Ecclesiastes 2

1The vanity which the Preacher found in the pursuits of pleasure. 12Wisdom excelleth folly, yet a like event happeneth to both. 18The vanity of human labour, the fruit of which must soon be left to a man knoweth not whom. 24Nothing better than a cheerful use of what a man hath gotten; but that is the gift of God to the good only.

1I SAID in mine heart, 1Go to now, 2I will prove thee with mirth, therefore 3enjoya pleasure: and, behold, this 4also is vanity.

1 Hebr. go now.

2 Here Solomon speaks to his own heart, as if he said: This time I want to examine whether pleasures and worldly delights are the true and highest good; and whether they, who bathe in these pleasures and delights, would be able to bring true contentment of spirit and true happiness.

3 Hebr. look to the thing that is good, that is, satisfy thyself with the thing that is good; which in this place is as much as: with bodily delights.

a Luke 12:19

4 Namely, as well as what was previously related in chapter 1, namely, the searching out of worldly things.

2I said 5of laughter, It is mad: and of 6mirth, 7What doeth it?

5 Understand this as such: that much and immoderate laughing, singing, skipping or dancing is more seemly for a fool and an unwise person than for a wise and an understanding man, Prov. 20:1. But to laugh moderately at times, and for some causes, is a thing not to be reproved.

6 Understand here carnal or worldly mirth.

7 Or, Why doest thou this? The meaning is: What benefit or advantage brings this worldly mirth? For, it is not suitable and it does not serve to obtain true happiness.

3 I 8sought 9in mine heart 10to give 11myself unto wine, 12yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

8 Or, searched, or, inquired, or, consulted.

9 That is, within myself.

10 Or, to draw myself unto wine, that is, to accustom myself to drink wine. Other, to give my flesh over unto wine.

11 Or, my flesh, that is, my body. The sense is: I have striven and endeavored to live both in bodily pleasures and delights and also in wisdom, uniting both wisdom and pleasure together; for here under the name of wine, all kinds of dainty food, meat and drink, yea, all manner of pleasures and delights must be understood.

12 He wants to say: I have purposed to keep the wisdom, which God has given me, in mine heart, that notwithstanding I was also minded outwardly to give way unto folly, (namely, by feeding deliciously, and by living in pleasures and delights), laying hold thereon and retaining it.

413I made me great 14works; I builded me houses; I planted me 15vineyards:

13 Hebr. I made my works great, namely, not only for necessity, but also unto a manifestation of my glory and for delight.

14 That is, structures, buildings, as immediately follows, and also verses 5, 6.

15 Namely, in Baal-hamon, Cant. 8:11.

5I made me 16gardens and 17orchards, and I planted trees in them 18of all kind of fruits:

16 Namely, in which grew all kinds of herbs and flowers.

17 Hebr. pardesim, that is, paradises; which do not only signify ordinary common gardens, but gardens of pleasure and delight, especially orchards.

18 Hebr. of all fruits.

6I made me 19pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

19 Understand such kind of pools wherein there was always water, both rainwater and spring-water.

720I got me servants and maidens, and had 21servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small 22cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

20 Or, I possessed or captured.

21 That is, children born in my house, namely, of my servants and maidens. Compare Gen. 12:5; 14:14; 15:3; 17:12.

22 Under this kind is also understood other animals, both great and small, such as cattle and sheep.

823I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure 24of kings and of the provinces: 25I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as 26musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

23 See 1 Kings 9:28; 10:14, 21, 22, 26.

24 That is, which might be found with some kings or in foreign regions. Or, what was esteemed to be most precious with kings and in every province.

25 Hebr. I made.

26 Or, musical harmony, or, divers tunes of musical instruments, or, caroches, or, the excellence of very beautiful women taken captive in war, namely, to minister unto me in all things whereunto women are suitable. The Hebrew word is found nowhere else but here, therefore it is so variously rendered.

9So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also 27my wisdom 28remained with me.

27 That is, the wisdom wherewith God had endued me above all others.

28 Hebr. stood, that is, consisted or remained constant with me. The sense is: Although I had all the aforementioned riches and power, yet did I not therefore let wisdom go, but nevertheless continued still in my wise and discreet government. Compare verse 3.

10And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced 29in all my labour: and 30this was my portion of all my labour.

29 That is, because of the goods or things which I had effected and produced by my labor.

30 That is, everything what I enjoyed from all my travail was transitory and mirth or joy soon gone. See Eccl. 5 on verse 17.

11Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and 31vexation of spirit, and there was no profit 32under the sun.

31 See Eccl. 1:14.

32 That is, in any visible and transitory things.

1233Andb I turned myself 34to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for 35what can the man do that cometh after 36the king? even that which hath been already done.

33 That is, I focused myself to the consideration of wisdom and folly, which I had tried both, to judge by myself which was the most excellent.

b Eccl. 1:17; 7:23.

34 That is, to perceive wisdom thoroughly.

35 Other, for what should the man do that shall come after the king? even that which hath been already done. The meaning is: If there is any man who thinks that I, who is such a mighty and wise king, have not understood or experienced all things aright, and that in that regard there may yet be another way and means to attain unto true happiness, he errs greatly, he shall find nothing else than what I have already declared concerning it; every one may herein safely rely upon my word.

