Ecclesiastes 7 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Ecclesiastes 7)
Ecclesiastes 7:1-29. name--character; a godly mind and life; not mere reputation with man, but what a man is in the eyes of God, with whom the name and reality are one thing (Isaiah 9:6). This alone is "good," while all else is "vanity" when made the chief end.
ointment--used lavishly at costly banquets and peculiarly refreshing in the sultry East. The Hebrew for "name" and for "ointment," have a happy paronomasia, Sheem and Shemen. "Ointment" is fragrant only in the place where the person is whose head and garment are scented, and only for a time. The "name" given by God to His child (Revelation 3:12) is for ever and in all lands. So in the case of the woman who received an everlasting name from Jesus Christ, in reward for her precious ointment (Isaiah 56:5, 14:3-9). Jesus Christ Himself hath such a name, as the Messiah, equivalent to Anointed (Solomon 1:3).
and the day of [his] death, &c.--not a general censure upon God for creating man; but, connected with the previous clause, death is to him, who hath a godly name, "better" than the day of his birth; "far better," as Philippians 1:23 has it.

2. Proving that it is not a sensual enjoyment of earthly goods which is meant in Ecclesiastes 3:13, 5:18. A thankful use of these is right, but frequent feasting Solomon had found dangerous to piety in his own case. So Job's fear (Ecclesiastes 1:4,5). The house of feasting often shuts out thoughts of God and eternity. The sight of the dead in the "house of mourning" causes "the living" to think of their own "end."

3. Sorrow--such as arises from serious thoughts of eternity.
laughter--reckless mirth (Ecclesiastes 2:2).
by the sadness . . . better--(Psalms 126:5,6, 2 Corinthians 4:17, Hebrews 12:10,11). MAURER translates: "In sadness of countenance there is (may be) a good (cheerful) heart." So Hebrew, for "good," equivalent to "cheerful" (Ecclesiastes 9:7); but the parallel clause supports English Version.

5. (Psalms 141:4,5). Godly reproof offends the flesh, but benefits the spirit. Fools' songs in the house of mirth please the flesh, but injure the soul.

6. crackling--answers to the loud merriment of fools. It is the very fire consuming them which produces the seeming merry noise (Joel 2:5). Their light soon goes out in the black darkness. There is a paronomasia in the Hebrew, Sirim ("thorns"), Sir ("pot"). The wicked are often compared to "thorns" (2 Samuel 23:6, Nahum 1:10). Dried cow-dung was the common fuel in Palestine; its slowness in burning makes the quickness of a fire of thorns the more graphic, as an image of the sudden end of fools (Psalms 118:12).

7. oppression--recurring to the idea (Ecclesiastes 3:16, 5:8). Its connection with Ecclesiastes 7:4-6 is, the sight of "oppression" perpetrated by "fools" might tempt the "wise" to call in question God's dispensations, and imitate the folly (equivalent to "madness") described (Ecclesiastes 7:5:6). WEISS, for "oppression," translates, "distraction," produced by merriment. But Ecclesiastes 5:8 favors English Version.
a gift--that is, the sight of bribery in "places of judgment" (Ecclesiastes 3:16) might cause the wise to lose their wisdom (equivalent to "heart"), (Job 12:6, 21:6,7, 24:1, &c.). This suits the parallelism better than "a heart of gifts"; a benevolent heart, as WEISS.

8. connected with Ecclesiastes 7:7. Let the "wise" wait for "the end," and the "oppressions" which now (in "the beginning") perplex their faith, will be found by God's working to be overruled to their good. "Tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3), which is infinitely better than "the proud spirit" that prosperity might have generated in them, as it has in fools (Psalms 73:2,3,12-14,17-26, 5:11).

9. angry--impatient at adversity befalling thee, as Job was (Ecclesiastes 5:2, Proverbs 12:16).

10. Do not call in question God's ways in making thy former days better than thy present, as Job did (Job 29:2-5). The very putting of the question argues that heavenly "wisdom" (Margin) is not as much as it ought made the chief good with thee.

