|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:4-10 The most despicable living man's state, is preferable to that of the most noble who have died impenitent. Solomon exhorts the wise and pious to cheerful confidence in God, whatever their condition in life. The meanest morsel, coming from their Father's love, in answer to prayer, will have a peculiar relish. Not that we may set our hearts upon the delights of sense, but what God has given us we may use with wisdom. The joy here described, is the gladness of heart that springs from a sense of the Divine favour. This is the world of service, that to come is the world of recompence. All in their stations, may find some work to do. And above all, sinners have the salvation of their souls to seek after, believers have to prove their faith, adorn the gospel, glorify God, and serve their generation.
Verse 8. - Let thy garments be always white. The Preacher brings into prominence certain particulars of enjoyment, more noticeable than mere eating and drinking. White garments in the East (as among ourselves) were symbols of joy and purity. Thus the singers in Solomon's temple were arrayed in white linen (2 Chronicles 5:12). Mordecai was thus honored by King Ahasuerus (Esther 8:15), the angels are seen similarly decked (Mark 16:5), and the glorified saints are clothed in white (Revelation 3:4, 5, 18). So in the pseudepi-graphal books the same imagery is retained. Those that "have fulfilled the Law of the Lord have received glorious garments, and are clothed in white" (2 Esdr. 2:39, 40). Among the Romans the same symbolism obtained. Horace ('Sat.,' 2:2. 60) -
"Ille repotia, natales aliosve dierum
Festes albatus celebret."
"Though he in whitened toga celebrate
His wedding, birthday, or high festival." Let thy head lack no ointment. Oil and perfumes were used on festive occasions not only among Eastern nations, but by Greeks and Romans (see on Ecclesiastes 7:1). Thus Telemachus is anointed with fragrant oil by the fair Polykaste (Homer, 'Od,' 3:466). Sappho complains to Phaen (Ovid,' Heroid.' 15:76) -
"Non Arabs noster rore capillus olet."
"No myrrh of Araby bedews my hair." Such allusions in Horace are frequent and commonly cited (see 'Carm.,' 1:5. 2; 2:7. 7, 8; 2:11. 15, etc.). Thus the double injunction in this verse counsels one to be always happy and cheerful. Gregory Thaumaturgus (cited by Plumptre) represents the passage as the error of "men of vanity;" and other commentators have deemed that it conveyed not the Preacher's own sentiments, but those of an atheist whom he cites. There is, as we have already seen, no need to resort to such an explanation. Doubtless the advice may readily be perverted to evil, and made to sanction sensuality and licentiousness, as-we see to have been done in Wisd. 2:6-9; but Koheleth only urges the moderate use of earthly goods as consecrated by God's gift.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Let thy garments be always white,.... That is, neat and clean, not vile and sordid; what is comely and decent, and suitable to a man's circumstances; this colour is particularly mentioned because much used in the eastern countries, and in Judea; hence we so often read of washing garments, and of fullers that whitened them; and especially on festival days and days of rejoicing, to which Horace (a) refers; and here it signifies that every day should be like a festival or day of rejoicing to a good man, to whom God has given the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, Isaiah 61:3; and though there may be times for mourning, and so of putting on other apparel, yet, in common and ordinarily, this should be the habit, decent and comely apparel. The ancient Jews in Aben Ezra, and so Jarchi, interpret it of an unblemished conversation; and Kimchi (b) of repentance and good works; and so the Targum,
"let thy garments be white (or washed) from all filth of sin;''
or be without any spot of sin, as Alshech; the conversation garments of the saints are made white in the blood of Christ, and his righteousness is fine linen, and white; and even eternal glory and happiness is signified by walking with him in white, Revelation 7:14;
and let thy head lack no ointment: which used to be poured plentifully on the heads of guests at feasts (c), for the refreshment of them, which gave pleasure, and a sweet odour and fragrancy, and was much in use in those hot countries; see Psalm 23:5; and is opposed to a gloomy and melancholy carriage and deportment, Matthew 6:17; hence we read of the oil of joy and gladness, Psalm 45:7. The Jews before mentioned interpreted this of a good name better than ointment, Ecclesiastes 7:1. So the Targum,
"and a good name, which is like to anointing oil, get; that blessings may come upon thy head, and thy goodness fail not.''
(a) "Ille repotia natales aliosque dierum, festos albatus celebret". Satyr. l. 2. Sat. 2. v. 60, 61. "Cum ipse epuli Dominus albatus esset", Cicero in Vatin. c. 13. (b) Comment. in lsa. lxv. 13. (c) "Coronatus nitentes malabathro Syrio capillos", Horat. Carmin. l. 2. Ode 7. v. 7, 8. "et paulo post: funde capacibus unguenta de conchis", v. 22, 23. "Unguentum (fateor) bonum dedisti convivis", Martial. l. 3. Epigr. 11.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. white—in token of joy (Isa 61:3). Solomon was clad in white (Josephus, Antiquities, 8:7,3); hence his attire is compared to the "lilies" (Mt 6:29), typical of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ, which the redeemed shall wear (Re 3:18; 7:14).
ointment—(Ps 23:5), opposed to a gloomy exterior (2Sa 14:2; Ps 45:7; Mt 6:17); typical, also (Ec 7:1; So 1:3).
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