Ecclesiastes 2:8
I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I got me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Peculiar treasure.—The word is used of the Jewish people (Exodus 19:9; Psalm 135:4; Malachi 3:17; but generally 1Chronicles 29:3). That Solomon had tributary kings is stated (1Kings 4:21; 2Chronicles 9:24; Psalm 72:10; Ezra 4:20). The word used for “provinces” here and in Ecclesiastes 5:8, occurs in reference to the provinces of the Persian Empire repeatedly in the Book of Esther; Ezra 2:1; Nehemiah 7:6; Daniel 8:2. (See also Lamentations 1:1; Ezekiel 19:8.) The word is almost wholly absent from the earlier books, save that it occurs where the “princes of the provinces” are mentioned (1 Kings 20).

Singers.—Music was regarded as a necessary accompaniment of feasts (Isaiah 5:12; Amos 6:5; Ecclesiasticus 32:5; Ecclesiasticus 49:1). For David’s employment of professional singers, see 2Samuel 19:35.

Delights.—Song of Solomon 7:6; Proverbs 19:10; Micah 1:16; Micah 2:9.

Musical instruments.—The Hebrew word here used occurs nowhere else, and commentators are reduced to look to the etymology for the explanation of it. Their guesses are so numerous that it would be wearisome to recount them. That adopted in our version is by no means one of the most probable. The interpretation “concubines” is most in favour with commentators, though they differ among themselves as to the grounds on which they justify this translation. And it does appear unlikely that this notorious feature of Solomon’s court should be omitted in an enumeration of his luxury. It will be seen from the margin that the words “of all sorts” have nothing corresponding to them in the original, but are intended as an equivalent for a Hebrew idiom, in which a plural is intensified by prefixing a noun in the singular.

Ecclesiastes 2:8. I gathered me silver and gold — Vast riches; and the peculiar treasure of kings — Riches, answerable to the state of a king, or, he means, the greatest jewels and rarities of other kings, which they gave to me, either as a tribute, or by way of present; and of the provinces — Which were imposed upon or presented by all the provinces of my dominions.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.Kings - Both tributary 1 Kings 10:15 and independent 1 Kings 5:1; 1 Kings 9:14; 1 Kings 10:2; the "provinces" probably correspond to the kingdoms mentioned in 1 Kings 4:21.

As musical ... sorts - Rather, Many women (compare 1 Kings 11:1-3).

8. (1Ki 10:27; 2Ch 1:15; 9:20).

peculiar treasure of kings and … provinces—contributed by them, as tributary to him (1Ki 4:21, 24); a poor substitute for the wisdom whose "gain is better than fine gold" (Pr 3:14, 15).

singers—so David (2Sa 19:35).

musical instruments … of all sorts—introduced at banquets (Isa 5:12; Am 6:5, 6); rather, "a princess and princesses," from an Arabic root. One regular wife, or queen (Es 1:9); Pharaoh's daughter (1Ki 3:1); other secondary wives, "princesses," distinct from the "concubines" (1Ki 11:3; Ps 45:10; So 6:8) [Weiss, Gesenius]. Had these been omitted, the enumeration would be incomplete.

The peculiar treasure of kings; either,

1. Vast riches, answerable to the state of a king. Or,

2. The greatest jewels and rarities of other kings, which they gave to me either as a tribute, or by way of present; of which see 1 Kings 4:21 9:11 10:2,10.

Of the provinces; which were imposed upon or presented by all the provinces of my dominions.

Women singers; whose voices were more sweet than the men’s.

And the delights of the sons of men; either,

1. All other delightful things. Or,

2. That in which men generally delight, to wit, musical instruments, as it follows. I gathered me also silver and gold,.... In great quantities: the weight of gold which came to him in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents; see 1 Kings 9:14;

and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces; whatsoever was valuable and precious, such as is laid up in the cabinets of kings, as jewels and precious stones; and everything rare and curious, to be found in all provinces of the earth, or which were brought from thence as presents to him; the Targum is,

"and the treasures of kings and provinces, given to me for tribute:''

wherefore, if any pleasure arises from these things, as do to the virtuosi, Solomon enjoyed it. Moreover, among the treasures of kings were precious garments of various sorts, as were in the treasury of Ahasuerus (l); and when Alexander took Shushan, he found in the king's treasures, of Hermionic purple, to the value of five thousand talents, which had been laid up there almost two hundred years (m); and to such treasure Christ alludes, Matthew 6:19;

