Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:VI.
(1) Common among.—Rather, heavy upon. In this section it is remarked how even when riches remain with a man to the end of his life they may fail to bring him any real happiness.
A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.(2) Riches, wealth, and honour.—The three words are used together regarding Solomon (2Chronicles 1:11).
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.(3) That a man should be so occupied in the pursuit of riches as never to take any enjoyment from them is a common experience enough; but that the same man should have no sepulchre to preserve his name after him need not necessarily happen, so that one is tempted to think that the Preacher has some actual occurrence in his mind.
Untimely birth.—See references. We have just had another reminiscence of the Book of Job. (See Ecclesiastes 5:15.)
For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.(4) He.—Rather, it—viz., the untimely birth.
Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?(6) Though.—The conjunction here used is only found again in Esther 7:4.
For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?(8) That knoweth to walk.—Understands how to conduct himself. But why this should be limited to the poor is not obvious.
That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.(10) Of this difficult verse I prefer the translation, “What he is his name has been called long ago, and it is known that it is man; neither may he strive,” &c—i.e., the name given long ago to man (Genesis 2:7) indicates his weakness; neither can he contend with the Almighty. There may be a reference to Genesis 6:3, where a kindred word is used.
Mightier.—The word here used is found only in the Chaldee books of the Bible and in later Hebrew.
Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?(11) Things.—We might also translate “words.”
For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?(12) As a shadow.—Ecclesiastes 8:13; Job 14:2.