George Holden.

An attempt to illustrate the book of Ecclesiastes online

. (page 12 of 21)
Online LibraryGeorge HoldenAn attempt to illustrate the book of Ecclesiastes → online text (page 12 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

innocence^ and, when seasonably indulged, is a sweet refresh-
ment of the spirits, and alleviates the toib and cares of life. By

' *' laughter/' therefore, must be understood loud, excessive, wan-
ton laughter, which generally produces a kind of mental delirium,
bi removed from True Wisdom, and commonly ends in sadness
and disappointment. Man's Chief Good cannot arise from
revelry and merriment, which are too empty and short-lived to
make us either wbe or happy! By '* laughter," according to
some, is meant a state of continued prosperity and enjoyment, as
it signifies Job viii. 21, Gen. xxi. 6, Psalm cxxvi. 2.

— it it mad\ — Excessive laughter is said to be mad, either
because it creates a species of momentary distraction, or because
it is too unmeaning and ridiculous to be indulged in by any but

3. I sought, &c.] — Of this difficult verse, in rendering which
ancient and modem translators differ exceedingly, I have retained
die received version; but perhaps it may be better rendered in
the following manner: " I proposed in my mind to gratify my
i^>petite with wine, (yet guiding my mind with wisdom,) and to
lay hold on folly, till I could find where that good for the sons of
men was, which they should do under heaven all the days of their
life."— See Critical Note (*.)

* Dr. Roberts, in his Corrections of various Passages in the
English Translation, p. 164, proposes to read p*D for pa, and
ni^stta for niVsDl, and to render it. '* I determined in my heart
to vrithdraw myself from wine, and to lead my heart to vrisdom^
and to lay hold on knowledge, that I might see," &c. ; but this
emendation is unwarranted, and, if it were not, this rendering
would be inaccurate. — ^The clause no3na JnJ o^ is rendered
by van der Palm, " delassato per sapientiae studium animo," for


ized by Google


— with wtne] — Under this term are comprehended all the
delicacies used in banquetings and feastings ; (Prov. ix. 2; Cant.
viiL 2;) just as, by the same synecdoche, ** bread** signifies in
Scripture all the necessaries of life.

-7 lay hold on folly]— By " folly" is meant either that enjoy-
ment of wine which is in reality folly, or generally whatever
pleasures the folly of man pursues, and which are, by the event,
found to be nothing but folly.

5. trees ofall kind of fruiti] — Namely, all kinds of fruit-trees.

6. pooh of tracer] —In Eastern gardens were artificial ponds,
or receptacles of water, which was conveyed from thence by
little channels to every part, in order to irrigate the soil. — Nehem.
ii. 14; Gen. iu 10, idii., 10; Isaiah i. 30, where see Bishop
Lowth, and Burder's Orienial Customs, No. 664.

— the wood that bringeth forth trees] — ^A more correct
rendering is given by Bishop Lowth, on Isaiah i. 30, namely
<* the grove flourishing with trees.'' Hodgson's version is, " the
flourishing [dantations." The Hebrew literally is, *' sylva ger-
minans arboribus,'' as Cocceius translates it.

7. servants bom in my honue] — ^Among the Hebrews a kind
of marriage was permitted between slaves, which the Romans
termed contubemia, and the- children produced from these cos-
nexions were also slaves. " Such slaves by birth wei:e said to
be bom in the house, (Qen. xiv. 14, xvii. 93,) and termed tofM of
the house, (Gen. xv. 3,) or sons of the handmaid, (Exod. xxiii. 12 ;
Psalm Ixxxvi. 16, cxvL 16.) Abraham had three hundred and

which sense of jin^ he appeals to the Arabic and Syriac; but
there is no Helnrew authority for it, and, as Bauer observes in his
St^lia in loc., it is plainly contrary to verse 9.


ized by Google

66 NOtES. [CttAP. II.

eighteen of tliete.^'-Mictia^lM, Comimmiariei on tMe Laws of
Moiei, art 123.

