Ecclesiastes 5:13
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Sore evil.—Ecclesiastes 6:2; Jeremiah 14:17; Nahum 3:19.

Ecclesiastes 5:13-14. There is a sore evil, &c. — “There is another thing, which is very calamitous, and may rather be called a grievous plague than a mere affliction; that these very treasures, which men have heaped up with a great deal of care, from thence expecting their felicity, prove, in the issue, their utter undoing;” being incentives to pride, luxury, and other hurtful lusts, which waste their bodies, shorten their lives, and destroy their souls; and being also great temptations to tyrants or thieves to take away their lives, in order to possess their property. Nay, it often happens, that “some of these miserable men are murdered by their servants, and even by their own children, with a view to become masters of their riches; which riches bring them also at last to the same or like destruction.” — Bishop Patrick. But — Or for, or moreover, as the Hebrew particle may be rendered; those riches perish — If they be kept, it is to the owner’s hurt, and if not, they are lost to his grief; by evil travail — By some wicked practices, either his own, or of other men. And he begetteth a son, and there is nothing, &c. — Either, 1st, In the father’s power to leave to his son, for whose sake he engaged in, and went through, all those hard labours; which is a great aggravation of his grief and misery. Or, 2d, In the son’s possession after the father’s death.

5:9-17 The goodness of Providence is more equally distributed than appears to a careless observer. The king needs the common things of life, and the poor share them; they relish their morsel better than he does his luxuries. There are bodily desires which silver itself will not satisfy, much less will worldly abundance satisfy spiritual desires. The more men have, the better house they must keep, the more servants they must employ, the more guests they must entertain, and the more they will have hanging on them. The sleep of the labourer is sweet, not only because he is tired, but because he has little care to break his sleep. The sleep of the diligent Christian, and his long sleep, are sweet; having spent himself and his time in the service of God, he can cheerfully repose in God as his Rest. But those who have every thing else, often fail to secure a good night's sleep; their abundance breaks their rest. Riches do hurt, and draw away the heart from God and duty. Men do hurt with their riches, not only gratifying their own lusts, but oppressing others, and dealing hardly with them. They will see that they have laboured for the wind, when, at death, they find the profit of their labour is all gone like the wind, they know not whither. How ill the covetous worldling bears the calamities of human life! He does not sorrow to repentance, but is angry at the providence of God, angry at all about him; which doubles his affliction.Labouring man - Not a slave (Septuagint), but everyone who, according to the divine direction, earns his bread in the sweat of his brow. 13, 14. Proofs of God's judgments even in this world (Pr 11:31). The rich oppressor's wealth provokes enemies, robbers, &c. Then, after having kept it for an expected son, he loses it beforehand by misfortune ("by evil travail"), and the son is born to be heir of poverty. Ec 2:19, 23 gives another aspect of the same subject. Because they frequently are the instruments and occasions both of their present and eternal destruction, as they feed their pride or luxury, or other hurtful lusts, which waste the body, and shorten the life, and damn the soul; and as they are great temptations to tyrants or thieves, yea, sometimes to relations, or servants, or others, to take away their lives, that they may get their riches.

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun,.... Or "an evil sickness" (m). A sinful disease in the person with whom it is found, and very disagreeable to others to behold; it is enough to make one sick to see it; and what he is about to relate he himself was an eyewitness of:

namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; laid up in barns and granaries, as the fruits of the earth; or in chests and coffers, as gold and silver, for the use and service of the owners of them; and which yet have been to their real injury; being either used by them in a luxurious and intemperate way, so have brought diseases on their bodies, and damnation to their souls; or not used at all for their own good, or the good of others, which brings the curse of God upon them, to their ruin and destruction, both here and hereafter: and oftentimes so it is, and which no doubt had fallen under the observation of Solomon, that some who have been great misers, and have hoarded up their substance, without using them themselves, or sharing them with others, have not only been plundered of them, but, for the sake of them, their lives have been taken away in a most barbarous manner, by cutthroats and villains; sometimes by their own servants, nay, even by their own children. Riches ill gotten and ill used are very prejudicial to the owners; and if they are well got, but ill used, or not used at all, greatly hurt the spiritual and eternal state of men; it is a difficult thing for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and a covetous man cannot; if a professor, the word he hears is choked and made unprofitable; he errs from the faith, and pierces himself through with many sorrows now, and is liable to eternal damnation hereafter. The Targum interprets it of a man that gathers riches, and does no good with them; but keeps them to himself, to do himself evil in the world to come.

