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Aorenrs GSR ore dal . / e 


Che Cambridge Bible for Sehools 
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Dondon: C. J. CLAY anp SONS, 

Glasgow: 263, ARGYLE STREET. 

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fet Work; MACMILLAN AND Ee: 

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pr. ECCLESIASTES ; eli! 
OR, Autierine 4 139 




Ea S 
D, B, 

BY THE LATE ae (Pees 




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THE General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for 
Schools thinks it right to’say that he does not hold 
himself responsible either for the interpretation of 
particular passages which the Editors of the several 
Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of 
doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New 
Testament more especially questions arise of the 
deepest theological import, on which the ablest and 
most conscientious interpreters have differed and 
always will differ. His aim has been in all such 
cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered 
exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that 
mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. 
He has contented himself chiefly with a careful 

revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with 



suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some 
question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, 
and the like. 

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, 
feeling it better that each Commentary should have 
its own individual character, and being convinced 
that freshness and variety of treatment are more 
than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in 

the Series. 



Amone the many enigmas of the Old Testament the 
book of Ecclesiastes is pre-eminently enigmatic. It comes 
before us as the sphinx of Hebrew literature, with its unsolved 
riddles of history and life. It has become almost a proverb 
that every interpreter of this book thinks that all previous 
interpreters have been wrong. Its very title has received 
some dozen discordant interpretations. The dates assigned 
to its authorship by competent experts range over very 
nearly a thousand years, from B.C. 990 to B.C. Io. Not 
less has been the divergence of opinion as to its structure 
and its aims. It has been regarded as a formal treatise, 
or as a collection of unconnected thoughts and maxims, 
like the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, or Pascal’s Pensées, 
or Hare’s Guesses at Truth; or as a dialogue, though without 
the names of the interlocutors, after the manner of Plato; 
or like the discussions between the Dotto and the /gnorante, 
that form a prominent feature in the teaching of the Italian 
Jesuits, and in which the writer holds free debate with his 
opponents’. Those who take the latter view are, unfortu- 
nately, divided among themselves as to which interlocutor 
-in the dialogue represents the views of the writer, and 

1 See Ginsburg’s exhaustive survey of the literature of Ecclesiastes in 
the Zntroduction to his Commentary. Herder may be named as the 

author of the Dialogue theory, but he has been followed by many 
others. , 


which those that he is seeking to refute’. As to the drift 
of the book, we meet with every conceivable variety of 
hypothesis more or less skilfully maintained. Men have 
seen in it the confessions of the penitent and converted 
Solomon’*, or a bitter cynical pasquinade on the career 
of Herod the Great*, or a Chesterfield manual of policy 
and politesse for those who seek their fortune in the palaces 
of kings*. It has been made to teach a cloistral asceti- 
cism*, or a healthy life of natural enjoyment’, or a license 
like that of a St Simonian “rehabilitation of the flesh’.” 
Those who looked on one side of the shield have found in 
it a direct and earnest afologia for the doctrine of the 
immortality of the soul®; those who approached it from 
the other were not less sure that it was a polemic protest 
against that doctrine as it was taught by Pharisees or 
Essenes®, The writer aimed at leading men to seek the 
things eternal, or sought to draw them away from the cloud- 
land of the unknown that men call eternity. Dogmatism 
and scepticism have alike claimed the author as their 
champion. It has been made to teach the mysteries of the 
Trinity and the Atonement”, or to rebuke the presumption 
that speculates on those mysteries. It has been identified 

1 One school, ¢.g., maintains that the seemingly Epicurean senti- 
ments, another that the gloomier views of life, are stated only to be 
rejected (Ginsburg, wt supra). ] 

2 This is, I need hardly say, the current traditional interpretation of 
Jewish and Patristic and early Protestant writers (Ginsburg, x? supra). 

3 Gratz, Comm. on Koheleth, pe uss 

* Jacobi, quoted by Ginsburg, p. 186. 

> The view was that of Jerome, Augustine, and the whole crowd of 
Patristic and medieval interpreters. 

§ Luther, Comm. on Eccles. ” Gritz, Commentary, p. 26. 

8 So most Patristic and early Protestant scholars; and Hengstenberg 
and Delitzsch among those of our own time. 

® So emphatically Gratz, p. 28. 

7° See the Commentaries of Jerome, Augustine, and others of the same 
school, as collected by Pineda. 


alike with the Creed of Athanasius and with that of the 

Think, too, for a moment of the varying aspects which 
it presents to us when we come in contact with it, not 
as handled by professed interpreters, but as cropping up 
here and there in the pages of history, or the lives of 
individual men. We think of Gelimer, the Vandal king’, 
led in chains in the triumph of Belisarius, and, as he 
walked on without a tear and without a sigh, finding a 
secret consolation in the oft-echoed burden of “ Vanitas 
vanitatum! omnia vanitas!” or of Jerome reading the 
book with his disciple Blesilla, that he might persuade her 
to renounce those vanities for the life of the convent at 
Bethlehem’; or of Thomas 4 Kempis taking its watchword 
as the text of the De /mitatione Christi; or of Laud writing 
to Strafford when the policy of “Thorough” had broken 
down, and counselling him to turn for consolation to its 
pages®*. We remember how Luther found in it a healthy 
Politica or Céconomica, the very mirror of magistracy and 
active life, as contrasted with that of the monks and friars 
who opposed him*; how Voltaire dedicated his paraphrase 
of it to Frederick II., as that of a book which was the king’s 
favourite study*®. It has, in the history of our own litera- 
ture, been versified by poets as widely contrasted as Quarles 
and Prior. It has furnished a name to the “ Vanity Fair” 
of Bunyan and of Thackeray; and the latter in a character- 
istic poem® has moralized his song on the theme of 
its Mataiotes Mataiotetén. Pascal found in it the echo 
of the restless scepticism which drove him to take refuge 

1 Gibbon, c. XLI. 2 Hieron. Pref. in Eccles. 
3 Mozley, Essays, 1. p. 60. 4 Luther, Pref. im Lecles. 
° Voltaire, @uvres, Vol. X. p. 258 (ed. 1819). 
° Thackeray, Ballads and Tales, 1869, p. 233. 


from the uncertainty that tormented him apart from God, in 
the belief that God had revealed Himself, and that the 
Church of Rome was the witness and depository of that 
revelation’. Renan, lastly, looks on it as the only charming 
work—“ Ze seul livre aimable” —that has ever been written 
by a Jew, and with his characteristic insight into the subtle 
variations of human nature, strives to represent to himself 
St Paul in his declining years—if only he had been of 
another race and of another temperament, ze. if he had 
been quite another Paul than we have known—as at last 
discovering, désillustonné of the “ sweet Galilean vision,” that 
he had wasted his life on a dream, and turning from all the 
Prophets to a book which till then he had scarcely read, 
even the book Ecclesiastes’. 

It will be seen from the Jn¢voduction to this volume that 
I am not satisfied to rest altogether in any of these conclu- 
sions. I can honestly say that I have worked through the 
arguments by which the writers have supported them and 
have not found them satisfy the laws of evidence or the 
conditions of historical probability. It lies in the nature of 
the case that, as I have studied the book, month after 
month, I have felt its strangely fascinating and, so to speak, 
zymotic power, that side-lights have fallen on it now from 
this quarter and now from that, that suggestive coincidences 
have shewed themselves between its teaching and that of 
other writings in Hebrew, or Greek, or later literature, 
that while much remained that, like parts of St Paul’s 
Epistles, was “hard to be understood” (2 Pet. iii. 16), 
much also seemed to become clear. The “maze” was not 
altogether “without a plan,” and there was, at least, a 
partial clue to the intricate windings of the labyrinth. It 

1 Pascal, Pensées, Vol. 1. p. 159, ed. Molines. 
* Renan, L’Antéchrist, p. tot. 


will be seen, in the course of the /wtroduction and the Notes 
that follow, that I have consulted most of the commentaries 
that were best worth consulting. It is not, I think, neces- 
sary to give a complete list of these or of other books 
which I have, in the course of my labours, laid under 
contribution, but I cannot withhold a special tribute of 
grateful admiration to the two works which have most helped 
me—the Commentary of Dr Ginsburg, the result of many 
years of labour, and characterized, as might be expected, by 
an exhaustive completeness; and that by Mr Tyler, which, 
though briefer, is singularly thoughtful and suggestive, and 
to which I am indeed indebted for the first impressions as 
to the date and character of the book, which have now 
ripened into convictions. 

Those convictions I now submit alike to students and 
to experts. They will clash, it may be, in some points with 
inherited and traditional opinions. I can but hope, how- 
ever, that those who are drawn to the study of the book 
may find in what I have written that which will help them 
to understand it better than they have done. They will 
find in it, if I mistake not, that it meets, and, we may 
believe, has been providentially designed to meet, the special 
tendencies of modern philosophical thought, and that the 
problems of life which it discusses are those with which our 
own daily experience brings us into contact. They will learn 
that the questions of our own time are those which vexed 
the minds of seekers and debaters in an age not unlike our 
own in its forms of culture, and while they recognize the 
binding force of its final solution of the problems, “Fear 
God and keep His commandments,” on those who have 
not seen, or have not accepted the light of a fuller revelation, 
they will rejoice in the brightness of that higher revelation 
of the mind of God of which the Christian Church is the 


inheritor and the witness. If they feel, as they will do, that 
there is hardly any book of the Old Testament which pre- 
sents so marked a contrast in its teaching to that of the 
Gospels or Epistles of the New Testament, they will yet 
acknowledge that it is not without a place in the Divine 
Economy of Revelation, and may become to those who use 
it rightly a waidaywyos eis Xpicrov—a “ schoolmaster leading 
them to Christ.” 

Oct. 237d, 1880. 



Ca iiere el NEED blemne tee canssxeatetie cass teveanennzers I5—I9g 
Chapter (I, Authorship and Date ........... ...... 19—34 
Chapter I7I, An Ideal Biography .................. 35—55 
Chapter IV. Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus ...... 56—66 
Chapter V, Ecclesiastes and the Wisdom of Solo- 
PANO oe here eA eee eee 67—75 

Chapter VI. Jewish interpreters of Ecclesiastes... 75—87 
Chapter VII. Ecclesiastes and its Patristic inter- 

Preters.csccmmeemeaoerceseNcraecess 88—97 
Chapter VIII, Analysis of Ecclesiastes ............ Q7—I01 
Jills Qisbrg e LOSioy Wek BSE ey eamebae cone acoocar saoconacose mide 103 —230 

t. Koheleth and Shakespeare ............sccsseee0008 23I—249 
2. Koheleth and Tennyson .......5. 2.1.2 -.ssccseseue 250—261 
3. A Persian Koheleth of the twelfth century ... 262—268 

Ls “UMS TBD < Sageceebeceococ.scca Mepleat oma ctieeoemistecmaeulesiionscre 269—271 

* * The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s 
Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordi- 
nary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the 
use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by 
Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Intro- 
duction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge 
University Press. 




1. THE name £ccleszastes, by which the book before us is 
commonly known, comes to us from the Greek version of the Old 
Testament, known as the Septuagint (the version of the Seventy 
who were believed to have been the translators), as the nearest 
equivalent they could find to the Hebrewtitle Koheleth. Jerome, 
the translator to whom we owe the Latin version known as the 
Vulgate, thought that he could not do better than retain the 
word, instead of attempting to translate it, and it has been 
adopted (in the title though not in the text) in the English and 
many other modern versions? 

We are thrown back therefore upon the Hebrew word and 
we have, in the first instance, to ask what it meant, and why it 
was chosen by the author. In this enquiry we are met (1) by 
the fact that the word occurs nowhere else in the whole range 
of Old Testament literature, and the natural inference is that it 
was coined because the writer wanted a word more significant 
and adapted to his aim than any with which his native speech 
supplied him; possibly, indeed, because he wanted a word corre- 
sponding to one in a foreign language that was thus significant. 

