Ecclesiastes 2:11
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had worked, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
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Ecclesiastes 2:11. I looked on all the works, &c. — I made a serious review of my former works and labours, and considered whether I had obtained that satisfaction in them which I had expected to find; and behold, all was vanity — I found myself disappointed, and wholly dissatisfied in this course. And there was no profit, &c. — The pleasure was past, and I was never the better for it, but as empty as before.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. 11. But all these I felt were only "vanity," and of "no profit" as to the chief good. "Wisdom" (worldly common sense, sagacity), which still "remained with me" (Ec 2:9), showed me that these could not give solid happiness. I made a serious review of my former works and labours, and considered whether I had obtained that satisfaction in them which I designed and expected;

and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit; I found myself suddenly disappointed and wholly dissatisfied in this course.

There was no profit; the pleasure was past and gone, and I was never the better for it, but as empty as before, and had nothing left but sorrowful reflections upon it. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do,.... He had looked at them, and on them, over and over again, and had taken pleasure therein; but now he sits down and enters into a serious consideration of them, what prodigious expenses he had been at; what care and thought, what toil and labour of mind, he had taken in contriving, designing, and bringing these works to perfection; what pleasure and delight he had found in them, and what happiness upon the whole arose from them: he now passes his judgment, and gives his sentiments concerning these things, having had it in his power to make himself master of everything delightful, which he did; was a competent judge, and thoroughly qualified to give a just estimate of matters; and it is as follows;

and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit; nothing solid and substantial in the whole; no true pleasure and real joy, and no satisfaction or happiness in that pleasure; these pleasing things perished with the using, and the pleasure of them faded and died in the enjoyment of them; and instead of yielding solid delight, only proved vexations, because the pleasure was so soon over, and left a thirst for more, and what was not to be had; at most and best, only the outward senses were fed, the mind not at all improved, nor the heart made better, and much less contented; it was only pleasing the fancy and imagination, and feeding on wind;

and there was no profit under the sun; by those things; to improve and satisfy the mind of man, to raise him to true happiness, to be of any service to him in the hour of death, or fit him for an eternal world. Alshech interprets the labour mentioned in this text of the labour of the law, which brings no reward to a man in this world.

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.
11. Then I looked] Here also, however, the result was as before. There came the afterthought which scrutinised the enjoyments and found them wanting. The pursuit of pleasure was as unsatisfying as the pursuit of knowledge. Like others who have trodden the same path, he had to confess that

“Medio de fonte leporum

Surgit amari aliquid.”

“E’en from the centre of the fount of joys

There springs an element of bitterness.”

Lucret., De Rer. Nat. iv. 1127.

All was vanity and feeding on the wind. There was no real “profit” (see note on chap. Ecclesiastes 1:3) that could take its place among his permanent possessions, no surplus to his credit on the balance-sheet of life. In the more solemn words of Matthew 16:26, “What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” we have substantially the same teaching.Verse 11. - Then I looked on - I turned to contemplate - all the works which my hands had wrought. He examined carefully the effects of the conduct and proceedings mentioned in vers. 1-10, and he now gives his matured judgment concerning them. They had contributed nothing to his anxious inquiry for man's real good. His sorrowful conclusion again is that all was vanity, a hunting of wind; in all the pursuits and labors that men undertake there is no real profit (Ecclesiastes 1:3), no lasting happiness, nothing to satisfy the cravings of the spirit. "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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