I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What does it?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 14:13.
Mad.—Psalm 102:9.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.
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. 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.I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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,
“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 1:13, of a by no means superficial and limited seeing, was a discovery of the fleeting, unsubstantial, fruitless nature of all human actions and endeavours. They had, as hevel expresses, not reality in them; and also, as denoted by reuth ruahh (the lxx render well by προαίρεσις πνεύματος), they had no actual consequences, no real issue. Hosea 12:1 also says: "Ephraim feedeth on wind," i.e., follows after, as the result of effort obtains, the wind, roěh ruahh; but only in the Book of Koheleth is this sentence transformed into an abstract terminus technicus (vid., under Reth).
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