|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:1-6 Reputation for piety and honesty is more desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world. It will do more good to go to a funeral than to a feast. We may lawfully go to both, as there is occasion; our Saviour both feasted at the wedding of his friend in Cana, and wept at the grave of his friend in Bethany. But, considering how apt we are to be vain and indulge the flesh, it is best to go to the house of mourning, to learn the end of man as to this world. Seriousness is better than mirth and jollity. That is best for us which is best for our souls, though it be unpleasing to sense. It is better to have our corruptions mortified by the rebuke of the wise, than to have them gratified by the song of fools. The laughter of a fool is soon gone, the end of his mirth is heaviness.
Verse 3. - Sorrow is better than laughter. This is a further expansion of the previous maxim, כַּעַס (kaas), as contrasted with שְׂהוק, is rightly rendered "sorrow," "melancholy," or, as Ginsburg contends, "thoughtful sadness." The Septuagint has θυμός, the Vulgate ira; but auger is not the feeling produced by a visit to the house of mourning. Such a scene produces saddening reflection, which is in itself a moral training, and is more wholesome and elevating than thoughtless mirth. For by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The feeling which shows itself by the look of sadness (comp. Genesis 40:7; Nehemiah 2:2) has a purifying effect on the heart, gives a moral tone to the character. Professor Tayler Lewis renders the clause, "For in the sad. ness of the face the heart becometh fair;" i.e. sorrow beautifies the soul, producing, as it were, comeliness, spiritual beauty, and, in the end, serener happiness. The Vulgate translates the passage thus: Melter eat ira risu; quia per tristitiam vultus corrigitur animus deliquentis, "Better is anger than laughter, because through sadness of countenance the mind of the offender is corrected." The anger is that either of God or of good men which reproves sin; the laughter is that of sinners who thus show their connivance at or approval of evil. There can be no doubt that this is not the sense of the passage. For the general sentiment concerning the moral influence of grief and suffering, we may compare the Greek sayings, Τὰ παθήματα μαθήματα, and Τί μαθών τί παθών; which are almost equivalent in meaning (comp. AEschyl., 'Again.,' 170; Herod., 1:207). The Latins would say, "Quaenocent, docent," and we, "Pain is gain."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Sorrow is better than laughter,.... Sorrow, expressed in the house of mourning, is better, more useful and commendable, than that foolish laughter, and those airs of levity, expressed in the house of feasting; or sorrow on account of affliction and troubles, even adversity itself, is oftentimes much more profitable, and conduces more to the good of men, than prosperity; or sorrow for sin, a godly sorrow, a sorrow after a godly sort, which works repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of, is to be preferred to all carnal mirth and jollity. It may be rendered, "anger is better than laughter" (h); which the Jews understand of the anger of God in correcting men for sin; which is much better than when he takes no notice of them, but suffers them to go on in sin, as if he was pleased with them; the Midrash gives instances of it in the generation of the flood and the Sodomites: and the Targum inclines to this sense,
"better is the anger, with which the Lord of that world is angry against the righteous in this world, than the laughter with which he derides the ungodly.''
Though it may be better, with others, to understand it of anger in them expressed against sin, in faithful though sharp rebukes for it; which, in the issue, is more beneficial than the flattery of such who encourage in it; see Proverbs 27:5;
for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better: when the sadness is not hypocritical, as in the Scribes and Pharisees, but serious and real, arising from proper reflections on things in the mind; whereby the heart is drawn off from vain, carnal, and sensual things; and is engaged in the contemplation of spiritual and heavenly ones, which is of great advantage to it: or by the severity of the countenance of a faithful friend, in correcting for faults, the heart is made better, which receives those corrections in love, and confesses its fault, and amends.
(h) "melior est ira risu", Pagninus, Mercerus; "melior est indigatio risu", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. Sorrow—such as arises from serious thoughts of eternity.
laughter—reckless mirth (Ec 2:2).
by the sadness … better—(Ps 126:5, 6; 2Co 4:17; Heb 12:10, 11). Maurer translates: "In sadness of countenance there is (may be) a good (cheerful) heart." So Hebrew, for "good," equivalent to "cheerful" (Ec 11:9); but the parallel clause supports English Version.
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