Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
He next tries pleasure and luxury, retaining however, his worldly
but all proves "vanity" in respect to the chief good.
1. I said . . . heart--
thee--my heart, I will test whether thou canst find that solid good
in pleasure which was not in "worldly wisdom." But this also proves to
2. laughter--including prosperity, and joy
mad--that is, when made the chief good; it is harmless in
its proper place.
What doeth it?--Of what avail is it in giving solid good?
3-11. Illustration more at large of
Ec 2:1, 2.
I sought--I resolved, after search into many plans.
give myself unto wine--literally, "to draw my flesh," or "body to
wine" (including all banquetings). Image from a captive drawn after a
chariot in triumph
(Ro 6:16, 19;
or, one "allured"
(2Pe 2:18, 19).
yet acquainting . . . wisdom--literally, "and my heart
(still) was behaving, or guiding itself," with wisdom
translates: "was weary of (worldly) wisdom." But the end of
confirms English Version.
folly--namely, pleasures of the flesh, termed "mad,"
all the days, &c.--(See Margin and
(1Ki 7:1-8; 9:1, 19; 10:18,
5. gardens--Hebrew, "paradises," a foreign word; Sanskrit, "a
place enclosed with a wall"; Armenian and Arabic, "a pleasure
ground with flowers and shrubs near the king's house, or castle." An
earthly paradise can never make up for the want of the heavenly
6. pools--artificial, for irrigating the soil
Three such reservoirs are still found, called Solomon's cisterns, a
mile and a half from Jerusalem.
wood that bringeth forth--rather, "the grove that flourisheth with trees"
7. born in my house--These were esteemed more trustworthy servants
than those bought
(Ge 14:14; 15:2, 3; 17:12, 13, 27;
called "songs of one's handmaid"
2Ch 1:15; 9:20).
peculiar treasure of kings and . . . provinces--contributed by them,
as tributary to him
(1Ki 4:21, 24);
a poor substitute for the wisdom whose "gain is better than fine gold"
(Pr 3:14, 15).
musical instruments . . . of all sorts--introduced at banquets
Am 6:5, 6);
rather, "a princess and princesses," from an Arabic root. One
regular wife, or queen
other secondary wives, "princesses," distinct from the "concubines"
[WEISS, GESENIUS]. Had these
been omitted, the enumeration would be incomplete.
10. my labour--in procuring pleasures.
this--evanescent "joy" was my only "portion out of all my labor"
(Ec 3:22; 5:18; 9:9;
11. But all these I felt were only "vanity," and of "no profit" as
to the chief good. "Wisdom" (worldly common sense, sagacity), which
still "remained with me"
showed me that these could not give solid happiness.
12. He had tried (worldly) wisdom
and folly (foolish pleasure)
he now compares them
and finds that while (worldly)
wisdom excelleth folly
(Ec 2:13, 14),
yet the one event, death, befalls both
and that thus the wealth acquired by the
wise man's "labor" may descend to a "fool" that hath not labored
(Ec 2:18, 19, 21);
therefore all his labor is vanity
(Ec 2:22, 23).
what can the man do . . . already done--
Parenthetical. A future investigator can strike nothing out "new," so
as to draw a different conclusion from what I draw by comparing "wisdom
and madness." HOLDEN, with less ellipsis,
translates, "What, O man, shall come after the king?" &c. Better,
GROTIUS, "What man can come after (compete with)
the king in the things which are done?" None ever can have the same
means of testing what all earthly things can do towards satisfying the
soul; namely, worldly wisdom, science, riches, power, longevity, all
The worldly "wise" man has good sense in managing his affairs,
skill and taste in building and planting, and keeps
within safe and respectable bounds in pleasure, while the
"fool" is wanting in these respects ("darkness," equivalent to fatal
error, blind infatuation), yet one event, death, happens to both
15. why was I--so anxious to become, &c.
Then--Since such is the case.
this--namely, pursuit of (worldly) wisdom; it can never fill the place
of the true wisdom
16. remembrance--a great aim of the worldly
The righteous alone attain it
for ever--no perpetual memorial.
that which now is--MAURER,
"In the days to come all things shall be
now long ago forgotten."
17. Disappointed in one experiment after another, he is weary of life.
The backslider ought to have rather reasoned as the prodigal
(Ho 2:6, 7;
Lu 15:17, 18).
grievous unto me--
18, 19. One hope alone was left to the disappointed worldling, the
perpetuation of his name and riches, laboriously gathered, through his
successor. For selfishness is mostly at the root of worldly parents'
alleged providence for their children. But now the remembrance of how
he himself, the piously reared child of David, had disregarded his
father's dying charge
suggested the sad misgivings as to what Rehoboam, his son by an
idolatrous Ammonitess, Naamah, should prove to be; a foreboding too
(1Ki 12:1-18; 14:21-31).
20. I gave up as desperate all hope of solid fruit from
21. Suppose "there is a man," &c.
equity--rather "with success," as the Hebrew is rendered
"prosper," though Margin gives "right" [HOLDEN and MAURER].
evil--not in itself, for this is the ordinary course of things, but
"evil," as regards the chief good, that one should have toiled so
22. Same sentiment as in
23. The only fruit he has is, not only sorrows in his days, but
all his days are sorrows, and his travail (not only has griefs
connected with it, but is itself), grief.
24. English Version gives a seemingly Epicurean sense,
contrary to the general scope. The Hebrew, literally is, "It is
not good for man that he should eat," &c., "and should make his
soul see good" (or "show his soul, that is, himself, happy"),
&c. [WEISS]. According to HOLDEN and WEISS,
Ec 3:12, 22
differ from this verse in the text and meaning; here he means, "It is
not good that a man should feast himself, and falsely make as though
his soul were happy"; he thus refers to a false pretending of
happiness acquired by and for one's self; in
Ec 3:12, 22; 5:18, 19,
to real seeing, or finding pleasure when God gives
it. There it is said to be good for a man to enjoy with
satisfaction and thankfulness the blessings which God gives; here it is
said not to be good to take an unreal pleasure to one's
self by feasting, &c.
This also I saw--I perceived by experience that good (real pleasure)
is not to be taken at will, but comes only from the hand of God
Or as HOLDEN, "It is the appointment from the hand
of God, that the sensualist has no solid satisfaction" (good).
25. hasten--after indulgences
(Pr 7:23; 19:2),
eagerly pursue such enjoyments. None can compete with me in
this. If I, then, with all my opportunities of enjoyment, failed
utterly to obtain solid pleasure of my own making, apart from God, who
else can? God mercifully spares His children the sad experiment which
Solomon made, by denying them the goods which they often desire. He
gives them the fruits of Solomon's experience, without their paying the
dear price at which Solomon bought it.
26. True, literally, in the Jewish theocracy; and in some measure in
(Job 27:16, 17;
Pr 13:22; 28:8).
Though the retribution be not so visible and immediate now as then, it
is no less real. Happiness even here is more truly the portion of the
Mr 10:29, 30;
that he--the sinner
may give--that is, unconsciously and in spite of himself. The godly
Solomon had satisfaction in his riches and wisdom, when God gave them
(2Ch 1:11, 12).
The backsliding Solomon had no happiness when he sought it in them
apart from God; and the riches which he heaped up became the prey of