1 Luther gives Der Prediger Salomo, which the English version re- 
produces in its alternative title. 


Looking accordingly to the etymology of the Hebrew word we 
find that it is in form the feminine participle of an unused con- 
jugation of a verb Kéhal and as such would have a meaning 
connected with the root-idea of the verb, that of “gathering” or 
“collecting.” The verb is always used in its other conjuga- 
tions of gathering persons and not things (Exod. xxxv.1; Num. 
i. 18, viii. 9, xvi. 19, e¢ aZ.), and from it 1s formed the noun 
which in our English version appears as “congregation” (Lev. 
iv. 14; Num.x.7; Deut. xxiii.1 e¢ a/.), “assembly” (Num. xiv. 5; 
Deut. v. 22; Judges xx. 2 e¢ al.) or “company” (Jer. xxxi. 8; 
Ezek. xvi. 40, xvii. 17 ef aZ.), while in the LXX it appears almost 
uniformly as Ecclesta. It is accordingly an all but certain 
inference that the meaning of the new-coined word was either 
“one who calls an assembly” or, looking to the usual force of 
the unused conjugation from which it is formed}, “one who is 
a member of an assembly.” The choice of the feminine form 
may be connected with the thought that the writer wished to 
identify himself with Wisdom (a noun which was feminine in 
Hebrew as in other languages), who appears as teaching in the 
bold impersonation of Prov. i. 20, viii. I—4- On the other hand 
the noun is always treated throughout the book (with, possibly, 
the solitary exception of chap. vii. 27, but see note there) as 
masculine, partly, perhaps, because the writer identified himself 
with the man Solomon as well as with the abstract wisdom, 
partly, it may be also, because usage had, as in the case of 
Sophereth (Neh. vii. 57), Pochereth (Ezra ii. 57), Alemeth and 
Azmaveth (1 Chron. viii. 36) sanctioned the employment of 
such feminine forms as the names of men. 

It follows from this that the LXxX translators were at least 
not far wrong when they chose Lcclesiastes as the nearest 
equivalent for the Hebrew title of the book, Koheleth. Our 
word “Preacher,” however, which has been adopted from Luther, 
is altogether misleading. Taken in connexion with the associa- 

1 The participle Koheleth is formed as if from the al conjugation, 
which commonly denotes intransitive state or action. No example of 
the verb Kéhal is found in this form. The two forms most in use are 
the transitive, ‘‘to gather,” and the passive ‘‘ to be gathered.” 

tions which the very sound of Ecclesia in any of its compounds 
calls up, it suggests the idea of a teacher delivering a set 
discourse to\a congregation of worshippers. That is, to say the 
least, an idea which it is hard to reconcile with the structure and 
contents of Koheleth. It may be added that it is just as foreign 
to the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words. The verb Kiahal 
is never used in connexion with the idea of vocal utterance of any 
kind. The Lcclesiastes was not one who called the Ecclesia an 
assembly together, or addressed it in a tone of didactic authority, VY 
but much rather one who was an ordinary member of such an as- 
sembly (the political unit of every Greek State) and took part in its 
discussions. He is, as Aristotle says, not an avchon or a ruler 
(Pol. 111. 11), but a part of the great whole (Loid.). So the Eccle- 
stazusai of Aristophanes are women who meet in an assembly 
to debate, and the word is used in the same sense by Plato 
(Gorg. p. 452, E). In the Lxx, the word does not occur outside 
the book to which it serves as a title, and we have therefore no 
reason for thinking that they used it in any other than its 
ordinary sense. It follows from this that the more natural 
equivalent for it in English would be Dedater rather than 
Preacher, and looking to the fact that the ‘Hebrew writer ap- 
parently coined the word, it would be a natural inference that 
he did so, because he wanted a substantive which exactly 
expressed the idea of one who desired to present himself in 
that character and not as a teacher. He claimed only to be 
a member, one of many, of the great Ecclesia of those who 
think. If we could assume that he had any knowledge of 
Greek, it would be a legitimate inference that he formed the 
new word as an equivalent to the Ecclesiastes which had that 
significance. It is obvious that this is a meaning which fits in 
far more aptly with the nature of the book, its presentment of 
many views, more or less contrasted with each other, its ap- 
parent oscillation between the extremes of a desponding pes- 
simism and a tranquil Epicureanism. To use the title of a 
modern book with which most readers are familiar, the writer 
speaks as one who takes his part in a meeting of friends in 



The true meaning of the title having thus been established, 
both on philological grounds and as being in harmony with the 
character of the work itself, it will be sufficient to note briefly 
the other meanings which have been assigned to it by different 
scholars, (a) It cannot mean, as Grotius thought, one who was 
a ovvabpoatns (synathrotistes) a collector sententiarum or “com- 
piler,” one who does not maintain a theory or opinion of his own 
but brings together those of other thinkers ; for this, though 
it agrees fairly with the nature of the contents of the book, is 
incompatible with the fact that the Hebrew verb is used, without 
exception, in the sense of collecting, or calling together, persons 
and not things. (4) More, perhaps, is to be said for Ginsburg’s 
view (Koheleth, Introd. p. 2) that the title expresses the act of 
bringing together those that have been scattered, assembling 
men, as the historical Solomon assembled them, to meet as 
in the Divine presence (1 Kings viii. 1—s), calling back those 
that have wandered in the bye-ways of doubt, “a gatherer of. 
those far off to God.” The word thus taken expresses the 
thought which was uttered in the words of the true Son of David: 
“How often would I have gathered thy children together ” 
(Matt. xxiii. 34; Luke xiii, 34). It is, however, against this 
view, that the writer forms the word Koheleth as has been said 
above, from a conjugation not in use (Kad), which would 
naturally express being in a given state or position, and passes 
over the conjugation which was in use (H7pAz/) and expressed 
the transitive act of bringing into such a position or state. To 
that latter form belongs, in this case, the meaning of “gathering 
together” into an assembly. It can scarcely be questioned 
that the writer’s motive in not using it, when it was ready to 
his hand, was that he deliberately sought to avoid the sense 
of “gathering an assembly,” and coined a word, which, as the 
LXX translators rightly felt, conveyed the sense of being a 
member of such an assembly and taking part in its proceedings. 
(c) Jerome’s view, followed as we have seen by Luther, that the 
word describes a concionator or “preacher” is that also of the 
Midrash Rabba (a Jewish commentary of uncertain date, but 
not earlier than the sixth, nor later than the twelfth century, 


Steinschneider, Fewsh Literature, p. 53) which explains the 
name as given by Solomon, “because his discourses were de- 
livered before the congregation” (Ginsburg, p. 3, Wiinsche, 
Midr. Koh. p. 2), but this also, as shewn above, is both wrong 
etymologically and at variance with the character of the book. 
(Zz) The word cannot mean, as a few commentators have 
thought, “one who has been gathered,” as describing the state 
of the repentant and converted Solomon, for this would involve 
a grammatical solecism in the opposite direction to that already 
examined, and would assign a passive meaning to a form 
essentially active, though not factitive, in its force. (e) Other 
more far-fetched interpretations, resting on hazardous Arabic 
etymologies, as that the word meant “penitent” or “the old 
man,” or “the voice that cries,” may be dismissed, as not calling 
for any serious discussion. 


1. It lies on the surface that the writer of the book, who, 
though he does not introduce the name of Solomon, identifies 
himself (ch. i. 12—16) with the historical son of David, was 
either actually the king of Israel whose name was famous for 
“wisdom and largeness of heart” or that, for some reason or 
other, he adopted the dramatic personation of his character as 
a form of authorship. On the former hypothesis, the question 
of date is settled together with that of authorship, and the book 
takes its place almost among the earliest treasures of Hebrew 
literature, side by side with the Psalms that actually came from 
David’s pen and with the inner kernel of the Book of Proverbs. 
On the latter a wide region of conjecture lies opens to us, from 
any date subsequent to that of Solomon to the time when we first 
get distinct traces of the existence of the book, and the problem, 
in the absence of external evidence, will have to be decided on 



the ground of internal notes of time and place as seen in the 
language, thought, and structure of the book. A preliminary 
question meets us, however, which turns, not upon evidence 
either external or internal, but upon an @ Priori assumption. 
It has been urged that when a writer adopts a personated 
‘authorship he is guilty of a fraudulent imposture, that such an 
imposture is incompatible with any idea of inspiration, however 
loosely that inspiration may be defined, and that to assume a 
personated authorship is therefore to assert that the book has 
no right to the place it occupies in the Canon of the Old Testa- 
ment’, On this view Ecclesiastes, if not written by Solomon, 
takes its place on the same level as Ireland’s Vortigern, or 
Chatterton’s Rowdey, or Macpherson’s Ossian. It may fairly be 
said, however, of this view that it ignores the fact that a dramatic 
personation of character has, at all times, been looked upon as a 
legitimate form of authorship, not necessarily involving any anz- 
mus decipiend. With some writers of the highest genius, as ¢.¢., 
with Robert Browning and Tennyson, a monologue or soliloquy 
of this character has been a favourite form of composition. The 
speeches in Herodotus and Thucydides, the 4 fologzes written in 
the name of Socrates by Xenophon and Plato, the Dialogues of 
Plato throughout, are instances in which no one would dream 
of imputing fraud to the writers, though in all these cases we 
have, with scarcely the shadow of a doubt, the thoughts and 
words of the writers and not of the men whom they represent as 
speaking. The most decisive, and in that sense, crucial in- 
stance of such authorship is found, however, in the book which 
presents so striking a parallel to Ecclesiastes, the Apocryphal 
Wisdom of Solomon, There also, both in the title and the body 
of the book (Wisd. vii. 5, 7, ix. 7, 8) the writer identifies himself 
with the Son of David. It was quoted by early Greek and 
VY Latin fathers as by Solomon (Clem. Alex. Strom. VI. 11, 14, 153 
Tertull. Adv. Valent. c. 2; De Prescr. Heret. c. 7). From 

1 The argument may be found in most English Commentaries, but 
see especially an elaborate treatise on The Authorship of Ecclesiastes, 
pp. 1—12 (Macmillan and Co., 1880), 


the time of the Muratorian Fragment}, it has been commonly 
ascribed to Philo or some other writer of the Alexandrian 
school of Jewish thought No one now dreams of ascribing 
it to Solomon. No one has ever ventured to stigmatize it as 
a fraudulent imposture. It has been quoted reverentially even 
by Protestant writers, cited as Scripture by many of the Fathers, 
placed by the Church of Rome in the Canon of Scripture (Conc. 
Trident. Sep. Vv. de Can. Script.), and recognized by Church of 
England critics as entitled to a high place of honour among the 
books which they receive as deutero-canonical (Art. VI). In 
the face of these facts it can scarcely be said with any pro- 
bability that we are debarred from a free enquiry into the 
evidence of the authorship of Ecclesiastes, other than the state- 
ment of ch. i. 12, or that we ought to’ resist or suppress the 
conclusion to which the evidence may point, should it tend to a 
belief that Solomon was not the author. If dramatic persona- 
tion be, in all times and countries, a legitimate method of in- 
struction, thereis no @ przorz ground against the employment of 
that method by the manifold and “very varied wisdom” (the 
moAvrolkiAos copia of Eph. iii. 10) of the Eternal Spirit. It may 
be added that this is, at least, a natural interpretation of the 
structure of the Book of Job. It can hardly be supposed that 
that work is the report of an actual dialogue. 

Returning to the enquiry accordingly, we may begin by ad- 
mitting freely that the Solomonic authorship has in its favour 
the authority of both Jewish and Christian tradition. The 
Midrash Koheleth (= Commentary on Ecclesiastes, probably, as 
has been said above, between the sixth and twelfth centuries) 
represents the opinions of a large number of Rabbis, all of whom 

1 The words of the Fragment as they stand are “ Zt sapientia ab 
amicis in honorem ipsius scripta,” but it has been conjectured that this 
was a blundering translation of the Greek vd @iAwvos (‘‘by Philo”), 
which the writer mistook for U7d ¢idwy (‘‘by friends”), Tregelles, 
Canon Murator. p. 53. 

