Ecclesiastes 2:21
For there is a man whose labor is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that has not labored therein shall he leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.
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(21) Equity.—Rather, skill, success (Ecclesiastes 4:4; Ecclesiastes 5:7). The noun is peculiar to this book. The corresponding verb occurs in Ecclesiastes 10:10; Ecclesiastes 11:6; Esther 8:5.

2:18-26 Our hearts are very loth to quit their expectations of great things from the creature; but Solomon came to this at length. The world is a vale of tears, even to those that have much of it. See what fools they are, who make themselves drudges to the world, which affords a man nothing better than subsistence for the body. And the utmost he can attain in this respect is to allow himself a sober, cheerful use thereof, according to his rank and condition. But we must enjoy good in our labour; we must use those things to make us diligent and cheerful in worldly business. And this is the gift of God. Riches are a blessing or a curse to a man, according as he has, or has not, a heart to make a good use of them. To those that are accepted of the Lord, he gives joy and satisfaction in the knowledge and love of him. But to the sinner he allots labour, sorrow, vanity, and vexation, in seeking a worldly portion, which yet afterwards comes into better hands. Let the sinner seriously consider his latter end. To seek a lasting portion in the love of Christ and the blessings it bestows, is the only way to true and satisfying enjoyment even of this present world.I went about - i. e., I turned from one course of action to another.21. Suppose "there is a man," &c.

equity—rather "with success," as the Hebrew is rendered (Ec 11:6), "prosper," though Margin gives "right" [Holden and Maurer].

evil—not in itself, for this is the ordinary course of things, but "evil," as regards the chief good, that one should have toiled so fruitlessly.

Whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; who useth great industry, and prudence, and justice too, in the management of his affairs, and therefore might as confidently expect God’s blessing, and the comfort of his labours, as any other man.

That hath not laboured therein, so as I have done; who hath spent his days in sloth and folly.

A great evil; a great disorder in itself, and a great disgrace to this world, and a great torment to a considering mind. For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity,.... Who does all he does, in natural, civil, and religious things, in the state, in his family, and the world, and whatsoever business he is engaged, in the wisest and best manner, with the utmost honesty and integrity, according to all the rules of wisdom and knowledge, and of justice and equity; meaning himself; the Midrash interprets this of God;

yet to a man that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his portion; to his son, heir, and successor; who never took any pains, or joined with him, in acquiring the least part of it; and yet all comes into his hands, as his possession and inheritance: the Targum interprets this of a man that dies without children; and so others (z) understand it of his leaving his substance to strangers, and not to his children.

This also is vanity, and a great evil; not anything sinful and criminal, but vexatious and distressing.

(z) R. Joseph Titatzak in loc.

For there is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that hath not laboured in it shall he {o} leave it for his portion. This also is vanity and a great evil.

(o) Among other griefs that was not the least, to leave that which he had gotten by great travail, to one who had taken no pain therefore and whom he know not whether he were a wise man or a fool.

21. For there is a man] It is characteristic of the Debater that he broods over the same thought, and contemplates it as in a variety of aspects. It is not merely, as in Ecclesiastes 2:19, that another possessed his heaped up riches who may use them quite otherwise than he would have them used, but that the man who by his wisdom has achieved wealth (for “equity” we should rather read here and in chap. Ecclesiastes 4:4, Ecclesiastes 5:11skill” or “success,” the moral character of the success not being here in question) has to leave it to one who has not worked at all, it may be to an alien in blood.Verse 21. - For there is a man whose labor is in wisdom. "In," בְּ, "with," directed and performed with wisdom. The author speaks of himself objectively, as St. Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2) says, "I know a man in Christ," etc. His complaint now is, not that his successor may misuse his inheritance (ver. 19), but that this person shall have that on which he has bestowed no skill or toil, shall enjoy what modern phraseology terms "unearned increment." This, which was set forth as One of the blessings of the promised land (Deuteronomy 6:10, 11), Koheleth cannot bear to contemplate where it touches himself - not from envy or grudging, but from the feeling of dissatisfaction and want of energy which it generates. In (with) knowledge and in (with) equity. Kishron, translated "equity" in the Authorized Version; ἀνδρεία "manliness," in the Septuagint: and sollicitudine in the Vulgate, seems rather here to signify "skill" or "success." It occurs also in Ecclesiastes 4:4 and Ecclesiastes 5:10, and there only in the Old Testament. "And I saw that wisdom has the advantage over folly, as light has the advantage over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness." In the sacred Scriptures, "light" is generally the symbol of grace, Psalm 43:3, but also the contrast of an intellectually and morally darkened state, Isaiah 51:4. To know a thing is equivalent to having light on it, and seeing it in its true light (Psalm 36:10); wisdom is thus compared to light; folly is once, Job 38:19, directly called "darkness." Thus wisdom stands so much higher than folly, as light stands above darkness.יתרון, which hitherto denoted actual result, enduring gain, signifies here preference; along with כּיתרון

(Note: Thus written, according to J and other authorities.)

there is also found the form כּיתרון

(Note: Thus Ven. 1515, 1521; vid., Comm. under Genesis 27:28-29; Psalm 45:10.)

(vid., Proverbs 30:17). The fool walks in darkness: he is blind although he has eyes (Isaiah 43:8), and thus has as good as none, - he wants the spiritual eye of understanding (Job 10:3); the wise man, on the other hand, his eyes are in his head, or, as we also say: he has eyes in his head, - eyes truly seeing, looking at and examining persons and things. That is the one side of the relation of wisdom to folly as put to the test.

The other side of the relation is the sameness of the result in which the elevation of wisdom above folly terminates.

"And I myself perceived that one experience happeneth to them all. And I said in my heart, As it will happen to the fool, it will happen also to me; and why have I then been specially wise? Thus I spake then in my heart, that this also is vain." Zckler gives to גּם an adversative sense; but this gam ( equals ὃμως, similiter) stands always at the beginning of the clause, Ewald, 354a. Gam-ani corresponds to the Lat. ego idem, which gives two predicates to one subject; while et ipse predicates the same of the one of two subjects as it does of the other (Zumpt, 697). The second gam-ani serves for the giving of prominence to the object, and here precedes, after the manner of a substantival clause (cf. Isaiah 45:12; Ezekiel 33:17; 2 Chronicles 28:10), as at Genesis 24:27; cf. Gesen. 121. 3. Miqrěh (from קרה, to happen, to befall) is quiquid alicui accidit (in the later philosoph. terminol. accidens; Venet. συμβεβεεκός); but here, as the connection shows, that which finally puts an end to life, the final event of death. By the word יד the author expresses what he had observed on reflection; by בּל...אם, what he said inwardly to himself regarding it; and by דּבּ דל, what sentence he passed thereon with himself. Lammah asks for the design, as maddu'a for the reason. אז is either understood temporally: then when it is finally not better with me than with the fool (Hitz. from the standpoint of the dying hour), or logically: if yet one and the same event happeneth to the wise man and to the fool (Eslt.); in the consciousness of the author both are taken together.The זה of the conclusion refers, not, as at Ecclesiastes 1:17, to the endeavouring after and the possession of wisdom, but to this final result making no difference between wise men and fools. This fate, happening to all alike, is הבל, a vanity rendering all vain, a nullity levelling down all to nothing, something full of contradictions, irrational. Paul also (Romans 8:20) speaks of this destruction, which at last comes upon all, as a ματαιότης.

The author now assigns the reason for this discouraging result.

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