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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 5:4

When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow!
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Vows;   Thompson Chain Reference - Covenants and Vows;   Vows;   The Topic Concordance - Foolishness;   Swearing/vowing;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fools;   Procrastination;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Vow;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Word;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Man;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jephthah;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, Book of;   Israel, History of;   Oaths;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ecclesiastes;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Temple (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Vows;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;   Pleasure;   Vow;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ḳorban;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 13;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Ecclesiastes 5:4. When thou vowest a vow — When in distress and difficulty, men are apt to promise much to God if he will relieve them; but generally forget the vow when the distress or trouble is gone by.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


5:1-10:20 MAKE THE MOST OF LIFE’S FRUSTRATIONS

Advice about religion (5:1-7)

Among the many affairs of everyday life that the writer deals with is the matter of religious practices. First he warns that the offering of sacrifices is useless if the worshippers have no desire to listen to God’s word or obey it (5:1). Those thinking of making vows must consider their vows carefully before telling them to God. Too many words may lead to foolish vows, just as too much work can produce bad dreams (2-3).
People are not forced to make vows, but having made them they must do as they have promised. If they break their vows, it is useless to make excuses to the temple officials. That will not help the offenders escape the chastisement of God (4-6). Therefore, the writer reminds his readers again to avoid silly thoughts and foolish speech, and above all to fear God (7).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2005.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 5

Keep your foot when you go to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they do not consider the evil that they do ( Ecclesiastes 5:1 ).

When you go into the house of God, listen. Be more ready to hear.

Don't be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and you are upon the earth: therefore let your words be few ( Ecclesiastes 5:2 ).

And now he's talking about going in the house of God and making all kinds of promises and vows to God. "Oh, God, I'm going to serve You. Oh, God, I'm going to put you first in my life. Oh, God," and making all these promises. He said, "Keep your mouth shut. Don't do a lot of talking. Listen. For God is there. He's in heaven. He hears what you're saying. So don't be hasty to utter anything."

For a dream comes through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by the multitude of his words. Now when you vow a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay what you have vowed. It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay. Don't allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin ( Ecclesiastes 5:3-6 );

All of the broken promises that we have made to God because we didn't have enough sense to just listen and keep our mouth shut when we came into the house of God. And so we make these rash promises. These vows before the Lord. And then we break them. Better not to vow. You see, the vow always makes me feel better. Because I get sort of satisfied, I promised God I'm going to give Him everything, you know. All I have belongs to God. God, you can have it all. And I feel relieved of my guilt of amassing things, because after all, it all belongs to God. I gave it to Him. Now He never has a chance to use it. But when I die, who is it going to go to? "Suffer not your mouth to cause your flesh to sin."

neither say you before the angel, that it was an error ( Ecclesiastes 5:6 ):

Oh, I didn't really mean that.

wherefore why should God become angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and in many words there is also divers vanities: but reverence God ( Ecclesiastes 5:6-7 ).

Respect Him.

For if you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of judgment and the justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regards; and there be higher than they ( Ecclesiastes 5:8 ).

God is higher than man. If you see these things, just know that there is one who is higher.

Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: and the king himself is served by the field. Now he that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this also is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 5:9-10 ).

Jesus said a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesses. If you love silver, you'll never be satisfied. If you love abundance, you'll never be satisfied by the abundance.

When goods increase, they are increased that eat them ( Ecclesiastes 5:11 ):

So Solomon had more goods, but he had more people eating them.

and what good is it to the owners thereof, except that you get to watch them eat? ( Ecclesiastes 5:11 )

I mean, I've got all of these goods, but it takes so many servants to keep all of these cattle. Takes so many shepherds to watch over all these. I got to feed them all. So I've got all these, but what good is it? You get to watch everybody eat it up, you know. All my wives and all my kids sitting there eating, and all the servants, all eating, so. So you have a lot, so what? You know. What good is it to you? You can only eat so much. You can only sleep in one bed. I mean, you know, you can only take care of your own needs, and after that, whatever you have, you just watch others eat it up.

