"If the iron has become blunt, and he has not whetted the face, then he must give more strength to the effort; but wisdom has the superiority in setting right." This proverb of iron, i.e., iron instruments (בּרזל, from בּרז, to pierce, like the Arab. name for iron, hadîd, means essentially something pointed), is one of the most difficult in the Book of Koheleth, - linguistically the most difficult, because scarcely anywhere else are so many peculiar and unexampled forms of words to be found. The old translators afford no help for the understanding of it. The advocates of the hypothesis of a Dialogue have here a support in אם, which may be rendered interrogatively; but where would we find, syntactically as well as actually, the answer? Also, the explanations which understand חילים in the sense of war-troops, armies, which is certainly its nearest-lying meaning, bring out no appropriate thought; for the thought that even blunt iron, as far as it is not externally altogether spoiled (lo-phanim qilqal), or: although it has not a sharpened edge (Rashi, Rashbam), might be an equipment for an army, or gain the victory, would, although it were true, not fit the context; Ginsburg explains: If the axe be blunt, and he (who goes out against the tyrant) do not sharpen it beforehand (phanim, after Jerome, for lephanim, which is impossible, and besides leads to nothing, since lephanim means ehedem formerly, but not zuvor [prius], Ewald, 220a), he (the tyrant) only increases his army; on the contrary, wisdom hath the advantage by repairing the mischief (without the war being unequal); - but the "ruler" of the foregoing group has here long ago disappeared, and it is only a bold imagination which discovers in the hu of Ecclesiastes 10:10 the person addressed in Ecclesiastes 10:4, and represents him as a rebel, and augments him into a warlike force, but recklessly going forth with unwhetted swords. The correct meaning for the whole, in general at least, is found if, after the example of Abulwald and Kimchi, we interpret חילים גּבּר of the increasing of strength, the augmenting of the effort of strength, not, as Aben-Ezra, of conquering, outstripping, surpassing; גּבּר means to make strong, to strengthen, Zechariah 10:6, Zechariah 10:12; and חילים, as plur. of חיל, strength, is supported by גּבּורי חילים, 1 Chronicles 7:5, 1 Chronicles 7:7, 1 Chronicles 7:11, 1 Chronicles 7:40, the plur. of חיל גבור; the lxx renders by δυνάμεις δυναμώσει and he shall strengthen the forces, and the Peshito has חילי for δυνάμεις, Acts 8:13; Acts 19:11 (cf. Chald. Syr. אתחיּל, to strengthen oneself, to become strengthened). Thus understanding the words יג יח of intentio virium, and that not with reference to sharpening (Luth., Grotius), but to the splitting of wood, etc. (Geier, Desvoeux, Mendelss.), all modern interpreters, with the exception of a few who lose themselves on their own path, gain the thought, that in all undertakings wisdom hath the advantage in the devising of means subservient to an end. The diversities in the interpretation of details leave the essence of this thought untouched. Hitz., Bttch., Zckl., Lange, and others make the wood-splitter, or, in general, the labourer, the subject to קהה, referring והוא to the iron, and contrary to the accents, beginning the apodosis with qilqal: "If he (one) has made the iron blunt, and it is without an edge, he swings it, and applies his strength."

לא־פנים, "without an edge" (lo for belo), would be linguistically as correct as בּנים לא, "without children," 1 Chronicles 2:30, 1 Chronicles 2:32; Ewald, 286b; and qilqal would have a meaning in some measure supported by Ezekiel 21:26. But granting that qilqal, which there signifies "to shake," may be used of the swinging of an axe (for which we may refer to the Aethiop. ḳualḳuala, ḳalḳala, of the swinging of a sword), yet קלקלו (אתו קלקל) could have been used, and, besides, פנים means, not like פי, the edge, but, as a somewhat wider idea, the front, face (Ezekiel 21:21; cf. Assyr. pan ilippi, the forepart of a ship); "it has no edge" would have been expressed by (פּיפיּות) פּה לא והוא, or by מלטּשׁ איננו והוא (מוּחד, מורט). We therefore translate: if the iron has become blunt, hebes factum sit (for the Pih. of intransitives has frequently the meaning of an inchoative or desiderative stem, like מעת, to become little, decrescere, Ecclesiastes 12:3; כּהה, hebescere, caligare, Ezekiel 21:12; Ewald, 120c), and he (who uses it) has not polished (whetted) the face of it, he will (must) increase the force. והוּא does not refer to the iron, but, since there was no reason to emphasize the sameness of the subject (as e.g., 2 Chronicles 32:30), to the labourer, and thus makes, as with the other explanation, the change of subject noticeable (as e.g., 2 Chronicles 26:1). The order of the words קל ... וה, et ille non faciem (ferri) exacuit, is as at Isaiah 53:9; cf. also the position of lo in 2 Samuel 3:34; Numbers 16:29.