2 So Jerome (Pref. in lib. Salom.); Luther (Pref. to Wisd. Sol.) 
and many others (Grimm’s Wemsheit, Eznleit. p. 22). The present 
writer has shewn what appear to him strong reasons for ascribing it to 
Apollos (Zxpositor, vol. 1. ‘‘The Writings of Apollos”). 


base their interpretations on the assumption that Solomon was 
the writer. The Zargum or Paraphrase of the book (assigned 
by Ginsburg (Koheleth, p. 36) to the sixth century after Christ) 
follows in the same track. A line of Jewish Commentators 
from Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaki) in the eleventh century 
to Moses Mendelssohn in the eighteenth, and some yet later 
authors (Ginsburg, Jztroduction, pp. 38—80) wrote on the same 
assumption. The testimony of Patristic literature is as uni- 
form as that of Rabbinic. The book was paraphrased by Gre- 
gory Thaumaturgus (d. A.D. 270), commented on by Gregory of 
Nyssa (d. A.D. 396), referred to and in part explained by Augus- 
tine (d. A.D. 430), and accepted by their medizeval successors, 
Hugo of St Victor (d. A.D. 1140), Richard of St Victor (d. A.D. 
1173), Bonaventura (d. A.D. 1274), and Nicholas de Lyra (d. A.D. 
1340), whose testimony, as having been born a Jew, comes with 
a two-fold weight, as the work of the historic Solomon. 
Uniform, however, as this consensus is, amounting almost to 
the “semper, ubigue, et ab omnibus” which Vincent of Lerins 
made the test of Catholicity, it can scarcely be regarded as 
decisive. The faculty of historical criticism, one might almost 
say, of intellectual discernment of the meaning and drift of a 
book or of individual passages in it, is, with rare exceptions, 
such as were Origen, Eusebius, Jerome, Dionysius of Alexandria, 
and Theodore of Mopsuestia, wanting in the long succession of 
the Christian Fathers, and no one can read the Targum or the 
Midrash on Koheleth, or the comments of not a few of their 
successors, without feeling that he is in the company of those 
who have eyes and see not, and who read between the lines, as 
patristic interpreters also do, meanings which could, by no con- 
ceivable possibility, have been present to the thoughts of the 
writer. It is true alike of all of them that they lived at too remote 
a date from that of the book of which they write for their 
opinion to have any weight as evidence, and that they had no 
materials for forming that opinion other than those which are 
in our hands at the present day. 
The first voice that was heard to utter a conclusion adverse 
to this general consensus was, as in the case of so many other 


traditional beliefs, that of Luther. The same bold insight 
which led him to the conjecture, now accepted by many scholars 
as approximating to a certainty, that the Epistle to the Hebrews 
was the work not of St Paul but of Apollos (Alford, Comment- 
ary on N.T., Int. to Ep. to Hebrews) shewed itself also in regard 
to Ecclesiastes. In his short Commentary on that book, in- 
deed, written in A.D. 1532 (Of¢#. IV. p. 230, ed. 1582), he treats 
it throughout as by Solomon, but in his Zable Talk ( Tischreden, 
LIx. 6, ed. Leipzig, 1846) he speaks more freely. “Solomon did 
not write the book, ‘the Preacher,’ himself, but it was composed 
by Sirach in the time of the Maccabees... It is, as it were, a Tal- 
mud put together out of many books, probably from the Library - 
of Ptolemy Euergetes, king of Egypt.” He goes on to point to 
the Book of Proverbs as having been composed in the same 
way, the maxims which came from the king’s lips having been 
taken down and edited by others. It is probable, though we 
have no evidence of the fact, that Luther may have derived 
this opinion from some of the “ Humanists,” the more advanced 
scholars, of his time, or, possibly, from the Jewish students with 
whom his work as a translator of the Bible brought him into 

The line of free enquiry was followed up by Grotius (A.D. 
1644) who, in his Commentary on the Old Testament, after 
discussing the meaning of the title (see above, p. 18) and the 
aim and plan of the book, gives his judgment as to authorship : 
“With good reason was it” (in spite of apparent difficulties) 
“received into the Canon. And yet I, for my part, do not hold 
it to be the work of Solomon, but to have been written later 
under the name of that king as one who was moved with re- 
pentance. What is to me the ground of this conclusion is 
that there are many words in it which are not found elsewhere 
than in Daniel, Esdras (Ezra) and the Chaldzean paraphrasts” 
(Opp. 1. p. 258, ed. 1679). Elsewhere he assigns the authorship 
to Zerubbabel or one of his contemporaries. Luther and Grotius 
were, however, before their time, and although the suggestion 
of the latter received a favourable mention in a note of Gibbon’s 
(Decline and Fall; c. X11.), Protestant and Roman Catholic 


commentators went on following the received tradition till 
Déderlein in 1784, Jahn in 1793, J. E. C. Schmidt in 1794, 
revived the objections urged by Grotius and gave them currency 
among European scholars. From that time onward the stream 
of objections to the Solomonic authorship has flowed with an 
ever-increasing volume. Among them we find not only those 
who are conspicuous for a bold and destructive criticism but 
men whose position in German theology is that of orthodox 
Conservatism. Hengstenberg, Keil, Delitzsch, Vaihinger, are 
on this point at one with-Ewald and with Hitzig. In America 
Noyes and Stuart, in England Davidson and Ginsburg and 
Cox (Quest of the Chief Good, Introd.), have followed in the 
same track. 

The chief ground of agreement among writers representing 
such very different schools is mainly that given by Grotius. 
Delitzsch gives a list of about a hundred words or forms or 
meanings either peculiar to Ecclesiastes or found only in the 
post-exilian books of the Old Testament, or even not appearing 
till the time of the later Aramaic of the Mishna literature. It 
would be out of place to give this list fully here; some of them 
will be noticed as they occur. Delitzsch’s summing up of the 
results of the induction is that “If the Book of Koheleth be of 
old Solomonic origin, then there is no history of the Hebrew 
language” (Delitzsch, Zzzrod. p. 190). Ginsburg (p. 253) asserts, 
with equal emphasis, that “we could as easily believe that 
Chaucer is the author of Rasselas as that Solomon wrote 
Koheleth.” Ewald’s judgment is hardly less decisive when 
he says that “this work varies more widely than any other 
in the Old Testament from the old Hebrew speech, so that 
one might easily be tempted to believe that it was the latest 
of all the books now included in the Canon” (Poet. Biich. 
Iv. p. 178). Ewald himself does not adopt that conclusion, 
holding that in the gradual admixture of the older and the 
newer forms of speech, it might easily happen that an earlier 
writer might use more of the newer forms than a later one, but 
he places the date of the Book as certainly not before the 
last century of the Persian Monarchy. The same conclusion 


as to the date is maintained by Knobel, Davidson and other 
writers. It may be noted that if we accept that conclusion it 
forms, in part at least, an answer to the objection drawn from 
the idea that the personated authorship involves fraudulent 
imposture. A man who deliberately writes with the anzmus 
decipiendi, as in the cases of Chatterton and Ireland, aims at 
archaic forms, avoids modernisms, appears, as it were, in the full 
dress of a masquerade. The writer who simply adopts the per- 
sonation as a means of attracting, suggesting, teaching, more 
powerful than writing in his own name, is content to use the 
style of his time. He practically says to his readers, as in this 
case and in the Wisdom of Solomon, and perhaps also (though 
here there are more traces of fraudulent intention) in the Orphic 
poems of Aristobulus and the Second Book of Esdras, “I am 
not what I seem.” 

It must, however, be admitted that the conclusion thus strongly 
stated is not even now universally accepted. It is urged that 
Solomon’s foreign diplomacy or foreign marriages may have 
made him familiar with Aramaic forms and words which did 
not come into common use till later, that we’ know too little of 
colloquial Hebrew in the time of Solomon to form an estimate 
of the extent to which it varied from that of poetry like the 
Psaims, or formal maxims like the Proverbs, and that the 
number of Aramaisms has been exaggerated by prepossessions 
in favour of a foregone conclusion. And this position also has 
been taken by men of very different schools of thought. From 
Bishop Wordsworth (Commentary) and Dr Pusey and Mr Bullock 
(Speaker’s Commentary, Introd. to Eccles.) we might naturally 
look for a defence of the traditional belief. From the opposite 
extreme Renan (7st. des Langues Semitigues, p. 131) declares 
his belief (mainly resting, however, on the absence of the 
sacerdotal element) that “Job, the Song of Songs, and Kohe- 

1 A more elaborate discussion of this linguistic problem, in which 
the writer seeks to minimise the number and force of Delitzsch’s list, 
isfound in the anonymous treatise on Zhe Authorship of Ecclesiastes 
already referred to (pp. 26—39). See note p. 20. 


leth are all productions of the period of Solomon,” though 
he thinks it possible that they have been edited and partly 
re-written at a later date. In his treatise Le Livre de ¥ob, 
however (p. xxviii.), he modifies his opinion and speaks of 
the Book of Proverbs as compiled under the kings and of 
Ecclesiastes as still later. Dean Milman (Aust. of Fews, 
I. p. 325) writes that he is “well aware that the general voice 
of German criticism assigns a later date (than that of Solo- 
mon) to this book. But,” he adds, “I am not convinced by any 
arguments from internal evidence which I have read.” By 
Herzfeld’s objections, the force af which he admits, he is “shaken 
but not convinced.” - . : 

To the argument on purely linguistic grounds others have 
been added, of which it can scarcely be denied that while each 
of them taken by itself might admit of a more or less satisfactory 
answer, they have, taken together, a considerable cumulative 
force. Thus it has been urged (1) that the words “I the 
Preacher was king over Israel” (ch. i. 12) could not have been 
written by Solomon, who never ceased to be king; (2) that a 
book coming from the son of David was hardly likely to be 
characterised, as this is, by the omission of the name of Jehovah 
which is so prominent in the Psalms and Proverbs, or of all refer- 
ence to the history of Israel, or to the work which Solomon had 
done in the erection of the Temple as well as of his palaces and 
gardens ; (3) that, if written, as the traditional belief, for the most 
part, assumes, in the penitence of Solomon’s old age, we might 
have looked not merely for the sigh of disappointment uttered 
in the “vanity of vanities,” but for the confession of his own sins 
of apostasy and idolatry; (4) that the historical Solomon, the 
second king of his dynasty, the first who had begun his reign in 
the Holy City, was hardly likely to speak of “all that had been 
before him in Jerusalem ” (ch. i. 16); (5) that the language, as of 
an observer from without in which the writer speaks of the 
disorder and corrupt government that prevailed around him 
(ch, iv. 1, v. 8, viii. 9, x. 5), is not such as we should have ex- 
pected from one who, if such evils existed, was himself re- 
sponsible for them; (6) that the book presents many striking 


parallelisms with that of Malachi! which is confessedly later 
than the exile and written under the Persian monarchy, pro- 
bably circ. B.C. 390; (7) that it also contains, as will be shewn 
further on, allusive references to events in the history of Persia, 
or, as some have thought, to events in the history of Egypt 
under the Ptolemies?; (8) that, to anticipate what will be here- 
after shewn in detail, it presents at least the germs of the three 
tendencies which were developed in the later days of Judaism in 
the forms of Pharisaism, Sadducaism and the asceticism of the 
Essenes?; (9) that there are not a few passages which indicate 
the writer’s acquaintance with the philosophy and literature 
of Greece’. : 

