Ecclesiastes 9:13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

Was this a historical event or an allegory?

Interestingly, there is a somewhat similar story in China long ago, except that his name was recorded for history. A movie was made a couple of decades ago to retell his story.

If this Ecclesiastes story is real, then it seems strange that the hero is not remembered.

2 Answers 2


Again, we are not told the answer to this question, so we do not know.

There was, as recorded in 2 Sam 20:15-22, the example of the wise woman whose advice saved the little city of Abel-Beth-maachah; her name is not recorded.

For what it is worth, Benson suggests this is a fabricated parable. However, the Pulpit Commentary suggests otherwise:

Verse 13. - This wisdom have I seen also under the sun; better, as the Septuagint, This also I saw to be wisdom under the sun. The experience which follows he recognized as an instance of worldly wisdom. To what special event he alludes is quite unknown. Probably the circumstance was familiar to his contemporaries. It is not to be considered as an allegory, though of course it is capable of spiritual application.

  • The history of Israel is a parable De 28:37, which is the source for sensus plenior. Since Solomon is telling a parable, he MAY be substituting symbols for the reality. Jude uses 'body of Moses' referring to Israel as the bride, rather than 'body of Christ' which is the church. Solomon speaks in riddles through much of Eccl. Short version: male = those who know. Female = those who receive teaching. In a literal telling of 2 Sam 20:15ff he would use 'woman'. In the parable he would use 'man' to be consistent in the symbols. I think you found the source.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 21, 2021 at 13:53
  • This symbolism is the same used by Paul in saying the man is Christ and the church is the bride, by Jesus in saying angels don't marry, by the Gospel of Thomas saying that women must become male, and by the Sikhs saying that men must become virgins, by Jeremiah to say all men would be pregnant. Angels are male, the ignorant must be taught, the taught become the bride, the bride is fruitful.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 21, 2021 at 13:58
  • ** I am only making observation of GOT and Sikhs, not endorsing. They aren't required to make the Biblical connections. BTW. Now you also know the symbolic source for 'knowing' used for intimate relations of husband and wife. The husband is the giver, the wife the receiver. Christ 'knows'/teaches his bride. 'Yada' ידע = his flesh י-ע with the commandment ד placed in the heart. Some he never knew-taught.
    – Bob Jones
    Jul 21, 2021 at 14:05

Did the event mention in Ecclesiastes 9:13 really happen?

It did not happen, it is an allegory.

King Solomon observed that the wise may be poor and those with knowledge may be in disfavor. A basic reason for this is that humans often judge by outward appearances, instead of by the actual state of affairs.(verse Eccl. 9:11)

Wise King Solomon provided - an illustration from his life experience to show this, we read:

Ecclesiastes 9:13-15 NET

13 This is what I also observed about wisdom on earth, and it is a great burden to me: 14 There was once a small city with a few men in it, and a mighty king attacked it, besieging[d] it and building strong[e] siege works against it. 15 However, a poor but wise man lived in the city, and he could have delivered[g] the city by his wisdom, but no one listened to that poor man.

The small defenseless city would have fallen in the hands of the "great king" but for the poor man's wisdom proved superior to the king's siege works and his army. The people however instead of feeling grateful to the poor man, they forgot all about him, after the danger had passed.

King Solomon drew the following conclusion from this: Eccl. 9:6 reads

Ecclesiastes 9:16 (NET Bible)

16 So I concluded that wisdom is better than might, but a poor man’s wisdom is despised; no one ever listens to his advice.

When a man does not have a position of prominence, his words are usually ignored or are given little weight, but when acted on, once the crisis is passed, he is granted no honor.Compare: 1 Cor 1:26-27 and 2:8-11

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 (NET Bible)

26 Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers, and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position.[d] 27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.

Still, wisdom is of great value and certainly is not always disregarded simply because of its having an unpretentious source. Solomon continued:

Ecclesiastes 9:16-17 (NASB)

16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded. 17 The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools

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