|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:1-11 Solomon soon found mirth and pleasure to be vanity. What does noisy, flashy mirth towards making a man happy? The manifold devices of men's hearts, to get satisfaction from the world, and their changing from one thing to another, are like the restlessness of a man in a fever. Perceiving it was folly to give himself to wine, he next tried the costly amusements of princes. The poor, when they read such a description, are ready to feel discontent. But the remedy against all such feelings is in the estimate of it all by the owner himself. All was vanity and vexation of spirit: and the same things would yield the same result to us, as to Solomon. Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. His wisdom remained with him; a strong understanding, with great human knowledge. But every earthly pleasure, when unconnected with better blessings, leaves the mind as eager and unsatisfied as before. Happiness arises not from the situation in which we are placed. It is only through Jesus Christ that final blessedness can be attained.
Verse 3. - I sought in mine heart; literally, I spied out (as Ecclesiastes 1:13) in my heart. Having proved the fruitlessness of some sort of sensual pleasure, he made another experiment in a philosophical spirit. To give myself unto wine; literally, to draw (mashak) my flesh with wine; i.e. to use the attraction of the pleasures of the table. Yet acquainting my heart with wisdom. This is a parenthetical clause, which Wright translates, "While my heart was acting [guiding] with wisdom." That is, while, as it were, experimenting with pleasure, he still retained sufficient control over his passions as not to be wholly given over to vice; he was in the position of one who is being carried down an impetuous stream, yet has the power of stopping his headlong course before it becomes fatal to him. Such control was given by wisdom. Deliberately to enter upon a course of self-indulgence, even with a possibly good intention, must be a most perilous trial, and one which would leave indelible marks upon the soul; and not one person in a hundred would be able to stop short of ruin, The historical Solomon, by his experiment, suffered infinite loss, which nothing could compensate. The Septuagint renders not very successfully, "I examined whether my heart would draw (ἑλκύσει) my flesh as wine; and my heart guided me in wisdom." The Vulgate gives a sense entirely contrary to the writer's intention; "I thought in my heart to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might transfer my mind to wisdom." And to lay hold on folly. These words are dependent upon "I sought in my heart," and refer to the sensual pleasures in which he indulged for a certain object. "Dulce est desipere in loco," says Horace ('Canto.,' 4:12. 28); Ἐν μὲν μαινομένοις μάλα μαίνομαι (Theognis, 313). Till I might see. His purpose was to discover if there was in these things any real good which might satisfy men's cravings, and be a worthy object for them to pursue all the days of their life.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine,.... Not in an immoderate way, so as to intoxicate himself with it, in which there can be no pleasure, nor any show of happiness; but in a moderate, yet liberal way, so as to be innocently cheerful and pleasant, and hereby try what good and happiness were to be possessed in this way. By "wine" is meant, not that only, but everything eatable and drinkable that is good; it signifies what is called good living, good eating and drinking: Solomon always lived well; was brought up as a prince, and, when he came to the throne, lived like a king; but being increased in riches, and willing to make trial of the good that was in all the creatures of God, to see if any happiness was in them; determines to keep a better table still, and resolved to have everything to eat or drink that could be had, cost what it will; of Solomon's daily provision for his household, see 1 Kings 4:22; the Midrash interprets it, of the wine of the law. It may be rendered, "I sought in mine heart to draw out my flesh with wine", or "my body" (y); to extend it, and make it fat and plump; which might be reduced to skin and bones, to a mere skeleton, through severe studies after wisdom and knowledge. The Targum is,
"I sought in my heart to draw my flesh into the house of the feast of wine;''
as if there was a reluctance in him to such a conduct; and that he as it were put a force upon himself, in order to make the experiment;
(yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom); or, "yet my heart led me in wisdom" (z): he was guided and governed by wisdom in this research of happiness; he was upon his guard, that he did not go into any sinful extravagancies, or criminal excesses in eating and drinking;
and to lay hold on folly; that he might better know what folly was, and what was the folly of the sons of men to place their happiness in such things; or rather, he studiously sought to lay hold on folly, to restrain it, and himself from it, that it might not have the ascendant over him; so that he would not be able to form a right judgment whether there is any real happiness in this sort of pleasure, or not, he is, speaking of; for the epicure, the voluptuous person, is no judge of it;
till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life; where the "summum bonum", or chief happiness of man lies; and which he should endeavour to seek after and pursue, that he might enjoy it throughout the whole of his life, while in this world: and that he might still more fully know it, if possible, he did the following things.
(y) "ut diducerem vino carnem meam", Piscator; "ut protraherem, et inde distenderem carnem meam", Rambachius. (z) "et cor meam ducens in sapientia", Montanus; "interim cor meum ducens in sapientiam", Drusius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3-11. Illustration more at large of Ec 2:1, 2.
I sought—I resolved, after search into many plans.
give myself unto wine—literally, "to draw my flesh," or "body to wine" (including all banquetings). Image from a captive drawn after a chariot in triumph (Ro 6:16, 19; 1Co 12:2); or, one "allured" (2Pe 2:18, 19).
yet acquainting … wisdom—literally, "and my heart (still) was behaving, or guiding itself," with wisdom [Gesenius]. Maurer translates: "was weary of (worldly) wisdom." But the end of Ec 2:9 confirms English Version.
folly—namely, pleasures of the flesh, termed "mad," Ec 2:2.
all the days, &c.—(See Margin and Ec 6:12; Job 15:20).
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