Ecclesiastes 5:17
All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
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(17) We pass without notice some variations of translation in this verse, which do not materially affect the sense.

5:9-17 The goodness of Providence is more equally distributed than appears to a careless observer. The king needs the common things of life, and the poor share them; they relish their morsel better than he does his luxuries. There are bodily desires which silver itself will not satisfy, much less will worldly abundance satisfy spiritual desires. The more men have, the better house they must keep, the more servants they must employ, the more guests they must entertain, and the more they will have hanging on them. The sleep of the labourer is sweet, not only because he is tired, but because he has little care to break his sleep. The sleep of the diligent Christian, and his long sleep, are sweet; having spent himself and his time in the service of God, he can cheerfully repose in God as his Rest. But those who have every thing else, often fail to secure a good night's sleep; their abundance breaks their rest. Riches do hurt, and draw away the heart from God and duty. Men do hurt with their riches, not only gratifying their own lusts, but oppressing others, and dealing hardly with them. They will see that they have laboured for the wind, when, at death, they find the profit of their labour is all gone like the wind, they know not whither. How ill the covetous worldling bears the calamities of human life! He does not sorrow to repentance, but is angry at the providence of God, angry at all about him; which doubles his affliction.Hath much sorrow ... - Rather, is very sad and hath pain and vexation. 17. eateth—appropriately put for "liveth" in general, as connected with Ec 5:11, 12, 18.

darkness—opposed to "light (joy) of countenance" (Ec 8:1; Pr 16:15).

wrath—fretfulness, literally, "His sorrow is much, and his infirmity (of body) and wrath."

All his days, to wit, of his life,

also he eateth in darkness; he hath no comfort in his estate, but even when he eats, when other men relax their minds, and use freedom and cheerfulness, he doth it with anxiety and discontent, as grudging even at his own necessary expenses, and tormenting himself with cares about getting, and disposing, and keeping his estate.

He hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness; when he falls sick, and presageth or feareth his death, he is filled with rage, because he is cut off before he hath accomplished his designs, and because he must leave that wealth and world in which all his hopes and happiness lie, and must go to give up a doleful account to his Judge of all his actions and acquisitions.

All his days also he eateth in darkness,.... To all that has been said is added another evil, that attends such whose hearts are inordinately set on riches; that all their days, throughout the whole of their lives, they live a most uncomfortable life; for eating is here put for their whole manner of living: such not only eat coarse bread, and very mean food of any sort, but wear sordid apparel, and live in a poor cottage, in a very obscure and miserable manner. Aben Ezra understands it literally of the night, to which time such a man defers eating, that he might lose no time in his labour; and that it might not be seen what sort of food he eats, and how sparingly, and that others might not eat with him; and what he does eat is not eaten freely, but grudgingly, and with anguish and distress of mind, without any real pleasure and joy; and much less with the light of God's countenance, the discoveries of his love, and communion with him: the Targum is,

"all his days he dwelleth in darkness, that he may taste his bread alone;''

and he hath, much sorrow and wrath with his sickness; either the sickness of his mind, his covetousness; or the sickness of his body, emaciated by withholding from himself the necessaries of life: or when he comes upon a sick bed, he is filled with sorrow and indignation, that he must live no longer, to accumulate more wealth, and accomplish his projects and designs; and that he must leave his wealth, he has been at so much pains to gather together. Or, "and he is much angry" (o); when things do not answer in trade according to his wishes; when his substance diminishes, or, however, does not increase as he desires; when he is cheated by fraudulent men, or robbed by thieves: "and he hath sickness" (p); either of body or mind, or both, because matters do not succeed as he would have them; and through fretfulness at losses and crosses, and disappointments; and through cares in getting and keeping what he has: "and wrath"; at all about him, whom he is ready to charge with slothfulness or unfaithfulness to him; and even at the providence of God, that does not give him the desired success; so that he has no manner of pleasure and comfort in life.

(o) "et irascitur multum", Vatablus, Drusius; "et indignatus fuit, vel indignatur multum", Piscator, Rambachius. (p) "et agritudo ei fuit, vel est", Piscator, Drusius; "vel fuerit", Gejerus.

All his days also he eateth in {n} darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

(n) In affliction and grief of mind.

17. he eateth in darkness] The words are so natural a figure of a cheerless life with no “sweetness and light” in it (comp. Micah 7:8), that there is something almost ludicrous in the prosaic literalism which interprets them, either (1) of the miser as eating in the dark to save candlelight, or (2) working all day and waiting till nightfall before he sits down to a meal.

