Ecclesiastes 2:4
I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
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(4) Houses.1Kings 5:11; 2Chronicles 8:4.

Vineyards.1Chronicles 27:27; Song of Solomon 8:11.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-7. I made me great works — Magnificent works, for my honour and delight. I builded me houses — Of which see 1 Kings 7:1, &c.; 9:15, &c.; Song of Solomon 8:11. I made me gardens — Hebrew, paradises, or gardens of pleasure; I planted trees, &c. — Mixing pleasure and profit together. I made me pools of water — Because the rain there fell but seldom; to water therewith the wood — The nurseries of young trees, which, for the multitude of them, were like a wood or forest. I had servants born in my house — Of my bond-servants, which therefore were a part of my possessions.

2:1-11 Solomon soon found mirth and pleasure to be vanity. What does noisy, flashy mirth towards making a man happy? The manifold devices of men's hearts, to get satisfaction from the world, and their changing from one thing to another, are like the restlessness of a man in a fever. Perceiving it was folly to give himself to wine, he next tried the costly amusements of princes. The poor, when they read such a description, are ready to feel discontent. But the remedy against all such feelings is in the estimate of it all by the owner himself. All was vanity and vexation of spirit: and the same things would yield the same result to us, as to Solomon. Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content. His wisdom remained with him; a strong understanding, with great human knowledge. But every earthly pleasure, when unconnected with better blessings, leaves the mind as eager and unsatisfied as before. Happiness arises not from the situation in which we are placed. It is only through Jesus Christ that final blessedness can be attained.Compare 1 Kings 7:1-12; 1 Kings 9:15-19; 1 Kings 10:14-27; and 2 Chronicles 8:4. 4. (1Ki 7:1-8; 9:1, 19; 10:18, &c.).

vineyards—(So 8:11).

I made me great works; magnificent works for my honour and delight.

I built me houses; of which see 1 Kings 7:1, &c.; 1 Kings 9:15, &c. I planted me vineyards: see Song of Solomon 8:11.

I made me great works,.... He did not spend his time in trifling things, as Domitian (a), in catching and killing flies; but in devising, designing, directing, and superintending great works of art and skill, becoming the grandeur of his state, and the greatness of his mind: the Midrash restrains it to his great throne of ivory, overlaid with gold, 1 Kings 10:18, but it is a general expression, including all the great things he did, of which the following is a particular enumeration;

I builded me houses; among which must not be reckoned the house of God, though that was built by him, and in the first place; yet this was built, not for his own pleasure and grandeur, but for the worship and glory of God: but his own house and palace is chiefly meant, which was thirteen years in building; and the house of the forest in Lebanon, which perhaps was his country seat; with all other houses and offices, for his stores, for his servants, his horsemen, and chariots; see 1 Kings 7:1; and in fine spacious buildings men take a great deal of pleasure, and promise themselves much happiness in dwelling in them, and in perpetuating their names to posterity by them; see Psalm 49:11. The Targum is,

"I multiplied good works in Jerusalem; I builded me houses; the house of the sanctuary, to make atonement for Israel; the king's house of refreshment, and the conclave and porch; and the house of judgment, of hewn stones, where the wise men sit and do judgment; I made a throne of ivory for the royal seat;''

I planted me vineyards; perhaps those at Engedi were of his planting; however, he had one at Baalhamon, and no doubt in other places, Sol 1:14; the Targum makes mention of one at Jabne, planted by him; these also add to the pleasure of human life; it is delightful to walk in them, to gather the fruit and drink of the wine of them; see Sol 7:12.

(a) Sueton. Vit. Domitian. c. 3. Aurel. Victor. De. Caesar. & Epitome.

I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
4. I made me great works] The verse may be either a retrospect of the details of the life of the pleasure-seeker as sketched in the previous verse, or, as seems more probable, the account of a new experiment in which the man passed from purely sensual pleasures to the life of what we know as ‘culture,’ the pursuit of beauty and magnificence in Art. Here the writer throws himself into the surroundings of the historical Solomon. We may venture to refer to Tennyson’s Palace of Art as tracing the working out of a like experiment to its inevitable issue. See Appendix II.

I builded me houses] We think of David’s house of cedar (2 Chronicles 2:3) and the storehouses, oliveyards and vineyards (1 Chronicles 27:25-31) which Solomon had inherited, of his own palace, and the house of the forest of Lebanon and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter, which he built (1 Kings 7:1-9), of Tadmor and Hamath and Beth-horon and Baalath, the cities in far off lands which owned him as their founder (2 Chronicles 8:3-6). It is significant, on any theory of authorship, that we find no reference to Solomon’s work in building “the house of the Lord.” That was naturally outside the range of the experiments in search of happiness and too sacred to be mentioned in connexion with them here, either by the king himself or by the writer who personates him. On the assumption of personation the writer may have drawn his pictures of kingly state from the palaces and parks of the Ptolemies, including the botanical and zoological gardens connected with the Museum at Alexandria, or from those of the Persian kings at Susa or Persepolis.

