Ecclesiastes 5 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Ecclesiastes 5
Pulpit Commentary
Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
Verses 1-7. - Section 6. Man's outward and secular life being unable to secure happiness and satisfaction, can these be found in popular religion? Religious exercises need the observation of strict rules, which are far from meeting with general attention. Koheleth proceeds to give instruction, in the form of maxims, concerning public worship, prayer, and vows. Verse 1. - This verse, in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bibles, forms the conclusion of Ecclesiastes 4, and is taken independently; but the division in our version is more natural, and the connection of this with the following verses is obvious. Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, Some read "feet" instead of "foot," but the singular and plural numbers are both found in this signification (comp. Psalm 119:59, 105; Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 4:26, 27). To "keep the foot" is to be careful of the conduct, to remember what you are about, whither you are going. There is no allusion to the sacerdotal rite of washing the feet before entering the holy place (Exodus 30:18, 19), nor to the custom of removing the shoes on entering a consecrated building, which was a symbol of reverential awe and obedient service. The expression is simply a term connected with man's ordinary life transferred to his moral and religious life. The house of God is the temple. The tabernacle is called "the house of Jehovah" (1 Samuel 1:7; 2 Samuel 12:20), and this name is commonly applied to the temple; e.g., 1 Kings 3:1; 2 Chronicles 8:16; Ezra 3:11. But "house of God" is applied also to the temple (2 Chronicles 5:14; Ezra 5:8, 15, etc.), so that we need not, with Bullock, suppose that Koheleth avoids the name of the Lord of the covenant as "a natural sign of the writer's humiliation after his fall into idolatry, and an acknowledgment of his unworthiness of the privileges of a son of the covenant." It is probable that the expression here is meant to include synagogues as well as the great temple at Jerusalem, since the following clause seems to imply that exhortation would be heard there, which formed no part of the temple service. The verse has furnished a text on the subject of the reverence due to God's house and service from Chrysostom downwards. And be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools. Various are the renderings of this clause. Wright, "For to draw near to hear is (better) than the fools offering sacrifices." (So virtually Knobel, Ewald, etc.) Ginsburg, "For it is nearer to obey than to offer the sacrifice of the disobedient;" i.e. it is the straighter, truer way to take when you obey God than when you merely perform outward service. The Vulgate takes the infinitive verb as equivalent to the imperative, as the Authorized Version, Appropinqua ut audias; but it is best to regard it as pure infinitive, and to translate, "To approach in order to hear is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools." The sentiment is the same as that in 1 Samuel 15:22, 'Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." The same thought occurs in Proverbs 21:3; Psalm 50:7-15; and continually in the prophets; e.g., Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6, etc. It is the reaction against the mere ceremonialism which marked the popular religion. Koheleth had seen and deplored this at Jerusalem and elsewhere, and he enunciates the great troth that it is more acceptable to God that one should go to his house to hear the Law read and taught and expounded, than to offer a formal sacrifice, which, as being the offering of a godless man is called in proverbial language "the sacrifice of fools" (Proverbs 21:27). The verb used here, "give" (nathan), is not the usual expression for offering sacrifice, and may possibly refer to the feast which accompanied such sacrifices, and which often degenerated into excess (Delitzsch). That the verb rendered "to hear" does not mean merely "to obey" is plain from its reference to conduct in the house of God. The reading of the Law, and probably of the prophets, formed a feature of the temple service in Koheleth's day; the expounding of the same in public was confined to the synagogues, which seem to have originated in the time of the exile, though there were doubtless before that time some regular occasions of assembling together (see 2 Kings 4:23). For they consider not that they do evil; Ὅι οὐκ εἰσὶν εἰδότες τοῦ ποιῆσαι κακόν (Septuagint); Qui nesciunt quid faciunt mali (Vulgate); "They are without knowledge, so that they do evil" (Delitzsch, Knobel, etc.); "As they (who obey) know not to do evil" (Gins-burg). The words can scarcely mean, "They know not that they do evil;" nor, as Hitzig has, "They know not how to be sorrowful." There is much difficulty in understanding the passage according to the received reading, and Nowack, with others, deems the text corrupt. If we accept what we now find, it is best to translate, "They know not, so that they do evil;" i.e. their ignorance predisposes them to err in this matter. The persons meant are the "fools" who offer unacceptable sacrifices. These know not how to worship God heartily and properly, and, thinking to please him with their formal acts of devotion, fall into a grievous sin.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
Verse 2. - Koheleth warns against thoughtless words or hasty professions in prayer, which formed another feature of popular religion. Be not rash with thy mouth. The warning is against hasty and thoughtless words in prayer, words that go from the lips with glib facility, but come not from the heart. Thus our Lord bids those who pray not to use vain repetitions (μὴ βαττολογήσατε), as the heathen, who think to be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7). Jesus himself used the same words in his prayer in the garden, and he continually urges the lesson of much and constant prayer - a lessen enforced by apostolic admonitions (see Luke 11:5, etc.; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17); but it is quite possible to use the same words, and yet throw the whole heart into them each time that they are repeated. Whether the repetition is vain or not depends upon the spirit of the person who prays. Let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God. We should weigh well our wishes, arrange them discreetly, ponder whether they are such as we can rightly make subjects of petition, ere we lay them in words before the Lord. "Before God" may mean in the temple, the house of God, where he is specially present, as Solomon himself testified (1 Kings 8:27, 30, 43). God is in heaven. The infinite distance between God and man, illustrated by the contrast of earth and the illimitable heaven, is the ground of the admonition to reverence and thoughtfulness (comp. Psalm 115:3, 16; Isaiah 4:8, 9; 66:1). Therefore let thy words be few, as becomes one who speaks in the awful presence of God. Ben-Sirs seems to have had this passage in mind when he writes (Ecclus. 