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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-26

Ecclesiastes 2:1 . Enjoy pleasure. The first doctrine of Epicurus, whose system is here rebutted. Acts 17:18.

Ecclesiastes 2:2 . I said of laughter, of all forced and frantic joy, it is mad. Chaldaic, “derision, insanity.” Why should the culprit dance and sing the night before his execution? No charm of atheism can silence the secret voice in the heart, concerning the possibility of a future world. Who then would not prefer the sober sentiment of Joshua, “I am this day going the way of all the earth.”

Ecclesiastes 2:5 . I made me gardens and orchards, and paradises, as in the Hebrew, with pools of water; and imported exotic plants from India. I planted trees. Dr. Lightfoot gives a curious criticism out of the Targums. “I planted me all trees of spice, which the goblins and demons brought out of India. And the bound of it was from the wall that is in Jerusalem, to the bank of the waters of Siloam.” See Nehemiah 2:14; Nehemiah 3:15. Learning was then very low in the Hebrew schools.

Ecclesiastes 2:17 . Therefore I hated life; that is, as in the next verse, I hated all my labour. I ceased to survey my palaces and gardens with pleasure. I knew not for whom I was doing all this. True is the saying, He builds too low, who builds below the skies.


Solomon here attacks the Epicurean system, which places all happiness in sensual pleasure. His whole reign is a complete refutation of that theory. He sought happiness in pleasant company, and in a cheerful use of wine at the princely banquet, but he was disappointed, for the spirits unnaturally raised by wine, sink into depression; and intemperance satiates the soul.

He employed himself very much in the latter part of life in beautifying his plantations, walks, pools, and gardens. The opulent do the same in every age: this also is vanity. They die before they have completed their plans, and cannot tell who shall enjoy their work. Besides, the superb palace and its enchanting scenes attach the heart too much to this life, and make an invitation to the paradise above an unwelcome message, though in itself the highest of all favours. This also is vanity, for the wise man dieth as the fool; they mingle in the common dust, and in a few ages, the antiquaries cannot exactly say where the palace stood. When Solomon thought of this, he hated his works; for as he feared, so it happened; he was doing all this for a foolish son.

After this mental conflict, Solomon came to an admirable issue, that wisdom excelled folly as light excels darkness: Ecclesiastes 2:13-14. The wise man’s eyes are in his head, to profit by the good which heaven bestows, and thence deduce just conclusions for the conduct of life. There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink, and labour in moderation; then he has pleasure but not pain; then he has joy but not distraction; for God gives to the good man wisdom and joy; but to the sinner he gives travail and distraction, that he may hoard up riches for the good to possess. So providence delights to strip the avaricious of wealth, and to entrust it in better hands.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/ecclesiastes-2.html. 1835.
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