8. tkepecMHar ireagwrt of kingi] — Ether abunddat treasmefl,
such as actaally belong to kings and whole provinces; or, the
most precious articles which kings and the provinces could
supply. Some suppose, but I think erroneously, that there is a
reference to the presents made to Solomon by princes and pro-
▼inces. — (1 Kings iv. 21, ix. 11, x. 10; 2 Chron. it. 9, lO. See
Bishop Reynolds in loc) How applicable the whole of this
description is to Sol9mbn must be so apparent, from his history in
1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, that I consider it perfectly unnecessary
to offer any thing in itlustratioii of it — See Critical Note (^)

^ Critics hare formed a variety of conjectures rei^ectiag the
meaning of nntt^l nittf , fbund only in this plade. Durell, in his
Critical Remarki in loc., supposes some corruption of the text,
of which, however, there appears no sufficient evidence; we
tttttst, therefore, endeavour to discover some probable hiter-
pretation> for probability is all that can be obtldhed. The Je^rish
Doctors advocate very different opinions re^pfecting the meaning
of the phrase, as miaybe seen in the Critici Sacri, Pfeiffer,
(Dvb. Vex. in loc.,) Buxtorf, (Lex. Talm. Chald. i2a6.p. 1796,)
Gill's Bikkf Sec. Most of these ojnnions have found supporters
-in* difi^rent Christian expositors ; it may, therefore, be propet to
e^eotand review the sentimehts of 8<»ne of the most ciminent
Boohart* (HUroic, pan ii. lib. 6^ cap. 13,) Pfeiffer^ (Dnb. Vex.
^ak loe.,) Le Cldrc, arid others, deriving the words from the Airabic
^^0^ tecinitt or from the name of a Phoenician poet, exi^und
th^m of Various kinds of symphony And sorig. Vatsiblus^ Des-
voeux, and several others derive them from iinr vastamt, and
take them to refer to women who are the subject of warlike
devastation, that b, captive women ; but, after attentively pe-
'^rusihg l^esvoeux's laboured defence of tiiis iiiterpretatidn, it
still appears to me altbgether erroneous; fdr, as Bishop l^akic


ized by Google


9. Iwa$ great, and increoied] — If the first verb in t^e origmal
18 put adverbialiy, as is often the case with verbs so coiyoined^
(Robertson, p. 327; Schroeder, Reg. 63,) they maybe rendered
'* I increased in magnificence;" fuy€dei wrepCaXov, Symmachns.

obseryes, ** there were no wars in Solomon's time, till the latter
end of his reign, and then he was rather worsted than victorious;"
how, then, could he speak of acquiring females captured in war ?
Some derive the words from it^ a breast or pap, and, as the
breasts constitute a principal part of the beauty of women, they
think that nntt^) mm denote damsels of pleasure^ pelHces; but
this is surely far-fetched and chimericaL Analogous to this, how-
ever, is the interpretation of Michaelis, Doederlein, and Bauer,
who, hfm a fanciful Arabic etymology, suppose that the words
mean *' a numerous haram." Lud. De Dieu, taking the sense, firomi
the Syriac ) Lt JL via sive prapositum, explains it '' delicias vise el
viarum, siye propositi et propositorum, t. e. omnis generis," and
this exposition is adopted by Dathe, both in his edition of Giassii
PhiL Sac. p. 52, and in the note to his Latin translation ot
Ecclesiastes. Calmet's gloss is, ** des champs cuUivez, et mm*
cnUives; ou des ghamps de toutes sortes; a la lettre, iim duamp,
et des champs. Tout le monde convient de la signification de
sadeh, et A<e sadoth en ce sens. Et pourquoi, dans Le deaom-
brement des plaisirs qu'il s'etoit procurez, n'auroit-41 pas dit
qu'il avoit acquis une infinite de terres et des champs?" But
thb does not appear very probable. Jerom says, ** non enim
homines, viros videlicet et feminas; sed vasculorum species
nominavit, kvXoccov et icuXticta vocans, quod Hebraic^ dioitur
Sadda et Saddoth." Bopthroyd, after Piscator, renders the
worda by ** the sweetest instruments pf music," thinking that, this
sense naturally springs from nntt^ to pour forth, and that the
feminine nou^s may be used to denote those which giye the:
softest sounds^ and most like the fepiale voice. ^Patkhurst, in hift
Lexicon, says, ** nitt^ is a Qpun masculine, and ntnw. ft noun


