"for who is he that knows what is good for a man in this world, but to study in the law, which is the life of the world?''
so the Midrash,
all the days of his vain life, which he spendeth as a shadow? or "the number of the days of vain life, which he makes as a shadow" (d); that is, which God makes as a "shadow", as Cocceius observes; makes to pass away swiftly: this is a description of the vanity, brevity, and uncertainty of human life; it consists of days, rather than of months and years; and those such as are easily numbered, and which pass away suddenly and swiftly, like a shadow that has no substance and reality in it, and leaves nothing behind it; or like a bird that flies away, as Jarchi, and is seen no more; such is the life of man, a most vain life, vanity itself; so it may be rendered, "the number of the days of the life of his vanity" (e); since therefore he has so short a time to enjoy anything in, it is hard to say what is best for him to have, and the rather since he is quite ignorant of what is to come;
for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? he does not know himself, nor can any man inform him, what will become of his wealth and riches after his death, which he has got together; who shall enjoy them, and how long and what use will be made of them, either to their own good, or the good of others.
(d) "et facit eos at umbram", Cocceius. (e) "numero dierum vitae", ("vitarum", Montanus), "vanitatis suae", Pagninus, Rambachius.
INTRODUCTION TO Ecclesiastes 7
The wise man having exposed the many vanities to which men are subject in this life, and showed that there is no real happiness in all outward enjoyments under the sun; proceeds to observe what are remedies against them, of which he had interspersed some few hints before, as the fear and worship of God, and the free and, moderate use of the creatures; and here suggests more, and such as will protect from them, or support under them, or teach and instruct how to behave while attended with them, and to direct to what are proper and necessary in the pursuit of true and real happiness; such as care of a good name and reputation, Ecclesiastes 7:1; frequent meditation on mortality, Ecclesiastes 7:2; listening to the rebukes of the wise, which are preferable to the songs and mirth of fools, Ecclesiastes 7:5; avoiding oppression and bribery, which are very pernicious, Ecclesiastes 7:7; patience under provocations, and present bad times, as thought to be, Ecclesiastes 7:8; a pursuit of that wisdom and knowledge which has life annexed to it, Ecclesiastes 7:11; submission to the will of God, and contentment in every state, Ecclesiastes 7:13; shunning extremes in righteousness and sin, the best antidote against which is the fear of God, Ecclesiastes 7:15; such wisdom as not to be offended with everything that is done, or word that is spoken, considering the imperfection of the best of men, the weakness of others, and our own, Ecclesiastes 7:19; and then the wise man acknowledges the imperfection of his own wisdom and knowledge, notwithstanding the pains he had taken, Ecclesiastes 7:23; and laments his sin and folly in being drawn aside by women, Ecclesiastes 7:26; and opens the cause of the depravity of human nature, removes it from God, who made man upright, and ascribes it to man, the inventor of evil things, Ecclesiastes 7:29.
"better is a good name the righteous get in this world, thin the anointing oil which was poured upon the heads of kings and priests.''
"a good name is better than the greatness of a king, though anointed with oil;''
and the day of death than the day of one's birth; some render it, in connection with the preceding clause, "as a good name is better, &c. so the day of death than the day of one's birth" (f); that is, the day of a man's death than the day of his birth. This is to be understood not of death simply considered; for that in itself, abstracted from its connections and consequences, is not better than to be born into the world, or come into life, or than life itself; it is not preferable to it, nor desirable; for it is contrary to nature, being a dissolution of it; a real evil, as life, and long life, are blessings; an enemy to mankind, and a terrible one: nor of ether persons, with whom men have a connection, their friends and relations; for with them the day of birth is a time of rejoicing, and the day of death is a time of mourning, as appears from Scripture and all experience; see John 16:21. It is indeed reported (g) of some Heathenish and barbarous people in Thrace, and who inhabited Mount Caucasus, that they mourned at the birth of their children, reckoning up the calamities they are entering into, and rejoiced at the death of their friends, being delivered from their troubles: but this is to be understood of the persons themselves that are born and die; not of all mankind, unless as abstracted from the consideration of a future state, and so it is more happy to be freed from trouble than to enter into it; nor of wicked men, it would have been better indeed if they had never been born, or had died as soon as born, that their damnation might not have been aggravated by the multitude of their sins; but after all, to die cannot be best for them, since at death they are cast into hell, into everlasting fire, and endless punishment: this is only true of good men, that