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The vanity of all
human courses. have it reckoned among the Poetical Books; and if their authority availed much in matters of this kind, we
might perhaps in this particular be disposed to agree with their opinion. Bp. Lowth, The Book may be divided into two general parts; the first, comprising the first six chapters, in which Solomon
shews that all things relating to this world only are vain and perishing, and therefore can afford no true, or solid, or lasting satisfaction or happiness; the second, comprising the last six chapters, in which he shews that
piety is the only means by which we can attain true and lasting happiness. Dr. Wells. I cannot but exhort all men to study this Book diligently, and with great attention of mind; both for the
author's sake and for the matter of it. For he handles his subject in such a manner as first to draw us from the desire and love of earthly things, and from the perverse use of them; and then to lead us to the true and lawful use of them; without either offence to God or injury to ourselves. And he teaches us how we may, without an excessive solicitude and anxiety about events, enjoy all things in the fear of God, with tranquillity and satisfaction of mind at present; and at last, by the same fear of God and observance of his commandments, arrive at a never-ending felicity. Bp. Patrick,
Before CHRIST about 977.
return to go.
a Chap. 12. 8.
wind returneth again according to his CHRIST about 977. CHAP. I.
7 d All the rivers run into the sea; a Ps.104.8, 9. 1 The preacher sheweth that all human courses
are vain : 4 because the creatures are rest- yet the sea is not full; unto the place Job 38. 102
1 Heb. 12 and because he hath found it so in the
8 All things are full of labour;
man cannot utter it: the eye is not
son of David, king of Jerusa- filled with hearing.
9 e The thing that hath been, it is e Chap. 3. 15. 2 a Vanity of vanities, saith the that which shall be; and that which 29.5.6. Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is is done is that which shall be done: vanity.
and there is no new thing under the
may be said, See, this is new? it bath
11 There is no remembrance of
to come with those that shall come
b Chap. 2. 22. & 3. 9.
& 119, 90.
+ Heb. panteth.
Chap. I. ver. 1. The words of the Preacher,] See the 5. The sun also ariseth, &c.] The sun in a settled Introduction.
course observes its times of rising and setting, whereas - king of Jerusalem.] The Greek renders, King man, when he goes down to the earth, cannot, like the of Israel in Jerusalem.
sun, return again. The author is representing, in this 2. Vanity &c.] In the eleven first verses, Solomon and the two next verses, by four comparisons, with the lays the foundation of his following discourses, and earth, the sun, the wind, and the sea, man to be more makes his way to the proof of what he intends, that subject to vanity than other things. Bp. Patrick. nothing here can make us permanently happy, by shew 8. All things are full of labour ;] He now proceeds ing how empty all things are, how short a time man to consider more particularly what he said in general has to possess them; and that, while this time lasts, he words, (ver. 3,) of man's vain endeavour to satisfy himcan only enjoy the same empty things over and over self in worldly designs and contrivances, in which he is again, till he be cloyed with them. Bp. Patrick. tired, and comes to no end of his desires; and how in
In this expression that “all is vanity,” the wise man deed should he, when his whole business here is only principally refers to the labours of mankind, about the to enjoy the same things over and over again, as all things of the present world; and must be understood, men have done before us, and will do after us? ver. not as absolutely condemning the things themselves, or 9—11. Bp. Patrick, our pursuits about them, but only as the one may be 9. - there is no new thing under the sun.] This exin some cases unsuitable, and the other irregular or ex- pression of the Preacher is only to be understood as a cessive. Dr. J. Balguy.
general inference from what he had said, namely, that 4.- but the earth abideth for ever.] That is, con- there is nothing among the appearances of nature which stantly, notwithstanding these fluctuations. Script. happens now otherwise than it has done for some geneillust.
rations before; and in the moral world, men being sub
Before CHRIST about 977.
number of the
28. & 10. 14.
& 7. 23.
