Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:9

What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Contentment;   The Topic Concordance - Desire;   Seeing;   Vanity;  
Encyclopedias:
The Jewish Encyclopedia - Shemoneh 'Esreh;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for September 7;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire - This is translated by the Vulgate, as a sort of adage: Melius est videre quod cupias, quam desiderare quod nescias, "It is better to see what one desires than to covet what one knows not." It is better to enjoy the present than to feed one's self with vain desires of the future. What we translate the wandering of desire, נפש מהלך mehaloch nephesh, is the travelling of the soul. What is this? Does it simply mean desire? Or is there any reference here to the state of separate spirits! It however shows the soul to be in a restless state, and consequently to be unhappy. If Christ dwell in the heart by faith, the soul is then at rest, and this is properly the rest of the people of God.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire,.... By "the sight of the eyes" is not meant the bare beholding outward riches, as in Ecclesiastes 5:11; but the enjoyment of present mercies; such things as a man is in the possession of, and with which he should be content, Hebrews 13:5; and by "the wandering of the desire", the craving appetite and insatiable lust of the covetous mind, which enlarges its desire as hell, after a thousand things, and everything it can think of; such a mind roves through the whole creation, and covets everything under the sun: now it is better to enjoy contentedly things in sight and in possession, than to let the mind loose in vague desires, after things that may never be come at, and, if attained to, would give no satisfaction;

this is also vanity and vexation of spirit: a most vain thing, to give the mind such a loose and liberty in its unbounded desires after worldly things; and a vexation of spirit it is to such a craving mind, that it cannot obtain what it is so desirous of.

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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.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Better [is] the g sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this [is] also vanity and vexation of spirit.

(g) To be content with that which God has given is better than to follow the desires that can never be satisfied.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Answer to the question in Ecclesiastes 6:8. This is the advantage:

Better is the sight of the eyes — the wise man‘s godly enjoyment of present seen blessings

than the (fool‘s) wandering — literally, walking (Psalm 73:9), of the desire, that is, vague, insatiable desires for what he has not (Ecclesiastes 6:7; Hebrews 13:5).

this — restless wandering of desire, and not enjoying contentedly the present (1 Timothy 6:6, 1 Timothy 6:8).

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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 6:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the soul: also this is vain and windy effort.” We see from the fin. הל־ן interchanging with מר that the latter is not meant of the object (Ecclesiastes 11:9), but of the action, viz., the “rejoicing in that which one has” (Targ.); but this does not signify grassatio ,- i.e., impetus animae appetentis , ὁρμὴ τῆς ψυχῆς (cf. Marcus Aurelius, iii. 16), which Knobel, Heiligst., and Ginsburg compare (for הלך means grassari only with certain subjects, as fire, contagion, and the life; and in certain forms, as יהלך for ילך, to which הלך = לכת does not belong), - but erratio , a going out in extent, roving to a distance (cf. הלך, wanderer), ῥεμβασμὸς ἐπιθυμίας, Wisd. 4:12. - Going is the contrast of rest; the soul which does not become full or satisfied goes out, and seeks and reaches not its aim. This insatiableness, characteristic of the soul, this endless unrest, belongs also to the miseries of this present life; for to have and to enjoy is better than this constant Hungern und Lungern hungering and longing. More must not be put into 9 a than already lies in it, as Elster does: “the only enduring enjoyment of life consists in the quiet contemplation of that which, as pleasant and beautiful, it affords, without this mental joy mingling with the desire for the possession of sensual enjoyment.” The conception of “the sight of the eyes” is certainly very beautifully idealized, but in opposition to the text. If 9 a must be a moral proverb, then Luther's rendering is the best: “It is better to enjoy the present good, than to think about other good.”

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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 6:9". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

The fight — The comfortable enjoyment of what a man hath.

Than — Restless desires of what a man hath not.

This — Wandering of the desire.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Ecclesiastes 6:9 Better [is] the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this [is] also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ver. 9. Better is the sight of the eyes, &c., ] i.e., As some sense it, Better it is to overlook dainty dishes than to overcharge the stomach with them; to fill the eyes than the belly; to gratify that than to pamper this: though that is a vanity too in the issue, and may prove a vexation of spirit - may breed inward inquietation; the best that can come of it is repentance and self-revenge, [2 Corinthians 7:11] as in Epaminondas. Symmachus reads the words thus, Melius est providere, quam ambulare ut libet: Better it is to provide than to walk at random. The Septuagint thus, Melius est videre quod cupias, quam desiderare quod nescias: Better is it to see what thou desirest, than to desire what thou knowest not. The best expositors make it an answer to an objection: for, whereas the rich man might reply, Better see wealth than be always seeking it, better have it than hawk after it: the Preacher answers that misery may be somewhat mitigated by this means but never fully cured or cashiered.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ecclesiastes 6:9. Better is the sight of the eyes The third and last proof, contained in this and the two preceding verses, is taken from the insatiableness of mens' wishes, whereby they are made miserable even when they get the utmost of what they can reasonably wish for. It is a vain and foolish thing to give a loose to your desires, instead of being satisfied with what you at present enjoy; since, whatever you may wish for, it is impossible for you personally to enjoy more than what your constitution will bear; and that is very little, properly speaking, beyond the necessaries of life, which are enjoyed by every man upon earth, whether his wishes be extensive or not.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". 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

The sight of the eyes, i.e. the comfortable enjoyment of what a man hath; for seeing is oft put for enjoying, as Psalms 34:12 Ecclesiastes 2:1 3:13, &c.

