Ecclesiastes 10:19
A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
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(19) I look on these verses as isolated proverbs, and believe that the obvious meaning suggested by the English of this verse is the right one. Those who strive to trace a continuity of thought take Ecclesiastes 10:18 as a figurative description of the ruin of an ill-governed land; Ecclesiastes 10:19 as describing the riot of those rulers who make feasts for merriment, and have money freely at their disposal; and (Ecclesiastes 10:20) as a warning to the subjects to beware how, notwithstanding all this mis-government, they venture to rebel.

Ecclesiastes 10:19. A feast is made for laughter, &c. — Not merely for caring, but chiefly for pleasant conversation, and the society of friends; not the laughter of fools, which is madness, but that of wise men, namely, that cheerfulness by which they fit themselves for business and severe studies: and wine maketh merry — Hebrew, ישׂמח חיים, maketh glad the life, exhilarates the mind; but money answereth all things — Procures not only meat and drink for feasting, but all other worldly advantages. Therefore be frugal, and spend not all in luxurious eating and drinking, remembering, that money is wanted for a great many other purposes. Some refer this verse to rulers, and consider this last clause as being added to aggravate the sin and folly of luxury, to which, when princes give up themselves, they not only neglect their business, but thereby waste that money and treasure which are so highly necessary for the support and preservation of themselves and their kingdoms: and, in consequence thereof, are obliged to squeeze money out of their people by oppressive taxes, and other dishonourable and dangerous practices.

10:16-20 The happiness of a land depends on the character of its rulers. The people cannot be happy when their princes are childish, and lovers of pleasure. Slothfulness is of ill consequence both to private and public affairs. Money, of itself, will neither feed nor clothe, though it answers the occasions of this present life, as what is to be had, may generally be had for money. But the soul, as it is not redeemed, so it is not maintained with corruptible things, as silver and gold. God sees what men do, and hears what they say in secret; and, when he pleases, brings it to light by strange and unsuspected ways. If there be hazard in secret thoughts and whispers against earthly rulers, what must be the peril from every deed, word, or thought of rebellion against the King of kings, and Lord of lords! He seeth in secret. His ear is ever open. Sinner! curse not THIS KING in thy inmost thought. Your curses cannot affect Him; but his curse, coming down upon you, will sink you to the lowest hell.literally, For merriment they make a feast (bread), and wine gladdens the living, and money supplies all things.19. Referring to Ec 10:18. Instead of repairing the breaches in the commonwealth (equivalent to "building"), the princes "make a feast for laughter (Ec 10:16), and wine maketh their life glad (Ps 104:15), and (but) money supplieth (answereth their wishes by supplying) all things," that is, they take bribes to support their extravagance; and hence arise the wrongs that are perpetrated (Ec 10:5, 6; 3:16; Isa 1:23; 5:23). Maurer takes "all things" of the wrongs to which princes are instigated by "money"; for example, the heavy taxes, which were the occasion of Rehoboam losing ten tribes (1Ki 12:4, &c.). The design and effect of feasting and drinking wine is, that men may exhilarate their minds with the society of their friends, and with the use of the creatures.

Money answereth all things; it procures not only meat and drink for feasting, but for all other things; as the heavens are said to answer the earth, when they give it those showers which it desires and needs to make it fruitful, Hosea 2:21. And this clause seems to be added as an aggravation of the sin and folly of luxury, because princes do thereby waste that money and treasure which is so highly necessary for the support and preservation of themselves, and of their kingdoms, and are forced to squeeze money out of their people by oppressive, and dishonourable, and dangerous practices, that they may have more to spend in riotous courses.

A feast is made for laughter,.... Or, "who make bread for laughter" (i). Not bakers, who make bread for common use, and for all sorts of persons, sorrowful ones as others; but luxurious men, particularly such princes as are before described; they "make bread", that is, a feast, as the phrase is used, Daniel 5:1; not for mere refreshment, but to promote mirth and gaiety to an excessive degree; being attended with rioting and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, with revellings and dancing;

and wine maketh merry; or, "and they prepare wine" (k); which is provided in plenty at feasts; and which is sometimes put for a feast itself, and called a banquet of wine, Esther 7:2; which wine makes merry, and men drink of it till they become drunk with it, at such profuse feasts: or, "which maketh life cheerful" (l); as it does, when moderately used: "cheers the living"; so Aben Ezra;

but money answereth all things; is in the room of all things, and by it men obtain everything they want and wish for; it answers the requests of all, and supplies them with what they stand in need of, or can desire: particularly such expensive feasts, and sumptuous entertainments, are made by means of money; and, in this luxurious way, the coffers of princes are drained, and they are obliged to raise new levies, and impose new taxes upon their subjects, to the oppression of them. Or else the sense may be, that princes should consider, and not be so profuse in their manner of living, but be more frugal and careful of the public money, and lay it up against a time of need; since it is that that answers all things, is the sinew of war when that arises, and will procure men and arms, to secure and protect them from their enemies, and obtain peace and safety for them and their subjects, which otherwise they cannot expect.

