Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. (See on
name--character; a godly mind and life; not mere
reputation with man, but what a man is in the eyes of
God, with whom the name and reality are one thing
This alone is "good," while all else is "vanity" when made the chief
ointment--used lavishly at costly banquets and peculiarly
refreshing in the sultry East. The Hebrew for "name" and for
"ointment," have a happy paronomasia, Sheem and Shemen.
"Ointment" is fragrant only in the place where the person is whose head
and garment are scented, and only for a time. The "name" given by God
to His child
is for ever and in all lands. So in the case of the woman who received
an everlasting name from Jesus Christ, in reward for her precious
Jesus Christ Himself hath such a name, as the Messiah, equivalent to
and the day of [his] death, &c.--not a general censure upon God
for creating man; but, connected with the previous clause, death is to
him, who hath a godly name, "better" than the day of his birth; "far
2. Proving that it is not a sensual enjoyment of earthly goods
which is meant in
Ec 3:13; 5:18.
A thankful use of these is right, but frequent feasting Solomon had
found dangerous to piety in his own case. So Job's fear
(Ec 1:4, 5).
The house of feasting often shuts out thoughts of God and eternity. The
sight of the dead in the "house of mourning" causes "the living" to
think of their own "end."
3. Sorrow--such as arises from serious thoughts of eternity.
by the sadness . . . better--
(Ps 126:5, 6;
Heb 12:10, 11).
MAURER translates: "In sadness of countenance
there is (may be) a good (cheerful) heart." So Hebrew,
for "good," equivalent to "cheerful"
but the parallel clause supports English Version.
(Ps 141:4, 5).
Godly reproof offends the flesh, but benefits the spirit. Fools' songs
in the house of mirth please the flesh, but injure the soul.
6. crackling--answers to the loud merriment of fools. It is the very
fire consuming them which produces the seeming merry noise
Their light soon goes out in the black darkness. There is a paronomasia
in the Hebrew, Sirim ("thorns"), Sir ("pot"). The wicked
are often compared to "thorns"
Dried cow-dung was the common fuel in Palestine; its slowness in
burning makes the quickness of a fire of thorns the more graphic, as an
image of the sudden end of fools
7. oppression--recurring to the idea
(Ec 3:16; 5:8).
Its connection with
is, the sight of "oppression" perpetrated by "fools" might tempt the
"wise" to call in question God's dispensations, and imitate the folly
(equivalent to "madness") described
WEISS, for "oppression," translates,
"distraction," produced by merriment. But
favors English Version.
a gift--that is, the sight of bribery in "places of judgment"
might cause the wise to lose their wisdom (equivalent to "heart"),
(Job 12:6; 21:6, 7; 24:1,
&c.). This suits the parallelism better than "a heart of gifts"; a
benevolent heart, as WEISS.
8. connected with
Let the "wise" wait for "the end," and the "oppressions" which now (in
"the beginning") perplex their faith, will be found by God's working to
be overruled to their good. "Tribulation worketh patience"
which is infinitely better than "the proud spirit" that prosperity
might have generated in them, as it has in fools
(Ps 73:2, 3, 12-14, 17-26;
9. angry--impatient at adversity befalling thee, as Job was
10. Do not call in question God's ways in making thy former days better
than thy present, as Job did
The very putting of the question argues that heavenly "wisdom"
(Margin) is not as much as it ought made the chief good with
11. Rather, "Wisdom, as compared with an inheritance, is good,"
that is, is as good as an inheritance; "yea, better
(literally, and a profit) to them that see the sun"
(that is, the living,
12. Literally, (To be) in (that is, under) the shadow
of wisdom (is the same as to be) in (under) the shadow of money;
wisdom no less shields one from the ills of life than money
is, that--rather, "the excellency of the knowledge of
wisdom giveth life," that is, life in the highest sense, here and
Wisdom (religion) cannot be lost as money can. It shields one in
adversity, as well as prosperity; money, only in prosperity. The
implies a want of it.
13. Consider as to God's work, that it is impossible to alter
His dispensations; for who can, &c.
straight . . . crooked--Man cannot amend what God wills to be "wanting"
14. consider--resumed from
"Consider," that is, regard it as "the work of God"; for "God has made
(Hebrew, for 'set') this (adversity) also as well as the other
(prosperity)." "Adversity" is one of the things which "God has made
crooked," and which man cannot "make straight." He ought therefore to
after him--equivalent to "that man may not find anything (to blame)
after God" (that is, after "considering God's work,"
Vulgate and Syriac, "against Him" (compare
15. An objection entertained by Solomon
in the days of his vanity--his apostasy
just . . . perisheth--
Temporal not eternal death
But see on
"just" is probably a self-justiciary.
