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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Ecclesiastes 6

 

 

Verse 1

1. It is common among men — More accurately, It is heavy upon men.


Verse 2

2. A man to whom God hath given riches — Grammar requires us to supply the word, Behold, or, There is, before “a man.”

Honour — This word, seeing it follows the sense of to eat, might better be given as in some other passages, abundance. The case is not rare of one successful in making great accumulations, who still, from some dyspeptic weakness of body, or some morbid penurious narrowness of mind, cannot bless his soul by indulgence in his copious stores. All his wealth goes to strangers. The preceding chapter gave us the case of a man who had a son and nothing to give him — this is of one who has riches, but no son and heir. Eastern men, as may be seen in the instance of Abraham, felt it a deep calamity that their estates should go to —

“An unlineal hand,

No son of [theirs] succeeding.”

Abraham was sad at having no son, though his heir would be his tried and good servant Eliezer. A nice point is made by the terms, (referring to the master,) to eat thereof, that is, using care and prudence, so as to amass, while the stranger eateth it, that is, recklessly uses it up.

Evil disease is not a bad rendering — an “evil” utterly out of harmony with nature.


Verse 3

3. The real difficulty of this verse has arisen from a singular reluctance to give its simplest sense to the phrase, he have no burial, which, in Hebrew and English, naturally means, though he live forever. The instance is connected with that of the preceding verse. An unsatisfied soul completely neutralizes, and makes “stale, flat, and unprofitable,” all worldly good, so that even length of possession adds nothing to its enjoyment. An abortion, perishing in embryo, has a better fate.


Verse 4

4. He cometh in with vanity — The abortion is further described. The “vanity” in which he comes is the disappointment of parental hope. The darkness in which he goes, is the quietness with which the little remains are put away. The darkness upon his name is the blank upon the family record, and the concealment of his existence in the utmost privacy of grief and mortification.


Verse 5

5. Hath not seen the sun — All analogy suggests that human life begins with the soul, which builds up for itself a body by assimilating the materials furnished in its various conditions. The embryo enters into the rest of souls, where the wicked never trouble it, and its loss of sight and knowledge of the sun is compensated by its escape from earthly ill. Such is the sense of the verse. The sun should follow the word known.

Rest — In all the Old Testament, “rest” is used in an emphatic and comprehensive sense, as if including all worldly good.


Verse 6

6. Seen no good — The antithesis of this verse is really after the word “good,” and the question balances all that precedes. Does not his long, joyless life go out in gloom at last, as much as that of the abortion?


Verse 7

7. The man spoken of in the preceding verse is still the subject, as contrasted with the perished embryo.

All the labour of man is for his mouth — That is, for present enjoyment.

Appetite is not filled — Better, Yet his soul is not satisfied.


Verse 8

8. The familiar question is asked, If this be the case, What hath, etc. — The latter part should be, What hath the poor more than he who knoweth, etc. In the phraseology of the Old Testament “poor” is often synonymous with “humble,” “obscure.” To walk before the living, means, as in chap.

Ecclesiastes 4:16, to have leadership and supremacy. The contrast is between the obscure and him who is able to govern the generation living with him. Thus the verse includes the most opposite classes of men, and therefore all men.


Verse 9

9. This verse is preliminary to the discussion of the value of common sense in human affairs.

The sight of the eyes — That is, that which is seen by the eyes, and therefore near at hand. “Our best things are nearest us.” and “Take short views,” are proverbs expressing the wisdom of many. “Let what is out of sight be out of mind.” These sayings would be true enough if only man could be satisfied with the present and visible. But he is not, so the proverbs break down into vanity.


Verse 10

10. Koheleth reverts to the matter of wealth, as if asking why it affords no satisfaction. Because of the fixed order which the Almighty has established, and against which it is useless for man to struggle.

That which hath been is named already — Rather, was previously called by name.

Him that is mightier — That is, the Almighty. “Woe unto him that contendeth with his Maker.”


Verse 11

11. Seeing, should be merely emphatic, that is, truly. All human concerns tend the same way; the mere affairs, the mere vanities. What advantage, then, can man gain from more or less of them, or, how can he make any selection among them?


Verse 12

12. All the days — That is, the fixed number of his days. The shadow is a frequent illustration in oriental poetry. Sometimes it adorns some sentiment of shelter and refreshment, as is natural in lands where the sun is hot and trees are few. At others, as here, it enforces the idea of swift passage, as when a cloud is driven by the wind across the face of the sun, and its shadow flies along the field. If man knows not what is good for him in this brief life, how can he know what will be [so] after him? Therefore — such is the sentiment — let us limit our inquiry, and ask what a brief, plain, every-day prudence can do for us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ecclesiastes-6.html. 1874-1909.

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