|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:9-17 The goodness of Providence is more equally distributed than appears to a careless observer. The king needs the common things of life, and the poor share them; they relish their morsel better than he does his luxuries. There are bodily desires which silver itself will not satisfy, much less will worldly abundance satisfy spiritual desires. The more men have, the better house they must keep, the more servants they must employ, the more guests they must entertain, and the more they will have hanging on them. The sleep of the labourer is sweet, not only because he is tired, but because he has little care to break his sleep. The sleep of the diligent Christian, and his long sleep, are sweet; having spent himself and his time in the service of God, he can cheerfully repose in God as his Rest. But those who have every thing else, often fail to secure a good night's sleep; their abundance breaks their rest. Riches do hurt, and draw away the heart from God and duty. Men do hurt with their riches, not only gratifying their own lusts, but oppressing others, and dealing hardly with them. They will see that they have laboured for the wind, when, at death, they find the profit of their labour is all gone like the wind, they know not whither. How ill the covetous worldling bears the calamities of human life! He does not sorrow to repentance, but is angry at the providence of God, angry at all about him; which doubles his affliction.
Verse 14. - Those riches perish by evil travail; thing or circumstance. There is no need to confine the cause of the loss to unsuccessful business, as many commentators do. The rich man does not seem to be a tradesman or speculator; he loses his property, like Job, by visitations for which he is in no way answerable - by storm or tempest, by robbers, by fire, by exactions, or by lawsuits. And he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. The verb rendered "begetteth" is in the past tense, and used as it were, hypothetically, equivalent to "hath he begotten a son," supposing he has a son. His misery is doubled by the reflection that he has lost all hope of securing a fortune for his children, or founding a family, or passing on an inheritance to posterity. It is doubtful to whom the pronoun "his" refers. Many consider that the father is meant, and the clause says that when he has begotten a son, he finds he has nothing to give him. But the suffix seems most naturally to refer to the son, who is thus left a pauper. Vulgate, Generavit filium qui in summa egestate erit. Having a thing in the hand moans having power over it, or possessing it.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But those riches perish by evil travail,.... Or, "by an evil business or affair" (n). That is, such riches as are not well got, or are not used as they should be, these waste away and come to nothing; either by the owner's bad management, and misconduct in trade and business; or by fire, tempest, thieves, and robbers, and many other ways and means: these are very certain things; and there are various ways by which they make themselves wings and flee away, under the direction of a divine providence;
and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand; the riches he had hoarded up, he designed for his son; but being stripped of them by one means or another, when he comes to die, has nothing to leave his son: or if his riches do not perish in his own lifetime, yet they are quickly consumed by his son, who, in a short time, has nothing to live upon; and so being brought up a gentleman, and in no business, is in a worse condition than such who have been brought up to work for their living, and in no expectation of an estate after the decease of their friends. The Targum understands it in this latter sense, paraphrasing the words thus,
"and those riches, which he shall leave his son after his death, shall perish, because he hath gotten them in an evil way; and they shall not remain in the hand of the son whom he hath begotten; neither shall anything remain in his hand.''
(n) "occupatione, negotio, vel casu malo", Gejerus.
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