7:14), "Prate not in a multitude of elders, and repeat not (μὴ δευτερώσης) the word in prayer." We may remember the conduct of the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:26). Ginsburg and Wright quote the Talmudic precept ('Beraehoth,' 68. a), "Let the words of a man always be few in the presence of God, according as it is written," and then follows the passage in our text.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
Verse 3. - The first clause illustrates the second, the mark of comparison being simply the copula, mere juxtaposition being deemed sufficient to denote the similitude, as in Ecclesiastes 7:1; Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 27:21. For a dream cometh through (in consequence of) the multitude of business. The verse is meant to confirm the injunction against vain babbling in prayer. Cares and anxieties in business or other matters occasion disturbed sleep, murder the dreamless repose of the healthy laborer, and produce all kinds of sick fancies and imaginations. Septuagint, "A dream cometh in abundance of trial (πειρασμοῦ);" Vulgate, Multas curas sequuntur somnia. And a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. The verb should be supplied from the first clause, and not a new one introduced, as in the Authorized Version, "And the voice of a fool (cometh) in consequence of many words." As surely as excess of business produces fevered dreams, so excess of words, especially in addresses to God, produces a fool's voice, i.e. foolish speech. St. Gregory points out the many ways in which the mind is affected by images from dreams. "Sometimes," he says, "dreams are engendered of fullness or emptiness of the belly, sometimes of illusion, sometimes of illusion and thought combined, sometimes of revelation, while sometimes they are engendered of imagination, thought, and revelation together" ('Moral.,' 8:42).
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
Verse 4. - Koheleth passes on to give a warning concerning the making of vows, which formed a great feature in Hebrew religion, and was the occasion of much irreverence and profanity. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it. There is here plainly a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 23:21-23. Vows are not regarded as absolute duties which every one was obliged to undertake. They are of a voluntary nature, but when made are to be strictly performed. They might consist of a promise to dedicate certain things or persons to God (see Genesis 38:20; Judges 11:30), or to abstain from doing certain things, as in the case of the Nazarites. The rabbinical injunction quoted by our Lord in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:33), "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths," was probably levelled against profane swearing, or invoking God's Name lightly, but it may include the duty of performing vows made to or in the Name of God. Our Lord does not condemn the practice of corban, while noticing with rebuke a perversion of the custom (Mark 7:11). For he hath no pleasure in fools. The non-fulfillment of a vow would prove a man to be impious, in proverbial language "a fool," and as such God must regard him with displeasure. The clause in the Hebrew is somewhat ambiguous, being literally, There is no pleasure (chephets) in fools; i.e. no one, neither God nor man, would take pleasure in fools who make promises and never perform them. Or it may be, There is no fixed will in fools; i.e. they waver and are undecided in purpose. But this rendering of chephets appears to be very doubtful. Septuagint Ὅτι οὐκ ἔστι θέλημα ἐν ἄφροσι which reproduces the vagueness of the Hebrew; Vulgate, Displicet enim ei (Deo) infidelis et stulta promissio. The meaning is well represented in the Authorized Version, and we must complete the sense by supplying in thought "on the part of God." Pay that which thou but vowed. Ben-Sirs re-echoes the injunction (Ecclus. 18:22, 23), "Let nothing hinder thee to pay thy vow (εὐχὴν) in due time, and defer not until death to be justified [i.e. to fulfill the vow]. Before making a vow (εὔξασθαι) prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempteth the Lord." The verse is cited in the Talmud; and Dukes gives a parallel, "Before thou vowest anything, consider the object of thy vow" ('Rabb. Blumenl.,' p. 70). So in Proverbs 20:25 we have, according to some translations, "It is a snare to a man rashly to say, It is holy, and after vows to make inquiry." Septuagint," Pay thou therefore whatsoever thou shalt have vowed (ὅσα ἐάν εὔξη),
Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Verse 5. - Better is it that thou shouldest not vow. There is no harm in not vowing (Deuteronomy 23:22); but a vow once made becomes of the nature of an oath, and its non-performance is a sin and sacrilege, and incurs the punishment of false swearing. We gather from the Talmud that frivolous excuses for the evasion of vows were very common, and called for stern repression, One sees this in our Lord's references (Matthew 5:33-37; Matthew 23:16-22). St. Paul severely reprehends those women who break their vow of widowhood, "having condemnation, because they have rejected their first faith" (1 Timothy 5:12).
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
