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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Ecclesiastes Chapter 2

Ecclesiastes 2:1

ecc 2:1

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

Comparing Solomon's action with Luk 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.

Ecclesiastes 2:3

ecc 2:3

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 Ecc 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 Rom 7:25), a confederate and subsidiary in his attempt.

Ecclesiastes 2:4

ecc 2:4

Compare Kg1 7:1-12; Kg1 9:15-19; Kg1 10:14-27; and Ch2 8:4.

Ecclesiastes 2:5

ecc 2:5

Orchards - literally, "paradises," i. e., parks or pleasure-grounds (compare Neh 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" Neh 3:15; Jer 52:7; a second near Bethlehem (compare Ecc 2:6); and a third in the remote north, on the heights of Hermon Sol 4:8; Sol 8:11.

Ecclesiastes 2:6

ecc 2:6

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."

Ecclesiastes 2:7

ecc 2:7

I got - Rather, I bought, in distinction from those born in the house. The "children of Solomon's servants" (compare Ezr 2:55, Ezr 2:58) were more probably of Canaanite origin Kg1 9:20-21; Kg1 5:15 than Hebrews Kg1 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 Ch1 27:29, Ch1 27:31 : but we have no specific account of the wealth of other Canaanite or Hebrew inhabitants of Jerusalem before Solomon.

Ecclesiastes 2:8

ecc 2:8

Kings - Both tributary Kg1 10:15 and independent Kg1 5:1; Kg1 9:14; Kg1 10:2; the "provinces" probably correspond to the kingdoms mentioned in Kg1 4:21.

As musical ... sorts - Rather, Many women (compare Kg1 11:1-3).

Ecclesiastes 2:10

ecc 2:10

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 (Ecc 2:26; Ecc 5:18; compare Ti1 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.?" Ecc 1:3.

Ecclesiastes 2:12

ecc 2:12

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

Ecc 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 Ecc 1:16, and compare Ecc 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.

Ecc 2:14

Event - Or, "hap" Rut 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 Ecc 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.

Ecc 2:16

Seeing that ... - Compare Ecc 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."

Ecc 2:17

I hated life - Compare this expression, extorted from Solomon by the perception of the vanity of his wisdom and greatness, with Rom 8:22-23. The words of Moses Num 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 Luk 14:26.

Ecc 2:19

Labour - Compare Ecc 2:4-8.

Ecc 2:20

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

Ecc 2:23

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

Ecc 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.

Ecc 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 Ecc 3:15, Ecc 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 Ecc 9:11) efficacious for the purpose for which they appear to be given.

Next: Ecclesiastes Chapter 3