Ecclesiastes 2
Pulpit Commentary
I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.
Verses 1-11. - Section 2. Vanity of striving after pleasure and wealth. Verse 1. - Dissatisfied with the result of the pursuit of wisdom, Koheleth embarks on a course of sensual pleasure, if so be this may yield some effect more substantial and permanent. I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth. The heart is addressed as the seat of the emotions and affections. The Vulgate misses the direct address to the heart, which the words, rightly interpreted, imply, translating, Vadam et offluam delieiis. The Septuagint correctly gives, Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ. It is like the rich fool's language in Christ's parable, "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry" (Luke 12:10). Therefore enjoy pleasure; literally, see good (Ecclesiastes 6:6). "To see" is often used figuratively in the sense of "to experience, or enjoy." Wright compares the expressions, "see death" (Luke 2:26), "see life" (John 3:36). We may find the like in Psalm 34:13; Jeremiah 29:32; Obadiah 1:13 (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:9). The king now tries to find the summum bonum in pleasure, in selfish enjoyment without thought of others. Commentators, as they saw Stoicism in the first chapter, so read Epieureanism into this. We shall have occasion to refer to this idea further on (see on Ecclesiastes 3:22). Of this new experiment the result was the same as before. Behold, this also is vanity. This experience is confirmed in the next verse.
I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
Verse 2. - I said of laughter, It is mad. Laughter and mirth are personified, hence treated as masculine. He uses the term "mad" in reference to the statement in Ecclesiastes 1:17, "I gave my heart to know madness and folly." Septuagint, "I said to laughter, Error (περιφοράν);" Vulgate, Risum reputavi errorem. Neither of these is as accurate as the Authorized Version. Of mirth, What doeth it? What does it effect towards real happiness and contentment? How does it help to fill the void, to give lasting satisfaction? So we have in Proverbs 14:13, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of mirth is heaviness;" though the context is different. The Vulgate renders loosely, Quid frustra deeiperis?
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.
Verse 3. - I sought in mine heart; literally, I spied out (as Ecclesiastes 1:13) in my heart. Having proved the fruitlessness of some sort of sensual pleasure, he made another experiment in a philosophical spirit. To give myself unto wine; literally, to draw (mashak) my flesh with wine; i.e. to use the attraction of the pleasures of the table. Yet acquainting my heart with wisdom. This is a parenthetical clause, which Wright translates, "While my heart was acting [guiding] with wisdom." That is, while, as it were, experimenting with pleasure, he still retained sufficient control over his passions as not to be wholly given over to vice; he was in the position of one who is being carried down an impetuous stream, yet has the power of stopping his headlong course before it becomes fatal to him. Such control was given by wisdom. Deliberately to enter upon a course of self-indulgence, even with a possibly good intention, must be a most perilous trial, and one which would leave indelible marks upon the soul; and not one person in a hundred would be able to stop short of ruin, The historical Solomon, by his experiment, suffered infinite loss, which nothing could compensate. The Septuagint renders not very successfully, "I examined whether my heart would draw (ἑλκύσει) my flesh as wine; and my heart guided me in wisdom." The Vulgate gives a sense entirely contrary to the writer's intention; "I thought in my heart to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might transfer my mind to wisdom." And to lay hold on folly. These words are dependent upon "I sought in my heart," and refer to the sensual pleasures in which he indulged for a certain object. "Dulce est desipere in loco," says Horace ('Canto.,' 4:12. 28); Ἐν μὲν μαινομένοις μάλα μαίνομαι (Theognis, 313). Till I might see. His purpose was to discover if there was in these things any real good which might satisfy men's cravings, and be a worthy object for them to pursue all the days of their life.
I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
Verse 4. - This commences a new experience in the pursuit of his object. Leaving this life of self-indulgence, he takes to art and culture, the details being drawn from the accounts of the historical Solomon. I made me great works; literally, I made great my works; Septuagint, Ἐμεγάλυνα ποίημά per; Vulgate, Magnificavi opera mea. Among these works the temple, with all its wonderful structural preparations, is not specially mentioned, perhaps because no one could think of Solomon without connecting his name with this magnificent building, and it was superfluous to call attention to it; or else because the religious aspect of his operations is not here in question, but only his taste and pursuit of beauty. But the omission tells strongly against the Solomonic authorship of the book. I builded me houses. Solomon had a passion for erecting magnificent buildings. We have various accounts of his works of this nature in 1 Kings 7. and 9; 2 Chronicles 8. There was the huge palace for himself, which occupied thirteen years in building; there was the "house of the forest of Lebanon," a splendid hall constructed with pillars of cedar; the porch of pillars; the hall of judgment; the harem for the daughter of Pharaoh. Then there were fortresses, store-cities, chariot-towns, national works of great importance; cities in distant lands which he founded, such as Tadmor in the wilderness. I planted me vineyards. David had vineyards and olive yards (1 Chronicles 27:27, 28), which passed into the possession of his son; and we read in Song of Solomon 8:11 of a vineyard that Solomon had in Baal-hamon, which some identify with Belamon (Judith 8:3), a place near Shunem, in the Plain of Esdraelon.