More decisive, perhaps, in its bearing upon the question 
now before us is the manner in which the book was treated 
by the Jewish leaders of the Rabbinic schools in the century 
before the Christian era. Absolutely the first external evidence 
which we have of its existence is found in a Talmudic report of 
a discussion between the two schools of Hillel and of Shammai 
as to its admission into the Canon of the sacred books. It was 
debated under the singular form of the question whether the- 
Song of Songs and Koheleth polluted the hands, ze. whether 
they were so sacred that it was a sacrilege for common or un- 
clean hands to touch them. Some took one side, some another. 
As usual, the school of Shammai “loosed,” z.¢. pronounced 
against the authority of the book, and that of Hillel “bound ? 
by deciding in its favour. Different Rabbis held different 
opinions (Mishna, Vadayim, v. 3, Gemara, Megila 7, a), 
quoted in full by Ginsburg, p. 14). So again another Talmudic 
tract (Shabbath, quoted ut supra) reports that the “wise men 
wanted to declare Koheleth apocryphal, because its statements 
contradicted each other,” and in the Mdrash Koheleth, that 
they did so, because “they found in it sentiments that tended 
to infidelity” (Ginsburg, wz supra). They were at last led to 

1 See Notes on ch. v. I—6. 

2 See Notes on chs. iv. 13, v- 8, ix. 14, X. 7, 16, 17) 20. 

3 See Notes on chs. iii. 19—21, vii. 1—6, 16. ' 

4 See Notes on chs. i. 3—11, ii. 24, iii. 20, v. 18, vi. 6, xil. 11, 12. 


acquiesce in its admission by the fact that at least it began and 
ended with words that were in harmony with the Law (Mishna, 
Yadayim, v. 3, quoted by Ginsburg, p. 14). The memory of 
the discussion lingered on till the time of Jerome who reports 
(Comment. on Eccles. X11. 13) that “the Hebrews say that among 
the works of Solomon which have been rejected (aztiguata) 
and have not remained in the memory of men, this book 
also ought to be cancelled or treated as of no value (odiiter- 
andus) because it maintained that all the creatures of God are 
vain.” Without discussing now the view as to the teaching of 
Ecclesiastes thus expressed, it is scarcely conceivable that a 
book that had come down from a remote antiquity with the 
prestige of Solomonic authorship, and had all along been held 
in honour as the representative of his divinely inspired wisdom, 
could have been so spoken of. Such a discussion, in such a 
case, would have been an example of a bold ctiticism which has 
no parallel in the history of that period of Jewish thought. It is 
not without significance as bearing upon a question to be dis- 
cussed hereafter, that it was the narrow exclusive school of 
Shammai that raised the objection, that held, 2.é., that Koheleth 
.was not canonical, and therefore did not pollute the hands, while 
that of Hillel with its wider culture, and sympathy with Greek 
thought, was ready to admit its claim, and finally turned the 
balance of opinion in its favour (Gemara, Megila 7; a; Shabbath 
30, 6, quoted by Ginsburg, p. 15). 

An inference of a like kind may be drawn, if I mistake not, 
from the existence of the Apocryphal Book known as the Wis- 
dom of Solomon, written, beyond the shadow of a doubt, by an 
Alexandrian and probably not long before, or possibly after, the 
Christian era. If the book Ecclesiastes were, at the time when 

_ that author wrote, generally recognized as having the authority 
which attached to the name of Solomon, there would have been 
something like a bold irreverence in the act of writing a book 
which at least seemed to put itself in something like a position 
of rivalry, and in some places, to be a kind of corrective com- 
plement to its teaching. (Comp. Wisd. ii. iii. with Eccles. ii. 
18—26, iii. 13—22, and other passages in ch. v.) If, however, 


it were known to be a comparatively recent work, and that the 
schools of Jerusalem had been divided in opinion as to its recep- 
tion into the Canon, it is quite intelligible than an earnest and 
devout Jew, such as the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon mani- 
festly was, should have thought himself justified in following 
the example that had been set of a personated authorship, 
and have endeavoured to make his ideal Solomon a truer 
representative of a wisdom which was in harmony with the faith 
and hope of Israel. How far he succeeded in this aim is a question 
which will meet us in a later stage of our enquiry. (See ch. v.) 
On the whole, then, weighing both the facts themselves, and 
the authority of the names which are arranged on either side 
as to the conclusions to be drawn from them, the balance seems 
to incline somewhat decisively to another than Solomonic author- 
ship. Assuming this conclusion as established, we have to ask 
to what later period in Jewish history it is to be referred, and here 
the opinions of scholars divide themselves into three chief groups. 
I, There are those who, like Ewald, Ginsburg, and Heng- 
stenberg, fix its date during the period in which the Jews were 
subject to the rule of the Persian kings. They rest their 
belief on the fact that the book contains words that belong 
to that period, such as those for “orchards” (see Note on 
ch. ii. 5) and “province” (see Note on ch. ii. 8). In the 
use of the word “angel” apparently for “priest” (see Note 
on ch. v. 6), they find an indication that the writer was not 
far from being a contemporary of the prophet Malachi, who 
uses that word in the same sense (Mal. ii. 7). The tone 
of the book, in its questionings and perplexities, indicates, 
they think, a general spiritual condition of the people, like 
that which Malachi reproves. The “robbery” in “tithes and 
offerings” (Mal. iii. 8) agrees with the “vowing and not pay- 
ing” of ch. v. 5. The political situation described in chs. 
iv. I, vil. 7, villi, 2—4, the hierarchy of officials, the tyranny, 
corruption and extortion of the governors of provinces (see 
Note on ch. v. 8), the supreme authority of the great King 
practically issuing in ‘the despotism of a queen, a minister, or a 
slave, the revelry and luxury of the court (see Note on ch. x. 


16), are all painted with a vividness which implies experience 
of misgovernment such as that which meets us in Neh. v. 15, 
ix. 36, 37; Esth. i. 7, 8, iii. g (see Notes on ch. x. 4, 7, 16). 
More specific references have also been found to events in 
Persian history, to the influence of the eunuch Bagoas (see 
Note on ch. x. 5) under Artaxerxes Ochus, to the treatment 
of that king’s corpse in ch. vi. 3, to Artaxerxes Mnemon 
as one whose likeness we may recognize in the “old and 
foolish king” of ch. iv. 13. The facts thus stated cannot 
be regarded as otherwise than interesting and suggestive, but 
it is obvious that they are compatible with a later date, 
which presented the same political and social conditions, and 
at which the historical facts, assuming the reference to them 
to be sufficiently definite, would still be in the memories of men. 

II, And there is, it is believed, overwhelming evidence in 
favour of that later date. Mr Tyler, in the Introduction to his 
singularly interesting and able treatise on Ecclesiastes (1874), 
finds in the book traces not to be mistaken of the influence of 
the teaching both of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. Inthe view 
of life as presenting a recurrence of the same phenomena, the 
thing which is being as that which hath been (see Notes on chs. 
1. 5—7, II, ili. 14, 15), he finds the Stoic teaching of the cycles of 
events presented by history, such as that which we find in its 
later form in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (XI. 1). The 
thought of the nothingness of man’s life and strivings, his ambi- 
tions and his pleasures (chs. i. 2, 3, 17, ii. 2126, vi. 3,and passim), 
has its parallel in the apathy and contempt of the world which 
characterised the teaching of the Stoics when they taught that 
they were transient “as the flight of a swift-winged bird ;” and 
that all human things (ra dv@pémwa) were “as a vapour, and 
as nothingness” (Marc. Aur. MJedztt. VI. 1 5, X. 31). The Stoic 
destiny (ciwappévn), and the consequent calm acceptance of the 
inevitable, on which the Stoic prided himself, is echoed in the 
teaching of Koheleth as to the events that come to man by a 
power which his will cannot control, the “time and chance” that 
happeneth alike to all (chs. viii. 8, ix. 11). The stress laid on the 
common weaknesses of mankind as being of the nature of in- 


sanity, as in the frequently recurring combination of “madness 
and folly” (see Notes on chs, i. 17, ii. 12, vii. 25, x. 13), is altogether 
in harmony with the language of the Stoics (Diog. Laert. v1. 
124). Nor are the traces of the teaching of Epicurus less dis- 
tinctly visible. We know that teaching indeed mainly through 
later writers, and the “many books” of the great Master himself 
have perished altogether, but for that very reason we know per- 
haps better than if we had the latter only, what were the points 
of his system which most impressed themselves on the minds 
of his followers. Lucretius and Horace are for us the representa- 
tives of Epicurean thought as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius 
are of Stoic, and the parallelisms of language and idea which 
these writers present to the book now before us, may legitimately 
suggest the conclusion that they drank from a common source. 
We note accordingly that the Debater is acquainted with the 
physical science of Epicurus as represented by Lucretius. 
They speak in almost identical terms of the phenomena of the 
daily rising and setting of the sun, of the rivers flowing into the 
sea, and returning to their source (see Note oni. 5,6). Their 
language as to the dispersion at death of the compound ele- 
ments of man’s nature (see Notes on chs. iii. 19, 20, xii. 7); as 
to our ignorance of all that comes after death (see Note on 
ch. iii, 21); as to the progress of man in the arts of civilized 
life (see Note on ch. vii. 29); as to the nature of man 
standing, as far as we know, on the same level as that of 
beasts (see Note on ch. iii. 18, 19), presents an identity of 
tone, almost even of phrase. Still more in accord with popular 
Epicureanism as represented by Horace is the teaching of 
Koheleth as to the secret of enjoyment, consisting in the 
drapaéia (tranquillity) of a well regulated life (chs. ii. 24, ili. 22, 
v. 18, ix. 7), in the avoidance of passionate emotions and vain 
ambitions, and anxious cares, in learning to be content with a 
little, but to accept and use that little with a deliberate cheer- 
fulness (chs. v. II, 12, 19, vii. 14)... Even the pessimism of the 
Epicurean, from which he vainly seeks to find a refuge in this 
pococurante life, is echoed by the Debater. The lamentations 
over the frailty and shortness of man’s life (ch. vi. 4, 5, 12), over 


the disorders which prevail in nature and in society (chs. v. 8, 
vil. 7, Vili. 9, 14, ix. 16, x. 16—18), the ever-recurring burden of the 
“vanity of vanities” (chs. i. 2, 17, il. 26, iv. 16, Vili. 10, ix. 9, xi. 10, 
xii. 8), are all characteristic of the profounder tendencies of the 
same school, which culminated in the “tantd stat predita 
culpa” of Lucretius (II. 181). 

But it is not only in its affinity with the later philosophical 
systems of Greece that we find a proof of the later date of 
Ecclesiastes. It is throughout absolutely saturated with Greek 
thought and language. In the characteristic phrase of “under 
the sun” to express the totality of human things (see Notes on 
chs. i. 14, iv. 15, vi. I, ix. 3), of “seeing the sun” for living (see 
Notes on chs. vi. 5, xi. 7), in the reference to the current maxims 
of Greek thought, the Mndev ayay (“ Nothing in excess”) in ch. vii. 
16, in the stress on opportuneness (ka:pds) in ch. iii. 1—8, in the 
“many books” of ch. xii. 12, recalling the 300 volumes of the 
writings of Epicurus, and the 400 of his disciple Apollodorus, 
and the 200,000 of the library at Alexandria, in the characteristic, 
“Who knows ?” of the rising school of Scepticism in ch. iii. 21, 
in the cynical disparagement of women which made Euripides 
known as the misogynist, and cast its dark shadow over Greek 
social life (see Note on ch. vii. 28), in the allusive reference to a 
Greek proverb in the “bird in the air” that reports secrets (see 
Note on ch, x. 20), in the goads as representing the stimulating 
effect of all true teaching (see Note on ch. xii. 11), perhaps 
also in the knowledge shewn (see Note on ch. xii. 5) of the Greek 
pharmacopeia,—in all this evidence, in its cumulative force, 
we find what compels us to admit that the book could not well 
have been written before the schools of the Garden and the 
Porch had obtained a prominent position, z.e. not earlier than 
B.C. 250. With less confidence I bring before the reader the 
substance of Mr Tyler’s argument as to the probable limits of 
the period within which Ecclesiastes may have been written 
(Ecclesiastes, Introd. § 5). The earlier of these limits he fixes 
as above, at about B.C. 250, The later he finds in the coinci- 
dence between it and the book known as the Wisdom of the 
Son of Sirach, the Ecclesiasticus of the English Apocrypha. 


