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Ecclesiastes 7:1 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— A [good] name is better than precious oil; and the day of death, than the day of one's birth.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of [one’s] death is better than the day of one’s birth.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— A [good] name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— Better a name, than precious ointment,—and the day of death, than the day of one's birth.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— Better [is] a name than good perfume, And the day of death than the day of birth.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— A good name is better than precious ointments: and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— A [Good] name [is] better then precious ointment: and the day of death, then the day of ones birth.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— A good name is better than good oil; and the day of death than the day of birth.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
A good name 8034
{8034} Prime
שֵׁם
shem
{shame}
A primitive word (perhaps rather from H7760 through the idea of definite and conspicuous position; compare H8064); an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character.
[is] better 2896
{2896} Prime
טוֹב
towb
{tobe}
From H2895; good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well).
than precious 2896
{2896} Prime
טוֹב
towb
{tobe}
From H2895; good (as an adjective) in the widest sense; used likewise as a noun, both in the masculine and the feminine, the singular and the plural (good, a good or good thing, a good man or woman; the good, goods or good things, good men or women), also as an adverb (well).
ointment; 8081
{8081} Prime
שֶׁמֶן
shemen
{sheh'-men}
From H8080; grease, especially liquid (as from the olive, often perfumed); figuratively richness.
x4480
(4480) Complement
מִן
min
{min}
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
and the day 3117
{3117} Prime
יוֹם
yowm
{yome}
From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literally (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figuratively (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverbially).
of death 4194
{4194} Prime
מָוֶת
maveth
{maw'-veth}
From H4191; death (natural or violent); concretely the dead, their place or state (hades); figuratively pestilence, ruin.
than the day 3117
{3117} Prime
יוֹם
yowm
{yome}
From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literally (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figuratively (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverbially).
x4480
(4480) Complement
מִן
min
{min}
For H4482; properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses.
of one's birth. 3205
{3205} Prime
יָלַד
yalad
{yaw-lad'}
A primitive root; to bear young; causatively to beget; medically to act as midwife; specifically to show lineage.
z8736
<8736> Grammar
Stem - Niphal (See H8833)
Mood - Infinitive (See H8812)
Count - 240
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7:1

_ _ (See on Ecclesiastes 6:12).

_ _ name — character; a godly mind and life; not mere reputation with man, but what a man is in the eyes of God, with whom the name and reality are one thing (Isaiah 9:6). This alone is “good,” while all else is “vanity” when made the chief end.

_ _ ointment — used lavishly at costly banquets and peculiarly refreshing in the sultry East. The Hebrew for “name” and for “ointment,” have a happy paronomasia, Sheem and Shemen. “Ointment” is fragrant only in the place where the person is whose head and garment are scented, and only for a time. The “name” given by God to His child (Revelation 3:12) is for ever and in all lands. So in the case of the woman who received an everlasting name from Jesus Christ, in reward for her precious ointment (Isaiah 56:5; Mark 14:3-9). Jesus Christ Himself hath such a name, as the Messiah, equivalent to Anointed (Song of Songs 1:3).

_ _ and the day of [his] death, etc. — not a general censure upon God for creating man; but, connected with the previous clause, death is to him, who hath a godly name, “better” than the day of his birth; “far better,” as Philippians 1:23 has it.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7:1-6

_ _ In these verses Solomon lays down some great truths which seem paradoxes to the unthinking part, that is, the far greatest part, of mankind.

_ _ I. That the honour of virtue is really more valuable and desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world (Ecclesiastes 7:1): A good name is before good ointment (so it may be read); it is preferable to it, and will be rather chosen by all that are wise. Good ointment is here put for all the profits of the earth (among the products of which oil was reckoned one of the most valuable), for all the delights of sense (for ointment and perfume which rejoice the heart, and it is called the oil of gladness), nay, and for the highest titles of honour with which men are dignified, for kings are anointed. A good name is better than all riches (Proverbs 21:1), that is, a name for wisdom and goodness with those that are wise and good — the memory of the just; this is a good that will bring a more grateful pleasure to the mind, will give a man a larger opportunity of usefulness, and will go further, and last longer, than the most precious box of ointment; for Christ paid Mary for her ointment with a good name, a name in the gospels (Matthew 26:13), and we are sure he always pays with advantage.

_ _ II. That, all things considered, our going out of the world is a great kindness to us than our coming into the world was: The day of death is preferable to the birthday; though, as to others, there was joy when a child was born into the world, and where there is death there is lamentation, yet, as to ourselves, if we have lived so as to merit a good name, the day of our death, which will put a period to our cares, and toils, and sorrows, and remove us to rest, and joy, and eternal satisfaction, is better than the day of our birth, which ushered us into a world of so much sin and trouble, vanity and vexation. We were born to uncertainty, but a good man does not die at uncertainty. The day of our birth clogged our souls with the burden of the flesh, but the day of our death will set them at liberty from that burden.

_ _ III. That it will do us more good to go to a funeral than to go to a festival (Ecclesiastes 7:2): It is better to go to the house of mourning, and there weep with those that weep, than to go to the house of feasting, to a wedding, or a wake, there to rejoice with those that do rejoice. It will do us more good, and make better impressions upon us. We may lawfully go to both, as there is occasion. Our Saviour both feasted at the wedding of his friend in Cana and wept at the grave of his friend in Bethany; and we may possibly glorify God, and do good, and get good, in the house of feasting; but, considering how apt we are to be vain and frothy, proud and secure, and indulgent of the flesh, it is better for us to go to the house of mourning, not to see the pomp of the funeral, but to share in the sorrow of it, and to learn good lessons, both from the dead, who is going thence to his long home, and from the mourners, who go about the streets.

