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The Frustration of Desires

 6

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy upon humankind: 2those to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that they lack nothing of all that they desire, yet God does not enable them to enjoy these things, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous ill. 3A man may beget a hundred children, and live many years; but however many are the days of his years, if he does not enjoy life’s good things, or has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; 5moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he. 6Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to one place?

7 All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied. 8For what advantage have the wise over fools? And what do the poor have who know how to conduct themselves before the living? 9Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire; this also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

10 Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what human beings are, and that they are not able to dispute with those who are stronger. 11The more words, the more vanity, so how is one the better? 12For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow? For who can tell them what will be after them under the sun?


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Ec 6:1-12.

1. common—or else more literally,—"great upon man," falls heavily upon man.

2. for his soul—that is, his enjoyment.

God giveth him not power to eat—This distinguishes him from the "rich" man in Ec 5:19. "God hath given" distinguishes him also from the man who got his wealth by "oppression" (Ec 5:8, 10).

stranger—those not akin, nay, even hostile to him (Jer 51:51; La 5:2; Ho 7:9). 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" (Ec 2:26), who has found favor in God's sight.

3. Even if a man (of this character) have very many (equivalent to "a hundred," 2Ki 10:1) children, and not have a "stranger" as his heir (Ec 6:2), and live long ("days of years" express the brevity of life at its best, Ge 47:9), yet enjoy no real "good" in life, and lie unhonored, without "burial," at death (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. thisyet "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 (Ec 6:3-6). For not all men labor for the mouth, that is, for selfish gratification.

appetiteHebrew, "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 (Ec 6:3).

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" (Ps 116:9).

9. Answer to the question in Ec 6:8. 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 (Ps 73:9), of the desire, that is, vague, insatiable desires for what he has not (Ec 6:7; Heb 13:5).

this—restless wandering of desire, and not enjoying contentedly the present (1Ti 6:6, 8).

10. Part II begins here. Since man's toils are vain, what is the chief good? (Ec 6:12). 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 manHebrew, "Adam," equivalent to man "of red dust," as his Creator appropriately named him from his frailty.

neither may he contend, &c.—(Ro 9:20).

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 "contend," &c.),

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" (Ec 6:10) 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 Ec 7:1-29, he states what is good, in answer to this verse.




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