Verse 6. - Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin. "Thy flesh" is equivalent to "thyself," the whole personality, the idea of the flesh, as a distinct part of the man, sinning, being alien from Old Testament ontology. The injunction means - Do not, by uttering rash or inconsiderate vows, which you afterwards evade or cannot fulfill, bring sin upon yourself, or, as others render, bring punishment upon yourself. Septuagint, "Suffer not thy mouth to Cause thy flesh to sin(τοῦ ὠξαμαρτῆσαι τὴν σάρκα σου);" Vulgate, Ut peccare facias carnem tuam. Another interpretation, but not so suitable, is this - Do not let thy mouth (i.e. thy appetite) lead thee to break the vow of abstinence, and indulge in meat or drink from which (as, e.g., a Nazarite) thou wast bound to abstain. Neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error. If we take "angel" (malak) in the usual sense (and there seems no very forcible reason why we should not), it must mean the angel of God in whose special charge you are placed, or the angel who was supposed to preside over the altar of worship, or that messenger of God whose duty it is to watch man's doings and to act as the minister of punishment (2 Samuel 24:16). The workings of God's providence are often attributed to angels; and sometimes the names of God and angel are interchanged (see Genesis 16:9, 13; Genesis 18:2, 3, etc.; Exodus 3:2, 4; Exodus 23:20, etc.). Thus the Septuagint here renders, "Say not before the face of God (πρὸ = προσώπου τοῦ Θεοῦ)." If this interpretation be allowed, we have an argument for the literal explanation of the much-disputed passage in 1 Corinthians 11:10, διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους. Thus, too, in 'The Testaments of the XII. Patriarchs,' we have, "The Lord is witness, and his angels are witnesses, concerning the word of your mouth" ('Levi,' 19). But most commentators consider that the word here means "messenger" of Jehovah, in the sense of priest, the announcer of the Divine Law, as in the unique passage Malachi 2:7. Traces of a similar use of ἄγγελος may be found in the New Testament (Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1, etc.). According to the first interpretation, the man comes before God with his excuse; according to the second, he comes to the priest, and confesses that he was thoughtless and overhasty in making his vow, and desires to be released from it, or, at any rate, by some means to evade its fulfillment. His excuse may possibly look to the cases mentioned in Numbers 15:22, etc., and he may wish to urge that the vow was made in ignorance (Septuagint, Ὅτι ἄγνοιά ἐστι, "It is an ignorance"), and that therefore he was not responsible for its incomplete execution. We do not know that a priest or any officer of the temple had authority to release from the obligation of a Tow, so that the excuse made "before" him would seem to be objectless, while the evasion of a solemn promise made in the Name of God might well be said to be done in the presence of the observing and recording angel. The Vulgate rendering, Non eat providentia, makes the man account for his neglect by assuming that God takes no heed of such things; he deems the long-suffering of God to be indifference and disregard (comp. Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 9:3). The original does not bear this interpretation. Wherefore should God be angry at thy voice - the words in which thy evasion and dishonesty are expressed - and destroy the work of thine hands? i.e. punish thee by calamity, want of success, sickness, etc., God's moral government being vindicated by earthly visitations.
For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
Verse 7. - For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities. The Hebrew is literally, For in multitude of dreams, and vanities, and many words; i.e., as Wright puts it, "In the multitude of dreams are also vanities, and (in) many words (as well)." Koheleth sums up the sense of the preceding paragraph, vers. 1-6. The popular religion, which made much of dreams and verbosity and vows, is vanity, and has in it nothing substantial or comforting. The superstitious man who puts his faith in dreams is unpractical and unreal; the garrulous man who is rash in his vows, and in prayer thinks to be heard for his much speaking, displeases God and never secures his object. Ginsburg and Bullock render, "For it is (it happens) through the multitude of idle thoughts and vanities and much talking," the reference being either to the foolish speaking of ver. 2 or to the wrath of God in ver. 6. The Septuagint rendering is elliptical, Ὅτι ἐ πλήθει ἐνυπνίων καὶ ματαιοτήτων καὶ λόγων πολλῶν ὅτι σὺ τὸν Θεὸν φοβοῦ. To complete this, some supply, "Many vows are made or excused;" others, "There is evil." Vulgate, Ubi multa aunt somnia, plurimae aunt vanitates, et sermones innumeri.' The Authorized Version gives the sense of the passage. But fear thou God. In contrast with these spurious forms of religion, which the Jews were inclined to adopt, the writer recalls men to the fear of the one true God, to whom all vows should be performed, and who should be worshipped from the heart.
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.
Verses 8-17. - Section 7. Perils to which one is exposed in a despotic state, and the unprofitableness of riches. Verses 8, 9. - In political life there is little that is satisfactory; yet one must not surrender one's belief in a superintending Providence. Verse 8. - If thou seest the oppression of the poor. From errors in the service of God, it is natural to turn to faults in the administration of the king (Proverbs 24:21). Koheleth has already alluded to these anomalies in Ecclesiastes 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 4:1. Violent perverting; literally, robbery; so that judgment is never rightly given, and justice is withheld from applicants. In a province (me dinah, Ecclesiastes 2:8); the district in which the person addressed dwells. It may, perhaps, to implied that {his is remote from the central authority, and therefore more liable to be injuriously dealt with by unscrupulous rulers. Marvel not at the matter (chephets, Ecclesiastes 3:1). Be not surprised or dismayed (Job 26:11) at such evil doings,, as though they were unheard of, or inexperienced, or disregarded. There is here nothing of the Greek maxim, reproduced by Horace in his "Nil admirari" ('Epist.,' 1:6. 