have a good name living and dying; have a good work of grace upon them, and so are meet for heaven; the righteousness of Christ on them, and so have a title to it; they are such who have hope in their death, and die in faith and in the Lord: their death is better than their birth; at their birth they come into the world under the imputation and guilt of sin, with a corrupt nature; are defiled with sin, and under the power of it, liable in themselves to condemnation and death for it: at the time of their death they go out justified from sin through the righteousness of Christ, all being expiated by his sacrifice, and pardoned for his sake; they are washed from the faith of sin by the blood of Christ, and are delivered from the power and being of it by the Spirit and grace of God; and are secured from condemnation and the second death: at their coming into the world they are liable to sin yet more and more; at their going out they are wholly freed from it; at the time of their birth they are born to trouble, and are all their days exercised with it, incident to various diseases of the body, have many troubles in the world, and from the men of it; many conflicts with a body of sin and death, and harassed with the temptations of Satan; but at death they are delivered from all these, enter into perfect peace and unspeakable joy; rest from all their labours and toils, and enjoy uninterrupted communion with God, Father, Son, and Spirit, angels, and glorified saints. The Targum is,
"the day in which a man dies and departs to the house of the grave, with a good name and with righteousness, is better than the day in which a wicked man is born into the world.''
So the Midrash interprets it of one that goes out of the world with a good name, considering this clause in connection with the preceding, as many do.
(f) So Schmidt, and some in Vatablus. (g) Herodot. Terpsichore, sive l. 5. c. 4. Valer. Maxim. l. 2. c. 6. s. 12. Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25.
"it is better to go to a mourning man to comfort him;''
for at such times and places the conversation was serious and interesting, and turned upon the subjects of mortality and a future state, and preparation for it; from whence useful and instructive lessons are learned; and so it was much better to be there
than to go to the house of feasting: the Targum is,
"than to the house of a feast of wine of scorners;''
where there is nothing but noise and clamour, luxury and intemperance, carnal mirth and gaiety, vain and frothy conversation, idle talk and impure songs, and a jest made of true religion and godliness, death and another world;
for that is the end of all men; not the house of feasting, but the house of mourning; or mourning itself, as Jarchi; every man must expect to lose his relation and friend, and so come to the house of mourning; and must die himself, and be the occasion of mourning: death itself seems rather intended, which is the end of all men, the way of all flesh; for it is appointed for men to die; and so the Targum,
"seeing upon them all is decreed the decree of death;''
and the living will lay it to his heart; by going to the house of mourning, he will be put in mind of death, and will think of it seriously, and consider his latter end, how near it is; and that this must be his case shortly, as is the deceased's he comes to mourn for. So the Targum interprets it of words concerning death, or discourses of mortality he there hears, which he takes notice of and lays to his heart, and lays up in it. Jarchi's note is,
"their thought is of the way of death.''
"better is the anger, with which the Lord of that world is angry against the righteous in this world, than the laughter with which he derides the ungodly.''
Though it may be better, with others, to understand it of anger in them expressed against sin, in faithful though sharp rebukes for it; which, in the issue, is more beneficial than the flattery of such who encourage in it; see Proverbs 27:5;
for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better: when the sadness is not hypocritical, as in the Scribes and Pharisees, but serious and real, arising from proper reflections on things in the mind; whereby the heart is drawn off from vain, carnal, and sensual things; and is engaged in the contemplation of spiritual and heavenly ones, which is of great advantage to it: or by the severity of the countenance of a faithful friend, in correcting for faults, the heart is made better, which receives those corrections in love, and confesses its fault, and amends.
(h) "melior est ira risu", Pagninus, Mercerus; "melior est indigatio risu", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius.
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth; where jovial company is, merry songs are sung, and the cup or glass passes briskly round, and all is gay and brilliant: here the fool desires to be oftener than he is, and when he cannot; which shows the folly of his mind, what a vain taste he has, and how thoughtless he is of a future state, and of his eternal welfare.
than for a man to hear the song of fools; the vain and impure songs that foolish men sing in the house of mirth; or the flatteries of foolish men, which tickle and please the mind, as music and songs do: or, "than a man that hears the song of fools" (i), and is pleased with it.
