Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:3

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Old Age;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dead Bodies;   Unburied;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Burial;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Burial;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Funeral;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Numbers (2);   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Burial;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Birth;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Burial and sepulchers;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 8;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

If a man beget a hundred children - If he have the most numerous family and the largest possessions, and is so much attached to his riches that he grudges himself a monument; an abortion in the eye of reason is to be preferred to such a man; himself is contemptible, and his life worthless. The abortion comes in with vanity - baulks expectation, departs in darkness - never opened its eyes upon the light, and its name is covered with darkness - it has no place in the family register, or in the chronicles of Israel. This, that hath neither seen the sun, nor known any thing is preferable to the miser who has his coffers and granaries well furnished, should he have lived a thousand years, and had a hundred children. He has seen - possessed, no good; and he and the abortion go to one place, equally unknown, and wholly forgotten.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

No burial - For a corpse to lie unburied was a circumstance in itself of special ignominy and dishonor (compare the marginal references).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

THE TRAGEDY OF THE GREAT MAN DENIED A BURIAL

"If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not filled with good, and moreover he have no burial; I say that an untimely birth is better than he: for it cometh in vanity, and departeth in darkness, and the name thereof is covered in darkness; moreover it hath not seen the sun nor known it; this hath rest rather than the other: yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, and yet enjoy no good, do not all go to one place?"

"If a man beget a hundred children, and live many years" (Ecclesiastes 6:3). For a man with 700 wives and 300 concubines, this was by no means an impossibility. As a matter of fact, Gideon fathered 70 sons (Judges 8:30).

"His soul be not filled with good ... and ... he have no burial" (Ecclesiastes 6:4). It is a tragic fact of life that, "In spite of family, longevity and fame, life may so miscarry as to incur life-long dissatisfaction and an unmourned death."[2]

In the light of ancient concern regarding one's proper burial, it would appear here that a man's not being properly buried was considered as the ultimate disaster that could befall a human being. Christians, of course, reject this viewpoint out of hand. Some of the early Christians were fed to the lions in the Coliseum; but God's people remembered the words of Jesus: "Fear not them that kill the body, but after that have no more that they can do" (Luke 12:4).

The pyramids of Egypt and the elaborate historical sepulchres of the wealthy and the great stand as mute and terrible monuments to the materialistic blindness of mankind that regarded the body as actually all that there was to a human being. In the ultimate resurrection of the dead, the inspired apostle tells us quite forcefully in his vision of the Resurrection that, "The sea gave up the dead that were in it" (Revelation 20:13). The bodies of such as were drowned in the sea would have been totally consumed.

The last verses of this paragraph affirm that a still-born fetus is better than a man who was denied an honorable burial.

"This hath rest rather than the other" (Ecclesiastes 6:5). Let men contemplate what is stated here. If a man should live 2,000 years, he still would find that the earth is no place to rest.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

If a man beget an hundred children,.... Sons and daughters, a certain number for an uncertain. Some have had many children, and almost this number; Rehoboam had twenty eight sons and threescore daughters; and Ahab had seventy sons, how many daughters is not said, 2 Chronicles 11:21; this was reckoned a great honour and happiness to have many children; happy was the man that had his quiver full of them, Psalm 127:3; such a case is here supposed;

and live many years, so that the days of his years be many; or "sufficient", as Jarchi interprets it; he lives as long as life is desirable; lives to a good old age, to the full age of men, threescore years and ten; yea, supposing he was to live to be as old as Methuselah,

and his soul be not filled with good; does not enjoy the good things he has; has no pleasure nor satisfaction in the temporal good things of life, has not the comfort of them, and is always uneasy, because he has not more of them; and especially if his soul is not filled with spiritual good things, the grace of God, and righteousness of Christ;

And also that he have no burial; as Jezebel, Jehoiakim, and others; who is either destroyed by robbers and cutthroats, for the sake of his substance, and cast into a ditch or a river, or some place, where he is never found to be interred; or else, being of such a sordid disposition, he provides not for a decent burial, suitably to his circumstances, or forbids one; or, being despised and disesteemed by all men, his heirs and successors either neglect or refuse to give him one; see Jeremiah 22:29;

I say that an untimely birth is better than he; an abortive is to be preferred unto him; it would have been better for him if he had never been born, or had been in such a case.

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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 6:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

If a man begetteth an hundred [children], and liveth many years, so that the days of his years are many, and his soul is not b filled with good, and also [that] he hath no c burial; I say, [that] an untimely birth [is] better than he.

(b) If he can never have enough.

