|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:4-8 When a person made engagements rashly, he suffered his mouth to cause his flesh to sin. The case supposes a man coming to the priest, and pretending that his vow was made rashly, and that it would be wrong to fulfil it. Such mockery of God would bring the Divine displeasure, which might blast what was thus unduly kept. We are to keep down the fear of man. Set God before thee; then, if thou seest the oppression of the poor, thou wilt not find fault with Divine Providence; nor think the worse of the institution of magistracy, when thou seest the ends of it thus perverted; nor of religion, when thou seest it will not secure men from suffering wrong. But though oppressors may be secure, God will reckon for all.
Verse 4. - Koheleth passes on to give a warning concerning the making of vows, which formed a great feature in Hebrew religion, and was the occasion of much irreverence and profanity. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it. There is here plainly a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 23:21-23. Vows are not regarded as absolute duties which every one was obliged to undertake. They are of a voluntary nature, but when made are to be strictly performed. They might consist of a promise to dedicate certain things or persons to God (see Genesis 38:20; Judges 11:30), or to abstain from doing certain things, as in the case of the Nazarites. The rabbinical injunction quoted by our Lord in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:33), "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths," was probably levelled against profane swearing, or invoking God's Name lightly, but it may include the duty of performing vows made to or in the Name of God. Our Lord does not condemn the practice of corban, while noticing with rebuke a perversion of the custom (Mark 7:11). For he hath no pleasure in fools. The non-fulfillment of a vow would prove a man to be impious, in proverbial language "a fool," and as such God must regard him with displeasure. The clause in the Hebrew is somewhat ambiguous, being literally, There is no pleasure (chephets) in fools; i.e. no one, neither God nor man, would take pleasure in fools who make promises and never perform them. Or it may be, There is no fixed will in fools; i.e. they waver and are undecided in purpose. But this rendering of chephets appears to be very doubtful. Septuagint Ὅτι οὐκ ἔστι θέλημα ἐν ἄφροσι which reproduces the vagueness of the Hebrew; Vulgate, Displicet enim ei (Deo) infidelis et stulta promissio. The meaning is well represented in the Authorized Version, and we must complete the sense by supplying in thought "on the part of God." Pay that which thou but vowed. Ben-Sirs re-echoes the injunction (Ecclus. 18:22, 23), "Let nothing hinder thee to pay thy vow (εὐχὴν) in due time, and defer not until death to be justified [i.e. to fulfill the vow]. Before making a vow (εὔξασθαι) prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempteth the Lord." The verse is cited in the Talmud; and Dukes gives a parallel, "Before thou vowest anything, consider the object of thy vow" ('Rabb. Blumenl.,' p. 70). So in Proverbs 20:25 we have, according to some translations, "It is a snare to a man rashly to say, It is holy, and after vows to make inquiry." Septuagint," Pay thou therefore whatsoever thou shalt have vowed (ὅσα ἐάν εὔξη),
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
When thou vowest a vow unto God,.... Or "if thou vowest" (r), as the Vulgate Latin version; for vows are free and indifferent things, which persons may make or not; there is no precept for them in the word of God; instances and examples there are, and they may be lawfully made, when they are in the power of man to perform, and are not inconsistent with the will and word of God; they have been made by good men, and were frequent in former times; but they seem not so agreeable to the Gospel dispensation, having a tendency to ensnare the mind, to entangle men, and bring on them a spirit of bondage, contrary to that liberty wherewith Christ has made them free; and therefore it is better to abstain from them: holy resolutions to do the will and work of God should be taken up in the strength of divine grace; but to vow this, or that, or the other thing, which a man previous to his vow is not obliged unto, had better be let alone: but however, when a vow is made that is lawful to be done,
defer not to pay it; that is, to God, to whom it is made, who expects it, and that speedily, as Hannah paid hers; no excuses nor delays should be made;
for he hath no pleasure in fools; that is, the Lord hath no pleasure in them, he will not be mocked by them; he will resent such treatment of him, as to vow and not pay, or defer payment and daily, with him. So the Targum,
"for the Lord hath no pleasure in fools, because, they defer their vows, and do not pay;''
pay that which thou hast vowed; precisely and punctually; both as to the matter, manner, and time of it.
(r) "si quid vovisti", V. L.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. When thou vowest a vow unto God—Hasty words in prayer (Ec 5:2, 3) suggest the subject of hasty vows. A vow should not be hastily made (Jud 11:35; 1Sa 14:24). When made, it must be kept (Ps 76:11), even as God keeps His word to us (Ex 12:41, 51; Jos 21:45).
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