ized by Google

68 NOTES. [chap. II.

10. mud ihii wm my poriim, Ac] — Most commeiitators con-
Beet thiflt with the precedmg clame, thus: ** my heart rejoiced in
all my labour, and this was my portion ;" that is, this rejoicing
was die good that I enjoyed, was the happiness I derived from
all my labour. But this is contrary to the scope of the passage,
which is to show, that all the Preacher's luxuries and worldly
tcnls were empty and vain: hence the pronoun *' this,'' nt, must

plural feminine, a cupbearer, vrho pours oui ¥nne at feasts. So
the LXX, preserving the idea, oivo)(poy xai ocvoxoac, from oivoe,
wine, and x^f to pour out It appears, from Oen. zl. 9, 11, that
the kings of Egypt, and, irom Nehem. i. 11, that the kings of
Persia had one chief male cupbearer, and so likewise might
Solomon^ with a number of females under him." In this way it
is tmderstood by Houbigant and others. My own opinion
coincides so fieir with De Dieu, that the expression was intended
lo describe delights of all sorts, *^ omnis generis;" for, first, this
clause ends the Preacher's enumeration of particular luxuries,
and should, therefore, seem designed to express generally that he
enjoyed a variety of delights besides those mentioned before. —
(See Gousset, Camm. Ling. Heb. innr, K.) Secondly, a repetition
of the same noun in different genders denotes universality, of
wluch examples may be seen in Glass, PhiL Sac. p. 52, ed.
Dathe, and in Storr, Obs. ad Anal et Syntax. Heb. p. 189. The
same constructiofn obtains in Arabic. — (See Scheidius, Ad Cantic
HUh. p. 135.) It is scarcely necessary to observe, that I take
mm for a noun masculine; but if it be feminine, the meaning will
be the same, as a repetition of a word in the same gender equally
denotes universaUty. — (Glass, p. 14; Schroeder, Chram. J7«5.
Reg, 5 ; Robertson, Gram. Heb. p. 295.) Lastly, the words
seem properly derived from mtt^ to iked, to pour out ; hence
rmtt^i mm whatever most universally pours forth, or diffuses
pleasure ; and therefore the sense is, ** all the delights of human
luxury," as expressed in the version.


ized by Google


refer to the foUowiog Terge, and Ae sense wUl be as exhibited in
the Paraphrase.

11. there wai no profit] — Namely, as Diodati remarks,, there
was no sound nor permanent good after the transitory pleasure
derived from sudi labours.

12. / turned myself to behold wudotn, &c.]— This section,
including yerses 12>— 17, does not relate to True Wisdom, or
Religion, but to mere human^or worldly wisdom, as appears from
the mannerin which it b joined and compared with madness and
folly. This is still more evident from what is said against it in
yerses 15 and 10, which show that the royal philosopher b speaking
of secular wisdom or knowledge, which excels folly, because it
renders a man's conduct mone drcitmspect and prudent, (ver. 14;)
but if unaccompanied with Religion, the True Wisdom, it profits
IHde, inasmuch as it contributes litde to lasting contentment
The wisdom here spoken of is undoubtedly a valuaMe possession,
and die Preadier only means to demonstrate its vanity in thb
respect, that it cannot ward off calamity and death, nor com-
pletely satbfy the heart of man.— See Diodati.

— for what can the man do, &c.]— Though the critics and
translators are greatly divided about this clause, there are three
interpretations chiefly deserving of notice. First, that of the
authorized version and DaUie, ^^what can the man do that
Cometh after the king?" which is, indeed, supposing an ellipsb
scarcely exampled ; but, included within a parenthesis, yields a
sense perfectly in connexion with the context, as may be seen in
liie PiEuraphrase ; and after this manner it b explained by Rey-
nolds, Holden, Patric, and other commentators* Secondly, that
of Yatablus and Grothis, ** what mui can follow the king in the
things which are done V that is, in knowing them ; who can pre-
tend to equal the king in a knowledge of these matters? An iti-
terpretation agreeing well with the former clauses, but not with
the following one. Thirdfy, that of Geier and others, << whab


ized by Google

70 NOTES. [chap. II.

die man that shall come after the king whom they have akeady
made V which suits verses 18, 19^ but bears no relation to the
immediate context — See Critical Note (*.)

