Ecclesiastes 2:2
I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
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-2Proverbs 14:13.

Mad.—Psalm 102:9.

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.

2. laughter—including prosperity, and joy in general (Job 8:21).

mad—that is, when made the chief good; it is harmless in its proper place.

What doeth it?—Of what avail is it in giving solid good? (Ec 7:6; Pr 14:13).

I said of laughter; of excessive mirth, which discovers itself by immoderate laughter, and other outward gestures.

It is mad; this is an act and sign of madness, more fit for fools, who know nothing, than for wise men, at least in this sin fill, and dangerous, and deplorable state of mankind, which calls for seriousness and sorrow from all considerate persons, in which case it is like the laughter of one in a frenzy; and none but a fool or madman can take satisfaction in such light and frothy pleasures, or expect happiness from them.

What doeth it? What good doeth it? or how can it make men happy? I challenge all the epicures in the world to give me a solid and satisfactory answer.

I said of laughter, it is mad,.... The risible faculty in man is given him for some usefulness; and when used in a moderate way, and kept within due bounds, is of service to him, and conduces to the health of his body, and the pleasure of his mind; but when used on every trivial occasion, and at every foolish thing that is said or done, and indulged to excess, it is mere madness, and makes a man look more like a madman and a fool than a wise man; it lasts but for a while, and the end of it is heaviness, Ecclesiastes 7:6. Or, "I said to laughter, thou art mad" (x); and therefore will have nothing to do with thee in the excessive and criminal way, but shun thee, as one would do a mad man: this therefore is not to be reckoned into the pleasure he bid his soul go to and enjoy;

and of mirth, what doth it? what good does do? of what profit and advantage is it to man? If the question is concerning innocent mirth, the answer may be given out of Proverbs 15:13; but if of carnal sinful mirth, there is no good arises from that to the body or mind; or any kind of happiness to be enjoyed that way, and therefore no trial is to be made of it. What the wise man proposed to make trial of, and did, follows in the next verses.

(x) "risui dixi, insanis", Mercerus, Drusius, Amama; "vel insanus es", Piscator, Schmidt, Rambachius.

I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
2. I said of laughter, It is mad] The choice of a word cognate with the madness of chap. Ecclesiastes 1:17, gives a special emphasis to the judgment which the man thus passes on himself. There was as much insanity in this form of life as in the other. He was plunging into madness with his eyes open and might say,

“Video meliora proboque,

Deteriora sequor.”

“I see the better, yet the worse pursue.”

Ovid, Metamorph. vii. 20.

In each case the question might be asked “What does it work? What is its outcome?” And the implied answer is “Absolutely nothing.”

Verse 2. - I said of laughter, It is mad. Laughter and mirth are personified, hence treated as masculine. He uses the term "mad" in reference to the statement in Ecclesiastes 1:17, "I gave my heart to know madness and folly." Septuagint, "I said to laughter, Error (περιφοράν);" Vulgate, Risum reputavi errorem. Neither of these is as accurate as the Authorized Version. Of mirth, What doeth it? What does it effect towards real happiness and contentment? How does it help to fill the void, to give lasting satisfaction? So we have in Proverbs 14:13, "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of mirth is heaviness;" though the context is different. The Vulgate renders loosely, Quid frustra deeiperis? Ecclesiastes 2:2"To laughter I:said: It is mad; and to mirth: What doth it issue in?" Laughter and mirth are personified; meholāl is thus not neut. (Hitz., a foolish matter), but mas. The judgment which is pronounced regarding both has not the form of an address; we do not need to supply אתּה and אתּ, it is objectively like an oratio obliqua: that it is mad; cf. Psalm 49:12. In the midst of the laughter and revelling in sensual delight, the feeling came over him that this was not the way to true happiness, and he was compelled to say to laughter, It has become mad (part. Poal, as at Psalm 102:9), it is like one who is raving mad, who finds his pleasure in self-destruction; and to joy (mirth), which disregards the earnestness of life and all due bounds, he is constrained to say, What does it result in? equals that it produces nothing, i.e., that it brings forth no real fruit; that it produces only the opposite of true satisfaction; that instead of filling, it only enlarges the inner void. Others, e.g., Luther, "What doest thou?" i.e., How foolish is thy undertaking! Even if we thus explain, the point in any case lies in the inability of mirth to make man truly and lastingly happy, - in the inappropriateness of the means for the end aimed at. Therefore עשׂה is thus meant just as in עשׂה פרי (Hitz.), and מעשׂה, effect, Isaiah 32:17. Thus Mendelssohn: What profit does thou bring to me? Regarding זה; מה־זּה equals mah-zoth, Genesis 3:13, where it is shown that the demonstrative pronoun serves here to sharpen the interrogative: What then, what in all the world!

After this revelling in sensual enjoyment has been proved to be a fruitless experiment, he searches whether wisdom and folly cannot be bound together in a way leading to the object aimed at.

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