I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
Verse 5. - I made me gardens and orchards. Solomon's love of gardens appears throughout the Canticles (Song of Solomon 6:2, etc.). He had a king's garden on the slope of the hills south of the city (2 Kings 25:4); and Beth-hacchemm, "the House of the Vine," at Ain Karim, about six miles east of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:1); and at Baal-hamon another extensive vineyard (Song of Solomon 8:11). The word rendered "orchard" (parder) occurs also in Song of Solomon 4:13 and Nehemiah 2:8. It is a Persian word, and passed into the Greek form παράδειος (Xenophon, 'Anab.,' 1:2.7), meaning "a park" planted with forest and fruit trees, and containing herds of animals. It is probably derived from the Zend oairidaeza," an enclosure." (For the trees in such parks, see Song of Solomon 4:13, 14; and for an estimate of Solomon's works, Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:07. 3.)
I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:
Verse 6. - Pools of water. Great care was exercised by Solomon to provide his capital with water, and vast operations were undertaken for this purpose. "The king's pool," mentioned in Nehemiah 2:14, may have been constructed by him (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5:04. 2); but the most celebrated work ascribed to him is the water-supply at Etham, southwest of Bethlehem, and the aqueduct leading from thence to Jerusalem. Most modern travelers have described these pools. They are three in number, and, according to Robinson's measurement, are of immense size. The first, to the east, is 582 feet long, 207 wide, and 50 deep; the second, 432 by 250, and 39 feet deep; the third, 380 by 236, and 25 feet deep. They are all, however, narrower at the upper end, and widen out gradually, flowing one into the other. There is a copious spring led into the uppermost pool from the north-east, but this supply is augmented by other sources now choked and ruined. The water from the pools was conveyed round the ridge on which Bethlehem stands in earthen pipes to Jerusalem. Dr. Thomson ('The Land and the Book,' p. 326) says, "Near that city it was carried along the west side of the Valley of Gihon to the north-western end of the lower Pool of Gihon, where it crossed to the east side, and, winding round the southern declivity of Zion below Neby Daud, finally entered the south-eastern corner of the temple area, where the water was employed in the various services of the sanctuary." Etham is, with good reason, identified with the beautiful valley of Urtas, which lies southwest of Bethlehem, in the immediate neighborhood of the pools of Solomon. The fountain near the present village watered the gardens and orchards which were planted here, the terraced hills around were covered with vines, figs, and olives, and the prospect must have been delightful and refreshing in that thirsty land. To water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees; Revised Version, to water therefrom the forest where trees were reared; literally, in order to irrigate a wood sprouting forth trees; i.e. a nursery of saplings. So we read how the Garden of Eden was watered (Genesis 2:10; Genesis 13:10) - a most necessary feature in Eastern countries, where streams and pools are not constructed for picturesque reasons, but for material uses.
I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:
Verse 7. - I got me - I bought, procured - servants and maidens. These are distinct from those mentioned immediately afterwards, servants born in my house; Septuagint, οἰκογενεῖς: called in the Hebrew, "sons of the house" (Genesis 15:3). They were much more esteemed by their masters, and showed a much closer attachment to the family than the bought slaves or the conquered aboriginals, who were often reduced to this state (1 Kings 9:20, 21). The number of Solomon's attendants excited the wonder of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 4:26, etc.; 1 Kings 10:5), and with good reason, if Josephus's account is to be believed. This writer asserts that the king had some thousand or more chariots, and twenty thousand horses. The drivers and riders were young men of comely aspect, tall and well-made; they had long flowing hair, and wore tunics of Tyrian purple, and powdered their hair with gold dust, which glittered in the rays of the sun ('Ant.,' 8:07. 3). Attended by a cavalcade thus arrayed, Solomon used to betake himself to his "paradise" at Etham, to enjoy the refreshing coolness of its trees and pools. Great and small cattle; oxen and sheep. The enormous amount of Solomon's herds and flocks is proved by the extraordinary multitude of the sacrifices at the consecration of the temple (1 Kings 8:63), and the lavish provision made daily for the wants of his table (1 Kings 4:22, 23). The cattle of David were very numerous, and required special overlookers (1 Chronicles 27:29-31). Job (Job 1:3) had, before his troubles, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and these items were all doubled at the return of his prosperity. Among Solomon's possessions, horses are not here mentioned, though they formed no inconsiderable portion of his live stock, and added greatly to his magnificence. Koheleth, perhaps, avoided boasting of this extravagance in consideration of the religious sentiment which was strongly opposed to such a feature. That were in Jerusalem before me (so ver. 9; see Ecclesiastes 1:16). But the reference here may not necessarily be to kings, but to chieftains and rich men, who were celebrated for the extent of their possessions.