(i) "quam vir audiens canticum stultorum", Montanus, Mercerus; "prae viro audiente canticum stultorum", Rambachius.
this also is vanity; the carnal mirth of wicked men.
and a gift destroyeth the heart; blinds the eyes of judges other ways wise; perverts their judgment, and causes them to pass a wrong sentence, as well as perverts justice: or, "and destroys the heart of gifts" (k); a heart that is possessed of the gifts of wisdom and knowledge; or a munificent heart, a heart disposed to give bountifully and liberally, that oppression destroys and renders useless.
(k) "et frangit cor dotibus praeclaris ornatum", Tigurine version; so some Jewish writers in Mercerus.
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit; patience is a fruit of the Spirit of God; and is of great use in the Christian's life, and especially in bearing afflictions, and tends to make men more humble, meek, and quiet; and such are highly esteemed of God; on them he looks, with them he dwells, and to them he gives more grace; when such who are proud, and elated with themselves, their riches or righteousness, are abominable to him; see Luke 16:15.
"in the time that correction from heaven comes upon thee, do not hasten in thy soul to be hot (or angry) to say words of rebellion (or stubbornness) against heaven;''
that advice is good,
"do nothing in anger (l);''
for anger resteth in the bosom of fools; where it riseth quick, and continues long; here it soon betrays itself, and finds easy admittance, and a resting dwelling place; it easily gets in, but it is difficult to get it out of the heart of a fool; both which are proofs of his folly, Proverbs 12:16; see Ephesians 4:26; the bosom, or breast, is commonly represented as the seat of anger by other writers (m).
(l) Isocrates ad Nicoclem, p. 36. (m) "In pectoribus ira considit", Petronius; "iram sanguinei regio sub pectore cordis", Claudian. de 4. Consul. Honor. Panegyr. v. 241.
for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this: this is owing to ignorance of former times; which, if rightly inquired into, or the true knowledge of them could be come at, it would appear that they were no better than the present; and that there were always bad men, and bad things done; frauds, oppressions, and violence, and everything that can be complained of now: or if things are worse than they were, this should be imputed to the badness of men; and the inquirer should look to himself, and his own ways, and see if there is not a cause there, and study to redeem the time, because the days are evil; and not arraign the providence of God, and murmur at that, and quarrel with it; as if the distributions of it were unequal, and justice not done in one age as in another
and by it there is profit to them that see the sun; mortals in this present state, who are described as such that see the sun rise and set, and enjoy the heat and light of it, receive much advantage from men who are both wise and rich: or, "and it is an excellency to them that see the sun"; it is an excellency to mortals and what gives them superiority to others, that they have both wisdom and riches.
(n) "aeque ac haereditas", Gejerus, Schmidt.
"he that is in the shadow of wisdom is in the shadow of money, for wisdom is the cause why riches come;''
and so the Targum,
"as a man is hid in the shadow of wisdom, so he is hid in the shadow of money, when he does alms with it;''
compare with this Luke 16:9; see Ecclesiastes 7:19. Theognis (o) has a saying much like this,
"riches and wisdom are always inexpugnable to mortals;''
but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it; or, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life" (p), &c. not of natural wisdom, or the knowledge of natural and civil things, the vanity of this is exposed, before by the wise man; but the knowledge of God in Christ; the knowledge of Christ, who is the Wisdom of God; and of the Gospel, and of all divine and spiritual things: this is a superior excellency to riches, which often expose a man's life to danger, cannot preserve him from a corporeal death, much less from an eternal one. When this is the excellency of spiritual knowledge, that spiritual life goes along with it; such as are spiritually enlightened are spiritually quickened; live by faith on Christ, whom they know; and, through the knowledge of him, have all things pertaining to life and godliness, and have both a right and meetness for eternal life; yea, this knowledge is life eternal, John 17:3; see 2 Peter 1:3; and this is the pure gift of Wisdom, or of Christ, and not owing to the merit of men, or works done in obedience to the law, which cannot give this life; see John 17:2, Romans 6:23.
