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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Ecclesiastes 5

 

 

Introduction

The Preacher now begins to address his hearer in the second person. The soliloquy, hitherto unbroken, is henceforth interrupted by personal addresses, which are repeated with increasing frequency from this place to the end of the book. They who divide the whole book into two parts (the first theoretical, the second practical) begin the second division here.

There is a striking resemblance between the line of thought pursued in this book and that of Asaph in Ecclesiastes 5:1 has also the spiritual sense of entering into communion with God, Solomon here admonishes generally that reverence is due to God, and particularly that the “vanity” which is mingled with the “portion” that God assigns to every man, ought to be treated as a divine mystery, not to be made an occasion of idle thought, hasty words, and rash resolutions, but to be considered in the fear of God Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; that the spectacle of unjust oppression is to be patiently referred to God‘s supreme judgment Ecclesiastes 5:8-9; that mere riches are unsatisfying, bring care with them, and if hoarded are transitory Ecclesiastes 5:10-17; and that a man‘s enjoyment of his portion in life, including both labor and riches, is the gift of God Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.


Verse 1

Keep thy foot - i. e., Give thy mind to what thou art going to do.

The house of God - It has been said that here an ordinary devout Hebrew writer might have been expected to call it “the house of Yahweh;” but to those who accept this book as the work of Solomon after his fall into idolatry, it will appear a natural sign of the writer‘s self-humiliation, an acknowledgment of his unworthiness of the privileges of a son of the covenant, that he avoids the name of the Lord of the covenant (see Ecclesiastes 1:13 note).

Be more ready to hear - Perhaps in the sense that, “to draw near for the purpose of hearing (and obeying) is better than etc.”


Verse 6

Suffer not thy mouth … - i. e., Do not make rash vows which may hereafter be the cause of evasion and prevarication, and remain unfulfilled.

Before the angel - The Septuagint and some other versions render “before the face of God,” meaning a spiritual being representing the presence of God, a minister of divine justice Exodus 23:21, such a one as inflicted judgment upon David 2 Samuel 24:17. Others, with less probability, understand the angel to be a priest, and refer to Malachi 2:7.


Verse 7

For … vanities - Or, For so it happens through many dreams and vanities and many words.


Verse 8

Matter - Rather, purpose (as in the margin, and Ecclesiastes 3:1), referring either to the will of God or to the edict of an oppressive ruler.

For he … they - literally, for high watches over high and the highest over them, i. e., the king in the capital watches over the judge or governor in the province, and God over both. This seems more in harmony with the preceding verses, and more agreeable to the scope of this passage than to understand the passage only of earthly rulers.


Verse 9

The king himself is served by the field - Rather, the king is subject to the field, i. e., is dependent on its cultivation. The higher ranks, if they oppress the lower, lose thereby their own means of subsistence.


Verse 11

They … that eat them - i. e., The laborers employed, and the household servants.


Verse 12

Labouring man - Not a slave (Septuagint), but everyone who, according to the divine direction, earns his bread in the sweat of his brow.


Verse 14

Evil travail - Adverse accident, or unsuccessful employment (compare Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 4:8).


Verse 17

Hath much sorrow … - Rather, is very sad and hath pain and vexation.


Verse 18

Rather, Behold what I have seen to be good, it is pleasant for a man to eat. Such thankful enjoyment is inculcated by the Law Deuteronomy 12:7, Deuteronomy 12:18.


Verse 20

The days will pass smoothly and pleasantly, while he lives in the consciousness of God‘s favor.

Answereth him - i. e., grants his prayers.

 


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-5.html. 1870.

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