_ _ 1. The uses to be gathered from the house of mourning are, (1.) By way of information: That is the end of all men. It is the end of man as to this world, a final period to his state here; he shall return no more to his house. It is the end of all men; all have sinned and therefore death passes upon all. We must thus be left by our friends, as the mourners are, and thus leave, as the dead do. What is the lot of others will be ours; the cup is going round, and it will come to our turn to pledge it shortly. (2.) By way of admonition: The living will lay it to his heart. Will they? It were well if they would. Those that are spiritually alive will lay it to heart, and, as for all the survivors, one would think they should; it is their own fault if they do not, for nothing is more easy and natural than by the death of others to be put in mind of our own. Some perhaps will lay that to heart, and consider their latter end, who would not lay a good sermon to heart.

_ _ 2. For the further proof of this (Ecclesiastes 7:4) he makes it the character, (1.) Of a wise man that his heart is in the house of mourning; he is much conversant with mournful subjects, and this is both an evidence and a furtherance of his wisdom. The house of mourning is the wise man's school, where he has learned many a good lesson, and there, where he is serious, he is in his element. When he is in the house of mourning his heart is there to improve the spectacles of mortality that are presented to him; nay, when he is in the house of feasting, his heart is in the house of mourning, by way of sympathy with those that are in sorrow. (2.) It is the character of a fool that his heart is in the house of mirth; his heart is all upon it to be merry and jovial; his whole delight is in sport and gaiety, in merry stories, merry songs, and merry company, merry days and merry nights. If he be at any time in the house of mourning, he is under a restraint; his heart at the same time is in the house of mirth; this is his folly, and helps to make him more and more foolish.

_ _ IV. That gravity and seriousness better become us, and are better for us, than mirth and jollity, Ecclesiastes 7:3. The common proverb says, “An ounce of mirth is worth a pound of sorrow;” but the preacher teaches us a contrary lesson: Sorrow is better than laughter, more agreeable to our present state, where we are daily sinning and suffering ourselves, more or less, and daily seeing the sins and sufferings of others. While we are in a vale of tears, we should conform to the temper of the climate. It is also more for our advantage; for, by the sadness that appears in the countenance, the heart is often made better. Note, 1. That is best for us which is best for our souls, by which the heart is made better, though it be unpleasing to sense. 2. Sadness is often a happy means of seriousness, and that affliction which is impairing to the health, estate, and family, may be improving to the mind, and make such impressions upon that as may alter its temper very much for the better, may make it humble and meek, loose from the world, penitent for sin, and careful of duty. Vexatio dat intellectumVexation sharpens the intellect. Periissem nisi periissemI should have perished if I had not been made wretched. It will follow, on the contrary, that by the mirth and frolicsomeness of the countenance the heart is made worse, more vain, carnal, sensual, and secure, more in love with the world and more estranged from God and spiritual things (Job 21:12, Job 21:14), till it become utterly unconcerned in the afflictions of Joseph, as those Amos 6:5, Amos 6:6, and the king and Haman, Esther 3:15.

_ _ V. That it is much better for us to have our corruptions mortified by the rebuke of the wise than to have them gratified by the song of fools, Ecclesiastes 7:5. Many that would be very well pleased to hear the information of the wise, and much more to have their commendations and consolations, yet do not care for hearing their rebukes, that is, care not for being told of their faults, though ever so wisely; but therein they are no friends to themselves, for reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23), and, though they be not so pleasant as the song of fools, they are more wholesome. To hear, not only with patience, but with pleasure, the rebuke of the wise, is a sign and means of wisdom; but to be fond of the song of fools is a sign that the mind is vain and is the way to make it more so. And what an absurd thing is it for a man to dote so much upon such a transient pleasure as the laughter of a fool is, which may fitly be compared to the burning of thorns under a pot, which makes a great noise and a great blaze, for a little while, but is gone presently, scatters its ashes, and contributes scarcely any thing to the production of a boiling heat, for that requires a constant fire! The laughter of a fool is noisy and flashy, and is not an instance of true joy. This is also vanity; it deceives men to their destruction, for the end of that mirth is heaviness. Our blessed Saviour has read us our doom: Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh; woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep, Luke 6:21, Luke 6:25.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Of death — Seeing this life is so full of vanity, and vexation, and misery, it is more desirable for a man to go out of it, than to come into it.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of (b) death than the day of one's birth.

(b) He speaks thus after the judgment of the flesh, which thinks death is the end of all evils, or else because this corporal death is the entering into everlasting life.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
name:

Proverbs 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: [and] a good report maketh the bones fat.
Proverbs 22:1 A [good] name [is] rather to be chosen than great riches, [and] loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Isaiah 56:5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Luke 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Hebrews 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Hebrews 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

precious:

Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: [so doth] a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom [and] honour.
Psalms 133:2 [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so [doth] the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
Song of Songs 1:3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name [is as] ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Song of Songs 4:10 How fair is thy love, my sister, [my] spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
John 13:2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's [son], to betray him;

the day:

Ecclesiastes 4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
Job 3:17 There the wicked cease [from] troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
Isaiah 57:1-2 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth [it] to heart: and merciful men [are] taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil [to come]. ... He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, [each one] walking [in] his uprightness.
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of [this] tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Philippians 1:21-23 For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain. ... For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
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Chain-Reference Bible Search

Jb 3:17. Ps 133:2. Pv 15:30; 22:1; 27:9. Ec 4:2; 10:1. So 1:3; 4:10. Is 56:5; 57:1. Lk 10:20. Jn 13:2. 2Co 5:1, 8. Php 1:21. He 11:2, 39. Rv 14:13.

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