[Kohelet 7 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 A good name [shem tov] is better than precious ointment; and the day of death [yom hamavet] than the day of one's birth [IF the whole life has been spent preparing for future glory!]
The Name Christadelphian.-
It is not the name you may take, but the belief you entertain, and the things you say, and the actions you perform, that will determine the Divine estimate of you.
At the same time, names define things; things are known by their names, and wrong names would lead to the confusion of things. You would not like to be called a Mahometan, for example: nor a Roman Catholic: nor a Wesleyan: nor a Theosophist. Why? Because you object to the things signified by these titles.
You naturally wish to be known by a name that will identify you with that which you actually are and own to. In our day, the original apostolic faith is known as "Christadelphian," and the word itself expresses the relation which Christ declared arose out of obedient subjection to the faith. I cannot understand a man objecting to be known by that name unless he do not hold the apostolic faith, or unless he thinks the common run of "Christians" hold it, who do not; or unless he dislikes to be distinguished from his neighbours in the profession of the Apostolic faith, because of its practical inconvenience.
While the acceptance of a particular name is not a condition of fellowship, it might be that the reasons for objecting to it would be a bar to fellowship. No doubt the divisions among those professing to be Christadelphians interfere a little with its expressiveness. We have to put up with this as a temporary inconvenience, which will shortly be swallowed up, with a good many other evil things, by the revelation of the august Possessor of the name above every name.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1896.
Precious ointment was very pleasing and refreshing. It stands for all that is pleasant and enjoyable and luxurious. It speaks of comfort and honour and wealth.
But a good name -- a good character -- is much better. A good character, purified through trial and patience, is the sweet smelling savour of a costly sacrifice unto God.
What a reversal of the world's views! But how irresistibly true when viewed in the light of the Scriptures! One is the beginning of trouble, trial, struggle, effort, warfare -- the other is the end of all these, the accomplishment, the deliverance, the victory. *
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning [bais evel], than to go to the house of feasting [bais mishteh]: for that is the end [sof] of all men [kol haAdam]; and the living will lay it to his heart.
... If our only spell of life lies in these three score years and ten, the merrier we make it, the better. But this is not so.
...Those who work upon a false theory of the human situation are like people who, in the dark, should think the path flat when it is downhill with ruts and humps. They stumble and jolt at every step, while those who know the path is downwards and rough, though equally in the dark, they walk carefully, and prepare their steps for downward direction, and consequently get along with comparative comfort.
Facts will constantly contradict what are called optimistic views of life, and crush enthusiasm and hope at the last. The other view < the Ecclesiastes view < being the true view, works the other way. You give it up at the start, and look beyond, to that beyond which is even visible at several parts of even this gloomy book.
...'The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth'.
At the end of the book, Solomon states the conclusion of the whole matter
"that to fear God and keep His commandments, is the whole duty of man; for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil".
Here is a view of matters which the house of mourning helps; which the house of mirth hinders.
The house of mourning
The man who fully realises that he will soon be done with all the matters he has in hand will find it much easier to carry them lightly, and to act the part of righteousness than the man who suffers himself to be overpowered with the sense of this present existence as if it would never end.
He will find it easier to remember God, to continue in His Word, to hold fast the Faith in all its service, to be kind, to be just, to be self-sacrificing, and everything else required of us by the Law of the Lord, if he have his end in view, than if he habitually draw the veil to the disagreeable aspects of life.
From this we may readily deduce the unwisdom of association with the lovers of the present world, in whose company our perceptions will be blunted, our senses drowned in a flood of foolish excitements, and our hearts drawn away from the beautiful, wholesome, lasting, satisfying things of God, which, while they may have a present bitterness with them, as of the bitter herbs of the Passover, are even now a source of far deeper satisfaction than is to be derived from the ways of worldliness in all departments.
3 Sorrow [Ka'as] is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart [lev] is made better.
Are we not told to always rejoice? Are we not promised continuous joy? Yes, but only in the crucible of present sorrow that develops character and purity and kindness and sympathy and love. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" is the godly frame of mind. "The sorrow will pass away with the night, but the rejoicing is forever." **
How contrary to all our natural inclinations, but how clearly true when we have the wisdom and courage to face the real facts.