I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
Verse 8. - I gathered me also silver and gold. Much is said of the wealth of the historical Solomon, who had all his vessels of gold, armed his body-guard with golden shields, sat on an ivory throne overlaid with gold, received tribute and presents of gold from all quarters, sent his navies to distant lands to import precious metals, and made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones (see 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:14-27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 2 Chronicles 9:20-27). The peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. The word rendered "the provinces" (hammedinoth), in spite of the article, seems to mean, not the twelve districts into which Solomon divided his kingdom for fiscal and economical purposes (1 Kings 4:7, etc.), but countries generally exterior to Palestine, with which he had commercial or political relations, and which sent to him the productions for which they were each most celebrated. So the districts of the Persian empire were required to furnish the monarch with a certain portion of their chief commodities. His friendship with Hiram of Tyro brought him into connection with the Phoeni-clans, the greatest commercial nation of antiquity, and through them he accumulated riches and stores from distant and various lands beyond the limits of the Mediterranean Sea. The word מְדִינָה (medinah) occurs again in Ecclesiastes 5:7 and in 1 Kings 20:14, etc.; but is found elsewhere only in exilian or post-exilian books (e.g. Lamentations 1:1; Esther 1:1, etc.; Daniel 2:48, etc.). The "kings" may be the tributary monarchs, such as those of Arabia (1 Kings 4:21, 24; 1 Kings 10:15); or the expression in the text may imply simply such treasure as only kings, and not private persons, could possess. Men-singers and women-singers. These, of course, are not the choir of the temple, of which women formed no part, bur. musicians introduced at banquets and social festivals, to enhance the pleasures of the scene. They are mentioned in David's days (2 Samuel 19:35) and later (see Isaiah 5:12; Amos 6:5; Ecclus. 35:5 Ecclus. 49:1). The females who took part in these performances were generally of an abandoned class; hence the, warning of Ben-Sira, "Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts" (Ecclus. 9:4). Such exhibitions were usually accompanied with dancing, the character of which in Eastern countries is well known. The Jews, as time went on, learned to tolerate many customs and practices, imported often from other lands, which tended to lower morality and self-respect. And the delights of the sons of men; the sensual pleasures that men enjoy. The expression is euphemistic (comp. Song of Solomon 7:6). Musical instruments, and that of all sorts (shiddah veshiddoth). The word (given here first in the singular number and then in the plural emphatically to express multitude) occurs nowhere else, and has, therefore, been subjected to various interpretations. The Septuagint gives, οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας, "a male cupbearer and female cupbearers;" and so the Syrian and. Vulgate, Scyphos et urceos in ministerio ad vina fundenda - which introduces rather a bathos into the description. After the clause immediately preceding, one might expect mention of Solomon's numerous harem (1 Kings 11:3; Song of Solomon 6:8), and most modern commentators consider the word to mean "concubine," the whole expression denoting multiplicity, "wife and wives." The Authorized Version is not very probable, though somewhat supported by Kimchi, Luther, etc., and the Greek Venetian, which has, δύδτημα καὶ συστήματα, a musical term signifying "combination of tones," or harmony. Other interpretations are "captives," "litters," "coaches," "baths," "treasures," "chests," "demons." Ewald, followed by Motais and others, suggests that the word implies a strong or high degree of a quality, so that, connecting the two clauses together, we should render, "And in a word, all the delights of the sons of men in abundance." This seems a more appropriate termination to the catalogue than any specification of further sources of pleasure; but there is no very strong etymological reason to recommend it; and we can hardly suppose that, in the enumeration of Solomon's prodigalities, his multitudinous seraglio would be omitted. Rather it comes in here naturally as the climax and completion of his pursuit of earthly delight.
