Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:2

a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires; yet God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Vanity;   Thompson Chain Reference - Honour;   Honour-Dishonour;   Poverty-Riches;   Riches, Earthly;   Treasures, Earthly;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Vanity;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Evil;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Presumption;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, the Book of;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;   Wealth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Akiba ben Joseph;   Covetousness;   Didascalia;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 9;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

A man to whom God hath given riches - A man may possess much earthly goods, and yet enjoy nothing of them. Possession and fruition are not necessarily joined together; and this is also among the vanities of life. It is worthy of remark, that it belongs to God as much to give the power to enjoy as it does to give the earthly blessings. A wise heathen saw this: -

Di tibi divitias dederant, artemque fruendi.

Hor. Ep. lib. i., ep. 4, ver. 7.

"The gods had given thee riches, and the art to enjoy them."

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour,.... By "riches" may be meant gold and silver, things which a covetous man is never satisfied with; and by "wealth", cattle, with which farms and fields are stocked: the wealth of men, especially in former times, and in the eastern countries, lay very much in these, as did the wealth of Abraham and Job, Genesis 13:2; and all these, as they are reckoned glorious and honourable in themselves; so they create honour and glory among men, and raise to high and honourable places; and these, as they go, they are usually put together, and are called by the name of honour and glory itself; see Proverbs 3:16. And they are all the gifts of God, which he either as blessings bestows upon men, or suffers men to attain unto, though a curse may go along with them; which is the case here, for no man whatever is possessed of them but by the will of God or his divine permission; see 1 Chronicles 29:12; and which a man may, and sometimes has, such a plentiful portion of;

so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth: he has not only for the supply of his wants, what is necessary for his daily use and service, but even what is for delight and pleasure; yea, as much as he could reasonably wish for; nay, more than heart could wish, Psalm 73:7;

yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof; the Targum adds, "because of his sin"; either he takes it away from him, he making no use of it; or his appetite is taken away, that he has no desire to it; or rather he has no heart to enjoy what he has, and scarce any part of it; not to eat and drink, and wear suitably to his circumstances, but grudges whatever he lays out on his back or belly, or in housekeeping in his family; for though God gives him a large substance, yet not a heart to make use of it, without which he cannot enjoy it; and therefore it would have been as good, or better for him, to have been without it; see Ecclesiastes 5:19;

but a stranger eateth it; the Syriac version adds, "after him"; enjoys it, not only a part of it, but the whole; one that is not akin to him, and perhaps was never known by him; and yet, by one means or another, either in a lawful or unlawful way, comes into the possession of all he has; this has been always reckoned a great unhappiness, Lamentations 5:2. Hence it follows,

this is vanity, and it is an evil disease; it is a vain thing to be possessed of great substance, and not enjoy anything of it in a comfortable way, through the sin of covetousness; which is a spiritual disease, and a very bad one; very prejudicial to the soul, and the state of it, and is rarely cured. JuvenalF23"Cum furor dubius", &c. Satyr. 14. v. 136. exposed by Persius, Sat. 6. v. 69, &c. "unge puer caules", &c. calls it frenzy and madness for a man to live poor, that be may die rich; he is like the ass that Crassus Agelastus saw, loaded with figs, and eating thorns.

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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 6:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he lacketh nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet a God giveth him not power to eat of it, but a stranger eateth it: this [is] vanity, and it [is] an evil disease.

(a) He shows that it is the plague of God when the rich man does not have a liberal heart to use his riches.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

for his soul — that is, his enjoyment.

God giveth him not power to eat — This distinguishes him from the “rich” man in Ecclesiastes 5:19. “God hath given” distinguishes him also from the man who got his wealth by “oppression” (Ecclesiastes 5:8, Ecclesiastes 5:10).

stranger — those not akin, nay, even hostile to him (Jeremiah 51:51; Lamentations 5:2; Hosea 7:9). He seems to have it in his “power” to do as he will with his wealth, but an unseen power gives him up to his own avarice: God wills that he should toil for “a stranger” (Ecclesiastes 2:26), who has found favor in God‘s sight.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