(c) As we see often that the covetous man either falls into crimes that deserve death, or is murdered or drowned or hangs himself or such like and so lacks the honour of burial, which is the last office of humanity.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Even if a man (of this character) have very many (equivalent to “a hundred,” 2 Kings 10:1) children, and not have a “stranger” as his heir (Ecclesiastes 6:2), and live long (“days of years” express the brevity of life at its best, Genesis 47:9), yet enjoy no real “good” in life, and lie unhonored, without “burial,” at death (2 Kings 9:26, 2 Kings 9:35), the embryo is better than he. In the East to be without burial is the greatest degradation. “Better the fruit that drops from the tree before it is ripe than that left to hang on till rotten” [Henry].

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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 6:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“If a man begat an hundred, and lived many years, and the amount of the days of his years was great, and his soul satisfied not itself in good, and also he had no grave, then I say: Better than he is the untimely birth.” The accentuation of 3 a is like that of 2 a . The disjunctives follow the Athnach, as at 2 Kings 23:13, only that there Telisha Gedhola stands for Pazer . Hitzig finds difficulty with the clause לו ... וגם־, and regards it as a marginal gloss to 5 a, taken up into the text at a wrong place. But just the unexpected form and the accidental nature, more than the inward necessity of this feature in the figure, leads us to conclude that the author here connects together historical facts, as conjecturally noted above, into one fanciful picture. מאה is obviously to be supplemented by ( ובנות ) בנים ; the Targ. and Midrash make this man to be Cain, Ahab, Haman, and show at least in this that they extend down into the time of the Persian kingdom a spark of historical intelligence. שׁן רבּ interchanges with שׁן הר, Ecclesiastes 11:8, as at Nehemiah 11:30. In order to designate the long life emphatically, the author expresses the years particularly in days: “and if it is much which (Heiligst.: multum est quod ) the days of his years amount to;” cf. ימי ויּהיוּ, in Gen 5. With venaphsho there follows the reverse side of this long life with many children: (1) his soul satisfies not itself, i.e., has no self-satisfying enjoyment of the good ( min, as at Psalms 104:13, etc.), i.e., of all the good things which he possesses, - in a word, he is not happy in his life; and (2) an honourable burial is not granted to him, but קב חם, Jeremiah 22:19, which is the contrary of a burial such as becomes a man (the body of Artaxerxes Ochus was thrown to the cats); whereupon Elster rightly remarks that in an honourable burial and an honourable remembrance, good fortune, albeit shaded with sadness, might be seen. But when now, to one so rich in children and so long-lived, neither enjoyment of his good fortune nor even this shaded glory of an honourable burial is allowed, the author cannot otherwise judge than that the untimely birth is better than he. In this section regarding the uncertainty of riches, we have already, Ecclesiastes 5:14, fallen on a reminiscence from the Book of Job; it is so much the more probable that here also Job 3:16 has an influence on the formation of the thought. נפל is the foetus which comes lifeless from the mother's womb.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

If a man beget an 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.

With good — He hath not a contented mind and comfortable enjoyment of his estate.

Is better — Which as it never enjoyed the comforts, so it never felt the calamities of life.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:3 If a man beget an 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.

Ver. 3. If a man beget an hundred children.] As Ahab did half a hundred, after that God had threatened to cut off all his house, as it were in contempt of the divine threatening. And as Proculus Caesar got twenty maids with child in fifteen days’ space, as Pliny (a) reports. Erasmus (b) mentioneth a maid of Eubcea, called Combe, that being married to a husband, brought him a hundred children. Like enough it might be luctuosa faecunditas, as Jerome (c) saith of Laeta, who buried many children.

And live many years.] So that he be trisaeclisenex, as Nestor was of old, and Iohannes de temporibus, a Frenchman, not many ages since, to whom I may add that old, old, very old man, (d) that died of late years, having been born in Henry VII’s days, or Edward IV’s.

And his soul be not filled with good.] Though he be filled with years, and filled with children, that may survive and succeed him in his estate, yet if he be a covetous wretch, a miserable muckworm, that enjoys nothing, as in the former verse, is not master of his wealth, but is mastered by it, lives beside what he hath, and dies to save charges - as the bee in Camden’s Remains.

