For God gives to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he gives travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ecclesiastes 2:26. For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight — Who not only seems to men to be good, as many bad men do, but is really and sincerely good; or, who pleaseth him, as the same phrase, שׂוב לפניו, is rendered, Ecclesiastes 7:26, and often elsewhere: whereby he seems to intimate the reason why he found no more comfort in his labours, namely, because his ways had been very displeasing to God, and therefore God justly denied him that gift; wisdom and knowledge — To direct him how to use his comforts right, that so they may be blessings, and not snares and curses to him; and joy — A mind thankful for, and contented with, his portion. “This is a blessing,” says Bishop Patrick, “which God reserves for him whom he loves; whose sincere piety he rewards with wisdom to judge when, and with knowledge to understand how, he should enjoy and take the comfort of all he hath; especially with inward joy, satisfaction of heart, and tranquillity of mind in this favour of God to him; whereby the troublesome affairs of this life are tempered and seasoned.” But to the sinner he giveth travail — He giveth him up to insatiable desires, and wearisome labours, to little or no purpose, that he may have no comfort in the riches he gains, but leave them to others, yea, to such as he least expected or desired, to good and virtuous men, into whose hands his estate falls, by the wise and all-disposing providence of God. Ecclesiastes 3:15, Ecclesiastes 3:17 ff) in this book.
This also is vanity - Not only the travail of the sinner. Even the best gifts of God, wisdom, knowledge, and joy, so far as they are given in this life, are not permanent, and are not always (see Ecclesiastes 9:11) efficacious for the purpose for which they appear to be given.
that he—the sinner
may give—that is, unconsciously and in spite of himself. The godly Solomon had satisfaction in his riches and wisdom, when God gave them (2Ch 1:11, 12). The backsliding Solomon had no happiness when he sought it in them apart from God; and the riches which he heaped up became the prey of Shishak (2Ch 12:9).That is good in his sight; who not only seems to be good to men, as many bad men do, but is really and sincerely good. Or, who pleaseth him, as this phrase is rendered, Ecclesiastes 7:26, and oft elsewhere; whereby he seems to intimate the reason why he found no more comfort in his labours, because his ways had been very displeasing to God, and therefore God justly denied him that gift. Wisdom and knowledge, to direct him how to use his comforts aright, that so they may be blessings, and not snares and curses to him.
Joy; a thankful and contented mind with his portion.
He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up; he giveth him up to insatiable desires, and wearisome labours, to little or no purpose.
That he may give to him that is good before God; that he may have no comfort in them, but leave them to others, yea, to such as he least expected or desired, to good and virtuous men, into whose hands his estate falls by the wise and all-disposing providence of God. Ecclesiastes 7:26; and he is one that is accepted with God in Christ, his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased; who is clothed with his righteousness, made comely through his comeliness, and so is irreprovable in his sight; and who by faith looks to and lays hold on this righteousness, and does all he does in the exercise of faith, without which it is impossible to please God. To such a man God gives
wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; wisdom to acquire knowledge, to keep, use, and improve it; and joy, to be cheerful and thankful for the good things of life: or rather this may design, not natural wisdom, but spiritual wisdom, wisdom in the hidden part, so as to be wise unto salvation, and to walk wisely and circumspectly, a good man's steps being ordered by the Lord; and knowledge of God in Christ, and of Christ, and of the things of the Gospel, and which relate to eternal life; and so spiritual joy, joy and peace in believing, in the presence of God, and communion with him; joy in Christ, and in hope of the glory of God, even joy unspeakable, and full of glory; all which, more or less, at one time or another, God gives to those who are truly good; and which is not to be found in worldly wisdom, pleasure, riches, power, and authority: the Targum is,
"to the man, whose works are right before God, he gives wisdom and knowledge in this world, and joy with the righteous in the world to come;''
but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up; to gather mammon, and to heap up a large possession, as the Targum; to gather together a great deal of riches, but without wisdom and knowledge to use them, without any proper enjoyment of them, or pleasure in them; all he has is a deal of trouble and care to get riches, without any comfort in them, and he has them not for his own use: the Midrash illustrates this of the good man and sinner, by the instances of Abraham and Nimrod, of Isaac and Abimelech, of Jacob and Laban, of the Israelites and Canaanites, of Hezekiah and Sennacherib, and of Mordecai and Haman. But
that he may give to him that is good before God; so it is ordered by divine Providence sometimes, that all that a wicked man has been labouring for all his days should come into the hands of such who are truly good men, and will make a right use of what is communicated to them.
This also is vanity, and vexation of spirit; not to the good man, but to the wicked man: so the Targum,
"it is vanity to the sinner, a breaking of spirit;''For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)26. For God giveth] The word for God, as the italics shew, is not in the Hebrew, but it is obviously implied, and its non-appearance justifies the change in the text of the previous verse, which preserves the sequence of thought unbroken. What we get here is the recognition of what we have learnt to call the moral government of God in the distribution of happiness. It is found to depend not on outward but inward condition, and the chief inward condition is the character that God approves. The Debater practically confesses that the life of the pleasure-seeker, or the ambitious, or the philosopher seeking wisdom as an end, was not good before God, and therefore failed to bring contentment.
