ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 7.
Instruction Concerning True Happiness.
CONTEMPT OF THE WORLD AND THE SPIRIT OF CALM RESIGNATION. — V. 1. A good name, an excellent reputation before men and a high regard in the sight of God, is better than precious ointment, which was highly valued in the Orient for its refreshing odor; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth, for at birth a person’s fate is as yet unknown, while on the day of death life with all its vanities lies behind. To the believer particularly death means a deliverance from all evil, Phil. 1, 23. V. 2. It is better to go to the house of mourning, where people, lamenting for some deceased relative or friend, meditate upon the vanity of life, than to go to the house of feasting, where banqueting and carousing is indulged in and the serious side of life is ignored; for that, the fact that every house eventually becomes a house of mourning, is the end of all men, wherefore all men should keep it in mind; and the living will lay it to his heart. V. 3. Sorrow, a proper, mournful regard of the vanity of this world, is better than laughter, that is, worldly and boisterous merriment, which deliberately ignores the serious side of life; for by the sadness of the countenance, by a proper, serious contemplation of the vanities of life, the heart is made better, it will then observe a cheerfulness based upon understanding and not upon frivolousness. V. 4. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, that is, with all outward cheerfulness he never forgets the sober aide of life and its problems; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth, given to senseless merriment, which ignores the true conditions. V. 5. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, whereby some foolish behavior is censured, than for a man to hear the song of fools, the boisterous and suggestive, coarse and ribald songs which thoughtless and wicked people love, by which they attempt to forget the facts of life. V. 6. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, where they are nevertheless consumed by the fire, so is the laughter of the fool, it agrees well with the apparent merriment of the thorns as they feed the fire; this, the senseless, boisterous merriment of fools, also is vanity. V. 7. Surely oppression, various forms of tyranny practiced by fools in high and low places, maketh a wise man mad, either by making him call in question the wisdom of God’s providence or by leading him into some transgression by which he seeks revenge; and a gift, a bribe offered to the wise man, destroyeth the heart, so that even he yields to corruption. V. 8. Better is the end of a thing, when a person knows just how he will succeed or has succeeded, than the beginning thereof, when one does not yet know how an affair will turn out; and the patient in spirit, long-suffering both in enduring wrong and in awaiting the outcome of some incident, is better than the proud in spirit, in whose case haughtiness is combined with a violent temper. V. 9. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry, easily insulted, holding a grudge for a long time, impatient in adversity; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools, with them only is an irritable disposition found. V. 10. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? the reference being to such as criticize and carp without attempting to improve present conditions. For thou dost not enquire wisely, literally, “on the basis of wisdom,” concerning this, for the truly wise will try to improve conditions as he finds them. V. 11. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, that is, if compared with earthly possessions, or when joined with an ample estate, for the wise man, if wealthy, will use his wealth in accordance with the will of God, especially for the advantage of such as are in need; and by it there is profit to them that see the sun, wisdom combined with wealth will result in various benefits for the living. V. 12. For wisdom is a defense, literally, “a shadow,” and money is a defense, both of them serve for protection in adversity; but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom giveth life to them that have it, it is the more precious of the two blessings. V. 13. Consider the work of God, with the proper calmness of spirit; for who can make that straight which He hath made crooked? A man’s impatience will not straighten out what to him seems foolish and adverse in human destiny. V. 14. In the day of prosperity be joyful, enjoying God’s blessings with due thankfulness, but in the day of adversity consider, regard most carefully, let your thoughts run along these lines; God also hath set the one over against the other, He sends evil days as well as good, to the end that man should find nothing after him, in order that the future be hidden and remain hidden from man, for if the veil were lifted which hides the future, men would consider themselves independent of the divine dispensation.
A SPIRIT OF SORROW OVER SIN AND ITS ALLUREMENTS. — V. 15. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity, Solomon had taken note of everything possible while enjoying the empty life of this world; there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, his plans were failures, and he himself died in misfortune because he placed the emphasis upon a mere outward show of perfection only, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Cp. Ps. 73, 3-12. V. 16. Be not righteous overmuch, with a mere external, Pharisaic righteousness; neither make thyself overwise, in pretending to be a teacher of wisdom, while the substance is still lacking; why shouldest thou destroy thyself? for the curse of God is sure to strike arrogance and hypocrisy. V. 17. Be not overmuch wicked, not as though a little wickedness were permissible, but because an excess of malice is particularly disgusting; neither be thou foolish, in deliberately ignoring God and the wisdom of His Word; why shouldest thou die before thy time? for death is the consequence and punishment of foolishness and wickedness. V. 18. It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this, properly considering and thus avoiding the two extremes set forth; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand, keeping it in mind always; for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all, avoiding both a false righteousness, with its hypocrisy, and bold immorality, with its challenge of God. V. 19. Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city, for true wisdom, which flows from the fear of God, is more effective in protecting its owner than all outward show of might. V. 20. For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not, not one who can truly claim perfection, they are all under the condemnation of sinfulness. Cp. Prov. 20, 9; 1 Kings 8, 46; Rom. 3, 23. V. 21. Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken, by being idly curious and anxious about what people say; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee, the vain listener being disgraced by the remarks of his own servant; v. 22. for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others, conscience being a stern accuser and bringing home many a sin which one has practically forgotten. V. 23. All this, the rules of life and the practical counsels here offered, have I proved by wisdom, his experience being dearly bought; I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me, he had not yet reached the true and perfect wisdom for which he was aspiring. V. 24. That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out? True wisdom, as contained in the Word of God and flowing out of the fear of God, is not a matter of mere human comprehension. V. 25. I applied mine heart to know, literally, “I turned, I and my heart,” and to search and to seek out wisdom and the reason of things, by examining, comparing, and judging the facts offered, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness, literally, “wickedness, stubbornness, yea, stupidity, madness,” the climax showing the utter vanity and futility of opposition to the Word of God, especially in deliberate sins; v. 26. and I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, who uses words and glances to inveigle her victims, and her hands as bands, since she uses them in voluptuous embraces; whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her, by His special mercy; but the sinner, unwilling to accept the correction of the Word of God, shall be taken by her, delivered to her seductions in just punishment of his disobedience. V. 27. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, this is the result of his experiences, counting one by one, comparing one thing with another, to find out the account, to reach a definite conclusion; v. 28. which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found, namely, one realizing the futility of human wisdom; but a woman among all those have I not found, since moral weakness and proneness to temptation is ascribed to her sex in other parts of Scriptures as well. Cp. Gen. 3, 16; 2 Cor. 11, 3; 1 Tim. 2, 12-14. V.29. Lo, this only have I found, that God bath made man upright, good, in perfect righteousness and holiness, Gen. 1, 26. 27; 5, 1; but they have sought out many inventions, their nature has been corrupted by malicious tricks and conceits, by disobedience to God’s holy Law, by which they have brought the curse of vanity upon the entire human race.