|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 6. - Pools of water. Great care was exercised by Solomon to provide his capital with water, and vast operations were undertaken for this purpose. "The king's pool," mentioned in Nehemiah 2:14, may have been constructed by him (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5:04. 2); but the most celebrated work ascribed to him is the water-supply at Etham, southwest of Bethlehem, and the aqueduct leading from thence to Jerusalem. Most modern travelers have described these pools. They are three in number, and, according to Robinson's measurement, are of immense size. The first, to the east, is 582 feet long, 207 wide, and 50 deep; the second, 432 by 250, and 39 feet deep; the third, 380 by 236, and 25 feet deep. They are all, however, narrower at the upper end, and widen out gradually, flowing one into the other. There is a copious spring led into the uppermost pool from the north-east, but this supply is augmented by other sources now choked and ruined. The water from the pools was conveyed round the ridge on which Bethlehem stands in earthen pipes to Jerusalem. Dr. Thomson ('The Land and the Book,' p. 326) says, "Near that city it was carried along the west side of the Valley of Gihon to the north-western end of the lower Pool of Gihon, where it crossed to the east side, and, winding round the southern declivity of Zion below Neby Daud, finally entered the south-eastern corner of the temple area, where the water was employed in the various services of the sanctuary." Etham is, with good reason, identified with the beautiful valley of Urtas, which lies southwest of Bethlehem, in the immediate neighborhood of the pools of Solomon. The fountain near the present village watered the gardens and orchards which were planted here, the terraced hills around were covered with vines, figs, and olives, and the prospect must have been delightful and refreshing in that thirsty land. To water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees; Revised Version, to water therefrom the forest where trees were reared; literally, in order to irrigate a wood sprouting forth trees; i.e. a nursery of saplings. So we read how the Garden of Eden was watered (Genesis 2:10; Genesis 13:10) - a most necessary feature in Eastern countries, where streams and pools are not constructed for picturesque reasons, but for material uses.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I made me pools of water,.... For cascades and water works to play in, as well as to keep and produce fish of all kinds: mention is made of the king's pools, Nehemiah 2:14; the fish pools at Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim, perhaps belonged to Solomon, Sol 7:4; Little more than a league from Bethlehem are pools of water, which at this day are called the fish pools of Solomon; they are great reservatories cut in the rock, the one at the end of the other; the second being a little lower than the first, and the third than the second, and so communicate the water from one to another when they are full (c); and of which Mr. Maundrell (d) gives the following account:
"They are about an hour and a quarter distant from Bethlehem, southward; they are three in number, lying in a row above each other, being so disposed, that the waters of the uppermost may descend into the second, and those of the second into the third; their figure is quadrangular; the breadth is the same in all, amounting to above ninety paces; in their length there is some difference between them, the first being about an hundred sixty paces long; the second, two hundred; the third, two hundred twenty; they are all lined with a wall, and plastered, and contain a great depth of water.''
And to these, he observes, together with the gardens adjoining, Solomon is supposed to allude, Ecclesiastes 2:5. There are to be seen, he says (e), some remains of an old aqueduct, which anciently conveyed the waters from Solomon's pools to Jerusalem; this is said to be the genuine work of Solomon, and may well be allowed to be in reality what it is pretended for. So Rauwolff (f) says,
"beyond the tower of Ader, in another valley, not far from Bethlehem, they show still to this day a large orchard, full of citron, lemon, orange, pomegranate, and fig trees, and many others, which King Solomon did plant in his days; with ponds, canals, and other water works, very pleasantly prepared, as he saith himself, Ecclesiastes 2:5; this is still in our time full of good and fruitful trees, worthy to be seen for their sakes, and ditches there: wherefore I really believe it to be the same Josephus (g) makes mention of, called Ethan, about twelve mile from Jerusalem; where Solomon had pleasant gardens and water pools, to which he used to ride early in a morning.''
Mr. Maundrell (h) also makes mention of some cisterns, called Solomon's cisterns, at Roselayn, about an hour from the ruins of Tyre; of which there are three entire at this day; one about three hundred yards distant from the sea, the other two a little further up; and, according to tradition, they were made by that great king, in recompence to King Hiram, for supplying materials towards building the temple: but, as he observes, these, though ancient, could not be built before the time of Alexander; since the aqueduct, which conveys the water from hence to Tyre, is carried over the neck of land, by which he joined the city to the continent. Jarchi interprets these pools in this text of places to keep fish alive in, and so the Midrash understands by them fish pools; though they seem to be canals made in the gardens, orchards, and parks;
to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees; the young nurseries, which in time grew up to large fruit bearing trees; which, being numerous and thick, looked like a wood or forest, as the word is; and which canals and nurseries both added greatly to the delight and pleasure of those places. In this manner the Indians water their gardens; who commonly have in them a great pit, or kind of fish pool, which is full of rain water; and just by it there is a basin of brick, raised about two feet higher than the ground: when therefore they have a mind to water the garden, it is filled with water from the fish pool, or pit; which, through a hole that is at the bottom, falls into a canal, that is divided into many branches, proportionable in size to their distance from the basin, and carries the water to the foot of each tree, and to each plot of herbs; and when the gardeners think they are watered enough, they stop up, or turn aside, the canals with clods of earth (i). The beauty of a plant, or tree, is thus described by Aelianus (k);
"branches generous, leaves thick, stem or trunk firm and stable, roots deep; winds shaking it; a large shadow cast from it; changing with the seasons of the year; and water, partly brought through canals, and partly coming from heaven, to water and nourish it; and such beautiful, well watered, and flourishing trees, contribute much to the pleasure of gardens.''
(c) Thevenot's Travels, B. 2. ch. 47. p. 202. (d) Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 88. edit. 7. (e) Ibid. p. 90. (f) Travels, part 3. ch. 22. p. 322. Vid. Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 1. p. 367, 368. (g) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 7. s. 13. (h) Ut supra, p. 50, 51. (Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, edit. 7.) (i) Agreement of Customs between the East Indians and Jews, Art. 21. p. 78. (k) Var. Hist. l. 2. c. 14.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. pools—artificial, for irrigating the soil (Ge 2:10; Ne 2:14; Isa 1:30). Three such reservoirs are still found, called Solomon's cisterns, a mile and a half from Jerusalem.
wood that bringeth forth—rather, "the grove that flourisheth with trees" [Lowth].
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