Ecclesiastes 7:29
See, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ecclesiastes 7:29. Lo, this only have I found — Though I could not find out all the streams of wickedness, and their infinite windings and turnings, yet I have discovered the fountain of it, original sin, and the corruption of nature, which is both in men and women; that God made our first parents, Adam and Eve, upright — Hebrew, right: without any imperfection or corruption, conformable to his nature and will, after his own likeness: but they — Our first parents, and after them their posterity; have sought out many inventions — Were not contented with their present state, but studied new ways of making themselves more wise and happy than God had made them. And we, their wretched children, are still prone to forsake the certain rule of God’s word, and the true way to happiness, and to seek new methods of attaining it. 7:23-29 Solomon, in his search into the nature and reason of things, had been miserably deluded. But he here speaks with godly sorrow. He alone who constantly aims to please God, can expect to escape; the careless sinner probably will fall to rise no more. He now discovered more than ever the evil of the great sin of which he had been guilty, the loving many strange women,God hath made - Rather, God made. A definite allusion to the original state of man: in which he was exempt from vanity. 29. The "only" way of accounting for the scarcity of even comparatively upright men and women is that, whereas God made man upright, they (men) have, &c. The only account to be "found" of the origin of evil, the great mystery of theology, is that given in Holy Writ (Ge 2:1-3:24). Among man's "inventions" was the one especially referred to in Ec 7:26, the bitter fruits of which Solomon experienced, the breaking of God's primeval marriage law, joining one man to "one" woman (Mt 19:4, 5, 6). "Man" is singular, namely, Adam; "they," plural, Adam, Eve, and their posterity. This only have I found; though I could not find out all the streams of wickedness, and their infinite windings and turnings in the world, yet I have discovered the fountain of it, to wit, original sin, and the corruption of nature, which is both in men and women.

God hath made man, God made our first parents, Adam and Eve, upright, Heb. right, without any imperfection or corruption, conformable to his nature and will, which is the rule of right, after his own likeness, understanding, and holy, and every way good.

They, our first parents, and after them their posterity treading in their steps,

have sought out many inventions; were not contented with their present state, but aimed at higher things, and studied new ways of making themselves more wise and happy than God had made them, and readily hearkened to the suggestions of the devil to that end. And we their sinful and wretched children, after their example, are still prone to forsake the certain rule of God’s word, and the true way to happiness, and to seek new methods and inventions of attaining to it, even such as Solomon hath discoursed of in this book. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright,.... The first man Adam, as the Targum and Jarchi interpret it; and not Adam only, but Eve also with him; for these were both made by the Lord, and on the same day, and in the same image, and had the same common name of Adam given them, Genesis 1:27; And they were both made "upright"; which is to be understood, not of the erectness of their bodies, but of the disposition of their minds; they were

"right and innocent before him,''

or in the sight of God, as the Targum; which is best explained by their being made in the image and likeness of God, Genesis 1:26; and which, according to the apostle, lay in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, Ephesians 4:24; agreeably to which Plato (o) make likeness to God to be righteous and holy, with prudence: for this likeness of Adam and Eve to God; lay not in the shape of their bodies, for God is a spirit, and not a corporeal being, as the Anthropomorphites imagined, and so fancied men to be made like unto him in this respect; but in their souls, and it consisted of knowledge; of the knowledge of the creatures, their nature, use, and ends for which they were made, and put under their government; and of God, and his perfections, as made known in the creatures; and of his mind and will, and manner of worshipping him, he revealed unto them; and they might know the trinity of Persons in the Godhead, who were concerned in the making of them, though they seem not to have known Christ, as Mediator and Saviour, which was not necessary previous to their fall; nor evangelical truths suited to a fallen state: also this image lay in righteousness and true holiness, which was original, natural, and created with them; it was with them as soon as they were; not acquired, but infused; not a habit obtained, but a quality given; and this not supernatural, but natural; it was perfect in its kind, and entirely agreeable to the holy, just, and good law of God; it had no defects in it, yet was but the righteousness of a creature, and loseable, as the event showed; and so very different from the righteousness of Christ, man is justified by. Likewise, this uprightness is no other than the rectitude of human nature, of all the powers and faculties of the soul of man, as they were when he was created; his understanding clear of all errors and mistakes, either about divine or human things; his affections regular and ordinate, no unruly passion in him, no sinful affection, lust, and desire; he loved God with all his heart and soul, and delighted in him, and communion with him; the bias of his will was to that which is good; the law of God was written on his heart, and he had both power and will to keep it; and, during his state of integrity, was pure and sinless; yet he was not impeccable, as the confirmed angels and glorified saints are; nor immutable, as God only is; but being a creature, and changeable, he was liable to temptation, and subject to fall, as he did. Now Solomon, with all his diligent search and scrutiny, could not find out the infinity of sin, the boundless extent of it among mankind, the exceeding sinfulness of it, which he sought after, Ecclesiastes 7:25; yet this he "found" out, and this "only", the fountain of all sin, the origin of moral evil; namely, the corruption of human nature through the fall of Adam: this he found by reading the Scriptures, the three first chapters of Genesis; and by consulting human nature he found some remains of the image of God, and of the law that was in man's heart; whereby he perceived that man was once another man than he is now; and that this corruption is not owing to God, who is not the author of any thing sinful, he made man upright; but to himself, his own sin and folly: and this he found confirmed by sad experience; in himself and others, and by observing the history of all ages, from the times of the first man; and as this was notorious, it was worth knowing and observing, and therefore he calls upon others to take notice of it; lo, behold, consider it, as well as what follows;