(o) Sententiae, v. 1153. (p) "et praestantia scientiae sapientiae vivificabit", Montanus.
for who can make that straight which he hath made crooked? or which seems to be so, irregular and disagreeable? No man can mend or make that better he finds fault with and complains of; nor can he alter the course of things, nor stay the hand, nor stop the providence of God: if it is his pleasure that public calamities should be in the world, or in such a part of it, as famine, pestilence, or the sword; or any affliction on families, and particular persons, or poverty and meanness in such and such individuals, there is no hindering it; whatever he has purposed and resolved, his providence effects, and there is no frustrating his designs; it signifies nothing for a creature to murmur and complain; it is best to submit to his will, for no alteration can be made but what he pleases. Some understand this of natural defects in human bodies, with which they are born, or which attend them, as blindness, lameness, &c. so the Targum,
"consider the work of God, and his strength, who made the blind, the crooked, and the lame, to be wonders in the world; for who can make straight one of them but the Lord of the world, who made him crooked?''
Others, of spiritual defects in such who walk in crooked ways, and are hardened in them; who can correct them, and make them other ways, if God does not give them his grace to convert them, and soften their hard hearts? he hardens whom he will, and who hath resisted his will? Jarchi's paraphrase is,
"who can make straight after death what he has made crooked in life?''
See Gill on Ecclesiastes 1:15. Alshech interprets it of the first man Adam.
"in the day the Lord does well to thee be thou also in goodness, and do good to all the world;''
see Galatians 6:10; Jarchi's paraphrase is,
"when it is in thine hand to do good, be among those that do good;''
but in the day of adversity consider; or, "in the day of evil" (s); consider from whence affliction comes; not out of the dust, nor by chance, but from God, and by his wise appointment; and for what it comes, that sin is the cause of it, and what that is; and also for what ends it is sent, to bring to a sense of sin, and confession of it, and humiliation for it; to take it away, and make good men more partakers of holiness: or, "look for the day of adversity" (t); even in the day of prosperity it should be expected; for there is no firmness and stability in any state; there are continual vicissitudes and changes. The Targum is,
"that the evil day may not come upon thee, see and behold;''
be careful and circumspect, and behave in a wise manner, that so it may be prevented. Jarchi's note is,
"when evil comes upon the wicked, be among those that see, and not among those that are seen;''
and compares it with Isaiah 66:24; It may be observed, that there is a set time for each of these, prosperity and adversity; and that the time is short, and therefore called a day; and the one is good, and the other is evil; which characters they have according to the outward appearance, and according to the judgment and esteem of men; otherwise, prosperity is oftentimes hurtful, and destroys fools, and adversity is useful to the souls of good men;
God also hath set the one over against the other; they are both by his appointment, and are set in their proper place, and come in their proper time; succeed each other, and answer to one another, as day and night, summer and winter, and work, together for the good of men;
to the end that man should find nothing after him; should not be able to know what will be hereafter; what his case and circumstances will be, whether prosperous or adverse; since things are so uncertain, and so subject to change, and nothing permanent; and therefore can find nothing to trust in and depend upon, nothing that he can be sure of: and things are so wisely managed and disposed, that a man can find no fault with them, nor just reason to complain of them; so the Vulgate Latin version, "not find just complaints against him"; and to the same purpose the Syriac version, "that he may complain of him"; the Targum is,
"not find any evil in this world.''
(q) "in die bono", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Gejerus. (r) "esto in bono", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rambachius. (s) "in die mala", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus. (t) "praecave", V. L. "praevide, aut provide ac prospice", Drusius; so Gussetius, p. 766.
there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness; not eternally; no truly just man ever perished, who is made so by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; for though the righteous man is said to be scarcely saved, yet he is certainly saved: it can be true only in this sense of one that is only outwardly righteous, that trusts to his own righteousness, in which he may perish; but this is to be understood temporally and corporeally; one that is really just may perish in his name, in his substance, as well as at death, and that on account of his righteousness; he may lose his good name and character, and his substance, for righteousness's sake; yea, his life also, as Abel, Naboth, and others; this is the case "sometimes", as Aben Ezra observes, not always: or a just man, notwithstanding his righteousness, dies, and sometimes lives but a short time; which sense the antithesis seems to require;
and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness; is very wicked, and yet, notwithstanding his great wickedness, lives a long time in the world; see Job 21:7.
(u) "illa omnia", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Tigurine version, Gejerus; "omnia haec", Mercerus; "universa haec", Rambachius.
