Ecclesiastes 7 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Ecclesiastes 7)

Verse 1

[1] A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Of death — Seeing this life is so full of vanity, and vexation, and misery, it is more desirable for a man to go out of it, than to come into it.

Verse 2

[2] It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

The house — Where mourners meet to celebrate the funeral of a deceased friend.

That — Death.

The living — Will be seriously affected with it, whereas feasting is commonly attended with levity, and manifold temptations.

Verse 4

[4] The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

The wise — Are constantly meditating upon serious things.

Verse 6

[6] For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

Thorns — Which for a time make a great noise and blaze, but presently go out.

Verse 7

[7] Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift destroyeth the heart.

A gift — A bribe given to a wise man, deprives him of the use of his understanding. So this verse discovers two ways whereby a wise man may be made mad, by suffering oppression from others, or by receiving bribes to oppress others. And this also is an argument of the vanity of worldly wisdom that is so easily corrupted and lost.

Verse 8

[8] Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

The end — The good or evil of things is better known by their end, than by their beginning.

The patient — Who quietly waits for the issue of things.

The proud — Which he puts instead of hasty or impatient, because pride is the chief cause of impatience.

Verse 10

[10] Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

Better — More quiet and comfortable. For this is an argument of a mind unthankful for the many mercies, which men enjoy even in evil times.

For — This question shews thy folly in contending with thy Lord and governor, in opposing thy shallow wit to his unsearchable wisdom.

Verse 11

[11] Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun.

Good — When wisdom and riches meet in one man, it is an happy conjunction.

By it — By wisdom joined with riches there comes great benefit.

To them — Not only to a man's self, but many others in this world.

Verse 12

[12] For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

Life — But herein knowledge of wisdom excels riches, that whereas riches frequently expose men to destruction, true wisdom doth often preserve a man from temporal, and always from eternal ruin.

Verse 13

[13] Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?

Consider — His wise, and just, and powerful government of all events, which is proposed as the last and best remedy against all murmurings.

For who — No man can correct or alter any of God's works; and therefore all frettings at the injuries of men, or calamities of times, are not only sinful, but also vain and fruitless. This implies that there is an hand of God in all mens actions, either effecting them, if they be good, or permitting them, if they be bad, and ordering and over-ruling them, whether they he good or bad.

Verse 14

[14] In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

Be joyful — Enjoy God's favours with thankfulness.

Consider — Consider that it is God's hand, and therefore submit to it: consider also why God sends it, for what sins, and with what design.

God also — Hath wisely ordained, that prosperity and adversity should succeed one another.

That — No man might be able to foresee, what shall befal him afterwards; and therefore might live in a constant dependance upon God, and neither despair in trouble, nor be secure or presumptuous in prosperity.

Verse 15

[15] All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.

All — All sorts of events.

My vanity — Since I have come into this vain life.

Perisheth — Yea, for his righteousness, which exposes him to the envy, anger, or hatred of wicked men.

Wickedness — Notwithstanding all his wickedness.

Verse 16

[16] Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

Be not — This verse and the next have a manifest reference to verse 15, being two inferences drawn from the two clauses of the observation. Solomon here speaks in the person of an ungodly man, who takes occasion to dissuade men from righteousness, because of the danger which attends it. Therefore, saith he, take heed of strictness, zeal, and forwardness in religion. And the next verse contains an antidote to this suggestion; yea, rather saith he, be not wicked or foolish overmuch; for that will not preserve thee, as thou mayest imagine, but will occasion and hasten thy ruin.

Verse 18

[18] It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.

Take hold of — Embrace and practise this counsel.

Shall come — Shall be delivered from all extremes, and from all the evil consequences of them.

Verse 19

[19] Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

Strengthen — Supports him in, and secures him against troubles and dangers.

Verse 20

[20] For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Sinneth not — Who is universally and perfectly good.

Verse 21

[21] Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee:

Also — Do not strictly search into them, nor listen to hear them.

Verse 23

[23] All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.

Proved — I have found to be true, by the help of that singular wisdom which God had given me.

I said — I determined that I would attain perfection of wisdom.

But — I found myself greatly disappointed.

Verse 24

[24] That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?

It — God's counsels and works, and the reasons of them.

Verse 25

[25] I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

And seek — He useth three words signifying the same thing, to intimate his vehement desire, and vigorous, and unwearied endeavours after it.

The reason — Both of God's various providences, and of the counsels and courses of men.

The wickedness — Clearly and fully to understand the great evil of sin.

Verse 26

[26] And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

I find — By my own sad experience.

Shall escape — Shall be prevented from falling into her hands.

Verse 27

[27] Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account:

To find — That I might make a true and just estimate.

Verse 28

[28] Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.

Yet seeketh — I returned to search again with more earnestness.

I find not — That it was so, he found, but the reason of the thing he could not find out.

One man — A wise and virtuous man.

A woman — One worthy of that name; one who is not a dishonour to her sex.

Among — In that thousand whom I have taken into intimate society with myself.

Verse 29

[29] Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Lo, this — Though I could not find out all the streams of wickedness, and their infinite windings and turnings, yet I have discovered the fountain of it, Original sin, and the corruption of nature, which is both in men and women.

That — God made our first parents, Adam and Eve.

Upright — Heb. right: without any imperfection or corruption, conformable to his nature and will, after his own likeness.

They — Our first parents, and after them their posterity.

Sought out — Were not contented with their present state, but studied new ways of making themselves more wise and happy, than God had made them. And we, their wretched children, are still prone to forsake the certain rule of God's word, and the true way to happiness, and to seek new methods of attaining it.