The vanity of human courses
in the works of pleasure. Before 13 And I gave my heart to seek hold on folly, till I might see what about 977. and search out by wisdom concerning was that good for the sons of men,
all things that are done under heaven: which they should do under the hea
this sore travail hath God given to ven + all the days of their life. + Heb. the Or, to aflict the sons of man || to be exercised 4 I made me great works ; I builded days of their therewith. me houses; I planted me vineyards :
all is vanity and vexation of spirit. kind of fruits :
wanting cannot be numbered. eth forth trees :
16 I communed with mine own 7 I got me servants and maidens, heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great and had + servants born in my house; Heb, sons
of my house. g 1 Kings 4. estate, and have gotten 5 more wis- also I had great possessions of great 23. & 10.7, dom than all they that have been be- and small cattle above all that were
fore me in Jerusalem : yea, my heart in Jerusalem before me: + Heb. had + had great experience of wisdom and 8 "I gathered me also silver and b 1 Kings 9. knowledge.
gold, and the peculiar treasure of h Chap. 2. 12. 17 h Ånd I gave my heart to know kings and of the provinces: I gat me
wisdom, and to know madness and men singers and women singers, and
sical instruments, and that of all sorts. strument and 18 For in much wisdom is much 9 So I was great, and increased
instruments. grief: and he that increaseth know- more than all that were before me in ledge increaseth sorrow.
Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained
with me. CHAP. II.
10 And whatsoever mine eyes de-
of pleasure. 12. Though the wise be better not my heart from any joy; for my
that my hands had wrought, and on
I will prove thee with mirth, and, behold, all was vanity and vexa- c Chap. 1. 3. therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, tion of spirit, and there was no profit this also is vanity.
under the sun. 2 I said of laughter, It is mad: 12 ( And I turned myself to beand of mirth, What doeth it? hold wisdom, dand madness, and a Chap. 1. 17.
3 a I sought in mine heart + to give folly: for what can the man do that myself unto wine, yet acquainting cometh after the king ? || even that things which mine heart with wisdom; and to lay which hath been already done.
a Chap. 1.17. + Heb. to
& 7, 25.
flesh wiih wine.
hare been already done.
ject to the same passions and affections as heretofore, it 3. — and to lay hold on folly, &c.] That is, not altois no wonder the same causes should operate in the gether to follow the study of wisdom, nor yet altogether production of the same effects. Dr. Durell.
to pursue pleasure, but to mix them together; "till I 15. That which is crooked &c.] The shortness of might see," &c. that is, till I might sufficiently try whehuman wit, however improved, is here represented by ther herein lay that so much desired good, which men two things; first, that it cannot remove what is incon- pursue here all their lives. Dr. Wells. venient; secondly, that it cannot supply what is de 6.- the wood that bringeth forth trees :] That is, ficient, in any condition of life. Bp. Patrick.
the nurseries of young trees. Desvoeux. 17.- to know madness and folly :] Referring perhaps 7. I got me servants and maidens,] The servants to all the idle speculations in which men of parts and among the Hebrews were chiefly slaves, either bought wit are apt to employ themselves. Bp. Patrick.
or taken in war. Dr. Hodgson. 18. For in much wisdom &c.] Meaning that, though 8.- the peculiar treasure of kings and of the proknowledge is the most excellent of earthly goods, yet the vinces :] That is, I procured whatever was choice and possession of it is insufficient for our happiness, and is precious in other kingdoms, and especially in those often attended with trouble and vexation. Bp. Patrick. countries which were subject to me. Dr. Wells.
12. - for what can the man do that cometh after the Chap. II. ver. 2. I said of laughter,] Meaning ex- king?] For who is there that can give a better account cessive laughter, dissolute and frantick merriment. Bp. than I the king, who have had such advantages, beyond Patrick,
any private man, to know the history of former times,
Before CHRIST about 977.
8 Chap. 1. 3.
there is an
e Prov. 17. 24.
me, even to me.
Wisdom excelleth folly.
CHAP. II, III.
