He next tries pleasure and luxury, retaining however,
his worldly "wisdom" (Ec 3:9), but
all proves "vanity" in respect to the chief good.
1. I said … heart—(Lu 12:19).
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 be "vanity" (Isa 50:11).
2. laughter—including prosperity,
and joy in general (Job 8:21).
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? (Ec 7:6; Pr 14:13).
3-11. Illustration more at large of Ec 2:1, 2.
I sought—I resolved, after search into
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;
1Co 12:2); or, one "allured"
yet acquainting …
wisdom—literally, "and my heart (still) was behaving,
or guiding itself," with wisdom [Gesenius]. Maurer
translates: "was weary of (worldly) wisdom." But the end of
Ec 2:9 confirms English
folly—namely, pleasures of the flesh,
termed "mad," Ec 2:2.
all the days, &c.—(See
Margin and Ec 6:12; Job 15:20).
4. (1Ki 7:1-8; 9:1, 19;
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 (Re 2:7).
6. pools—artificial, for irrigating the
soil (Ge 2:10; Ne 2:14; Isa 1:30). 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" [Lowth].
7. born in my house—These were esteemed
more trustworthy servants than those bought (Ge 14:14; 15:2, 3; 17:12, 13, 27; Jer 2:14), called "songs of one's
handmaid" (Ex 23:12;
compare Ge 12:16; Job 1:3).
8. (1Ki 10:27; 2Ch 1:15;
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).
singers—so David (2Sa 19:35).
musical instruments … of all
sorts—introduced at banquets (Isa 5:12; Am 6:5, 6); rather, "a princess and princesses,"
from an Arabic root. One regular wife, or queen (Es 1:9); Pharaoh's daughter (1Ki 3:1); other secondary wives, "princesses,"
distinct from the "concubines" (1Ki 11:3; Ps 45:10; So
6:8) [Weiss, Gesenius]. Had
these been omitted, the enumeration would be incomplete.
9. great—opulent (Ge 24:35; Job
1:3; see 1Ki 10:23).
10. my labour—in procuring
this—evanescent "joy" was my only
"portion out of all my labor" (Ec 3:22; 5:18; 9:9; 1Ki
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" (Ec 2:9), showed me that these could not give
12. He had tried (worldly) wisdom (Ec 1:12-18) and folly (foolish pleasure)
2:1-11); he now compares them
2:12) and finds that while
wisdom excelleth folly (Ec 2:13, 14), yet the one event, death,
befalls both (Ec 2:14-16), and that thus the wealth acquired by
the wise man's "labor" may descend to a "fool" that hath not labored
2:18, 19, 21); therefore all
his labor is vanity (Ec 2:22, 23).
what can the man do … already
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 combined.
13, 14. (Pr 17:24). 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 (Job 21:26).
15. why was I—so anxious to become,
&c. (2Ch 1:10).
Then—Since such is the case.
this—namely, pursuit of (worldly)
wisdom; it can never fill the place of the true wisdom (Job 28:28; Jer
16. remembrance—a great aim of the
11:4). The righteous alone
attain it (Ps 112:6; Pr 10:7).
for ever—no perpetual
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—(Job 10:1).
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 (1Ch 28:9), suggested the sad misgivings as to
what Rehoboam, his son by an idolatrous Ammonitess, Naamah, should
prove to be; a foreboding too fully realized (1Ki
20. I gave up as desperate all hope of
solid fruit from my labor.
21. Suppose "there is a man," &c.
equity—rather "with success," as the
Hebrew is rendered (Ec 11:6),
"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 fruitlessly.
22. Same sentiment as in Ec 2:21, interrogatively.
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
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,
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,
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 [Weiss]
(Ps 4:6; Isa 57:19-21). 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
26. True, literally, in the Jewish theocracy;
and in some measure in all ages (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 godly (Ps 84:11; Mt 5:5; Mr 10:29, 30; Ro 8:28; 1Ti
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 Shishak (2Ch 12:9).