"be not over righteous at a time that a sinner is found guilty of slaughter in thy court of judicature, that thou shouldest spare and not kill him;''
neither make thyself over wise; above what is written, or pretend to be wiser than others. So the Arabic version, "show not too much wisdom"; do not affect, as not to be more righteous than others, so not more wise, by finding fault with present times, or with the dispensations of Providence, or with the manners and conduct of men; setting up for a critic and a censurer of men and things; or do not pry into things, and seek after a knowledge of them, which are out of your reach, and beyond your capacity;
why shouldest thou destroy thyself? either by living too strictly and abstemiously, or by studying too closely, or by behaving in such a manner to men, as that they will seek thy destruction, and bring it on thee: or "why shouldest thou", or "whereby", or "lest, thou shouldest be stupid" (y); lose thy sense and reason, as persons who study the knowledge of things they have not a capacity for: or why shouldest thou become foolish in the eyes of all men by thy conduct and behaviour? or, "why shouldest thou be desolate" (z); alone, and nobody care to have any conversation and acquaintance with thee?
(w) Terent. Heautont. Acts 4. Sc. 4. (x) De Defect. Hod. Ling. Heb. s. 230. (y) "ut quid obstupesces?" Vatablus, Amama; "cur obstupesces?" Mercerus; "cur in stuporem te dares?" Cocceius; "qua teipsum stupidum facies?" Tigurine version; "ne obstupescas", V. L. so Sept. and Syriac versions. (z) "Ne quid desolaberis?" Pagninus, Montanus; "quare desolationem tibi accerseres?" Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus.
neither be thou foolish; or give up thyself to a profligate life, to go on in a course of sin, which will issue in the ruin of body and soul; or in aggravating it in an excessive manner;
why shouldest thou die before thy time? bring diseases on thy body by a wicked course of living, which will issue in death; or fall into the hands of the civil magistrate, for capital offences, for which sentence of death must pass and be executed, before a man comes to the common term of human life; see Psalm 55:23; or, as Mr. Broughton renders it, "before thy ordinary time"; not before the appointed time (b). The Targum is,
"be the cause of death to thy soul;''
or through despair commit suicide.
(a) "ne paveas", Pagninus; "ne te occupes multum, aut distrahas te, sive inquietes", some in Vatablus; so Aben Ezra and Ben Melech. (b) "Ante diem", Virgil. Aeneid. 4. prope finem. Vid. Servium in ib. Ovid. Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 4.
yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand; from what follows concerning the fear of God; or "this and this" may be rendered "this and that" (c), and the sense be, lay hold on this, that is, the last part of the advice, not to be over much wicked or foolish, which is often the cause of an immature death; and do not slacken or be remiss in regarding that other and first part of it, not to be over much righteous or wise;
for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all; or escape them all; the phrase is become Rabbinical, that, is, he shall be free or exempt from them all; from over much righteousness and over much wisdom, and over much wickedness or over much folly; the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, is the best preservative from, and antidote against, these things; for a man that fears God is humble, and renounces his own righteousness, and distrusts his own wisdom; he fears to commit sin, and shuns folly.
(c) So Broughton, Rambachius, and others.
more than ten mighty men which are in the city; that is, than many mighty men, or men of war, which guard a city; the city of Jerusalem, or any other. The Targum applies this to Joseph, and paraphrases it,
"the wisdom of Joseph the son of Jacob helped him to make him wiser than all his ten righteous brethren.''
that doeth good, and sinneth not; it is the character of a just man to do good, to do that which is according to the will of God, from a principle of love to him, through faith in him, in the name and strength of Christ, and with a view to the glory of God; to do good in such a sense wicked men cannot; only such who are made good by the grace of God, are regenerated and made new creatures in Christ, are quickened by his Spirit, and are true believers in him; who appear to be what they are, by the fruits of good works they bring forth; and this not in a mercenary way, or in order to obtain life and righteousness, but as constrained by the grace of God, by which they are freely justified; and yet these are not free from sin, as appears by their confessions and complaints, by their backslidings, slips, and falls, and their petitions for fresh discoveries of pardoning grace; and even are not without sin, and the commission of it, in religious duties, or while they are doing good; hence their righteousness is said to be as filthy rags, and mention is made of the iniquity of holy things, Isaiah 64:6. The Targum is,
"that does good all his days, and sins not before the Lord.''
Aben Ezra justly gives the sense thus,
"who does good always, and never sins;''
and observes that there are none but sin in thought, word, or deed. The poet (e) says,
"to sin is common to all men;''
no man, though ever so good, is perfect on earth, or free from sin; see 1 Kings 8:46. Alshech's paraphrase is,
"there is not a righteous man on earth, that does good, and sins not; , "in that good";''
which is the true sense of the words.
