|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:18-20 Life is God's gift. We must not view our calling as a drudgery, but take pleasure in the calling where God puts us. A cheerful spirit is a great blessing; it makes employments easy, and afflictions light. Having made a proper use of riches, a man will remember the days of his past life with pleasure. The manner in which Solomon refers to God as the Giver, both of life and its enjoyments, shows they ought to be received and to be used, consistently with his will, and to his glory. Let this passage recommend to all the kind words of the merciful Redeemer, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. Christ is the Bread of life, the only food of the soul. All are invited to partake of this heavenly provision.
Verses 18-20. - Section 8. The inconveniences of wealth lead the writer back to his old conclusion, that man should make the best of life, and enjoy all the good that God gives with moderation and contentment. Verse 18. - Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely, etc. The accentuation is against this rendering, which, however, has the support of the Syriac and the Targum. The Septuagint gives, Ἰδοὺ εϊδον ἐγὼ ἀγαθὸν ὅ ἐστι καλόν, "Behold, I have seen a good which is comely;" and it is best to translate, with Delitzsch and others, "Behold, what I have seen as good, what as beautiful, is this." My conclusion holds good. They who seek for traces of Greek influence in Koheleth find Epicureanism in the sentiment, and the familiar combination, καλὸν κἀγαθὸν, in the language. Both ideas are baseless. (For supposed Epicureanism, see on Ecclesiastes 2:24 and Ecclesiastes 3:12.) And the juxtaposition of καλὸς and ἀγαθὸς is only a fortuitous rendering of the Hebrew, upon which no argument for Grecism can be founded. To eat and to drink, etc.; i.e. to use the common blessings which God bestows with thankfulness and contentment. As St. Paul says, "Having food and covering, we shall he therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8). Which God giveth him. This is the point so often insisted upon. These temporal blessings are God's gifts, and are not to be considered as the natural and assured result of man's own exertions. Man, indeed, must labor, but God giveth the increase. For it is his portion (Ecclesiastes 3:22). This calm enjoyment is allotted to man by God, and nothing more must be expected. Ben-Sira gives similar advice, "Defraud not thyself of a good day, and let not the share in a right pleasure pass by thee Give, and take, and beguile thy soul; for there is no seeking of dainties in Hades" (Ecclus. 14:14. etc.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Behold that which I have seen,.... Observed, considered and approved of, and which he recommended and excited attention to, and is as follows;
it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink; to make use of the creatures God has given for service in a free and liberal manner, without excess, and with moderation; and not deprive a man's self of those things he may lawfully partake of, and are necessary for him: to do this is good for himself, and for the health of his body; and is right in the sight of God, and is comely before men; it is not only lawful, but laudable. There is another version and sense of the words, "it is good to eat and drink him that is fair" (q), or comely; Christ, who is fairer than the children of men; to live by faith on him, to eat his flesh, and drink his blood; but this, however true, spiritual, and evangelical, it seems foreign to the text. It follows,
and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him; this last clause, "which God giveth him", is not to be connected with "the good of all his labour"; though it is true, that whatever good is got by labour is the gift of God; but with "all the days of his life"; for the life of man, and all the days of it, be they more or fewer, are the gift of God, and according to his determinate will and pleasure; and throughout this time a man should enjoy, in a comfortable way, with thankfulness to God, the good things he has gotten by his labour and industry, through the blessing of God along with them. This Solomon frequently inculcates; Aben Ezra says, this is the third time, but it seems to be the fourth; see Ecclesiastes 2:24;
for it is his portion; that is, in this life; for otherwise, if a good man, he has a better portion in another: this is the part which God has allotted to him here; and it is his duty, and for his good and comfort, to make use of it.
(q) "Bonum est, cum qui pulcher est, edere et bibere, h. e. Christo per fidem frui; nova et singularis expositio", Rambachius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. Returns to the sentiment (Ec 3:12, 13, 22); translate: "Behold the good which I have seen, and which is becoming" (in a man).
which God giveth—namely, both the good of his labor and his life.
his portion—legitimately. It is God's gift that makes it so when regarded as such. Such a one will use, not abuse, earthly things (1Co 7:31). Opposed to the anxious life of the covetous (Ec 5:10, 17).
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