I got me men singers and women singers; the harmony and music of whose voices greatly delight; see 2 Samuel 19:35; the Targum interprets it both of instruments of music for the Levites to use in the temple, and of singing men and women at a feast: and such persons were employed among other nations (n), on such occasions, to entertain their guests; and are called the ornaments of feasts (o); as were also "choraules", or pipers (p);

and the delights of the sons of men; as musical instruments, and that of all sorts; such as David his father invented; and to which he might add more, and indeed got all that were to be obtained; see Amos 6:5. The two last words, rendered "musical instruments, of all sorts", are differently interpreted; the Targum interprets them of hot waters and baths, having pipes to let out hot water and cold; Aben Ezra, of women taken captive; Jarchi, of chariots and covered wagons; the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, of cup bearers, men, and women, that pour out wine and serve it; and the Vulgate Latin version, of cups and pots, to pour out wine. It seems best to understand it of musical instruments, or of musical compositions (q); sung either with a single voice, or in concert; which, according to Bochart (r), were called "sidoth", from Sido, a Phoenician woman of great note, the inventor of them or rather from giving unequal sounds, which, by their grateful mixture and temperament, broke and destroyed (s) one another.

(l) Targum Sheni in Esther vi. 10. (m) Plutarch. in Alexandro, p. 686. Vid. Homer. Iliad. 24. v. 224-234. (n) Vid. A. Geli. Noct. Attic. l. 19. c. 9. Homer. Odyss. 8. v. 62, 73, 74. & 9. v. 5-7. (o) Homer. Odyss. 21. v. 430. (p) Vid. Gutberleth. Conjectanea, &c. p. 162, &c. (q) Vid. Gusset. Comment. Heb. p. 832. (r) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 6. c. 13. col. 847. (s) Buxtorf. in voce See Weemse's Christian Synagog. p. 144.

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the special treasure of kings and of the provinces: I procured me male and female singers, and the {d} delights of the sons of men, {e} as musical instruments, and of all sorts.

(d) That is, whatever men take pleasure in.

(e) Or, the most beautiful of the women that were taken in war, as in Jud 5:30.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. I gathered me also silver and gold] Here also we find a counterpart in what is recorded of the wealth of Solomon, the ships of Hiram that brought gold from Ophir, to the amount of 420 talents (1 Kings 9:28), the gifts from the queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1), the total revenue of 666 talents (1 Kings 10:15), the 200 targets and 300 shields of beaten gold, and the throne of gold and ivory and the drinking vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon, and the silver that was in Jerusalem as stones (1 Kings 10:16-27).

the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces] The words may point to the special gifts which came to Solomon by way of tribute from other lands, from Seba and Sheba (Psalm 72:10), from the “kings of Arabia and the governors of the country” (1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 10:27). Many commentators, however, see in the phrase a description of the treasures of Solomon as being such as were the special possessions of sovereign rulers and sovereign states as distinct from the wealth of private citizens. The word for “province” may be noted as a comparatively late word, hardly coming into use till the time of the Captivity (Lamentations 1:1; Ezekiel 19:8), and prominent chiefly in the books of the Persian period, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel. It probably designates here the twelve districts into which Solomon divided his empire (1 Kings 4:7-19).

men singers and women singers] The mention of women shews that the singers meant are not those connected with the choir of the Temple, but those who, as in the speech of Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:35), figured at state banquets. These women, as in Isaiah 23:6, were commonly taken from the class of harlot aliens, and as such were condemned by the counsel of the wise of heart (Sir 9:4). For the general use of music at feasts, comp. Isaiah 5:11-12; Amos 6:5; Sir 32:5-6; Sir 49:1.

the delights of the sons of men] The use of the word in Song Song of Solomon 7:6 leaves little doubt that the phrase is an euphemism for sensual pleasures, and as such it helps to determine the meaning of the words that follow.

