Ecclesiastes 2:1
I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove you with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.
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(1) In mine heart.—To mine heart (Luke 12:19; Psalm 42:11).

Go to now.—Numbers 22:6; Judges 19:11.

Enjoy.—Heb., see.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-2. I said in my heart — Being disappointed of my hopes from knowledge, I resolved to try another course. Go to now — O my soul! I will try whether I cannot make thee happy by the enjoyment of sensual delights. This also is vanity — Is vain, and unable to make men happy. I said of laughter, It is mad — This is an act of madness, more fit for fools who know nothing, than for wise men in this sinful, and dangerous, and deplorable state of mankind. What doth it — What good doth it? Or how can it make men happy? I challenge all the epicures in the world to give me a solid answer.2:1-11 Solomon soon found mirth and pleasure to be vanity. What does noisy, flashy mirth towards making a man happy? The manifold devices of men's hearts, to get satisfaction from the world, and their changing from one thing to another, are like the restlessness of a man in a fever. Perceiving it was folly to give himself to wine, he next tried the costly amusements of princes. The poor, when they read such a description, are ready to feel discontent. But the remedy against all such feelings is in the estimate of it all by the owner himself. All was vanity and vexation of spirit: and the same things would yield the same result to us, as to Solomon. Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. His wisdom remained with him; a strong understanding, with great human knowledge. But every earthly pleasure, when unconnected with better blessings, leaves the mind as eager and unsatisfied as before. Happiness arises not from the situation in which we are placed. It is only through Jesus Christ that final blessedness can be attained.Solomon's trial of God's second gift, namely, riches, and the enjoyment which riches supply; this brought him to the sane result (compare Ecclesiastes 1:12).

Comparing Solomon's action with Luke 12:16-21, it must be remembered that Solomon's object was the acquisition of wisdom, not self-indulgence, and that he did not fail to look forward to the certainty of death overtaking him.


Ec 2:1-26.

He next tries pleasure and luxury, retaining however, his worldly "wisdom" (Ec 3:9), but all proves "vanity" in respect to the chief good.

1. I said … heart—(Lu 12:19).

thee—my heart, I will test whether thou canst find that solid good in pleasure which was not in "worldly wisdom." But this also proves to be "vanity" (Isa 50:11).Pleasure and mirth also vanity, Ecclesiastes 2:1,2; whether in wine, or buildings and gardens, or servants, or cattle, or silver and gold, or music, Ecclesiastes 2:3-8. This the Preacher searched out and found, and none need try after him, Ecclesiastes 2:9-12. Wisdom excelleth folly, Ecclesiastes 2:13,14; but the like event is to both, and both are forgotten; therefore is wisdom also vanity, and life hateful, Ecclesiastes 2:15-17. Not labour they know not for whom, but the fool enjoyeth the wise man’s pains: this rendered his toil irksome, that he reaped no fruit, and yet his days were travail and grief, Ecclesiastes 2:18-23. There is nothing better than to enjoy contentedly what God giveth us; and this also is of God, who giveth travail to the sinner, Ecclesiastes 2:24-26.

I said in mine heart; being disappointed of my hopes from knowledge, I resolved in my own mind to try another course.

I will prove thee, O my soul, I will try whether I cannot make thee happy, with mirth; by allowing to myself the free enjoyment of the present and sensible delights of human life.

Enjoy pleasure; take thy fill of pleasure, and expect satisfaction thence.

Is vanity; is vain, and unable to make men happy, because sensible pleasures are mean and unsuitable to the noble and heaven-born soul of man, and if excessively used, apter to cloy and glut men than to satisfy them, and are frequently mixed with, and most commonly end in, bitterness, as being the great instruments and occasions of sin, and of all its fatal consequences.

I said in mine heart,.... He communed with his heart, he thought and reasoned within himself, and came to this resolution in his own mind; that since he could not find happiness in natural wisdom and knowledge, he would seek for it elsewhere, even in pleasure; in which, he observed, some men placed their happiness; or, however, sought for it there: or, "I said to my heart", as the Syriac version;

Go to now; or, "go, I pray thee" (u) listen to what I am about to say, and pursue the track I shall now point out to thee;

I will prove thee with mirth; with those things which will cause mirth, joy, and pleasure; and try whether any happiness can be enjoyed this way, since it could not be had in wisdom and knowledge. Jarchi and Aben Ezra render it, "I will mingle", wine with water, or with spices; or, "I will pour out", wine in plenty to drink of, "with joy", and to promote mirth: but the Targum, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, interpret it as we do, and which sense Aben Ezra makes mention of;

therefore enjoy pleasure; which man is naturally a lover of; he was so in his state of innocency, and this was the bait that was laid for him, and by which he was drawn into sin; and now he loves, lives in, and serves sinful pleasures; which are rather imaginary than real, and last but for a season, and end in bitterness: but such sordid lusts and pleasures are not here meant; Solomon was too wise and good a man to give into these, as the "summum bonum"; or ever to think there could be any happiness in them, or even to make a trial of them for that purpose: not criminal pleasures, or an impure, sottish, and epicurean life, are here intended; but manly, rational, and lawful pleasures, for no other are mentioned in the detail of particulars following; and, in the pursuit of the whole, he was guided and governed by his wisdom, and that remained in him, Ecclesiastes 2:3. It may be rendered, "therefore see good" (w); look upon all the good, pleasant, and delectable things of life; and enjoy them in such a manner as, if possible, happiness may be attained in them;

and, behold, this also is vanity; it will be found, by making the experiment, that there is no solid and substantial happiness in it, as it was by himself.