but they have sought out many inventions; that is, Adam and Eve, not content with their present knowledge and happiness, they sought out new ways and means of being wiser and happier than God made them, or it was his will they should be. "They sought out the inventions of the many", or "great things", or "of the mighty and great ones" (p), as it may be rendered, the eternal Three in One; they sought to be as wise as God himself; or, however, as the great and mighty ones, the angels, who excelled them, as in strength, so in knowledge; see Genesis 3:5; or they sought out thoughts of sin, as Jarchi says it is interpreted in the Midrash. Sins are the inventions of men, and these are many and numerous; they sought to gratify their senses, on which followed innumerable evils; and then they sought for shifts and evasions to excuse themselves; the man shifting it from himself, and throwing the blame upon the woman, and the woman upon the serpent: and so sinning, they lost the knowledge they had; their righteousness and holiness, the rectitude of their nature; the moral freedom of their will to that which is good, and their power to perform it; and they lost the presence of God, and communion with him: and so their posterity are not only inventors of evil things, of sins, but of new ways of happiness; some placing it in riches; others in honours; others in pleasures; and some in natural wisdom and knowledge; and some in their own works of righteousness; the vanity of all which Solomon has before exposed.

(o) Theaeteto, p. 129. (p) "cogitationes magnatum", De Dieu; "ratiocina multarum, magnarumque rerum", so some in Rambachius; see Luke x. 41, 42.

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many {t} devices.

(t) And so are cause for their own destruction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
29. They have sought out many inventions] The Hebrew word implies an ingenuity exercised mainly for evil but takes within its range, as in 2 Chronicles 26:15, the varied acts of life which are in themselves neither good nor evil. This inventive faculty, non-moral at the best, often absolutely immoral, was what struck the thinker as characterising mankind at large.

In this thought again we have an unmistakable echo of the language of Greek thinkers. Of this the most memorable example is, perhaps, the well-known chorus in the Antigone 332–5

πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινοτέρον πέλει.

σοφόν τι τὸ μηχανόεν τέχνας ὑπὲρ ἐλπίδʼ ἔχων,

ποτὲ μὲν κακόν, ἀλλοτʼ ἐπʼ ἐσθλὸν ἕρπει.

“Many the things that strange and wondrous are,

None stranger and more wonderful than man.

And lo, with all this skill,

Wise and inventive still

Beyond hope’s dream,

He now to good inclines

And now to ill.”

Looking to the relation in which the poem of Lucretius stands to the system of Epicurus it is probable that the history of human inventions in the De Rerum Natura, v. 1281–1435 had its fore-runner in some of the Greek writings with which the author of Ecclesiastes appears to have been acquainted. The student will find another parallel in the narrative of the progress of mankind in the Prometheus Bound of Æschylus (450–514). Both these passages are somewhat too long to quote.Verse 29. - Lo, this only (or, only see! this) have I found. Universal corruption was that which met his wide investigations, but of one thing he was sure, which he proceeds to specify - he has learned to trace the degradation to its source, not in God's agency, but in man's perverse will. That God hath made man upright. Koheleth believes that man's original constitution was yasbar, "straight," "right," "morally good," and possessed of ability to choose and follow what was just and right (Genesis 1:26, etc.). Thus in the Book of Wisdom (2:23) we read, "God created man to be immortal, and made him an imago of his own nature (ἰιότητος). Nevertheless, through envy of the devil, came death into the world, and they that are his portion tempt it." But they (men) have sought out many inventions (chishshebonoth); 2 Chronicles 26:15, where the term implies works of invention, and is translated "engines," i.e. devices, ways of going astray and deviating from original righteousness. Man has thus abased his free-will, and employed the inventive faculty with which he was endowed in excoriating evil (Genesis 6:5). How this state of things came about, how the originally good man became thus wicked, the writer does not tell. He knows from revelation that God made him upright; he knows from experience that he is now evil; and he leaves the matter there. Plumptre quotes, as illustrating our text, a passage from the 'Antigone' of Sophocles, vers. 332, 365, 366, which he renders-

"Many the things that strange and wondrous are,
None stranger and mere wonderful than man....
And lo, with all this skill,
Wise and inventive still,
Beyond hope's dream,
He now to good inclines,
And now to ill."
We may add AEschylus, 'Choeph.,' vers. 585, etc. -

Πολλὰ μέν γᾶ τρέφει
δεινὰ δειμάτων ἄχη...
ἀλλ ὑπέρτολμον
ἀνδρὸς φόνημα τίς λέγοι;

"Many fearful plagues
Earth nourishes...
But man's audacious spirit
Who can tell?"
Horace, 'Carm.,' 1:3. 25 -

"Audax omnia perpeti
Gens humans ruit per vetitum nefas."

"The race of man, bold all things to endure,
Hurries undaunted to forbidden crime."
Vulgate, Et ipse se infinitis miscuerit quaestionibus, "And he entangled himself in multitudinous questions." This refers to unhallowed curiosity and speculation; but, as we have seen, the passage is concerned with man's moral declension, declaring how his "devices" lead him away from "uprightness."



"All this have I proved by wisdom: I thought, Wise I will become; but it remained far from me." The ב in בּחכמה is, as at Ecclesiastes 1:13, that designating the organon, the means of knowledge. Thus he possessed wisdom up to a certain degree, and in part; but his purpose, comprehended in the one word אחכּמה, was to possess it fully and completely; i.e., not merely to be able to record observations and communicate advices, but to adjust the contradictions of life, to expound the mysteries of time and eternity, and generally to solve the most weighty and important questions which perplex men. But this wisdom was for him still in the remote distance. It is the wisdom after which Job, chap. 28, made inquiry in all regions of the world and at all creatures, at last to discover that God has appointed to man only a limited share of wisdom. Koheleth briefly condenses Job 28:12-22 in the words following:
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