The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of the rich won't allow him to sleep ( Ecclesiastes 5:12 ).

The guy is out there laboring hard, he really sleeps sound. But yet this guy has so many riches he's lying there in the pillow, "Now tomorrow I better take the stock out of that one, looks like it's going down. Better invest in this, oh, I wonder, would that be wise?" And all night long he's mulling over what he's going to be doing tomorrow to get more riches. And the abundance of his possessions won't allow him to sleep. He lies there pounding the pillow all night. Figuring out. So how sweet is the sleep of the laboring man.

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, there is nothing in his hand. And as he came forth out of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, he shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand ( Ecclesiastes 5:13-15 ).

Man, when you die, you're not going to take anything with you. You're going to leave it all.

And this also is a sore evil, in all the points as he came, so he's going to go: so what profit has he of all that which he labored for to the wind? For all of the days he eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and wrath in his sickness. Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all of his labor that he has taken under the sun all of the days of his life, which God gives him: for it is his portion ( Ecclesiastes 5:16-18 ).

In other words, enjoy it now, because, man, that's your portion. That's it. Now, how different this is than what Jesus said concerning our riches. He said, "Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and decay, thieves break through and steal. Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven" ( Matthew 6:19-20 ). There is a way by which you can transfer your treasures into eternal treasures. And Jesus encourages us towards that. You can exchange your currency for that which is current in heaven.

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answers him in the joy of his heart ( Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 ). "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The effect of rash vows 5:1-7

An interlude of proverbs follows the personal section just concluded.

"The sacrifice of fools" in view (Ecclesiastes 5:1) is a rash vow, as is clear from what follows. Ecclesiastes 5:3 seems to compare the verbosity of a fool in making a rash vow to God and the endless dreams one often experiences after a very busy day. Much work generates many dreams, and a fool utters too many words. [Note: Kaiser, Ecclesiastes . . ., p. 75.] If a person makes a rash promise to God and then does not keep it, God may destroy the work of his hands (Ecclesiastes 5:6). Pleading with the priest ("the messenger of God," Ecclesiastes 5:6) that the vow was a mistake would not excuse the vow-maker (cf. Deuteronomy 23:21-23).

"Our promise may involve giving to some special work of God or pledging prayer and other support for a missionary. When the representative of the work looks for the fulfillment of our promise, we must not draw back and make an excuse about not having understood what we were required to do." [Note: J. S. Wright, "Ecclesiastes," p. 1168.]

Ecclesiastes 5:7 uses dreams to illustrate what is ephemeral. "Fear God" (Ecclesiastes 5:7) also occurs in Ecclesiastes 3:14; Ecclesiastes 7:18; Ecclesiastes 8:12-13; and Ecclesiastes 12:13.

". . . we should try to put ourselves in a position to discover God’s way to use what he has given us in our daily life." [Note: Ibid.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-5.html. 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

When thou vowest a vow unto God,.... Or "if thou vowest" r, as the Vulgate Latin version; for vows are free and indifferent things, which persons may make or not; there is no precept for them in the word of God; instances and examples there are, and they may be lawfully made, when they are in the power of man to perform, and are not inconsistent with the will and word of God; they have been made by good men, and were frequent in former times; but they seem not so agreeable to the Gospel dispensation, having a tendency to ensnare the mind, to entangle men, and bring on them a spirit of bondage, contrary to that liberty wherewith Christ has made them free; and therefore it is better to abstain from them: holy resolutions to do the will and work of God should be taken up in the strength of divine grace; but to vow this, or that, or the other thing, which a man previous to his vow is not obliged unto, had better be let alone: but however, when a vow is made that is lawful to be done,

defer not to pay it; that is, to God, to whom it is made, who expects it, and that speedily, as Hannah paid hers; no excuses nor delays should be made;

for [he hath] no pleasure in fools; that is, the Lord hath no pleasure in them, he will not be mocked by them; he will resent such treatment of him, as to vow and not pay, or defer payment and daily, with him. So the Targum,

"for the Lord hath no pleasure in fools, because, they defer their vows, and do not pay;''

pay that which thou hast vowed; precisely and punctually; both as to the matter, manner, and time of it.

r כאשר תדר "si quid vovisti", V. L.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Obligation of a Vow.

