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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:1

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun and it is prevalent among men—
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Riches;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Heavy;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 9;  

Clarke's Commentary


The vanity of riches without use, 1, 2.

Of children and of old age without riches and enjoyment, 3-7.

Man does not know what is good for himself, 8-12.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Advice about money (5:8-6:12)

Greed for money is a common social evil and the cause of much suffering. Because of such greed, government officials exploit poor farmers. Each official makes sure he takes as much money as he can, so that after he has passed some of it on to those above him who protect him, he has enough left for himself. As for the farmers, besides losing their profits to corrupt officials, they must also give some of their harvest as a tax to the king (8-9).
Prosperity does not satisfy, because the more people have, the more they want. The rich may lie awake at night worrying about their money, while labourers sleep soundly (10-12). Another frustration for the rich is that they may lose all their money in an unsuccessful business deal. In the end they have nothing to pass on to their children in spite of a lifetime of hard work (13-17). Life is short, and people should use the possessions and the work God has given them to bring themselves enjoyment, not trouble. This is God’s will (18-20).
Two further examples illustrate the deceitfulness of riches. People may have wealth but not be able to enjoy it. Then, when they die, the benefits of their wealth are enjoyed by others, who may not even be relatives (6:1-3). Others may have everything that enables them to enjoy their wealth but they refuse to. They might live to a great age, but die in misery and are forgotten. A baby born dead, never having seen the world’s light, is better off than such people (4-6).
No matter how much people have, they are never satisfied. Why, then, do they waste time and effort trying to improve themselves? They would do better to find enjoyment in what they have than always to want something else (7-9). After all, they cannot change what God has determined. Neither can they argue with God. They do not know what is best for them in this short life, nor do they know what will happen after they die (10-12).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

The terrible pessimism of Ecclesiastes continues in this chapter with the mention of certain misfortunes that befall human beings. The things mentioned here are indeed tragic; but all of them and countless others are the result of our fallen human family's status as servants of Satan rather than servants of God. Solomon himself was part of the problem and no part of the solution. The value of his words lies in the fact that they do indeed carry a valid description of the life on earth by a race of men in rebellion against their Creator. Every man should ponder what is written here, and turn his heart to God who alone has the power to save mankind.


Ecclesiastes 6:1-2

"There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is heavy upon men: a man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he lacketh nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not the power to eat thereof, but an alien eateth it; this is vanity, and it is an evil disease."

"So that he lacketh nothing for his soul" (Ecclesiastes 6:1). There is in this clause a terrible blindness on the part of the author, Solomon. That was his false notion that riches were capable of providing for the soul of a man, "all that he desireth." That was exactly the blindness of the rich man mentioned by Jesus who said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (Luke 12:19). This is always the blindness of men who are, "not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). They think that the true `soul food' is money and riches!

"God giveth him not the power to eat thereof" (Ecclesiastes 6:1). This might have been the result of all kinds of developments. An untimely death from disease, accident, murder, or a hundred other things could have robbed him of his power to enjoy what he had accumulated; but only one of them was mentioned here.

"An alien eateth it" (Ecclesiastes 6:2). How could that have happened? "The alien here could have been an invading army, a thief, or a dishonest business man who defrauded him."[1]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Common among - Rather, great (heavy) upon people.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 6

Now there is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it's common among men: A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wants nothing for his soul of all that he desires ( Ecclesiastes 6:1-2 ),

The guy doesn't want anything for his soul. Everything he desires he has.

yet God gives him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eats it: this is vanity, and an evil disease ( Ecclesiastes 6:2 ).

The guy who has everything but can't partake of it.

If a man begets a hundred children, and he lives many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he has no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he ( Ecclesiastes 6:3 ).

The guy is better off if he was, if he was really aborted, rather than to live and have a hundred children and to live a long life.

For he comes in with vanity, and he departs in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other. Even though he lives to be a thousand years twice [or two thousand years old], yet he has seen no good: do not all go to one place? All of the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet his appetite is not filled ( Ecclesiastes 6:4-7 ).

All you do, all your labor just to feed yourself, but yet you're always hungry. All of the labor of a man for his mouth, yet he's not full.

For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this also though is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which hath been is named already ( Ecclesiastes 6:8-10 ),

Nothing new.

and it is known that it is man: now neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he ( Ecclesiastes 6:10 ).

Yet we find so many men seeking to contend with God. The prophet said, "Woe unto him who strives with his Maker!" ( Isaiah 45:9 ) And yet people are striving with God. Our striving with God usually results from a tragic experience in life where we do not understand why God allowed a certain tragedy or grief to befall our lives. And because I cannot understand why God allowed this to happen, I become bitter against God.

