Ecclesiastes 7:4
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
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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.House of mourning ... house of mirth - These phrases acquire a forcible significance from the Eastern custom of prolonging both festive and mournful celebrations through several days. See Genesis 50:10; Judges 14:17. This verse indicates that a life of enjoyment, does not mean the abandonment of ourselves to pleasures, but the thankful and sober use of the beautiful things which God gives us. 3. Sorrow—such as arises from serious thoughts of eternity.

laughter—reckless mirth (Ec 2:2).

by the sadness … better—(Ps 126:5, 6; 2Co 4:17; Heb 12:10, 11). Maurer translates: "In sadness of countenance there is (may be) a good (cheerful) heart." So Hebrew, for "good," equivalent to "cheerful" (Ec 11:9); but the parallel clause supports English Version.

The heart of the wise is in the house of morning, even when their bodies are absent. They are constantly, or very frequently, meditating upon sad and serious firings, such as death and judgment, the vanity of this life, and the reality and eternity of the next, because they know that these thoughts, though they be not grateful to the sensual part, yet they are absolutely necessary, and highly profitable, and most comfortable in the end, which every wise man most regards.

The heart of fools is in the house of mirth; their minds and affections are wholly set upon feasting and jollity, because, like fools and brutish creatures, they regard only their present delight, and mind not how dearly they must pay for them.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,.... When his body is not; when it does not suit him to go thither in person, his mind is there, and his thoughts are employed on the useful subjects of the frailty and mortality of human nature, of death, a future judgment, and a world to come; which shows him to be a wise man, and concerned for the best things, even for his eternal happiness in another state;

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth; where jovial company is, merry songs are sung, and the cup or glass passes briskly round, and all is gay and brilliant: here the fool desires to be oftener than he is, and when he cannot; which shows the folly of his mind, what a vain taste he has, and how thoughtless he is of a future state, and of his eternal welfare.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
4. The heart of the wise] This follows as the natural sequel. Like goes to like. The impulse of the fool takes him to that which promises enjoyment; that of the wise leads him to that which has the promise of a higher wisdom and therefore of a more lasting gain.

Verse 4. - The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. This is the natural conclusion from what was said in vers. 2, 3. The man who recognizes the serious side of life, and knows where to learn lessons of high moral meaning, will be found conversant with scenes of sorrow and suffering, and reflecting upon them. But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. The fool, who thinks of nothing but present enjoyment, and how to make life pass pleasantly, turns away from mournful scenes, and goes only there where he may drown care and be thoughtless and merry. Ecclesiastes 7:4The joy of life must thus be not riot and tumult, but a joy tempered with seriousness: "Better is sorrow than laughter: for with a sad countenance it is well with the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth." Grief and sorrow, כּעס, whether for ourselves or occasioned by others, is better, viz., morally better, than extravagant merriment; the heart is with רע פּ (inf. as רע, Jeremiah 7:6; cf. פן ר, Genesis 40:7; Nehemiah 2:2), a sorrowful countenance, better than with laughter, which only masks the feeling of disquiet peculiar to man, Proverbs 14:13. Elsewhere לב ייטב equals "the heart is (may be) of good cheer," e.g., Ruth 3:7; Judges 19:6; here also joyful experience is meant, but well becoming man as a religious moral being. With a sad countenance it may be far better as regards the heart than with a merry countenance in boisterous company. Luther, in the main correct, after Jerome, who on his part follows Symmachus: "The heart is made better by sorrow." The well-being is here meant as the reflex of a moral: bene se habere.

Sorrow penetrates the heart, draws the thought upwards, purifies, transforms. Therefore is the heart of the wise in the house of sorrow; and, on the other hand, the heart of fools is in the house of joy, i.e., the impulse of their heart goes thither, there they feel themselves at home; a house of joy is one where there are continual feasts, or where there is at the time a revelling in joy. That Ecclesiastes 7:4 is divided not by Athnach, but by Zakef, has its reason in this, that of the words following אבל, none consists of three syllables; cf. on the contrary, Ecclesiastes 7:7, חכם. From this point forward the internal relation of the contents is broken up, according to which this series of sayings as a concluding section hangs together with that containing the observations going before in Ecclesiastes 6:1-12.

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