wisdom, and knowledge, and joy] The combination forms an emphatic contrast with ch. Ecclesiastes 1:18, and marks a step onward in the seeker’s progress. There is a wisdom which is not grief, an increase of knowledge which is not an increase of sorrow. We are reminded of the parallel thought which belongs to a higher region of the spiritual life, “The Kingdom of God … is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). Here the lesson is that the man who seeks great things fails to find them, that he who is content with a little with God’s blessing on it, finds in that little much. He becomes αὐτάρκης (= self-sufficing)—and has enough.
but to the sinner he giveth travail] The words point to a further perception of a moral order in the midst of the seeming disorders of the world. The fruitless labour of the sinner in heaping up his often ill-gotten gains is not altogether wasted. His treasure passes into hands that make a better use of it than he has done. So we find a like thought in Proverbs 28:8, “He that by usury and unjust gains increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor,” and in Job 27:16-17, “Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; he may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver” (comp. Proverbs 13:22).
This also is vanity] The question which we have to answer is whether this sentence is passed only on the travail of the sinner, as in Ecclesiastes 2:11, or whether it includes also the measure of joy attainable by him who is “good” in the sight of God. From one point of view the former interpretation gives a preferable meaning, as more in harmony with what immediately precedes. On the other hand, it is characteristic of the cynical pessimism into which the Preacher has, by his own confession, fallen, that he should fall back into his despondency even after a momentary glimpse of a truth that might have raised him from it. The “Two Voices” utter themselves, as in Tennyson’s poem, (see Appendix II.) in a melancholy alternation and there comes a time when the simple joys which God gives to the contented labourer, no less than the satiety of the voluptuous and the rich, seem to him but as “vanity and feeding upon wind.”Verse 26. - For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight. The subject "God" is not, in the Hebrew, an omission which is supposed to justify its virtual insertion in ver. 25. The Vulgate boldly supplies it here, Homini bone in conspectu sue dedit Deus. To the man that finds favor in God's sight (1 Samuel 29:6; Nehemiah 2:5), i.e. who pleases him, ha gives blessings, while he withholds them or takes them away from the man who displeases him. The blessings specified are wisdom, and knowledge, and joy. The only true wisdom which is not grief, the only true knowledge which is not sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18), and the only joy in life, are the gifts of God to those whom he regards as good. But to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up. The sinner takes great pains, expends continuous labor, that he may amass wealth, but it passes into other. (more worthy) hands. Horace, 'Carm.,' 2:14. 25 - "Absumet heres Caecuba dignior Servata centum clavibus." The moral government of God is here recognized, as below, Ecclesiastes 3:15, 17, etc., and a further thought is added on the subject of retribution: That he may give to him that is good before God. This idea is found in Proverbs 28:8, "He that augmenteth his substance by usury and increase, gathereth it for him that hath pity upon the poor;" and Ecclesiastes 13:22, "The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the righteous" (comp. Job 27:16, 17). So in the parable of the talents, the talent of the unprofitable servant is given unto him who had made best use of his money (Matthew 25:28). This also is vanity. It is a question what is the reference here. Delitzsch considers it to be the striving after pleasure in and from labor (ver. 24); Knobel, the arbitrary distribution of the good things of this life; but, put thus baldly, this could hardly be termed a "feeding on wind;" nor could that expression be applied to the "gifts of God" to which Bullock confines the reference. Wright, Hengstenberg, Gratz, and others deem that what is meant is the collecting and heaping up of riches by the sinner, which has already been decided to be vanity (vers. 11, 17, 18); and this Would limit the general conclusion to a particular instance. Taking the view contained in ver. 24 as the central idea of the passage, we see that Koheleth feels that the restriction upon man's enjoyment of labor imposed by God's moral government makes that toil vain because its issue is not in men's hands, and it is a striving for or a feeding on wind because the result is unsatisfying and vanishes in the grasp.
1 Samuel 22:17., Sol 2:17; Jeremiah 41:14, סבב has here the intrans. meaning, to turn about (lxx ἐπέστρεψα equals ἐπεστρεψάμην). Hitzig remarks that פנה and שוב signify, "to turn round in order to see," and סבב, on the contrary, "to turn round in order to do." But פנה can also mean, "to turn round in order to do," e.g., Leviticus 26:9; and סבב, "to turn in order to examine more narrowly," Ecclesiastes 7:25. The distinction lies in this, that פנה signifies a clear turning round; סבב, a turning away from one thing to another, a turning in the direction of something new that presents itself (Ecclesiastes 4:1, Ecclesiastes 4:7; Ecclesiastes 9:11). The phrase, יאשׁ את־בלבּו,
(Note: With Pathach under the yod in the text in Biblia Rabb. and the note ל Thus also in the ms. Parva Masora, and e.g., Cod. P.)
closely corresponds to the Lat. despondet animum, he gives up his spirits, lets them sink, i.e., he despairs. The old language knows only נואשׁ, to give oneself up, i.e., to give up hope in regard to anything; and נואשׁ, given up, having no prospect, in despair. The Talm., however, uses along with nithyāēsh (vid., p. 638) not only noǎsh, but also יאשׁ, in the sense of despair, or the giving up of all hope (subst. יאוּשׁ), Meza 21b, from which it is at once evident that יאשׁ, is not to be thought of as causative (like the Arab. ajjasa and aiasa), but as simply transitive, with which, after the passage before us, לבו is to be thought of as connected. He turned round to give up all heart. He had no more any heart to labour.
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