Ecclesiastes 12:10
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
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12:8-14 Solomon repeats his text, VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. These are the words of one that could speak by dear-bought experience of the vanity of the world, which can do nothing to ease men of the burden of sin. As he considered the worth of souls, he gave good heed to what he spake and wrote; words of truth will always be acceptable words. The truths of God are as goads to such as are dull and draw back, and nails to such as are wandering and draw aside; means to establish the heart, that we may never sit loose to our duty, nor be taken from it. The Shepherd of Israel is the Giver of inspired wisdom. Teachers and guides all receive their communications from him. The title is applied in Scripture to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophets sought diligently, what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; and then was much more so to both than it is now. All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion, That to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man. The fear of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love, nay, where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious fear of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child. The fear of God, is often put for the whole of true religion in the heart, and includes its practical results in the life. Let us attend to the one thing needful, and now come to him as a merciful Saviour, who will soon come as an almighty Judge, when he will bring to light the things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of all hearts. Why does God record in his word, that ALL IS VANITY, but to keep us from deceiving ourselves to our ruin? He makes our duty to be our interest. May it be graven in all our hearts. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.This passage is properly regarded as the Epilogue of the whole book; a kind of apology for the obscurity of many of its sayings. The passage serves therefore to make the book more intelligible and more acceptable.

Here, as in the beginning of the book Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, the Preacher speaks of himself Ecclesiastes 12:8-10 in the third person. He first repeats Ecclesiastes 12:8 the mournful, perplexing theme with which his musings began Ecclesiastes 1:2; and then states the encouraging practical conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 to which they have led him. It has been pointed out that the Epilogue assumes the identity of the Preacher with the writer of the Book of Proverbs.

9. gave good heed—literally, "he weighed." The "teaching the people" seems to have been oral; the "proverbs," in writing. There must then have been auditories assembled to hear the inspired wisdom of the Preacher. See the explanation of Koheleth in the [669]Introduction, and [670]chapter 1 (1Ki 4:34).

that which is written, &c.—rather, (he sought) "to write down uprightly (or, 'aright') words of truth" [Holden and Weiss]. "Acceptable" means an agreeable style; "uprightly … truth," correct sentiment.

Acceptable words, Heb. desirable or delightful, worthy of all acceptation, such as would minister comfort and profit so the hearers or readers.

Written by the preacher in this and his other books.

Upright, Heb. right or straight, agreeable to the mind or will of God, which is the rule of right, not crooked or perverse.

Words of truth; not fables cunningly devised to deceive the simple, but true and certain doctrines, which commend themselves to men’s own consciences or reasons; wholesome and edifying counsels.

The preacher sought to find out acceptable words,.... Not mere words, fine and florid ones, the words which man's wisdom teacheth, an elegant style, or eloquent language; not but that it is proper for a preacher to seek out and use words suitable and apt to convey right ideas to the minds of men of what he says; but doctrines are rather here meant, "words of desire", "delight", and "pleasure" (d), as the phrase may be rendered; even of God's good will and pleasure, so Alshech; for the same word is sometimes used of God in this book and elsewhere: see Ecclesiastes 3:1; and so may take in the doctrine of God's everlasting love to his people, and his delight and pleasure in them; of his good will towards them in sending Christ to suffer and die for them, and save them; in pardoning their sins through his blood, in which he delights; in regenerating and calling them by his grace, and revealing the things of the Gospel to them, when he hides them from others, which is all of his own will and pleasure, and as it seems good in his sight: or words and doctrines, which are desirable, pleasing, and acceptable unto men; not that Solomon did, or preachers should, seek to please men, or seek to say things merely for the sake of pleasing men, for then they would not be the servants of Christ; nor are the doctrines of the Gospel pleasing to carnal men, but the reverse: they gnash their teeth at them, as Christ's hearers did at him; the preaching of a crucified Christ is foolishness, and the things of the Spirit of God are insipid things, to natural men; they are enemies to the Gospel: but to sensible sinners they are very delightful, such as peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation, by Christ, 1 Timothy 1:15; for the worth of them, they are more desirable to them than gold and silver, and are more delightful to the ear than the best of music, and more acceptable to the taste than honey or the honeycomb, Psalm 19:10;

and that which was written was upright; meaning what was written in this book, or in any other parts of Scripture, which the preacher sought out and inculcated; it was according to the mind and will of God, and to the rest of the sacred word; it was sincere, unmixed, and unadulterated with the doctrines and inventions of men; it showed that man had lost his uprightness, had none of himself, and where it was to be had, even in Christ; and was a means of making men sound, sincere, and upright at heart; and of directing them to walk uprightly, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world;

even words of truth; which come from the God of truth, that cannot lie, as all Scripture does; of which Christ, who is the truth, is the sum and substance; and which are inspired by the Spirit of truth, and led into by him, and made effectual to saving purposes; and which holds good of the whole Scripture, called the Scripture of truth, Daniel 10:1; and of the Gospel, which is the word of truth, and of every doctrine of it, John 17:17.

(d) "verba complacentiae vel beneplaciti", Vatablus; "verba desiderii", Amama, Rambachius; "verba delectabilia", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Mercerus, Gejerus; so Broughton; "verba voluptatis", Cocceius.

The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
10. The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words] Literally, words of delight, or pleasure, as in chs. Ecclesiastes 5:4, Ecclesiastes 12:1. The phrase reminds us of “the words of grace” (Luke 4:22) which came from the lips of Him, who, as the Incarnate Wisdom of God, was, in very deed, greater than Solomon. The fact is stated as by way of apologia for the character of the book. The object of the teacher was to attract men by meeting, or seeming to meet, their inclinations, by falling in with the results of their own experience. We are reminded so far of the words of Lucretius:

“Nam veluti pueris absinthia tetra medentes,

Cum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum

Contingunt mellis dulci, flavoque liquore,

Ut puerorum ætas improvida ludificetur

Labrorum tenus, interea perpotet amarum

Absinthî laticem, deceptaque non capiatur,

Sed potius tali pacto recreata valescat.”