I present these, as he gives them, and leave the reader to judge 
of their evidential force}, 

Eccles. vii. 13—15 and Ecclus. xxxili. 13—15, 
eclestoviiuwete ? 9 * tc). Ecclus. xiii. 25, 26, 
Mecles army 8 eee Ecclus. xii. 13. 

KEecles. vii. 20o—22 ~~... Ecclus. xix. 16. 
Heeles.ixs12,.3) 2214) csccc Ecclus. xx. 7, xxi. 28, 26. 
Hiccleshxe8) = fae 9 hccncce Ecclus. xxvii. 26. 
Bcclesavite2 7, | 9 Ss Ecclus. xxxiii. 15, 
Dey ee Ecclus. xl. 11. 

Assuming these resemblances to imply derivation and that 
Ecclesiasticus was the later book of the two, and identifying 
the Euergetes of his grandson’s Preface with Ptolemy Physcon, 
Mr Tyler concludes that the book now before us could not well 
have been written before B.C. 200 and is inclined to name 
B.C. 180 as the most probable date. From this point of view 
the name given to the latter book in the earliest Latin Version, 
from which it passed into the Vulgate, is not altogether with- 
out significance. The term £cclesiasticus presupposes that the 
book was looked on as following in the wake of Eccleséastes, 
belonging to the same class of didactic literature. It is, of 
course, true that another account of the name was given by 
patristic writers (Rufinus, Comm. in Sym. c. 38) and has been 
adopted by many modern scholars (Westcott in Simth’s Dict. of 
Bible, Art. Ecclestasticus), as though it meant that the book was 
an “Ecclesiastical” one in the later sense of the word as con- 
trasted with “ canonical,” fit to be read in the Eccleséa though 
not of authority as a rule of faith. Looking, however, to the 
fact that there was a book already current in which the word 
Ecclesiastes was distinctly used in its pre-Christian sense, it is 
a more natural conclusion to infer that the old meaning was 
kept in view and that the book was therefore named with the 
significance now suggested. This is at all events in harmony 
with the use which the writer himself makes of the word Ecclesia, 
—in ch. xxxvili. 33, when he says of the unlearned workers of 
the world that they “shall not sit high in the congregation,” z.e, 

1 The subject is more fully discussed in ch. iv. 



in the ecclesia, or academy of sages, and falls in with Mr Tyler’s 
theory that his work was more or less influenced by Eccle- 
siastes. Another commentator (Hitzig) is led to the same con- 
clusion on different grounds. In the picture of the political 
evils of which the writer complains in ch. iv. 13, vii. 10, 26, or of 
a young and profligate one in ch. x. 16, he finds definite allu- 
sions to the history of Egypt under Ptolemy Philopator and 
Ptolemy Epiphanes respectively, and, although it may be ad- 
mitted that the references are not sufficiently definite to esta- 
blish the point, if taken by themselves, yet, as supervening on 
other evidence, it will be felt, I think, that they have a con- 
siderable corroborating force. 

As the result to which these lines of inference converge we 
have accordingly to think of Ecclesiastes as written somewhere 
between B.C. 240, the date of the death of Zeno, and B.C, 181, 
that of the death of Ptolemy Epiphanes. 

III. A recent critic (Gratz) has gone a step further, assigning 
the book to the reign of Herod the Great, and treats it as practi- 
cally in part a protest against the mal-administration of his govern- 
ment, and in part a polemic against the rising asceticism of the 
Essenes. I cannot say, however, that the arguments which he 
advances in support of this hypothesis seem to me sufficiently 
weighty to call in this place for examination in detail (some of 
them will find mention in the notes), and they are, to say the least, 
far outweighed by the evidence that has led Tyler and Hitzig, 
travelling on distinct lines of investigation, to their conclusion. 

It remains, with this date, thus fairly established, to enquire 
into the plan and purpose of the book, its relation to the en- 
vironment of the time, to earlier and to later teaching in the 
same region of thought. The peculiar character of the book, its 
manifest reproduction, even under the dramatic personation of 
its form, of a real personal experience, has led me to think that 
I can do this more effectively in the form of an ideal biography 
of the writer, based upon such daéa as the book itself presents, 
than by treating the subject in the more systematic way which 
would be natural in such a treatise as the present. To that 
biography I accordingly now invite the attention of the reader. 



It would be a comparatively easy task, of course, to write the 
life of the traditional author of Ecclesiastes. The reign of 
Solomon “in all his glory” and with all his wisdom has often 
furnished a subject both for the historian and the poet. There 
would be a special interest, if we could treat the book before 
us as leading us into the region that lies below the surface of 
history, and find in it an autobiographical fragment in which 
the royal writer laid before us his own experience of life and the 
conclusions to which he had been led through it. The Con- 
fessions of Solomon would have on that assumption a fascination 
not less powerful than those of Augustine or Rousseau. For 
the reasons which have been given in the preceding chapter, I 
cannot adopt that conclusion, and am compelled to-rest in the 
belief that Ecclesiastes was the work of an unknown writer 
about two hundred years before the Christian era. To.write his 
life under such conditions may seem a somewhat adventurous 
enterprise. One is open to the charge of evolving a biography 
out of one’s inner consciousness, of summoning a spectral form 
out of the cloudland of imagination. I have felt, however, 
looking to the special character of the book, that this would be 
a more Satisfactory way of stating the view that I have been led 
tc hold as to the occasion, plan, and purpose of the book than 
the more systematic dissertation with which the student is 
familiar in Commentaries and Introductions. ‘The book has so 
little of a formal plan, and is so much, in spite of the personated 
authorship, of the nature of an autobiographical confession, 
partly, it is clear, deliberate, partly, perhaps, to an extent of 
which the writer was scarcely conscious, betraying its true 
nature beneath the veil of the character he had assumed, that 
the task of portraying the lineaments that lie beneath the veil 
is comparatively easy. As with the Pensées of Pascal or of 



Joubert, or the Sonnets of Shakespeare, we feel that the very 
life of the man stands before us, as votivd...veluti descripta 
zavelld, in all its main characteristics. We divine the incidents 
of that life from the impress they have left upon his character, 
and from chance words in which more is meant than meets 
the ear. 

Koheleth (I shall use the name by anticipation, as better than 
the constant repetition of “the writer,” or “the subject of our 
memoir”) was born, according to the view stated above, some- 
where about B.C. 230. He was an only son, “one alone and 
not a second,” without a brother (ch. iv. 8). His father lived in 
Judzea1, but not in Jerusalem, and to find “the way to the city,” 
the way which none but the proverbial “fool” among grown-up 
men could miss, came before the child’s mind at an early age as 
the test of sagacity and courage (ch. x. 18), The boy’s educa- 
tion, however, was carried on in the synagogue school of the 
country town near which he lived, and was rudimentary enough 
in its character, stimulating a desire for knowledge which it 
could not satisfy. He learnt, as all children of Jewish parents 
learnt, the Skema or Creed of Israel, “ Hear, O Israel, the Lord 
thy God is one Lord” (Deut. vi. 4), and the sentences that were 
written on the Phylacteries which boys, when they reached the 
age of thirteen and became Children of the Law, wore on their 
forehead and their arms. He was taught many of the Proverbs 
which proclaimed that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of 
knowledge” (Prov. i. 7), and learnt to reverence Solomon as the 
ideal pattern of the wisdom and largeness of heart that grow out 
of a wide experience (1 Kings iv. 29). But it was a time of com- 
parative deadness in the life of Israel. The last of the prophets 
had spoken some two centuries before, and there were few who 
studied his writings or those of his predecessors. The great 
masters of Israel and teachers of the Law had not yet raised 
the fabric of tradition which was afterwards embodied in the 
Talmud, The expectations of the Anointed King were for the 
time dormant, and few were looking for “redemption in Jeru- 

1 So Ewald, Zutrod. to Ecclesiastes. 


salem” or for “the consolation of Israel.” Pharisees and 
Sadducees and Essenes, though the germs of their respective 
systems might be found in the thoughts of men, were not as yet 
stimulating the religious activity of the people by their rivalry 
as teachers. The heroic struggle of the Maccabees against the 
idolatry of Syria was as yet in the future, and the early history 
of the nation, the memories of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, 
did not kindle the patriotic enthusiasm which they came to 
kindle afterwards. There was a growing tendency to fall into 
the modes of thought and speech and life of the Greeks and 
Syrians with whom the sons of Abraham were brought into 
contact. Even the sacred name of Jahveh or Jehovah, so 
precious to their fathers, had dropped into the background, and 
men habitually spoke of “God,” or “the Creator,” after the 
manner of the Greeks (ch. xii. 1). It was a time, such as all 
nations and Churches have known, of conventionality and 
routine. The religion of the people, such as the boy saw it, 
was not such as to call out any very deep enthusiasm. The 
wealth of his parents had attracted a knot of so-called devout 
persons round them, and his mother had come under their 
influence, and in proportion as she did so, failed to gain any 
hold on her son’s heart, and left no memory of a true pattern of 
womanhood for him to reverence and love. Even she formed 
no exception in after years to the sweeping censure in which he 
declared that among all the women he had met he had never 
known one who satisfied his ideal of what a true woman 
should be (ch. vii. 28), The religionists who directed her con- 
science called each other by the name of “ Friend,” “Brother,” 
or “ Companion,” and claimed to be of those of whom Malachi 
had spoken, “who feared the Lord and spake often one to 
another” (Mal. iii. 16). Koheleth saw through their hypocrisy, 
watched them’ going to the house of God, 2.2. to temple or 
synagogue (Ps. lxxiv. 8), and heard their long and wordy and 
windy prayers—the very sacrifice of fools (ch. v. 1,2). He saw 
how they made vows in time of sickness or danger, and then, 
when the peril had passed away, came before the priest, on 
whom they looked as the messenger or angel of the Lord, with 


frivolous excuses for its non-fulfilment (ch. v. 4—6); how they 
told their dreams as though they were an apocalypse from 
heaven (ch. v. 7). It was necessary to find a phrase to dis- 
tinguish the true worshippers from these pretenders, and just 
as men, under the influence of the maxim that language was 
given to conceal our thoughts, came to speak of la vérité vrate 
as different from the ordinary vérité, so Koheleth could only 
express his scorn of the hypocrites by contrasting them, as 
with the emphasis of iteration, with “those who fear God, who 
indeed fear before him” (ch. viii. 12). 

As Koheleth grew to years of manhood, he was called to take 
his part in the labours of the cornfield and the vineyard. The 
wealth of his father did not lead him to bring up his son toa 
soft-handed leisure, for men had not then ceased to recognize 
the blessedness of toil, and it had become a proverb that a 
father who does not teach his sons to labour with their hands 
teaches them to be thieves. The teachers of Israel remembered 
that the “king himself was served by the field” (ch. v. 9) and 
“despise not husbandry” was one of the maxims of the wise. 
In after years, when pleasure had brought satiety and weariness, 
and dainties palled on the palate, Koheleth looked back regret- 
fully on that “sweet sleep” of the labour of earlier days, which 
. followed on the frugal, or even scanty, meal (ch. v. 12). 

