Ecclesiastes 1:16
I communed with my own heart, saying, See, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yes, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
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(16) Wisdom and knowledge.—Isaiah 30:6; Romans 11:33.

Ecclesiastes 1:16-17. I communed with mine own heart — I considered within myself in what condition I was, and what degrees of knowledge I had gained; and whether it was not my ignorance that made me unable to rectify those errors, and supply those wants of which I complain; and whether wiser men could not do it, though I could not; saying, Lo! I am come to great estate — Hebrew, הגדלתי, I am grown great, namely, in wisdom, or, I have magnified, or greatly enlarged; and have gotten

Hebrew, והוספתי, have added, more wisdom — As I had a large stock of wisdom infused into me by God, so I have greatly improved it by conversation, study, and experience; than all they that were before me — Whether governors, priests, or private persons. This was no vain boast, but a known and confessed truth, and the profession of it was necessary to demonstrate his assertion; in Jerusalem — Which was then the most eminent place in the world for wisdom and knowledge. I gave my heart to know wisdom, &c. — That I might thoroughly understand the nature and difference of truth, and error, of virtue and vice. I perceived that this is vexation, &c. — Or, feeding upon wind, as the Hebrew רעיון רוח, may be properly rendered, and as a similar phrase is rendered by many, both ancient and modern translators, in Ecclesiastes 1:14, and by our translators, Hosea 12:1.1:12-18 Solomon tried all things, and found them vanity. He found his searches after knowledge weariness, not only to the flesh, but to the mind. The more he saw of the works done under the sun, the more he saw their vanity; and the sight often vexed his spirit. He could neither gain that satisfaction to himself, nor do that good to others, which he expected. Even the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom discovered man's wickedness and misery; so that the more he knew, the more he saw cause to lament and mourn. Let us learn to hate and fear sin, the cause of all this vanity and misery; to value Christ; to seek rest in the knowledge, love, and service of the Saviour.I am come ... - Rather, I have accumulated (literally "enlarged and added") wisdom more than etc.

They that have been ... - The reference is probably to the line of Canaanite kings who lived in Jerusalem before David took it, such as Melchizedek Genesis 14:18, Adonizedek Joshua 10:1, and Araunah 2 Samuel 24:23; or, it may be, to Solomon's contemporaries of his own country 1 Kings 4:31 and of other countries who visited him 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 10:24. for "in" Jerusalem render over.

16. communed with … heart—(Ge 24:45).

come to great estate—Rather, "I have magnified and gotten" (literally, "added," increased), &c.

all … before me in Jerusalem—namely, the priests, judges, and two kings that preceded Solomon. His wisdom exceeded that of all before Jesus Christ, the antitypical Koheleth, or "Gatherer of men," (Lu 13:34), and "Wisdom" incarnate (Mt 11:19; 12:42).

had … experience—literally, "had seen" (Jer 2:31). Contrast with this glorying in worldly wisdom (Jer 9:23, 24).

I communed with mine own heart; I considered within myself in what condition I was, and what degrees of knowledge I had gained, and whether it was not my ignorance that made me unable to rectify those errors, and supply those wants, and wiser men could do it, though I could not.

I am come to great estate, Heb. I am grown great, to wit, in wisdom; or, I have magnified, or greatly enlarged. Have gotten, Heb. have added. As I had a large stock of wisdom infused into me by God, 1 Kings 3:12 4:29, so I have greatly improved it by conversation, and study, and experience.

More wisdom than all they that have been before me, whether governors, or priests, or private persons; which was no vain boast, but a known and confessed truth, and profession hereof was necessary to demonstrate his assertion.

In Jerusalem; which was then the most eminent place in the world for wisdom and knowledge.

Had great experience, Heb. had seen much; which intimates that his knowledge was clear, and certain, and experimental, as that is which we have from our own eyesight.

Wisdom and knowledge; two words signifying the same thing, as may be gathered from Ecclesiastes 1:18, and from the promiscuous use of them in this book, and in the Proverbs, and elsewhere, and implying all manner of knowledge, Divine or human, speculative or practical, political or philosophical. I communed with my own heart,.... That is, looked into it, examined it, and considered what a stock and fund of knowledge he had in it, after all his researches into it; what happiness accrued to him by it, and what judgment upon the whole was to be formed upon it; and he spoke within himself after this manner:

saying, lo, I am come to great estate; or become a great man; famous for wisdom, arrived to a very great pitch of it; greatly increased in it, through a diligent application to it;

and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem; or, "that before me were over Jerusalem" (p); governors of it, or in it; not only than the Jebusites, but than Saul, the first king of Israel, or than even his father David; or, as Gussetius (q), than any princes, rulers, and civil magistrates in Jerusalem, in his own days or in the days of his father; and also than all the priests and prophets, as well as princes, that ever had been there: and indeed he was wiser than all men, 1 Kings 4:30; and even than any that had been in Jerusalem, or any where else, or that should be hereafter, excepting the Messiah; see 1 Kings 3:12. And seeing this is said of him by others, and even by the Lord himself, it might not only be said with truth by himself, but without ostentation; seeing it was necessary it should be said to answer his purpose, which was to show the vanity of human wisdom in its highest pitch; and it was nowhere to be found higher than in himself;

yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge; or, "saw much wisdom and knowledge" (r); he thoroughly understood it, he was a complete master of it; it was not a superficial knowledge he had attained unto, or a few lessons of it he had committed to memory; some slight notions in his head, or scraps of things he had collected together, in an undigested manner; but he had made himself thoroughly acquainted with everything worthy to be known, and had digested it in his mind.

