Ecclesiastes 2:16
For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.
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(16) It might be urged on behalf of the Solomonic authorship that Solomon himself might imagine that in the days to come he and his wisdom would be forgotten, but that such a thought does not become a long subsequent writer who had been induced by Solomon’s reputation for wisdom to make him the hero of his work. It would seem to follow that the writer is here only giving the history of Solomon’s reflections, and not his ultimate conclusions. Better to omit the note of interrogation after “wise man,” and put a note of exclamation after “fool,” the “how” being used as in Isaiah 14:4; Ezekiel 26:17.

2:12-17 Solomon found that knowledge and prudence were preferable to ignorance and folly, though human wisdom and knowledge will not make a man happy. The most learned of men, who dies a stranger to Christ Jesus, will perish equally with the most ignorant; and what good can commendations on earth do to the body in the grave, or the soul in hell? And the spirits of just men made perfect cannot want them. So that if this were all, we might be led to hate our life, as it is all vanity and vexation of spirit.Seeing that ... - Compare Ecclesiastes 1:11. Some render, "as in time past, so in days to come, all will be forgotten;" others, "because in the days to come all will have been long before forgotten."16. remembrance—a great aim of the worldly (Ge 11:4). The righteous alone attain it (Ps 112:6; Pr 10:7).

for ever—no perpetual memorial.

that which now is—Maurer, "In the days to come all things shall be now long ago forgotten."

There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; their name and memory, though it may flourish for a season among some men, yet it will not last for ever, but will in a little time be worn out; as we see in most of the wise men of former ages, whose very names, together with all their monuments, are utterly lost, as hath been oft observed and bewailed by learned writers in several ages.

As the fool; he must die as certainly as the fool, and after death be as little remembered and honoured.

For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever,.... The Targum interprets it, in the world to come; but even in this world the remembrance of a wise man, any more than of a fool, does not always last; a wise man may not only be caressed in life, but may be remembered after death for a while; the fame of him may continue for a little time, and his works and writings may be applauded; but by and by rises up another genius brighter than he, or at least is so thought, and outshines him; and then his fame is obscured, his writings are neglected and despised, and he and his works buried in oblivion; and this is the common course of things. This shows that Solomon is speaking of natural wisdom, and of man's being wise with respect to that; and his remembrance on that account; otherwise such who are truly good and wise, their memory is blessed; they are had in everlasting remembrance, and shall never be forgotten in this world, nor in that to come, when the memory of the wicked shall rot; whose names are only written in the dust Jeremiah 17:13, and not in the Lamb's book of life;

seeing that which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten: what now is in the esteem of men, and highly applauded by them; what is in the mouths of men, and in their minds and memories, before long, future time, after the death of a man, as the Targum, or in some time after, will be thought of no more, and be as if it never had been, or as if there never had been such men in the world. Many wise men have been in the world, whose names are now unknown, and some their names only are known, and their works are lost; and others whose works remain, yet in no esteem: this is to be understood in general, and for the most part; otherwise there may be some few exceptions to this general observation.

And how dieth the wise man? as the fool; they are both liable to death; it is appointed for men, rinse or unwise, learned or unlearned, to die, and both do die; wisdom cannot secure a man from dying; and then wise and fools are reduced to the same condition and circumstances; all a man's learning, knowledge, and wisdom, cease when he dies, and he is just as another man is; in that day all his learned thoughts perish, and he is upon a level with the fool. Solomon, the wisest of men, died as others; a full proof of his own observation, and which his father made before him, Psalm 49:10. But this is not true of one that is spiritually wise, or wise unto salvation; the death of a righteous man is different from the death of a wicked man; both die, yet not alike, not in like manner; the good man dies in Christ, he dies in faith, has hope in his death, and rises again to eternal life. The Targum is,

"and how shall the children of men say, that the end of the righteous is as the end of the wicked?''

For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool {l} for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And {m} how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

(l) Meaning, in this world.

(m) He wonders that men forget a wise man, being dead, as soon as they do a fool.

16. there is no remembrance of the wise] More accurately, For the wise man as for the fool there is no remembrance for ever, the last two words being emphatic, almost as if intentionally calling in question the teaching of Psalm 112:6, that “the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.” The assertion seems at first too sweeping. There are sages, we say, who live yet in the memory of men whose names the world will not willingly let die. Practically, however, as regards the influence of the desire for posthumous fame as a motive, the number of such names is inappreciably small, even with the manifold resources of monuments and written records. The scribes and doctors, the artists and the poets of one age are forgotten in the next, and only here or there can any man be bold to say with Bacon that he commits his memory “to the care of future ages.” (See note on ch. Ecclesiastes 1:11.) Even a biographical dictionary is often but as the sepulchre of the mouldering remains of reputations that have been long since dead, and their place knoweth them no more. Then, as in later days, there were those who substituted the permanence of fame for that of personal being, and the Debater, with his incisive question shatters the unsubstantial fabric.

And how dieth the wise man? As the fool] Literally, “with the fool,” as if in partnership with him, sharing the same lot. Better, perhaps, as an exclamation, not a question, “How dieth the wise man with (= as) the fool. The absence of any hope of an immortality beyond that of fame has been already implied. The present clause brings before us the manner and circumstances of death. We stand, as it were, by the two death-beds, of the wise and of the fool, and note the same signs of the end, the same glazed eye, the same death-dew on the brow, the same failing power of thought. The picture of chap. Ecclesiastes 12:1-6 is true of both. The seeker had apparently never stood by the death-bed of one whose face was lit up, and, as it were, transfigured by a “hope full of immortality.” Here also we may trace in the later personator of Solomon a deliberate protest against what seemed to him the teaching of Ecclesiastes (Wis 2:1-9).

