Ecclesiastes 2:25
For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I?
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(25) Hasten.—Habakkuk 1:8.

More than I.—There is a various rendering, which has the authority of the LXX., and which has every appearance of being right: “without Him.”

Ecclesiastes 2:25. For who can eat, &c. — For the truth of this you may rely upon my experience: for who can more freely and fully enjoy the comforts of this life than I did? Or who else can hasten hereunto more than I? — Who can pursue them with more diligence, obtain them with more readiness, or embrace them with more greediness? And yet, (as his words imply,) I had not comfort in these things till God was pleased to impart it unto me; till he gave me grace to see and consider that they were his gifts, to acknowledge his goodness in bestowing them upon me, and to use and enjoy them with prudence and moderation according to his will, not seeking my happiness in them, or in any creatures, but in himself, above all creatures. For this verse is evidently added to confirm, from his own experience, what he said in the foregoing verse: and surely no man’s experience, in such a case, was ever greater; no man was ever a more capable judge in these matters: none could either have more creature-comforts, or more addict himself to the enjoyment of them, or improve them to better advantage than he did; and therefore he could best tell what was the greatest good to be found in them, and whether they were able of themselves, without God’s special gift, to yield a man satisfaction.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.Nothing better for a man, than that ... - literally, no good in man that etc. The one joy of working or receiving, which, though it be transitory, a man recognizes as a real good, even that is not in the power of man to secure for himself: that good is the gift of God.25. hasten—after indulgences (Pr 7:23; 19:2), eagerly pursue such enjoyments. None can compete with me in this. If I, then, with all my opportunities of enjoyment, failed utterly to obtain solid pleasure of my own making, apart from God, who else can? God mercifully spares His children the sad experiment which Solomon made, by denying them the goods which they often desire. He gives them the fruits of Solomon's experience, without their paying the dear price at which Solomon bought it. Who can more freely and fully enjoy the comforts of this life than I did? This verse is added to confirm what he said in the foregoing verse from his own experience, which was the more considerable, because no man ever was a more capable judge of these matters, none could either have more creature-comforts, or more addict himself to the enjoyment of them, or to improve them to better advantage, than he did; and therefore he could best tell what was the greatest good to be found in them, and whether they were able of themselves, without God’s special gilt, to yield a man satisfaction.

Who else can hasten hereunto, to wit, to the procuring and enjoying of them? who can pursue them with more diligence, or obtain them with more speed and readiness, or embrace them with more greediness and alacrity? For who can eat?.... Who should eat, but such a man that has laboured for it? or, who has a power to eat, that is, cheerfully, comfortably, and freely to enjoy the good things of life he is possessed of, unless it be given him of God? see Ecclesiastes 6:1;

or who else can hasten hereunto more than I? the word "chush", in Rabbinical language, is used of the five senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting: and R. Elias says (c), there are some that so interpret it here, "who has his sense better than I?" a quicker sense, particularly of smelling and tasting what be eats, in which lies much of the pleasure of eating; and this is of God; which interpretation is not to be despised. Or, "who can prepare?" according to the Arabic sense of the word (d); that is, a better table than I? No man had a greater affluence of good things than Solomon, or had a greater variety of eatables and drinkables; or had it in the power of his hands to live well, and cause his soul to enjoy good; or was more desirous to partake of pleasure, and hasten more to make the experiment of it in a proper manner; and yet he found, that a heart to do this was from the Lord; that this was a gift of his; and that though he abounded in the blessings of life, yet if God had not given him a heart to use them, he never should have really enjoyed them.

(c) In Tishbi, p. 109. (d) Vid. Rambachium in loc.

For who can eat, or who else can hasten {q} to it, more than I?

(q) Meaning, to pleasures.

25. For who can eat] The sequence of thought is obscure, and many commentators follow the LXX. and the Syriac version, as implying an original text which gives a better meaning, Who can eat and who can hasten (i.e. be eager in this pursuit of pleasure), or, as some take the words, have enjoyment, without Him, i.e. without God. This, it is obvious, follows on the thought of the preceding verse, that the calm enjoyment of which it speaks as “good,” is “from the hand of God.” Those who keep to the received text give it very different meanings, of which the two most prominent are: (1) that we have, as it were, the words of the labourer whose lot the Debater here admired, “Who has a right to eat and enjoy himself, if not I?” the thought being parallel to that of 2 Timothy 2:6 (“The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits”); and (2) that the Debater speaks in his own person, “Who could eat or enjoy more than I? Who therefore can better attest that it is all in vain without the gift of God.” On the assumption that the writer was one who had come into contact with Greek thought, we may trace in this utterance partly the old faith of Israel reasserting itself and giving a higher sanction to the life of regulated enjoyment which the Greek teachers counselled, partly, perhaps, the mingling of Stoic and Epicurean counsels natural in a mind that had listened to both and attached himself definitely to neither. So in the Meditations of Aurelius we have like thoughts: πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα θεῶν βοηθῶν καὶ τύχης δειται (“all these things require the help of the Gods and of Fortune”); and again τὰ τῶν Θεῶν προνίας μεστὰ (“the works of the Gods are full of Providence” (Meditt. ii. 3). Koheleth, of course, as an Israelite, used the language of the wiser Stoics, like Cleanthes, and spoke of one God only.Verse 25. - For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? This is the translation of the received text. "Eat" means enjoy one's self, as in the preceding verse; "hasten hereunto" implies eager pursuit of pleasure; and Koheleth asks - Who had better opportunity than he for verifying the principle that all depends upon the gift of God? Vulgate, Quis ita devorabit, et deliciis affluet ut ego? The Septuagint had a different reading, which obtains also in the Syriac and Arabic versions, and has been adopted by many modern critics. Instead of מִמֶּנִּי, they read מִמֶּנְּוּ, "without him," i.e. except from God. "For who shall eat or who shall drink without him (πάρεξ αὐτοῦ)?" This merely repeats the thought of the last verse, in agreement with the saying of St. James (James 1:17), "Every good gift and every perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father' of lights." But the received reading, if it admits the rendering of the Authorized Version (which is somewhat doubtful), stands in close connection with the personal remark just preceding, "This also I saw," etc., and is a more sensible confirmation thereof than a tautological observation can be. The next verse carries on the thought that substantial enjoyment is entirely the gift of God, and granted by him as the moral Governor of the world. "And who knoweth whether he shall be wise or foolish? and he will have power over all my labour with which had wearied myself, and had acted wisely, under the sun: this also is vain." או...ה, instead of אם...ה, in the double question, as at Job 16:3. What kind of a man he will be no one can previously know, and yet this person will have free control (cf. שׁלט, p.641) over all the labour that the testator has wisely gained by labour - a hendiadys, for חכם with the obj. accus. is only in such a connection possible: "my labour which I, acting wisely, gained by labour."

In view of this doubtful future of that which was with pains and wisely gained by him, his spirit sank within him.

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