“As those who heal the body, when they seek

To give to children wormwood’s nauseous juice,

First smear the cup’s rim with sweet golden honey,

That infant’s thoughtless age may be beguiled

Just to the margin’s edge, and so may drink

The wormwood’s bitter draught, beguiled, not tricked,

But rather gain thereby in strength and health.”

De Rer. Nat. iv. 11–17.

and that which was written was upright] The italics shew that the sentence is somewhat elliptical, and it is better to take the two sets of phrases in apposition with the “acceptable words” that precede them, even a writing of uprightness (i.e. of subjective sincerity), words of truth (in its objective sense). The words are, thus understood, a full testimony to the character of the book thus commended to the reader’s attention.

Verse 10. - The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words; literally, words of delight; λόγους θελήματος (Septuagint); verba utilia (Vulgate); so Aquila, λόγους χρείας. The word chephets, "pleasure," occurs in Ecclesiastes 5:4; Ecclesiastes 12:1. Thus we have "stones of pleasure" (Isaiah 54:12). He added the grace of refined diction to the solid sense of his utterances. Plumptre reminds us of the "gracious words" (λόγοις τῆς χάριτος, Luke 4:22) which proceeded from the mouth of him who, being the Incarnate Wisdom of God, was indeed greater than Solomon. On the necessity of a work being attractive as well as conforming to literary rules, Horace long ago wrote ('Ars Poet.,' 99) -

"Non satis est pulchra esse poemata; dulcia sunto,
Et quoeunque volent animum auditoris agunto."

"'Tis not enough that poems faultless be,
And fair; let them be tender too, and draw
The hearer by the cord of sympathy."
St. Augustine is copious on this subject in his treatise, 'De Doctr. Christ.;' thus (4:26): "Proinde ilia tria, ut intelligant qui audiunt, ut delectentur, ut obediant, etiam in hoc genere agendum est, ubi tenet delectatio principatum .... Sed quis movetur, si nescit quod dicitur? Ant quis tenetur ut audiat, si non delectatur?" And that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The Authorized Version, with its interpolations, does not accurately convey the sense of the original. The sentence is to be regarded as containing phrases in apposition to the "acceptable words" of the first clause; thus: "Koheleth sought to discover words of pleasure, and a writing in sincerity, words of truth. 'The Septuagint has, καὶ γεγραμμένον εὐθύτητος, "a writing of uprightness;" Vulgate, et conscripsit sermones rectissimos. The meaning is that what he wrote had two characteristics - it was sincere, that which he really thought and believed, and it was true objectively. If any reader was disposed to cavil, and to depreciate the worth of the treatise because it was not the genuine work of the celebrated Solomon, the writer claims attention to his production on the ground of its intrinsic qualities, as inspired by the same wisdom which animated his great predecessor. Ecclesiastes 12:10It is further said of Koheleth, that he put forth efforts not only to find words of a pleasant form, but, above all, of exact truth: "Koheleth strove to find words of pleasantness, and, written in sincerity, words of truth." The unconnected beginning biqqesh Koheleth is like dibbarti ani, Ecclesiastes 1:16, etc., in the book itself. Three objects follow limtso. But Hitz. reads the inf. absol. וכתוב instead of וכתוּב, and translates: to find pleasing words, and correctly to write words of truth. Such a continuance of the inf. const. by the inf. absol. is possible; 1 Samuel 25:26, 1 Samuel 25:31. But why should וכתוב not be the continuance of the finite (Aq., Syr.), as e.g., at Ecclesiastes 8:9, and that in the nearest adverbial sense: et scribendo quidem sincere verba veritatis, i.e., he strove, according to his best knowledge and conscience, to write true words, at the same time also to find out pleasing words; thus sought to connect truth as to the matter with beauty as to the manner? Vechathuv needs no modification in its form. But it is not to be translated: and that which was right was written by him; for the ellipsis is inadmissible, and כתוב מן is not correct Heb. Rightly the lxx, καὶ γεγραμμένον εὐθύτητος. כּתוּב signifies "written," and may also, as the name of the Hagiographa כּתוּבים shows, signify "a writing;" kakathuvah, 2 Chronicles 30:5, is equals "in accordance with the writing;" and belo kǎkathuv, 2 Chronicles 30:18, "contrary to the writing;" in the post-bibl. the phrase אמר הכּתוּב equals ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, is used. The objection made by Ginsburg, that kathuv never means, as kethav does, "a writing," is thus nugatory. However, we do not at all here need this subst. meaning, וכתוב is neut. particip., and ישׁר certainly not the genit., as the lxx renders (reading וּכתוּב), but also not the nom. of the subj. (Hoelem.), but, since ישׁר is the designation of a mode of thought and of a relation, the accus. of manner, like veyashar, Psalm 119:18; emeth, Psalm 132:11; emunah, Psalm 119:75. Regarding the common use of such an accus. of the nearer definition in the passive part., vid., Ewald, 284c. The asyndeton vechathuv yosher divre emeth is like that at Ecclesiastes 10:1, mehhochmah michvod. That which follows limtso we interpret as its threefold object. Thus it is said that Koheleth directed his effort towards an attractive form (cf. avne-hephets, Isaiah 54:12); but, before all, towards the truth, both subjectively (ישׁר) and objectively (אמת), of that which was formulated and expressed in writing.
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