Verse 16. - For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool forever; Revised Version, more emphatically, for of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance forever. This, of course, is not absolutely true. There are men whose names are history, and will endure as long as the world lasts; but speaking generally, oblivion is the portion of all; posterity soon forgets the wisdom of one and the folly of another. Where the belief in the future life was not a strong and animating motive, posthumous fame exercised a potent attraction for many minds. To be the founder of a long line of descendants, -r to leave a record which should be fresh in the minds of future generations, these were objects of intense ambition, and valued as worthy of highest aspirations and best efforts. The words of classical poets will occur to our memory; e.g. Horace, 'Carm.,' 3:30.

"Exegi monumentum aere perennius...
Non omnis metier, multaque pars mei
Vitabit Libitinam."
Ovid, 'Amor.,' 1:15. 4 -

"Ergo etiam, cum me supremus adederit ignis,
Vivam, parsquc mei multa supersteserit."
But Koheleth shows the vanity of all such hopes; they are based on sounds which experience proves to be unsubstantial. Though Solomon's own fame gives the lie to the statement received without limitation (comp. Wisd. 8:13), yet his reflections might well have taken this turn, and the writer is quite justified in putting the thought into his mouth, as the king could not know how subsequent ages would regard his wisdom and attainments. Seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. The clause has been variously translated. Septuagint, "Forasmuch as the coming days, even all the things, are forgotten;" Vulgate, "And future times shall cover all things equally with oblivion." Modern editors give, "Since in the days that are to come they are all forgotten;" "As in time past, so in days to come, all will be forgotten.... In the days which are coming [it will be said by-and-by], The whole of them are long ago forgotten.'" This is a specimen of the uncertainty of exact interpretation, where the intended meaning is well ascertained. "All" (הכל) may refer either to wise and foolish, or to the circumstances of their lives. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Better taken as one sentence, with an exclamation, How doth the wise man die with (even as) the fool I (For "with" (ira), equivalent to "as," comp. Ecclesiastes 7:11; Job 9:26; Psalm 106:6.) "How" (אֵידּ) is sarcastic, as Isaiah 14:4, or sorrowful, as 2 Samuel 1:19. The same complaint falls from a psalmist's lips, "He seeth that wise men die; the fool and the brutish together perish" (Psalm 49:10). So David laments the death of the murdered leader, "Should Abner die as a fool dieth?" (2 Samuel 3:33). Plumptre considers that the author of the Book of Wisdom expands this view with the design of exposing its fallacy, and introducing a better hope (Ecclesiastes 2:1-9). But that writer would not have designated Solomon's sentiments as those of "the ungodly" (ἀσεβεῖς), nor foisted these utterances of sensualists and materialists upon so honored a source. At the same time, it is only as being victims, nil miserantis Opel, the prey of the pitiless and indiscriminating grave, that the wise and foolish are placed in the same category. There is the widest difference between the death-beds of the two, as the experience of any one who has watched them will testify, the one happy with the consciousness of duty done honestly, however imperfectly, and bright with the hope of immortality; the other darkened by vain regrets and shrinking despair, or listless in brutish insensibility. Ecclesiastes 2:16"For no remembrance of the wise, as of the fool, remains for ever; since in the days that are to come they are all forgotten. And how dieth the wise man: as the fool!" As in Ecclesiastes 1:11, so here זכרון is the principal form, not different from זכּרון. Having no remembrance forever, is equivalent to having no eternal endurance, having simply no onward existence (Ecclesiastes 9:6). עם is both times the comparat. combin., as at Ecclesiastes 7:11; Job 9:26; Job 37:18; cf. יחד, Psalm 49:11. There are, indeed, individual historically great men, the memory of whom is perpetuated from generation to generation in words and in monuments; but these are exceptions, which do not always show that posterity is able to distinguish between wise men and fools. As a rule, men have a long appreciating recollection of the wise as little as they have of the fools, for long ago (vid., beshekvar, p. 640) in the coming days (כּב אבּ, accus. of the time, like the ellipt.הב, Isaiah 27:6) all are forgotten; הכּל is, as at Psalm 14:3, meant personally: the one as the other; and נשׁכּח is rendered by the Masora, like Psalm 9:6, כּב אב, as the pausal form of the finite; but is perhaps thought of as part., denoting that which only in the coming days will become too soon a completed fact, since those who survive go from the burial of the one, as well as from that of the other, to the ordinary duties of the day. Death thus sinks the wise man, as it does the fool, in eternal oblivion; it comes to both, and brings the same to both, which extorted from the author the cry: How dieth the wise man? as the fool! Why is the fate which awaits both thus the same! This is the pointed, sarcastic איך (how!) of the satirical Mashal, e.g., Isaiah 14:4; Ezekiel 26:17; and ימוּת is equals moriendum est, as at 2 Samuel 3:3, moriendum erat. Rambach well: איך est h. l. particula admirationis super rei indignitate.

What happened to the author from this sorrowful discovery he now states.

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