“matter.” This verse has a depth of meaning that is difficult to bring out in English because the Hebrew word can mean “word” or “matter,” and both make sense in the context (but for different reasons), and therefore both apply and are worth our studious consideration. The translation “matter” is more inclusive than “word,” and is therefore to be preferred, but beyond that “matter” connects Ecclesiastes 7:7 with Ecclesiastes 7:8 very well. It can be impossible to tell why “wise” and powerful people make the decisions they do, and whether or not there is extortion or bribery involved, but the end of the matter is better than the beginning because the truth will eventually come out, and the patient person sometimes gets to see the that.
On the other hand, the translation “word” makes the two halves of Ecclesiastes 7:8 fit together very well, because one reason that a patient person is better than a proud person is that proud people usually go on and on about themselves and their interests and the “word” (message) that they speak never seems to end. In contrast, a patient person is generally sparing with their words. Furthermore, we are not able to truly judge the value and wisdom of what someone says until the whole message, “the end of the word,” is given, but if there are too many words the message may get lost. That is in part why Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “the voice of a fool comes with a multitude of words.”
“patient spirit...proud spirit.” The Hebrew language is very concrete, and that is the case here. The “patient spirit” is literally in Hebrew the “long spirit,” and the “proud spirit” is the “high spirit.” This is an example of when trying to translate an idiom literally into the receptor language can be a problem. “High spirit” in Hebrew means “proud,” but in modern English if a person is in “high spirits,” they are happy and excited.