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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ecclesiastes 5

 

 


Verses 1-7

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. Reality in Religion.—This section deals with worship and vows. Those who go to the house of God (whether Temple or synagogue is not clear) must go reverently and thoughtfully. "Keep thy foot" recalls the Oriental practice of removing one's shoes in sacred places (Exodus 3:5). The great requirement in religion is not the ritual sacrifice but the spirit of discipleship and obedience (1 Samuel 15:22 and the prophets passim). Read, with a slight change, "for they know nothing except how to do evil."

Ecclesiastes 5:2 may refer to prayer (cf. Matthew 6:7) or to vows (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:4). The remoteness of God was a feature of late Jewish thought; the gap had to be filled by angels (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:6) and by abstractions like the Wisdom, the Word, the Glory, and the Spirit of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:3 is a gloss which breaks the line of thought. It seems to mean that as a worried mind leads to dreams, so the fool's much speaking leads to nothing substantial; or "a multitude of business" may refer to the confused complexity of a dream.—With Ecclesiastes 5:4 f. cf. Deuteronomy 23:21 ff. The Talmudic tract Nedarim shows that evasions of hasty vows were frequent in late Judaism. The classic example of a rash vow in OT is Jephthah (Judges 11). Read, "there is no delight in fools"; it is fools who make hasty vows. Such vows lead one's whole being into sin, the lips involve the entire body (Ecclesiastes 5:6). "Angel" may be a synonym for God (cf. LXX), or for the priest (Malachi 2:7) or other Temple official who recorded vows. On vows see p. 105. In Ecclesiastes 5:7 read mg., or, with slight change, "in a multitude of dreams and words are many vanities." It is an interpolation like Ecclesiastes 5:3, and perhaps originally a marginal variant of it.


Verses 8-20

Ecclesiastes 5:8-20. Concerning Despotism and Wealth.

Ecclesiastes 5:8 f. The oppression and injustice that one sees (in an Oriental satrapy) are not to be wondered at when we remember the graded hierarchy of officials who are all eager simply to enrich themselves. There is no reference to God; read, "One high official is watching over another, and there are higher ones (perhaps the king) over them." Yet on the whole a king, especially if he take an interest in agriculture, is an advantage to a country. So we may interpret the extremely difficult Ecclesiastes 5:9 (cf. mg.).

Ecclesiastes 5:10 ff. The avaricious man is always poor; though his wealth increases he lacks satisfaction, enlarged income means enlarged expense, any gain that he has is outward and therefore unreal. And with wealth comes worry and sleeplessness, from which the humble toiler is free. Not only so, but disaster may overtake the wealth won at the cost of health and comfort; some unlucky adventure, e.g. a shipwreck or a marauding raid, may render him and the son for whom he has been saving, penniless.—With Ecclesiastes 5:15 cf. Job 1:21, 1 Timothy 6:7. All the rich man's toil has yielded nothing more than wind (cf. Proverbs 11:29, Isaiah 26:18).

Ecclesiastes 5:17 may refer to the days succeeding the calamity or to the inner meaning of the days preceding it.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. It is far better to enjoy life as one goes along (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:24, Ecclesiastes 9:7), getting the best out of each day, than to be miserly. After all, it is God that "giveth us all things richly to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17), and if God thus "occupies a man with the joy of his heart" (so read Ecclesiastes 5:20 b), he will not brood over the swiftness of his passing days.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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