by Joseph Benson
THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES
OR, THE PREACHER.
AS this book does not present us with the name of Solomon in the front of it, some, both ancient and modern writers, have ascribed it to other authors: as the Talmudists, to Hezekiah; R. Moses Kimchi, and some other Jews, to Isaiah; and Grotius, to Zerubbabel. But there are so many passages in it which agree to none but Solomon, that it is a wonder any person should ever think of attributing it to any other person. For instance, no one but he could ever truly affirm what we read Ecclesiastes 1:16. And who but he could boast of such things as are mentioned Ecclesiastes 2:4-10, to represent the splendour wherein he lived above all that had been before him in Jerusalem? Or, on the contrary, who had such reason as he to make that sad complaint which we find Ecclesiastes 7:26, &c., of the mischief he had received by women? And to omit the rest, those words, in the last chapter, Proverbs 31:9-10, could belong to none but him, who set in order many proverbs, as appears by the foregoing book. Hence it has been ascribed to him, and that most justly, by the far greater part of interpreters, both Jewish and Christian. See Bishop Patrick.
Three particulars may be observed concerning this book: — 1, That Solomon wrote it in his old age is more than probable from divers passages in it, as, that he did it after his buildings, (Ecclesiastes 2:4,) which yet took up twenty years of his life, (1 Kings 9:10,) and after some considerable enjoyment of them, and planting of gardens, and orchards, and reaping the fruit of them, (Ecclesiastes 2:5-6,) and after long and much consideration and experience of all those methods in which men expect to find happiness, Ecclesiastes 7:27, &c. So this book was written by him, as a public testimony of his repentance and detestation of those wicked courses to which he had addicted himself: wherein he followed the example of his father David, who, after his sad fall, penned the fifty-first psalm. And the truth of this opinion may be confirmed by that expression, (2 Chronicles 11:17,) They walked in the way of David and Solomon; that is, wherein they walked, both before their falls, and after their repentance. 2, The method of it. For whereas there are some passages in it which seem impious, it must be considered that it is in part dramatical; that Solomon speaks most things in his own name, but some things in the names of ungodly men, as is undeniably manifest both from the scope and design of the book, as it is expressed both in the beginning and in the conclusion of it, and from his serious and large disputation against those wicked principles and courses. And this way of writing was not unusual among both sacred and profane writers. 3, The design of it; which is, to describe man’s true happiness, and the way leading to it. This he does both negatively, proving that it is not to be found either in secular wisdom, or in sensual pleasures, or in worldly greatness and glory, or in abundance of riches, or in a vain profession of religion: and positively, showing that it is to be had only in the fear of God and obedience to his laws, which alone can give a man a cheerful enjoyment of his present comforts, and assurance of his everlasting happiness.
the Second Week after Easter