As he grew up to manhood, however, there came a change. 
Like the younger son in the parable (Luke xv. 12) he desired to 
see the world that lay beyond the hills, beyond the waters, and 
asked for his portion of goods and went his way into a far 
country. Among the Jews, as among the Greeks, and partly, 
indeed, as a consequence of their intercourse with them, this 
had come to be regarded as one of the paths to wisdom and 
largeness of heart. So the Son of Sirach wrote a little later: 
“ A man that hath traveiled knoweth many things.” “He shall 
serve among great men, and appear before princes; he will 
travel through strange countries; for he hath tried the good 
and evil among men” (Ecclus. xxxiv. 9, xxxix. 4. Comp. 
Homer, Od. 1. 3) And if a Jew travelled anywhere at that 
period, it was almost a matter of course that he should direct 


his steps to Alexandria. Intercourse between the two nations of 
Egypt and Judah was, indeed, no new thing. Psammetichus, 
in the days of Manasseh, had invited Jews to settle in his 
kingdom?. There had been Israelites “beyond the rivers of 
Ethiopia” in the days of Josiah (Zeph. iii. 10). Alexander, 
in founding the new city which was to immortalize his name, 
had followed in the footsteps of Psammetichus. The first 
’ of the Ptolemies had brought over many thousands, and they 
occupied a distinct quarter of the city”, Philadelphus had, 
as the story ran, invited seventy-two of the elders of Israel 
to his palace that they might translate their Law as an 
addition to the treasures of his library, had received them 
with all honour, and invited them to discuss ethical ques- 
tions day by day with the philosophers about his court*, A 
wealthy Jew coming to such a city, not without introductions, 
was sure to be well received, and Koheleth sought and found 
admission to that life of courts, which the Son of Sirach pointed 
out as one of the paths of wisdom (Ecclus. xxxix. 4). It was 
a position not without its dangers. It tempted the Jew to 
efface his nationality and his creed, and his hopes in the far-off 
future. It tempted him also to exchange the purity to which he 
was pledged by the outward symbol of the covenant and by the 
teaching of his home life, for the license of the Greek. Koheleth 
for a time bowed his neck to the yoke of a despotic monarch, 
and learnt the suppleness of the slaves who dare not ask a king, 
What doest thou? (ch. viii. 4). He watched the way the court 
winds blew, and learnt to note the rise and fall of favourites 
and ministers (ch. x. 67). He saw or heard how under Ptolemy 
Philopator the reins of power had fallen into the hands of his 
mistress, Agathoclea, and her brother ; how the long minority 
of his son Epiphanes had been marked by the oppression of the 
poor and “violent perverting of judgment and justice” in the 
provinces (ch. v. 8), by all the evils which come on a land when 
its “king is a child” and its “princes revel in the morning” 
(ch, x. 16, 17)4, He had seen the pervading power of a system 

4 Letter of Pseudo-Aristeas. 2 Joseph. Af. XII. I. 
3 Letter of Pseudo-Aristeas. 4 justin, XXX. I. 


of police espionage, which carried what had been spoken in 
whispers to the ears of the ruler (ch. x. 20). A training such as 
this could scarcely fail to make the man who was subject to it 
something less of an Israelite—to turn his thoughts from con- 
templating the picture which the prophets had drawn of a true 
and righteous King, to the task of noting the humours of kings 
who were neither true nor righteous, and flattering them with 
an obsequious homage, in the belief that “ yielding” in such a 
case “pacifieth great offences” (ch. x. 4) 1. 

Temptations of another kind helped to complete the evil work. 
The wealth of Koheleth enabled him to surround himself with 
a certain magnificence, and he kept before himself the ideal of 
a glory like that of Solomon’s: the wine sparkled at his ban- 
quets, and singing men and singing women were hired to sing 
songs of revelry and love, and the Greek hetere, the “delights of 
the sons of men,” the demd-monde of Alexandria, surrounded 
him with their fascinations (ch. ii. 3—8). His life became one 
of reckless sensuality. Like the Son in the parable, to whom I 
have before compared him, he wasted his substance in riotous 
living, and devoured his wealth with harlots (Luke xv. 13, 30). 
The tendency of such a life is, as all experience shews, to the 
bitterness of a cynical satiety. Poets have painted the Nemesis 
which dogs the footsteps of the man who lives for pleasure. In 
the Jaques’, perhaps to some extent even in the Hamlet, of 
Shakespeare, ‘in the mental history, representing probably 
Shakespeare’s own experience, of his Sonnets, yet more in the 
Childe Harold of Byron, in the “Palace of Art” and the “Vision 
of Sin,” of Tennyson, we have types of the temper of meditative 
scorn and unsatisfied desire that uttered itself in the cry, “All is 
vanity and feeding upon wind” (ch. i. 14). 

But what is true more or less of all men except those who 

“Like a brute with lower pleasures, like a brute with lower pains,” 

? So Bunsen, God ix History, 1. p. 159. 


‘For thou thyself hast been a libertine, 
As sensual as the brutish sting itself.” 

As You Like It, u. 7. 


was true then, as it has been since, in its highest measure, of 
the Jew who abandons the faith of his fathers and drifts upon 
the shoreless sea of a life of license. Corruptio optimi pessima. 
He has inherited higher hopes and nobler memories than the 
men of most other nations, and when he falls he sinks even to 
a lower level than they sink. The “little grain of conscience” 
that yet remains “makes him sour,” and the features are stamp- 
ed with the sneer of the mocker, and he hates life, and yet, with 
the strange inconsistency of pessimists, shrinks from death. 
He denies, or at least questions, the possibility of knowing that 
there is a life beyond the limits of this life (ch. iii. 18—21), and 
yet draws back from the journey to the undiscovered country, 
and clings passionately (ch. xi. 7) to the life which he declares 
to be intolerable (ch. ii. 17, vi. 3, vii. 1). The literature of our 
own time presents two vivid pictures of the character and words 
of one who, being a Jew, has passed through this experience. 
In the life of the Raphael of Kingsley’s Hypatéa, yet more in 
that of Heinrich Heine at Paris, we have the counterpart of the 
life of Koheleth at Alexandria. 

Under the thinly veiled disguise of the person of the historic 
Solomon he afterwards retraced his own experience and the 
issue to which it had brought him. He had flattered himself 
that he was not making himself the slave of pleasure, but even 
in his wildest hours was gaining wider thoughts and enlarging 
his knowledge of good and evil, that even then his “wisdom 
remained with him” (ch. ‘ii. 3, 9). Like Goethe, he was philo- 
sophic, or, to speak more truly, artistic, in the midst of his 
sensuality, and watched the “madness and folly” of men, and 
yet more of women, with the eye of a connoisseur (ch. ii. 12). 
It was well for him, though it seemed evil, that he could not 
rest in the calmly balanced tranquillity of the supreme artist, 
which Goethe, and apparently Shakespeare, attained after the 
“Sturm und Drang” period of their life was over. The utter 
weariness and satiety, the mood of a d/asé pessimism, into 
which he fell was as the first stepping-stone to higher things. 

| The course of his life at Alexandria had been marked by two 

1 Comp. Stigand’s Life of Heine, 11. chap, 1. 


strong affections, one of which ended in the bitterness of despair, 
while the other, both at the time and in its memory afterwards, 
was as a hand stretched forth to snatch him as “a brand from 
the burning.” He had found a friend, one of his own faith, a 
true Israelite, who had kept himself even in Alexandria pure 
from ‘evil, and gave him kindly sympathy and faithful counsel, 
who realised all that he had read in the history of his own 
country of the friendship of David and Jonathan, or in that of 
Greece of Theseus and Peirithous, or Orestes and Pylades 
(chs. iv. 9, 10, vii. 28). He was to him what Pudens, the 
disciple of St Paul, was to Martial, touching the fibres of rever- 
ence and admiration where the very nerve of pudicity seemed 
dead and the conscience seared!, The memory of that friend- 
ship, perhaps the actual presence of the friend, saved Koheleth 
from the despair into which the other passion plunged him. 
For he had loved, in one instance at least, with a love strong as 
death, with a passion fiery and fond as that of Catullus for 
Lesbia; had idealized the object of his love, and had awakened, 
as from a dream, to find that she was false beyond the average 
falsehood of her class—that she was “more bitter than death,” 
her heart “as snares and nets,” her hands as “bands.” He 
shuddered at the thought of that passion, and gave thanks that 
he had escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; yet 
more, that the friend of whom he thought as one that “pleased 
God,” had not yielded to her temptation? (ch. vii. 26). We 

us “O quam pene tibi Stygias ego raptus ad undas, 

Elysize vidi nubila fusca plage ! 

Quamvis lassa, tuos querebant lumina vultus, 
Atque erat in gelido plurimus ore Pudens.” 

“Yea, all but snatched where flows the gloomy stream, 
I saw the clouds that wrap the Elysian plain. 
Still for thy face I yearned in wearied dream, 
And cold lips, Pudens, Pudens! cried in vain.” 

Mart. £pigr. vi. 58. 
°* Here, too, identity of experience produces almost identity of 
‘“‘Non jam illud quero, contra ut me diligat illa 
Aut quod non potis est, esse pudica velit; 
Ipse valere opto, et tetram hunc deponere morbum, 
O Di! reddite mi hoc pro pietate mea,” 


are reminded, as we look first on this picture and then on that, 
of the marvellous and mysterious sonnet (cxliv.) in which 
Shakespeare writes— 

**Two loves I have of comfort and despair 
Which, like two spirits, do suggest me still. 
The better angel is a man right fair, 

The worser spirit a woman coloured ill. 
To win me soon to hell, my female evil 
Tempteth my better angel from my side, 
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil, 
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.” 

, The life of Heine, to which I have already referred as 
strikingly resembling that of Koheleth, presents hardly less 
striking a parallel. He, too, had known one friend—“ the only 
man in whose society I never felt exnuz; on whose sweet, 
noble features I could see clearly the aspect of my own soull.” 
He, too, in what seems to have been the one real passion of 
his life, had found himself deceived and disappointed— 

**She broke her faith; she breke her troth; 
For this I feel forgiving; 
Or else she had, as wedded wife, 
Embittered love and living*.” 

The heart-wound thus inflicted was not easily healed. Art, 
culture, pleasure failed to soothe him. There fell on him the 
“blank misgivings” of which Wordsworth speaks, the profound 
sense of nothingness which John Stuart Mill describes so 
vividly in his Autobiography, what the Germans call the 
Weltschmerz, the burden of the universe, or, in Koheleth’s own 
phrase, the “world set in the heart” (ch. iii. 11); the sense of 

‘“‘T ask not this, that she may love me still, 
Or, task beyond her power, be chaste and true; 
I seek for health, to free myself from ill; 
For this, ye gods, I turn in prayer to you.” 

1 Stigand, Life of Heine, 1. p. 88. 2 [bid. 1. p. 47+ 


an infinity and an eternity which man strives in vain to measure 
or apprehend. 

It was in this frame of mind that Koheleth turned to the 
literature and philosophy of Greece. The library founded by 
the first Ptolemy, enlarged by Philadelphus, arranged and 
catalogued by Demetrius Phalereus, and thrown open as a free 
library to all students, claimed, we may well believe, not less 
than that of Thebes, which had the title graved upon its portals, 
to be the “Iarpetov Wuyijs, the “Hospital for the diseases of the 
Soul!” He had by this time gained sufficient knowledge of 
Greek to read at least the writings of the three previous 
centuries. They opened a new world of thought and language 
to him. He had grown weary of psalms and prophecies and 
chants, as men of our own time have grown weary of their 
Bible and Prayer-Book and Christian Year, and had not turned 
to them for comfort and counsel. His new reading brought 
him, at any rate, distraction. The lyric and dramatic poets he 
read indeed chiefly in the extracts which were quoted by 
lecturers, or the anthologies that were placed in the hands of: 
young students; but in these he found words that relieved and 
even interpreted his own feelings. He learnt from Sophocles 
and Theognis to look on “not being” as better than any form of 
life (ch. iv. 2, 3); with the misogynist Euripides, who echoed 
his own wailing scorn, to utter bitter sneers at women’s false-_ 
hood and frailty; with the pessimist Glycon to say of life that 
it was 

mavra yédws, Kal mavra Kovis kal mévta Td penser. 

“All is a jest, and all is dust, and all is nothingness.”’ 

From the earlier sages he learnt the maxims that had become 
the ornaments of school-boys’ themes, and yet were new to him 
—the doctrine of the Mndev dyay, “nothing in excess” (the 
“Surtout, point de zéle” of Talleyrand); the not being “over- 
much righteous or overmuch wicked” (ch. vii. 16). From 
Chilon he learnt to talk of the time, or xatpés, that was fixed for 
all things, of opportuneness, as almost the one ethical criterion 

1 Diodorus, I. 49. 


of human action (ch, iii, 1—11). He caught up the phrase 
“under the sun” as expressing the totality of human life (ch. i. 9, 
and thirty other passages). 

