|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 18. - For in much wisdom is much grief. The more one knows of men's lives, the deeper insight one obtains of their actions and circumstances, the greater is the cause of grief at the incomplete and unsatisfactory nature of all human affairs. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow; not in others, but in himself. With added experience and more minute examination, the wise man becomes more conscious of his own ignorance and impotence, of the un-sympathizing and uncontrollable course of nature, of the gigantic evils which he is powerless to remedy; this causes his sorrowful confession (ver. 17b). St. Gregory, taking the religious view of the passage, comments, "The more a man begins to know what he has lost the more he begins to bewail the sentence of his corruption, which he has met with" ('Moral.,' 18:65); and, "He that already knows the high state which he does not as yet enjoy is the more grieved for the low condition in which he is yet held" (ibid., 1:34). The statement in our text is paralleled in Ecclus. 21:12, "There is a wisdom which multiplieth bitterness," and contrasted in Wisd. 8:16 with the comfort and pleasure which true wisdom brings.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For in much wisdom is much grief,.... In getting it, and losing it when it is gotten: or "indignation" (t), at himself and others; being more sensible of the follies and weakness of human nature;
and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow: for, the more he knows, the more he would know, and is more eager after it, and puts himself to more pains and trouble to acquire it; and hereby becomes more and more sensible of his own ignorance; and of the difficulty of attaining the knowledge he would come at; and of the insufficiency of it to make him easy and happy: and besides, the more knowledge he has, the more envy it draws upon him from others, who set themselves to oppose him, and detract from his character; in short, this is the sum of all human knowledge and wisdom, attained to in the highest degree; instead of making men comfortable and happy, it is found to be mere vanity, to cause vexation and disquietude of mind, and to promote grief and sorrow. There is indeed wisdom and knowledge opposite to this, and infinitely more excellent, and which, the more it is increased, the more joy and comfort it brings; and this is wisdom in the hidden part; a spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ, and of God in Christ, and of divine and evangelical truths; but short of this knowledge there is no true peace, comfort, and happiness. The Targum is,
"for a man who multiplies wisdom, when he sins and does not turn by repentance, he multiplies indignation from the Lord; and he who increases knowledge, and dies in his youth, increases grief of heart to those who are near akin to him.''
(t) "multa ira", Pagninus, Montanus; "indignatio", V. L. Tigurine version, Vatablus, Drusius; "multum indignationis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. wisdom … knowledge—not in general, for wisdom, &c., are most excellent in their place; but speculative knowledge of man's ways (Ec 1:13, 17), which, the farther it goes, gives one the more pain to find how "crooked" and "wanting" they are (Ec 1:15; 12:12).
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