|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.
Verse 20. - For he shall not much remember the days of his life. The man who has learned the lesson of calm enjoyment does not much concern himself with the shortness, uncertainty, or possible trouble of life. He carries out the counsel of Christ, "Be not anxious for the morrow, for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34). Ginsburg gives an entirely opposite rendering to the clause, "He should remember that the days of his life are not many;" i.e. the thought of the shortness of life should urge us to enjoy it while it lasts. But the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint and Vulgate and most modern commentators, and seems most appropriate to the context. The marginal rendering, "Though he give not much, yet he remembereth," etc., which Ginsburg calls a literary curiosity, must have been derived from the version of Junius, which gives, "Quod si non multum (supple, est illud quod dederit Deus, ex versu praec.)," etc. Because God answereth him in the joy of his heart. The man passes a calm and contented life, because God shows that he is pleased with him by the tranquil joy shed over his heart. The verb מַעֲנֶה (the hiph. participle of עָנָה) is variously rendered. The Septuagint gives, Ὁ Θεὸς περισπᾷ αὐτὸν ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ καρδίας αὐτοῦ, "God distracts him in the mirth of his heart;" Vulgate, Eo quod Deus occupet deliciis cot ejus; Ginsburg, "God causeth him to work for the enjoyment of his heart," i.e. God assigns him work that he may thence derive enjoyment; Koster," God makes him sing in the joy of his heart;" Delitzsch, Wright, and Plumptre, "God answers (corresponds with) the joy of his heart," which the latter explains to mean "is felt to approve it as harmonizing, in its calm evenness, with his own blessedness, the tranquility of the wise man mirroring the tranquility of God." But this modified Epicureanism is alien from the teaching of Koheleth. Rather the idea is that God answers him with, imparts to him, joy of heart, makes him sensible of his favorable regard by this inward feeling of satisfaction and content.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For he shall not much remember the days of his life,.... Be they more or fewer, as Jarchi: he will not think life long and tedious; nor dwell upon, and distress himself with, the troubles he has met with, or is likely to meet with; but, being content with the good things God has given him, and freely and cheerfully enjoying them, he passes away his time delightfully and pleasantly. Some, as Aben Ezra observes, and which he approves of, and is agreeably to the accents, render the words, "if he has not much, he remembers the days of his life" (t); if he has but little of the good things of this life, he remembers how few his days are he has to live; and doubts not he shall have enough to carry him to the end of his days, and therefore is quite easy and content; he calls to mind how he has been supplied all his days hitherto, and is persuaded that that God, who has provided for him, will continue his goodness to him, and that he shall not want any good thing; and therefore does not distress himself with what is to come;
because God answereth him in the joy of his heart; he calls upon God for a blessing on his labours, asks of him his daily food, and desires what may be proper and sufficient for him, or what he judges is necessary and convenient; and God answers his prayers and petitions, and good wishes, by filling his heart with food and gladness; and giving him that cheerfulness of spirit, and thankfulness of heart, in the enjoyment of every blessing; and especially if along with it he lifts up the light of his countenance, and grants him joy in the Holy Ghost; he will go on so pleasantly and comfortably as to forget all his former troubles; and it will dissipate his doubts and fears about how he shall live for the future.
(t) "quod si non multum recordabitur dierum vitae suae", Junius & Tremellius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. He will not remember much, looking back with disappointment, as the ungodly do (Ec 2:11), on the days of his life.
answereth … in the joy—God answers his prayers in giving him "power" to enjoy his blessings. Gesenius and Vulgate translate, "For God (so) occupies him with joy," &c., that he thinks not much of the shortness and sorrows of life. Holden, "Though God gives not much (as to real enjoyment), yet he remembers (with thankfulness) the days; for (he knows) God exercises him by the joy," &c. (tries him by prosperity), so Margin, but English Version is simplest.
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