So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.
Verse 9. - So I was great (see on Ecclesiastes 1:16). This refers to the magnificence and extent of his possessions and luxury, as the former passage to the surpassing excellence of his wisdom. We may compare the mention of Abraham (Genesis 26:13), "The man waxed great, and grew more and more until he became very great" (sc. Job 1:3). Also my wisdom remained with me; perseveravit mecum (Vulgate); ἐστάθη μοι (Septuagint). In accordance with the purpose mentioned in ver. 3, he retained command of himself, studying philosophically the effects and nature of the pleasures of which he partook, and keeping ever in view the object of his pursuit. Voluptuousness was not the end which he sought, but one of the means to obtain the end; and what he calls his wisdom is not pure Divine wisdom that comes from above, but an earthly prudence and self-restraint.
And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.
Verse 10. - Whatsoever mine eyes desired. The lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16), all that he saw and desired, he took measures to obtain. He denied himself no gratification, however foolish (ver. 3). For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; i.e. found joy in what my labor procured for it (comp. Proverbs 5:18). This was the reason why he withheld not his heart from any joy; kept it, as it were, ready to taste any pleasure which his exertions might obtain. This was my portion of all my labor. Such joy was that which he won from his labor, he had his reward, such as it was (Matthew 6:2; Luke 16:25). This term "portion" (cheleq) recurs often (e.g., ver. 21; Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18, etc.; so Wisd. 2:9) in the sense of the result obtained by labor or con-duet. And what a meagre and unsatisfying result it was which he gained! Contrast the apostle's teaching, "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:16, 17).
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
Verse 11. - Then I looked on - I turned to contemplate - all the works which my hands had wrought. He examined carefully the effects of the conduct and proceedings mentioned in vers. 1-10, and he now gives his matured judgment concerning them. They had contributed nothing to his anxious inquiry for man's real good. His sorrowful conclusion again is that all was vanity, a hunting of wind; in all the pursuits and labors that men undertake there is no real profit (Ecclesiastes 1:3), no lasting happiness, nothing to satisfy the cravings of the spirit.
And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.
Verses 12-26. - Section 3. Vanity of wisdom, in view of the fate that awaits the wise man equally with the fool, and the uncertainty of the future of his labors, especially as man is not master of his own fate. Verse 12. - And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly (Ecclesiastes 1:17). He studied the three in their mutual connection and relation, comparing them in their results and effects on man's nature and life, and deducing thence their real value. On one side he set wisdom, on the other the action, and habits which he rightly terms "madness and folly," and examined them calmly and critically. For what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. Both the Authorized Version and Revised Version render the passage thus, though the latter, in the margin, gives two alternative renderings of the second clause, viz. even him whom they made king long ago, and, as in the Authorized Version margin, in those things which have been already done. The LXX., following a different reading, gives, "For what man is there who will follow after counsel in whatsoever things he employed it?" Vulgate, "What is man, said I, that he should be able to follow the King, his Maker?" Wright, Delitzsch, Nowack, etc., "For what is the man that is to come after the king whom they made so long ago?" i.e. who can have greater experience than Solomon made king in old time amid universal acclamation (1 Chronicles 29:22)? or, who can hope to equal his fame? - which does not seem quite suitable, as it is the abnormal opportunities of investigation given by his unique position which would be the point of the query. The Authorized Version gives a fairly satisfactory (and grammatically unobjectionable) meaning - What can any one effect who tries the same experiment as the king did? He could not do so under more favorable conditions, and will only repeat the same process and reach the same result. But the passage is obscure, and every interpretation has its own difficulty. If the ki with which the second portion of the passage begins ("for what," etc.) assigns the reason or motive of the first portion, shows what was the design of Koheleth in contrasting wisdom and folly, the rendering of the Authorized Version is not inappropriate. Many critics consider that Solomon is here speaking of his successor, asking what kind of man he will be who comes after him - the man whom some have already chosen? And certainly there is some ground for this interpretation in vers. 18, 19, where the complaint is that all the king's greatness and glory will be left to an unworthy successor. But this view requires the Solomonic authorship of the book, and makes him to refer to Rehoboam or some illegitimate usurper. The wording of the text is too general to admit of this explanation; nor does it exactly suit the immediate context, or duly connect the two clauses of the verse. It seems best to take the successor, not as one who comes to the kingdom, but as one who pursues similar investigations, repeats Koheleth's experiments.
Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.