1). It is like St. John's "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (1 John 3:13); or St. Peter's "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among' you" (1 Peter 4:12). The stupid and unintelligent observation of such disorders might lead to arraignment of Providence and distrust in the moral government of God. Against such mistakes the writer guards. For he that is higher than the highest regardeth. Both the words are in the singular number. Septuagint, Ὑψηλὸς ἐπάνω ὑψηλοῦ φυλάξαι. One thinks of the Persian satraps, who acted much as the Turkish pashas in later times, the petty rulers oppressing the people, and being themselves treated in the same fashion by their superiors. The whole is a system of wrong-doing, where the weaker always suffers, and the only comfort is that the oppressor himself is subject to higher supervision. The verb (shamar) translated "regardeth" means to observe in a hostile sense, to watch for occasions of reprisal, as 1 Samuel 19:11; and the idea intended is that in the province there were endless plottings and counterplottings, mutual denunciations and recriminations; that such things were only to be expected, and were no sufficient cause for infidelity or despair. "The higher one" is the monarch, the despotic king who holds the supreme power over all these malad-ministrators and perverters of justice. And there be higher than they. "Higher" is here plural (gebohgm), the plural of majesty, as it is called (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:1), like Elohim, the word for "God," the assonance being probably here suggestive. Over the highest of earthly rulers there are other powers, angels, principalities, up to God himself, who governs the course of this world, and to whom we may leave the final adjustment. Who are meant seems purposely to be left undetermined; but the thought of the righteous Judge of all is intimated in accordance with the view of Ecclesiastes 3:17. This is a far more satisfactory explanation of the passage than that which regards as the highest of all "the court favorites, king's friends, eunuchs, chamberlains," etc. In this view Koheleth is merely asserting the general system of injustice and oppression, and neither accounting for it nor offering any comfort under the circumstances. But his object throughout is to show man's inability to secure his own happiness, and the need of submission to Divine providence. To demonstrate the anomalies in the events of the world, the circumstances of men's lives would be only one part of his task, which would not be completed without turning attention to the remedy against hasty and unfair conclusions. This remedy is the thought of the supreme Disposer of events, who holds all the strings in his hand, and will in the end bring good out of evil.
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
Verse 9. - It has been much debated whether this verse should be connected with the preceding or the following paragraph. The Vulgate takes it with the preceding verse, Et insuper universae terrae rex imperat servienti; so the Septuagint; and this seems most natural, avarice, wealth, and its evils in private life being treated of in vers. 10 and many following. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. The writer seems to be contrasting the misery of Oriental despotism, above spoken of, with the happiness of a country whose king was content to enrich himself, not by war, rapine, and oppression, but by the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, by cherishing the natural productions of his country, and encouraging his people in developing its resources. Such was Uzziah, who" loved husbandry" (2 Chronicles 26:10); and in Solomon's own time the arts of peace greatly flourished. There is much difficulty in interpreting the verse. The Vulgate rendering, "And moreover the King of the whole earth rules over his servant," probably means that God governs the king. But the present Hebrew text does not support this translation. The Septuagint has, Καὶ περίσσεια γῆς ἑπὶ παντί ἐστὶ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ἀγροῦ εἰργασμένου, which makes more difficulties. "Also the abundance of the earth is for every one, or upon every thing; the king (is dependent on) the cultivated land, or, there is a king to the land when cultivated," i.e. the throne itself depends on the due cultivation of the country. Or, removing the comma, "The profit of the land in everything is a king of the cultivated field." The Hebrew may safely be rendered, "But the profit of a land in all things is a king devoted to the field," i.e. who loves and fosters agriculture. It is difficult to suppose that Solomon himself wrote this sentence, however we may interpret it. According to the Authorized Version, the idea is that the profit of the soil extends to every rank of life; even the king, who seems superior to all, is dependent upon the industry of the people, and the favorable produce of the land. He could not be unjust and oppressive without injuring his revenues in the end. Ben-Sirs sings the praises of agriculture: "Hate not laborious work, neither husbandry., which the Most High hath ordained" (Ecclus. 7:15). Agriculture held a very prominent position in the Mosaic commonwealth. The enactments concerning the firstfruits, the sabbatical year, landmarks, the non-alienation of inheritances, etc., tended to give peculiar importance to cultivation of the soil. Cicero's praise of agriculture is often quoted. Thus ('De Senect.,' 15. sqq.; 'De Off.,' 1:42):" Omninm return, ex quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil heroine libero dignius."
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
Verses 10-17. - The thought of the acts of injustice and oppression noticed above, all of which spring from the craving for money, leads the bard to dwell upon the evils that accompany this pursuit and possession of wealth, which is thus seen to give no real satisfaction. Avarice has already been noticed (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12); the covetous man now reprobated is one who desires wealth only for the enjoyment he can get from it, or the display which it enables him to make, not, like the miser, who gloats over its mere possession. Various instances are given in which riches are unprofitable and vain. Verse 10. - He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver. "Silver," the generic name for money, as Greek ἀργύριον and French argent. The insatiableness of the passion for money is a common theme of poets, moralists, and satirists, and is found in the proverbs of all nations. Thus Horace ('Ep.,' 1:2. 56): "Semper avarus eget;" to which St Jerome alludes ('Epist.,' 53), "Antiquum dictum est, Avaro tam deest, quod habet, quam quod non habet." Comp. Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14:139 -

