Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of the life of your vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all the days of your vanity: for that is your portion in this life, and in your labor which you take under the sun.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest; so he limits him to lawful delights; whereby it is evident that Solomon doth not speak this in the person of an epicure, as some understand it.
Of the life of thy vanity; of this vain and frail life; which expression he industriously useth to moderate men’s affections even towards lawful pleasures, and to mind them of their duty and interest in making sure of a better life, and more solid comforts.
Thy portion, allowed to thee by God, and the best part of worldly enjoyments, in this life; by which addition he is again admonishing him of seeking another portion in the future life. Proverbs 5:18; and this here may be put for all that pleasure and satisfaction which may be lawfully had in the enjoyment of all other relations and friends; which adds no small part to the comfort of a man's life;
all the days of the life of thy vanity; a wife is for life, and not after a while to be divorced; and to be lived joyfully with, not for a short time only, but all the days of life;
which he hath given thee under the sun; that is, either which wife God has given thee; for a wife is the gift of God, Genesis 3:12; and which is a gift under the sun; for above it, or in heaven, and in a future state, there is no marrying nor giving in marriage, Luke 20:35; or which days he hath given thee, so the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions. It is added,
all the days of thy vanity; which is repeated, that it might be observed that the life of man is but a vain life, a vapour that soon vanishes away, and man in it, at his best estate, is vanity; and that notwithstanding all the enjoyments of life in the most comfortable manner here directed to, yet still the doctrine he set out with must be remembered, that all is vanity, Ecclesiastes 1:2;
for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun; this is all the outward happiness of a man in this life, and all the use, profit, and advantage of his labours, to eat and drink cheerfully, to clothe decently, to debar himself of nothing of lawful pleasure, particularly to live joyfully with his wife, and enjoy his friends; this is the utmost of outward felicity he can partake of, and this he should not deny himself. Ben Melech restrains this portion to a wife, and joyful living with her; but it is best to include all that goes before.Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest] The absence of the article from the Hebrew noun for “woman” has been wrongly pressed by interpreters who see in the Debater the advocate of sensuality, as indicating indifference to the marriage union (“live joyfully with a woman whom thou lovest, whether wife or not”), and is simply the indefinite form natural to a general maxim. So we should say naturally “live with a wife whom you love.” The conclusion in which the writer for the present rests is that while sensual indulgence in excess leads to misery and shame, and brings men into contact with the most hateful form of womanhood (chs. Ecclesiastes 2:11, Ecclesiastes 7:26), there is a calm peacefulness in the life of a happy home, which, though it cannot remove the sense of the “vanity” and transitoriness of life, at least makes it endurable. If there is, as some have thought, an undertone of irony, it is one which springs from a sympathy with the joy as well as the sorrow of life, and not that of a morose cynicism, saying, “enjoy … if you can.”
all the days of thy vanity] The iteration emphasizes the wisdom of making the most of the few days of life. The thought is essentially the same as that expressed in the Carpe diem of Hor. Od. i. 11.
that is thy portion in this life] This, the calm regulated enjoyment of the wiser Epicureans.Verse 9. - Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest; literally, see life with a wife whom thou lovest. The article is omitted, as the maxim is to be taken generally. In correction of the outspoken condemnation of women in Ecclesiastes 7:26, Koheleth here recognizes the happiness of a home where is found a helpmate beloved and worthy of love (comp. Proverbs 5:18, 19; Proverbs 17:22, on which our passage seems to be founded; and Ecclus. 26:13-18). (For the expression, " see life," vide note on Ecclesiastes 2:1.) St. Jerome's comment is misleading, "Quacumque tibi placuerit feminarum ejus gaude complexu." Some critics translate ishshah here "woman." Thus Cox: "Enjoy thyself with any woman whom thou lovest;" but the best commentators agree that the married state is meant in the text, not mere sensual enjoyment. All the days of the life of thy vanity; i.e. throughout the time of thy quickly passing life. This is repeated after the next clause (though there omitted by the Septuagint and Syriac), in order to emphasize the transitoriness of the present and the consequent wisdom of enjoying it while it lasts. So Horace bids man "carpe diem" ('Carm.,' 1:11.8), "enjoy each atom of the day;'" and Martial sings ('Epigr,' 7:47. 11) -
"Vive velut rapto fugitivaque gaudia carpe."
"Live thou thy life as stolen, and enjoy
Thy quickly fading pleasures." Which he (God) hath given thee under the sun. The relative may refer to either the "wife" or" the days of life." The Septuagint and Vulgate take it as belonging to the latter, and this seems most suitable (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:17). That is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor, etc. Such moderate enjoyment is the recompense allowed by God for the toil which accompanies a properly spent life. Ecclesiastes 9:1, points to the asher following, in which it unfolds itself, so here to the ki following. We do not translate: This is the worst thing (Jerome: hoc est pessimum), which, after Joshua 14:15; Judges 6:15; Sol 1:8, would have required the words בכל הרע - the author does not designate the equality of fate as the greatest evil, but as an evil mixed with all earthly events. It is an evil in itself, as being a contradiction to the moral order of the world; and it is such also on account of its demoralizing influences. The author here repeats what he had already, Ecclesiastes 8:11, said in a more special reference, that because evil is not in this world visibly punished, men become confident and bold in sinning. Vegam (referable to the whole clause, at the beginning of which it is placed) stands beside zeh ra', connecting with that which is evil in itself its evil influences. מלא might be an adj., for this (only once, Jeremiah 6:11), like the verb, is connected with the accus., e.. Deuteronomy 33:23. But, since not a statement but a factum had to be uttered, it is finite, as at Ecclesiastes 8:11. Thus Jerome, after Symm.: sed et cor filiorum hominum repletur malitia et procacitate juxta cor eorum in vita sua. Keeping out of view the false sed, this translation corresponds to the accenting which gives the conjunctive Kadma to רע. But without doubt an independent substantival clause begins with והו: and madness is in their heart (vid., Ecclesiastes 1:17) their life long; for, without taking heed to God's will and to what is pleasing to God, or seeking after instruction, they think only of the satisfaction of their inclinations and lusts.
"And after that they go to the dead" - they who had so given themselves up to evil, and revelled in fleshly lusts with security, go the way of all flesh, as do the righteous, and the wise, and just, because they know that they go beyond all restraining bounds. Most modern interpreters (Hitz., Ew., etc.) render aharav, after Jeremiah 51:46, adverbially, with the suffix understood neut.: afterwards (Jerome, post haec). but at Ecclesiastes 3:22; Ecclesiastes 6:12; Ecclesiastes 7:14, the suffix refers to man: after him, him who liveth here equals after he has laid down his life. Why should it not be thus understood also here? It is true בּחיּ precedes it; but in the reverse say, sing. and plur. also interchange in Ecclesiastes 9:1; cf. Ecclesiastes 3:12. Rightly the Targ., as with Kleinert and others, we also explain: after their (his) lifetime. A man's life finally falls into the past, it lies behind him, and he goes forth to the dead; and along with self-consciousness, all the pleasures and joy of life at the same time come to an end.
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