Ecclesiastes 7:2
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
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(2) Comparing this verse with Ecclesiastes 2:24, it is plain that the Preacher does not in the latter place recommend reckless enjoyment, but enjoyment tempered by the fear of God, and looking to the end.

Ecclesiastes 7:2. It is better to go to the house of mourning — Where mourners meet together to celebrate the funerals of deceased friends; than to the house of feasting — Where people meet to indulge their appetites in eating and drinking, in which they frequently go to excess. For that — Namely, death, the cause of that mourning; is the end of all men — Is a lot that awaits all mankind, and to see instances of it tends to bring them to the serious consideration of their own last end, which is their greatest wisdom and interest; and the living will lay it to his heart — Will be seriously affected with it, and awakened to prepare for it: whereas feasting is commonly attended with levity and manifold temptations, and renders men’s minds indisposed for spiritual and heavenly thoughts. Hence it is evident, those passages of this book, which seem to favour a sensual and voluptuous life, were not spoken by Solomon in his own name, or as his opinion, but in the person of an epicure.7:1-6 Reputation for piety and honesty is more desirable than all the wealth and pleasure in this world. It will do more good to go to a funeral than to a feast. We may lawfully go to both, as there is occasion; our Saviour both feasted at the wedding of his friend in Cana, and wept at the grave of his friend in Bethany. But, considering how apt we are to be vain and indulge the flesh, it is best to go to the house of mourning, to learn the end of man as to this world. Seriousness is better than mirth and jollity. That is best for us which is best for our souls, though it be unpleasing to sense. It is better to have our corruptions mortified by the rebuke of the wise, than to have them gratified by the song of fools. The laughter of a fool is soon gone, the end of his mirth is heaviness.That - Namely, what is seen in the house of mourning.

Lay it to his heart - Consider it attentively.

2. Proving that it is not a sensual enjoyment of earthly goods which is meant in Ec 3:13; 5:18. A thankful use of these is right, but frequent feasting Solomon had found dangerous to piety in his own case. So Job's fear (Ec 1:4, 5). The house of feasting often shuts out thoughts of God and eternity. The sight of the dead in the "house of mourning" causes "the living" to think of their own "end." The house of mourning; where mourners meet together to celebrate the funerals of a deceased friend. That, to wit, death, the cause of that mourning,

is the end of all men; it brings men to the serious consideration of their last end, which is their greatest wisdom and interest.

Will lay it to his heart; will be seriously affected with it, and awakened to prepare for it; whereas feasting is commonly attended with mirth, and levity, and manifold temptations, and indisposeth men’s minds to spiritual and heavenly thoughts. Hence it is evident that those passages of this book which may seem to favour a sensual and voluptuous life, are not spoken by Solomon in his own name, or as his opinion, but in the person of an epicure. It is better to go to the house of mourning,.... For deceased relations or friends, who either lie unburied, or have been lately inferred; for the Jews kept their mourning for their dead several days afterwards, when their friends visited them in order to comfort them, as the Jews did Martha and Mary, John 11:31. So the Targum here,

"it is better to go to a mourning man to comfort him;''

for at such times and places the conversation was serious and interesting, and turned upon the subjects of mortality and a future state, and preparation for it; from whence useful and instructive lessons are learned; and so it was much better to be there

than to go to the house of feasting: the Targum is,

"than to the house of a feast of wine of scorners;''

where there is nothing but noise and clamour, luxury and intemperance, carnal mirth and gaiety, vain and frothy conversation, idle talk and impure songs, and a jest made of true religion and godliness, death and another world;

for that is the end of all men; not the house of feasting, but the house of mourning; or mourning itself, as Jarchi; every man must expect to lose his relation and friend, and so come to the house of mourning; and must die himself, and be the occasion of mourning: death itself seems rather intended, which is the end of all men, the way of all flesh; for it is appointed for men to die; and so the Targum,

"seeing upon them all is decreed the decree of death;''

and the living will lay it to his heart; by going to the house of mourning, he will be put in mind of death, and will think of it seriously, and consider his latter end, how near it is; and that this must be his case shortly, as is the deceased's he comes to mourn for. So the Targum interprets it of words concerning death, or discourses of mortality he there hears, which he takes notice of and lays to his heart, and lays up in it. Jarchi's note is,

"their thought is of the way of death.''

It is better to go to the house of {c} mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

(c) Where we may see the hand of God and learn to examine our lives.

2. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting] The customs of Jewish mourning must be borne in mind to appreciate the full force of the maxim. The lamentation lasting for seven (Sir 22:10) or even for thirty, days, as in the case of Aaron (Numbers 20:29), and Moses (Deuteronomy 24:8), the loud wailing of the hired mourners (Jeremiah 22:18; Matthew 9:23; Mark 5:38), the visits of consolation (John 11:31), the sad meals of the bread and wine of affliction (Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; Job 4:17),—the sight of these things checked the pride of life and called out sympathy, and reminded the visitor of the nearness of his own end,

“Sunt lachrymæ rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.”

“We needs must weep the chance and change of life,

And mortal sorrows touch a mortal’s heart.”

Virg. Æn. i. 462.

