The Berean Expositor
Volume 12 - Page 48 of 160
Index | Zoom
Studies in Ecclesiastes.
#12.  The Seven Good Things.
1. The Good Name (7: 1).
pp. 20 - 22
The reference to Adam in 6: 10 brings us to the structural centre of the book, and the
doctrinal basis of its teaching. Chapter 2: opens with a series of answers to the question,
"What is that good?" The question is stated in 6: 12 thus:--
"For who knoweth WHAT IS GOOD for man in this life, all the days of his vain life
which he spendeth as a shadow?"
The question is not simply, "What is good?" (that might be answered easily), it is what
is good for a man "IN THIS LIFE?" and the problem is emphasized by the added words,
"the numbered days of his vain life as to which he spendeth as a shadow". Over against
6: 11, 12 we may write:--
A | 6: 11, 12.  The Question stated, What is good?
A | 7: 1-18.  The Question answered,
1. Good name.
2. Day of death.
3. Mourning.
4. Sorrow.
5. Rebuke.
6. End.
7. Patience.
Let us patiently and humbly seek to understand this sevenfold answer to the question,
"Who knoweth what is good?"
the literary peculiarities of this opening verse. The Hebrew sentence commences and
ends with the word tobh, "good", for the word "precious" is the same as the word "good".
Another literary figure is employed called paronomasia, where words of like sound are
used to call the reader's attention to their deeper similarity. The Hebrew word for
"name" is shem; the Hebrew word for "ointment" is shemen. The complete sentence
reads, Tobh shem mish-shemen tobh.
We must now have a clear image in our mind as to what the "precious ointment"
signifies, otherwise we shall miss the point. With us ointment generally indicates some
healing and mollifying substance. In the East it has a deeper and wider range of meaning.
First let us notice the occurrences of the word in Ecclesiastes:--
7: 1.
"A good name is better than precious ointment."
9: 8.
"Let thy head lack no ointment."
10: 1.
"Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour."