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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Ecclesiastes 2

 

 


Verse 1

Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also [is] vanity.

Ver. 1. Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth.] The merry Greeks of the world think that they have the only life of it; that there is no such happiness as to ‘laugh and be fat,’ to ‘sing care away,’ and to lie carousing and melting in sinful pleasures; yea, though they perish therein, as the Duke of Clarence did in his butt of malmsey. (a) But a little time will confute these fools, saith Solomon, and let them see that it is better to be preserved in brine than to rot in honey. Flies and wasps use to come to honey and sugar, and such sweet things; so doth Beelzebub, the god of flies, to the hearts of epicures and voluptuaries. Behemoth haunteth the fens. [Job 40:21] Here, therefore, this wise man was utterly out, and made an ill transition from the search of wisdom to the pursuit of pleasures; from the school of Socrates, to the herd of Epicurus. For though these hogs may grunt out their "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die," yet, if death but draw the curtain, and look in upon them, all the mirth is marred, and they put into as great an agony as Belshazzar was at the sight of the handwriting that was against him.


Verse 2

Ecclesiastes 2:2 I said of laughter, [It is] mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

Ver. 2. I said of mirth, It is mad,] q.d., Thou mad fool, what dost thou? Yet is not mirth amiss, so it be moderate; nor laughter unlawful - as some Anabaptists in Calvin’s time held - so that it be well limited. Carnal mirth, and abuse of lawful things, doth mightily weaken, intenerate, and emasculate the spirit; yea, it draws out the very vigour and vivacity of it, and is therefore to be avoided. Some are so afraid of sadness that they banish all seriousness; they affect mirth as the eel doth mud, or the toad ditches. These are those that dance to the timbrel and harp, but suddenly turn into hell. [Job 21:12-13]


Verse 3

Ecclesiastes 2:3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet 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.

Ver. 3. Yet acquainting my heart with wisdom,] i.e., Resolving to retain my wisdom; but that could not be, "For whoredom, and wine, and new wine take away the heart"; [Hosea 4:11] they dull and disable nature, and so set us in a greater distance from grace; they "fight against the soul," [1 Peter 2:11] and take away all scent and sense of heavenly comforts: much like that parcel of ground in Sicily, that sendeth such a strong smell of fragrant flowers to all the fields thereabouts, that no hound can hunt there. (a) And here I believe began Solomon’s apostasy, his laying the reins on the neck to pursue sinful pleasures, pleasing himself in a conceit that he could serve God and his lusts too. A Christian hath ever God for his chief end, and never sins with deliberation about this end; he will not forego God upon any terms; only he errs in the way, thinking he may fulfil such a lust, and keep God too. But God and sin cannot cohabit; and God’s graces groaning under our abuses in this kind cry unto him for help, who gives them thereupon, as he did to the wronged Church, [Revelation 12:14] the wings of an eagle: after which, one lust calls upon another, as they once did upon their fellow soldiers, "Now Moab to the spoil," till the heart be filled with as many corruptions as Solomon had concubines.


Verse 4

Ecclesiastes 2:4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:

Ver. 4. I made me great works.] I took not pleasure in trifles, as Domitian did, in catching and killing flies with his penknife; or as Artaxerxes did, in making hafts for knives; or as Solyman the great Turk did, in making notches of horn for bows; but I built stately houses, planted pleasant vineyards, &c. A godly man may be busied in mean, low things; but he is not satisfied in them as adequate objects: he trades for better commodities, and cannot rest without them.

I builded me houses.] Curious and spacious, such as is the Turk’s seraglio or palace, said to be more than two miles in compass. William Rufus built Westminster hall, and when it was done, found much fault with it for being built too little, saying, It was fitter for a chamber than for a hall for a king of England, and took a plot of land for one far more spacious to be added unto it. (a)

I planted me vineyards.] That no pleasant thing might be wanting to me. To plant a vineyard is a matter of much cost and care; but it soon quits cost by bearing (1.) Plenty of fruit in clusters and bunches, many grapes together; (2.) By bearing pleasant fruit, no fruit being more delectable to the taste than is the grape, nor more comfortable to the heart than is the wine made of the grape. [ 9:13] Solomon had one gallant vineyard at Baalhamon that yielded him great profit. [Song of Solomon 8:1]


Verse 5

Ecclesiastes 2:5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all [kind of] fruits:

Ver. 5. I made me gardens.] So called, because guarded and enclosed with a wall, [Song of Solomon 4:12] like as we call garments quasi guardments, in an active acception of the word, because they guard our bodies from the injury of wind and weather. The Hebrew word גן, Gan, comes likewise from a word that signifieth to protect or guard; and there are those who give this for a reason why the Lord forbade the Jews to keep swine, because they are such enemies to gardens, whereof that country is very full.

And orchards.] Heb., Paradises; famous for curious variety and excellence of all sorts of trees and foreign fruits, resembling even the garden of God for amenity and delight. And herein perhaps he gratified Pharaoh’s daughter - the Egyptians took great pleasure in gardens - like as that king of Assyria did his wife horto pensili, with a garden that hung in the air, to his incredible cost. (a)


Verse 6

Ecclesiastes 2:6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

Ver. 6. To water therewith the wood,] i.e., The gardens or hort yards, that were as large as little woods. Christ’s garden in the Canticles, as it hath a wall, [Song of Solomon 4:15] so a well to water it, and make it fruitful.


Verse 7

Ecclesiastes 2:7 I got [me] servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:

Ver. 7. I got me servants, &c.] Too many by one, viz., Jeroboam, who rent ten tribes from his son. It is well observed by an interpreter, that Solomon, among all his delights, got him not a fool or jester, which some princes cannot be without, no, not when they should be most serious. It is recorded of Henry III, king of France, that in a solemn procession at Paris, he could not be without his jester, who, walking between the king and the cardinal, made mirth to them both. (a) There was sweet devotion the while.

I had great possessions of great and small cattle.] Mηλα, (b) pecudes, et postea synechdochicos, opes significant: sic pecunia a pecude. So chesita signifies in Hebrew both money and a lamb.


Verse 8

Ecclesiastes 2:8 I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, [as] musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

Ver. 8. I gathered me also silver and gold.] Gold of Ophir, now called Peru, where the Spaniards are said to meet with more gold ore than earth; besides his great gifts from other princes, as Hiram, [the] queen of Sheba, &c., his royal revenue, his tributes from foreign nations subdued by his father David, to a very great value. Sextus IV was wont to say, that a pope could never want money while he could hold a pen in his hand. His predecessor, John XXII, left in his treasury to his heirs two hundred and fifty tons of gold. (a) Boniface VIII being plundered by the French, was found to have more wealth, saith mine author, (b) than all the kings of the earth could have raised by one year’s revenue. It should seem, by the people’s complaint after Solomon’s death, [1 Kings 12:4] that he lay over heavy upon them by his exactors and gold gatherers, which caused the revolt of the ten tribes. One act of injustice oft loseth much that was justly gotten. Chedorlaomer and his fellow kings were deprived of the whole victory, because they spared not a man whom they should have spared. Ill-gotten gold hath a poisonful operation, and will bring up the good food, together with ill humours. [Job 20:15]

And the delights of the sons of men.] These drew out his spirits and dissolved him, and brought him to so low an ebb in grace; his wealth did him far more hurt than his wisdom did him good. It is as hard to bear prosperity as to drink much wine and not be giddy. It is also dangerous to take pleasure in pleasure, to spend too much time in it; as Solomon, for seven years spent in building God’s house, spent thirteen in his own. Lovers of pleasures, φιληδονοι, are set as last and worst in that catalogue of wickedness in the last days. [2 Timothy 3:4]


Verse 9

Ecclesiastes 2:9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

Ver. 9. Also my wisdom remained with me.] Outward things are dead things, and cannot touch the soul, a lively spirit, unless by way of taint. Solomon, if not at first, yet at length, was fearfully tainted by them, making good that of the poet -

“Stultitiam patiuntur opes …

Ardua res haec est, opibus non tradere mores,

Et cum tot Croesos viceris, esse Numam.”

- Martial.


Verse 10

Ecclesiastes 2:10 And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

Ver. 10. And whatsoever mine eyes desired, &c.] I fed them with pleasant pictures, shows, sights, and other objects of delight, which yet have plus deceptionis quam delectationis, (a) able to entice and ready to kill the entangled. How many are there that have died of the wound in the eye; David, knowing the danger, prayeth, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding of vanity." [Psalms 119:37] Job steps one degree further, from a prayer to a vow, [Job 31:1] yea, from a vow to an imprecation. [Ecclesiastes 2:7] If our first parents fell by following the sight of their eyes and lust of their hearts, what can Solomon or any of us promise of ourselves, qui animas etiam incarnavimus, who have made our very spirit a lump of flesh, prone to entertain vice, yea, to solicit it?

For my heart rejoiced in all my labour.] This is not every worldling’s happiness. For some live not to enjoy what they have raked together, as that rich fool in the gospel; others live indeed, but live beside what they have gotten, as not daring to diminish ought, but defrauding their own genius, and denying themselves necessaries. So did not Solomon, and yet he found not the good he sought for either, as he tells us in the next words. Nor is it want of variety in these pleasures, but inward weakness, an emptiness and insufficiency in the creature. In heaven the objects of our delight and blessedness shall be, though uniform, yet everlastingly pleasing.


Verse 11

Ecclesiastes 2:11 Then 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 vexation of spirit, and [there was] no profit under the sun.

Ver. 11. Then I looked on all the works.] A necessary and profitable practice, well worthy our imitation - viz., to recognise and review what we have done, and to how little purpose we have "wearied ourselves in the multitude of our counsels." [Isaiah 47:13] "God looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not, he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light." [Job 33:27-28] Cicero (a) could tell Nevius, that if he had but well weighed with himself those two words, Quid ago? What do I? his lust and luxury would have been cooled and qualified.

And behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit] In the very pursuit of them is much anguish, many grievances, fears, jealousies, disgraces, interruptions, discontentments. Next, it is seldom seen that God allows to the greatest darlings of the world a perfect contentment. Something they must have to complain of, that shall give an unsavoury verdure to their sweetest morsels, and make their very felicity miserable. "Yet all this avails me nothing so long as I see Mordecai," saith Haman the king’s minion. Lastly, after the unsanctified enjoyment follows the sting of conscience, that will inexpressibly vex and torture the soul throughout all eternity.

And there was no profit under the sun.] Nulla emolumenta laborum, nothing but labour for travail, no contentation but desperation, no satisfaction but endless vexation; as children tire themselves to catch a butterfly, which when they have caught profits them nothing, only fouls their fingers. Or rather as the dropsical body, by striving to quench thirst by drinking, doth but increase the disease, and in the end destroy itself.


Verse 12

Ecclesiastes 2:12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what [can] the man [do] that cometh after the king? [even] that which hath been already done.

Ver. 12. For what can the man do that cometh after the king?] - q.d., Who is it that can outdo me in this review and discovery? Neither is this a vainglorious vaunting of his own virtues, but an occupation or prevention of an objection: thus,

Objection. It may be thou hast not perfectly known the difference of things, and so hast not rightly determined.

Solution. To this he answers, that he hath to quit himself in searching and trying the truth in these points, that it is not for any other to go beyond him. And having removed this rub, having carried this dead Amasa out of the way, that might have hindered his hearers’ march, he proceeds in his discourse.


Verse 13

Ecclesiastes 2:13 Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

Ver. 13. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly,] i.e., Philosophy and human wisdom, though it cannot perfect the mind, nor make a man happy, yet it is as far beyond sensuality and brutishness as light is beyond darkness. Those that seek for the philosopher’s stone, though they miss their end, yet they find many excellent things by the way. So philosophers, politicians, moralists, though they missed the "pearl of price," yet they sought out other "goodly pearls" (with that wise merchant, Matthew 13:45), for the which they have their just praise and profit:


Verse 14

Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise man’s eyes [are] in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

Ver. 14. The wise man’s eyes are in his head.] He judiciously pondereth things past, and prudently ordereth things present, and providently foreseeth to prevent dangers likely to ensue. (a) The Chinese use to say of themselves, that all other nations of the world see but with one eye, they only with two. (b) Italians tell us, that, whereas Spaniards seem wise and are fools, Frenchmen seem fools and are wise, Portuguese neither are wise nor so much as seem to be so, they themselves both seem wise, and are so. (c) This I could sooner believe if from a better mouth than their own. Romani, sicut non acumina, ita non imposturas habent, saith Bellarmine; The Romans (those wittiest of the Italians) are neither very subtle nor very simple.

But the fool walketh in darkness.] He hath neither sight nor light, but is acted and agitated by the prince of darkness, who holds his black hand before the eye of such men’s minds and blinds their understandings - dealing with them as Pliny saith the eagle deals with the hart; she lights upon his horns, and there flutters up and down, filling his eyes with dust borne in her feathers, that at last he may cast himself from a rock, and so be made a prey unto her.

One event happeneth to them all.] As did to Josiah and Ahab in the manner of both their dying in battle. They may be all wrapped up together in a common calamity, and sapientes sapienter in gehennam descendant, (d) the world’s great wise men go very wisely down to hell; there, for want of saving grace, fools and wiser men meet at one and the same inn, though by several ways, at one and the same haven, though from several coasts.


Verse 15

Ecclesiastes 2:15 Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also [is] vanity.

Ver 15. As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth.] It is with men as with counters, though in the account one stand for a penny, another for a pound, yet in the bag there is no difference; so here in the event all our wisdom is soon refuted with one black Theta, which understanding us not, snappeth us unrespectively without distinction, and putteth at once a period to our reading and to our being.

And why was I then more wise?] This is a piece of peevishness, a childish folly we are all prone to - viz., to repent us of our best pains if not presently paid for it; so short spirited are we, that unless we may sow and reap all in a day, unless all things may go with us as well as we could wish, we repent us of our repentance with David, [Psalms 73:13] hit God in the teeth with our obedience, as those hypocrites in Isaiah 58:2-3, and as that elder brother in the parable, that told his father he had never been worth a kid to him for all his good service. But, what! is God like to break or to die in our debts that we are so hasty with him? This was good Baruch’s fault, and he is soundly chidden for it. [Jeremiah 45:1-5; Jeremiah 36:32] Good men oft find it more easy to bear evil than to wait till the promised good be enjoyed. It was so with those Christian Hebrews, [Hebrews 10:34; Hebrews 10:36] whom therefore the apostle there tells they had need of patience, υπομονη, or tarriance, to tarry God’s time. It needs not repent the wise of this world, much less the children of light, of any good they have done or gotten, however it prove with them, since some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, as beams and influences issue from the sun. And this is so true, that very heathens, upon the discharge of a good conscience, have found comfort and peace answerable.


Verse 16

Ecclesiastes 2:16 For [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 how dieth the wise [man]? as the fool.

Ver. 16. For there is no remembrance of the wise.] viz., Unless he be also wise to salvation, for then he shall be had in everlasting remembrance. Or otherwise, either he shall be utterly forgotten, as being not written among the living in Jerusalem, [Isaiah 4:3] or else he shall not have the happiness to be forgotten in the city where he had so done; [Ecclesiastes 8:10] I mean, where he had been either a dogmatic, or at least a practical atheist, as the very best of the philosophers were, [Romans 1:18-31 1 Corinthians 1:17-31] the choicest and the most picked men among them. [1 Corinthians 3:21]

And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 2:14"} {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 2:15"} Wise men die as well as fools, [Psalms 49:10] good men die as well as bad, [Ezekiel 21:4] yet with this difference, that "the righteous hath hope in his death," which to him is neither total, but of the body only; nor perpetual, but for a time only, till the day of refreshing. See both these, Romans 8:10-11.


Verse 17

Ecclesiastes 2:17 Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun [is] grievous unto me: for all [is] vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ver. 17. Therefore I hated life,] i.e., I less loved it than I had done; I saw mortality to be a mercy, with Cato; I was neither fond of life, nor afraid of death, with Queen Elizabeth. I preferred my coffin before my cradle, my burial day before my birthday (a) [Ecclesiastes 7:1] A greater than Solomon threatens those that love life with the loss of life, [Luke 17:33] and hath purposely set a particular vanity and vexation upon every day of our life, that we may not dote upon it, since "we die daily." "Sufficient to the day is the evil (that is, the misery) thereof." Quicquid boni est in mundo, saith Augustine; what good thing soever we have here, is either past, present, or to come. If past, it is nothing; if to come, it is uncertain; if present, yet it is insufficient, unsatisfactory. So that, while I call to mind things past, said that incomparable Queen Elizabeth, behold things present, and expect things to come, I hold them happiest that go hence soonest, (b)


Verse 18

Ecclesiastes 2:18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

Ver. 18. Yea, I hated all my labour,] i.e., I was sorry to think that I had been so eager and earnest in getting a great estate, which now I must leave, and to whom I know not; sure I am to those that never took any pains for it. And herein we see the corruption of our nature discover itself, in that we are so wedded to the things of this world - especially if gotten by our own art and industry - that we think much to be divorced from them by death, and to leave them to others, when ourselves can enjoy them no longer. Henry Beaufort, that rich and wretched cardinal, bishop of Winchester, and chancellor of England, in the reign of Henry VI, when he perceived that he must die, and that there was no remedy, murmured at death, that his riches could not reprieve him till a further time. For he asked, ‘Why should I die, being so rich? If the whole realm would save my life, I am able either by policy to get it, or by riches to buy it. Fie, quoth he, will not death be hired? will money do nothing?’ (a)

Latimer, in a sermon before King Edward VI, tells a story of a rich man, that when he lay upon his sick bed, there came one to him and told him that certainly, by all reason they can judge by, he was like to be a man for another world, a dead man. As soon as ever he hears but these words, saith Latimer; What! must I die? said he. Send for a physician; wounds, sides, heart, must I die? wounds, sides, heart, must I die? and thus he goes on, and there could be nothing got from him, but Wounds, sides, heart, must I die? Must I die and go from these? Here was all, here is the end of a man that made his portion to be in this world. If this man’s heart had been ripped up after he was dead, there might have been found written in it, ‘The god of this present world.’

Mr Jeremy Burroughs relates in print (b) of another rich man, that had sometime lived near unto him, who, when he heard his sickness was deadly, sent for his bags of money, and hugged them in his arms, saying, Oh! must I leave you? Oh! must I leave you? And of another, who, when he lay upon his sick bed, called for his bags, and laid a bag of gold to his heart, and then bade them take it away, It will not do, it will not do.

Mr Rogers in his "Treatise of Love," tells of one that, being near death, clapped a twenty shillings piece of gold into his own mouth, saying, Some wiser than some, I will take this with me howsoever.


Verse 19

Ecclesiastes 2:19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise [man] or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This [is] also vanity.

Ver. 19. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man.] A friend or an enemy, an acquaintance or a mere stranger; riches oft change masters. How many by a just hand of God die childless! or else leave what they have to spendthrifts, that will spend it as merrily as ever their parents got it miserably! scatter with a fork, as it were, what they have wretchedly raked together. Our Henry II, some few hours before he died, saw a list of their names who conspired with the King of France, and Earl Richard, his son and successor, against him; and finding therein his son John - whom he had made Earl of Cornwall, Somerset, Nottingham, Derby, and Lancaster, and given him a vast estate - to be the first, he fell into a grievous passion, both cursing his sons, and the day wherein himself was born and in that distemperature departed the world, which so often himself had distempered. (a)


Verse 20

Ecclesiastes 2:20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

Ver. 20. Therefore I went about to cause my heart, &c., ] i.e., I set myself to take off the edge of my affections from these outward comforts that are so uncertain, and so unsatisfactory, and to take another course for the attaining of true happiness. The Hebrew word (a) signifies, I set a compass, I turned round, or I turned short again upon myself, by a reflex action of my mind, as Ephraim did, [Jeremiah 31:19-20] as the prodigal did when he "came to himself," who before had been beside himself in the point of salvation, and as Solomon elsewhere prays, that the captive people may bethink themselves, or, as the Hebrew hath it, "bring back to their heart," [1 Kings 8:47] "return and discern between the righteous and the wicked." [Malachi 3:18] Thus David examined his ways, and finding all to be naught and stark naught - contrary to that of God, who, reviewing His works, found all good and very good - he bethought himself of a better course, he "turned his feet to God’s testimonies." [Psalms 119:59] "Set not thy heart upon the asses," said the prophet to Saul, forasmuch as better things abide thee "the desire of all Israel is to thee."


Verse 21

Ecclesiastes 2:21 For there 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 it [for] his portion. This also [is] vanity and a great evil.

Ver. 21. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom.] This seemed to Solomon - whose own case it was like to be - so unworthy a thing, and such a vexation of spirit, that he can never say enough of it; but could find in his heart to cry out with the poet, Tρις κακοδαιμων και τετρακις και πεντακις και δωδεκακις και μυριακις, I am thrice miserable, nay, ten times, nay, a hundred, nay, a thousand times so, that am born to be a provident and a perfect drudge of an idle drone, or perhaps of a mere stranger.

This is also vanity and a great evil.] Not privation of good only, a nothing; but a position of evil, a sad thing; an inconvenience not to be avoided by the most circumspect prudence; for it is written, He taketh (a) the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts (b) of the wise, their inward disceptations, their debating the matter with themselves, that they are vain. [1 Corinthians 3:19-20] The rich fool talked to himself, (c) as fools used to do, and set down how everything should be; [Luke 12:17] but it proved somewhat otherwise ere he was a day older.


Verse 22

Ecclesiastes 2:22 For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

Ver. 22. For what hath a man of all his labour.] What makes he of it, everything reckoned? See Ecclesiastes 1:3. What takes he with him when he dies, more than a poor winding sheet? As that great Emperor of Egypt caused to be proclaimed at his funeral, that that shirt of his, there hanged up for the purpose, was all that he now had of all his labour and great achievements. Saladin the mighty monarch of the East is gone, and hath taken no more with him than what you see, said the bare priest that went before the bier. (a) {See Trapp on "1 Timothy 6:7"}


Verse 23

Ecclesiastes 2:23 For all his days [are] sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

Ver. 23. For all his days are sorrows, &c.] All the days of the afflicted are evil, [Proverbs 15:15] and every day hath a sufficient evil laid upon it by God. [Matthew 6:34] "Few and evil" were the days of Jacob’s pilgrimage. [Genesis 47:9] God gave him not a draught only of the cup of affliction, but made him a diet drink. "Man is born to trouble," saith Eliphaz, [Job 5:7] "as the sparks fly upward." Man and miserable are in a manner terms convertible. He that remembers that himself is a man, will not think much of any sorrow betides him, saith the heathen orator. (a) For,

Si nisi res cuius nulla est contraria votis

Vivere nemo potest, vivere nemo potest. ”

Yea, his heart taketh no rest in the night.] As a clock can never stand still so long as the plummets hang thereat, so neither can a worldling’s heart for cares and anxieties. These gnats will not suffer him to sleep; these flies of Egypt are continually stinging him, Nocte ac die non dabunt requiem, as those tyrants. [Jeremiah 16:13] Night and day he is disquieted with them; he lies upon a pillow stuffed with thorns. Not so the godly man; he contracts his cares into a narrow compass, communes with his own heart upon his bed, and having made all even with God, sleeps undisturbed. [Psalms 3:5; Psalms 4:8] Jacob rests sweetly when his head lay upon a hard stone at Bethel. Ahasuerus cannot rest, though upon a bed of down, but calls for the chronicles. It was wisely done of Burleigh, Lord Treasurer, to put off his cares together with his clothes; when he laid by his gown he would commonly say, Lie there Lord Treasurer, and so quietly compose himself to take his sleep. (b) "In nothing be careful," saith the apostle, "but let the peace of God guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 4:6-7]


Verse 24

Ecclesiastes 2:24 [There is] nothing better for a man, [than] that he should eat and drink, and [that] he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it [was] from the hand of God.

Ver. 24. There is nothing better for a man, &c.] This may seem to savour of epicurism, as may also some following passages of this book. For which cause some of the old Jewish doctors were once in a mind to hide this whole book out of the way, and not allow the common sort to see it any more. But this they needed never to have done, for the Preacher expressly calls carnal mirth "madness" in this very chapter, and shows that the happiness of a man stands in fearing God and keeping his commandments; [Ecclesiastes 12:13-14] all which is point blank against atheism and epicurism. And whereas here and elsewhere the liberal use of the creatures is commended and commanded; this is done in opposition to, and detestation of, such parsimonious penny fathers as deny themselves that necessary and honest affluence that God hath permitted and afforded them; living sordidly, that they may grow rich suddenly, although they know not how soon they may leave all, nor yet to whom.

This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.] It is he that "fills our hearts, as with food, so with gladness." [Acts 14:17] He can curse our blessings, make our table a snare, sauce that we eat, spice that we drink, with his fierce wrath, as he did the quails to those Israelites. He can dissweeten our delicates either with sickness, [Job 33:20] or sorrow, [Psalms 107:17-18] or sudden terror. [1 Samuel 30:16-17 1 Kings 1:41] Adoniah’s feast ended in horror; astonishment was served up for their last dish. Let God, therefore, be sought for a comfortable use of the creature, and then be merry at thy meat, and put sorrow from thy heart. [Ecclesiastes 9:7] "Eat the fat, and drink the sweet, &c., for the joy of the Lord is your strength." [Nehemiah 8:10]


Verse 25

Ecclesiastes 2:25 For who can eat, or who else can hasten [hereunto], more than I?

Ver. 25. For who can eat, or who can hasten? &c.] And yet I have found - and so shall you - that tranquillity and true happiness, the kingdom of God, doth not consist in meats and drinks. A Turk may believe sensualities in his fool’s paradise, but no servant of God is a slave to his palate.


Verse 26

Ecclesiastes 2:26 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.

Ver. 26. Wisdom and knowledge.] To get these things rightly, and to use them comfortably.

To gather and to heap up.] Converrere et congerrere, to rake and scrape together - the muckworm’s occupation.

That he may give.] As he did the Egyptians’ goods to Israel, Nabal’s to David, Haman’s to Mordecai.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-2.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 26th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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