      4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.   5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.   6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?   7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.   8 If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

      Four things we are exhorted to in these verses:--

      I. To be conscientious in paying our vows.

      1. A vow is a bond upon the soul (Numbers 30:2), by which we solemnly oblige ourselves, not only, in general, to do that which we are already bound to do, but, in some particular instances, to do that to do which we were not under any antecedent obligation, whether it respects honouring God or serving the interests of his kingdom among men. When, under the sense of some affliction (Psalms 66:14), or in the pursuit of some mercy (1 Samuel 1:11), thou hast vowed such a vow as this unto God, know that thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord and thou canst not go back; therefore, (1.) Pay it; perform what thou hast promised; bring to God what thou hast dedicated and devoted to him: Pay that which thou hast vowed; pay it in full and keep not back any part of the price; pay it in kind, do not alter it or change it, so the law was, Leviticus 27:10. Have we vowed to give our own selves unto the Lord? Let us then be as good as our word, act in his service, to his glory, and not sacrilegiously alienate ourselves. (2.) Defer not to pay it. If it be in the power of thy hands to pay it to-day, leave it not till to-morrow; do not beg a day, nor put it off to a more convenient season. By delay the sense of the obligation slackens and cools, and is in danger of wearing off; we thereby discover a loathness and backwardness to perform our vow; and qui non est hodie cras minus aptus erit--he who is not inclined to-day will be averse to-morrow. The longer it is put off the more difficult it will be to bring ourselves to it; death may not only prevent the payment, but fetch thee to judgment, under the guilt of a broken vow, Psalms 76:11.

      2. Two reasons are here given why we should speedily and cheerfully pay our vows:-- (1.) Because otherwise we affront God; we play the fool with him, as if we designed to put a trick upon him; and God has no pleasure in fools. More is implied than is expressed; the meaning is, He greatly abhors such fools and such foolish dealings. Has he need of fools? No; Be not deceived, God is not mocked, but will surely and severely reckon with those that thus play fast and loose with him. (2.) Because otherwise we wrong ourselves, we lose the benefit of the making of the vow, nay, we incur the penalty for the breach of it; so that it would have been better a great deal not to have vowed, more safe and more to our advantage, than to vow and not to pay. Not to have vowed would have been but an omission, but to vow and not pay incurs the guilt of treachery and perjury; it is lying to God,Acts 5:4.

      II. To be cautious in making our vows. This is necessary in order to our being conscientious in performing them, Ecclesiastes 5:6; Ecclesiastes 5:6. 1. We must take heed that we never vow anything that is sinful, or that may be an occasion of sin, for such a vow is ill-made and must be broken. Suffer not thy mouth, by such a vow, to cause thy flesh to sin, as Herod's rash promise caused him to cut off the head of John the Baptist. 2. We must not vow that which, through the frailty of the flesh, we have reason to fear we shall not be able to perform, as those that vow a single life and yet know not how to keep their vow. Hereby, (1.) They shame themselves; for they are forced to say before the angel, It was an error, that either they did not mean or did not consider what they said; and, take it which way you will, it is bad enough. "When thou hast made a vow, do not seek to evade it, nor find excuses to get clear of the obligation of it; say not before the priest, who is called the angel or messenger of the Lord of hosts, that, upon second thoughts, thou hast changed thy mind, and desirest to be absolved from the obligation of thy vow; but stick to it, and do not seek a hole to creep out at." Some by the angel understand the guardian angel which they suppose to attend every man and to inspect what he does. Others understand it of Christ, the Angel of the covenant, who is present with his people in their assemblies, who searches the heart, and cannot be imposed upon; provoke him not, for God's name is in him, and he is represented as strict and jealous, Exodus 23:20; Exodus 23:21. (2.) They expose themselves to the wrath of God, for he is angry at the voice of those that thus lie unto him with their mouth and flatter him with their tongue, and is displeased at their dissimulation, and destroys the works of their hands, that is, blasts their enterprises, and defeats those purposes which, when they made these vows, they were seeking to God for the success of. If we treacherously cancel the words of our mouths, and revoke our vows, God will justly overthrow our projects, and walk contrary, and at all adventures, with those that thus walk contrary, and at all adventures with him. It is a snare to a man, after vows, to make enquiry.

