Ecclesiastes 11:7
Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
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Ecclesiastes 11:7-8. Truly, the light is sweet — It cannot be denied, that this present life is in itself a great blessing, and desirable; but it is not perpetual nor satisfactory: for, if a man live many years — Which is a privilege granted but to few persons comparatively; and rejoice in them all — Enjoy all the comforts, and escape all the imbitterness of human life all his days; yet let him remember the days of darkness — Of death, or the state of the dead, often expressed by darkness, as Job 10:21; Psalm 88:12; and here opposed to the foregoing light: for they shall be many — Far more than the days of this short life, especially if, to the days of the body’s lying in the dark grave, be added that greater and utter darkness reserved for impenitent sinners, which is everlasting. And this is added, for the caution of mankind, that they may not rejoice excessively in, nor content themselves with, the happiness of the present life, but may seek a life more durable and satisfactory. All that cometh is vanity — All things which befall any man belonging only to this life, whether they be comfortable or vexatious, are but vain and inconsiderable, because they are short and transitory.

11:7-10 Life is sweet to bad men, because they have their portion in this life; it is sweet to good men, because it is the time of preparation for a better; it is sweet to all. Here is a caution to think of death, even when life is most sweet. Solomon makes an effecting address to young persons. They would desire opportunity to pursue every pleasure. Then follow your desires, but be assured that God will call you into judgment. How many give loose to every appetite, and rush into every vicious pleasure! But God registers every one of their sinful thoughts and desires, their idle words and wicked words. If they would avoid remorse and terror, if they would have hope and comfort on a dying bed, if they would escape misery here and hereafter, let them remember the vanity of youthful pleasures. That Solomon means to condemn the pleasures of sin is evident. His object is to draw the young to purer and more lasting joys. This is not the language of one grudging youthful pleasures, because he can no longer partake of them; but of one who has, by a miracle of mercy, been brought back in safety. He would persuade the young from trying a course whence so few return. If the young would live a life of true happiness, if they would secure happiness hereafter, let them remember their Creator in the days of their youth.The preceding exhortation to a life of labor in the sight of God is now addressed especially to the active and the young; and is enforced by another consideration, namely, the transitory character of all that sustains youth.

Ecclesiastes 11:7

The light ... the sun - Gifts of God which cheer man's toil, but which he almost ceases to appreciate in his old age.

7. light—of life (Ec 7:11; Ps 49:19). Life is enjoyable, especially to the godly. It cannot be denied that this present life (which is called light, Job 3:20 33:30 Psalm 56:13, and which is expressed synecdochically, by seeing the sun, Ecclesiastes 6:5 7:11) is in itself a great blessing, and very desirable; but it is not perpetual nor satisfactory; which is here implied and expressed hi the next verse.

Truly the light is sweet,.... Here begins a new subject, as most think; and some here begin the twelfth and last chapter, and not improperly. This is true of natural light, which is exceeding pleasant, useful, and beneficial; by which men discern objects, behold the things of nature with pleasure, walk in the way without stumbling, and do the work and business of life: and also of civil light or prosperity; for, as afflictions are expressed by darkness, and adversity by night; so the comforts and good things of life by light and day, which are very desirable and delectable: and here "life" itself may be meant, for light is sometimes put for life, which is the light of the living; and what sweeter and more desirable than that, especially a life attended with prosperity and peace? see Job 33:28. The Targum and Jarchi interpret it of the light of the law; and which is indeed a light, and so is the whole word of God, Proverbs 6:23, 2 Peter 1:19; but may be better applied unto the Gospel, which is a great and glorious light, Isaiah 9:2; and a means of enlightening dark minds; not only of showing men their sinfulness, as the law does; but the insufficiency of their righteousness, of all their own goodness and good works to justify; it reveals Christ, and the glories of his person; it sets him forth evidently, as crucified and slain, for the worst of sinners; it makes manifest his fulness, ability, and willingness, as a Saviour; righteousness, peace, pardon, and salvation by him; it makes known things not to be discerned by the light of nature, even things wonderful and marvellous, as well as what is the way a man should walk in: and this light is sweet and pleasant, not to a blind and carnal man, who despises it, and reckons it foolishness, but to those who are enlightened by the Spirit of God; and to these it is very delightful, even to all their senses; it is sweet to their taste, a joyful sound to their ears, and beautiful to their sight are the feet of them that bring its good tidings. The light of grace, which appears in first conversion, and comes from God suddenly, which at first is small, but increases, is exceeding pleasant, strikes the soul with delight and wonder; it is marvellous light, 1 Peter 2:9; and so is the light of joy and gladness to believers, when it arises to them after a time of darkness, or the light of God's countenance, Psalm 4:6; and such will be the light of the latter day glory, and more especially the light of the heavenly state;

and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun; the natural sun, shining at noon day, which is a luminous and glorious body, communicating light and heat to all the world: which is so glorious and so pleasant to behold, that Anaxagoras, the philosopher, being asked what he was born for, answered,

