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[ends of life.
can hasten hereunto, more than I?
26 For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit. (B)
(B) The vanity of carnal pleasure, and of wealth, and of setting the heart upon them. In the detail of his life and experience, Solomon now informs us, that he turned his mind to every kind of luxury. He began first with conviviality; a temptation to which studious men, wearied with the pursuit of knowledge, are not unfrequently enticed. A little experience, however, convinced him that this also is vanity. Excessive levity borders on insanity; and what good is derived from mere merriment? Thus he was disap pointed in his expectations from mirth and wine, though still he did not give up the pursuits of knowledge.
Solomon next applied himself to building palaces, planting gardens, and forming pools of water. To his pleasure grounds was added an extensive agricultural establishment, and he became a feeder of cattle and of flocks. He collected also prodigious riches, and "the peculiar treasure of the kings and provinces," by which we may probably understand, works of peculiar art and curiosity, which subjects could not purchase: among these might be included, idols of gold and silver, worshipped in all the countries around him, and which afterwards proved to him a deadly spare. He formed also a splendid establishment of slaves and servants, with singing men and singing women, and "the delights of the sons of men;" so that he withheld not from his eyes, or from his heart, any thing, that could yield him gratification.
What is meant by "the delights of the sons of men," appears difficult to decide, as may be seen in our Notes. Two reasons incline us to consider the expression as referring to the females of Solomon's Harem. 1. We know of no other luxury so
universal, or so natural to "the sons of men," as their attachment to the female sex. 2. As to "musical instruments," of which it is difficult to make the text speak, they were seldom or never used at this early period, (except drums and trumpets) but as the accompaniments of the human voice, and being played by the singers themselves, are therefore implied in the preceding clause. 3. Unless we take the expression as referring to his Harem, we have, in all his confessions, no allusion to this extraordinary establishment, the chief monument of his folly, and the cause of his declension from true religion. This will be altogether unaccountable, if we consider this book as the evidence of his repentance, and intended to guard others against the same errors.
After making these confessions, the wise man very naturally looks back, and laments his folly in seeking happiness in these terrestrial enjoyments, which all end in disappointment, in "vanity and vexation of spirit." They cannot, as Dr. Boothroyd remarks, " quiet a guilty conscience, comfort a drooping spirit, ease a dying body, or save an immortal soul."
In balancing his reflections, and reviewing the present state of things in connexion with the designs of Heaven, the wise man concludes, that it is good for a man to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and the gifts of providence, within the limits of his word, for so far "to enjoy, is to obey;" avoiding, on the one hand, the excess of luxury, and on the other, idle speculations, and immoderate cares. To the good man, God giveth all the wisdom, and knowledge, and joy suited to his present state; while to the sinner accrues only disappointment, in not being suffered to enjoy the fruit of his anxiety. "This also is vanity and vexation of spirit."
Ver. 24. There is nothing better, &c.-This is another passage of great difficulty. Dr. Hodgson renders it interrogatively, "Is it not then good for man to eat and drink; and amidst all his toil, to give his sont recreation? Mr. Holden, "There is no good in the man who eats and drinks," &c. i. e. "he has no perfect enjoyment." See Exposition.
Ver. 25. Who can eat, or who else can hasten?-that is, who can seek with more eagerness than I have
done, either laborious study, or luxurious pleasure? yet all terminates in vanity and vexation.
Ibid. More than I.-Several MSS. and versions read, (by a slight alteration)" without him;" meaning, that no man can enjoy even the common blessings of Providence, but as they come from the hand of God. But we consider this alteration as doubtful and unnecessary.
TO every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set
[for all things.
the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice and to do good in his life:
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them : as the NOTES.
CHAP. III. Ver. 2. A time to be born-Marg. "To bear" but this is not adopted by any modern translator of repute.
Ver 3. A time to kill-that is, judicially, as in the case of murderers: bat Bp. Patrick understands it of disease, a time for sickness and for health.
Ver. 5. To cast away stones-that is, out of our Vineyards and gardens; and again a time to gather them together, to form roads, or fences. Bp. Patrick. Ver. 6. A time to get-Marg. “Seek."
Ver. 7. A time to rend namely, to destroy old, worn-out garments, and to make new ones.
Ver. 9. What profit, &c.—that is, how vain are all our labours and anxieties, seeing we are subject to so great a variety of changes and disappointments! See chap. i. 3.