(d) "quamvis", Junius & Tremelllus, Amama, so Broughton; "attamen", Grotius. (e) Sophoclis Antigone, v. 1140.
lest thou hear thy servant curse thee; speak slightly, scoffingly, and reproachfully of thee, as Shimei of David; which must be very disagreeable and vexatious to hear from one so mean and abject, and who is dependent on him, earns his bread of him, and gets his livelihood in his service; and to whom, perhaps, he has been kind, and so is guilty of base ingratitude, which aggravates the more; or, if not, if what he says is just, to hear it must give great uneasiness.
(f) "ne des tuum cor", Montanus.
that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others; either in heart, or with the tongue; thought ill of them, wished ill to them; spoke contemptibly of them, reviled and reproached them; called them by bad names, and abused them; and said some very hard and severe words concerning them, in a passionate fit, being provoked; and afterwards repented of it, being better informed of the state of the case, or being convinced of the evil of passion and rash speaking; and therefore such should consider the like passions and infirmities of others, and pass over them, and forgive them: so Alshech,
"if thou hast cursed others, and dost desire men should forgive thee, so do thou also forgive;''
see Matthew 6:14. The word "oftentimes", in the first clause, is to be connected, not with the word "knoweth", as if a man often knew this, but with the word "cursed"; suggesting, that a man may be often guilty of this himself, and therefore should be more sparing of his censures of others; see Matthew 7:1.
I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me; he determined, if possible, to attain to the perfection of wisdom, and made use of all means to come at it; that he might know all the works of God in creation, the nature, use, and excellency of them; in providence, his different dispensations towards the sons of men, and the causes of them; and in grace, the redemption and salvation of men, and the mysteries thereof; but the more he knew, the more he was convinced of his own ignorance, and seemed further off from the summit of knowledge than he was before; and plainly saw, that perfection in wisdom is not attainable in this life. The Targum restrains this to the wisdom of the law; but it is better to understand it in a more general sense.
and exceeding deep, who can find it out? the primitive perfect wisdom is sunk so deep and gone, that no man can find it to the perfection it was once enjoyed; see Job 28:12. This may respect the knowledge of God, and the perfections of his nature; which are as high as heaven, and deeper than hell, Job 11:7; and of his thoughts, counsels, purposes, and decrees, which are the deep things of God; as well as the doctrines of the Gospel, and the mysteries of grace, 1 Corinthians 2:10; and even his providential dispensations towards the sons of men, Romans 11:33. The Targum of the whole is,
"Lo, now it is far off from the children of men to know all that has been from the days of old; and the secret of the day of death, and the secret of the day in which the King Messiah shall come, who is he that shall find it out by his wisdom?''
(g) "remotum (est) illud quod fuit", Montanus, Mercerus, Vatablus, Drusius, Gejerus.
and the reason of things; either in nature or providence: or the estimation (i) of them; the excellency of them, how much they are to be accounted of, esteemed, and valued; as Christ, the Wisdom of God, and all things relating to him, should;
and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness; the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the folly and madness that are in it; sin is the effect of folly, and the excess of it, and a spiritual madness; it is true of all sin in general, but especially of the sin of uncleanness, which Solomon seems to have in view by what follows; see Ecclesiastes 1:17; and may chiefly intend the wickedness of his own folly, and the foolishness of his own madness.
(h) "circuivi ego et cor meum", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Gejerus. (i) "estimationem rerum", Mercerus.
whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands; all the schemes and contrivances of a harlot are to ensnare men by her wanton looks and lascivious gestures; which are like snares laid for the beasts, and likeness spread for fishes, to take them in; and when she has got them, she holds them fast; it is a very difficult thing and a very rare one, ever to get out of her hands; so Plautus (l) makes mention of the nets of harlots: the same holds true of error and heresy, and of idolatry, which is spiritual adultery; the words used being in the plural number, shows the many ways the adulterous woman has to ensnare men, and the multitudes that are taken by her; see Revelation 13:3;
whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her: or, "who is good before God", or "in his sight" (m); See Gill on Ecclesiastes 2:26; to whom he gives his grace and is acceptable to him; such an one as Joseph was shall escape the snares and nets, the hands and bands, of such a woman; or if fallen into them, as Solomon fell, shall be delivered out of them, as it is observed by various interpreters: nothing but the grace of God, the true fear of God, the power of godliness and undefiled religion, can preserve a person from being ensnared and held by an impure woman; not a liberal nor religious education, not learning and good sense, nor any thing else; if a man is kept out of the hands of such creatures, he ought to esteem it a mercy, and ascribe it to the grace and goodness of God;
but the sinner shall be taken by her; a hardened and impenitent sinner, that is destitute of the grace and fear of God; who is habitually a sinner, and gives up himself to commit iniquity; whose life is a continued series of sinning; who has no guard upon himself, but rushes into sin, as the horse into the battle; he becomes an easy prey to a harlot; he falls into her snares, and is caught and held by her; see Proverbs 22:14.