14. 7^ wise man*$^eyes are tn kk keadl—TkoA is, he sees Ida
way before him, is cautious in his undertakinp, and judicious in
the execution of them.

16. IT^Muf/tftmyAearl.dsc.]— See Critical Note (f.)

* Van der Palm declares the text in this verse to be manifestly
corrupted, but I would say, with Bauer, *' JSgo noUem cultrum
criticum adhibere, eoque omnibus testibus destitutus resecare quae
intricata sunt" As the expoMtions, however, mentioned in the
explanatory note are not quite satisfactory, I may be permitted
to propose another. Now, may not oiHn be taken in the
vocative case, and thus rendered and panqphrased: "I harmed
to contemplate the wisdom, and madness, and folhf of mankind;
and of these I have a perfect knowledge, ybr what, O man, skall
come after the king ? Any thing perfectly new ? No : onljr that
which hath been already ddne, and therefore I am well qualified
to form a correct judgment respecting them." Several BfSS.,
instead of imtt^i^, have inu^jr in the singular, and so Syiiac an4
Vulgate; but I see no sufficient reason for departing from the
received text, " they have done," namely, impersonally, " winch
hath been done."

t This verse may be literally rendered, ** Then said I in my
heart, with respect to myself it ha^^eneth according to the event
of the fool; to what purpose, therefore, do I excel in wisdom ?
Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity." u» d:i is the
nominative absolute; i. e. " quod atdnet ad me." — (Glass, PhiL
iSbc. p. 67; Robertson, Gram, p. dll; Schroeder, R^. 33;
Bishop Horsley, Pref. to Hosea, pj. 31.) 1^ little word m is
U0k without its difficulty. Schmidt renders it ''jam pridem/'


ized by Google


la Fw there is notemembranee^ &c.] — See Critical Note (*.)

17. Therefore I wa» weary of life] — Existence js the greatest
of extenial blessiiigti bestowed upon mab by bis Maker, aud
though we oi^t fo resign it willingly at the conimand of God,
mod esteem it as nothing in comparison with a future and a better
Hfe, it is deeply criminal to despise so great a Messmg, or to
become weary of it throu^ momentary, troubles aud afflictions.
The egressions in this verse must, therefore, be restricted to that
kind of life which Solomon has been describing, a life spent in

^' jamcdim," a sense probably without example. Noldius, in
his Concordant, in voc., considers it redundant; but Tympius, ii|
his note to Noldius. and Geier take it to mean the hour of death ;
namely, what will human wisdom then avail ? It may, perhafM,
s^fuify ideo, therefore, a sense which it undoubtedly sometimes
has« Few, I suppose, will agree with Doederlein, who says,
** m videtur nominascere. Sensus; cur equidem tanto fervorc
I appUcui ad sapientyimJ^ — SckoHa in lee

"^ As the authorized version gives the sense, it is needless to
depart from it, but the verse may be more closely rendered:
** For there is no memorial of the wise man nor of the fool for
ever;" (t. e. there is no perpetual memorial ; see Bauer, Booth-
royd, &c, ;) ** seeing that now the days will come when all shall
be forgotten ; and the wise man dies in like manner as the fooL"
The meaning, it is .dear, must be limited ; that is, there is no
adequate or perfect remembrance of men after death. The par-
ticle c=u^ in tlus verse certainly means like as, in like manner of,
4Bqne oc. — (Noldius, in voc. 8.) nismi may undoubtedly mean,
" seeing that which now is," as in E. T., or " seeing that now:"
it is i^ompoonded of n and and *ia3, a particle only found in
i^cclesiastes, an<| denoting time past or present — See Durell»
Critical Remarks in be.


ized by Google

72 NOTES. [chap. II.

the panait of pleasure and enjoynent In the third secticNi he
says he determmed ** to give himself unto wine, and to lay hold
on folly;" thai is, to indulge in the pleasures of sense^ and to
seize those thmgs which, however prized by man, are only fc^y ;
and, after giving an account of his splendid luxury, and '^ the
vexation of spirit^ it occasioned, he proceeds, in this section, to
state the vanity of merely human learning; and he concludes with
observing, that neither his pursuit of earthly pleasure nor of
earthly wisdom could preserve him from being wearied of such
a life. The Preacher, then, gives utterance to no unholy disgust
of human exbtence ; it is only an assertion of the taedium which
invariably attends a life unsanctified by religion, though it be
spent in the midst of those circumstances of luxury and splendour
most admired by the worid. — See Critical Note (*.)