Ver. 11. He hath set the world in their heart.-The word Olam, here rendered world, is the same that, in ver. 14. and in many other passages, is rendered" for ever;" and the sense here given it by the Rabbins, is relinqui hed by the best modern critics, though they are not agreed in adopting a substitute. The word is sometimes used for something secret, (as Psalm xc. 8. and elsewhere.) Mr. Parkhurst therefore renders it "obscurity," (and is followed by Mr. Holden) and Dr. Hodgson," darkness." We confess, however, that we are inclined to prefer the more common and established rendering of this word, as relating to "eternity," which is ably justi
fied by Gausset and Peters, (on Job, p. 423) and employed by Mr. Desvoeux, in his translation; though we should rather adopt the words "for ever," as the original term is rendered, in five or six other places of this book; "He hath set for ever in their beart, i. e. a sense of a future and eternal state. (See chap. i. 4.-ii. 16.-iii. 14.-ix. 6, &c.) Şo Dr. Hales,“ He hath set futurity in their heart." (New Analysis, vol. ii. 403.) Dr. Boothroyd has preserved the term "world," and given to the clause a new and ingenious turn; "He hath put it in their hearts (to survey) the world."
Ibid. So that rather, "without which;” i, e. without the doctrine of a future state, the providence of God is wholly unintelligible.Com. Heb. Job viii. ¡l.
Ver. 15. God requireth that which is past-Heb. "that which is driven away." Dr. Hodgson, “God causeth all things to revolve;" Dr. Boothroyd, "God bringeth again what is past."
Ver. 16. Place of righteousness-rather, of justice, as corresponding to judgment.
Ver. 18 That God might manifest them.-Marg "That they might clear God, and see that," &c But we prefer the following, as a more correct and perspicuous version: "I said in my heart, concern ing the affairs of the sons of men, that God's de sign is to prove them, and to show them that they are no better than the beasts. To this effect Hodgson and Boothroyd.
[for all things.
the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion; for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? (C)
(C) A time for all things.-There are no natural actions but may be proper at certain times, and under certain circumstances! so far as these are under our control, our duty and business is to time them; not to plant, for instance, when we should pluck up; nor to pluck up when we should plant, and so forth; for every thing is beautiful in its season;"" and there is a time for every purpose under heaven."
The works here alluded to are placed in pairs, by way of contrast; and thus placed, may serve to illustrate one another. Thus there is a time for being born, and a time to die, both of which are equally foreign to our control; and, generally speaking, we have no more election in one than in the other; which applies to other animals, as well as man. So as to man, there is a time to express his passions and feelings, in harmony with the circumstances around him to weep and lament in certain cases of affliction; and in the day of festivity to smile, or laugh, or even to leap and dance for joy.
In the 11th verse we are told, in our translation, that God hath "set the world in man's heart." That men have set their heart upon the world is, indeed, clear enough; but that God himself hath placed it there, is not so easy to explain. Lord Bacon considers the mind of man as a mirror, in which the images of all terrestrial things are received and reflected, aud Dr. Boothroyd seems to have a similar idea; but the rendering given by Peters, Desvoeur, and Hales, seems both more intelligible and consistent. God has placed in the heart of man, yea of all men, some anticipation of a future state, or a "for ever," an eternity. This gives a scope and magnitude to the proceedings of pro vidence, which at once raises our admiration, and confounds our speculations. “I know," says the wise man," that whatever God doth, it shall be for ever:" it needs none of our improvements, or repairs.
In the course of this chapter we have farther references to a future and a final judgment; when all things crooked shall be made straight, and when (but not before) the plan of Providence will be seen complete. In the mean time it is important that man should know his rank and
place in the scale of being that, as to his body, he is a mere animal, endowed with the same powers and sensibility as other animals; but not with the same instinct, which in man seems very inferior to that of brutes; but, on the other hand, he is indued with a rational and immortal soul, which is denied to them, but gives to him a decided superiority over all the animal creation. In its present state, the soul of man is always aspiring to "a something unpossessed;" and at death, its destiny is far different from that of brutes: for "the spirit of a man goeth upward," and "returueth to God who gave it," while the spirit of a mere animal "goeth downward," and becomes extinct. (See Gen. i. 24.-ii. 7; Eccles. xii. 7.)
As to man's present circumstances, however, considering him merely as an animal, "all things happen alike to all ;-as one dieth, so dieth the other. All go to one place;" so that man, as an animal, "hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity."
The preacher now returns to his former position, that "nothing is better," as regards the present life, than that a man should "rejoice in his own labours;" that he should receive all the blessings bestowed upon him with gratitude, and bumbly imitate the divine bounty, by contributing to others, according to his means, and their necessities. "I know (says he) that there is nothing better than for a man (as Dr. Boothroyd renders it) to rejoice and do good in his life." This, by the bye, may suggest another useful hint, that men should do good in their lifetime, and not ridiculously make a merit of giving away at death, what they no longer can retain.
Ver. 21. Who knoweth-Some versions make this a query, "Who knoweth whether?" &e. but chap. xii. 7. decides this: "The spirit of man returneth unto God.
Ibid. The spirit of man, &c.-Heb. "The spirit of the sons of men that ascendeth."
Ver. 22. His own works his various labours, chap. ii. 24. Ibid. Who shall bring him that is, bring him back from the grave, to see what comes of his labours when he is dead.
The evils of oppression,] ECCLESIASTES.