"Interea pleno quum forget sacculus ere,
Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecnnia crevit."

"For as thy strutting bags with money rise,
The love of gain is of an equal size."

(Dryden.) There is much more of similar import in Horace. See 'Carm.,' 2:2. 13, sqq.; 3:16. 17, 28; 'Ep.,' 2:2, 147; an, 1 Ovid, Fast.,' 1:211 -

"Creverunt etopes et opum furiosa cupido,
Et, quum possideant plura, plura volunt."

"As wealth increases grows the frenzied thirst
For wealth; the more they have, the more they want."
Nor he that loveth abundance with increase. The Authorized Version scarcely presents the sense of the passage, which is not tautological, but rather that given by the Vulgate, Et qui amat divitias fructum non capiet exeis, "He who loveth abundance of wealth hath no fruit therefrom;" he derives no real profit or enjoyment from the luxury which it enables him to procure; rather it brings added trouble. And so the old conclusion is again reached, this is also vanity. Hitzig takes the sentence as interrogative, "Who hath pleasure in abundance which brings nothing in?" But such questions are hardly in the style of Kohelcth, and the notion of capital without interest is not a thought which would have been then understood. The Septuagint, however, reads the clause interrogatively, Καὶ τίς ἠγάπησεν ἐν πλήθει αὐτῶν (αὐτοῦ, al.) γέννημα; "And who has loved [or, has been content with] gain in its fullness?" But מִי is not necessarily interrogative, but here indefinite, equivalent to "whosoever."
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
Verse 11. - Koheleth proceeds to notice some of the inconveniences which accompany wealth, which go far to prove that God is over all. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them. The more riches a man possesses, the greater are the claims upon him. He increases his household, retainers, and dependents, and is really none the better off for all his wealth. So Job in his prosperous days is said to have had "a very great household" (Job 1:3), and the servants and laborers employed by Solomon must have taxed to the utmost even his abnormal resources (1 Kings 5:13, etc.). Commentators from Piueda downwards have quoted the remarkable parallel in Xenoph., 'Cyropaed.,' 8:3, wherein the wealthy Persian Pheraulas, who had risen from poverty to high estate, disabuses a young Sacian friend of the idea that his riches made him happier or afforded supreme content. "Do you not know," said he," that I neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep with any more pleasure now than I did when I was poor? by having this abundance I gain merely this, that I have to guard more, to distribute more among others, and to have the trouble of taking care of more. For now numerous domestics demand of me food, drink, clothes; some want the doctor; one comes and brings me sheep that have been torn by wolves, or oxen killed by failing down a precipice, or tells of a murrain that has affected the cattle; so that I seem to myself to have more afflictions in my abundance than I had when I was poor,... It is obligatory on him who possesses much to expend much both on the gods and on friends and on strangers; and whosoever is greatly pleased with the possession of riches will, you may be assured, be greatly annoyed at the expenditure of them." What good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? What it is that the owners behold is doubtful. Ginsburg considers that the increased number of devourers is meant; but surely this sight could hardly be called kishron, "success, profit." So it is better to take the sight to be the amassed wealth. The contemplation of this is the only enjoyment that the possessor realizes. So the Vulgate, Et quid prodest possessori, nisi quod cernit divitias oculis suis? Septuagint, Καὶ τί ἀνδρεία τῷ παρ αὐτῆς ὅτι ἀρχὴ τοῦ ὁρᾷν ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ," And in what does the excellence of the owner consist? except the power of seeing it with his eyes." A Lapide quotes Horace's portrait of the miser ('Sat.,' 1:1.66, sqq.)