Verse 13. - Then (and) I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness; or, there is profit, advantage (περίσσεια Septuagint, Ecclesiastes 1:3) to wisdom over folly, as the advantage of light over darkness. This result, at any rate, was obtained - he learned that wisdom had a certain value, that it was as much superior to folly, in its effects on men, as light is more beneficial than darkness. It is a natural metaphor to represent spiritual and intellectual development as light, and mental and moral depravity as darkness (comp. Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5).
The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.
Verse 14. - The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh 'in darkness. This clause is closely connected with the preceding verse, showing how wisdom excelleth folly. The wise man has the eyes of his heart or understanding enlightened (Ephesians 1:18); he looks into the nature of things, fixes his regard on what is most important, sees where to go; while the fool's eyes are in the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24); he walks on still in darkness, stumbling as he goes, knowing not whither his road shall take him. And I myself also (I even I) perceived that one event happeneth to them all. "Event" (mikreh); συνάντημα (Septuagint); interitus (Vulgate); not chance, But death, the final event. The word is translated "hap" in Ruth 2:3, and "chance" in 1 Samuel 6:9; but the connection here points to a definite termination; nor would it be consistent with Koheleth's religion to refer this termination to fate or accident. With all his experience, he could only conclude that in one important aspect the observed superiority of wisdom to folly was illusory and vain. He saw with his own eyes, and needed no instructor to teach, that both wise and fool must succumb to death, the universal leveler. Horace, in many passages, sings of this: thus 'Carm.,' 2:3. 21 -

"Divesne prisco natus ab Inacho,
Nil interest, an pauper et infima
De gente sub dive moreris,
Victima nil miserantis Orci."
(Comp, ibid, 1:28. 15, etc.; 2:14. 9, etc.) Plato ('Phaedo,' 57. p. 108, A) refers to a passage in 'Telephus,' a lost play of 2 Eschylus, which is restored thus -

Ἁπλῆ γὰρ οϊμος πάντες εἰς Ἅιδου φέρει.

"A single path leads all unto the grave."
Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.
Verse 15. - Then (and) said I in my heart (Ecclesiastes 1:16), As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me. He applies the general statement of ver. 14 to his own case. The end that overtakes the fool will ere long overtake him; and he proceeds, Why was I then more wise? "Then" (אז), may be understood either logically, i.e. in this case, since such is the fate of wise and foolish; or temporally, at the hour of death regarded as past. He puts the question - To what end, with what design, has he been so excessively wise, or, as it may be, wise overmuch (Ecclesiastes 7:16)? His wisdom has, as it were, recoiled upon himself - it taught him much, but not content; it made him keen-sighted in seeing the emptiness of human things, but it satisfied not his cravings. Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. This similarity of fate for philosopher and fool makes life vain and worthless; or rather, the meaning may be, if the superiority of wisdom over folly conduces to no other end than this, that superiority is a vanity. The LXX. has glossed the passage, followed herein by the Syriac, "Moreover, I spake in my heart that indeed this is also vanity, because the fool speaks out of his abundance" - ver. 16 giving the substance of the fool's thoughts. Vulgate, Locutusque cum mente mea, animadverti quod hoc quoque esset vanitas. Our Hebrew text does not confirm this interpretation or addition.
For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.
Verse 16. - For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool forever; Revised Version, more emphatically, for of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance forever. This, of course, is not absolutely true. There are men whose names are history, and will endure as long as the world lasts; but speaking generally, oblivion is the portion of all; posterity soon forgets the wisdom of one and the folly of another. Where the belief in the future life was not a strong and animating motive, posthumous fame exercised a potent attraction for many minds. To be the founder of a long line of descendants, -r to leave a record which should be fresh in the minds of future generations, these were objects of intense ambition, and valued as worthy of highest aspirations and best efforts. The words of classical poets will occur to our memory; e.g. Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:30.

"Exegi monumentum aere perennius...
Non omnis metier, multaque pars mei
Vitabit Libitinam."
Ovid, 'Amor.,' 1:15. 4 -

"Ergo etiam, cum me supremus adederit ignis,
Vivam, parsquc mei multa supersteserit."
But Koheleth shows the vanity of all such hopes; they are based on sounds which experience proves to be unsubstantial. Though Solomon's own fame gives the lie to the statement received without limitation (comp. Wisd. 8:13), yet his reflections might well have taken this turn, and the writer is quite justified in putting the thought into his mouth, as the king could not know how subsequent ages would regard his wisdom and attainments. Seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. The clause has been variously translated. Septuagint, "Forasmuch as the coming days, even all the things, are forgotten;" Vulgate, "And future times shall cover all things equally with oblivion." Modern editors give, "Since in the days that are to come they are all forgotten;" "As in time past, so in days to come, all will be forgotten.... In the days which are coming [it will be said by-and-by], The whole of them are long ago forgotten.'" This is a specimen of the uncertainty of exact interpretation, where the intended meaning is well ascertained. "All" (הכל) may refer either to wise and foolish, or to the circumstances of their lives. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Better taken as one sentence, with an exclamation, How doth the wise man die with (even as) the fool I (For "with" (ira), equivalent to "as," comp. Ecclesiastes 7:11; Job 9:26; Psalm 106:6.) "How" (אֵידּ) is sarcastic, as Isaiah 14:4, or sorrowful, as 2 Samuel 1:19. The same complaint falls from a psalmist's lips, "He seeth that wise men die; the fool and the brutish together perish" (Psalm 49:10). So David laments the death of the murdered leader, "Should Abner die as a fool dieth?" (2 Samuel 3:33). Plumptre considers that the author of the Book of Wisdom expands this view with the design of exposing its fallacy, and introducing a better hope (Ecclesiastes 2:1-9). But that writer would not have designated Solomon's sentiments as those of "the ungodly" (ἀσεβεῖς), nor foisted these utterances of sensualists and materialists upon so honored a source. At the same time, it is only as being victims, nil miserantis Opel, the prey of the pitiless and indiscriminating grave, that the wise and foolish are placed in the same category. There is the widest difference between the death-beds of the two, as the experience of any one who has watched them will testify, the one happy with the consciousness of duty done honestly, however imperfectly, and bright with the hope of immortality; the other darkened by vain regrets and shrinking despair, or listless in brutish insensibility.
Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Verse 17. - Therefore I hated life; et idcirce taeduit me vitae meae. Be a man wise or foolish, his life leads only to one end and is soon forgotten; hence life itself is burdensome and hateful. The bitter complaint of Job (Job 3:20, etc.; Job 6:8, 9) is here echoed, though the words do not point to suicide as the solution of the riddle. It is the ennui and unprofitableness of all life and action in view of the inevitable conclusion, which is here lamented. Because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me; literally, for evil unto me (Esther 3:9) is the work which is done under the sun. The toil and exertions of men pressed upon him like a burden too heavy for him to bear. Symmachus, Κακόν μοι ἐφάνη τὸ ἔργον; Septuagint, Πονηρὸν ἐπ ἐμὲ τὸ ποίημα κ.τ.λ.. He repeats the expression, "under the sun," as if to show that he was regarding human labor only in its earthly aspect, undertaken and executed for temporal and selfish considerations alone. The apostle teaches a 'better lesson, and the worker who adopts his rule is saved from this crushing disappointment: "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24). For all is vanity. He comes back to the same miserable refrain; it is all emptiness, striving after wind.
Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
Verse 18. - Such had been his general view of men's actions; he now brings the thought home to his own case, which makes his distress more poignant. Yea (and), I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun. He is disgusted to reflect upon all the trouble he has taken in life, when he thinks of what will become of the productions of his genius and the treasures which he has amassed. Because I should leave it (my labor, i.e. its results) unto the man that shall be after me. It is impossible that Solomon could thus have spoken of Rehoboam; and to suppose that he wrote thus after Jeroboam's attempt (1 Kings 2:26, etc.), and in contemplation of a possible usurper, is not warranted by any historical statement, the absolute security of the succession being all along expected, and the growing discontent being perfectly unknown to, or contemptuously disregarded by, the king. The sentiment is general, and recurs more than once; e.g., Ecclesiastes 4:8; Ecclesiastes 5:14; Ecclesiastes 6:2. Thus Horace, 'Epist.,' 2:2. 175 -

"Sic quia perpetuus nulli datur usus, et heres
Heredem alterius velut unda supervenit undam,
Quid vici prosunt aut horrea?"
And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.
Verse 19. - Who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? The bitter feeling that he has to leave the fruits of his lifelong labor to another is aggravated by the thought that he knows not the character of this successor, whether he will be worthy or not. As the psalmist says, "He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them" (Psalm 39:6). Again in the parable, "The things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be?" (Luke 12:20; comp. Ecclus. 11:18, 19). Yet shall he have rule, etc. Whatever may be his character, he will have free use and control of all that I have gathered by my labor directed by prudence and wisdom. Vulgate, Domina-bitur in laboribus meis quibus desudavi et sollicitus fui.
Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.
Verse 20. - Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair; Ἐπέστρεψα ἐγὼ (Septuagint). "I turned" in order to examine more closely. So in ver. 12 we had, "I turned myself," though the verbs are not the same in the two passages, and in the former the LXX. has ἐπέβλεψα. I turned from my late course of action to give myself up to despair. I lost all hope in labor; it had no longer any charm or future for me. Septuagint, Τοῦ ἀποτάξασθαι τὴν καρδίαν μου ἐν παντὶ μόχθῳ μου κ.τ.λ.
For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.
Verse 21. - For there is a man whose labor is in wisdom. "In," בְּ, "with," directed and performed with wisdom. The author speaks of himself objectively, as St. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2) says, "I know a man in Christ," etc. His complaint now is, not that his successor may misuse his inheritance (ver. 19), but that this person shall have that on which he has bestowed no skill or toil, shall enjoy what modern phraseology terms "unearned increment." This, which was set forth as One of the blessings of the promised land (Deuteronomy 6:10, 11), Koheleth cannot bear to contemplate where it touches himself - not from envy or grudging, but from the feeling of dissatisfaction and want of energy which it generates. In (with) knowledge and in (with) equity. Kishron, translated "equity" in the Authorized Version; ἀνδρεία "manliness," in the Septuagint: and sollicitudine in the Vulgate, seems rather here to signify "skill" or "success." It occurs also in Ecclesiastes 4:4 and Ecclesiastes 5:10, and there only in the Old Testament.
For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?
Verse 22. - What hath man of all his labor? i.e. what is to be the result to man? Γίνεται ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ; (Septuagint); Quidenim proderit homini? (Vulgate). There is, indeed, the pleasure that accompanies the pursuit of objects, and the successful accomplishment of enterprise; but this is poor and unsubstantial and embittered. And of the vexation of his heart; the striving, the effort of his mind to direct his labor to great ends. What does all this produce? The answer intended is," Nothing." This striving, with all its wisdom and knowledge and skill (ver. 21), is for the laborer fruitless.
For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.
Verse 23. - All his days are sorrow, and his travail grief (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:16, 17). These are the real results of his lifelong efforts. All his days are pains and sorrows, bring trouble with them, and all his labor ends in grief. "Sorrows" and "grief" are pretreated respectively of "days" and "travail." Abstract nouns are often so used. Thus Ecclesiastes 10:12, "The words of a wise man's mouth are grace." The free-thinkers in Wisd. 2:1 complain that life is short and tedious (λυπηρὸς). Yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. He cannot sleep for thinking over his plans and hopes and disappointments. Not for him is the sweet sleep of the laboring man, who does his day's work, earns his repose, and frets not about the future. On the one hand care, on the ether satiety, murder sleep, and make the night torment.
There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.
Verse 24. - There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink. The Vulgate makes the sentence interrogative, which the Hebrew does not sanction, Nonne melius est comedere et bibere? Septuagint Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἀνθρώπῳ ο{ φάγεται καὶ ο{ πίεται, "There is naught good to a man to eat or drink;" St. Jerome and others insert misi, "except for a man to eat," etc. This and the Authorized Version, which are more or less approved by most critics, make the writer enunciate a kind of modified Epicureanism, quotations in confirmation of which will be found set forth by Plumptre. It is not pretended that the present Hebrew text admits this exposition, and critics have agreed to modify the original in order to express the sense which they give to the passage. As it stands, the sentence runs, "It is not good in (בָּ) man that he should eat," etc. This is supposed to clash with later statements; e.g. Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; Ecclesiastes 8:15; and to condemn all bodily pleasure even in its simplest form. Hence commentators insert מ ("than") before שֶׁיּלֺאכַל, supposing that the initial mere has dropped out after the terminal of the preceding word, adam (comp. Ecclesiastes 3:22). This solution of a difficulty might be allowed were the Hebrew otherwise incapable of explanation without doing violence to the sentiments elsewhere expressed. But this is not the case. As Metals has seen, the great point lies in the preposition ב, and what is stated is that it does not depend on man, it is not in his power, he is not at liberty to eat and drink and enjoy himself simply at his own will; his power and ability proceed wholly from God. A higher authority than his decides the matter. The phrase, "to eat and drink," is merely a periphrasis for living in comfort, peace, and affluence. St. Gregory, who holds that here and in other places Koheleth seems to contradict himself, makes a remark which is of general application, "He who looks to the text, and does not acquaint himself with the sense of the Holy Word, is not so much furnishing himself with instruction as bewildering himself in uncertainty, in that the literal words sometimes contradict themselves; but whilst by their oppositeness they stand at variance with themselves, they direct the reader to a truth that is to be understood" ('Moral.,' 4:1). They who read Epicureanism into the text fall into the error here denounced. They take the expression, "eat and drink," in the narrowest sense of bodily pleasure, whereas it was by no means so confined in the mind of a Hebrew. To eat bread in the kingdom of God, to take a place at the heavenly banquet, represents the highest bliss of glorified man (Luke 14:15; Revelation 19:9, etc.). In a lower degree it signifies earthly prosperity, as in Jeremiah 22:15, "Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice? then it was well with him." So in our passage we find only the humiliating truth that man in himself is powerless to make his life happy or his labors successful. There is no Epicurean-ism, even in a modified form, in the Hebrew text as it has come down to us. With other supposed traces of this philosophy we shall have to deal subsequently (see on Ecclesiastes 3:12; 6:2). And that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor; i.e. taste the enjoyment of his labor, get pleasure as the reward of all his exertions, or find it in the actual pursuit. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. This is the point - the power of enjoyment depends on the will of God. The next verse substantiates this assertion.