O I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
3 Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
4 Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. 5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
7 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye
[envy, idleness, &c.
satisfied with riches; neither, saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
13 Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
14 For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.
15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead.
16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit. (D)
(D) The evils of oppression, envy, idleness, covetousness, &c. On viewing the character and situation of mankind, the first circumstance likely to strike us, as it did Solomon, is the forlorn state of the "Behold the tears of the poorer classes. oppressed, and they had no comforter!" We should not, however, forget the doctrine of the preceding chapter, that "God shall judge the righteous and the wicked;"
otherwise we shall give into the language of despondency, and prefer death to life, and the unborn to both, as was the case with Job, and with the Preacher in the passage now before us. (Comp. Job iii. throughout.)
After the oppressor, the writer no less reprobates the envious and malignant person, who cannot see the success or prosperity of a neighbour, but with an envious eye. The slothful fool is next placed before us, with folded hands and a vacant
CHAP. IV. Ver. 1. So I returned and consideredthat is, I considered again. On the side (Heb. "hand") of their oppressors there was power; but they (i. e. the oppressed) had no comforter.
Ver. 4. All travail-that is, labour.—And every right work-every thing that is ingenious, successful, or praiseworthy; for this (or such) a man is envied, or is the envy of," &c.
Ver. 5. Eateth his own flesh.-So we say, proverbially," Devoured with laziness," and with its natural consequence, hunger.
Ver. S. There is one alone-Hodgson, "A man single, and without companion."
Ver. 11. If two lie together-This is practised only in the winter in warm countries.
Ver. 13. A poor and a wise child-Heb. "Youth." Who will no more be admonished — Heb. "Who knoweth not to be admonished." Of this we have seen some striking instances, in which reverses of fortune have made men only more perverse.
Ver. 14. Whereas also-Boothroyd, "Yet in his own kingdom he was born poor.
Ver. 15. I considered all the living.—Dr. Boothroyd renders this perplexed passage thus: "All the living who walk under the sun, I saw attending a second youth, who is about to stand up in his stead. There is no end to all the people; to all to whom he becomes a leader. But they that come after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity," &e.
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.
2 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.
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
4 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.
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
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?
7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities but fear thou God.
8 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.
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all the king himself is served by the field.
10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy good is there to the owners thereof,
countenance. And the verse following is supposed to be his language, declaring that a small quantity of food, without fatigue or bustle, is better than twice as much earned by labour and vexation.
The next portrait is "one alone," and we do not recollect a companion to it in any part of Scripture. It is that of a bachelor, not only without a child, but without a brother, or a kinsman, either to participate or succeed to his wealth. Yet is he not satisfied with his riches, nor does he properly reflect, "For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This al-o is vanity!"
We are next called upon to consider the advantages of society, in opposition to the solitary and unhappy being just noticed. "Two are better than one;" and by the
same rule, three better than two, for a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Many also are the comforts and advantages to be derived from associating in societies and families. "A married life," said Dr. S. Johnson, "has most trials; but a single life hath no comforts."
The concluding verses refer to some of those political revolutions frequent in arbitrary countries, but from which we are happily exempted, by having a constitution around which we can rally, and in which are happily blended the principles of religious and civil liberty, with those of social order, and an established government: for this we are bound both to praise and pray : "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces!"
CHAP. V. Ver. 1. Keep thy foot.-This seems to altade to the ancient custom of pulling off the shoes in the presence of God. Exod. iii. 5; Josh. v. 15, &c. Ver. 2. Any thing-Heb. " A (or any) word." Ver.3. For a dream cometh.—Mr. Holden observes, this is evidently a comparison, though the particle of similitude be dropped, as often in the Hebrew. With him agree Desvoeux, Hody son, Boothroyd, and others. Ver. 6. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin-Bp. Patrick applies this to vows inconsistent with the present state of human nature, as vows of celibacy, &c.—Before the angel-meaning the Jewish priest, who is called the messenger, or angel of God. Mal, ii. 7. and compare Levit. v. 4, 5.
Ver.1. For in the multitude of dreams, &c.Boothroyd, For as in many dreams is great vanity, so also in many words; hence (or therefore) fear God.
Ver. 8. Marvel not at the matter-Heb. " At the
will, or purpose, ," or rather" decree," the declaration of such will, or purpose, of evil judges; for so doth God permit, and will eventually over-rule it.
For he that is higher than the highest ("the high and lofty one, Isa. lvii. 15.) regardeth-rather, "keeps guard," or watches over them; and high as these earthly gods may be, there be higher than they; namely, the three divine persons of the Godhead. (See Poli Synop. in loc. Holden, Note, p. 1er. But Bp. Patrick would render the former clause, He that is high from on high observeth," &c.
Ver.9. The king is served by the field.-Dr. Boothroyd renders this verse thus; "The produce of the earth is for (the use of) all: and the king himself is supplied from the field,"-which furnishes an argument in favour of the poor agriculturist, ver. 8,