Ecclesiastes 5
Barnes' Notes
The Preacher now begins to address his hearer in the second person. The soliloquy, hitherto unbroken, is henceforth interrupted by personal addresses, which are repeated with increasing frequency from this place to the end of the book. They who divide the whole book into two parts (the first theoretical, the second practical) begin the second division here.

There is a striking resemblance between the line of thought pursued in this book and that of Asaph in Psalm 73. As the Psalmist, so the Preacher, after setting forth iris view of human life, takes his hearer into the house of God for an explanation and directions. If the expression "goest to the house of God" Ecclesiastes 5:1 has also the spiritual sense of entering into communion with God, Solomon here admonishes generally that reverence is due to God, and particularly that the "vanity" which is mingled with the "portion" that God assigns to every man, ought to be treated as a divine mystery, not to be made an occasion of idle thought, hasty words, and rash resolutions, but to be considered in the fear of God Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; that the spectacle of unjust oppression is to be patiently referred to God's supreme judgment Ecclesiastes 5:8-9; that mere riches are unsatisfying, bring care with them, and if hoarded are transitory Ecclesiastes 5:10-17; and that a man's enjoyment of his portion in life, including both labor and riches, is the gift of God Ecclesiastes 5:18-20.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
Keep thy foot - i. e., Give thy mind to what thou art going to do.

The house of God - It has been said that here an ordinary devout Hebrew writer might have been expected to call it "the house of Yahweh;" but to those who accept this book as the work of Solomon after his fall into idolatry, it will appear a natural sign of the writer's self-humiliation, an acknowledgment of his unworthiness of the privileges of a son of the covenant, that he avoids the name of the Lord of the covenant (see Ecclesiastes 1:13 note).

Be more ready to hear - Perhaps in the sense that, "to draw near for the purpose of hearing (and obeying) is better than etc."

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
Suffer not thy mouth ... - i. e., Do not make rash vows which may hereafter be the cause of evasion and prevarication, and remain unfulfilled.

Before the angel - The Septuagint and some other versions render "before the face of God," meaning a spiritual being representing the presence of God, a minister of divine justice Exodus 23:21, such a one as inflicted judgment upon David 2 Samuel 24:17. Others, with less probability, understand the angel to be a priest, and refer to Malachi 2:7.

For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
For ... vanities - Or, For so it happens through many dreams and vanities and many words.

If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.
Matter - Rather, purpose (as in the margin, and Ecclesiastes 3:1), referring either to the will of God or to the edict of an oppressive ruler.

For he ... they - literally, for high watches over high and the highest over them, i. e., the king in the capital watches over the judge or governor in the province, and God over both. This seems more in harmony with the preceding verses, and more agreeable to the scope of this passage than to understand the passage only of earthly rulers.

Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
The king himself is served by the field - Rather, the king is subject to the field, i. e., is dependent on its cultivation. The higher ranks, if they oppress the lower, lose thereby their own means of subsistence.

He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
They ... that eat them - i. e., The laborers employed, and the household servants.

The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
Labouring man - Not a slave (Septuagint), but everyone who, according to the divine direction, earns his bread in the sweat of his brow.

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
Evil travail - Adverse accident, or unsuccessful employment (compare Ecclesiastes 1:13; Ecclesiastes 4:8).

As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?
All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
Hath much sorrow ... - Rather, is very sad and hath pain and vexation.

Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
Rather, Behold what I have seen to be good, it is pleasant for a man to eat. Such thankful enjoyment is inculcated by the Law Deuteronomy 12:7, Deuteronomy 12:18.

Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.
The days will pass smoothly and pleasantly, while he lives in the consciousness of God's favor.

Answereth him - i. e., grants his prayers.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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