"to see the heavens, the sun, and the moon (t);''

and Eudoxus, another philosopher, said,

"he could be content to perish, could he get so near to the sun as to learn the nature of it (u).''

To "see the sun", in the language of this book, is to live in this world, and to enjoy the light of the sun, and the comforts of life; see Ecclesiastes 7:11; and now a life, attended with outward prosperity and inward peace, that is spent in doing and enjoying good, is a very desirable and delightful one; though such a man should not think of living always, but of death, and the days of darkness, as in Ecclesiastes 11:8. This may he applied to Christ, the sun of righteousness, Psalm 84:11; the fountain of all spiritual light and heat; the brightness of his Father's glory; and who is superior to angels and men; and is to be beheld by faith, and in his own light, as the sun is; and whom to look upon with an eye of faith is exceeding pleasant and delightful, and fills with joy unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8.

(t) Laert. in Vita Anaxag. p. 95. Lactant. de Fals. Sap. l. 3. c. 9. (u) Plutarch, vol. 2. p. 1094.

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun:
7. Truly the light is sweet] Better, And the light is sweet. The conjunction is simply the usual copulative particle. The word for “sweet” is that used of honey in Jdg 14:14; of the honeycomb in Proverbs 24:13. The pessimism of the thinker is passing away under the sunshine of the wiser plan of life in which he al last finds guidance. Life may after all, rightly ordered, be pleasant and comely, not without the “sweetness and light” on which the modern preachers of wisdom lay stress. A remarkable parallel to the form of the maxim (quoted by Ginsburg) is found in Euripides:

Μή μʼ ἀπολέσης ἄωρονἡδὺ γὰρ τὸ φῶς

λεύσσειν, τὰ δʼ ὑπὸ γῆν μὴ μʼ ἰδεῖν ἀναγκάσῃς.

“Destroy me not before my youth is ripe:

For pleasant sure it is to see the sun;

Compel me not to see what lies below.”

Iphig. in Aul. 1219.

So Theognis contemplating death:

κείσομαι ὥστε λίθος

ἄφθογγος, λείψω δʼ ἐρατὸν φάος ἠελίοιο.

“Then shall I lie, as voiceless as a stone,

And see no more the loved light of the sun.”

The use of the phrase “seeing the sun” for living, may be noted as essentially Hellenic in its tone. So we have again “seeing the light of the sun” for “living” in Eurip. Hippol. 4.

Verses 7-9. - Section 17. The second remedy for the perplexities of the present life is cheerfulness - the spirit that enjoys the present, with a chastened regard to the future. Verse 7. - Truly the light is sweet. The verse begins with the copula ray, "and," which here notes merely transition, as Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 12:9. Do not be perplexed, or despondent, or paralyzed in your work, by the difficulties that meet you. Confront them with a cheerful mien, and enjoy life while it lasts. "The light" may be taken literally, or as equivalent to life. The very light, with all that it unfolds, all that it beautifies, all that it quickens, is a pleasure; life is worth living, and affords high and merited enjoyment to the faithful worker. The commentators quote parallels Thus Euripides, 'Iph. in Aul.,' 1219 -

Μή μ ἀπολέσῃς ἄωρον ἡδύ γὰρ τὸ φῶς
Λεύσσειν τὰ δ ὐπὸ γῆν μή μ ἰδεῖν ἀναγκάσῃς

"O slay me not untimely; for to see
The light is sweet; and force me not to view
The secrets of the nether world."
Plumptre cites Theognis -

Κείσομαι ὤστε λίθος
Αφθογγος λείψω δ ἐρατὸν φάος ἠελίοιο

"Then shall I lie, as voiceless as a stone,
And see no more the loved light of the sun."
A pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun. To behold the sun is to enjoy life; for light, which is life, is derived from the sun. Virgil speaks of "coeli spirabile lumen" ('AEn.,' 3:600). Thus Homer, 'Od.,' 20:207 -

Αἴ που ἔπι ζώει καὶ ὁρᾷ φάος ἠελίοιο
Αἰ δ ἤδη τέθνηκε καὶ εἰν Αι'´δαο δόμοισιν.