To עשׁר וּנך, as at 2 Chronicles 1:11, וך and honour is added as a third thing. What follows we do not translate: “and there is nothing wanting ... ;” for that איננּוּ with the pleonastic suff. may mean: “there is not,” is not to be proved from Genesis 39:9, thus: and he spares not for his soul (lxx καὶ οὐκ κ . τ . λ ) what he always desires. חסר is adj. in the sense of wanting, lacking, as at 1 Samuel 21:1-15 :16; 1 Kings 11:22; Proverbs 12:9. לנפשׁו, “for his soul,” i.e., his person, is = the synon. לעצמו found in the later usage of the language; מן (different from the min, Ecclesiastes 4:8) is, as at Genesis 6:2, partitive. The נכרי, to whom this considerable estate, satisfying every wish, finally comes, is certainly not the legal heir (for that he enters into possession, in spite of the uncertainty of his moral character, Ecclesiastes 2:19, would be in itself nothing less than a misfortune, yet perfectly in order, Ecclesiastes 5:13 [14]), but some stranger without any just claim, not directly a foreigner (Heiligst.), but, as Burger explains: talis qui proprie nullum habet jus in bona ejus cui נכרי dicitur (cf. נכריּה of the unmarried wife in the Book of Proverbs).

That wealth without enjoyment is nothing but vanity and an evil disease, the author now shows by introducing another historical figure, and thereby showing that life without enjoyment is worse than never to have come into existence at all:

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Riches — All sorts of riches.

To eat — Because God gives him up to a base and covetous mind.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:2 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.

Ver. 2. So that he wanteth nothing.] Nothing but everything, because he dare not make use of anything almost, but is tantalised by his own baseness. He famisheth at a full feast, he starveth at a fireside. And this is often repeated in this book, because it can never enough be observed and abhorred.

Yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof,] i.e., He withholdeth his grace from him, that he cannot use it to his comfort. Herein he is like a stag that hath great horns, but no courage to use them; or rather like an ass loaded with gold and victuals, but feeding upon thistles. Pray we, therefore, that God would together with riches, "give us all things richly to enjoy." [1 Timothy 6:17] Vel mihi da clavem, vel mihi tolle feram. Either give me the key, saith one, or take away the lock. The Greeks describe a good householder to be κτητικον, φυλακτικον, κοσμητικον των υπαρχοντων, και χρηστικον, a good husband, as in getting, keeping and setting out what he hath to the best, so in making good use of it, for his own and others’ behoof and benefit.

But a stranger eats it.] God so providing that if one will not, another shall; that if the owner will not eat, but sit piddling or sparing, a stranger, and perhaps an enemy, shall take away. That if men will not serve God with cheerfulness in the abundance of all things, they should fast another while, and be forced to serve their enemies in hunger and thirst and nakedness; and by the want of all be taught the worth of them, carendo quam fruendo [Deuteronomy 28:15-68]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ecclesiastes 6:2. A man to whom God hath given, &c.— From the 18th verse of the foregoing chapter to the present, we have the 2nd proof of the 2nd proposition, which is taken from the insufficiency of riches to give a man any real satisfaction, even though the actual possession of them should never be taken from him. It was observed before, (ch. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Ecclesiastes 3:22.) that the only advantage to be had from earthly acquisitions is present enjoyment. But it was remarked likewise, that this is the gift of God, and is not in any man's power, except it be given him from above. Now Solomon adds a further observation, which had been already hinted at, chap. Ecclesiastes 2:24 but not fully explained; viz. that possession and fruition are so far from being necessarily linked together, that the Supreme Dispenser of all things, as experience testifies, often grants the one without granting the other. And what is the use of riches to one who starves in the midst of plenty, but to torment him?

Thus he might have been happier and less uneasy without riches, than he is with them; chap. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. This observation, however, is set in a very strong light, by the opposition of the case of another man, to whom God Almighty granted both wealth and enjoyment. This man, indeed, has no cause to complain, or to reckon his days as if they were burdensome to him; but as he is indebted to God's liberality, and not to his own labour and industry, for the ease and happiness that he enjoys, his case is no objection to the general observation laid down in the present proposition. That observation, on the other hand, is strongly confirmed by the instance of the unhappy rich man; viz. that every thing in this world, when considered in itself, is vain, and rather fit to torment men's minds, than to give them any real satisfaction, chap. Ecclesiastes 6:1-2.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Wealth; all sorts of riches, as gold and silver, cattle and lands, &c.

Of all that he desireth; which he doth or can reasonably desire.

