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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Ecclesiastes 6



Verses 1-12

Ecclesiastes 6. Further Reflections on Wealth and Fate.—Parallel with the bitter experience of the avaricious man who loses his wealth is that of the rich and successful man whose cherished desires are unfulfilled. Having no keen satisfaction himself he yet hopes to see his son enjoy his acquisitions, but he is childless, or if he has the blessings of a large family (a "hundred" is just a round number) and a long life—both highly prized by the Jews—the children may disappoint him by their conduct and so fill his soul with sorrow instead of satisfying it with good, and he may even yet undergo the supreme dishonour of lacking interment. Cf. Jezebel (2 Kings 9:35) and Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:19), and many other references both in biblical and classical literature, especially the Greek legend of Antigone. The corpse of Artaxerxes Ochus (p. 79) in the fourth century B.C. is said to have been devoured by cats; he was one of the hundred children of Artaxerxes Mnemon, whose old age was saddened by his sons' evil courses. These cases were probably known to our writer. Better than such an end would it be never to have had a beginning. The premature babe, still-born, comes into a lifeless existence ("vanity"); "its name is covered with darkness," i.e. it has no name (cf. Job 3, Psalms 58:8), and it has no consciousness of joy or sorrow, no sensation of pleasure or pain. A man may live to be twice as old as Methuselah, yet "enjoy no good" (contrast Ecclesiastes 5:18) ever toiling for unreached satisfaction (in Ecclesiastes 6:7 "mouth" and "appetite" are figurative): his goal is the same as that of the abortion, which has the good fortune to reach it both sooner and more easily.—With Ecclesiastes 6:8 a cf. Ecclesiastes 2:14-16.

Ecclesiastes 6:8 b. "What advantage has a poor man, who has got on in life by knowing how to walk prudently and successfully, before his fellow men?" (M‘Neile). Better is the enjoyment of one's possessions ("the light of the eyes") than desire for the unattainable; cf. Ecclesiastes 5:18 f.

Ecclesiastes 6:10-12 speaks of the helplessness of man. The first clause of Ecclesiastes 6:10 may be taken as in text or mg. or as "that which is"; "the name was given long ago" perhaps simply means "is in existence." There is a play on the word man = Adam (mg.). He has no chance against the President of the Immortals.

Ecclesiastes 6:11. things: better "words," a reference to the "contention of Ecclesiastes 6:10, or perhaps to the discussions of different sects as to how far man is the child of circumstances or fate. All are to no purpose. No one really knows what is the summum bonum, life is but an unsubstantial shadow (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:13, 1 Chronicles 29:15, Job 8:9, James 4:14). These verses find apt illustration in Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (xxvii.-xxx, and lvi.; 1st edition, 1859).


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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