"Populus me sibilat; ut mihi plaudo
Ipse domi, simul ac, nummos contemplor in area...
... congestis undique saccis
Indormis inhians et tanquam parcere sacris
Cogeris aut pictis tanquam gaudere tabellis."

"He, when the people hissed, would turn about,
And dryly thus accost the rabble-rout:
Hiss on; heed you not, ye saucy wags,
While self-applauses greet me o'er my bags."

O'er countless heaps in nicest order stored,
You pore agape, and gaze upon the hoard,
As relics to be laid with reverence by,
Or pictures only meant to please the eye."

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
Verse 12. - Another inconvenience of great wealth - it robs a man of his sleep. The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much. The laborer is the husbandman, the tiller of the ground (Genesis 4:2). The Septuagint, with a different pointing, renders δούλου, "slave," which is less appropriate, the fact being generally true of free or bond man. Whether his fare be plentiful or scanty, the honest laborer earns and enjoys his night's rest. But the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. The allusion is not to the overloading of the stomach, which might occasion sleeplessness in the case of the poor equally with the rich man, but to the cares and anxieties which wealth brings. "Not a soft couch, nor a bedstead overlaid with silver, nor the quietness that exists throughout the house, nor any other circumstance of this nature, are so generally wont to make sleep sweet and pleasant, as that of laboring, and growing weary, and lying down with a disposition to sleep, and very greatly needing it .... Not so the rich. On the contrary, whilst lying on their beds, they are frequently without sleep through the whole night; and, though they devise many schemes, they do not obtain such pleasure" (St. Chrysostom, 'Hom. on Stat.,' 22). The contrast between the grateful sleep of the tired worker and the disturbed rest of the avaricious and moneyed and luxurious has formed a fruitful theme for poets. Thus Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:1.21 -

"Somnus agrestium
Lenis virorum non humiles domes
Fastidit umbrosamque ripam,
Non Zephyris agitata Tempe."

"Yet sleep turns never from the lowly shed
Of humbler-minded men, nor from the eaves
In Tempe's graceful vale is banished,
Where only Zephyrs stir the murmuring leaves."

(Stanley.) And the reverse, 'Sat.,' 1:1.76, sqq. -

"An vigilare metu exanimem, noctesque diesque
Formidare males fures, inccndia, serves,
Ne to compilent fugientes, hoc juvat?"

"But what are your indulgencies? All day,
All night, to watch and shudder with dismay,
Lest ruffians fire your house, or slaves by stealth
Rifle your coffers, and abstract your wealth?
If this be affluence - this her boasted fruit,
Of all such joys may I live destitute."