Joy in labour is God's gift. 13 Then I saw + that wisdom ex- for his portion. This also is vanity about 977. celleth folly, as far as light excelleth and a great evil. darkness.
22 For what hath man of all his + Heb. that
14 e The wise man's eyes are in his labour, and of the vexation of his & 3. 9. excellency in
head; but the fool walketh in dark- heart, wherein he hath laboured under han in folly, ness: and I myself perceived also the sun ?
that one event happeneth to them all. 23 For all his days are h sorrows, h Job 14. 1. chap. 8. 1.
15 Then said I in my heart, As it and his travail grief; yea, his heart happeneth to
happeneth to the fool, so it + happen- taketh not rest in the night. This is
man, than that he should eat and 18. & 8. 15.
can hasten hereunto, more than I ? 17 Therefore I hated life; because 26 For God giveth to a man that the work that is wrought under the is good tin his sight wisdom, and Heb. before sun is grievous unto me: for all is knowledge, and joy : but to the sinner vanity and vexation of spirit. he giveth travail, to gather and to
18 ( Yea, I hated all my labour heap up, that khe may give to him k Job 27. 17.
added to human travail. 11 There is an wherein I have laboured, and wherein excellency in God's works. 16 But as for I have shewed myself wise under the man, God shall judge his works there, and
here he shall be like a beast.
This is also vanity.
labour and a time to every purpose
under the heaven: 21 For there is a man whose labour 2 A time + to be born, and a time + Heb. to is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and to die; a time to plant, and a time to
in equity; yet to a man that hath not pluck up that which is planted; + Heb. give. laboured therein shall he + leave it 3 A time to kill, and a time to
+ Heb. laboured. f Ps, 49. 10.
as well as my own; so that, I am confident, they who or a fool ?” He appears to speak doubtfully, but he come after can pass no better judgment on things than had a very shrewd guess, what kind of man his son I do now? Bp. Patrick.
would make, for he speaks more despondingly in the 13.- as far as light excelleth darkness.] Meaning, words which follow; and he feelingly expresses how that religion and virtue are as much more excellent much the very fear and apprehension of this embittered and profitable to men than wickedness, as it is pos- the fruit of all his labour. Abp. Tillotson. sible for one thing to be preferable to another. Dr. S. 20. Therefore I went about &c.] Therefore I bent Clarke.
my thoughts to do away all hope of any good issue to 14. The wise man's eyes &c.] A wise man, looking all my earthly labours and endeavours. Bp. Hall. around him, and before him, is cautious and well aware 24. There is nothing better for a man, &c.] He here of danger, into which the fool, blinded with the sot- teaches, that all the benefit of mere human labour is tish love of pleasure, falls rashly and inconsiderately; the moderate or sober enjoyment of what we have acYet, with all his circumspection, he is not able to avoid quired by it. Dr. Wells. For the truth of which, he many calamities which are common to all mankind. says in the next verse, you may rely on my experience. Bp. Patrick.
Bp. Patrick, 17. Therefore I hated life ; &c.] I became quite out of love with this life, because the toil attending it is Chap. III. ver. 1. To every thing there is a season, grievous ; and yet, after all, it affords no solid or lasting &c.] Solomon proceeds to shew that the vicissitude of satisfaction. Dr. Wells.
the seasons, and of all earthly things, teaches us that 18. — because I should leave it unto the man that shall we should enjoy what we get, as well as labour to get be after me.] Solomon seems here to speak with a me- it; and that it also adds to the vanity of all things conlancholy reflection on his own son Rehoboam. " Who nected with human life. Dr. Wells. knoweth,” he adds, "whether he shall be a wise man, 3. A time to kill,] A time, whether in a just war,
CHRIST about 977.
1 Or, seek.
which is driven away.
A season for every thing.