Are we not constantly exhorted to rejoice, and rejoice, and rejoice?
The strange and marvelous thing is that these two apparent opposites are both beautifully true, and it is the sorrow that engenders the rejoicing.
Paul, writing to the Romans of the wonderful workings of God's wisdom, speaks of the same deep truths, and borrows the very wording of Ecclesiastes when he says (8:20):
"The creation was made subject to VANITY, by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope."
We suffer with Christ (he says -- v. 17) that -- in order that -- we may be also glorified together.
And he says that the suffering -- the sorrow -- the light affliction which is but for a moment -- worketh for us an eternal weight of glory.
Paul uses the same strange and beautiful paradox to describe his own condition and course through this evil world (2 Cor. 6: 10):
"As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
Here is how the sorrow is related to the rejoicing. Here is why in this present dispensation of probation, sorrow is better than laughter.
It is more wholesome. It is more sound. It is more constructive -- more purifying -- infinitely more powerful for the development of calmness and peace and kindness and sympathy and love. So the Koheleth continues:
"By the sadness of the countenance, the heart is made better."
-- and out of the heart are all the issues of life.
Can we not, even now, even in our own limited experience of the reality of life -- can we not of ourselves perceive the deep truth of the principle that "Sorrow is better than laughter?"
Therefore, the heart of the wise chooses to dwell in the sobering influence of the house of mourning, but the heart of thoughtless fools is in the emptiness and shallowness and giddiness of the house of mirth. *
4 The heart of the wise [lev of chachamim] is in the house of mourning [bais evel]; but the heart of fools [lev of kesilim] is in the house of mirth [bais simchah].
There was no humour in the life of our Great Example, and his life was perfect in the sight of God. He was a man of sorrows and deep, intimate acquaintance with grief. With the knowledge and discernment and spiritual depth of sympathy and fellowfeeling that he possessed, it would be impossible to be otherwise than sorrowful in a world like this.
Nothing would have been more jarringly out of place, or more destructive of the power of his influence for good, than shallow, jangling humour. His mission was to those who had bitterly experienced the sorrow and tragedy of life. With them he had a fellowfeeling born of the same experiences. And to them he said-
"Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh."
"Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."
A mutual sorrow is a far stronger bond of affection than a mutual pleasure, and the consolation of the mutual communion that is born of sorrow is often adequate compensation for it-
"By the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better" (Ecc. 7:3).
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psa. 30:5).
Bro Growcott - Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 For as is the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the kesil [fool]; this also is hevel [vanity].
Paul gives us much to think about when he speaks of foolish talking and jesting as incompatible with holiness. Not because such things are purposely sinful, but they are fleshly and animal, outside the narrow and exalted scope of the sanctification of holiness, and therefore corrupt and unclean. He couples them in equal condemnation with what natural man considers much graver sins (Eph. 5:3-4)-
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you";
"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting."
It is prostitution of the mind to the panderings of the flesh, and the mind is more important than the body.
It has been pointed out that the one great and remarkable omission from the Bible as the portrayal of humanity is the complete absence of humour. It has no place there. There is joy, and laughter, and happiness, and rejoicing, and merriness (in its true sense), and lightheartedness (in its true sense), and good fellowship. But no humour-
"As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool"
-no warmth, no lasting light: a brief flash, a harsh, grating sound, then cold black ashes.
This fact (the absence of humour), with Paul's and other inspired writers' remarks upon the same subject, is matter for deep thought for those who aspire to the holy reverence of sainthood.
...Life isn't funny. We realize this when we face its realities - when we consider its hospitals and asylums; its lonely, cheerless homes for the cast-off aged, sitting around waiting to die; its unnumbered hosts of blind and crippled and suffering and bereaved; its multitude of pitiful, frightened, malformed unwanted children, twisted in mind and body; its endless, hopeless, plodding, stumbling parade toward the inevitable last common receptacle of all mortal flesh.
Who can joke and jest if they keep a full and sober realization of these things before their minds?
Life is no joke: it is grimly tragic. But still even amid its tragedy it can be happy and joyful with the quiet happiness of the assurance of the goodness of God, and the knowledge that all this will pass away and be forgotten when it has at last served its divine purpose, and the tried and perfected family of God is complete.