There are a lot of people today who are fighting with God. They're angry with God. They're bitter against God. It's because their lives have not worked out to their desire. It's because God hasn't given to them all that they want or all that they feel. Or that God has allowed something to happen to them which seems to be tragic.

Now somehow I think that God should only allow good things to happen to me. Somehow I feel that God ought to keep me healthy all the time. Never sick. I believe that God ought to make me a very prosperous person. I believe that God ought to make me very beautiful. And if I am flawed in any of these areas, then I blame God. "God, why did You make me so ugly? God, why did You allow this to happen to me? God, why?" And I am blaming God and finding fault with God because He hasn't followed what I feel to be the ideal pattern for my life. So a man contends with God.

But, verse Ecclesiastes 6:12 :

Who really knows what is good for man in this life ( Ecclesiastes 6:12 ),

Who really knows whether it's better that you be rich or poor? You really know what's best for you? Now you think it would be best for you to be rich. But is that so? If you are rich, will that take your heart and mind away from God? Will it cause you to trust in your riches? Will it diminish your trust in Him and your love for Him? Will you be drawn away by the divers lusts that they that are rich fall into? Will your heart be turned from God to your possessions? Who knows? Do you know what riches would do for you? And yet you're striving with God. You're contending with God because you're not rich. Because you have these financial woes.

But God may know. I don't know. Maybe God has to keep me poor so that I'll continue to trust in Him. I'll continue to rely upon Him day by day for my provisions. Who knows what is good for man? Is it better for me that I be healthy or I be sick? Evidently for Paul the apostle it was better that he be sick. When he asked God to remove his infirmity, God said, "Hey, Paul, My grace is sufficient for you. My strength will be made perfect in your weakness." So Paul said, "I glory in my weakness, that the power of God might be revealed in me" ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 ).

Is it better for me that I be weak so that I have to trust in God; that I don't have the reliance in myself, but I've learned to just trust in God completely, and thus I know the strength of God? Or is it better that I feel strong and self-sufficient and then get wiped out because I'm really very weak when it comes to my flesh and things of my flesh?

What is better for me? Who really knows? I don't know my own heart. It's deceitful and desperately wicked. God knows. God knows what is best for me. That is why it is so wrong for me to contend with God when He doesn't do for me what I think He ought to be doing. When He doesn't give to me those things that I feel I need and desire. And so I begin to contend with God, because, "God, You know how I desire a little Porsche. It's not fair, God, that You don't give it to me. Oh, I think that would be so good for me." And God knows that it would wipe me out. It would swell me up in pride. It would make me think that I was really something. That goes cornering and everything else, to show and probably get in a fatal accident trying to show off in the thing, you know. And God knows what's best for me. "But I would desire this, God," and oh, I'm angry with God. I'm contending with God because He doesn't do for me the little goodies that I want Him to do.

But He knows what's best for me. I don't. I don't. Who knows what is good for man in this life?

all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? ( Ecclesiastes 6:12 )

Life is short. Days measured by days. Life apart from Christ is empty. Life apart from Christ lacks real meaning or substance. It's a shadow. All of the days of his vain shadow.

and who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? ( Ecclesiastes 6:12 )

Who knows what's going to be after you? Who knows what's going to follow? Who knows what tomorrow is going to bring? Who knows what the future holds? Who knows what the result of it is going to be in your life? Only God knows. Therefore, rather than contending with God I need to submit myself to God who knows all things.

And rather than fighting and contending because He's not doing things my way, I need to just submit and yield my life into His hand, into His wisdom, for He knows what is best for me. And even the sorrow or the tragedy that I might be experiencing today God is using for my good. Even the sickness or the suffering that I might be experiencing now God is working His eternal purpose through it.

The day will come when I will bless God for this hardship rather than cursing Him as I am prone to do when things don't go right. The day comes when you bless God and thank God for the disappointments because you see how God was working out a plan that you couldn't understand. Best that I just yield. And here is my life, God, as You see fit. You know what's best. Work in me Your perfect plan.

Shall we pray.

