This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great to me:…
The truth of the aphorism, that "the battle is not to the strong... nor yet favor to men of skill" (ver. 11), is illustrated by the Preacher in a striking little story or apologue, taken doubtless from the history of' some campaign familiar to his readers. It represents in a vivid manner the power of wisdom, and also the ungrateful treatment which the possessor of it frequently receives from those who have found him a deliverer in time of danger. A little city, with few in it to defend it, is besieged by a great king. The place is surrounded by his army, and round about it great mounds are erected from which missiles are hurled into it. All hope seems to be gone; no material forces which the besieged can muster for their defense are at all adequate to repel the assailants. When suddenly some poor man, whose name was perhaps known to few in the city, delivers it by his wisdom. The great king and his army are compelled to retire baffled from before the walls of the city, which probably when they first beheld them moved them to scornful laughter by their apparent insignificance and weakness. The picture is not overdrawn; history affords many parallel instances. The defense of Syracuse against the Romans by Archimedes the mathematician (Livy, 24:34), of Londonderry against James II. by Walker, and in later times of Antwerp by Carnot (Alison, 'Europe,' 87.), show how inferior material is to moral force. This is the bright side of the picture. "Wisdom is better than strength" (ver. 16); "wisdom is better than weapons of war" (ver. 18). The dark side is that it is often rewarded by the basest ingratitude. It was the wisdom of a poor man that delivered the city in which he dwelt; but when the danger was past he sank again into obscurity. No one thought of him as he deserved to be thought of. The public attention was caught by some new figure, and the savior of the city remained as poor and unnoticed as he had been before the great crisis in which his wisdom had been of such great service. Had he been high-born and rich, his great services would have been acknowledged in some notable manner; but the meanness of his surroundings obscured his merit in the eyes of the thoughtless multitude. It was this vulgar failing which prompted some to despise wisdom itself incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and to ask scornfully, "Is not this the carpenter?" (Mark 6:2, 3) Wisdom is unassuming, calm, and deliberate (cf. Isaiah 42:2; Matthew 12:19), yet fall of strength and resources, and the pity is that it should so often lose its reward, and the public attention be caught by the blustering cry of fools (ver. 17). It is, indeed, often a better defense than weapons of war; and therefore it is sad that it should sometimes be nullified by folly, that one perverse blunderer should sometimes be able through carelessness or passion to destroy all the defenses that wisdom has carefully erected. - J.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: