Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. common--or else more literally,--"great upon man," falls heavily
2. for his soul--that is, his enjoyment.
God giveth him not power to eat--This distinguishes him from the
"rich" man in
"God hath given" distinguishes him also from the man who got his wealth
(Ec 5:8, 10).
stranger--those not akin, nay, even hostile to him
He seems to have it in his "power" to do as he will with his wealth,
but an unseen power gives him up to his own avarice: God wills that he
should toil for "a stranger"
who has found favor in God's sight.
3. Even if a man (of this character) have very many
(equivalent to "a hundred,"
children, and not have a "stranger" as his heir
and live long ("days of years" express the brevity of life at
yet enjoy no real "good" in life, and lie unhonored, without "burial,"
(2Ki 9:26, 35),
the embryo is better than he. In the East to be without burial is the
greatest degradation. "Better the fruit that drops from the tree before
it is ripe than that left to hang on till rotten" [HENRY].
4. he--rather "it," "the untimely birth." So "its," not "his name."
with vanity--to no purpose; a type of the driftless existence of him
who makes riches the chief good.
darkness--of the abortive; a type of the unhonored death and dark
future beyond the grave of the avaricious.
5. this--yet "it has more rest than" the toiling, gloomy miser.
6. If the miser's length of "life" be thought to raise him above the
abortive, Solomon answers that long life, without enjoying real good, is
but lengthened misery, and riches cannot exempt him from going whither
"all go." He is fit neither for life, nor death, nor eternity.
7. man--rather, "the man," namely, the miser
For not all men labor for the mouth, that is, for selfish
appetite--Hebrew, "the soul." The insatiability of the desire
prevents that which is the only end proposed in toils, namely,
self-gratification; "the man" thus gets no "good" out of his wealth
8. For--"However" [MAURER].
The "for" means (in contrast to the
insatiability of the miser), For what else is the advantage which
the wise man hath above the fool?"
What--advantage, that is, superiority, above him who knows not how
to walk uprightly
hath the poor who knoweth to walk before the living?--that is, to use
and enjoy life aright
(Ec 5:18, 19),
a cheerful, thankful, godly "walk"
9. Answer to the question in
This is the advantage:
Better is the sight of the eyes--the wise man's godly enjoyment of
present seen blessings
than the (fool's) wandering--literally, walking
of the desire, that is, vague, insatiable desires for what he has not
this--restless wandering of desire, and not enjoying contentedly the
(1Ti 6:6, 8).
10. Part II begins here. Since man's toils are vain, what is the
The answer is contained in the rest of the book.
That which hath been--man's various circumstances
is named already--not only has existed,
Ec 1:9; 3:15,
but has received its just name, "vanity," long ago,
and it is known that it--vanity
is man--Hebrew, "Adam," equivalent to man "of red dust," as his
Creator appropriately named him from his frailty.
neither may he contend, &c.--
11. "Seeing" that man cannot escape from the "vanity," which by God's
"mighty" will is inherent in earthly things, and cannot
call in question God's wisdom in these dispensations (equivalent to
what is man the better--of these vain things as regards the chief
good? None whatever.
12. For who knoweth, &c.--The ungodly know not what is really "good"
during life, nor "what shall be after them," that is, what will be the
event of their undertakings
(Ec 3:22; 8:7).
The godly might be tempted to "contend with God"
as to His dispensations; but they cannot fully know the wise purposes
served by them now and hereafter. Their sufferings from the oppressors
are more really good for them than cloudless prosperity; sinners are
being allowed to fill up their measure of guilt. Retribution in part
vindicates God's ways even now. The judgment shall make all clear. In
he states what is good, in answer to this verse.