For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?
Verse 25. - For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? This is the translation of the received text. "Eat" means enjoy one's self, as in the preceding verse; "hasten hereunto" implies eager pursuit of pleasure; and Koheleth asks - Who had better opportunity than he for verifying the principle that all depends upon the gift of God? Vulgate, Quis ita devorabit, et deliciis affluet ut ego? The Septuagint had a different reading, which obtains also in the Syriac and Arabic versions, and has been adopted by many modern critics. Instead of מִמֶּנִּי, they read מִמֶּנְּוּ, "without him," i.e. except from God. "For who shall eat or who shall drink without him (πάρεξ αὐτοῦ)?" This merely repeats the thought of the last verse, in agreement with the saying of St. James (James 1:17), "Every good gift and every perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father' of lights." But the received reading, if it admits the rendering of the Authorized Version (which is somewhat doubtful), stands in close connection with the personal remark just preceding, "This also I saw," etc., and is a more sensible confirmation thereof than a tautological observation can be. The next verse carries on the thought that substantial enjoyment is entirely the gift of God, and granted by him as the moral Governor of the world.
For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
Verse 26. - For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight. The subject "God" is not, in the Hebrew, an omission which is supposed to justify its virtual insertion in ver. 25. The Vulgate boldly supplies it here, Homini bone in conspectu sue dedit Deus. To the man that finds favor in God's sight (1 Samuel 29:6; Nehemiah 2:5), i.e. who pleases him, ha gives blessings, while he withholds them or takes them away from the man who displeases him. The blessings specified are wisdom, and knowledge, and joy. The only true wisdom which is not grief, the only true knowledge which is not sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18), and the only joy in life, are the gifts of God to those whom he regards as good. But to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up. The sinner takes great pains, expends continuous labor, that he may amass wealth, but it passes into other. (more worthy) hands. Horace, 'Carm.,' 2:14. 25 - "Absumet heres Caecuba dignior Servata centum clavibus." The moral government of God is here recognized, as below, Ecclesiastes 3:15, 17, etc., and a further thought is added on the subject of retribution: That he may give to him that is good before God. This idea is found in Proverbs 28:8, "He that augmenteth his substance by usury and increase, gathereth it for him that hath pity upon the poor;" and Ecclesiastes 13:22, "The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous" (comp. Job 27:16, 17). So in the parable of the talents, the talent of the unprofitable servant is given unto him who had made best use of his money (Matthew 25:28). This also is vanity. It is a question what is the reference here. Delitzsch considers it to be the striving after pleasure in and from labor (ver. 24); Knobel, the arbitrary distribution of the good things of this life; but, put thus baldly, this could hardly be termed a "feeding on wind;" nor could that expression be applied to the "gifts of God" to which Bullock confines the reference. Wright, Hengstenberg, Gratz, and others deem that what is meant is the collecting and heaping up of riches by the sinner, which has already been decided to be vanity (vers. 11, 17, 18); and this Would limit the general conclusion to a particular instance. Taking the view contained in ver. 24 as the central idea of the passage, we see that Koheleth feels that the restriction upon man's enjoyment of labor imposed by God's moral government makes that toil vain because its issue is not in men's hands, and it is a striving for or a feeding on wind because the result is unsatisfying and vanishes in the grasp.

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