|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:7-12 A little will serve to sustain us comfortably, and a great deal can do no more. The desires of the soul find nothing in the wealth of the world to give satisfaction. The poor man has comfort as well as the richest, and is under no real disadvantage. We cannot say, Better is the sight of the eyes than the resting of the soul in God; for it is better to live by faith in things to come, than to live by sense, which dwells only upon present things. Our lot is appointed. We have what pleases God, and let that please us. The greatest possessions and honours cannot set us above the common events of human life. Seeing that the things men pursue on earth increase vanities, what is man the better for his worldly devices? Our life upon earth is to be reckoned by days. It is fleeting and uncertain, and with little in it to be fond of, or to be depended on. Let us return to God, trust in his mercy through Jesus Christ, and submit to his will. Then soon shall we glide through this vexatious world, and find ourselves in that happy place, where there is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
Verses 7-9. - Section 10. Desire is insatiable; men are always striving after enjoyment, but they never gain their wish completely - which fortifies the old conclusion that man's happiness is not in his own power. Verse 7. - All the labor of man is for his mouth; i.e. for self-preservation and enjoyment, eating and drinking being taken as a type of the proper use of earthly blessings (comp; Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13, etc.; Psalm 128:2). The sentiment is general, and does not refer specially to the particular person described above, though it carries on the idea of the unsatisfactory result of wealth. Luther translates strangely and erroneously, "To every man is work allotted according to his measure. Such an idea is entirely foreign to the context. And yet the appetite is not filled. The word rendered "appetite" is nephesh, "soul," and Zockler contends that "' mouth 'and 'soul' stand in contrast to each other as representatives of the purely sensual and therefore transitory enjoyment (comp. Job 12:11; Proverbs 16:26) as compared with the deeper, more spiritual, and therefore more lasting kind of joy." But no such contrast is intended; the writer would never have uttered such a truism as that deep, spiritual joy is not to be obtained by sensual pleasure; and, as Delitzsch points out, in some passages (e.g., Proverbs 16:26; Isaiah 5:14; Isaiah 29:8) "mouth" in one sentence corresponds to "soul" in another. The soul is considered as the seat of the appetitive faculty - emotions, desires, etc. This is never satisfied (Ecclesiastes 1:8) with what it has, but is always craving for more. So Horace affirms that a man rightly obtains the appellation of king, "avidum domando spiritum," by subduing his spirit's cravings ('Carm.,' 2:2. 9).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
All the labour of man is for his mouth,.... For the food of his mouth, as the Targum; for the sustenance of his body, for food and clothing, part being put for the whole: all that a man labours for is to get this; and if he does not enjoy it, his labour is in vain; meats are for the belly, which are taken in by the mouth, and for these a man labours; and if he does not eat them, when he has got them, he labours to no purpose;
and yet the appetite is not filled; even the bodily or sensual appetite; no, not even by those who eat the fruit of their labour; for though their hunger is allayed for the present, and the appetite is satisfied for a while, yet it returns again, and requires more food, and so continually: or, "the soul is not filled", or "satisfied" (c); it is the body only that is filled or satisfied with such things, at best; the mind of man grasps after greater things, and can find no contentment or satisfaction in earthly or sensual enjoyments. This seems to be a new argument, proving the vanity of riches, from the narrow use of them; which only reaches to the body, not to the soul.
(c) "anima non implebitur", Pagninus, Montanus; "anima non expletur", Mercerus, Gejerus; "non impletur", Cocceius, so Broughton; "non satiatur", Drusius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. man—rather, "the man," namely, the miser (Ec 6:3-6). For not all men labor for the mouth, that is, for selfish gratification.
appetite—Hebrew, "the soul." The insatiability of the desire prevents that which is the only end proposed in toils, namely, self-gratification; "the man" thus gets no "good" out of his wealth (Ec 6:3).
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