18. Yea, I woi weary of all my labour. Sic] — ^lomon, at
the conclusion of the preceding section, which treats of secular
wisdom, having stated that all secular works are unavailing as to
complete contentment, again adverts to the same topic in this
section, and adduces another reason for the ennui and weariness
experienced firom such works, namely, that the fruit of our labour
must be left to others. This sentiment, like that in the foregoing
verse, has been considered as a selfish and narrow principle,
but without reason. The wise monarch, in effect, only says.

* The verb v^im, used here and in the following verse, means
not only to hate, in the strict sense of the word, but somietimes to
have little regard for, to be indifferent to. Gen. xxix. 30, xxxL
33, &c. (Taylor's Concordance;) and the verb fuaew, employed by
the LXX in this place, has occasionally the same meaning. —
(Schleusner, Lex. in voc») It is, therefore, better to render it here,
" I was weary of life," than as E. T. " I hated life;" that b, as
Geier observes, '* minus dilexi, non curavi, nou maguifeci."
Luther's version is, *' therefore I repented that I lived," &c.


ized by Google


** Besides being disgusted with the luxurious life I was leading,
I was likewise weary of all my labours, (enumerated ch. ii. 4—8,)
for what does it profit to amass wealth, and to acquire large
possessions, since they must be left to thankless heirs ?^ He
therefcn-e expresses no querulous discontent, no base and selfish
sentiment, no unbecoming murmurs at life and the dispensations
of Providence ; but merely asserts that he felt a distaste for all
his splendid works, arising firom the consideration that he must
leave them to those who might make an improper use of them.
Whether Solomon glanced at his son Rehobbam, as has been
supposed, cannot now be known.

20. Tkerefare I went about, &c.] — See Critical Note (♦.)

21. a great edl] — The meaning is not that leaving our pos-
sessicms to those who have not laboured in acquiring them is in
itself an evil, for this, according to the law of nature, must fre-
quently happen; but that the thought of being obliged thus to
leave them is affictive andVexatious, and evinces how little is the

* Parkhurst renders this verse, " I went about that my heart
might renounce (or cause my heart to renounce) all the labour,
&c. ;*' but VH* means to despair, to be destitute of hope in all
other places where it occurs, namely. Job vi. 26; Isaiah Ivii. 10;
Jer. ii. 25, xviii. 12 ; 1 Sam. xxvii. 1, and it has the same meaning
in Arabic, (Golius et Willmet, Lex. Arab, in ^M^b ) and in Rab-
binical writings, (Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. Talm. et Rah. p. 926.)
The words avoraifia%ai of the LXX, and *^ renunciavit^ of the
Vulgate, may seem to favour Parkhursf s interpretation ; but these
translators may have meant to express the same idea as the £. T.,
to abandon as desperate, to renounce as hopeless. In other places
the ancient versions give the sense of despairing, though not
uniformly. For these reasons I give the preference to the re-
ceived translation.


ized by Google

74 JVOTES. [chap. II.

good to be derived from oar anxious toil in their acquisition. —
See Critical Note (*.)

fU> The man enjoyi not kappinest] — literally, ** There is no
good in the man ifHio eats and drinks,'' &c.; that is, he has no
perfect eiyojrment — See Critical Note (f.)