Giveth him not power to eat; either because they are suddenly taken away from him by the hand and curse of God, and given to others; or because God gives him up to a base and covetous mind, which is both a sin and a place. Thereof, i.e. any considerable part of it; whereas the stranger eateth not thereof, but it, i.e. all of it; devoureth it all in an instant.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.A man to whom God hath given riches — Grammar requires us to supply the word, Behold, or, There is, before “a man.”

Honour — This word, seeing it follows the sense of to eat, might better be given as in some other passages, abundance. The case is not rare of one successful in making great accumulations, who still, from some dyspeptic weakness of body, or some morbid penurious narrowness of mind, cannot bless his soul by indulgence in his copious stores. All his wealth goes to strangers. The preceding chapter gave us the case of a man who had a son and nothing to give him — this is of one who has riches, but no son and heir. Eastern men, as may be seen in the instance of Abraham, felt it a deep calamity that their estates should go to —

“An unlineal hand,

No son of [theirs] succeeding.”

Abraham was sad at having no son, though his heir would be his tried and good servant Eliezer. A nice point is made by the terms, (referring to the master,) to eat thereof, that is, using care and prudence, so as to amass, while the stranger eateth it, that is, recklessly uses it up.

Evil disease is not a bad rendering — an “evil” utterly out of harmony with nature.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Thereof. "Di tibi divitias dederunt artemque fruendi." (Horace, i. Ep. 4.) --- The proper use of riches is rare. (Calmet) --- Misery. Riches do not make people happy. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"a man to whom God has given riches and wealth and honor so that his soul lacks nothing of all that he desires, but God has not empowered him to eat from them, for a foreigner enjoys them. This is vanity and a severe affliction."

"whom God has given"-A thought that should humble us. So much for the idea of the self-made man or millionaire. Or the idea that we did it all on our own and owe no one for our successes. Without God"s physical blessings, and especially without His mercy, we would have nothing. God enables us to prosper (Matthew ; Luke 6:35; Acts 14:15-17; 17:25 "since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things"). "indicates that in no instance is the acquisition of wealth merely an outright achievement of man. Man can acquire nothing less God permits him to have it" (Leupold p. 134). See also 1 Timothy 6:17; Proverbs 30:8; 1 Samuel 2:7.

"honor"-prestige, fame, a high standing in the community, community awards, praise from one"s fellow man, citizen of the year, the noble peace prize, and so on. "a weighty person in society, worthy of respect, someone who is honorable, impressive" (TWOT p. 426).

"so that his soul lacks nothing"-"Soul" here doesn"t mean his spiritual side, but rather, himself (Luke ). Clearly this man makes it to the top, he has everything that he has ever materially desired. He has it all! Solomon had talked about the man who lost everything through a bad business deal (5:13). "But life can have long spells of brilliance and joy, and still succumb to darkness, which will seem all the deeper for the light it has quenched" (Kidner p. 59).

"God has not empowered him to eat from them"-to "eat from them", means "to enjoy them". "Yet he is unable to enjoy it" (Mof). "This rich man never got beyond the painful process of acquisition" (Leupold p. 135).

Points To Note:

1 "The man of verse 2, just because he is outstanding, has more to lose than the plodder who will never arrive. And he may well lose it through no fault of his own: perhaps when war, or sickness, or injustice spills everything into another"s lap….One could have the things men dream of….children by the score, and years of life by the thousand-and still depart unnoticed, unlamented, and unfulfilled" (Kidner p. 59). 2. Events outside this man"s control, of which there are many in life (Ecc. ), may deprive him of his possessions. 3. Or, this man"s attitude towards his possessions may keep him from enjoying them. "to say that God does not empower the rich man to enjoy what he has accumulated is stating that the rich man cannot divorce himself from the power of his wealth…God has ordained personal fulfillment and joy are found only within the confines which He has established" (Kidwell p. 139). 4. There are various laws in the spiritual realm and one of those laws is that greed will prevent you from enjoying what you have (5:10-12). 5. And since wealth is relative (you can always find someone who has more than you do-and less), these truths apply to all of us. There are many "middle class" individuals who are unable to enjoy the fruits of their labors because they are always wanting more.