(Howes.) Comp. Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 10:12, sqq.; 14:304. Shakespeare, 'Henry IV.,' Pt. II., act 3. sc. 1 -

"Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody?"
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
Verses 13-17. - Another view of the evils attendant upon riches is here presented: the owner may lose them at a stroke, and leave nothing for his children. This thought is presented in different lights. Verse 13. - There is also a sore evil which I have seen under the sun (so ver. 16). The fact that follows is, of course, not universally true, but occasionally seen, and is a very bitter evil. The Septuagint calls it ἀῥῤωστία; the Vulgate, infirmitas. Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; rather, preserved by the possessor, hoarded and guarded, only to bring their lord added grief when by some reverse of fortune he loses them, as explained in what follows.
But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
Verse 14. - Those riches perish by evil travail; thing or circumstance. There is no need to confine the cause of the loss to unsuccessful business, as many commentators do. The rich man does not seem to be a tradesman or speculator; he loses his property, like Job, by visitations for which he is in no way answerable - by storm or tempest, by robbers, by fire, by exactions, or by lawsuits. And he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. The verb rendered "begetteth" is in the past tense, and used as it were, hypothetically, equivalent to "hath he begotten a son," supposing he has a son. His misery is doubled by the reflection that he has lost all hope of securing a fortune for his children, or founding a family, or passing on an inheritance to posterity. It is doubtful to whom the pronoun "his" refers. Many consider that the father is meant, and the clause says that when he has begotten a son, he finds he has nothing to give him. But the suffix seems most naturally to refer to the son, who is thus left a pauper. Vulgate, Generavit filium qui in summa egestate erit. Having a thing in the hand moans having power over it, or possessing it.
As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
Verse 15. - The case of the rich man who has lost his property is here generalized. What is true of him is, in a measure, true of every one, so far as he can carry nothing away with him when he dies (Psalm 49:17). As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came. There is a plain reference to Job 1:21, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." The mother is the earth, human beings being regarded as her offspring. So the psalmist says, "My frame was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Psalm 139:15). And Ben-Sira, "Great trouble is created for every man, and a heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam, from the day that they go out of their mother's womb till the day that they return to the mother of all things." 1 Timothy 6:7, "We brought nothing into the world, neither can we carry anything out." Thus Propertius, 'Eleg.,' 3:5. 13 -

"Hand ullas portabis opes Acherontis ad undas,
Nudus ab inferna, stulte, vehere rate."

"No wealth thou'lt take to Acheron's dark shore,
Naked, th' infernal bark will bear thee o'er."
Shall take nothing of his labor; rather, for his labor, the preposition being בְּ of price. He gets nothing by his long toil in amassing wealth. Which he may carry away in his hand, as his own possession. The ruined Dives points a moral for all men.
And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?
Verse 16. - This also is a sore evil. The thought of ver. 15 is emphatically repeated. In all points as he came; i.e. naked, helpless. And what profit hath he that laboreth for the wind? The answer is emphatically "nothing." We have had similar questions in Ecclesiastes 1:3; Ecclesiastes 2:22; Ecclesiastes 3:9. To labor for the wind is to toil with no result, like the "feeding on wind, pursuing of vanity," which is the key-note of the book. The wind is the type of all that is empty, delusive, unsubstantial. In Proverbs 11:29 we have the phrase, "to inherit the wind." Job calls futile arguments "words of wind" (Job 16:3; Job 15:2). Thus the Greek proverb Ἀνέμους θ᾿ρᾶν ἐν δικτύος to try to catch the wind:" and the Latin, "Ventos pascere," and "Ventos colere "(see Erasmus, 'Adag.,' s.v. "Inanis opera"). Septuagint, Καὶ τίς ἡ περίσσεια αὐτοῦ η΅ι μοχθεῖ εἰς ἄνεμον; "And what is his gain for which he labors for the wind?"
All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
Verse 17. - The misery that accompanies the rich man's whole life is summed up here, where one has to think chiefly of his distress after his loss of fortune. All his days also he eateth in darkness; i.e. passes his life in gloom and cheerlessness. כָּל־יָמָיו, "all his days," is the accusative of time, not the object of the verb. To eat in darkness is not a common metaphor for spending a gloomy life, but it is a very natural one, and has analogies in this book (e.g., Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13, etc.), and in such phrases as to "sit in darkness" (Micah 7:8), and to "walk in darkness" (Isaiah 1:10). The Septuagint, reading differently, translates, Καί γε πᾶσαι αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτοῦ ἐν σκότει ἐν πένθει, "Yea, and all his days are in darkness and in mourning." But the other versions reject this alteration, and few modern commentators adopt it. And he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness; literally, and much vexation, and sickness, and wrath; Revised Version, he is sore vexed, and hath sickness and wrath. Delitzsch takes the last words as an exclamation, "And oh for his sorrow and hatred!" The man experiences all kinds of vexation when his plans fail or involve him in trouble and privation; or he is morbid and diseased in mind and body; or he is angry and envious when others succeed better than himself. The sentiment is expressed by St. Paul (1 Timothy 6:9), "They that desire (βουλόμενοι) to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men (βυθίουσι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους) in destruction and perdition." "For," he proceeds, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through (ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν) with many sorrows." The Septuagint continues its version, "And in much passion (θυμῷ) and in infirmity and wrath." The anger may be directed against himself, as he thinks of his folly in taking all this trouble for nothing.
Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
Verses 18-20. - Section 8. The inconveniences of wealth lead the writer back to his old conclusion, that man should make the best of life, and enjoy all the good that God gives with moderation and contentment. Verse 18. - Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely, etc. The accentuation is against this rendering, which, however, has the support of the Syriac and the Targum. The Septuagint gives, Ἰδοὺ εϊδον ἐγὼ ἀγαθὸν ὅ ἐστι καλόν, "Behold, I have seen a good which is comely;" and it is best to translate, with Delitzsch and others, "Behold, what I have seen as good, what as beautiful, is this." My conclusion holds good. They who seek for traces of Greek influence in Koheleth find Epicureanism in the sentiment, and the familiar combination, καλὸν κἀγαθὸν, in the language. Both ideas are baseless. (For supposed Epicureanism, see on Ecclesiastes 2:24 and Ecclesiastes 3:12.) And the juxtaposition of καλὸς and ἀγαθὸς is only a fortuitous rendering of the Hebrew, upon which no argument for Grecism can be founded. To eat and to drink, etc.; i.e. to use the common blessings which God bestows with thankfulness and contentment. As St. Paul says, "Having food and covering, we shall he therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8). Which God giveth him. This is the point so often insisted upon. These temporal blessings are God's gifts, and are not to be considered as the natural and assured result of man's own exertions. Man, indeed, must labor, but God giveth the increase. For it is his portion (Ecclesiastes 3:22). This calm enjoyment is allotted to man by God, and nothing more must be expected. Ben-Sira gives similar advice, "Defraud not thyself of a good day, and let not the share in a right pleasure pass by thee Give, and take, and beguile thy soul; for there is no seeking of dainties in Hades" (Ecclus. 14:14. etc.).
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
Verse 19. - Every man also. The sentence is anacoluthic, like Ecclesiastes 3:13, and may best be rendered, Also for every man to whom... this is a gift of God. Ginsburg connects the verse closely with the preceding one, supplying, "I have also seen that a man," etc. Whichever way we take the sentence, it comes to the same tiling, implying man's absolute dependence upon God's bounty. To whom God hath given riches and wealth. Before he can enjoy his possessions a man must first receive them from God's hands. The two terms here used are not quite synonymous. While the former word, osher; is used for wealth of any kind whatever, the latter, nekasim, means properly "wealth in cattle," like the Latin pecunia, and thence used generally for riches (volek). Hath given him power to eat thereof. Abundance is useless without the power to enjoy it. This is the gift of God, a great and special bounty from a loving and gracious God. Thus Horace, 'Epist.,' 1:4. 7 -