much sorrow and wrath with his sickness] Better, and sickness and wrath. The Hebrew gives a conjunction and not a preposition. The words have been variously taken, (1) “is much disturbed and hath grief and vexation,” (2) “grieveth himself much, and oh! for his sorrow and hatred,” but the general meaning remains the same. Koheleth teaches, as St Paul does, that “they that will be (i.e. set their hearts on being) rich, pierce themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Verse 17. - The misery that accompanies the rich man's whole life is summed up here, where one has to think chiefly of his distress after his loss of fortune. All his days also he eateth in darkness; i.e. passes his life in gloom and cheerlessness. כָּל־יָמָיו, "all his days," is the accusative of time, not the object of the verb. To eat in darkness is not a common metaphor for spending a gloomy life, but it is a very natural one, and has analogies in this book (e.g., Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13, etc.), and in such phrases as to "sit in darkness" (Micah 7:8), and to "walk in darkness" (Isaiah 1:10). The Septuagint, reading differently, translates, Καί γε πᾶσαι αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτοῦ ἐν σκότει ἐν πένθει, "Yea, and all his days are in darkness and in mourning." But the other versions reject this alteration, and few modern commentators adopt it. And he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness; literally, and much vexation, and sickness, and wrath; Revised Version, he is sore vexed, and hath sickness and wrath. Delitzsch takes the last words as an exclamation, "And oh for his sorrow and hatred!" The man experiences all kinds of vexation when his plans fail or involve him in trouble and privation; or he is morbid and diseased in mind and body; or he is angry and envious when others succeed better than himself. The sentiment is expressed by St. Paul (1 Timothy 6:9), "They that desire (βουλόμενοι) to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men (βυθίουσι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους) in destruction and perdition." "For," he proceeds, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through (ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν) with many sorrows." The Septuagint continues its version, "And in much passion (θυμῷ) and in infirmity and wrath." The anger may be directed against himself, as he thinks of his folly in taking all this trouble for nothing. Ecclesiastes 5:17"Also all his life long he eateth in darkness and grieveth himself much, and oh for his sorrow and hatred!" We might place Ecclesiastes 5:16 under the regimen of the שׁ of שׁיע of Ecclesiastes 5:15; but the Heb. style prefers the self-dependent form of sentences to that which is governed. The expression Ecclesiastes 5:16 has something strange. This strangeness disappears if, with Ewald and Heiligst., after the lxx and Jerome, for יאכל we read ואכל: καὶ ἐν πένθει; Bttch. prefers ואפל, "and in darkness." Or also, if we read ילך for יאכל; thus the Midrash here, and several codd. by Kennicott; but the Targ., Syr., and Masora read יאכל. Hitzig gets rid of that which is strange in this passage by taking כּל־ימיו as accus. of the obj., not of the time: all his days, his whole life he consumes in darkness; but in Heb. as in Lat. we say: consumere dies vitae, Job 21:13; Job 36:11, but not comedere; and why should the expression, "to eat in darkness," not be a figurative expression for a faithless, gloomy life, as elsewhere "to sit in darkness" (Micah 7:8), and "to walk in darkness"? It is meant that all his life long he ate אונים לחם, the bread of sorrow, or לחץ לחם, prison fare; he did not allow himself pleasant table comforts in a room comfortably or splendidly lighted, for it is unnecessary to understand חשׁך subjectively and figuratively (Hitz., Zck.).

In 16b the traditional punctuation is וכעס.

(Note: Thus in correct texts, in H. with the note: כ מלרע, viz., here and at Psalm 112:10, only there ע has, according to tradition, the Kametz. Cf. Mas. fin. 52b, and Baer's Ed. of Psalter, under Psalm 112:10.)

The perf. ruled by the preceding fut. is syntactically correct, and the verb כּעס is common with the author, Ecclesiastes 7:9. Hitzig regards the text as corrupt, and reads כּחליו and כּעס, and explains: and (he consumes or swallows) much grief in his, etc.; the phrase, "to eat sorrow," may be allowed (cf. Proverbs 26:6, cf. Job 15:16); but יאכל, as the representative of two so bold and essentially different metaphors, would be in point of style in bad taste. If the text is corrupt, it may be more easily rectified by reading וק לו וחלי הרבה וכּעס: and grief in abundance, and sorrow has he, and wrath. We merely suggest this. Ewald, Burger, and Bttch. read only וכעס הרבה וחלי; but לו is not to be dispensed with, and can easily be reduced to a mere vav. Elster retains וכעס, and reads, like Hitzig, בחליו: he grieves himself much in his sorrow and wrath; but in that case the word וקצפו was to be expected; also in this way the ideas do not psychologically accord with each other. However the text is taken, we must interpret וחליו וקצף as an exclamation, like הף, Isaiah 29:16; תּף, Jeremiah 49:16; Ewald, 328a, as we have done above. That וח of itself is a subst. clause equals וחלי לו is untenable; the rendering of the noun as forming a clause, spoken of under Ecclesiastes 2:21, is of a different character.

(Note: Rashi regards וחליו as a form like חיתו. This o everywhere appears only in a gen. connection.)

He who by his labour and care aims at becoming rich, will not only lay upon himself unnecessary privations, but also have many sorrows; for many of his plans fail, and the greater success of others awakens his envy, and neither he himself nor others satisfy him; he is morbidly disposed, and as he is diseased in mind, so also in body, and his constantly increasing dissatisfaction becomes at last קצף, he grumbles at himself, at God, and all the world. From observing such persons, Paul says of them (1 Timothy 6:6.): "They have pierced themselves through (transfoderunt) with many sorrows."

In view of these great evils, with which the possession of riches also is connected: of their deceitful instability, and their merely belonging to this present life, Koheleth returns to his ceterum censeo.

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