The words manifestly record a personal experience, and lead us to think of the writer as having learnt to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), and having found that there was some “profit” at least in this.Verse 2. - It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting. The thought in the last verse leads to the recollection of the circumstances which accompany the two events therein mentioned - birth and death, feasting and joy, in the first case; sorrow and mourning in the second. In recommending the sober, earnest life, Koheleth teaches that wiser, more enduring lessons are to be learned where grief reigns than in the empty and momentary excitement of mirth and joyousness. The house in question is mourning for a death; and what a long and harrowing business this was is well known (see Deuteronomy 24:8; Ecclus. 22:10; Jeremiah 22:18; Matthew 9:23, etc.). Visits of condolence and periodical pilgrimages to groves of departed relatives were considered duties (John 11:19, 31), and conduced to the growth in the mind of sympathy, seriousness, and the need of preparation for death. The opposite side, the house of carousal, where all that is serious is put away, leading to such scenes as Isaiah denounces (Isaiah 5:11), offers no wise teaching, and produces only selfishness, heartlessness, thoughtlessness. What is said here is no contradiction to what was said in Ecclesiastes 2:24, that there was nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and enjoy himself. For Koheleth was not speaking of unrestrained sensualism - the surrender of the mind to the pleasures of the body - but of the moderate enjoyment of the good things of life conditioned by the fear of God and love of one's neighbor. This statement is quite compatible with the view that sees a higher purpose and training in the sympathy with sorrow than in participation in reckless frivolity. For that is the end of all men viz. that they will some day be mourned, that their house will be turned into a house of mourning. Vulgate, In illa (dome) enim finis cunctorum admonetur hominum, which is not the sense of the Hebrew. The living will lay it to his heart. He who has witnessed this scene will consider it seriously (Ecclesiastes 9:1), and draw from it profitable conclusions concerning the brevity of life and the proper use to make thereof. We recall the words of Christ, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted;" and "Woe unto you that laugh now for ye shall mourn and weep" (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:25). Schultens gives an Arab proverb which says, "Hearest thou lamentation for the dead, hasten to the spot; art thou called to a banquet, cross not the threshold." The Septuagint thus translates the last clause, Καὶ ὁ ζῶν δώσει ἀγαθὸν εἰς καρδίαν αὐτοῦ "The living will put good into his heart;" the Vulgate paraphrases fairly, Et vivens cogitat quid futurum sit," The living thinks what is to come." "So teach us to number our days," prays the psalmist, "that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). "For what hath the wise more than the fool; what the poor who knoweth to walk before the living?" The old translators present nothing for the interpretation, but defend the traditional text; for Jerome, like the Syr., which translates freely, follows the Midrash (fixed in the Targ.), which understands החיים, contrary to the spirit of the book, of the blessed future. The question would be easier if we could, with Bernst. and Ginsburg, introduce a comparat. min before יודע; we would then require to understand by him who knows to walk before the living, some one who acts a part in public life; but how strange a designation of distinguished persons would that be! Thus, as the text stands, יודע ,sdnat is attrib. to לעני, what preference hath the poor, such an one, viz., as understands (vid., regarding יודע instead of היודע, under Psalm 143:10); not: who is intelligent (Aben Ezra); יודע is not, as at Ecclesiastes 9:11, an idea contained in itself, but by the foll. הח ... לה (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:13, Ecclesiastes 4:14; and the inf. form, Exodus 3:19; Numbers 22:13; Job 34:23) obtains the supplement and colouring required: the sequence of the accents (Zakeph, Tifcha, Silluk, as e.g., at Genesis 7:4) is not against this. How the lxx understood its πορευθῆναι κατέναντι τῆς ζωῆς, and the Venet. it's ἀπιέναι ἀντικρὺ τῆς ζωῆς, is not clear; scarcely as Grtz, with Mendelss.: who, to go against (נגד, as at Ecclesiastes 4:12) life, to fight against it, has to exercise himself in self-denial and patience; for "to fight with life" is an expression of modern coinage. הח signifies here, without doubt, not life, but the living. But we explain now, not as Ewald, who separates יודע from the foll. inf. להלך: What profit has then the wise man, the intelligent, patient man, above the fool, that he walks before the living? - by which is meant (but how does this interrog. form agree thereto?), that the wise, patient man has thereby an advantage which makes life endurable by him, in this, that he does not suffer destroying eagerness of desire so to rule over him, but is satisfied to live in quietness.Also this meaning of a quiet life does not lie in the words הח ... הלך. "To know to walk before the living" is, as is now generally acknowledged equals to understand the right rule of life (Elst.), to possess the savoir vivre (Heiligst.), to be experienced in the right art of living. the question accordingly is: What advantage has the wise above the fool; and what the poor, who, although poor, yet knows how to maintain his social position? The matter treated of is the insatiable nature of sensual desire. The wise seeks to control his desire; and he who is more closely designated poor, knows how to conceal it; for he lays upon himself restraints, that he may be able to appear and make something of himself. But desire is present in both; and they have in this nothing above the fool, who follows the bent of his desire and lives for the day. He is a fool because he acts as one not free, and without consideration; but, in itself, it is and remains true, that enjoyment and satisfaction stand higher than striving and longing for a thing.
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