musical instruments, and that of all sorts] The Hebrew substantive, which is not found elsewhere, is first given in the singular and then in the plural, as an emphatic way of expressing multitude, and has been very variously interpreted, as meaning, with the A.V., following Luther, a “musical instrument,” or with the Vulgate “cups,” or with the LXX. “cup-bearers,” or a “bath,” or “heaps” of treasure, or a “chariot,” or a “palanquin,” or even “male and female demons.” Most modern scholars however agree, though differing as to its etymology, some finding its root-meaning in “couch,” and some in the “female breast,” and others in “captives taken in war,” in rendering it as a “concubine.” This agrees, it is obvious, with the context and with what is recorded of Solomon’s seraglio with its thousand inmates (Song Song of Solomon 6:8; 1 Kings 11:3). It was not likely, we may add, that so characteristic a feature in that monarch’s prodigal excesses should have been altogether passed over in a picture so elaborate. “Musical instruments,” it may be added, would have formed a somewhat poor climax to the long catalogue of kingly luxuries. The interpolated “as” should be omitted.Verse 8. - I gathered me also silver and gold. Much is said of the wealth of the historical Solomon, who had all his vessels of gold, armed his body-guard with golden shields, sat on an ivory throne overlaid with gold, received tribute and presents of gold from all quarters, sent his navies to distant lands to import precious metals, and made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones (see 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:14-27; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 2 Chronicles 9:20-27). The peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces. The word rendered "the provinces" (hammedinoth), in spite of the article, seems to mean, not the twelve districts into which Solomon divided his kingdom for fiscal and economical purposes (1 Kings 4:7, etc.), but countries generally exterior to Palestine, with which he had commercial or political relations, and which sent to him the productions for which they were each most celebrated. So the districts of the Persian empire were required to furnish the monarch with a certain portion of their chief commodities. His friendship with Hiram of Tyro brought him into connection with the Phoeni-clans, the greatest commercial nation of antiquity, and through them he accumulated riches and stores from distant and various lands beyond the limits of the Mediterranean Sea. The word מְדִינָה (medinah) occurs again in Ecclesiastes 5:7 and in 1 Kings 20:14, etc.; but is found elsewhere only in exilian or post-exilian books (e.g. Lamentations 1:1; Esther 1:1, etc.; Daniel 2:48, etc.). The "kings" may be the tributary monarchs, such as those of Arabia (1 Kings 4:21, 24; 1 Kings 10:15); or the expression in the text may imply simply such treasure as only kings, and not private persons, could possess. Men-singers and women-singers. These, of course, are not the choir of the temple, of which women formed no part, bur. musicians introduced at banquets and social festivals, to enhance the pleasures of the scene. They are mentioned in David's days (2 Samuel 19:35) and later (see Isaiah 5:12; Amos 6:5; Ecclus. 35:5 Ecclus. 49:1). The females who took part in these performances were generally of an abandoned class; hence the, warning of Ben-Sira, "Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts" (Ecclus. 9:4). Such exhibitions were usually accompanied with dancing, the character of which in Eastern countries is well known. The Jews, as time went on, learned to tolerate many customs and practices, imported often from other lands, which tended to lower morality and self-respect. And the delights of the sons of men; the sensual pleasures that men enjoy. The expression is euphemistic (comp. Song of Solomon 7:6). Musical instruments, and that of all sorts (shiddah veshiddoth). The word (given here first in the singular number and then in the plural emphatically to express multitude) occurs nowhere else, and has, therefore, been subjected to various interpretations. The Septuagint gives, οἰνοχόον καὶ οἰνοχόας, "a male cupbearer and female cupbearers;" and so the Syrian and. Vulgate, Scyphos et urceos in ministerio ad vina fundenda - which introduces rather a bathos into the description. After the clause immediately preceding, one might expect mention of Solomon's numerous harem (1 Kings 11:3; Song of Solomon 6:8), and most modern commentators consider the word to mean "concubine," the whole expression denoting multiplicity, "wife and wives." The Authorized Version is not very probable, though somewhat supported by Kimchi, Luther, etc., and the Greek Venetian, which has, δύδτημα καὶ συστήματα, a musical term signifying "combination of tones," or harmony. Other interpretations are "captives," "litters," "coaches," "baths," "treasures," "chests," "demons." Ewald, followed by Motais and others, suggests that the word implies a strong or high degree of a quality, so that, connecting the two clauses together, we should render, "And in a word, all the delights of the sons of men in abundance." This seems a more appropriate termination to the catalogue than any specification of further sources of pleasure; but there is no very strong etymological reason to recommend it; and we can hardly suppose that, in the enumeration of Solomon's prodigalities, his multitudinous seraglio would be omitted. Rather it comes in here naturally as the climax and completion of his pursuit of earthly delight. "To laughter I:said: It is mad; and to mirth: What doth it issue in?" Laughter and mirth are personified; meholāl is thus not neut. (Hitz., a foolish matter), but mas. The judgment which is pronounced regarding both has not the form of an address; we do not need to supply אתּה and אתּ, it is objectively like an oratio obliqua: that it is mad; cf. Psalm 49:12. In the midst of the laughter and revelling in sensual delight, the feeling came over him that this was not the way to true happiness, and he was compelled to say to laughter, It has become mad (part. Poal, as at Psalm 102:9), it is like one who is raving mad, who finds his pleasure in self-destruction; and to joy (mirth), which disregards the earnestness of life and all due bounds, he is constrained to say, What does it result in? equals that it produces nothing, i.e., that it brings forth no real fruit; that it produces only the opposite of true satisfaction; that instead of filling, it only enlarges the inner void. Others, e.g., Luther, "What doest thou?" i.e., How foolish is thy undertaking! Even if we thus explain, the point in any case lies in the inability of mirth to make man truly and lastingly happy, - in the inappropriateness of the means for the end aimed at. Therefore עשׂה is thus meant just as in עשׂה פרי (Hitz.), and מעשׂה, effect, Isaiah 32:17. Thus Mendelssohn: What profit does thou bring to me? Regarding זה; מה־זּה equals mah-zoth, Genesis 3:13, where it is shown that the demonstrative pronoun serves here to sharpen the interrogative: What then, what in all the world!

After this revelling in sensual enjoyment has been proved to be a fruitless experiment, he searches whether wisdom and folly cannot be bound together in a way leading to the object aimed at.

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