Bro Growcott - Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter
A time to weep, and a time to laugh (Ecc 3: 4)
7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.
8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof [but only for the chosen of God. Here is the glory of the contrast with the natural animal life of mankind]*: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Pride comes naturally. It's built-in-part of the standard equipment. And it is the greatest enemy of peace - peace within ourselves, or peace with anyone else. It is touchy and self-centered, apprehensive of any slight or loss of face. Patience is its total opposite - a spiritual fruit developed by years of self-searching and self-discipline.
9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
Psal. 7:11, "God is angry every day;"
...it is evident from the context that "with the wicked," as in the English Version, is correctly supplied; for verse 12, continues "if he turn not," that is, if the wicked turn not, "he will whet his sword," etc.
"Anger" does not "rest" in the bosom of God: he pours it out upon the objects of indignation, and there is an end of the matter. Not so with fools; it rankles in their bosom, and consumes them with its maliciousness.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Aug 1859
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days [yamim harishonim] were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
Solomon deprecates another illusion
It seems it is an old habit to consider past times the best. The cause of it is obvious on reflection. It does not lie in the nature of the times; for in this there is no change. There is the same sky all the time, the same shining sun, the beneficent sequence of the seasons, the same beautiful earth with all its bounteous store for man and beast.
Yet as a matter of experience, it does seem after a while with every one as if things were not quite so nice as they used to be. Why is this? There is a change somewhere. Where is it? Not in the things around us, but in ourselves.
In the youthful days there is greater vigour of faculty, greater intensity of feeling, greater clearness of physical perception of all kinds; therefore greater susceptibility to joy or sorrow. As we get older, ardour dulls down, and nothing has the zest it had to our young faculties.
The times seem to change; the former days begin to look in the retrospect as if they were better than the present. But it is a mere appearance. To take the appearance for the reality is not a wise conclusion. To enquire wisely concerning this is to direct attention to ourselves: look within: note the fact that we are as the flowers: we have a seed time, a budding time, a blooming time, a withering time, ending in decay and death.
The true enquiry is as to the cause of this, and the bearing of the facts on the future. Why are we as we are, and what prospects have we? The answer will show us Adam and Christ. There is no answer apart from them, though the answer is almost universally refused in our day.
" By man (Adam) came death; by man (Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:21). "
Here are instructions and hope by which this oppressive dispensation of vanity of vanities is lightened and made comparatively easy to bear. We know the reason why the highest form of life on earth should be the unhappiest, and how release is to come, and the double knowledge ends the terrible problem of life.
...If God has spoken, what He has said must be true.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.
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.
13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
Who does not admire the beauty of the new man who avenges not himself, and walketh in holiness and kindness in all his ways? Who would not buy with much money if it could purchase it, the peace of God that passeth all understanding, filling the heart and mind of those who put on the new man, and follow Christ in righteousness and true holiness? But who can adequately speak of "the end of the matter?"
It is the precept of eternal wisdom by Solomon,
"In everything consider the end (v14)."
The end of the world's ways - dishonour, misery, and death. The end of those who crucify the old man is exaltation, joy unspeakable, and life everlasting.
Bro Roberts - Not as I will, but as Thou wilt
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Elohim also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
In The Day Of Adversity, Consider
WE must not worry about criticism, or be deterred by it, or be afraid of it. But we must be deeply concerned about it, and consider it all very carefully. Our critics are often our best friends: there is always SOME truth in every criticism, however distorted or unfair. We must thankfully extract the truth, and benefit by it, and discard the residue with compassion and without bitterness. If we are wise, the criticisms of our adversaries can be stepping-stones to the Kingdom, and God's way of opening our eyes to many blindnesses our friends hesitate to mention.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
15 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.
16 Be not righteous over much [ Do not be over much the tzaddik] ; neither make thyself over wise [chacham]: why shouldest thou destroy thyself [why cause thyself desolation]?
Human industry is good, but not sufficient by itself. A man must know, love, and serve God to fulfil a part in this universe equal to his original design and adaptability. He got away from from that ideal. Christ is bringing him back where men will listen. They need not give up their gardening to listen, but they must give the listening at least an equal place.
