12

28which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. ESV

My question drawn from Ecclesiastes 7:28 is a simple one. Why are there no upright women? I'm not looking for an analysis of whether there are none (it says that plainly), but why there are none according to this verse.

  • Is he saying that he found no righteous woman? Or is he rather saying that the 1 righteous man he found out of a 1000 men was an unmarried celibate? The grammar in the translation is ambiguous on this. – david brainerd Jan 18 '15 at 22:49
5

The following commentary from the Jewish Publication Society provides one suggested response to this very difficult question.

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Fox, Michael V. (2004). Ecclesiastes. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 52-53.

  • I would upvote this if it were not describing Solomon's own mere findings as misogyny (which is not only a serious insult to Solomon, but also to God, who gave Solomon his wisdom, more than any other man, and Who wrote these scriptures prophetically). – Andrew Dec 6 '17 at 4:49
4

What the text says, and the author is quite clear to point this out by referring to himself in the third person (the only occasion, apart from 1:1, that he does this) and then saying 'I (have not) found', is that he has yet to meet a woman who he considers to be upright. In his wisdom, he would never assume from this that 'there are no upright women' - he is merely stating his personal experience.

If this text is written by Solomon as 1:1 suggests, then I'm not surprised at his experience. This is all speculation, of course, but I imagine a prince or king at the time would have found it rare to spend time with a woman, married or not, who wasn't either scheming to win favours (or a crown) for herself, or instructed to win favours for her family from such an obscenely wealthy and highly esteemed man. Any 'upright' woman with sense would not stoop so low as to engage in these schemes, and therefore would be unlikely to come to his attention at all. Women of the time drew attention for their beauty or their dowry. A wise woman would either highlight these attributes and be labelled as 'scheming', or would downplay them as trivial to her true value, and then not be seen at all by the likes of Solomon. Not that she would have minded being ignored by a man who had so many wives and concubines, yet still sought pleasure with other women.

To share a personal anecdote, my brother was fortunate to be exceptionally good-looking as well as clever, and spent much of his adult life seeking the company of models and other beautiful, wealthy people, living in expensive suburbs and driving flash cars. He lamented to me at one point that he's struggled to find a decent woman anywhere. The problem with living as if all you value is surface is that you'll attract people who only have surface to offer.

The reason there are no upright women according to this verse is that the author's personal experience with women, as a king and as a man seeking pleasure, has been unavoidably limited to certain personalities. It would be a rare woman of the time who could turn such a king's head with wisdom and uprightness, even if she wanted to.

-1

An oft repeated word in Ecclesiastes is translated in the KJV as "vanity":

KJV Ecc 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Brown-Driver-Briggs
I. הֶ֫בֶל73 noun masculine vapour, breath (Late Hebrew id., Syriac  id.) figurative vanity (so Late Hebrew, Syriac ) — הָ֑בֶל Ecclesiastes 1:2 +; construct הֲבֵל Ecclesiastes 1:2 (twice in verse); Ecclesiastes 12:8, suffix הֶבְלִי etc. Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 9:9 (twice in verse); plural הֲבָלִים Jeremiah 10:8 +; construct הַבְלֵי Jeremiah 8:19 +, suffix הַבְלֵיהֶם Deuteronomy 32:21 +; —
1 literal Isaiah 57:13 all of them (the idols) יִשָּׂארֿוּחַ יִקַּח הָ֑בֶל a breath (ᵑ9 aura) will carry away, Proverbs 21:6 the getting of treasures by a lying tongue is הֶבֶל נִדָּף a vapour driven away. Elsewhere always