Father, we thank You that we have Thy Word as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, and may we walk in its light, Lord. That we might be instructed in the ways of righteousness and truth. And that we might come into Thy fullness. Lord, hide now Thy Word in our hearts. As we see life under the sun, the emptiness of it, the futility of it, may we seek to experience life in the Son, that eternity that You have put into our heart. May we find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ as we drink of the water of life. In His name we pray. Amen. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

There is an evil which I have seen under the sun,.... The Vulgate Latin version reads it, another evil; but wrongly, for the same is considered as before, the evil of covetousness; which is one of the evil things that come out of the heart of man; is abominable to the Lord, contrary to his nature and will, and a breach of his law, which forbids it, and is the root of all evil; this is an evil under the sun, for there is nothing of this kind above it; and it fell under the observation of Solomon in various instances;

and it [is] common among men; or, "great over men" u; or "over the man", the covetous man: it spreads itself over them; few were free from it, even so long ago, in those early times, and in such times in which silver was made no account of, and was like stones in Jerusalem, as common as they; and yet the sin of covetousness, of hoarding up money and making no use of it, for a man's own good, and the good of others, was very rife among men, 1 Kings 10:27.

u ורבה היא על האדם "et multum ipsum super hominem", Montanus; "et magaum est illud super hominem istum", Rambachius.

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 6:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Miseries of Covetousness.

      1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:   2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.   3 If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.   4 For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.   5 Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.   6 Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?

      Solomon had shown, in the close of the foregoing chapter, how good it is to make a comfortable use of the gifts of God's providence; now here he shows the evil of the contrary, having and not using, gathering to lay up for I know not what contingent emergencies to come, not to lay out on the most urgent occasions present. This is an evil which Solomon himself saw under the sun,Ecclesiastes 6:1; Ecclesiastes 6:1. A great deal of evil there is under the sun. There is a world above the sun where there is no evil, yet God causes his sun to shine upon the evil as well as upon the good, which is an aggravation of the evil. God has lighted up a candle for his servants to work by, but they bury their talent as slothful and unprofitable, and so waste the light and are unworthy of it. Solomon, as a king, inspected the manners of his subjects, and took notice of this evil as a prejudice to the public, who are damaged not only by men's prodigality on the one hand, but by their penuriousness on the other. As it is with the blood in the natural body, so it is with the wealth of the body politic, if, instead of circulating, it stagnates, it will be of ill consequence. Solomon as a preacher observed the evils that were done that he might reprove them and warn people against them. This evil was, in his days, common, and yet then there was great plenty of silver and gold, which, one would think, should have made people less fond of riches; the times also were peaceable, nor was there any prospect of trouble, which to some is a temptation to hoard. But no providence will of itself, unless the grace of God work with it, cure the corrupt affection that is in the carnal mind to the world and the things of it; nay, when riches increase we are most apt to set our hearts upon them. Now concerning this miser observe,

      I. The abundant reason he has to serve God with joyfulness and gladness of heart; how well God has done for him.

      1. He has given him riches, wealth, and honour,Ecclesiastes 6:2; Ecclesiastes 6:2. Note, (1.) Riches and wealth commonly gain people honour among men. Though it be but an image, if it be a golden image, all people, nations, and languages, will fall down and worship it. (2.) Riches, wealth, and honour, are God's gifts, the gifts of his providence, and not given, as his rain and sunshine, alike to all, but to some, and not to others, as God sees fit. (3.) Yet they are given to many that do not make a good use of them, to many to whom God does not give wisdom and grace to take the comfort of them and serve God with them. The gifts of common providence are bestowed on many to whom are denied the gifts of a special grace, without which the gifts of providence often do more hurt than good.

      2. He wants nothing for his soul of all that he desires. Providence has been so liberal to him that he has as much as heart could wish, and more,Psalms 73:7. He does not desire grace for his soul, the better part; all he desires is enough to gratify the sensual appetite, and that he has; his belly is filled with these hidden treasures,Psalms 17:14.

      3. He is supposed to have a numerous family, to beget a hundred children, which are the stay and strength of his house and as a quiver full of arrows to him, which are the honour and credit of his house, and in whom he has the prospect of having his name built up and having all the immortality this world can give him. They are full of children (Psalms 17:14), while many of God's people are written childless and stripped of all.

      4. To complete his happiness, he is supposed to live many years, or rather many days, for our life is to be reckoned rather by days than years: The days of his years are many, and so healthful is his constitution, and so slowly does age creep upon him, that they are likely to be many more. Nay, he is supposed to live a thousand years (which no man, that we know of, ever did), nay, a thousand years twice told, a small part of which time, one would think, were enough to convince men, by their own experience, of the folly both of those that expect to find all good in worldly wealth, and of those that expect to find any good in it but in using it.