It was, however, to the philosophy of Greece, as represented 
by the leading sects of Stoics and Epicureans, that he turned 
with most eagerness. The former had in its teaching much 
that attracted him. That doctrine of recurring cycles of pheno- 
mena, not in the world of outward nature only, but of human 
life, history repeating itself, so that there is nothing new under 
the sun (ch. i. 9, 10), gave to him, as it did afterwards to 
Aurelius, a sense of order in the midst of seemingly endless 
changes and perturbations, and led him to look with the serene 
tranquillity of a zl admirari at the things that excited men’s 
ambition or roused them to indignation. If oppression and 
corruption had always been the accompaniments of kingly rule, 
such as the world had then known it, why should he wonder at 
the “violent perverting of justice and judgment in a province” 
under an Artaxerxes or a Ptolemy? (ch. v. 8). From the follow- 

ers of Zeno he learnt also to look on virtue and vice in their 
intellectual aspects. The common weaknesses and follies of 
mankind were to him, as to them, only so many different forms 
and degrees of absolute insanity (chs. i. 17, ii. 12, vii. 25, ix. 3). 
He studied “madness and folly” in that mental hospital as he 
would have studied the phenomena of fever or paralysis. The 

perfect ideal calm of the Stoic seemed a grand thing to aim at. / 

as much above the common life of men as light is above dark- 
ness (ch. ii. 13). The passion, or the fashion, of Stoicism, 
however, soon passed away. That iteration of events, the sun 
rising every day, the winds ever blowing, the rivers ever flowing, 
the endless repetition of the follies and vices of mankind (ch. i. 
5—8), became to him, as the current of the Thames did to the 
jaded pleasure-seeking duke who looked on it from his Richmond 
villa}, unspeakably wearisome. It seemed to mock him with 
the thought of monotony where he had hoped to find the 
pleasure of variety. It mocked him also with the thought of the 
permanence of nature, or even of the mass of human existence 

1 Cox’s Quest of the Chief Good, p. 81. 


considered as part of nature, and the fleeting nothingness of the 
individual life. The voice of the rivulet— 

‘‘Men may come and men may go, 
But I go on for ever” 

brought no pleasant music to his ear. And, to say the truth, 
the lives of the Stoics of Alexandria did not altogether commend 
their system to him. They talked much of the dignity of virtue, 
and drew fine pictures of it; but when he came to know them, 
they were as vain, irritable, egotistic, sometimes even as sordid 
and sensual, as the men whom they despised. Each man was, 
in his own eyes, and those of his little coterie, as a supreme 
sage and king, almost as a God. There was something in them 
like the mutual apotheosis of which Heine complained in the 
pantheistic followers of Fichte and of Schelling!, Against that 
system, which ended in making every man his own deity, there 
rose in the heart of the Israelite, who had not altogether 
forgotten the lessons of his earlier life, a protest which clothed 
itself in the words, “Fear thou God” (ch. viii. 12, 13). And so 
Koheleth turned from the Porch to the Garden. It was at least 
less pretentious, and did not mock him with its lofty ideal of an 
unattained and unattainable perfection, Even the physics and 
physiology of the school of Epicurus were not without their 
attractions for a mind eager in the pursuit of knowledge of all 
kinds, Their theory of the circulation of the elemental forces, 
the rivers flowing into the sea yet never filling it, but returning 
as through arteries and veins, filtered in their progress from the 
sea’s saltness, to the wells and fountains from which they had 
first sprung to light (ch. i. 5—7); their study of the growth of 
the human embryo, illustrated as it was by dissections in the 
Museum of Alexandria’, shewing how the “bones grow in the 
womb of her that is with child” (ch. xi. 5); their discoveries, not 
quite anticipating Harvey, yet on the same track, as to the 
action of the heart and the lungs, the lamp of life suspended by 

1 Stigand’s Life of Heine, Il. p. 162. 
? Dissection, and even vivisection, were first practised in the medical 
schools of Alexandria.—Quarterly Review, LXV1. p. 162, 


its silver chain, the pitcher drawing every moment fresh 
draughts from the fountain of the water of life (ch, xii. 6); all 
this came to him as a new interest, a new pleasure. It was as 
fascinating, that wonderland of science, as a new poem or a 
new mythos, or, in modern phrase, as a new novel or romance. 
And then its theory of life and death, did not that seem to point 
out to him the secret of a calm repose? The life of man was as 
the life of brutes (ch, iii. 19). His soul was compound, and so 
discerptible. All things had been formed out of the eternal 
atoms, and into the eternal atoms all things were evermore 
resolved. Admitting even, for the sake of hypothesis, that there 
was something more than the forms of matter which are palpable 
and visible in man’s nature, some vital force or ethereal spark, 
yet what had been brought together at birth was, at any rate, 
certain to be dissolved at death. Dust to dust, the ether which 
acted in man’s brain to the ether of the infinite azure, was the 
inevitable end (ch. iii. 21, but of xii. 7). Such a view of life 
served at least to strip death of the terror with which the 
devoidatpovia, the superstition, the A berg/aude, of men had clothed 
it. It did not leave him to dread the passage into the dim 
darkness of Sheol, the land of the shadow of death, as Hezekiah 
(Isa. xxxviii. 11, 18) and the Psalmist (Psa. vi. 5, xxx. 9, Ixxxviii. 
11) had dreaded it (ch. ix.10). It freed him from the terrors of 
the Gehenna of which his countrymen were beginning to talk, 
from the Tartarus and Phlegethon and Cocytus, the burning 
and the wailing rivers, in which the Greeks who were outside 
the philosophic schools still continued to believe. It left him 
free to make the most and the best of life. And then that “best 
of life” was at once a pleasant and an attainable ideal. It con- 
firmed the lessons of his own experience as to the vanity and 
hollowness of much in which most men seek the satisfaction of 
their desires. Violent emotions were followed by a reaction, the 
night’s revel by the morning headache; ambition and the favour 
of princes ended in disappointment. What the wise man should 
strive after was just the maximum of enjoyment, not over- 

1 T purposely refrain from including the other anatomical references 
which men have found in Kccles. xii. 4, 5. 


balanced by the amari aliguid that rises even medio de JSonte 
leporum—a life like that of the founder of the school—moderate 
and even abstemious, not disdaining the pleasures of any sense, 
yet carrying none to an excess. He had led a life of calm serene 
tranquillity, almost one of total abstinence and vegetarianism, 
and so the drapa€ia which had become identified with his name, 
had been protracted to extreme old age, The history of men’s 
lives had surely “nothing better” to show than this. This, at 
any rate, was good (ch. iii. 12, 14, 22, v. 18, viii. 15). In such 
a life there was nothing that the conscience condemned as evil. 
It admitted even of acts of kindness and benevolence, as bring- 
ing with them a moral satisfaction (chs. vii. 1,2, xi. 1, 2); and 
therefore a new source of enjoyment. Even the sages of Israel 
would have approved of such a life (Prov. v. 15—19, xxx. 7), 
though it might not satisfy the heroic aspirations and high-soar- 
ing dreams of its prophets. Enjoyment itself might be received 
as a gift from God (ch. ii. 26, v. 19). 

Into this new form of life accordingly Koheleth threw himself, 
and did not find it altogether a delusion. Inwardly it made him 
feel that life was, after all, worth living (ch. xi. 7). He began to 
find the pleasure of domg good, and visiting the fatherless and 
widow in their affliction. He learnt that it was better to go to the 
house of mourning than to the house of feasting. The heart of 
the wise was in that house and not in the house of mirth (ch. vii. 
2—4). Even the reputation of doing good was not to be despised, 
and the fragrance of a good name was better than the odorous 
spikenard or rose-essence of the king’s luxurious banquets (ch. 
vii. 1). And he gained, as men always do gain by any acts of 
kindness which are not altogether part of the ostentatious or 
self-calculating egotism of the Pharisee, something more than 

“Sunt lachrymae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.” 

*“We needs must weep for woe, and, being men, 
Man’s sorrows touch our hearts.” 

ViRG, 4x. 1. 462. 

* Diog. Laert. x. 1. p. 6. 


The flood-gates of sympathy were opened. His self-love was 
expanding almost unconsciously into benevolence, He began 
to feel that altruism and not egotism was the true law of huma- 
nity. He was in this point, partly, perhaps, because here too 
the oracle in his inmost heart once more spoke out the secret 
of the wisdom of Israel, “Fear thou God,” wiser than his teachers 
(ch. v. 7). 

A wealthy Jew with this turn for philosophizing was not likely 
to be overlooked by the lecturers and “t/érateurs of Alexandria. 
From the Library of that city Koheleth passed to the Museum}, 
and was elected, or appointed by royal favour, a member of the 
august body who dined in its large hall at the public expense, 
and held their philosophical discussions afterwards. It was a 
high honour for a foreigner, almost as much so as for an Eng- 
lishman to be elected to the Institute of France, or a French- 
man to a Fellowship of the Royal Society. He became first a 
listener and then a sharer in those discussions, an Ecclesiastes, 
a debater, and not a preacher, as we count preaching, in that 
Leclesta, Epicureans and Stoics, Platonists and Aristotelians met 
as in a Metaphysical Society, and discussed the nature of hap- 
piness and of the supreme good, of the constitution of life and 
of the soul’s immortality, of free will and destiny. The result of 
such a whirl of words and conflict of opinions was somewhat 
bewildering. He was almost driven back upon the formula of 
the scepticism of Pyrrho, “Who knows?” (ch. iii. 21). It was to 
him what a superficial study of Hobbes and Shaftesbury, of 
Voltaire and Rousseau, of Kant and Schelling, of Bentham and 
Mill, of Comte and Herbert Spencer, have been to English 
students of successive generations. One thing, at least, was 
clear. He saw that here also “the race was not to the swift, nor 
bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding” (ch. ix. 
11). The charlatan too often took precedence of the true man; 
silent and thoughtful wisdom was out-talked by an eloquent 

1 For the fullest account of the Alexandrian Museum accessible in 
English, see the article on Alexandria in Vol. Lxv1. of the Quarterly 
Review. It is, I believe, no secret, that it was written by the late 
Rev. William Sewell. 



declaimer (ch. ix. 15, 16). Here also, as in his life of revelry, 
there was much that could only be described as vanity and 
much “feeding upon wind.” 