Bro Roberts - Diary of a voyage to Australia and other lands
Now, there is a place for the advice of Solomon: - Be not righteous overmuch." It is not a large place but still it is there. Where we are earnestly exhorted hundreds of times to follow after righteousness, we are only once told to - be not righteous overmuch." This shows the danger of being righteous overmuch is not great, while the danger of neglecting righteousness is very great. Still, the danger of being righteous overmuch does exist for some, and, therefore, there is a time to look at it.
I have known cases - not many - where this danger has shown itself. I have known of too much reading and not enough walking; too much praying and not enough living; too much faith and not enough works; too much Bible and not enough of the other works of God; too much mortifying of the flesh and not enough personal cleanliness, and personal health and personal joy and thanksgiving to Him who has made all things - to be received with thankfulness of them that believe and know the Truth."
The liability to these extremes is distinctly due to the necessity that exists for pushing hard in right directions; but wisdom will enable us to do this hard pushing without carrying things right over the top of the hill There is an equilibrium with all things that is beautiful. It is hard to get at, but it is possible.
Extremes are to be avoided in everything. They tend to destruction. All giving and no getting, all waking and no sleeping; all working and no resting. All study and no eating; all talk and no doing; will tend to emptiness and death, though all of them are right and healthful in their own place. Wisdom is a nice balance of many things; and children of wisdom will aim at this balance. The world is all out of balance one way, there is a possibility of being out of balance in the other. If we obey all the commandments God has given us, we will never be out of balance, but for everything find a time and a place - except for disobedience of God. There is never a time for this. The disobedience of God is wickedness.
Some people think that when Solomon said, -Be not overmuch wicked," he implied that the children of God might be wicked a little. Never. He is not speaking to the righteous in that saying, but to the wicked. You will see that, if you turn to the verse before. He introduces the case of the righteous and the wicked, and he has a word of advice to each. His advice to the righteous is not to carry it too far, because even righteousness carried too far will tend to destruction. His advice to the wicked is a little the same but in a different line of things.
The wicked have to die, but Solomon says they may die 'before their time' if they don't take things in moderation. If it be asked, what had he to do in giving advice to the wicked, we have to remember that he was 'King in Jerusalem,' and wrote for the instruction of the whole nation, of whom the greater part were wicked. That there should be a word for them as an actual element in the situation was according to wisdom.
Bro Roberts - THEMES OF BIBLE PROVE GOD-INSPIRED
"Be not righteous over much."
Another badly abused and misapplied scripture by many who would not have the faintest idea where to even find it in the Bible. It certainly does not mean, "Be careful not to be too righteous." For God has said,
"Be ye perfect, even as I am perfect."
That is the standard "Be ye holy, even as I am holy." "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord." What then does it mean? There are two things in relation to righteousness against which we are repeatedly warned.
One - self-righteousness - assumption of righteousness, pretension or proud display of supposed righteousness.
And, two - setting up our righteousness against God's-presuming to question His way and His righteousness.
It could mean either of these; they are both very common errors. In view of the context, it is most likely the latter-presuming to question God. This fits better with the stern warning.
"Why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"
And it corresponds with verse 13-15,
"Consider the work of God: For who can make that straight which He hath made crooked?"
So many think they can. Many (observing the injustices that Solomon describes in verse 15: the just perishing and the wicked living long in wickedness) have presumed to question God's righteousness, thereby making themselves over righteous-more righteous than God. To complain about anything, even the weather, is to presumptuously set our wisdom and righteousness as greater than God's - to presume that we know or would do better than He.
Bro Growcott - Fear God and Keep his commandments
Although I agree with the essential principles Bro Growcott draws out, I find his two alternative definitions of the passage unsatisfactory. I personally consider Bro Roberts gives the correct meaning to "Be not righteous overmuch".
17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?
18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
19 Wisdom [Chochmah] strengtheneth the wise [chacham] more than ten mighty men [ asarah shalitim (ten rulers)] which are in the city.
We must not worry about criticism, or be deterred by it, or be afraid of it. But we must be deeply concerned about it, and consider it all very carefully. Our critics are often our best friends: there is always SOME truth in every criticism, however distorted or unfair.
We must thankfully extract the truth, and benefit by it, and discard the residue with compassion and without bitterness. If we are wise, the criticisms of our adversaries can be stepping-stones to the Kingdom, and God's way of opening our eyes to many blindnesses our friends hesitate to mention.