(i) "ad risum facientes panem", Montanus; "faciunt panem", Paganinus, Mercerus, Piscator. (k) "et vinum, repete, parant", Piscator. (l) "et vitam exhilaret", Tigurine version; "exhilarare solet vitam", Mercerus; "quod exhilarare debebat vitam", so some in Rambachius.

A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
19. money answereth all things] The maxim as it stands in the English Version, has a somewhat cynical ring, reminding us only too closely of the counsel condemned by the Roman satirist,

“O cives, cives, quærenda pecunia primum est;

Virtus post nummos.”

“Money, my townsmen, must be sought for first;

Virtue comes after guineas,”

“Isne tibi melius suadet, qui rem facias; rem,

Si possis, recte; si non, quocunque modo rem?”

“Does he give better counsel whom we hear,

‘Make money, money; justly if you can,

But if not, then in any way, make money?’ ”

Hor. Epp. i. 1. 53, 65.

So Menander (quoted by Delitzsch) “Silver and gold—these are the Gods who profit most. If these are in thy house pray for what thou wilt and it shall be thine,” and Horace:

Scilicet uxorem cum dote, fidemque, et amicos,

Et genus, et formam, regina pecunia donat;

Ac bene nummatum decorat Suadela Venusque.”

“Seek’st thou a dowried wife, or friends, or trust,

Beauty or rank, Queen Money gives thee all;

Put money in thy purse, and thou shalt lack

Nor suasive power nor comeliness of form.”

Epp. i. 6. 36–38.

The truer rendering of the Hebrew, however, gives not so much a maxim as the statement of a fact and is entirely in harmony with the preceding verses. For revelry they (i.e. “man,” indefinitely) prepare food (literally, bread) and wine that rejoices life, and money answereth all things, i.e. meets all they want. The words obviously point to the conduct of the luxurious and slothful princes condemned in Ecclesiastes 10:16; Ecclesiastes 10:18. Regardless of their duty as rulers and of the sufferings of their people, they aim only at self-indulgence and they look to money, however gained, as the means of satisfying their desires. So, in our own times, Armenians or Fellaheen may die by thousands of famine or pestilence, but the palaces of the Sultan and the Khedive are as full of luxury and magnificence as ever. The State may be bankrupt and creditors unpaid, but they manage somehow to get what they want. The money which they squeeze out from a starving province is for them as the God they worship who grants all they wish.

Verse 19. - A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry. Here is a cause of the decay spoken of above. The rulers spend in revelry and debauchery the time and energy which they ought to give to affairs of state. More literally, for merriment they make bread, and wine [that] cheereth life; i.e. they use God's good gifts of bread and wine as means of intemperance and thoughtless pleasure. So a psalmist speaks of wine as making glad the heart of man (Psalm 104:15); and Ben-Sira says, "Wine is as good as life to a man, if it be drunk moderately: what life is there to a man that is without wine? for it was created to make men glad. Wine measurably drunk and in season bringeth gladness of the heart, and cheer fullness of the mind" (Ecclus. 31. [34.] 27, 28). But money answereth all things; i.e. grants all that such persons want. It requires money to provide rich food and costly wines; this they possess, and they are thus able to indulge their appetites to the utmost. It concerns them not how such resources are obtained - won by extortion from a starving people, exacted in exorbitant taxation, pillaged by unscrupulous instruments; they want gold to expend on their lusts, and they get it same-how, and with it all that in their view makes life worth living. Commentators alto Horace, ' Ep.,' 1:6.36, "Scilicet uxorem," etc.

"For why - a portioned wife, fair fame, and friends,
Beauty and birth on sovereign Wealth attends.
Blest is her votary throned his bags among?
Persuasion's self sits perched upon his tongue;
Love beams in every feature of his face,
And every gesture beams celestial grace."

(Howes.) Corn. a Lapide appositely quotes -

"...quidquid nummis praesentibus opta,
Et veniet; clausum possidet arca Jovem."