"Di tibi divitias dederunt artemque fruendi."

"The gods have given you wealth, and (what is more)
Have given you wisdom to enjoy your store."

For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
Verse 20. - For he shall not much remember the days of his life. The man who has learned the lesson of calm enjoyment does not much concern himself with the shortness, uncertainty, or possible trouble of life. He carries out the counsel of Christ, "Be not anxious for the morrow, for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34). Ginsburg gives an entirely opposite rendering to the clause, "He should remember that the days of his life are not many;" i.e. the thought of the shortness of life should urge us to enjoy it while it lasts. But the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint and Vulgate and most modern commentators, and seems most appropriate to the context. The marginal rendering, "Though he give not much, yet he remembereth," etc., which Ginsburg calls a literary curiosity, must have been derived from the version of Junius, which gives, "Quod si non multum (supple, est illud quod dederit Deus, ex versu praec.)," etc. Because God answereth him in the joy of his heart. The man passes a calm and contented life, because God shows that he is pleased with him by the tranquil joy shed over his heart. The verb מַעֲנֶה (the hiph. participle of עָנָה) is variously rendered. The Septuagint gives, Ὁ Θεὸς περισπᾷ αὐτὸν ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ καρδίας αὐτοῦ, "God distracts him in the mirth of his heart;" Vulgate, Eo quod Deus occupet deliciis cot ejus; Ginsburg, "God causeth him to work for the enjoyment of his heart," i.e. God assigns him work that he may thence derive enjoyment; Koster," God makes him sing in the joy of his heart;" Delitzsch, Wright, and Plumptre, "God answers (corresponds with) the joy of his heart," which the latter explains to mean "is felt to approve it as harmonizing, in its calm evenness, with his own blessedness, the tranquility of the wise man mirroring the tranquility of God." But this modified Epicureanism is alien from the teaching of Koheleth. Rather the idea is that God answers him with, imparts to him, joy of heart, makes him sensible of his favorable regard by this inward feeling of satisfaction and content.

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