World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Reverence, Humility, and Contentment
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil. 2Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.
3 For dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow. 5It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfill it. 6Do not let your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your words, and destroy the work of your hands?
7 With many dreams come vanities and a multitude of words; but fear God.
8 If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and right, do not be amazed at the matter; for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9But all things considered, this is an advantage for a land: a king for a plowed field.
10 The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.
11 When goods increase, those who eat them increase; and what gain has their owner but to see them with his eyes?
12 Sweet is the sleep of laborers, whether they eat little or much; but the surfeit of the rich will not let them sleep.
13 There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, 14and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 15As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. 16This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? 17Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment.
18 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.
1. From vanity connected with kings, he passes to vanities (Ec 5:7) which may be fallen into in serving the King of kings, even by those who, convinced of the vanity of the creature, wish to worship the Creator.
Keep thy foot—In going to worship, go with considerate, circumspect, reverent feeling. The allusion is to the taking off the shoes, or sandals, in entering a temple (Ex 3:5; Jos 5:15, which passages perhaps gave rise to the custom). Weiss needlessly reads, "Keep thy feast days" (Ex 23:14, 17; the three great feasts).
hear—rather, "To be ready (to draw nigh with the desire) to hear (obey) is a better sacrifice than the offering of fools" [Holden]. (Vulgate; Syriac). (Ps 51:16, 17; Pr 21:3; Jer 6:20; 7:21-23; 14:12; Am 5:21-24). The warning is against mere ceremonial self-righteousness, as in Ec 7:12. Obedience is the spirit of the law's requirements (De 10:12). Solomon sorrowfully looks back on his own neglect of this (compare 1Ki 8:63 with Ec 11:4, 6). Positive precepts of God must be kept, but will not stand instead of obedience to His moral precepts. The last provided no sacrifice for wilful sin (Nu 15:30, 31; Heb 10:26-29).
2. rash—opposed to the considerate reverence ("keep thy foot," Ec 5:1). This verse illustrates Ec 5:1, as to prayer in the house of God ("before God," Isa 1:12); so Ec 5:4-6 as to vows. The remedy to such vanities is stated (Ec 5:6). "Fear thou God."
God is in heaven—Therefore He ought to be approached with carefully weighed words, by thee, a frail creature of earth.
3. As much "business," engrossing the mind, gives birth to incoherent "dreams," so many words, uttered inconsiderately in prayer, give birth to and betray "a fool's speech" (Ec 10:14), [Holden and Weiss]. But Ec 5:7 implies that the "dream" is not a comparison, but the vain thoughts of the fool (sinner, Ps 73:20), arising from multiplicity of (worldly) "business." His "dream" is that God hears him for his much speaking (Mt 6:7), independently of the frame of mind [English Version and Maurer].
fool's voice—answers to "dream" in the parallel; it comes by the many "words" flowing from the fool's "dream."
4. When thou vowest a vow unto God—Hasty words in prayer (Ec 5:2, 3) suggest the subject of hasty vows. A vow should not be hastily made (Jud 11:35; 1Sa 14:24). When made, it must be kept (Ps 76:11), even as God keeps His word to us (Ex 12:41, 51; Jos 21:45).
angel—the "messenger" of God (Job 33:23); minister (Re 1:20); that is, the priest (Mal 2:7) "before" whom a breach of a vow was to be confessed (Le 5:4, 5). We, Christians, in our vows (for example, at baptism, the Lord's Supper, &c.) vow in the presence of Jesus Christ, "the angel of the covenant" (Mal 3:1), and of ministering angels as witnesses (1Co 11:10; 1Ti 5:21). Extenuate not any breach of them as a slight error.
7. (See on Ec 5:3). God's service, which ought to be our chief good, becomes by "dreams" (foolish fancies as of God's requirements of us in worship), and random "words," positive "vanity." The remedy is, whatever fools may do, "Fear thou God" (Ec 12:13).
8. As in Ec 3:16, so here the difficulty suggests itself. If God is so exact in even punishing hasty words (Ec 5:1-6), why does He allow gross injustice? In the remote "provinces," the "poor" often had to put themselves for protection from the inroads of Philistines, &c., under chieftains, who oppressed them even in Solomon's reign (1Ki 12:4).
the matter—literally, "the pleasure," or purpose (Isa 53:10). Marvel not at this dispensation of God's will, as if He had abandoned the world. Nay, there is coming a capital judgment at last, and an earnest of it in partial punishments of sinners meanwhile.
higher than the highest—(Da 7:18).
there be higher—plural, that is, the three persons of the Godhead, or else, "regardeth not only the 'highest' kings, than whom He 'is higher,' but even the petty tyrants of the provinces, namely, the high ones who are above them" (the poor) [Weiss].
9. "The profit (produce) of the earth is (ordained) for (the common good of) all: even the king himself is served by (the fruits of) the field" (2Ch 26:10). Therefore the common Lord of all, high and low, will punish at last those who rob the "poor" of their share in it (Pr 22:22, 23; Am 8:4-7).
10. Not only will God punish at last, but meanwhile the oppressive gainers of "silver" find no solid "satisfaction" in it.
with increase—is not satisfied with the gain that he makes.
11. they … that eat them—the rich man's dependents (Ps 23:5).
12. Another argument against anxiety to gain riches. "Sleep … sweet" answers to "quietness" (Ec 4:6); "not suffer … sleep," to "vexation of spirit." Fears for his wealth, and an overloaded stomach without "laboring" (compare Ec 4:5), will not suffer the rich oppressor to sleep.
13, 14. Proofs of God's judgments even in this world (Pr 11:31). The rich oppressor's wealth provokes enemies, robbers, &c. Then, after having kept it for an expected son, he loses it beforehand by misfortune ("by evil travail"), and the son is born to be heir of poverty. Ec 2:19, 23 gives another aspect of the same subject.
16. Even supposing that he loses not his wealth before death, then at least he must go stripped of it all (Ps 49:17).
wrath—fretfulness, literally, "His sorrow is much, and his infirmity (of body) and wrath."
which God giveth—namely, both the good of his labor and his life.
his portion—legitimately. It is God's gift that makes it so when regarded as such. Such a one will use, not abuse, earthly things (1Co 7:31). Opposed to the anxious life of the covetous (Ec 5:10, 17).
19. As Ec 5:18 refers to the "laboring" man (Ec 5:12), so Ec 5:19 to the "rich" man, who gets wealth not by "oppression" (Ec 5:8), but by "God's gift." He is distinguished also from the "rich" man (Ec 6:2) in having received by God's gift not only "wealth," but also "power to eat thereof," which that one has not.
to take his portion—limits him to the lawful use of wealth, not keeping back from God His portion while enjoying his own.
20. He will not remember much, looking back with disappointment, as the ungodly do (Ec 2:11), on the days of his life.
answereth … in the joy—God answers his prayers in giving him "power" to enjoy his blessings. Gesenius and Vulgate translate, "For God (so) occupies him with joy," &c., that he thinks not much of the shortness and sorrows of life. Holden, "Though God gives not much (as to real enjoyment), yet he remembers (with thankfulness) the days; for (he knows) God exercises him by the joy," &c. (tries him by prosperity), so Margin, but English Version is simplest.