wicked . . . prolongeth--See the antidote to the abuse of this
16. HOLDEN makes
the scoffing inference of the objector, and
the answer of Solomon, now repentant. So
the skeptic's objection;
the answer. However, "Be not righteous over much," may be taken as
Solomon's words, forbidding a self-made righteousness of outward
performances, which would wrest salvation from God, instead of
receiving it as the gift of His grace. It is a fanatical,
pharisaical righteousness, separated from God; for the "fear of God" is
in antithesis to it
(Ec 7:18; 5:3, 7;
Mt 6:1-7; 9:14; 23:23, 24;
Ro 12:3, 16),
presumptuously self-sufficient, as if acquainted with the whole of
destroy thyself--expose thyself to needless persecution, austerities
and the wrath of God; hence to an untimely death. "Destroy thyself"
answers to "perisheth"
"righteous over much," to "a just man." Therefore in
it is self-justiciary, not a truly righteous man, that is
17. over much wicked--so worded, to answer to "righteous
over much." For if not taken thus, it would seem to imply that we
may be wicked a little. "Wicked" refers to "wicked man"
"die before thy time," to "prolongeth his life," antithetically. There
may be a wicked man spared to "live long," owing to his avoiding gross
Solomon says, therefore, Be not so foolish (answering antithetically to
as to run to such excess of riot, that God will be provoked to cut off
prematurely thy day of grace
The precept is addressed to a sinner. Beware of aggravating thy
sin, so as to make thy case desperate. It refers to the days of
Solomon's "vanity" (apostasy,
when only such a precept would be applicable. By litotes it includes,
"Be not wicked at all."
18. this . . . this--the two opposite excesses
(Ec 7:16, 17),
fanatical, self-wise righteousness, and presumptuous, foolhardy
he that feareth God shall come forth of them all--shall escape all
19. Hebrew, "The wisdom," that is, the true wisdom, religion
than ten mighty--that is, able and valiant generals
(Ec 7:12; 9:13-18;
Pr 21:22; 24:5).
These "watchmen wake in vain, except the Lord keep the city"
20. Referring to
Be not "self-righteous," seek not to make thyself "just" before
God by a superabundance of self-imposed performances; "for true
'wisdom,' or 'righteousness,' shows that there is not a just
21. As therefore thou being far from perfectly "just" thyself, hast
much to be forgiven by God, do not take too strict account, as the
Lu 18:9, 11),
and thereby shorten their lives
(Ec 7:15, 16),
of words spoken against thee by others, for example, thy servant: Thou
art their "fellow servant" before God
23. All this--resuming the "all" in
is therefore the fruit of his dearly bought experience in the days of
I will be wise--I tried to "be wise," independently of God. But true
wisdom was then "far from him," in spite of his human wisdom, which he
retained by God's gift. So "over wise"
24. That . . . far off . . . deep--True wisdom is so when sought
independently of "fear of God"
De 30:12, 13;
Job 11:7, 8; 28:12-20, 28;
Ro 10:6, 7).
25. Literally, "I turned myself and mine heart to." A phrase peculiar
to Ecclesiastes, and appropriate to the penitent turning back to
commune with his heart on his past life.
wickedness of folly--He is now a step further on the path of penitence
Ec 1:17; 2:12,
where "folly" is put without "wickedness" prefixed.
reason--rather, "the right estimation" of things.
HOLDEN translates also "foolishness
(that is, sinful folly, answering to 'wickedness' in the parallel)
of madness" (that is, of man's mad pursuits).
26. "I find" that, of all my sinful follies, none has been so
ruinous a snare in seducing me from God as idolatrous women
(1Ki 11:3, 4;
Pr 5:3, 4; 22:14).
As "God's favor is better than life," she who seduces from God is "more
bitter than death."
whoso pleaseth God--as Joseph
(Ge 39:2, 3, 9).
It is God's grace alone that keeps any from falling.
27. this--namely, what follows in
counting one by one--by comparing one thing with another
account--a right estimate. But
more favors GESENIUS. "Considering women one
28. Rather, referring to his past experience, "Which my
soul sought further, but I found not."
one man--that is, worthy of the name, "man," "upright"; not more than
one in a thousand of my courtiers
Jesus Christ alone of men fully realizes the perfect ideal of "man."
"Chiefest among ten thousand"
No perfect "woman" has ever existed, not even the Virgin Mary.
Solomon, in the word "thousand," alludes to his three hundred wives and
seven hundred concubines. Among these it was not likely that he should
find the fidelity which one true wife pays to one
husband. Connected with
not an unqualified condemnation of the sex, as
Pr 12:4; 31:10,
29. The "only" way of accounting for the scarcity of even
comparatively upright men and women is that, whereas God made man
upright, they (men) have, &c. The only account to be "found" of the
origin of evil, the great mystery of theology, is that given in Holy
Among man's "inventions" was the one especially referred to in
the bitter fruits of which Solomon experienced, the breaking of God's
primeval marriage law, joining one man to "one" woman
(Mt 19:4, 5, 6).
"Man" is singular, namely, Adam; "they," plural, Adam,
Eve, and their posterity.