(u) "age, quaeso", Tigurine version, Vatablus, Rambachius. (w) "et vide in bonum", Montanus; "et vide bonum", Vatablus, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus; "fraere bono", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Amama, Rambachius.

I said in my heart, Come now, I will tempt {a} thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.

(a) Solomon makes this discourse with himself, as though he would try whether there was contentment in ease and pleasures.

1. I will prove thee with mirth] The self-communing of the man talking to his soul, like the rich man in Luke 12:18-19, in search of happiness, leads him to yet another experiment. He will lay aside philosophy and try what pleasure will do, and live as others live. The choice of Faust in Goethe’s great drama, presents a striking parallel in the world of creative Art. The fall of Abelard is hardly a less striking parallel in the history of an actual life. Consciously or unconsciously (probably the former) the Debater had passed from the Hebrew and the Stoic ideals of wisdom to that of the school of Epicurus. The choice of the Hebrew word for “pleasure” (literally “good”) implies that this now appeared the summum bonum of existence. But this experiment also failed. The doom of “vanity” was on this also. The “laughter” was like the crackling of burning thorns (chap. Ecclesiastes 7:6) and left nothing but the cold grey ashes of a cynical satiety. In the “Go to now” with which the self-communing begins we trace the tone of the irony of disappointment.Verses 1-11. - Section 2. Vanity of striving after pleasure and wealth. Verse 1. - Dissatisfied with the result of the pursuit of wisdom, Koheleth embarks on a course of sensual pleasure, if so be this may yield some effect more substantial and permanent. I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth. The heart is addressed as the seat of the emotions and affections. The Vulgate misses the direct address to the heart, which the words, rightly interpreted, imply, translating, Vadam et offluam delieiis. The Septuagint correctly gives, Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ. It is like the rich fool's language in Christ's parable, "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry" (Luke 12:10). Therefore enjoy pleasure; literally, see good (Ecclesiastes 6:6). "To see" is often used figuratively in the sense of "to experience, or enjoy." Wright compares the expressions, "see death" (Luke 2:26), "see life" (John 3:36). We may find the like in Psalm 34:13; Jeremiah 29:32; Obadiah 1:13 (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:9). The king now tries to find the summum bonum in pleasure, in selfish enjoyment without thought of others. Commentators, as they saw Stoicism in the first chapter, so read Epieureanism into this. We shall have occasion to refer to this idea further on (see on Ecclesiastes 3:22). Of this new experiment the result was the same as before. Behold, this also is vanity. This experience is confirmed in the next verse. "And I gave my heart to seek and to hold survey with wisdom over all that is done under the sun: a sore trouble it is which God has given to the children of men to be exercised therewith." The synonyms דּרשׁ(to seek) and תּוּר (to hold survey over) do not represent a lower and a higher degree of search (Zck.), but two kinds of searching: one penetrating in depth, the other going out in extent; for the former of these verbs (from the root-idea of grinding, testing) signifies to investigate an object which one already has in hand, to penetrate into it, to search into it thoroughly; and the latter verb (from the root-idea of moving round about)

(Note: Vid., the investigation of these roots (Assyr. utîr, he brought back) in Eth's Schlafgemach der Phantasie, pp. 86-89.)

signifies to hold a survey, - look round in order to bring that which is unknown, or not comprehensively known, within the sphere of knowledge, and thus has the meaning of bǎkkēsh, one going the rounds. It is the usual word for the exploring of a country, i.e., the acquiring personal knowledge of its as yet unknown condition; the passing over to an intellectual search is peculiar to the Book of Koheleth, as it has the phrase ל לב נתן, animum advertere, or applicare ad aliquid, in common only with Daniel 10:12. The beth of bahhochemah is that of the instrument; wisdom must be the means (organon) of knowledge in this searching and inquiry. With על is introduced the sphere into which it extends. Grotius paraphrases: Historiam animalium et satorum diligentissime inquisivi. But נעשׂה does not refer to the world of nature, but to the world of men; only within this can anything be said of actions, only this has a proper history. But that which offers itself for research and observation there, brings neither joy nor contentment. Hitzig refers הוּא to human activity; but it relates to the research which has this activity as its object, and is here, on that account, called "a sore trouble," because the attainment and result gained by the laborious effort are of so unsatisfactory a nature. Regarding ענין, which here goes back to ענה ב, to fatigue oneself, to trouble oneself with anything, and then to be engaged with it. The words ענין רע would mean trouble of an evil nature (vid., at Psalm 78:49; Proverbs 6:24); but better attested is the reading ענין רע "a sore trouble." הוּא is the subj., as at Ecclesiastes 2:1 and elsewhere; the author uses it also in expressions where it is pred. And as frequently as he uses asher and שׁ, so also, when form and matter commend it, he uses the scheme of the attributive clause (elliptical relative clause), as here (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:16), where certainly, in conformity with the old style, נתנו was to be used.

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