Ecclesiastes 5 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ecclesiastes 5)

Verse 1

[1] Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.

Thy foot — Thy thoughts and affections, by which men go to God and walk with him.

To hear — To hearken to and obey God's word.

Of fools — Such as wicked men use to offer, who vainly think to please God with their sacrifices without obedience.

For — They are not sensible of the great sinfulness of such thoughts.

Verse 2

[2] Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Rash — Speak not without due consideration.

To utter — Either in prayer, or vows.

For God — Is a God of infinite majesty, holiness, and knowledge.

Thy words — Either in prayer or in vowing.

Verse 3

[3] For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.

A dream — When men are oppressed with business in the day, they dream of it in the night.

Is known — It discovers the man to be a foolish, and rash, and inconsiderate man.

Of words — Either in prayer, or in vowing, by making many rash vows, of which he speaks verse 4,5,6, and then returns to the mention of multitude of dreams and many words, verse 7, which verse may be a comment upon this, and which makes it probable that both that and this verse are to be understood of vows rather than of prayers.

Verse 4

[4] When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

In fools — In perfidious persons, who, when they are in distress, make liberal vows, and when the danger is past, break them.

Verse 6

[6] Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?

Thy mouth — By any rash vow.

Thy flesh — Thyself, the word flesh being often put for the whole man.

The angel — The priest or ministers of holy things. Such persons are often called angels, or, as this Hebrew word is commonly rendered, messengers. And this title seems to be given to the priest here, because the vow made to God, was paid to the priest as one standing and acting in God's name and stead, and it belonged to him, as God's angel or ambassador, to discharge persons from their vows when there was just occasion.

It was — I did unadvisedly in making such a vow.

Angry — Why wilt thou provoke God to anger at these frivolous excuses? Destroy - Blast all thy labours, and particularly that work or enterprize for the success whereof thou didst make these vows.

Verse 7

[7] For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

For — There is a great deal of folly, as in multitude of dreams, which for the most part are vain and insignificant, so also in many words, in making many vows whereby a man is exposed to many snares and temptations.

But — Fear the wrath of God, and therefore be sparing in making vows, and just in performing them.

Verse 8

[8] If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.

If — Here is an account of another vanity, and a sovereign antidote against it.

Marvel not — As if it were inconsistent with God's wisdom, and justice, to suffer such disorders.

For — The most high God who is infinitely above the greatest of men.

Regardeth — Not like an idle spectator, but a judge, who diligently observes, and will effectually punish them.

Higher — God: it is an emphatical repetition of the same thing.

Verse 9

[9] Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.

Profit — The fruits of the earth.

For all — Necessary and beneficial to all men. The wise man, after some interruption, returns to his former subject, the vanity of riches, one evidence whereof he mentions in this verse, that the poor labourer enjoys the fruits of the earth as well as the greatest monarch.

Is served — Is supported by the fruits of the field.

Verse 13

[13] There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

To their hurt — Because they frequently are the occasions both of their present and eternal destruction.

Verse 14

[14] But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.

Perish — By some wicked practices, either his own, or of other men.

Nothing — In the son's possession after his father's death.

Verse 15

[15] As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

To go — Into the womb of the earth, the common mother of all mankind.

Take nothing — This is another vanity. If his estate be neither lost, nor kept to his hurt, yet when he dies he must leave it behind him, and cannot carry one handful of it into another world.

Verse 16

[16] And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

The wind — For riches, which are empty and unsatisfying, uncertain and transitory, which no man can hold or stay in its course, all which are the properties of the wind.

Verse 17

[17] All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

He eateth — He hath no comfort in his estate, but even when he eats, he doth it with anxiety and discontent.

And wrath — When he falls sick, and presages his death, he is filled with rage, because he is cut off before he hath accomplished his designs, and because he must leave that wealth and world in which all his hopes and happiness lie.

Verse 18

[18] Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.

Good — Good or comfortable to a man's self, and comely or amiable in the eye of other men.

His portion — Of worldly goods; he hath a better portion in heaven. This liberty is given him by God, and this is the best advantage, as to this life, which he can make of them.

Verse 19

[19] Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

To take — To use what God hath given him.

Verse 20

[20] For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.

Remember — So as to disquiet himself.

The days — The troubles; days being put here for evil, or, sad days.

Answereth — His desires, in giving him solid joy and comfort.