11. Rather, "Wisdom, as compared with an inheritance, is good," that is, is as good as an inheritance; "yea, better (literally, and a profit) to them that see the sun" (that is, the living, Ecclesiastes 11:7, Job 3:16, Psalms 49:19).

12. Literally, (To be) in (that is, under) the shadow (Isaiah 30:2) of wisdom (is the same as to be) in (under) the shadow of money; wisdom no less shields one from the ills of life than money does.
is, that--rather, "the excellency of the knowledge of wisdom giveth life," that is, life in the highest sense, here and hereafter (Proverbs 3:18, John 17:3, 2 Peter 1:3). Wisdom (religion) cannot be lost as money can. It shields one in adversity, as well as prosperity; money, only in prosperity. The question in Ecclesiastes 7:10 implies a want of it.

13. Consider as to God's work, that it is impossible to alter His dispensations; for who can, &c.
straight . . . crooked--Man cannot amend what God wills to be "wanting" and "adverse" (Ecclesiastes 1:15, Job 12:14).

14. consider--resumed from Ecclesiastes 7:13. "Consider," that is, regard it as "the work of God"; for "God has made (Hebrew, for 'set') this (adversity) also as well as the other (prosperity)." "Adversity" is one of the things which "God has made crooked," and which man cannot "make straight." He ought therefore to be "patient" (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
after him--equivalent to "that man may not find anything (to blame) after God" (that is, after "considering God's work," Ecclesiastes 7:13). Vulgate and Syriac, "against Him" (compare Ecclesiastes 7:10, Romans 3:4).

15. An objection entertained by Solomon
in the days of his vanity--his apostasy (Ecclesiastes 8:14, Job 21:7).
just . . . perisheth--(1 Kings 21:13). Temporal not eternal death (John 10:28). But "just" is probably a self-justiciary.
wicked . . . prolongeth--See the antidote to the abuse of this statement in Ecclesiastes 8:12.

16. HOLDEN makes Ecclesiastes 7:16 the scoffing inference of the objector, and Ecclesiastes 7:17 the answer of Solomon, now repentant. So (1 Corinthians 15:32) the skeptic's objection; (1 Corinthians 15:33) the answer. However, "Be not righteous over much," may be taken as Solomon's words, forbidding a self-made righteousness of outward performances, which would wrest salvation from God, instead of receiving it as the gift of His grace. It is a fanatical, pharisaical righteousness, separated from God; for the "fear of God" is in antithesis to it (Ecclesiastes 7:18, Ecclesiastes 5:3,7, Matthew 6:1-7, 9:14, 23:23,24, Romans 10:3, 1 Timothy 4:3).
over wise--(Job 11:12, Romans 12:3,16), presumptuously self-sufficient, as if acquainted with the whole of divine truth.
destroy thyself--expose thyself to needless persecution, austerities and the wrath of God; hence to an untimely death. "Destroy thyself" answers to "perisheth" (Ecclesiastes 7:15); "righteous over much," to "a just man." Therefore in Ecclesiastes 7:15 it is self-justiciary, not a truly righteous man, that is meant.

17. over much wicked--so worded, to answer to "righteous over much." For if not taken thus, it would seem to imply that we may be wicked a little. "Wicked" refers to "wicked man" (Ecclesiastes 7:15); "die before thy time," to "prolongeth his life," antithetically. There may be a wicked man spared to "live long," owing to his avoiding gross excesses (Ecclesiastes 7:15). Solomon says, therefore, Be not so foolish (answering antithetically to "over wise," Ecclesiastes 7:16), as to run to such excess of riot, that God will be provoked to cut off prematurely thy day of grace (Romans 2:5). The precept is addressed to a sinner. Beware of aggravating thy sin, so as to make thy case desperate. It refers to the days of Solomon's "vanity" (apostasy, Ecclesiastes 7:15), when only such a precept would be applicable. By litotes it includes, "Be not wicked at all."