"If thou hast gold, then wish for anything,
And it will surely come; the money-box
Hath in it a most potent deity."
Pineda, followed by Metals, suggests that this verse may be taken in a good sense. He would make ver. 18 correspond to ver. 16, characterizing the government of debauchees, and ver. 19 correspond to ver. 17, representing the rule of temperate princes where all is peace and prosperity. But there is nothing grammatical to indicate this arrangement; and the explanation given above is doubtless correct. The Septuagint Version is not faithful in our present text, though it is followed virtually by the Syriac: Αἰς γέλωτα ποιοῦσιν ἄρτον καὶ οϊνον καὶ ἔλαιον τοῦ εὐφρανθῆναι ζῶντας καὶ τοῦ ἀργυρίου ταπεινώσει ἐπακούσεται τὰ πάντα "For gladness they make bread and wine and oil, that the living may rejoice, and to money all things will humble themselves, will obey" (doubly translating the word). Ecclesiastes 10:19"Meals they make into a pleasure, and wine cheereth the life, and money maketh everything serviceable." By עשׂים, wicked princes are without doubt thought of-but not immediately, since Ecclesiastes 10:16 is too remote to give the subject to Ecclesiastes 10:19. The subject which 'osim bears in itself ( equals 'osim hēm) might be syntactically definite, as e.g., Psalm 33:5, אהב, He, Jahve, loves, thus: those princes, or, from Ecclesiastes 10:18 : such slothful men; but 'osim is better rendered, like e.g., omrim, Exodus 5:16 (Ewald, 200a), and as in the Mishna we read קורין and the like with gramm. indefin. subj.: they make, but so that by it the slothful just designated, and those of a princely rank are meant (cf. a similar use of the inf. abs., as here of the part. in the historical style, Isaiah 22:13). Ginsburg's rendering is altogether at fault: "They turn bread and wine which cheereth life into revelry." If עשׁה and לחם as its object stand together, the meaning is, "to prepare a feast," Ezekiel 4:15; cf. 'avad lehēm, Daniel 5:1. Here, as there, 'osim lěhěm signifies coenam faciunt (parant). The ל of לשׂ is not the sign of the factitive obj. (as leēl, Isaiah 44:17), and thus not, as Hitz. supposes, the conditioning ל with which adv. conceptions are formed, - e.g., Lamentations 4:5, האך למע, where Jerome rightly translates, voluptuose (vid., E. Gerlach, l.c.), - but, which is most natural and is very appropriate, it is the ל of the aim or purpose: non ad debitam corporis refectionem, sed ad hera ludicra et stulta gaudia (Geier). שׂחוק is laughter, as that to which he utters the sentence (Ecclesiastes 2:2): Thou art mad. It is incorrect, moreover, to take lěhěm veyaim together, and to render yesammahh hayaim as an attribut. clause to yain: this epitheton ornans of wine would here be a most unsuitable weakening of the figure intended. It is only an apparent reason for this, that what Psalm 104:15 says in praise of wine the author cannot here turn into a denunciatory reproach. Wine is certainly fitted to make glad the heart of a man; but here the subject of discourse is duty-forgetting idlers, to whom chiefly wine must be brought (Isaiah 5:12) to cheer their life (this sluggard-life spent in feasting and revelry). The fut. ישׂמּח is meant in the same modal sense as יגבּר, Ecclesiastes 10:10: wine must accomplish that for them. And they can feast and drink, for they have money, and money ־הכּל... יע. Luther hits the meaning: "Money must procure everything for them;" but the clause is too general; and better thus, after Jerome, the Zrich Bible: "unto money are all things obedient." The old Jewish interpreters compare Hosea 2:23., where ענה, with accus. petentis, signifies, "to answer a request, to gratify a desire." But in the passage before us הכּל is not the obj. accus. of petentis, but petiti; for 'anah is connected with the accus. of that to which one answers as well as of that which one answers, e.g., Job 40:2, cf. Ecclesiastes 9:3. It is unnecessary, with Hitzig, to interpret יענה as Hiph.: Money makes all to hear (him who has the money), - makes it that nothing is refused to his wish. It is the Kal: Money answers to every demand, hears every wish, grants whatever one longs for, helps to all; as Menander says: "Silver and gold, - these are, according to my opinion, the most useful gods; if these have a place in the house, wish what thou wilt (εὖξαι τί βούλει), all will be thine;" and Horace, Epod. i. 6. 36 s.:

"Scilicet uxorem cum dote fidemque et amicos

Et genus et formam regina pecunia donat."

The author has now described the king who is a misfortune and him who is a blessing to the land, and princes as they ought to be and as they ought not to be, but particularly luxurious idle courtiers; there is now a warning given which has for its motive not only prudence, but also, according to Ecclesiastes 8:2, religiousness.

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