20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
...there is not a living man who is perfect. We can all confirm this from experience of ourselves and others. All must, some time or other, feel the wretchedness arising from the fact stated by Paul concerning himself, and which is true of all:
"I find a law that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:21).
Now what shall we do with regard to this wretchedness? Shall we give in to it and abandon hope? There is only one case in which men may give themselves up to despair. Jesus says,
"All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which hath never forgiveness."
This blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a speaking against and attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to other agency, in the face of incontestable evidence of its divine character. We are not in a position in our day to be guilty of this sin. The "works" by which the divinity of the Holy Spirit's work through Christ was attested, and the exhibition of which was the ground of the responsibility of those who saw them (John 15:24), have been suspended for generations. We have but the written testimony, unsupported by miracle.
Whether speaking against the testimony in this state of circumstances is speaking against the Holy Spirit in the sense of Christ's words, is extremely doubtful. We may, therefore, freely rest on the first part of Christ's otherwise terrible words:
"All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men."
Our shortcoming, our failings, our weaknesses, our sins, will receive merciful consideration. This is the consolation in the chapter. You will find the form of it in verse 13:
"Whoso confesseth his sins and forsaketh them shall have mercy."
Let us, however, realise the conditions. There are two things required: confession and abandonment. Sins will not be forgiven as a matter of course.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper."
This is the state of things with which mercy is contrasted: there must be no concealment: there must be no pretence of faultlessness: there must be admission of fault, yea, a humble, contrite, broken-hearted recognition of our unworthiness; and more than this, there must be amendment-a ceasing to do evil, a learning to do well (Isa. 1:16).
We must not be always confessing and never forsaking our sins: there must be a growth in holiness-an increase of stature in Christ-a growing in the knowledge of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. The sins of the righteous will be forgiven: but-
"If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Pet. 4:18)
21 Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:
22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:
26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth Elohim shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:
28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
Thinking of John and Jesus, they were "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake," as also Paul; but there is variety in the tools used as well as in the work of God. In my own case (if I have been a tool) I felt it was inevitable that I must, like Peter, "lead about a sister - a wife."
And now, looking back, I can see how serviceable it has been in every way for the work that that has been done (if any work has been done that will stand in the day of the Lord). I can see also how much God has favoured me in the wife He guided me to, though it is not permitted to a husband to say much in the praise of his wife.
There are not many women who have a real and spontaneous taste for spiritual things. There are not many men either, but the proportion of women is smaller. It must be this that Solomon refers to, when he says:
"One man among a thousand have I found, but a woman among all these have I not found."
I could never take any credit for selecting so good a wife. I was looking in another direction, because there was nowhere else for me to look. I recognised that marriage must be "in the Lord," and the number of those answering to this description was extremely small. Consequently, it was one or other, in a very limited circle, or nobody; but being guided to the right quarter, I soon dropped all other ideas.
My Days and My Ways Ch 9
29 Lo, this only have I found, that Elohim hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
Elohim made man upright
He was made different from what he afterwards became. Being made in the image, after the likeness of the Elohim, he was "made upright." He had no conscience of evil; for he did not know what it was. He was neither virtuous, nor vicious; holy, nor unholy; but in his beginning simply innocent of good or evil deeds. Being without a history, he was without character. This had to be developed, and could only be formed for good or evil, by his own independent action under the divine law.
In short, when Adam and Eve came forth from the hand of their potter, they were morally in a similar condition to a new-born babe; excepting that a babe is born under the constitution of sin, and involuntarily subjected to "vanity" (Rom. 3:20); while they first beheld the light in a state of things where evil had as yet no place. They were created in the stature of a perfect man and woman; but with their sexual feelings undeveloped; in ignorance, and without experience.
The interval between their formation and the transgression was the period of their novitiate. The Spirit of God had made them; and during this time, "the inspiration of the Almighty was giving them understanding" (Job 33:4; 32:8). In this way knowledge was imparted to them. It became power, and enabled them to meet all the demands of their situation. Thus, they were "taught of God," and became the depositories of those arts and sciences, in which they afterwards instructed their sons and daughters, to enable them to till the ground, tend the flocks and herds, provide the conveniences of life, and subdue the earth.
Elpis Israel 2.12.