36 That is, me. He wants to say: Who would he be able to do that, which I, who am a great and mighty king, have done?

1337Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

37 The sense is: Though all that we do is mere vanity, yet wisdom is to be esteemed so much more than folly, as light is to be esteemed above darkness.

1438The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool 39walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also 40that one event happeneth to 41them all.

38 That is, the wise man is well prepared and goes prudently about his business, but a foolish man is unprepared and imprudent in all his affairs. See Prov. 17:24; Eccl. 8:1.

39 That is, he knows not how he shall order his affairs.

40 Namely, as much as concerns what befalls them in this present life, as there are various calamities, sicknesses, diseases and aches or pains of the body, as also death itself. Compare herewith Psalm 49:10.

41 That is, to them both, as well to the wise person as to the fool.

1542Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it 43happeneth even to me; and 44why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

42 Namely, judging according to the nature and condition of things, which people see daily happen before their eyes.

43 That is, I am as well subject to all kind of miseries and calamities, and shall as well die as the fool, yea, as all other men.

44 That is, why then did I labor and endeavor more to get wisdom than other men have done? Or, Why should I then seek more after wisdom? As if he said: Seeing death will seize upon me as well as upon all others, what will human wisdom avail me?

1645For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And 46how dieth the wise man? 47as the fool.

45 Hebr. there is no remembrance of the wise with the fool forever. This serves to confirm what was stated just before. The sense is: As all men are mortal, so does also, in time, the remembrance of one perish as well as of another, yea of all men in general. Though the memory of those, whose names and acts are upon record in the Word of God and in histories, still remains and abides with many.

46 It is a question in amazement. As if he said: It is a lamentable thing that a brave wise man must die as well and as soon, and often, according to the judgment of the world, has the same issue as a fool. Other, and how the wise dieth with the fool.

47 That is, as well as the fool. See Psalm 49:10, 11.

17Therefore I 48hated life; because the work 49that is wrought under the sun is 50grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

48 That is, it grieved me to live.

49 That is, all the works and actions of men.

50 Hebr. was evil in, by or upon me.

18¶Yea, 51I hated all 52my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man 53that shall be after me.

51 That is, I loathed and abhorred it, namely, considering the vanity of riches and the gathering of goods, which are gotten with so much trouble and care. And especially in respect of the uncertainty what heir a man shall have to inherit his goods after his death.

52 That is, my wealth or estate which I had gotten and gathered together by my labor.

53 That is, he who shall succeed me in the kingdom.

19And 54who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule 55over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

54Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, has by his folly and imprudence lost the greatest part of his kingdom, 1 Kings 12. It may in some measure be gathered from this verse that Solomon perceived well that Rehoboam would not behave himself wisely, managing the government of the kingdom.

55 That is, over all the goods and excellent great commodities which I have obtained and have gathered with much labor.

20Therefore I 56went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

56 As if he said: I have at last come to this in my thoughts, that I have not had in the least any contentment in all that I have gotten by my labor. See verse 18.

21For 57there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave 58it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great 59evil.

57 The sense is: It is no wonder that this thing grieves me, seeing there is no man so poor in means but he would be grieved to think that his means and estate would fall into the hands of strangers.

58 Namely, labor, that is, all the goods which he has gotten and gained by his labor.

59 That is, grief, or vexation, as Mat. 6:34.

22Forc what hath 60man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

c Eccl. 1:3; 3:9

60 Namely, of whom is spoken in verse 21.

23For all his days 61are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

61 That is, full of grief and heaviness. See the annotation at Job 14 on verse 1.

24 62Thered is 63nothing better for a man, than 64that he should eat and drink, and that he should make 65his soul 66enjoy good 67in his labour. This also I saw, 68that it was from the hand of God.

62 Other, Is there than nothing better for man, than that he should eat and drink, etc. Other, It is not good for a man, that he should eat and drink, that is, that he would take all his delight and contentment in eating and drinking.

d Eccl. 3:12, 22; 5:18; 8:15.

63 Namely, as much as concerns the temporal good and this transitory life.

64 The sense is: that, setting aside all superfluous and unprofitable care and anxiety, he is to enjoy and make use of those things that God has given him.

65 That is, himself.

66 Hebr. see good, that is, prosper, to enjoy some good of his labor?

67 Or, of his labor, that is, of his goods.

68 That is, that it is a special and peculiar gift of God, which every man has not, namely, that a man is well contented and cheerful with such things as he has received at the bountiful hand of God.

25For 69who can eat, or who else can hasten 70hereunto, more than I?

69 As if he said: If there were any other enjoyment to be had or obtained by or from those temporal things, who could do it easier and better than I?

70 Namely, to eat thereof or to have the use and enjoyment thereof, namely, with mirth and rejoicing.

26For 71God giveth to a man that is 72good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to 73the sinner he giveth travail, 74to gather and to heap up, thate he may give to him that is good 75before God. 76This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

71 Or, he, that is, God.

72 That is, to one who is virtuous and godly.

73 That is, the wicked in whom He has no delight. See Psalm 1:1 concerning the word sinner.

74 Namely, temporal goods and riches.

e Job 27:16, 17; Prov. 28:8; Eccl. 3:13.

75 That is, before His face.

76 Namely, to vex and trouble yourself so much about getting wealth, which you may not enjoy yourself, neither leave them to whom you will, and whom you suppose that he will not know how to use them aright.