|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:12-18 Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man's wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.
Verse 14. - Here is the result of this examination of human actions. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun. In his varied experience nothing had escaped his notice. And behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit; reuth ruach; afflictio spiritus (Vulgate); προαίρεσις πνεύματος, "choice of spirit," or, "wind" (Septuagint); νομὴ ἀνέμου (Aquila and Theodotion); βοσκήσις ἀνέμου, "feeding on wind" (Symmachus). This last translation, or "striving after wind," seems to be most agreeable to the etymology of the word רְעוּת, which, except in this book (Ecclesiastes 2:11, 17, 26, etc.), occurs elsewhere only in the Chaldee portion of Ezra (Ezra 5:17; Ezra 7:18). Whichever sense is taken, the import is much the same. What is implied is the unsubstantial and unsatisfying nature of human labors and endeavors. Many compare Hosea 12:2, "Ephraim feedeth on wind," and Isaiah 44:20, "He feedeth on ashes." In contrast, perhaps, to this constantly recurring complaint, the author of the Book of Wisdom teaches that murmuring is unprofitable and blasphemous (Wisd. 1:11). Bailey, in 'Festus,' sings -
"Of all life's aims, what's worth the thought we waste on't?
How mean, how miserable, seems every care!
How doubtful, too, the system of the mind!
And then the ceaseless, changeless, hopeless round
Of weariness, and heartlessness, and woe,
And vice, and vanity! Yet these make life -
The life, at least, I witness, if not feel
No matter, we are immortal."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun,.... All things done by the Lord, that were on the earth, and in it, and in the sea; he considered them, and endeavoured to search into the nature of them; and did attain to a very great knowledge of them, so that he could speak of them to the instruction of others; see 1 Kings 4:33; and all that were done by men, by their head, or by their hands; all that were written or wrought by them; all their philosophical works and experiments, and all their mechanic operations; as well as all their good and bad works, in a moral sense; so the Targum,
"I saw all the deeds of the children of men, which are done under the sun in this world;''
and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit; not only the things known, but the knowledge of them; it is mere vanity, there is nothing solid and substantial in it, or that can make a man happy; yea, on the contrary, it is vexatious and distressing; it is not only a weariness to the flesh to obtain it, but, in the reflection of it, gives pain and uneasiness to the mind: it is a "breaking of the spirit" (n) of the man, as the Targum, Jarchi, and Alshech, interpret the phrase; it wastes and consumes his spirit, as well as his time, and all to no purpose; it is, as some ancient Greek versions and others render it, and not amiss, a "feeding on wind" (o); what is useless and unprofitable, and like labouring for that; see Hosea 12:1, Ecclesiastes 5:16; and so Aben Ezra.
(n) "affiictio spiritus", V. L. Junius & Tremellius; "contritio spiritus", so some in Vatablus. (o) , Aquila; "pastio venti", Mercerus, Piscator, Gejerus, Amama.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. The reason is here given why investigation into man's "works" is only "sore travail" (Ec 1:13); namely, because all man's ways are vain (Ec 1:18) and cannot be mended (Ec 1:15).
vexation of—"a preying upon"
the Spirit—Maurer translates; "the pursuit of wind," as in Ec 5:16; Ho 12:1, "Ephraim feedeth on wind." But old versions support the English Version.
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