* The primary meaning of ntt^3 is, I think, to prosper, to tue-
eeedf This verb only occurs Esther viii. 5, Eccles. x. 10, xL 6,
in the first of which passages Estlier says to the king, according
to the standard version, ** if I have found favour in his sight, and
the thing seem rights mm no^D, before the king," &c. : better
thus, *' and the thing, that is, my intercession for the Jews, suc-
ceed h^uve the king, then let it he written to reverse the letters,^
^c, Ecclesiastes x. 10 is rendered in £. T. ** wisdoni is print-
able to direct," but the context proves that the verb signifies to
succeed; *' if the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then
must he put to more strength; but wisdom is excellent to cause
success," *i»t^3n. The remaining passage, ch. xi. 8, cannot be
any way so well rendered as in E. T., ** for thou knowest not
whelher shaH prosper." The ancient versions do not afford much
light, but the little they supply is in favour of the above ex-
planation; (see the Lex, in Montfaucon's Bexapla ;) and in Syriac
^^kp means prosperatus est, fortunwoit. Having ascertained
Ifae m^anipg of ns^d, it will not be difficult to discover that of the
derivate, pntt^d only occurring ch. ii. 21, V. ip, iv. 4, the last of
which proves that it depotes success, or prosperity, — See Note to
ch. iy, 4, and Pind€(rf,.£ex. Heb. in voc.

t Some suppose an ellipsis of oh *3, nisi, as E. T., Le Cl^c,
van der Palm, Syriac, Walther, (ElMps. Heb. p. 142, ed. Schnlz,)
and some in Poli Symp., na^lely, '* there is nothing better for a
mm than that h,e should eat," &c.; or, '' there is nothing good for
a man except to eat,"&c.; but this produces a sense contrary to


ized by Google



— This alio]^^The pronoon '^this" refers to the foregoing
proposition, namely, with respect to this also, that the man enjoys
not happiness who indulges himself in eating, drinking, and Inxury,
I perceive it is from the hand of God, it is his app<Mntment. Ac-
cording to the ordination of Providence, true happiness is not
to be derived from sensual indulgences.

26. Far who can, &c] — ^This verse contains a proof, firom
Solomon's personal experience, of the assertion in the preceding
one; thus, ** Man cannot obtain real happiness from sensual
pleasures; it is so ordained by Providence; and my opinion on
this point is entitled to regard, since I have learnt by experience
how vain and unsatisfactory they are, for no one has had a
greater share of these enjoyments than myself." — See Critical
Note (♦.>

the scope of the whole discourse, and of an immoral and dan-
gerous tendency. The same objections apply to the rendering it
interrogatively, with the Vulgate, Hodgson, and others. There
is, moreover, no occasion for taking the words either elliptically
or interrogatively; their plain and.hteral meaning is as expressed
above, and is sanctioned by Jun. and Tremel., De Dieu, Geier,
Houbigant, Desvoeux, Boothroyd, Dathe, Gousset in pp*^, 6.
Though in the version I have given it is ** indulges himself with
the fruit," &c., the original is Uterally, <' bis soul;" but die
Hebrew often expressed the reciprocal pronoun by mti anima. —
Robertson, Crram. Heb. p. 317; Gocceii Lex. Heb. ed. Sculz, m
voc. 12; Michaelis, Suppkm. No. 1622; but see Dr. Lawrence.,
Dissertation on the Logos, p. 7, et seq,

* Though some assign a different meaning to irin, (Desvoeux,
Bauer, SchoHa in loc., Dindorf, Lex. Heb* in voc.) noiiimg, in
my opinion, can be plainer than that it retains, in this plaoe,^ it&
usual meaning, to hasten; namely, who can partake of these
enjoyments with such fa&ste and promf^tude as I htve done!


ized by Google

76 NOTES. [chap. III.

mm MBSoal iadulgeice* wkb a leBtiineBtof piety worthy a r^^oii»
plulosoplier. IVne happioeM cannot be found in tnidi e^joy-
VMBtSy baeanse tl^y aie criminal, and eootimtment was aeyer
y«t Ibe pvoduct of Tice. God giires to the pwre m heart alone
tiiat serenity, and cheerftdneia, and contdoua latiifactioQ, which
are die chief ingredients in human felicity,

-T- Cjhot ke mmy gwe to him that ii good hefare Ood\ — Eidier

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryGeorge HoldenAn attempt to illustrate the book of Ecclesiastes → online text (page 12 of 21)