|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:12-17 Solomon found that knowledge and prudence were preferable to ignorance and folly, though human wisdom and knowledge will not make a man happy. The most learned of men, who dies a stranger to Christ Jesus, will perish equally with the most ignorant; and what good can commendations on earth do to the body in the grave, or the soul in hell? And the spirits of just men made perfect cannot want them. So that if this were all, we might be led to hate our life, as it is all vanity and vexation of spirit.
Verse 15. - Then (and) said I in my heart (Ecclesiastes 1:16), As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me. He applies the general statement of ver. 14 to his own case. The end that overtakes the fool will ere long overtake him; and he proceeds, Why was I then more wise? "Then" (אז), may be understood either logically, i.e. in this case, since such is the fate of wise and foolish; or temporally, at the hour of death regarded as past. He puts the question - To what end, with what design, has he been so excessively wise, or, as it may be, wise overmuch (Ecclesiastes 7:16)? His wisdom has, as it were, recoiled upon himself - it taught him much, but not content; it made him keen-sighted in seeing the emptiness of human things, but it satisfied not his cravings. Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. This similarity of fate for philosopher and fool makes life vain and worthless; or rather, the meaning may be, if the superiority of wisdom over folly conduces to no other end than this, that superiority is a vanity. The LXX. has glossed the passage, followed herein by the Syriac, "Moreover, I spake in my heart that indeed this is also vanity, because the fool speaks out of his abundance" - ver. 16 giving the substance of the fool's thoughts. Vulgate, Locutusque cum mente mea, animadverti quod hoc quoque esset vanitas. Our Hebrew text does not confirm this interpretation or addition.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then said I in my heart, as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me,.... The wisest of kings, and the wisest of men; that is, he looked over things in his mind, and considered what had befallen him, or what were his present circumstances, or what would be his case, especially at death; and said within himself, the same things happen to me, who have attained to the highest pitch of wisdom, as to the most errant fool; and therefore no true happiness can be in this sort of wisdom. The Targum paraphrases it thus,
"as it happened to Saul the son of Kish, the king who turned aside perversely, and kept not the commandment he received concerning Amalek, and his kingdom was taken from him; so shall it happen to me;''
and why was I then more wise? the Targum adds, than he, or than any other man, or even than a fool; why have I took so much pains to get wisdom? what am I the better for it? what happiness is there in it, seeing it gives me no advantage, preference, and excellency to a fool; or secures me from the events that befall me?
Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity; this worldly wisdom has nothing solid and substantial in it, as well as pleasure; and it is a vain thing to seek happiness in it, since this is the case, that the events are the same to men that have it, as to one that has it not.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15. why was I—so anxious to become, &c. (2Ch 1:10).
Then—Since such is the case.
this—namely, pursuit of (worldly) wisdom; it can never fill the place of the true wisdom (Job 28:28; Jer 8:9).
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