Ecclesiastes 1:18
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Grief.—Irritation.

Ecclesiastes 1:18. In much wisdom is much grief — Or displeasure to a man within himself, and against his present condition; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow — Which he does many ways, because he gets his knowledge with hard and wearisome labour, both of mind and body, with the consumption of his spirits, and shortening of his life; because he is often deceived with knowledge, falsely so called, and often mistakes error for truth, and is perplexed with manifold doubts, from which ignorant men are wholly free; because he hath the clearer prospect into, and quicker sense of, his own ignorance, and infirmities, and disorders; and, withal, how vain and ineffectual all his knowledge is for the prevention or removal of them; and because his knowledge is very imperfect and unsatisfying, yet increasing his thirst after more knowledge; lastly, because his knowledge quickly fades and dies with him, and then leaves him in no better, and possibly in a much worse condition, than that of the meanest and most unlearned man in the world. 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.We become more sensible of our ignorance and impotence, and therefore sorrowful, in proportion as we discover more of the constitution of nature and the scheme of Providence in the government of the world; every discovery serving to convince us that more remains concealed of which we had no suspicion before. 18. wisdom … knowledge—not in general, for wisdom, &c., are most excellent in their place; but speculative knowledge of man's ways (Ec 1:13, 17), which, the farther it goes, gives one the more pain to find how "crooked" and "wanting" they are (Ec 1:15; 12:12). Grief, or indignation, or displeasure within himself, and against his present condition.

Increaseth sorrow; which he doth many ways, partly, because he gets his knowledge with hard and wearisome labour, both of mind and body, with the consumption of his spirits, and shortening and embitterment of his life; partly, because he is oft deceived with knowledge falsely so called, and oft mistakes errors for truths, and is perplexed with manifold doubts, from which ignorant men are wholly free; partly, because he foresees, and consequently feels, the terror of many miseries which are or are likely to come to pass, which are unobserved by less knowing persons, and which possibly never happen; partly, because he hath the clearer prospect into, and quicker sense of, his own ignorance, and infirmities, and disorders, and withal how vain and ineffectual all his knowledge is for the prevention or removal of them; and partly, because his knowledge is very imperfect and unsatisfying, yet increasing his thirst after more knowledge, and consequently after more dissatisfaction, because instead of that just honour, and delight, and advantage which he expects from it, he meets with nothing but envy, and opposition, and contempt, because his knowledge quickly fades and dies with him, and then leaves him in no better, and possibly in a much worse, condition than the meanest and most unlearned man in the world. For in much wisdom is much grief,.... In getting it, and losing it when it is gotten: or "indignation" (t), at himself and others; being more sensible of the follies and weakness of human nature;

and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow: for, the more he knows, the more he would know, and is more eager after it, and puts himself to more pains and trouble to acquire it; and hereby becomes more and more sensible of his own ignorance; and of the difficulty of attaining the knowledge he would come at; and of the insufficiency of it to make him easy and happy: and besides, the more knowledge he has, the more envy it draws upon him from others, who set themselves to oppose him, and detract from his character; in short, this is the sum of all human knowledge and wisdom, attained to in the highest degree; instead of making men comfortable and happy, it is found to be mere vanity, to cause vexation and disquietude of mind, and to promote grief and sorrow. There is indeed wisdom and knowledge opposite to this, and infinitely more excellent, and which, the more it is increased, the more joy and comfort it brings; and this is wisdom in the hidden part; a spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ, and of God in Christ, and of divine and evangelical truths; but short of this knowledge there is no true peace, comfort, and happiness. The Targum is,

"for a man who multiplies wisdom, when he sins and does not turn by repentance, he multiplies indignation from the Lord; and he who increases knowledge, and dies in his youth, increases grief of heart to those who are near akin to him.''

(t) "multa ira", Pagninus, Montanus; "indignatio", V. L. Tigurine version, Vatablus, Drusius; "multum indignationis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

For in much wisdom is much {m} grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

(m) Wisdom and knowledge cannot be come by without great pain of body and mind: for when a man has attained the highest, yet is his mind never fully content: therefore in this world is no true happiness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. in much wisdom is much grief] The same sad sentence was written on the study of man’s nature in its greatness and its littleness, its sanity and insanity. The words have passed into a proverb, and were, perhaps, proverbial when the Debater wrote them. The mere widening of the horizon, whether of ethical or of physical knowledge, brought no satisfaction. In the former case men became more conscious of their distance from the true ideal. They ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the only result was that they knew that “they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). In the latter, the more they knew of the phenomena of nature or of human life the more they felt that the “most part of God’s works were hid.” Add to this the brain-weariness, the laborious days, the sleepless nights, the frustrated ambitions of the student, and we can understand the confession of the Debater. It has naturally been often echoed. So Cicero (Tusc. Disp. iii. 4) discusses the thesis, “Videtur mihi cadere in sapientem ægritudo” (“Sickness seems to me to be the lot of the wise of heart”).Verse 18. - For in much wisdom is much grief. The more one knows of men's lives, the deeper insight one obtains of their actions and circumstances, the greater is the cause of grief at the incomplete and unsatisfactory nature of all human affairs. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow; not in others, but in himself. With added experience and more minute examination, the wise man becomes more conscious of his own ignorance and impotence, of the un-sympathizing and uncontrollable course of nature, of the gigantic evils which he is powerless to remedy; this causes his sorrowful confession (ver. 17b). St. Gregory, taking the religious view of the passage, comments, "The more a man begins to know what he has lost the more he begins to bewail the sentence of his corruption, which he has met with" ('Moral.,' 18:65); and, "He that already knows the high state which he does not as yet enjoy is the more grieved for the low condition in which he is yet held" (ibid., 1:34). The statement in our text is paralleled in Ecclus. 21:12, "There is a wisdom which multiplieth bitterness," and contrasted in Wisd. 8:16 with the comfort and pleasure which true wisdom brings.



"I, Koheleth, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem." That of the two possible interpretations of הייתי, "I have become" and "I have been," not the former (Grtz), but the latter, is to be here adopted, has been already shown. We translate better by "I have been" - for the verb here used is a pure perfect - than by "I was" (Ew., Elst., Hengst., Zck.), with which Bullock (Speaker's Comm., vol. IV, 1873) compares the expression Quand j'tois roi ! which was often used by Louis XIV towards the end of his life. But here the expression is not a cry of complaint, like the "fuimus Troes," but a simple historical statement, by which the Preacher of the vanity of all earthly things here introduces himself, - it is Solomon, resuscitated by the author of the book, who here looks back on his life as king. "Israel" is the whole of Israel, and points to a period before the division of the kingdom; a king over Judah alone would not so describe himself. Instead of "king על (over) Israel," the old form of the language uses frequently simply "king of Israel," although also the former expression is sometimes found; cf. 1 Samuel 15:26; 2 Samuel 19:23; 1 Kings 11:37. He has been king, - king over a great, peaceful, united people; king in Jerusalem, the celebrated, populous, highly-cultivated city, - and thus placed on an elevation having the widest survey, and having at his disposal whatever can make a man happy; endowed, in particular, with all the means of gaining knowledge, which accorded with the disposition of his heart searching after wisdom (cf. 1 Kings 3:9-11; 1 Kings 5:9).

But in his search after worldly knowledge he found no satisfaction.

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