קלקל, or pointed with Pattach instead of Tsere (cf. qarqar, Numbers 24:17) in bibl. usage, from the root-meaning levem esse, signifies to move with ease, i.e., quickness (as also in the Arab. and Aethiop.), to shake (according to which the lxx and Syr. render it by ταράσσειν, דּלח, to shake, and thereby to trouble, make muddy); in the Mishn. usage, to make light, little, to bring down, to destroy; here it means to make light equals even and smooth (the contrast of rugged and notched), a meaning the possibility of which is warranted by נח קלל, Ezekiel 1:7; Daniel 10:6 (which is compared by Jewish lexicographers and interpreters), which is translated by all the old translators "glittering brass," and which, more probably than Ewald's "to steel" (temper), is derived from the root qal, to burn, glow.

(Note: Regarding the two roots, vid., Fried. Delitzsch's Indogerm.-Sem. Stud. p. 91f.)

With vahhaylim the apodosis begins; the style of Koheleth recognises this vav apod. in conditional clauses, Ecclesiastes 4:11, cf. Genesis 43:9, Ruth. Ecc 3:13; Job 7:4; Micah 5:7, and is fond of the inverted order of the words for the sake of emphasis, 11:8, cf. Jeremiah 37:10, and above, under Ecclesiastes 7:22.

In 10b there follows the common clause containing the application. Hitzig, Elster, and Zckl. incorrectly translate: "and it is a profit wisely to handle wisdom;" for instead of the inf. absol. הך, they unnecessarily read the inf. constr. הכשׁיר, and connect חכמה הכשׁיר, which is a phrase altogether unparalleled. Hichsir means to set in the right position (vid., above, kaser), and the sentence will thus mean: the advantage which the placing rightly of the means serviceable to an end affords, is wisdom - i.e., wisdom bears this advantage in itself, brings it with it, concretely: a wise man is he who reflects upon this advantage. It is certainly also possible that הכשׁ, after the manner of the Hiph. הצליח and השׂכיל, directly means "to succeed," or causatively: "to make to succeed." We might explain, as e.g., Knobel: the advantage of success, or of the causing of prosperity, is wisdom, i.e., it is that which secures this gain. But the meaning prevalent in post-bibl. Heb. of making fit, equipping, - a predisposition corresponding to a definite aim or result, - is much more conformable to the example from which the porisma is deduced. Buxtorf translates the Hiph. as a Mishnic word by aptare, rectificare. Tyler suggests along with "right guidance" the meaning "pre-arrangement," which we prefer.

(Note: Also the twofold Haggadic explanation, Taanith 8a, gives to hachshir the meaning of "to set, priori, in the right place." Luther translated qilqal twice correctly, but further follows the impossible rendering of Jerome: multo labore exacuetur, et post industriam sequetur sapientia.)

Ecclesiastes 10:16 Parallel Commentaries

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge


2 Chronicles 13:7 And there are gathered to him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon...

2 Chronicles 33:1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:

2 Chronicles 36:2,5,9,11 Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem...

Isaiah 3:4,5,12 And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them...


Proverbs 20:1,2 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise...

Isaiah 5:11,12 Woe to them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!...

Isaiah 28:7,8 But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way...

Hosea 7:5-7 In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners...

in the

Jeremiah 21:12 O house of David, thus said the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor...

Cross References
Proverbs 28:16
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.

Ecclesiastes 10:15
The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.

Isaiah 3:4
And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.

Isaiah 3:12
My people--infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

Isaiah 5:11
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!

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