Ecclesiastes 6
Barnes' Notes
The Preacher in this chapter contemplates the case of people to whom God gives wealth, honor, success, children, and long life, yet withholds from them the capacity of enjoyment, rest, permanence or contentment Ecclesiastes 6:1-9. What then is good for man to do, whose lot in life is so thoroughly subject to vanity? Ecclesiastes 6:10-12.

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
Common among - Rather, great (heavy) upon people.

A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.
No burial - For a corpse to lie unburied was a circumstance in itself of special ignominy and dishonor (compare the marginal references).

For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
He ... his - Rather, it ... its. The untimely birth is spoken of.

Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
Rather, it hath not seen nor known the sun: this (the untimely birth) hath rest rather than the other.

Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
He live - Rather, he hath lived. "He" refers to the man Ecclesiastes 6:3. His want of satisfaction in life, and the dishonor done to his corpse, are regarded as such great evils that they counterbalance his numerous children, and length of days, and render his lot viewed as a whole no better than the common lot of all.

All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
Connect these verses with Ecclesiastes 6:2-3 : "All labor is undertaken with a view to some profit, but as a rule the people who labor are never satisfied. What advantage then has he who labors if (being rich) he is wise, or if being poor he knows how to conduct himself properly; what advantage have such laborers above a fool? (None, so far as they are without contentment, for) a thing present before the eyes is preferable to a future which exists only in the desire."

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
What - literally, what profit (as in Ecclesiastes 1:3).

Knoweth ... living - i. e., "Knows how to conduct himself rightly among his contemporaries."

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
Or, "That which has been named - i. e., events past or current, either Ecclesiastes 1:9 as they present themselves to man, or Ecclesiastes 3:15 as they are ordered by God - was long ago (i. e., was decreed, its nature and place were defined by the Almighty), and was known that it is man;" i. e., the course of events shapes the conduct and character of man, so that what he does and suffers is said to be or constitute the man. God from the beginning definitely ordained the course of events external to man, and constituted man in such a way that events materially affect his conduct and his destiny. Hence, God, by withholding from certain people the gift of contentment, and thus subjecting them to vanity, is acting according to the predetermined course of His Providence which man cannot alter (compare Romans 8:20). Others translate, "What there is, its name is named long ago and known, that it is man;" i. e., "What hath been and is, not only came into existence long ago Ecclesiastes 1:9; Ecclesiastes 3:15, but also has been known and named, and is acknowledged that it, besides other things, is specially man; that man always remains the same, and cannot go beyond his appointed bounds."

Him that is mightier - i. e., God; compare Ecclesiastes 9:1; 1 Corinthians 10:22, and marginal references.

Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
Things - Namely, the various circumstances detailed in the foregoing chapters, from the Preacher's personal experience, and his observation of other people, ending with the comprehensive declaration in Ecclesiastes 6:10 to the effect that vanity is an essential part of the constitution of creation as it now exists, and was foreknown.

What is man the better? - Rather, what is profitable to man?

For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
After him - i. e., On earth, in his own present sphere of action, after his departure hence (compare Ecclesiastes 2:19; Ecclesiastes 3:22).

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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