The wandering of the desire; restless and insatiable desires of what a man hath not, wherewith covetous rich men are perpetually haunted and tormented.

This, this wandering of the desire wherein most men indulge themselves,

is also vanity and vexation of spirit; is not the way to satisfaction, as they imagine, but to vexation.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". 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

9.This verse is preliminary to the discussion of the value of common sense in human affairs.

The sight of the eyes — That is, that which is seen by the eyes, and therefore near at hand. “Our best things are nearest us.” and “Take short views,” are proverbs expressing the wisdom of many. “Let what is out of sight be out of mind.” These sayings would be true enough if only man could be satisfied with the present and visible. But he is not, so the proverbs break down into vanity.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Ecclesiastes 6:9. Better is the sight of the eyes — That is, The comfortable enjoyment of what a man hath, seeing being often put for enjoying; than the wandering of the desire — Than restless and insatiable desires of what a man hath not. This is also vanity — This wandering of the desire, wherein many indulge themselves; and vexation of spirit — It is not the way to satisfaction, as they imagine, but to vexation.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Know. Enjoyment has the advantage over hope. Hebrew, "better is the sight of the eyes than the going of the soul," which denotes her desires. (Calmet) --- Presumption. Hebrew, "vexation." (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires. This too is futility and a striving after wind."

"What the eyes see is better than…"-"better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire" (KJV); "Better aim at what lies in view than hanker after dreams" (Knox).

Points To Note:

1 Constantly longing for more is futile. 2. Too many of us spend too much time daydreaming for what we consider to be the ideal_________, instead of realizing the true wealth and enjoyment which is right before our eyes. Too many of us are living in the earthly future, rather than the present. We think that something in the earthly future (marriage, children, career, home, vacation home, new car, retirement, vacation, etc…) will bring the happiness that we are so desperately trying to find. Instead of thinking, "I can"t wait until…..", why don"t we say, "Today is going to be a great day, everything that this life can offer me can be found today, can be found right now".

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Better. See note on Ecclesiastes 2:24.

the sight of = what is seen by.

the wandering of = what is pursued by.

the desire = soul. Hebrew. nephesh. App-13. No Art.

vexation of spirit. See note on Ecclesiastes 1:14.

spirit. Hebrew. ruach. App-9,

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "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

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

Better is the sight of the eyes ... Answer to Ecclesiastes 6:8, "What hath the wise more than the fool?" This is the advantage, "Better is the sight of the eyes (the wise man's godly enjoyment of present seen blessings) than the (fool's) wandering (literally, walking, Psalms 73:9) of the desire;" i:e., vague, insatiable desires for what he has not (Ecclesiastes 6:7; Hebrews 13:5). It is better to make the best of what we have before our eyes, however small and humble it seem, than to wander into the clouds with our desires (Luke 12:29).

This is also vanity - this restless wandering of desire, and not enjoying contentedly the present (1 Timothy 6:6; 1 Timothy 6:8).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
Better
2:24; 3:12,13; 5:18
wandering of the desire
Heb. walking of the soul.
Job 31:7; Proverbs 30:15,16; Jeremiah 2:20
this
2; 1:2,14; 2:11,22,23; 4:4
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 9:1 - all Solomon's;  1 Kings 9:19 - that which Solomon desired;  1 Kings 21:4 - And he laid him;  Psalm 101:3 - set;  Proverbs 17:24 - the eyes;  Ecclesiastes 2:10 - whatsoever;  Ecclesiastes 2:17 - for;  Ecclesiastes 5:11 - what;  Isaiah 57:17 - in the;  2 Corinthians 6:12 - are not

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/ecclesiastes-6.html.

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

Ecclesiastes 6:9. מראה is universally the object of sight, that which is seen: so in Leviticus 13:12,—" according to all the sight of the eyes of the priest," that is, according to all that is seen by the eyes of the priest. Seeing that man can so easily have a sufficiency, it is better to rejoice in that which lies before his eyes, however trivial it may be, than to wander away into the clouds with our desires, ( μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε, Luke 12:29) and to vex ourselves with plans and hopes which very easily deceive, and even if fulfilled bring us no real happiness. The Berleburger Bible says: "this is the wandering of the soul which then runs about amongst the creatures, and like an Esau hunts in the fields of this world for the good food which wisdom finds only at home and in the calmness of contentment." Luther remarks,—"Solomon's opinion is, that it is better to make use of that which lies before our eyes, that is, of what is now at hand, than that the soul to wandering to and fro. Solomon's will is that we make use of the present, thank God for it, and not think of anything else—like the dog in AEsop which snapped at the shadow and let the flesh fall. What he intends then is that we should use that which God has given before our eyes, that which is now here, and be content therewith and not follow our own soul which is never satisfied: as he said before. Let every Christian then abide by that which he has, which God gives him just now: that pleases him: but the godless are not so: on the contrary, all that they see is a torment to them, because they do not make use of the present, but their soul runs hither and thither and everywhere and is never satisfied. Consequently, when a godless man has money, it does not suffice him, he uses it not, but desires more: if he has a wife, he is not content, but wants another: if he has a whole kingdom he is unsatisfied: like Alexander the Great whom a world could not satisfy. Solomon therefore forbids the soul running to and fro, as it is said in the Hebrew, that is, we are not to be always weaving our thoughts together into plans. And the sum is this—use the present: for that also is vanity and vexation, to wit, when the soul wanders thus restlessly about."

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:9". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/ecclesiastes-6.html.