Ecclesiastes 6


The vanity of riches without use, 1, 2.

Of children and of old age without riches and enjoyment, 3-7.

Man does not know what is good for himself, 8-12.


Verse 2. A man to whom God hath given riches] A man may possess

much earthly goods, and yet enjoy nothing of them. Possession and

fruition are not necessarily joined together; and this is also

among the vanities of life. It is worthy of remark, that it

belongs to God as much to give the power to enjoy as it does to

give the earthly blessings. A wise heathen saw this:-

Di tibi divitias dederant, artemque fruendi.

HOR. Ep. lib. i., ep. 4, ver. 7.

"The gods had given thee riches, and the art

to enjoy them."

Verse 3. If a man beget a hundred children] If he have the most

numerous family and the largest possessions, and is so much

attached to his riches that he grudges himself a monument; an

abortion in the eye of reason is to be preferred to such a man;

himself is contemptible, and his life worthless. The abortion

comes in with vanity-baulks expectation, departs in

darkness-never opened its eyes upon the light, and its name is

covered with darkness-it has no place in the family register, or

in the chronicles of Israel. This, that hath neither seen the sun,

nor known any thing is preferable to the miser who has his coffers

and granaries well furnished, should he have lived a thousand

years, and had a hundred children. He has seen-possessed, no

good; and he and the abortion go to one place, equally unknown,

and wholly forgotten.

Verse 7. All the labour of man] This is the grand primary object

of all human labour; merely to provide for the support of life by

procuring things necessary. And life only exists for the sake of

the soul; because man puts these things in place of spiritual

good, the appetite-the intense desire after the supreme good-is

not satisfied. When man learns to provide as distinctly for his

soul as he does for his body, then he will begin to be happy,

and may soon attain his end.

Verse 8. For what hath the wise more than the fool?] They must

both labour for the same end. Both depend upon the labour of

themselves or others for the necessaries of life. Both must eat

and drink in order to live; and the rich man can no more eat two

meals at a time, than he can comfortably wear two changes of

raiment. The necessaries of life are the same to both, and their

condition in life is nearly similar; liable to the same

diseases, dissolution, and death.

Verse 9. Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of

the desire] This is translated by the Vulgate, as a sort of adage:

Melius est videre quod cupias, quam desiderare quod nescias, "It

is better to see what one desires than to covet what one knows

not." It is better to enjoy the present than to feed one's self

with vain desires of the future. What we translate the wandering

of desire, mehaloch nephesh, is the travelling of the

soul. What is this? Does it simply mean desire? Or is there any

reference here to the state of separate spirits! It however shows

the soul to be in a restless state, and consequently to be

unhappy. If Christ dwell in the heart by faith, the soul is

then at rest, and this is properly the rest of the people of God.

Verse 10. That which hath been is named already] The Hebrew of

this verse might be translated, "Who is he who is? His name has

been already called. And it is known that he is Adam; and that he

cannot contend in judgment with him who is stronger than he."

"What is more excellent than man; yet can he not, in the lawe,

get the victory of him that is mightier than he."-COVERDALE.

ADAM is his name; and it at once points out, 1. His dignity; he

was made in the image of God. 2. His fall; he sinned against his

Maker and was cast out of Paradise. And 3. His recovery by Christ;

the second man (Adam) was the Lord from heaven, and a quickening


Verse 12. For who knoweth what is good for man in this life]

Those things which we deem good are often evil. And those which we

think evil are often good. So ignorant are we, that we run the

greatest hazard in making a choice. It is better to leave

ourselves and our concerns in the hands of the Lord, than to keep

them in our own.

For who can tell a man what shall be after him] Futurity is with

God. While he lives, man wishes to know what is before him. When

he is about to die, he wishes to know what will be after him. All

this is vanity; God, because he is merciful, will reveal neither.

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