      III. To keep up the fear of God, Ecclesiastes 5:7; Ecclesiastes 5:7. Many, of old, pretended to know the mind of God by dreams, and were so full of them that they almost made God's people forget his name by their dreams (Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:26); and many now perplex themselves with their frightful or odd dreams, or with other people's dreams, as if they foreboded this or the other disaster. Those that heed dreams shall have a multitude of them to fill their heads with; but in them all there are divers vanities, as there are in many words, and the more if we regard them. "They are but like the idle impertinent chat of children and fools, and therefore never heed them; forget them; instead of repeating them lay no stress upon them, draw no disquieting conclusions from them, but fear thou God; have an eye to his sovereign dominion, set him before thee, keep thyself in his love, and be afraid of offending him, and then thou wilt not disturb thyself with foolish dreams." The way not to be dismayed at the signs of heaven, nor afraid of the idols of the heathen, is to fear God as King of nations,Jeremiah 10:2; Jeremiah 10:5; Jeremiah 10:7.

      IV. With that to keep down the fear of man, Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 5:8. "Set God before thee, and then, if thou seest the oppression of the poor, thou wilt not marvel at the matter, nor find fault with divine Providence, nor think the worse of the institution of magistracy, when thou seest the ends of it thus perverted, nor of religion, when thou seest it will not secure men from suffering wrong." Observe here, 1. A melancholy sight on earth, and such as cannot but trouble every good man that has a sense of justice and a concern for mankind, to see the oppression of the poor because they are poor and cannot defend themselves, and the violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, oppression under colour of law and backed with power. The kingdom in general may have a good government, and yet it may so happen that a particular province may be committed to a bad man, by whose mal-administration justice may be perverted; so hard it is for the wisest of kings, in giving preferments, to be sure of their men; they can but redress the grievance when it appears. 2. A comfortable sight in heaven. When things look thus dismal we may satisfy ourselves with this, (1.) That, though oppressors be high, God is above them, and in that very thing wherein they deal proudly,Exodus 18:11. God is higher than the highest of creatures, than the highest of princes, than the king that is higher than Agag (Numbers 24:7), than the highest angels, the thrones and dominions of the upper world. God is the Most High over all the earth, and his glory is above the heavens; before him princes are worms, the brightest but glow-worms. (2.) That, though oppressors be secure, God has his eye upon them, takes notice of, and will reckon for, all their violent perverting of judgment; he regards, not only sees it but observes it, and keeps it on record, to be called over again; his eyes are upon their ways. See Job 23:33. (3.) That there is a world of angels, for there are higher than they, who are employed by the divine justice for protecting the injured and punishing the injurious. Sennacherib valued himself highly upon his potent army, but one angel proved too hard for him and all his forces. Some, by those that are higher than they understand the great council of the nation, the presidents to whom the princes of the provinces are accountable (Daniel 6:2), the senate that receive complaints against the proconsuls, the courts above to which appeals are made from the inferior courts, which are necessary to the good government of a kingdom. Let it be a check to oppressors that perhaps their superiors on earth may call them to an account; however, God the Supreme in heaven will.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1706.