For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
Ecclesiastes is here speaking simply of that knowledge of earthly things and human affairs which a man may acquire by intellectual study and observation. And what he says is that the amassing of mere earthly knowledge, as if this were the chief good, is a delusion — that such knowledge is full of disappointments and sorrows, and cannot really satisfy the soul of man. Now, it is indeed true that our minds have been so constituted that the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge, simply as knowledge, is naturally accompanied with pleasure. And to a young and eager student rejoicing in the wider views and the fresh discoveries which his increase of knowledge brings, it may sometimes seem as if a life spent in study and research would give him the fullest satisfaction. But he is apt to forget that a wider view of things is not always a more pleasant view. Knowledge often destroys illusions. Knowledge often makes us more sensible of our ignorance, and more conscious of the limits of our powers. Knowledge often confronts us with problems which cause us perplexing and painful thought, and which had not previously come within the range of our vision. The most learned philosopher or the most brilliant student of natural science often finds that all his knowledge is utterly unavailing in the presence of some practical difficulty — something "crooked" which he cannot straighten, something "wanting" which he cannot supply. How often the very knowledge of a skilful physician gives him a sadder because deeper insight into the malady which he knows to be incurable! And how often we can see a tinge of melancholy in some of the world's greatest thinkers! This is indeed no argument for indorsing the words of the poet, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise": for even the knowledge which brings sorrow may have some advantages over the ignorance which preserves happiness. But it is an argument for the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, that the mere possession of earthly wisdom is not the supreme good of human life, and that the attempt to satisfy one's soul with such knowledge is a "feeding on wind!"
(T. C. Finlayson.).
Parallel VersesKJV: For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.