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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 2

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Solomon’s trial of God’s second gift, namely, riches, and the enjoyment which riches supply; this brought him to the sane result (compare Ecclesiastes 1:12).

Comparing Solomon’s action with Luke 12:16-21, it must be remembered that Solomon’s object was the acquisition of wisdom, not self-indulgence, and that he did not fail to look forward to the certainty of death overtaking him.

Verse 3

I sought ... - Rather, I resolved (literally “I turned in my heart”) to draw my flesh with wine (see the margin), my heart guiding me with wisdom. In the course of his attempt to answer the question of Ecclesiastes 1:3, while his heart was directing him (as a charioteer directs his horses or a shepherd his sheep) with wisdom, and while he was following that guidance, he determined to draw with him his flesh by wine, thus making his flesh, which he speaks of as distinct from himself (compare Romans 7:25), a confederate and subsidiary in his attempt.

Verse 4

Compare 1 Kings 7:1-12; 1 Kings 9:15-19; 1 Kings 10:14-27; and 2 Chronicles 8:4.

Verse 5

Orchards - literally, “paradises,” i. e., parks or pleasure-grounds (compare Nehemiah 2:8 note). Indications of at least three of these have been pointed out; one at Jerusalem near the pool of Siloam, called “the king’s garden” Nehemiah 3:15; Jeremiah 52:7; a second near Bethlehem (compare Ecclesiastes 2:6); and a third in the remote north, on the heights of Hermon Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 8:11.

Verse 6

Pools - A short distance south of Bethlehem, in a valley in the defile of Urtas, three “Pools of Solomon” are still shown and an adjoining hill still bears the name of the “Little Paradise.”

Verse 7

I got - Rather, I bought, in distinction from those born in the house. The “children of Solomon’s servants” (compare Ezra 2:55, Ezra 2:58) were more probably of Canaanite origin 1 Kings 9:20-21; 1 Kings 5:15 than Hebrews 1 Kings 9:22.

Possessions of great and small cattle - Rather, herds of oxen and sheep.

All ... before me - King David’s herds and flocks are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 27:29, 1 Chronicles 27:31 : but we have no specific account of the wealth of other Canaanite or Hebrew inhabitants of Jerusalem before Solomon.

Verse 8

Kings - Both tributary 1 Kings 10:15 and independent 1 Kings 5:1; 1 Kings 9:14; 1 Kings 10:2; the “provinces” probably correspond to the kingdoms mentioned in 1 Kings 4:21.

As musical ... sorts - Rather, Many women (compare 1 Kings 11:1-3).

Verse 10

Portion - A word of frequent occurrence. By it Solomon describes the pleasure found in the act of working and also perhaps the pleasure felt in the process of acquiring wisdom; this pleasure is admitted to be good, if received from God (Ecclesiastes 2:26; Ecclesiastes 5:18; compare 1 Timothy 4:4); but being transitory it is subject to vanity, and therefore does not afford a sufficient answer to the repeated question, “What profit etc.?” Ecclesiastes 1:3.

Verses 12-26

Solomon having found that wisdom and folly agree in being subject to vanity, now contrasts one with the other Ecclesiastes 2:13. Both are brought under vanity by events Ecclesiastes 2:14 which come on the wise man and the feel alike from without - death and oblivion Ecclesiastes 2:16, uncertainty Ecclesiastes 2:19, disappointment Ecclesiastes 2:21 - all happening by an external law beyond human control. Amidst this vanity, the good (see Ecclesiastes 2:10 note) that accrues to man, is the pleasure felt Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 in receiving God’s gifts, and in working with and for them.

Ecclesiastes 2:12

What can the man do ... - i. e., “What is any man - in this study of wisdom and folly - after one like me, who, from my position, have had such special advantages (see Ecclesiastes 1:16, and compare Ecclesiastes 2:25) for carrying it on? That which man did of old he can but do again: he is not likely to add to the result of my researches, nor even to equal them.” Some hold that the “man” is a reference to Solomon’s successor - not in his inquiries, but in his kingdom, i. e., Jeroboam.

Ecclesiastes 2:14

Event - Or, “hap” Ruth 2:3. The verb from which it is derived seems in this book to refer especially to death. The word does not mean chance (compare Ecclesiastes 9:1-2), independent of the ordering of Divine Providence: the Gentile notion of “mere chance,” or “blind fate,” is never once contemplated by the writer of this book, and it would be inconsistent with his tenets of the unlimited power and activity of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:16

Seeing that ... - Compare Ecclesiastes 1:11. Some render, “as in time past, so in days to come, all will be forgotten;” others, “because in the days to come all will have been long before forgotten.”

Ecclesiastes 2:17

I hated life - Compare this expression, extorted from Solomon by the perception of the vanity of his wisdom and greatness, with Romans 8:22-23. The words of Moses Numbers 11:15, and of Job Job 3:21; Job 6:9, are scarcely less forcible. With some people, this feeling is a powerful motive to conversion Luke 14:26.

Ecclesiastes 2:19

Labour - Compare Ecclesiastes 2:4-8.

Ecclesiastes 2:20

I went about - i. e., I turned from one course of action to another.

Ecclesiastes 2:23

Are sorrows ... grief - Rather, sorrows and grief are his toil. See Ecclesiastes 1:13.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Nothing better for a man, than that ... - literally, no good in man that etc. The one joy of working or receiving, which, though it be transitory, a man recognizes as a real good, even that is not in the power of man to secure for himself: that good is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:26

The doctrine of retribution, or, the revealed fact that God is the moral Governor of the world, is here stated for the first time (compare Ecclesiastes 3:15, Ecclesiastes 3:17 ff) in this book.

This also is vanity - Not only the travail of the sinner. Even the best gifts of God, wisdom, knowledge, and joy, so far as they are given in this life, are not permanent, and are not always (see Ecclesiastes 9:11) efficacious for the purpose for which they appear to be given.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/ecclesiastes-2.html. 1870.
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