Ecclesiastes 2:23
For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yes, his heart takes not rest in the night. This is also vanity.
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(23) The fact that the wise man must surrender his acquisitions exhibits the inutility of the painful toil by which he has gained them.

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.Are sorrows ... grief - Rather, sorrows and grief are his toil. See Ecclesiastes 1:13.23. The only fruit he has is, not only sorrows in his days, but all his days are sorrows, and his travail (not only has griefs connected with it, but is itself), grief. For all his days are sorrows; or, though all his days were sorrows, i.e. full of sorrows. For this seems added to aggravate the evil mentioned in the foregoing verse. Though he took great and unwearied pains all his days, yet after death he hath no more benefit by it than another man hath.

His travail grief; the toils of his body are, or were, accompanied with the vexations of his mind.

Taketh not rest in the night; either because his mind is distracted, or his sleep broken, with perplexing cares and fears. For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief,.... All his days are full of sorrows, of a variety of them; and all his affairs and transactions of life are attended with grief and trouble; not only the days of old age are evil ones, in which he can take no pleasure; or those times which exceed the common age of man, when he is got to fourscore years or more, and when his strength is labour and sorrow; but even all his days, be they fewer or more, from his youth upward, are all evil and full of trouble, Genesis 47:9;

yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night; which is appointed for rest and ease; and when laid down on his bed for it, as the word signifies; yet, either through an eager desire of getting wealth, or through anxious and distressing cares for the keeping it when gotten, he cannot sleep quietly and comfortably, his carking cares and anxious thoughts keep him waking; or, if he sleeps, his mind is distressed with dreams and frightful apprehensions of things, so that his sleep is not sweet and refreshing to him.

This is also vanity; or one of the vanities which belong to human life.

For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.
23. yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night] The verse speaks out the experience of the men who labour for that which does not profit. There is no real pleasure, even at the time. The “cares of this world” come together with “the pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). We trace the same yearning after the “sweet sleep” that lies in the far-off past as in ch. Ecclesiastes 5:12, perhaps also in the “almond tree” of ch. Ecclesiastes 12:5. So has the great master-poet portrayed the wakefulness of successful ambition, the yearning for the sleep of the “smoky crib,” or even of the ship-boy on the mast, the terrible conclusion,

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Shakespeare, Henry IV. Part II. Act iii. 1.

No “poppies” or “mandragora” can restore that sleep to the slave of mammon or the worn out sensualist.Verse 23. - All his days are sorrow, and his travail grief (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:16, 17). These are the real results of his lifelong efforts. All his days are pains and sorrows, bring trouble with them, and all his labor ends in grief. "Sorrows" and "grief" are pretreated respectively of "days" and "travail." Abstract nouns are often so used. Thus Ecclesiastes 10:12, "The words of a wise man's mouth are grace." The free-thinkers in Wisd. 2:1 complain that life is short and tedious (λυπηρὸς). Yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. He cannot sleep for thinking over his plans and hopes and disappointments. Not for him is the sweet sleep of the laboring man, who does his day's work, earns his repose, and frets not about the future. On the one hand care, on the ether satiety, murder sleep, and make the night torment. "The life became hateful to me; for the work which man accomplsihes under the sun was grievous to me: because all is vain and windy effort." He hated life; and the labour which is done under the sun, i.e., the efforts of men, including the fate that befalls men, appeared to him to be evil (repugnant). The lxx translate: πονηρὸν επ ̓ ἐμέ; the Venet.: κακὸν ἐπ ̓ ἐμοί; and thus Hitzig: as a woeful burden lying on me. But עלי רע is to be understood after tov al, Esther 3:9, etc., cf. Psalm 16:6, and as synon. with בּעיני or לפני (cf. Daniel 3:32), according to which Symmachus: κακὸν γάρ μοι ἐφάνη. This al belongs to the more modern usus loq., cf. Ewald, 217i. The end of the song was also again the grievous ceterum censeo: Vanity, and a labour which has wind as its goal, wind as its fruit.
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