I planted me vineyards] Of these one, that of Baal-hamon, has been immortalised by its mention in the Song of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 8:11). It was planted with the choicest vine, and the value of its produce estimated at a thousand pieces of silver. Engedi seems also to have been famous for its vineyards (Song Song of Solomon 1:14).

Verse 4. - This commences a new experience in the pursuit of his object. Leaving this life of self-indulgence, he takes to art and culture, the details being drawn from the accounts of the historical Solomon. I made me great works; literally, I made great my works; Septuagint, Ἐμεγάλυνα ποίημά per; Vulgate, Magnificavi opera mea. Among these works the temple, with all its wonderful structural preparations, is not specially mentioned, perhaps because no one could think of Solomon without connecting his name with this magnificent building, and it was superfluous to call attention to it; or else because the religious aspect of his operations is not here in question, but only his taste and pursuit of beauty. But the omission tells strongly against the Solomonic authorship of the book. I builded me houses. Solomon had a passion for erecting magnificent buildings. We have various accounts of his works of this nature in 1 Kings 7. and 9; 2 Chronicles 8. There was the huge palace for himself, which occupied thirteen years in building; there was the "house of the forest of Lebanon," a splendid hall constructed with pillars of cedar; the porch of pillars; the hall of judgment; the harem for the daughter of Pharaoh. Then there were fortresses, store-cities, chariot-towns, national works of great importance; cities in distant lands which he founded, such as Tadmor in the wilderness. I planted me vineyards. David had vineyards and olive yards (1 Chronicles 27:27, 28), which passed into the possession of his son; and we read in Song of Solomon 8:11 of a vineyard that Solomon had in Baal-hamon, which some identify with Belamon (Judith 8:3), a place near Shunem, in the Plain of Esdraelon. Ecclesiastes 2:4"I undertook great works, built me houses, planted me vineyards. I made me gardens and parks, and planted therein all kinds of fruit-trees. I made me water-pools to water therewith a forest bringing forth trees." The expression, "I made great my works," is like Ecclesiastes 1:16; the verb contains the adj. as its obj. The love of wisdom, a sense of the beautiful in nature and art, a striving after splendour and dignity, are fundamental traits in Solomon's character. His reign was a period of undisturbed and assured peace. The nations far and near stood in manifold friendly relations with him. Solomon was "the man of rest," 1 Chronicles 22:9; his whole appearance was as it were the embodied glory itself that had blossomed from out of the evils and wars of the reign of David. The Israelitish commonwealth hovered on a pinnacle of worldly glory till then unattained, but with the danger of falling and being lost in the world. The whole tendency of the time followed, as it were, a secular course, and it was Solomon first of all whom the danger of the love of the world, and of worldly conformity to which he was exposed, brought to ruin, and who, like so many of the O.T. worthies, began in the spirit and ended in the flesh. Regarding his buildings, - the house of the forest of Lebanon, the pillared hall (porch), the hall of judgment, the palace intended for himself and the daughter of Pharaoh, - vid. the description in 1 Kings 7:1-12, gathered from the annals of the kingdom; 1 Kings 9:15-22 equals 2 Chronicles 8:3-6, gives an account of Solomon's separate buildings (to which also the city of Millo belongs), and of the cities which he built; the temple, store-cities, treasure-cities, etc., are naturally not in view in the passage before us, where it is not so much useful buildings, as rather buildings for pleasure (1 Kings 9:19), that are referred to. Vineyards, according to 1 Chronicles 27:27, belonged to David's royal domain; a vineyard in Baal-hamon which Solomon possessed, but appears at a later period to have given up, is mentioned at the close of the Song. That he was fond of gardening, appears from manifold expressions in the Song; delight in the life and movements of the natural world, and particularly in plants, is a prominent feature in Solomon's character, in which he agrees with Shulamith. The Song; Sol 6:2, represents him in the garden at the palace. We have spoken under the Song; Sol 6:11., of the gardens and parks at Etam, on the south-west of Bethlehem. Regarding the originally Persian word pardēs (plur. pardesim, Mishnic pardesoth), vid., under Sol 4:13; regarding the primary meaning of berēchah (plur. const. berēchoth, in contradistinction to birchoth, blessings), the necessary information is found under Sol 7:5. These Solomonic pools are at the present day to be seen near old Etam, and the clause here denoting a purpose, "to water from them a forest which sprouted trees, i.e., brought forth sprouting trees," is suitable to these; for verbs of flowing and swarming, also verbs of growing, thought of transitively, may be connected with obj. - accus., Ewald, 281b; cf. under Isaiah 5:6. Thus, as he gave himself to the building of houses, the care of gardens, and the erection of pools, so also to the cultivation of forests, with the raising of new trees.

Another means, wisely considered as productive of happiness, was a large household and great flocks of cattle, which he procured for himself.

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