(m) "morbus malus", Tigurine version, Vatablus.

There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches {k} kept for the owners of them to their hurt.

(k) When covetous men heap up riches, which turn to their destruction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. riches kept for the owners thereof] Yet another aspect of the evils attendant on riches is brought before us, as in ch. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19. Not only do they fail to give any satisfying joy, but the man who reckoned on founding a family and leaving his heaped-up treasures to his son gains nothing but anxieties and cares, loses his wealth by some unforeseen chance, and leaves his son a pauper. By some commentators the possessive pronoun in “his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:14) is referred to the father. The crowning sorrow for him is that he begets a son and then dies himself in poverty. The upshot of the two constructions is, of course, practically the same.

Verses 13-17. - Another view of the evils attendant upon riches is here presented: the owner may lose them at a stroke, and leave nothing for his children. This thought is presented in different lights. Verse 13. - There is also a sore evil which I have seen under the sun (so ver. 16). The fact that follows is, of course, not universally true, but occasionally seen, and is a very bitter evil. The Septuagint calls it ἀῥῤωστία; the Vulgate, infirmitas. Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; rather, preserved by the possessor, hoarded and guarded, only to bring their lord added grief when by some reverse of fortune he loses them, as explained in what follows. Ecclesiastes 5:13"There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, riches kept by their possessor to his hurt: the same riches perish by an evil event; and he hath begotten a son, thus this one hath nothing in his hand." There is a gradation of evils. חולה רעה (cf. רע חלי ר, Ecclesiastes 6:2) is not an ordinary, but a morbid evil, i.e., a deep hurtful evil; as a wound, not a common one, but one particularly severe and scarcely curable, is called נחלה, e.g., Nahum 3:19. השׁ ... רא is, as at Ecclesiastes 10:5, an ellipt. relat. clause; cf. on the other hand, Ecclesiastes 6:1; the author elsewhere uses the scheme of the relat. clause without relat. pron. (vid., under Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 3:16); the old language would use ראיתיה, instead of ראיתי, with the reflex. pron. The great evil consists in this, that riches are not seldom kept by their owner to his own hurt. Certainly שׁמוּר ל can also mean that which is kept for another, 1 Samuel 9:24; but how involved and constrained is Ginsburg's explanation: "hoarded up (by the rich man) for their (future) owner," viz., the heir to whom he intends to leave them! That ל can be used with the passive as a designation of the subj., vid., Ewald, 295c; certainly it corresponds as little as מן, with the Greek ὑπό, but in Greek we say also πλοῦτος φυλαχθεὶς τῷ κεκτημένῳ, vid., Rost's Syntax, 112. 4. The suff. of lera'atho refers to be'alav, the plur. form of which can so far remain out of view, that we even say adonim qosheh, Isaiah 19:4, etc. "To his hurt," i.e., at the last suddenly to lose that which has been carefully guarded. The narrative explanation of this, "to his hurt," begins with vav explic. Regarding 'inyan ra'. It is a casus adversus that is meant, such a stroke upon stroke as destroyed Job's possessions. The perf. והו supposes the case that the man thus suddenly made poor is the father of a son; the clause is logically related to that which follows as hypothet. antecedent, after the scheme. Genesis 33:13. The loss of riches would of itself make one who is alone unhappy, for the misfortune to be poor is less than the misfortunes to be rich and then to become poor; but still more unfortunate is the father who thought that by well-guarded wealth he had secured the future of his son, and who now leaves him with an empty hand.

What now follows is true of this rich man, but is generalized into a reference to every rich man, and then is recorded as a second great evil. As a man comes naked into the world, so also he departs from it again without being able to take with him any of the earthly wealth he has acquired.

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