Ecclesiastes 2:10
And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor.
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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.Portion - A word of frequent occurrence. By it Solomon describes the pleasure found in the act of working and also perhaps the pleasure felt in the process of acquiring wisdom; this pleasure is admitted to be good, if received from God (Ecclesiastes 2:26; Ecclesiastes 5:18; compare 1 Timothy 4:4); but being transitory it is subject to vanity, and therefore does not afford a sufficient answer to the repeated question, "What profit etc.?" Ecclesiastes 1:3. 10. my labour—in procuring pleasures.

this—evanescent "joy" was my only "portion out of all my labor" (Ec 3:22; 5:18; 9:9; 1Ki 10:5).

Whatsoever mine eyes desired; whatsoever was grateful to my senses, or my heart desired. He ascribes desire to the eyes, because the sight of the eyes is the usual and powerful incentive of desires; of which see Joshua 7:21 Job 31:1 Matthew 5:28.

I kept not from them; I denied myself nothing, at least of lawful delights, but went to the very utmost bounds of them; which was the occasion of his falling afterward into sinful pleasures. I withheld not my heart from any joy; as my heart was vehemently set upon pleasure, so I did not resist or curb it therein, but made all possible provisions to gratify it.

My heart rejoiced in all my labour; I had the comfort of all my labours, and was not hindered from the free and full enjoyment of them by sickness or war, or any other calamities occurrent.

This was my portion of all my labour; this present and temporary enjoyment of them was all the benefit which I could expect or receive from all my labours, so that I made the best of them. I had a heart to use them, which many men through covetousness have not; and I tasted the sweetness of them, which many others cannot do; and therefore if any man could arrive at happiness by this means, I had done it. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them,.... Though this sense is only mentioned, all are designed; he denied himself of nothing that was agreeable to him, that was pleasing to the eye, to the ear, to the taste, or any other sense; he indulged himself in everything, observing a proper decorum, and keeping himself within the due bounds of sobriety and good sense;

I withheld not my heart from any joy: the Targum says, "from all joy of the law"; but it is to be understood of natural pleasure, and of the gratifications of the senses in a wise and moderate manner;

for my heart rejoiced in all my labours; he took all the pleasure that could be taken in the works he wrought for that purpose before enumerated;

and this was my portion of all my labour; pleasure was what he aimed at, and that he enjoyed; this was the fruit and issue of all his laborious works; the part allotted him, the inheritance he possessed, and the thing he sought after.

And whatever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my {g} portion of all my labour.

(g) This was the fruit of all my labour, a certain pleasure mixed with care, which he calls vanity in the next verse.

10. whatsoever mine eyes desired] From such a life the idea of self-denial, even of self-control, was absolutely excluded. Money and power were but means to the end, and the end proposed was the gratification of the “desire of the eyes,” not identified with the “lust of the flesh,” but closely allied to it (1 John 2:16), in all its restless cravings. It was not altogether a fruitless effort. Such joy as these things could bring he had in abundant measure. It was for a time his “portion.” Like the rich man in the parable of Luke 16:25 he had his “good things,” and could not complain that the experiment failed as through imperfect apparatus. He also was tasting of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” and found that it was “good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).Verse 10. - Whatsoever mine eyes desired. The lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16), all that he saw and desired, he took measures to obtain. He denied himself no gratification, however foolish (ver. 3). For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; i.e. found joy in what my labor procured for it (comp. Proverbs 5:18). This was the reason why he withheld not his heart from any joy; kept it, as it were, ready to taste any pleasure which his exertions might obtain. This was my portion of all my labor. Such joy was that which he won from his labor, he had his reward, such as it was (Matthew 6:2; Luke 16:25). This term "portion" (cheleq) recurs often (e.g., ver. 21; Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 5:18, etc.; so Wisd. 2:9) in the sense of the result obtained by labor or con-duet. And what a meagre and unsatisfying result it was which he gained! Contrast the apostle's teaching, "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:16, 17). "I undertook great works, built me houses, planted me vineyards. I made me gardens and parks, and planted therein all kinds of fruit-trees. I made me water-pools to water therewith a forest bringing forth trees." The expression, "I made great my works," is like Ecclesiastes 1:16; the verb contains the adj. as its obj. The love of wisdom, a sense of the beautiful in nature and art, a striving after splendour and dignity, are fundamental traits in Solomon's character. His reign was a period of undisturbed and assured peace. The nations far and near stood in manifold friendly relations with him. Solomon was "the man of rest," 1 Chronicles 22:9; his whole appearance was as it were the embodied glory itself that had blossomed from out of the evils and wars of the reign of David. The Israelitish commonwealth hovered on a pinnacle of worldly glory till then unattained, but with the danger of falling and being lost in the world. The whole tendency of the time followed, as it were, a secular course, and it was Solomon first of all whom the danger of the love of the world, and of worldly conformity to which he was exposed, brought to ruin, and who, like so many of the O.T. worthies, began in the spirit and ended in the flesh. Regarding his buildings, - the house of the forest of Lebanon, the pillared hall (porch), the hall of judgment, the palace intended for himself and the daughter of Pharaoh, - vid. the description in 1 Kings 7:1-12, gathered from the annals of the kingdom; 1 Kings 9:15-22 equals 2 Chronicles 8:3-6, gives an account of Solomon's separate buildings (to which also the city of Millo belongs), and of the cities which he built; the temple, store-cities, treasure-cities, etc., are naturally not in view in the passage before us, where it is not so much useful buildings, as rather buildings for pleasure (1 Kings 9:19), that are referred to. Vineyards, according to 1 Chronicles 27:27, belonged to David's royal domain; a vineyard in Baal-hamon which Solomon possessed, but appears at a later period to have given up, is mentioned at the close of the Song. That he was fond of gardening, appears from manifold expressions in the Song; delight in the life and movements of the natural world, and particularly in plants, is a prominent feature in Solomon's character, in which he agrees with Shulamith. The Song; Sol 6:2, represents him in the garden at the palace. We have spoken under the Song; Sol 6:11., of the gardens and parks at Etam, on the south-west of Bethlehem. Regarding the originally Persian word pardēs (plur. pardesim, Mishnic pardesoth), vid., under Sol 4:13; regarding the primary meaning of berēchah (plur. const. berēchoth, in contradistinction to birchoth, blessings), the necessary information is found under Sol 7:5. These Solomonic pools are at the present day to be seen near old Etam, and the clause here denoting a purpose, "to water from them a forest which sprouted trees, i.e., brought forth sprouting trees," is suitable to these; for verbs of flowing and swarming, also verbs of growing, thought of transitively, may be connected with obj. - accus., Ewald, 281b; cf. under Isaiah 5:6. Thus, as he gave himself to the building of houses, the care of gardens, and the erection of pools, so also to the cultivation of forests, with the raising of new trees.

Another means, wisely considered as productive of happiness, was a large household and great flocks of cattle, which he procured for himself.

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