|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:8-14 Solomon repeats his text, VANITY OF VANITIES, ALL IS VANITY. These are the words of one that could speak by dear-bought experience of the vanity of the world, which can do nothing to ease men of the burden of sin. As he considered the worth of souls, he gave good heed to what he spake and wrote; words of truth will always be acceptable words. The truths of God are as goads to such as are dull and draw back, and nails to such as are wandering and draw aside; means to establish the heart, that we may never sit loose to our duty, nor be taken from it. The Shepherd of Israel is the Giver of inspired wisdom. Teachers and guides all receive their communications from him. The title is applied in Scripture to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The prophets sought diligently, what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; and then was much more so to both than it is now. All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion, That to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man. The fear of God includes in it all the affections of the soul towards him, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. There may be terror where there is no love, nay, where there is hatred. But this is different from the gracious fear of God, as the feelings of an affectionate child. The fear of God, is often put for the whole of true religion in the heart, and includes its practical results in the life. Let us attend to the one thing needful, and now come to him as a merciful Saviour, who will soon come as an almighty Judge, when he will bring to light the things of darkness, and manifest the counsels of all hearts. Why does God record in his word, that ALL IS VANITY, but to keep us from deceiving ourselves to our ruin? He makes our duty to be our interest. May it be graven in all our hearts. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.
Verse 14. - The great duty just named is here grounded upon the solemn truth of a future judgment. For God shall bring every work into judgment. It will then be seen whether this obligation has been 'attended to or not. The judgment has already been mentioned (Ecclesiastes 11:9); it is here more emphatically set forth as a certain fact and a strong motive power. The old theory of earthly retribution had been shown to break down under the experience of practical life; the anomalies which perplexed men's minds could only be solved and remedied by a future judgment under the eye of the omniscient and unerring God. With every secret thing. The Syriac adds, "and manifest thing." The Septuagint renders, "with everything that has been overlooked" - a very terrible, but true, thought. The doctrine that the most secret things shall be revealed in the dies irae is often brought forward in the New Testament, which makes plain the personal nature of this final investigation, which the earlier Scriptures invest with a more general character (see Romans 2:16; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 4:5). So this wonderful book closes with the enunciation of a truth found nowhere else so clearly defined in the Old Testament, and thus opens the way to the clearer light shed upon the awful future by the revelation of the gospel.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For God shall bring every work into judgment,.... Not in this life, but in the day of the great judgment, as the Targum explains it; that is, whatever has been done by men, from the beginning of the world, or will be to the end; all being observed and taken notice of by the omniscient God, who has registered them in the book of his remembrance, and, being Judge, will be able to bring them all into account at that awful day: which is here given as a reason why men should fear God, and keep his commandments;
with every secret thing; that has been committed in secret by men, and is unknown to others, even every secret thought of the heart; see 1 Corinthians 4:5; or, "with every secret" or "hidden man" (w); whose works are hidden from men, and are not known to be what, they are, and who thought to hide themselves from, God; but these, with their works, shall be brought into open court in judgment;
whether it be good, or whether it be evil: it shall then be examined according to the rule of the word, and be judged, and declared to be what it truly is, good or evil; and so be either rewarded in a way of grace, or punished: or, "whether the man, the hidden man, be good or evil" (x), so Alshech; all mankind, everyone, will he bring into judgment, whether he be good or evil. This is the last end of all things, and in which every man will be concerned. This shows, as well as many other things in this book. Solomon's belief of a future state and judgment; and that there is nothing in it to encourage the epicure and atheist: which being observed by the ancient Jews, they readily admitted it into the canon of Scripture.
(w) "super omnem occultum, sc. hominem", Schmidt. (x) "Sive bonus fuerit, sive malus", Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. For God shall bring every work into judgment—The future judgment is the test of what is "vanity," what solid, as regards the chief good, the grand subject of the book.
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