"for a foreigner enjoys them"-the word foreigner or stranger can refer to someone other than this man"s heir, and simply another person, someone other than oneself. But at this point many may protest that life is not by any means as black as this for most people. But, it seems to me often it is for those outside of Christ. We live in the most prosperous country of all time, and yet look how many people are depressed, lonely, and isolated. With all the "things" that we own, look how many of the people in this country are miserable, either in their career, in their marriage, in their family and so on.

Listen to the following quote:

""I"m bored." He has a room full of action figures, video games, cable TV, a VCR, interactive CD-ROM virtual-reality simulators, and a fully loaded computer with Internet access. But he doesn"t have anything to do. Boredom is more than an irritation in child-raising. It has been called a major spiritual problem, one that is particularly characteristic of our time. Boredom is often the motivation for adultery and divorce, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and even suicide. The ancient moralists associated boredom with sloth….considering it a form of spiritual laziness, an ungrateful lack of interest in what God has ordained. But the ancients do not seem to have been as bored as we are. The word did not even enter the English vocabulary until the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the beginning of the modern era. Boredom is a chronic symptom of a pleasure-obsessed age. When pleasure becomes one"s top priority, the result, ironically, is boredom"

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

God. Hebrew. Elohim.(with Art.) = the [true] God, or the Deity. App-4. See note on Ecclesiastes 1:13.

wealth. See note on Ecclesiastes 5:19.

his soul = himself. Hebrew. nephesh.

vanity. See note on Ecclesiastes 1:2.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

He wanteth nothing for his soul - i:e., for his enjoyment.

Yet God giveth him not power to eat - through the avarice which enthrals him. This distinguishes him from the "rich" man in Ecclesiastes 5:19. "God hath given" distinguishes him also from the man who got his wealth by "oppression" (Ecclesiastes 5:8).

But a stranger eateth it - those not akin, nay, even hostile to him (Lamentations 5:2). He seems to have it in his "power" to do as he will with his wealth, but an unseen power gives him up to his own avarice. God wills that he should toil for "a stranger" (Ecclesiastes 2:26), who has found favour in God's sight.

An evil disease - as fatal to happiness of the soul as a severe sickness is to the ease of the body (Deuteronomy 28:59).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) Riches, wealth, and honour.—The three words are used together regarding Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:11).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
a man
5:19; 1 Kings 3:13; 1 Chronicles 29:25,28; 2 Chronicles 1:11; Daniel 5:18
so
2:4-10; Deuteronomy 8:7-10; Judges 18:10; Job 21:9-15; Psalms 17:14; 73:7; Luke 12:19,20
yet
A man may possess much earthly goods, and yet have neither the heart nor power to enjoy them. Possession and fruition are not necessarily joined together; and this is also among the vanities of life, and was and still is a very "common evil among men." It belongs to God as much to give the power to enjoy, as it does to give earthly blessings.
but
Deuteronomy 28:33,43; Psalms 39:6; Lamentations 5:2; Hosea 7:9
vanity
4:4,8; 5:16
Reciprocal: Job 21:25 - never;  Ecclesiastes 2:24 - that it;  Ecclesiastes 3:13 - GeneralEcclesiastes 5:13 - a sore;  Ecclesiastes 6:9 - this;  Zechariah 9:6 - General

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ecclesiastes-6.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Ecclesiastes 6:2. The rich man is the Persian (Ecclesiastes 10:20). One ought not to envy him his riches. He does not dare to enjoy his wealth, and the enemy will soon take it away from him. How is it possible that that should be a matter for envy which more closely viewed is but a vain show? There were of course rich spendthrifts among the Persians also. But the example of the covetous rich man served as a proof that riches in themselves are not an enviable good. Riches and wealth and honour, are put together in this way also in 2 Chronicles 1:11. God gives him not power, that is, he delivers him not from the bonds of avarice by which he is hold bound; (compare Ecclesiastes 5:18). The stranger is the successor of the Persian in the dominion of the world. נכרי is quite generally used of such as belong to another nation and society (Deuteronomy 17:15), and that it is to be taken in this sense here is evident from the correspondence that exists between the words, "a stranger will cat it," of this verse, and those of the 3d verse, "also he will have no grave." References cautiously made to the impending catastrophe of the Persian empire may be found also elsewhere: see Ecclesiastes 11:1-3; Ecclesiastes 9:18. The expression, "evil disease," which has much the same force as "an evil is like a disease," is taken from Deuteronomy 28:59.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:2". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/ecclesiastes-6.html.