(k) Musaeus, v. 166. Vid. Barthii ad Claudian. de Nupt. Honor. v. 70. (l) Epidicus, Acts 2. Sc. 2. v. 32. "Illecebrosius nihil fieri potest", ib. Bacchides, Sc. 1. v. 55. Truculentus, Acts 1. Sc. 1. v. 14-21. (m) "bonus coram Deo", Pagninus, Mercerus, Drusius, Amama, Rambachius; "qui bonus videtur coram Deo ipso", Junius & Tremellius.
(saith the preacher); of which title and character see Ecclesiastes 1:1; it is here mentioned to confirm the truth of what he said; he said it as a preacher, and, upon the word of a preacher, it was true; as also to signify his repentance for his sin, who was now the "gathered soul", as some render it; gathered into the church of God by repentance;
counting one by one, to find out the account; not his own sins, which he endeavoured to reckon up, and find out the general account of them, which yet he could not do; nor the good works of the righteous, and the sins of the wicked, which are numbered before the Lord one by one, till they are added to the great account; as Jarchi, from the Rabbins, interprets it, and so the Midrash: but rather the sense is, examining women, one by one, all within the verge of his acquaintance; particularly the thousand women that were either his wives or concubines; in order to take and give a just estimate of their character and actions. What follows is the result.
one man among a thousand have I found; it is a great rarity to find a good man (n), truly wise and gracious; there are many that walk in the broad way, and but few that find the strait gate and narrow way, and are saved; they are but as one to a thousand; see Jeremiah 5:1. Or rather, by this one of a thousand, is meant the, Messiah, the Wisdom of God, he sought for, Ecclesiastes 7:25; and now says he found; to whom he looked for peace, pardon, and atonement, under a sense of his sins; who is the messenger, an interpreter, one among a thousand; yea, who is the chiefest among ten thousands, Job 33:23; who is superior to angels and men, in the dignity of his person; in the perfection, purity, and holiness of his nature; in the excellency of his names; in his offices and relations; and in his concern in the affairs of grace and salvation; and who is to be found by every truly wise and gracious soul that seeks him early and earnestly, in the word and ordinances, under the illumination and direction of the blessed Spirit. If it is to be understood of a mere man, I should think the sense was this; of all the men that have been ensnared and taken by an adulterous woman, but one of a thousand have I observed, and perhaps Solomon has respect to himself, that was ever recovered out of her hands;
but a woman among all those have I not found; that is, among all the harlots and adulterous women I ever knew or heard of, I never knew nor heard of one that was ever reclaimed from her evil ways, and reformed or became a chaste and virtuous woman: he may have respect to the thousand women that were either his wives and concubines, and, among all these, he found not one that deserved the above character; for this is not to be understood of women in general, for Solomon must have known that there have been good women in all ages, and perhaps more than men; and that there were many in his days, though those with whom his more intimate acquaintance was were not such, which was his unhappiness; and his criminal conversation with them is what he lamented and repented of. It may be interpreted thus, One man, the Messiah, among all the sons of men, have I found, free from original sin; but one woman, among all the daughters of Eve, I have not found clear of it. The Targum is,
"there is another thing which yet my soul seeketh, and I have not found; a man perfect and innocent, without corruption, from the days of Adam, till Abraham the righteous was born; who was found faithful and just among the thousand kings who were gathered together to build the tower of Babel; and a woman among all the wives of those kings, as Sarah, I found not.''
(n) "Vir bonus et sapiens, qualem vix reperit unum, millibus e multio hominum, consultus Apollo." Auson. Idyll. 16. v. 1, 2.