God the judge of all. Before heal; a time to break down, and a | eat and drink, and enjoy the good of Before about 977. time to build up;
all his labour, it is the gift of God.
put to it, nor any thing taken
a time to gather stones together; a should fear before him. . Heb. to be time to embrace, and a time + to re 15 • That which hath been is now; b Chap. 1. 9. frain from embracing ;
and that which is to be hath already 6 A time to || get, and a time to been; and God requireth + that which + Heb. that lose; a time to keep, and a time to is past. cast away;
16 1 And moreover I saw under
of righteousness, that iniquity was
judge the righteous and the wicked : a Chap. 1. 3. 9 a What profit hath he that work- for there is a time there for every eth in that wherein he laboureth ?
purpose and for every work. 10 I have seen the travail, which 18 I said in mine heart concerning God hath given to the sons of men to the estate of the sons of men, || that mor; that they be exercised in it.
God might manifest them, and that God, and see, 11 He hath made every thing beau- they might see that they themselves tiful in his time: also he hath set the are beasts. world in their heart, so that no man 19 d For that which befalleth the a Ps. 49. 12. can find out the work that God mak- sons of men befalleth beasts; even eth from the beginning to the end. one thing befalleth them : as the one
12 I know that there is no good in dieth, so dieth the other, yea, they them, but for a man to rejoice, and to have all one breath; so that a man do good in his life.
hath no preeminence above a beast: 13 And also that every man should for all is vanity.
c Ver. 1.
ch. 2. 16.
or in a peaceable execution of justice, in which it is and capacity of his mind, but is to be imputed to the warrantable to kill. Bp. Hall.
impediments of human learning, &c. Lord Bacon. 5. A time to cast away stones, &c.] This may signify, 12. — but for a man to rejoice, and to do good] So true “A time to cast away stones with a sling, and a time it is that the pleasure of doing good remains after a to collect them again in a bag ;” or, "a time to cast thing is done, the thoughts of it lie easy in our minds, stones on a field to render it barren, and a time to col- and the reflection upon it afterwards ministers to us, lect stones out of a field to render it fertile ;" or, ever after, joy and delight. In this passage Solomon, time to cast away stones improper for building, and to after all his experience of worldly pleasures, pitches at collect proper ones.” Calmet.
last upon this as the greatest happiness of human life, 7. A time to rend, and a time to sew ;] The “rending" and the only good use which is to be made of a proshere mentioned undoubtedly refers to the Oriental mode perous fortune. Abp. Tillotson. of expressing sorrow, by rending the clothes. The 19. For that which befalleth &c.] Among the passages “sewing” is designed as the opposite to it, and may of this book with which, for want of discerning the true mean the making up of new garments; for in the East design and scope of it, vain and wicked persons would it is thought essentially necessary for the due solem- encourage themselves in their follies and impiety, is this, nization of a time of rejoicing, to put on new clothes. from ver. 19 to 21, “that which befalleth the sons of Harmer.
men befalleth beasts,” &c. as if the end of man and beasts 9. What profit hath he &c.] What stability or lasting were the same, and therefore men might lead sensual profit can a man expect from that which he does, since lives, as beasts do, without concern for the future ; there is such a changeable vicissitude in all actions and whereas Solomon speaking of “the estate of the sons of events ? Bp. Hall.
men,” (ver. 18,) not in the next world but in this, pur11. – he hath set the world in their heart,] Solomon sues his main purpose, in shewing the vanity of earthly here declares not obscurely, that God has framed the things and designs, that, whatever content or satisfaction mind of man as a mirrour capable of the image of the men may propose to themselves in this world, all is but whole world, not only delighted in beholding the va- vanity, they are in many respects like beasts, they riety of things and the changes of times, but ambitious draw in the same air, their breath will fail them, they to find out and discover the immovable and settled laws will die and be turned to dust as well as the beasts. and decrees of nature. And, though he intimates that this Yea, so vain is man, and so like the beast as to outward whole economy of nature (which he calls "the work that appearance, that, although when he dieth “his spirit God maketh from the beginning to the end”) cannot be shall return unto God," and he shall be judged in order found out by man, it does not derogate from the power to be rewarded suitably to his deeds, (ver. 17, and chap.
