Ecclesiastes 2 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ecclesiastes 2)

Verse 1

[1] I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

I said — Being disappointed of my hopes from knowledge, I resolved to try another course.

Go to — O my soul! I will try whether I cannot make thee happy, by the enjoyment of sensual delights.

Vanity — Is vain, and unable to make men happy.

Verse 2

[2] I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?

It is mad — This is an act of madness, more fit for fools who know nothing, than for wise men in this sinful, and dangerous, and deplorable state of mankind.

What doth it — What good doth it? Or how can it make men happy? I challenge all the Epicures in the world to give me a solid answer.

Verse 3

[3] I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.

To wine — To gratify myself with delicious meats and drinks.

Yet — Yet resolving to use my wisdom, that I might try whether I could not arrive at satisfaction, by mixing wine and wisdom together.

To lay hold — To pursue sensual pleasures, which was my folly.

'Till — 'Till I might find out the true way to contentment and satisfaction, during this mortal life.

Verse 6

[6] I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees:

The wood — The nurseries of young trees, which for the multitude of them were like a wood or forest.

Verse 8

[8] I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.

Peculiar treasure — The greatest jewels and rarities of other kings, which they gave to me, either as a tribute, or by way of present.

Of provinces — Which were imposed upon or presented by all the provinces of my dominions.

Verse 9

[9] So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

Great — In riches, and power, and glory.

My wisdom remained — As yet I was not wholly seduced from God.

Verse 10

[10] And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.

And — Whatsoever was grateful to my senses.

Rejoiced — I had the comfort of all my labours, and was not hindered from the full enjoyment of them by sickness or war, or any other calamity.

My portion — This present enjoyment of them, was all the benefit which I could expect from all my labours. So that I made the best of them.

Verse 11

[11] Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Vexation — I found myself wholly dissatisfied.

No profit — The pleasure was past, and I was never the better for it, but as empty as before.

Verse 12

[12] And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done.

I turned — Being frustrated of my hopes in pleasure, I returned to a second consideration of my first choice, to see whether there was not more satisfaction to be gotten from wisdom, than I discovered at my first view.

Done — As by others, so especially by myself. They can make no new discoveries as to this point. They can make no more of the pleasures of sense than I have done. Let me then try once more, whether wisdom can give happiness.

Verse 13

[13] Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

I saw — I allowed thus much. Although wisdom is not sufficient to make men happy, yet it is of a far greater use than vain pleasures, or any other follies.

Verse 14

[14] The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

Head — In their proper place. He hath the use of his eyes and reason, and foresees, and so avoids many dangers and mischiefs.

Yet — Notwithstanding this excellency of wisdom above folly, at last they both come to one end. Both are subject to the same calamities, and to death itself, which takes away all difference between them.

Verse 15

[15] Then said I in my heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity.

Why — What benefit have I by my wisdom?

Verse 16

[16] For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

For — Their memory, though it may flourish for a season, yet will in a little time be worn out; as we see it, most of the wise men of former ages, whose very names, together with all their monuments, are utterly lost.

As the fool — He must die as certainly as the fool.

Verse 17

[17] Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Life — My life was a burden to me.

Is grievous — All human designs and works are so far from yielding me satisfaction, that the consideration of them increases my discontent.

Verse 18

[18] Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

All my labour — All these riches and buildings, and other fruits of my labour, were aggravations of my misery.

Because — Because I must, and that everlastingly, leave them all behind me.

Verse 19

[19] And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

Or a fool — Who will undo all that I have done, and turn the effects of my wisdom into instruments of his folly. Some think he had such an opinion of Rehoboam.

Verse 20

[20] Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

Despair — I gave myself up to despair of ever reaping that satisfaction which I promised to myself.

Verse 21

[21] For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

Wisdom — Who uses great industry, and prudence, and justice too, in the use and management of his affairs.

To a man — Who has spent his days in sloth and folly.

A great evil — A great disorder in itself, and a great torment to a considering mind.

Verse 22

[22] For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

For what — What comfort or benefit remains to any man after this short and frail life is once ended?

Verse 23

[23] For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.

Sorrows — Full of sorrows. Tho' he took great and unwearied pains all his days, yet the toils of his body were accompanied with vexation of mind.

His heart — Because his sleep was broken with perplexing cares.

Verse 24

[24] There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Enjoy — That he should thankfully take, and freely and chearfully enjoy the comforts which God gives him.

It was — A singular gift of God.

Verse 25

[25] For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?

More than I — Therefore he could best tell whether they were able of themselves, without God's special gift, to yield a man content, in the enjoying of them. Who can pursue them with more diligence, obtain them with more readiness, or embrace them with more greediness?

Verse 26

[26] For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Wisdom — To direct him how to use his comforts aright; that so they may be blessings, and not curses to him.

Joy — A thankful contented mind.

To heap up — He giveth him up to insatiable desires, and wearisome labours, that he may leave it to others, yea to such as he least desired, to good and virtuous men.