(p) "super Jerusalaim", Montanus, Cocceius, Schmidt; "qui praefueriut ante me Jeruscthalamis", Junius & Tremellius. (q) Comment. Heb. p. 604. (r) "vidit multum sapientiae et scientiae", Montanus, Amama; "vidit plurimam sapientiam et scientiam", Tigurine version.

I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
16. Lo, I am come to great estate] The pronoun is used emphatically. The verb in the Hebrew is connected closely with what follows and speaks not of outward majesty but of “becoming great,” in wisdom. So taken we may read, “I became great and increased in wisdom more than all.” We note again, as in Ecclesiastes 1:13, the kind of dialogue which the Debater holds with his inner consciousness. He “communes with his heart” (comp. Psalm 4:4; Psalm 77:6). So Marcus Aurelius gave to the book which we call his Meditations, the title τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν—literally, “Things for myself” or “Self-communings.”

they that have been before me in Jerusalem] Better, “over Jerusalem.” Those who maintain the late origin of the book point to this apparent retrospect over a long series of predecessors as betraying, or possibly as intended to indicate, the pseudonymous authorship. The historical Solomon, it is said, had but one predecessor over Jerusalem. The inference is, however, scarcely conclusive. Even on the theory of personated authorship, the writer would scarcely have slipped into so glaring an anachronism, and the words admit of being referred, on either view, either to the line of unknown Jebusite rulers, including perhaps Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), Adonizedek (Joshua 15:63; 2 Samuel 5:7) and others, or to the sages “Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman and Chalcol and Darda the sons of Mahol,” who are named in 1 Kings 4:31, and who may, in some sense, as teachers and guides, have been “over” as well as “in” Jerusalem. Some MSS. indeed give the preposition “in” instead of “over.”

my heart had great experience] More literally, and at the same time more poetically, my heart hath seen much wisdom and knowledge. The two nouns are related, like the Greek σοφία and ἐπιστημὴ, the former expressing the ethical, the latter the speculative, scientific side of knowledge.Verse 16. - Koheleth now arrives at his first conclusion, that wisdom is vanity. I communed with mine own heart. The expression suggests, as it were, an internal dialogue, as the Greek Venetian puts it, Διείλεγμαι ἐγὼ ξὺν τῇ καρδίᾳ μου (comp. Ecclesiastes 2:1, 15). Lo, I am come to great estate. If this be taken by itself, it makes Koheleth speak of his power and majesty first, and of his progress in wisdom afterwards; but it is best to connect it with what follows, and to confine the clause to one idea; thus: "I have obtained great and ever greater wisdom" - I have continually added to my stores of knowledge and experience. Than all they (above all) that have been before me in (over) Jerusalem. Who are the rulers alluded to? Solomon himself was only the second of the Israelite kings who reigned there; of the Canaanite princes who may have made that their capital, we have no knowledge, nor is R likely that Solomon would compare himself with them. The Targum has altered the approved reading, and gives, "Above all the wise men that were in Jerusalem before me." The reading, "in [instead of 'over'] Jerusalem," has indeed some manuscript authority, and is confirmed by the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac, but it is evidently a correction of the text by critics who saw the difficulty of the authorized wording. Motais and others assert that the preposition in the Masoretic text, עַל (all, often means "in," as well as "over," when the reference is to an elevated spot; e.g., Isaiah 38:20; Hosea 11:11. But even granting this, we are still uncertain who are the persons meant. Commentators point to Melchizedek, Adonizedek, and Araunah among rulers, and to Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda (1 Kings 4:31) among sages. But we know nothing of the wisdom of the former, and there is no tangible reason why the latter should be designated "before me in Jerusalem." Doubtless the words point to a succession of kings who had reigned in Jerusalem, and the writer, involuntarily, perhaps, betrays his assumed character, in relying an excusable anachronism, while giving to the personated monarch a position which could not belong to the historical Solomon. Yea, my heart had great experience of (hath seen abundantly, κατὰ πολύ Venetian) wisdom and knowledge, הַרְבֵה used adverbially qualifies the word before it, "hath seen." The heart, as we have observed (ver. 13), is considered the seat of the intellectual life. In saying that the heart hath seen wisdom, the writer means that his mind has taken it in, apprehended and appropriated it (comp. Ecclesiastes 8:16; Job 4:8). Wisdom and knowledge; chokmah and daath; σοφίαν καὶ γνῶσιν (Septuagint), the former regarding the ethical and practical side, the latter the speculative, which leads to the other (comp. Isaiah 33:6; Romans 11:33). "Is there anything whereof it may be said: See, this is new? - it was long ago through the ages (aeons) which have been before us." The Semit. substantive verb ישׁ (Assyr. isu) has here the force of a hypothetical antecedent: supposing that there is a thing of which one might say, etc. The זה, with Makkeph, belongs as subject, as at Ecclesiastes 7:27, Ecclesiastes 7:29 as object, to that which follows. כּבר (vid., List, p. 193) properly denotes length or greatness of time (as כּברה, length of way). The ל of לע is that of measure: this "long ago" measured (Hitz.) after infinitely long periods of time. מלּ, ante nos, follows the usage of מלּף, Isaiah 41:26, and lpaa', Judges 1:10, etc.; the past time is spoken of as that which was before, for it is thought of as the beginning of the succession of time (vid., Orelli, Synon. der Zeit u. Ewigkeit, p. 14f.). The singular היה may also be viewed as pred. of a plur. inhumanus in order; but in connection, Ecclesiastes 2:7, Ecclesiastes 2:9 (Gesen. 147, An. 2), it is more probable that it is taken as a neut. verb. That which newly appears has already been, but had been forgotten; for generations come and generations go, and the one forgets the other.
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