2 figurative of what is evanescent, unsubstantial, worthless, vanity, as of idols Jeremiah 10:15 = Jeremiah 51:18; Jeremiah 16:19 הֶבֶל וְאֵין בָּם מוֺעִיל "" (שֶׁקֶרׅ, heathen observances Jeremiah 10:3, and in phrase הָלַךְ אַחֲרֵי הַהֶבֶל Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:15; Proverbs 13:11 הוֺן מֵהֶבֶל wealth (gotten) out of vanity, (i.e. not by solid toil, opposed to קֹבֵץ עַל יָד) is minished (but ᵐ5 ᵑ9 Ew מְבֹהָל, see Proverbs 20:21 Qr), Proverbs 31:30 שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּ֑פִי, Lamentations 4:17 אֶל עֶזְרָתֵנוּ הֶבֶל to our vain (Dr§ 193 n.) help; of life Job 7:16 כִּי הֶבֶל יָמָֽי׃, Psalm 78:33 וַיְכַל בַּהֶבֶל יְמֵיהֶם consumed their days as (בְּ I:7 d vanity, man Psalm 39:6; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 62:10 הֶבֶל בְּנֵי אָדָם ֗֗֗ הֵמָּה מֵהֶבֶל יָחַד׃ they are altogether (made) of vanity, Psalm 94:11; Psalm 144:4, especially in Ecclesiastes (31 t. + הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים Ecclesiastes 1:2 (twice in verse); Ecclesiastes 12:8) of the fruitlessness of all human enterprise and endeavour, Ecclesiastes 1:2 הַכֹּל הֶבֶל, Ecclesiastes 1:14 הַכֹּל הֶבֶל וּרְעוּת רוּחַ all was vanity and the pursuit of wind, Ecclesiastes 2:1,14,15 etc., Ecclesiastes 6:4 (of an abortion) בַּהֶבֶל בָּא i.e. into a lifeless existence, Ecclesiastes 6:11 יֵשׁ דְּבָרִים הַרְבֵּה מַרְבִּים הָ֑בֶל (of discussions leading to no result), note also the phrases יְמֵי (הֶבְלוֺ, הֶבְלְךָ) הֶבְלִי Ecclesiastes 7:15; Ecclesiastes 9:9, ׳יְמֵי חַיֵּי ה Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Job 27:12 (see הָבַל), Isaiah 49:4 לְתֹהוּ וָהֶבֶל for nought and vanity have I spent my strength; as adverb accusative vainly, to no purpose Isaiah 30:7 הֶבֶל וָרִיק יַעֲזֹ֑רוּ, Psalm 39:7 אַךְ הֶבֶל יֶהֱמָיוּן they disquiet themselves to no purpose, Job 9:29: הֶבֶל אִיגָָֽע Job 35:16, with נִחַם to comfort Job 21:34; Zechariah 10:2. Plural הֲבָלִים of false gods, Deuteronomy 32:21 ) כִּעֲסוּנִי בְהַבְלֵיהֶם "" בְּלֹאאֵֿל) 1 Kings 16:13,26; Jeremiah 8:19 הַבְלֵי נֵכָר "" (בִּפְסִילֵיהֶםׅ, Jeremiah 10:8; Jeremiah 14:22 הַבְלֵי הַגּוֺיִם, Psalm 31:7 הַשֹּׁמְרִים הַבְלֵישָֿׁוְא empty vanities Jonah 2:9; in more General sense Ecclesiastes 1:2 (twice in verse); Ecclesiastes 12:8 הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים, Ecclesiastes 5:6. 

https://biblehub.com/hebrew/1892.htm

In the text the author complains endlessly about what a "scam" everything in this world is. Everything in this life disappoints. The protagonist, Solomon is a rich king so he has the rare opportunity to basically do whatever he wants. And he does. He "has it all". He is "living the dream". But the promise that he can buy or achieve happiness from the things of this world is an empty one and though he goes from one pursuit to another he never finds anything to "fill the void" and satisfy his empty soul. He concludes that the one thing that is worth anything is to "fear God and keep his commandments":

ESV Eccl 12: 12My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.c 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, withd every secret thing, whether good or evil.

So it is not surprising that Solomon, despite his many wives finds "love" to be "a scam". This viewpoint, intentionally bleak as is the whole book is part of his overall message that there is nothing in this world that satisfies except the divine instruction/commands.

As to why there is a man who is righteous when women are all disappointing, perhaps the single righteous man is intended to be an allusion to the messiah:

ESV Acts 3:14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,

  • Your explanation equally applies to men (with whom friendship would be vanity), so it doesn't explain the verse in question. – Keelan Sep 25 '18 at 11:30
  • I try to respond objectively to all posts I see. For instance, I upvoted and defended a poorly received question of yours. One of the issues with this site is its tendency to explain the HB with the NT, while the HB definitely made sense in its original context and not every text is messianic; yes, such answers I tend to vote down. – Keelan Sep 25 '18 at 12:44
  • Another is people with limited understanding of the original languages spreading misinformation. You admitted a limited knowledge of Hebrew (and, I believe, Greek as well in another post), yet you continue to answer questions which would benefit from a proper reading of the original text. This is not misinformation as such but it is difficult to uphold the quality of a site when people go around depending too much on school/internet grammars and outdated lexicons. – Keelan Sep 25 '18 at 12:46
  • But in this particular case, the downvote is for the reason I indicated in my first comment. This answer explains why there are no righteous women, however, the same reasoning applies to men while the verse in question says there are righteous men. Therefore the answer is incomplete at best. Its coating in the broad theological background of the book can be reduced to a single sentence (after which not much content is left). The addition about men does not engage with that broader theological background and the suggestion that Ecclesiastes is messianic requires references. – Keelan Sep 25 '18 at 12:51
  • In a previous, comparable comment exchange I have invited you to Biblical Hermeneutics Chat to work things out, but you refused. This kind of matter is best discussed there or on Biblical Hermeneutics Meta, not in these comments which are supposed to be about this answer in concretum. Let me know if you want to seriously engage in a discussion and what medium would have your preference. – Keelan Sep 25 '18 at 12:54

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