And also that he have no burial.] He leaves nothing to bring him honestly home, as they say; or if he do, yet his ungrateful, greedy heirs deny him that last honour, so that he is buried "with the burial of an ass," [Jeremiah 22:19] as Coniah; suffered to rot and stink above ground, as that Assyrian monarch, [Isaiah 14:19-20] and after him Alexander the Great, who lay unburied thirty days together. So Pompey the Great, of whom Claudian the poet sings thus,

Nudus pascit aves, iacet en qui possidet orbem,

Exiguae telluris inops. ” -

And a similar story about our William the Conqueror, and various other greedy engrossers of the world’s good. See here the poisonful and pernicious nature of niggardliness and covetousness, that turns long life and large issue, those sweetest blessings of God, into bitter curses. And with it take notice of the just hand of God upon covetous old men, that they should want comely burial; which is usually one of their greatest cares, as Plutarch observeth. For giving the reason why old men, that are going out of the world, should be so earnestly bent upon the world, he saith, it is out of fear that they shall not have τους θρεψοντας και τους θοψαντας, friends to keep them while they are alive, and some to bury them when they are dead.

I say that an untimely birth.] I affirm it in the word of truth, and upon mature deliberation, that an untimely birth - not only a naked young child, as aforesaid, that is carried ab utero ad urnam, from the womb to the tomb, from the birth to the burial - but an abortive, that coming too soon into the world, comes not at all; and, by having no name, finds itself a name, as Pliny speaks of the herb anonymus.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ecclesiastes 6:3. If a man beget Though a man should beget an hundred children, and live many years; nay, though he should be a senator, on account of the days of his years; if should not enjoy his prosperity, nor even get a burying-place for himself, I concluded an abortive is better than he. Solomon's meaning, probably, is, that the man he speaks of, though not only a long-liver, but likewise a man of eminence on account of his age; a chief, a judge, or a senator, shall nevertheless be accounted miserable, if that be all the advantage that he gets from his long stay in this world. The word קבורה, keburah, which we render burial, occurs in thirteen places of Scripture beside the present, and in every one of them means a burying-place, and not the action of burying; nor does the notion of burial agree with the context: For Solomon speaks of a man who is alive yet; since he shall depart in darkness, (see the next verse;) and whose misfortune, of consequence, cannot be aggravated by his not being buried. To what purpose then is a burying-place mentioned? I answer, that it was customary for people in easy circumstances to provide a burying-place for themselves and their family: Therefore, as the Arabic and Chaldee have well expressed it, it must be a proof of a man's dying in narrow circumstances, and not having enjoyed his fortune long, if ever he had any, that he has not provided such a place, a house of burial. See 2 Kings 23:6 and Desvoeux.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". 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

An hundred children, i.e. very many children, to whom he intends to leave his estate.

Live many years; which is the chief thing that he desires, and which giveth him opportunity of increasing his estate vastly.

The days; he saith days, because the years of men’s life are but few.

Be not filled with good; hath not a contented mind and comfortable enjoyment of his estate whilst he lives. Have no burial; and if after his death he hath either none, or a mean and dishonourable burial, because his sordid and covetous carriage made him hateful and contemptible to all persons, his children and heirs not excepted, and he was by all sorts of men thought unworthy of any testimonies of honour, either in his life or after his death. Thus he describes a man who lives miserably, and dies ignominiously.

An untimely birth; which as it never enjoyed the comforts, so it never felt the calamities, of this life, which are far more considerable than its comforts, at least to a man that denied himself the comforts, and plunged himself into the toils and vexations, of this life.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". 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

3.The real difficulty of this verse has arisen from a singular reluctance to give its simplest sense to the phrase, he have no burial, which, in Hebrew and English, naturally means, though he live forever. The instance is connected with that of the preceding verse. An unsatisfied soul completely neutralizes, and makes “stale, flat, and unprofitable,” all worldly good, so that even length of possession adds nothing to its enjoyment. An abortion, perishing in embryo, has a better fate.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Than he, since the latter has injured no one, nor experienced any evil in the world, (Calmet) by his own fault; (Menochius) whereas the miser has both hurt himself and others, and has neglected to make himself friends of the mammon of iniquity.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things, and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he,""

"If a man…."-Perhaps, one may reason, a large family and long life will surely bring personal joy. In Jewish culture, Solomon is describing a man who had it all! A large family was a great blessing (Psalm ). A hundred children isn"t an exaggeration, for Ahab had 70 sons (2 Kings 10:1), and Rehoboam had 88 children (2 Chron. 11:21). Long life was also considered to be (and still is) a great blessing (Psalm 90:10; Ex. 20:10; 1 Kings 3:11,14). "Artaxerxes Mnemon is said to have had 115 children, and died of grief at the age of 94 at the suicide of one son and the murder of another" (P.P. Comm. p. 138).