Before CHRIST about 977.
sons of man. + Heb. is ascending.
d Prov. 6. 10.
e Chap. 2. 24. & 5. 18.
by oppression, &c. Before
20 All go unto one place; all are | This is also vanity and vexation of about 971. of the dust, and all turn to dust again. spirit.
21 Who knoweth the spirit of 5 . The fool foldeth his hands to+ Heb. of the
man that tgoeth upward, and the gether, and eateth his own flesh.
ness, than both the hands full with
child nor brother : yet is there no end
of all his labour; neither is his eye
4 by envy, 5 by idleness, 7 by covetousness, For whom do I labour, and bereave
o I returned, and considered all yea, it is a sore travail. a Chap. 5. 8. the a
beunder the sun : and behold the tears cause they have a good reward for
of such as were oppressed, and they their labour.
of their oppressors there was power; lift up his fellow: but woe to him
that is alone when he falleth; for he
they have heat: but how can one be
not seen the evil work that is done two shall withstand him; and a three-
fold cord is not quickly broken. 4. Again, I considered all travail, 13 | Better is a poor and a wise the eney of a and † every right work, that ț for this child than an old and foolish king, knowelh not
a man is envied of his neighbour. + who will no more be admonished.
b Job 3. 17, &c.
c Job 3. 11,
+ Heb. who
to be admonished.
xii. 7. 14,) yet no one knoweth the spirit of man that of the greatest and best of princes, who are not so happy goeth upward,” &c. that is, no one can experimentally, as the world is apt to think them. Bp. Patrick. or by sense and reasoning, discern a man's soul that 2. Wherefore I praised the dead &c.] Considering ascends or goes upwards, any more than that of the beast the various oppressions which were so frequent in the which descends or goes downwards : so great is man's world, Solomon considered those persons happier who ignorance of such matters. This thought should wean were out of it, than those who still lived in it. Abp. us from too much care for the future, and make us Tillotson. thank God for our portion in this world, disposing us 5. — eateth his own flesh.] Consumes his own subto do good with it to others, and to enjoy it without so stance. licitude. Collyer.
8. There is one alone, &c.] In opposition to the cha21. Who knoweth the spirit of man &c.] The sense racter of the idler, he here introduces (ver. 8-12,) the may be, How few men live as if they knew that the soul character of an indefatigable covetous man, who, having of man is immortal, and that, when the body dies, it nobody with whom to share his fortune, cannot resolve goeth upward to God to be judged by Him; and that either to leave off heaping up riches, or quietly to enjoy the spirit of the beast dying with the body, and going what he has already acquired. Desvoeur. downward to the earth, there utterly perishes. Dr. 9.- because they have a good reward for their labour.] Wells.
How much wiser, Solomon says, is he who not only en22. — that a man should rejoice in his own works ;]joys what he has himself, but takes others into his society That he should make a cheerful use of God's good bless- for purposes of common counsel and mutual assistance, ings, as the only fruit and alleviation which the earth and of mutual participation in the good things which will afford of all his painful labours here. Bp. Hall. God has given him! Bp. Patrick. “Two are better
than one;” implying, generally, that society is producChap. IV. ver. 1. So I returned,] He proceeds to tive of much comfort and benefit. Bp. Hall. consider the power which many times falls into the hands 13. Better is a poor and a wise child &c.] He of unjust and cruel men, and to represent the miserable proceeds to shew, that still it is not society alone which estate of those that are subject to them, as a further ar- will make men happy, without wisdom or virtue. For gument of the vanity and vexation to which all men are who are better attended or guarded than kings ? and yet liable in this troublesome world; and, having noted the poorest man that is, if he be wise and good, is far some of the principal mischiefs of this sort, he concludes happier than the wealthiest prince on earth who foolishly this chapter with some animadversions on the condition abuses his power. Bp. Patrick.