"If still he live and see the sun's fair light,
Or dead, be dwelling in the realms of Hades."
Ecclesiastes 11:7"And sweet is the light, and pleasant it is for the eyes to see the sun; for if a man live through many years, he ought to rejoice in them all, and remember the days of darkness; that there will be many of them. All that cometh is vain." Dale translates the copula vav introducing Ecclesiastes 11:7 by "yes," and Bullock by "truly," both thus giving to it a false colouring. "Light," Zckler remarks, stands here for "life." But it means only what the word denotes, viz., the light of life in this world (Psalm 56:14; Job 33:30), to which the sun, as the source of it, is related, as מאור is to אור. Cf. Eurip. Hippol., ὧ λαμπρὸς αἰθὴρ κ.τ.λ, and Iphigen. in Aulis, 1218-19, μὴ μ ̓ ἀπολέσης κ.τ.λ: "Destroy not my youth; to see the light is sweet," etc. The ל in לע has the short vowel Pattach, here and at 1 Samuel 16:7, after the Masora.

(Note: Cf. on the contrary, at Genesis 3:6 and Proverbs 10:26, where it has the Kametz; cf. also Michlol 53b.)

The ki beginning Ecclesiastes 11:8 is translated by Knobel, Hitz., Ewald, and others by "ja" (yes); by Heiligstedt, as if a negative preceded by immo; but as the vav of Ecclesiastes 11:7 is copulative "and," so here the ki is causal "for." If it had been said: man must enjoy himself as long as he lives, for the light is sweet, etc., then the joy would have its reason in the opportunity given for it. Instead of this, the occasion given for joy has its reason in this, that a man ought to rejoice, viz., according to God's arrangement and ordinance: the light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun; for it ought thus to be, that a man, however long he may live, should continue to enjoy his fair life, especially in view of the night which awaits him. Ki im are not here, as at Ecclesiastes 3:12; Ecclesiastes 8:15, where a negative precedes, to be taken together; but ki assigns the reason, and im begins a hypothetical protasis, as at Exodus 8:17, and frequently. Im, with the conclusion following, presents something impossible, as e.g., Psalm 50:12, si esurirem, or also the extreme of that which is possible as actual, e.g., Isaiah 7:18, si peccata vestra sint instar coccini. In the latter case, the clause with the concessive particle may be changed into a sentence with a concessive conjunctive, as at Isaiah 10:22 : "for though thy people, O Israel, be as numerous as the sand of the sea;" and here: "though a man may live ever so many years." The second ki after ויז is the explicat. quod, as at Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 4:4; Ecclesiastes 8:17, etc.: he must remember the days of darkness, that there shall be many of them, and, at all events, not fewer than the many years available for the happy enjoyment of life. In this connection kol-shebba' denotes all that will come after this life. If Hitz. remarks that the sentence: "All that is future is vanity," is a false thought, this may now also be said of his own sentence extracted from the words: "All that is, is transitory." For all that is done, in time may pass away; but it is not actually transitory (הבל). But the sentence also respects not all that is future, but all that comes after this life, which must appear as vain (hěvel) to him for whom, as for Koheleth, the future is not less veiled in the dark night of Hades, as it was for Horace, i. 4. 16 s.:

"Jam te premet nox fabulaeque

Manes Et domus exilis Plutonia."

Also, for Koheleth as for Horace, iv. 7. 16, man at last becomes pulvis et umbra, and that which thus awaits him is hevel. Tyler is right, that "the shadowy and unsubstantial condition of the dead and the darkness of Sheol" is thus referred to. הבּא signifies not that which is nascens, but futurum, e.g., Sanhedrin 27a, "from the present ולהבא and for the future" (for which, elsewhere, the expression לעתיד לבא is used). The Venet. construes falsely: All (the days) in which vanity will overtake (him); and Luther, referring בא as the 3rd pers. to the past, follows the misleading of Jerome. Rightly the lxx and Theod.: πᾶν τὸ ἐρξηόμενον.

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