"but his soul is not satisfied with good things"-"Soul"-his appetite, desires, his person. "In a word he is not happy in his life" (Keil/Del. p. 305). Yes, you can have it all, and still be completely unhappy.

"and he does not even have a proper burial"-unlamented. "To be deprived of burial was considered by the Jews one of the greatest dishonors that could be inflicted on a human being" (Manners and Customs, Freeman, p. 227). (Deut. ; 1 Samuel 17:44-46; Jeremiah 7:3; 16:4). What could be included in this improper burial, is that no friends or family come to mourn over his death. "It is not noted as to the reason why the rich man does not have a burial, but circumstances of life led to this unfortunate conclusion" (Kidwell p. 140). See Jeremiah 22:18-19. But such things do happen under the sun! Famous and wealthy men often die in obscurity, die friendless, and estranged from other family members.

"then I say, "Better the miscarriage than he""-the same thought is found in .

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

filled = satisfied.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "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

If a man beget an 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.

Beget an hundred (i:e., very many) children (thus not having a "stranger" as his heir, Ecclesiastes 6:2),

And live many years, so that the days of his years be many (the phrase hints that at best man's years are but days, short and soon gone, Genesis 47:9),

And (yet) his soul be not filled with good ... (2 Kings 9:26; 2 Kings 9:35);

... untimely birth (an embryo) (is) better than he - for, though it enjoys no good, it suffers no evil (Ecclesiastes 6:4-5). In the East, to be without burial is the greatest degradation. 'Better the fruit that drops from the tree before it is ripe, than that left to hang on until rotten' (Henry).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "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

(3) That a man should be so occupied in the pursuit of riches as never to take any enjoyment from them is a common experience enough; but that the same man should have no sepulchre to preserve his name after him need not necessarily happen, so that one is tempted to think that the Preacher has some actual occurrence in his mind.

Untimely birth.—See references. We have just had another reminiscence of the Book of Job. (See Ecclesiastes 5:15.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

If a man beget an 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.
a man
Genesis 33:5; 1 Samuel 2:20,21; 2 Kings 10:1; 1 Chronicles 28:5; 2 Chronicles 11:21; Esther 5:11; Psalms 127:4,5; Proverbs 17:6
so
5:17-19; Genesis 47:9
and also
2 Kings 9:35; Esther 7:10; 9:14,15; Isaiah 14:19,20; Jeremiah 22:19; 36:30
that an
4:3; Job 3:16; Psalms 58:8; Matthew 26:24
Reciprocal: Genesis 15:15 - buried;  Genesis 23:4 - burying place;  Genesis 23:19 - GeneralGenesis 50:5 - bury me;  2 Kings 9:37 - the carcase;  Job 3:10 - it shut not;  Job 3:13 - then had I been at rest;  Ecclesiastes 6:6 - yet;  Ecclesiastes 6:7 - appetite;  Isaiah 14:18 - all of;  Jeremiah 8:2 - they shall be;  Jeremiah 20:17 - he slew;  Hosea 9:11 - from the birth;  Revelation 11:9 - and shall not

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ecclesiastes-6.html.

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

Ecclesiastes 6:3. Hundred, namely, sons. The phrase—"the days of the years," is constantly used, especially in the Pentateuch, to designate the time of one's life (Genesis 25:7; Genesis 47:8-9; Psalms 90:10). The words, "his soul is not filled with good," correspond to the words, "God giveth him not power to cat thereof," of Psalms 90:2 : and "he has no grave," to the words, "a, stranger will eat it." קבורה elsewhere signifies always "Grave," and therefore we must give it this meaning in the only passage, namely Jeremiah 22:19, where the meaning "Burial" seems to be required. The grave of the ass is the flaying ground. The preposition is omitted there, because the relation is quite clear in. itself. Allusion is here made to a catastrophe like that depicted in Psalms 79:3, "their blood have they shed like water, and there was none to bury them." Compare parallel passages, such as Jeremiah 8:2, where of the godless it is declared, "they shall not be gathered, nor be buried: dung shall they be on the field," 9:21, 25:33; Isaiah 14:19-20, and what is written of Jezebel in 2 Kings 9. Seb. Schmidt and Rambach explain incorrectly, "ex turpi tenacitate non audeat aliquid honestae sepulturae destinare." Better than the lot of such a rich man,—a life without enjoyment, and then not even a grave,—is the lot of an untimely birth, which, though it has enjoyed no good, has experienced also no suffering.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:3". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/ecclesiastes-6.html.