|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 9. - It has been much debated whether this verse should be connected with the preceding or the following paragraph. The Vulgate takes it with the preceding verse, Et insuper universae terrae rex imperat servienti; so the Septuagint; and this seems most natural, avarice, wealth, and its evils in private life being treated of in vers. 10 and many following. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. The writer seems to be contrasting the misery of Oriental despotism, above spoken of, with the happiness of a country whose king was content to enrich himself, not by war, rapine, and oppression, but by the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, by cherishing the natural productions of his country, and encouraging his people in developing its resources. Such was Uzziah, who" loved husbandry" (2 Chronicles 26:10); and in Solomon's own time the arts of peace greatly flourished. There is much difficulty in interpreting the verse. The Vulgate rendering, "And moreover the King of the whole earth rules over his servant," probably means that God governs the king. But the present Hebrew text does not support this translation. The Septuagint has, Καὶ περίσσεια γῆς ἑπὶ παντί ἐστὶ βασιλεὺς τοῦ ἀγροῦ εἰργασμένου, which makes more difficulties. "Also the abundance of the earth is for every one, or upon every thing; the king (is dependent on) the cultivated land, or, there is a king to the land when cultivated," i.e. the throne itself depends on the due cultivation of the country. Or, removing the comma, "The profit of the land in everything is a king of the cultivated field." The Hebrew may safely be rendered, "But the profit of a land in all things is a king devoted to the field," i.e. who loves and fosters agriculture. It is difficult to suppose that Solomon himself wrote this sentence, however we may interpret it. According to the Authorized Version, the idea is that the profit of the soil extends to every rank of life; even the king, who seems superior to all, is dependent upon the industry of the people, and the favorable produce of the land. He could not be unjust and oppressive without injuring his revenues in the end. Ben-Sirs sings the praises of agriculture: "Hate not laborious work, neither husbandry., which the Most High hath ordained" (Ecclus. 7:15). Agriculture held a very prominent position in the Mosaic commonwealth. The enactments concerning the firstfruits, the sabbatical year, landmarks, the non-alienation of inheritances, etc., tended to give peculiar importance to cultivation of the soil. Cicero's praise of agriculture is often quoted. Thus ('De Senect.,' 15. sqq.; 'De Off.,' 1:42):" Omninm return, ex quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil heroine libero dignius."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Moreover, the profit of the earth is for all,.... Or, "the excellency of the earth in" or "above all things is this" (y); that God most high rules over all the earth, and is higher than the kings of it, and all oppressors in it; or in all respects there is a preference, a superior excellency in the country as opposed to the city, especially in this, that there are not so many tumults, riots, and oppressions there; though this is mostly understood of the preference and superior excellency of agriculture, or tillage of the earth. So the Targum,
"the excellency of the praise of tilling the earth is above all things:''
and to the same purpose Jarchi and Aben Ezra; and the profit arising from it is enjoyed by all; it is for all, even the beasts of the field have grass from hence, as well as man has bread corn, and all other necessaries;
the king himself is served by the field; his table is served with bread corn, and flesh, and wine, and fruits of various sorts, the produce of the earth, which spring from it, or are nourished by it; were it not for husbandry the king himself and his family could not subsist; and therefore it becomes kings to encourage it, and not oppress those who are employed in it: or "the king is a servant to the field" (z); some kings have addicted themselves to husbandry, and been great lovers of it, as Uzziah was, 2 Chronicles 26:10; and some of the Chinese emperors, as their histories (a) show; and the kings of Persia (b): Vulcan, in the shield of Achilles, represented the reapers, gatherers, and binders of sheaves at work in the field, and a king standing among the sheaves with a sceptre in his hand, looking on with great pleasure, while a dinner is prepared by his orders for the workmen (c); many of the Roman generals, and high officers, were called from the plough, particularly Cincinnatus (d); and these encouraged husbandry in their subjects, as well as took care of their own farms. There is another sense of the words given, besides many more;
"and the most excellent Lord of the earth (that is, the most high God) is the King of every field that is tilled; (that is, the King of the whole habitable world;) or the King Messiah, Lord of his field, the church, and who is the most eminent in all the earth (e).''
The Midrash interprets it of the holy blessed God.
(y) "et praestantia terrae in omnibus ipsa", Montanus; "porro excellentia terrae prae omnibus est", Vatablus; "et praecellentia terrae in omnibus est", Gejerus. (z) "rex agro sit servus", Montanus, Piscator, Gejerus; "rex agro servit", Mercerus, so some in Drusius. (a) Vid. Martin. Sinic. Histor. l. 2. p. 36. & l. 4. p. 92. & l. 3. p. 287. (b) Xenophon. Oeconom. p. 482. (c) Homer. Iliad. 18. v. 550-558. (d) Flor. Hist. Roman. l. 1. c. 11. (e) So Schmidt Rambachius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9. "The profit (produce) of the earth is (ordained) for (the common good of) all: even the king himself is served by (the fruits of) the field" (2Ch 26:10). Therefore the common Lord of all, high and low, will punish at last those who rob the "poor" of their share in it (Pr 22:22, 23; Am 8:4-7).
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