      II. The little heart he has to use this which God gives him, for the ends and purposes for which it was given him. This is his fault and folly that he renders not again according to the benefit done unto him, and serves not the Lord God his benefactor, with joyfulness and gladness of heart, in the abundance of all things. In the day of prosperity he is not joyful. Tristis es, et felix?--Art thou happy, yet sad? See his folly: 1. He cannot find in his heart to take the comfort of what he has himself. He has meat before him; he has wherewith to maintain himself and his family comfortably, but he has not power to eat thereof. His sordid niggardly temper will not suffer him to lay it out, no, not upon himself, no, not upon that which is most necessary for himself. He has not power to reason himself out of this absurdity, to conquer his covetous humour. He is weak indeed, who has not power to use what God gives him, for God gives him not that power, but withholds it from him, to punish him for his other abuses of his wealth. Because he has not the will to serve God with it, God denies him the power to serve himself with it. 2. He suffers those to prey upon him that he is under no obligation to: A stranger eateth it. This is the common fate of misers; they will not trust their own children perhaps, but retainers and hangers-on, that have the art of wheedling, insinuate themselves into them, and find ways of devouring what they have, or getting it to be left to them by their wills. God orders it so that a stranger eats it. Strangers devour his strength,Hosea 7:9; Proverbs 5:10. This may be well called vanity, and an evil disease. What we have we have in vain if we do not use it; and that temper of mind is certainly a most wretched distemper which keeps us from using it. Our worst diseases are those that arise from the corruption of our own hearts. 3. He deprives himself of the good that he might have had of his worldly possessions, not only forfeits it, but robs himself of it and throws it from him: His soul is not filled with good,Ecclesiastes 6:3; Ecclesiastes 6:3. He is still unsatisfied and uneasy. His hands are filled with riches, his barns filled, and his bags filled, but his soul is not filled with good, no, not with that good, for it is still craving more. Nay (Ecclesiastes 6:6; Ecclesiastes 6:6), he has not seen good; he cannot so much as please his eye, for that is still looking further and looking with envy on those that have more. He has not even the sensible good of an estate. Though he looks not beyond the things that are seen, yet he looks not with any true pleasure even on them. 4. He has no burial, none agreeable to his rank, no decent burial, but the burial of an ass. Through the sordidness of his temper he will not allow himself a fashionable burial, but forbids it, or the strangers that have eaten him up leave him so poor, at last, that he has not wherewithal, or those to whom he leaves what he has have so little esteem for his memory, and are so greedy of what they are to have from him, that they will not be at the charges of burying him handsomely, which his own children, if he had left it to them, would not have grudged him.

      III. The preference which the preacher gives to an untimely birth before him: An untimely birth, a child that is carried from the womb to the grave, is better than he. Better is the fruit that drops from the tree before it is ripe than that which is left to hang on till it is rotten. Job, in his passion, thinks the condition of an untimely birth better than his when he was in adversity (Job 3:16); but Solomon here pronounces it better than the condition of a worldling in his greatest prosperity, when the world smiles upon him. 1. He grants the condition of an untimely birth, upon many accounts, to be very sad (Ecclesiastes 6:4; Ecclesiastes 6:5): He comes in with vanity (for, as to this world, he that is born and dies immediately was born in vain), and he departs in darkness; little or no notice is taken of him; being an abortive, he has no name, or, if he had, it would soon be forgotten and buried in oblivion; it would be covered with darkness, as the body is with the earth. Nay (Ecclesiastes 6:5; Ecclesiastes 6:5), he has not seen the sun, but from the darkness of the womb he is hurried immediately to that of the grave, and, which is worse than not being known to any, he has not known any thing, and therefore has come short of that which is the greatest pleasure and honour of man. Those that live in wilful ignorance, and know nothing to purpose, are no better than an untimely birth that has not seen the sun nor known any thing. 2. Yet he prefers it before that of a covetous miser. This untimely birth has more rest than the other, for this has some rest, but the other has none; this has no trouble and disquiet, but the other is in perpetual agitation, and has nothing but trouble, trouble of his own making. The shorter the life is the longer the rest; and the fewer the days, and the less we have to do with this troublesome world, the less trouble we know.

'Tis better die a child at four, Than live, and die so at fourscore.

      The reason he gives why this has more rest is because all go to one place to rest in, and this is sooner at his rest, Ecclesiastes 6:6; Ecclesiastes 6:6. He that lives a thousand years goes to the same place with the child that does not live an hour, Ecclesiastes 3:20; Ecclesiastes 3:20. The grave is the place we shall all meet in. Whatever differences there may be in men's condition in this world, they must all die, are all under the same sentence, and, to outward appearance, their deaths are alike. The grave is to one, as well as another, a land of silence, of darkness, of separation from the living, and a sleeping-place. It is the common rendezvous of rich and poor, honourable and mean, learned and unlearned; the short-lived and long-lived meet in the grave, only one rides post thither, the other goes by a slower conveyance; the dust of both mingles, and lies undistinguished.

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 6:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.