18. this . . . this--the two opposite excesses (Ecclesiastes 7:16,17), fanatical, self-wise righteousness, and presumptuous, foolhardy wickedness.
he that feareth God shall come forth of them all--shall escape all such extremes (Proverbs 3:7).

19. Hebrew, "The wisdom," that is, the true wisdom, religion (2 Timothy 3:15).
than ten mighty--that is, able and valiant generals (Ecclesiastes 7:12, 9:13-18, Proverbs 21:22, 24:5). These "watchmen wake in vain, except the Lord keep the city" (Psalms 127:1).

20. Referring to Ecclesiastes 7:16. Be not "self-righteous," seek not to make thyself "just" before God by a superabundance of self-imposed performances; "for true 'wisdom, or 'righteousness,' shows that there is not a just man," &c.

21. As therefore thou being far from perfectly "just" thyself, hast much to be forgiven by God, do not take too strict account, as the self-righteous do (Ecclesiastes 7:16, Luke 18:9,11), and thereby shorten their lives (Ecclesiastes 7:15,16), of words spoken against thee by others, for example, thy servant: Thou art their "fellow servant" before God (Matthew 18:32-35).

22. (1 Kings 2:44).

23. All this--resuming the "all" in Ecclesiastes 7:15, Ecclesiastes 7:15-22 is therefore the fruit of his dearly bought experience in the days of his "vanity."
I will be wise--I tried to "be wise," independently of God. But true wisdom was then "far from him," in spite of his human wisdom, which he retained by God's gift. So "over wise" (Ecclesiastes 7:16).

24. That . . . far off . . . deep--True wisdom is so when sought independently of "fear of God" (Ecclesiastes 7:18, Deuteronomy 30:12,13, Job 11:7,8, 28:12-20,28, Psalms 64:6, Romans 10:6,7).

25. Literally, "I turned myself and mine heart to." A phrase peculiar to Ecclesiastes, and appropriate to the penitent turning back to commune with his heart on his past life.
wickedness of folly--He is now a step further on the path of penitence than in Ecclesiastes 1:17, 2:12, where "folly" is put without "wickedness" prefixed.
reason--rather, "the right estimation" of things. HOLDEN translates also "foolishness (that is, sinful folly, answering to 'wickedness' in the parallel) of madness" (that is, of man's mad pursuits).

26. "I find" that, of all my sinful follies, none has been so ruinous a snare in seducing me from God as idolatrous women (1 Kings 11:3,4, Proverbs 5:3,4, 22:14). As "God's favor is better than life," she who seduces from God is "more bitter than death."
whoso pleaseth God--as Joseph (Genesis 39:2,3,9). It is God's grace alone that keeps any from falling.

27. this--namely, what follows in Ecclesiastes 7:28.
counting one by one--by comparing one thing with another [HOLDEN and MAURER].
account--a right estimate. But Ecclesiastes 7:28 more favors GESENIUS. "Considering women one by one."

28. Rather, referring to his past experience, "Which my soul sought further, but I found not."
one man--that is, worthy of the name, "man," "upright"; not more than one in a thousand of my courtiers (Job 33:23, Psalms 12:1). Jesus Christ alone of men fully realizes the perfect ideal of "man." "Chiefest among ten thousand" (Solomon 5:10). No perfect "woman has ever existed, not even the Virgin Mary. Solomon, in the word "thousand," alludes to his three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. Among these it was not likely that he should find the fidelity which one true wife pays to one husband. Connected with Ecclesiastes 7:26, not an unqualified condemnation of the sex, as Proverbs 12:4, 31:10, &c., prove.

29. The "only" way of accounting for the scarcity of even comparatively upright men and women is that, whereas God made man upright, they (men) have, &c. The only account to be "found" of the origin of evil, the great mystery of theology, is that given in Holy Writ (Genesis 2:1-3:24'). Among man's "inventions" was the one especially referred to in Ecclesiastes 7:26, the bitter fruits of which Solomon experienced, the breaking of God's primeval marriage law, joining one man to "one" woman (Matthew 19:4,5,6). "Man" is singular, namely, Adam; "they," plural, Adam, Eve, and their posterity.