So for a short time life passed on, looking brighter and more 
cheerful than it had done. There came before him the pros- 
pect, destined not to be realized, of the life of a happy home 
with wife and children round him (ch. ix. 7—9). But soon the 
evil day came in which there was no more any pleasure to be 
found (ch. xii. 1). The life of revelry and pleasure had sapped 
his strength, and the strain of study and the excitement of 
debate had made demands upon his vital powers which they 
could not meet, and there crept over him the slow decay of a 
premature old age, of the paralysis which, while it leaves con- 
sciousness clear and the brain free to think and muse over 
many things, attacks first one organ of sense or action and then 
another. The stars were darkened and the clouds of dark 
thoughts “returned after the rain” of idle tears, and “the keepers 
of the house trembled and the strong men bowed themselves.” 
Sight failed, and he no longer saw the goodly face of nature or 
the comeliness of man or woman, could no longer listen with 
delight to the voice of the “daughters of music” (ch. xii, 2—4). 
Even the palate lost its wonted sense of flavour, and the 
choicest dainties became distasteful. His voice passed into the 
feeble tones of age (ch. xii. 4). Sleep was more and more a 
stranger to his eyes, and his nights were passed, as it were, 
under the branches of the almond tree, the “early waking tree” 
that was the symbol of zwzsommnza (ch. xii. 5; Jer. i. II, 12). 
Remedies were applied by the king’s physicians, but even the 
“caper-berry,” the “sovereign’st thing on earth,” or in the 
Alexandrian pharmacopceia, against that form of paralysis, was 
powerless to revive his exhausted energies. The remainder of 
his life—and it lasted for some six or seven years; enough 
time to make him feel that “the days of darkness” were indeed 
“many” (ch, xii. 8)—was one long struggle with disease. In the 
language of the Greek writers with whom he had become 
familiar, it was but a long vocorpodpia, a Bios aBiwros (“a 
chronic illness,” a “life unliveable”). His state, to continue 


the parallel already more than once suggested, was like that 
which made the last eight years of Heine’s life a time of 
ceaseless suffering’, It added to the pain and trouble which 
disease brought with it that he had no son to minister to his 
wants or to inherit his estate. House and garden and lands, 
books and art-treasures, all that he had stored up, as for a 
palace of art and a lordly pleasure-house, would pass into the 
hands of a stranger (ch. iv. 8). It was a sore travail, harder 
than any pain of body, to think of that as the outcome of all his 
labours. It was in itself “vanity and an evil disease” (ch. vi. 
2). And beyond this there lay a further trouble, growing out of 
the survival, or revival, of his old feelings as an’ Israelite, 
which neither Stoic apathy nor Epicurean serenity, though 
they would have smiled at it as a superstition, helped him to 
overcome. How was he to be buried? (ch. vi. 3). It was, of 
course, out of the question that his corpse should be carried 
back to the land of his fathers and laid in their tomb in the 
valley of Jehoshaphat. The patriotic zeal which had been roused 
by the struggle of the Maccabees against Antiochus Epiphanes 
would not have allowed the body of one who was suspected of 
apostasy to desecrate the holy city. And even in Alexandria 
itself the more rigorous Jews had been alienated by his 
Hellenizing tendencies. He could not expect that their mourners 
would attend at his funeral, crying, after their manner, Ah, 
brother! or Ah, sister! Ah, Lord! and Ah, his glory! (Jer. 
xxii. 18). He had before him the prospect of being buried as 
with the burial of a dog. 

And yet the days were not altogether evil. The friend whom 
he had found faithful, the “one among a thousand,” did not 
desert him, and came and ministered to his weakness, to raise 
up, as far as he had the power, the brother who had fallen (ch. 
iv. 10). He could no longer fill his belly with the husks that 

1 Heine’s description of his own state, in its piteous frankness, can 
scarcely fail to remind us of the contrast between the pictures drawn by 
Koheleth in ch. ii. and ch. xii. ‘I am no longer a Hellene of jovial 
life and somewhat. portly person, who laughed cheerily down upon 
dismal Nazarenes. I am now only a poor death-sick Jew, an emaciated 
image of trouble, an unhappy man.” Stigand’s Life of Heine, U1. p. 386. 



the swine did eat. Sensual pleasures and the fragments of a 
sensuous philosophy, the lower and the higher forms of popular 
Epicureanism, were alike unsatisfying, and the voice within 
once more spoke in clearer notes than ever, Fear thou God. 
With him, as with Heine (to refer once more to the Koheleth 
of our time), there was a religious reaction, a belief in a personal 
God, as that to which men must come when they are “sick to 
death,” a belief not unreal even though the habitual cynicism 
seemed to mock it in the very act of utterance! It was not, 
indeed, like the cry of the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my 
father ;” for that thought of the Divine Fatherhood was as yet 
but dimly revealed to him; but the old familiar thought that 
God was his Creator, the Giver of life and breath and all things 
(ch. v. 19, xii. 1), returned in its fulness and power, and in his 
own experience he was finding out that his pleasant vices had 
been made whips to scourge him, and so he learnt that, though 
he could not fathom the mystery of His judgments, the Creator 
was also the Judge (ch. xi. 9). It was in this stage of mental 
and spiritual growth, of strength growing out of weakness, that 
he was led to become a writer, and to put on record the results 
of his experience. He still thought in the language of his 
fatherland, and therefore in that language he wrote. 

A book written under such conditions was not likely to 

1 It may be well once more to give Heine’s own words. He de- 
clines, in his will, the services of any minister of religion, and adds, 
“This desire springs from no fit of a freethinker. For four years I 
have renounced all philosophic pride, and have returned back to re- 
ligious ideas and feelings. I die in the belief of one only God, the 
Eternal Creator, whose pity I implore for my immortal soul” (Stigand’s 
Life of Heine, U1. p. 398). Still more striking is the following extract 
from a letter to his friend Dr Kolb which is quoted in the Glode of 
Oct. 11, 1880, from a German newspaper : ‘“ My sufferings, my physical 
pains are terrible, and moral ones are not wanting. When I think 
upon my own condition, a genuine horror falls over me and I am 
compelled to fold my hands in submission to God’s will (Gott-ergeben) 
because nothing else is left for me.” In somewhat of the same tone he 
says somewhere (I have forgotten where), ‘‘ God will pardon me; ces¢ 
son métier.’ Elsewhere he writes, in spite of his sufferings, with the 
lingering love of life which we note in Koheleth (ch. ix. 4—9; xi. 7), 
‘‘OGod, how ugly bitter it is to die! O God, how sweetly and snugly one 
can live in this snug, sweet nest of earth” (Stigand’s Zi, 11. p. 421). 


present the characteristics of a systematic treatise. It was, in 
part, like Pascal’s Pemsées, in part, like Heine’s latest poems— 
the record of a conflict not yet over, though it was drawing near 
its close. The “Two Voices” of our own poet were there; or 
rather, the three voices of the pessimism of the satiated sen- 
sualist, and the wisdom, such as it was, of the Epicurean 
thinker, and the growing faith in God, were heard in strange 
alternation; now one, now another uttering itself, as in an 
inharmonious discord, to the very close of the book. Now his 
intellect questioned, now his faith affirmed, as Heine did, the 
continued existence of the spirit of man after death (chs. iii. 19, 
xii. 7). As conscious of that conflict, and feeling the vanity of 
fame, as Keats did, when he desired that his only epitaph 
might be, “ Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” he 
shrank from writing in his own person, and chose as the title of 
his book that which at once expressed its character and em- 
bodied the distinction which at one time he had prized so 
highly. As men have written under the names of Philalethes or 
Phileleutheros, as a great thinker of the last century, Abraham 
Tucker, wrote his Light of Nature Pursued, under the pseu- 
donym of Edward Search, so he came before his readers as 
Koheleth, Ecclesiastes, the Debater. He was free in that 
character to utter varying and conflicting views. It is true he 
went a step further, and also came before them, as though the 
book recorded the experience of one greater than himself as the 
seeker after, and possessor of, wisdom. The son of David, king 
over Israel in Jerusalem, was speaking as through his lips (ch. i. 1, 
12, 16). It was a trick, or rather a fashion, of authorship, such 
as was afterwards adopted in the W7sdom of Solomon by a man 
of purer life and higher aim, though less real inspiration, but 
not a fraud, and the fashion was a dominant one and deceived 
noone. The students of philosophy habitually conveyed their 
views in the shape of treatises by Aristotle, or letters or dia- 
logues by Plato. There was scarcely a medical writer of 
eminence at Alexandria who had not published his views as to 
the treatment of disease under the name of Hippocrates’. Plato 

1 Sprengel, Hist. de Médecine, 1. p. 430. 


and Xenophon had each written an Afologza which was repre- 
sented as coming from the lips of Socrates. The latter had 
also composed an ideal biography of Cyrus. And in this case 
Koheleth might well think that the analogy between his own 
experience and that of the sage of Israel was more than enough 
to justify the personation as a form of quasi-dramatic art. 
Both had gone through a like quest after the chief good, seek- 
ing first wisdom and then pleasure, and then the magnificence 
and the culture that comes from art, and then wisdom again. 
Both had found that all this was, in the end, unsatisfying. 
Might he not legitimately hold up the one experience embodied 
in the form of the other, and put on for the nonce the robes of 
Solomon, alike in his ‘glorious apparel, and in the sackcloth and 
ashes, in which, as the legend ran, he had ended his days as a 
penitent? In his early youth Koheleth had gazed on the ideal 
picture of Solomon as a pattern which he strove to reproduce. 
The surroundings of his manhood, the palaces, and gardens, 
and groves, and museums, and libraries of the Ptolemies 
enabled him to picture what the monarch’s kingly state had 
been. In his picture of the close of the life, as was natural, the 
subjective element predominated over the objective, and we 
have before us Koheleth himself, and not the Solomon of 

The analysis of the book itself will, it is believed, confirm the 
theory now suggested. It will be enough, for the present, to 
note that from first to last it was, on the view now taken, 
intensely personal, furnishing nearly all the materials for a 
memoir; that its main drift and purpose, broken, indeed, by 
many side eddies, now of cynical bitterness, now of worldly 
wisdom, now of keen observation, was to warn those who were 
yet in quest of the chief good against the shoals and rocks and 
quicksands on which he had well-nigh made utter shipwreck of 
his faith; that his desire was to deepen the fear of God in 
which he had at last found the anchor of his soul; that that 
fear had become more and more a reality as the shadows closed 
around him; that it had deepened into the conviction that the 
Creator was also the Judge, and that the Judge of all the earth, 


sooner or later, would assuredly do right. The close of the book 
all but coincided with the close of life. He waited, if not with 
the full assurance of faith, yet with a calm trustfulness, for the 
hour when the few mourners should “go about the street,” and he 
should go to his eternal home (ch. xii. 6); when “the dust should 
return to the earth as it was, and the spirit should return to 
God who gave it” (ch. xii. 7). “Return to God”—that was his 
last word on the great problem, and that was at once his dread 
and his consolation. 

So the life and the book ended; and it will remain for a 
distinct enquiry to trace the after history of the latter. Not 
without reason was it brought by the grandson of Sirach, or 
some other seeker after truth, from Alexandria to Palestine, and 
translated by him into Greek'. Not without reason did he, or 
some later Rabbi, add the commendatory verses with which the 
book now closes, truly describing its effect as that of the goad 
that spurs on thought, of the nails that, once driven in, cannot 
easily be plucked out (ch. xii. 11). Not without reason did the 
wiser thinkers of the school of Hillel resist the narrow scruples 
of those of the school of Shammai when the question was de- 
bated whether the new unknown book should be admitted to a 
place side by side with all that was noblest and most precious 
in their literature?, and, in spite of seeming contradictions, and 
Epicurean or heretical tendencies, recognize that in this record 
of the struggle, the fall, the recovery of a child of Israel, a child 
of God, there was the narrative of a Divine education told with 
a genius and power in which they were well content, as all true 
and reverential thinkers have been content since, to acknow- 
ledge a Divine inspiration. 

1 See next Chapter. 
2 See pp. 27, 28. 




Some evidence tending to shew that the influence of the 
former of these books is traceable in the latter has already been 
laid before the reader in ch. ii. as fixing a date below which we 

‘cannot reasonably carry the date of its composition. The rela- 
tion between the two books requires, however, a closer scrutiny 
and leads to results of considerable interest. It will be seen 
that, making allowance for the fact that the one writer is marked 
by an almost exceptional originality and that the other is avow- 
edly a compiler, there is throughout a striking series of parallel- 
isms, over and above those already noted, such as make the 
conclusion that the one had the work of the other in his hands 
all but absolutely certain. The evidence of this statement is 
necessarily inductive in its character, and the following instances 
are submitted as an adequate, though not an exhaustive, basis 
for the induction. 

Ecclus. i. 13. Whoso feareth Eccles. viii. 13. But it shall 
the Lord it shall go well with not be well with the wicked, nei- 
him. ther shall he prolong his days, 

which are as a shadow; because 
he feareth not before God. 

Ecclus. iv. 6, vii. 30, xxiv. 8, Eccles, xii. 1. Remember now 
xxxix. §. “‘He that made” or thy Creator in the days of thy 
the “Creator,” as a name for youth, while the evil days come 
God. not, nor the years draw nigh, 

when thou shalt say, I have no 
pleasure in them. 

Ecclus, iv. 20. Observe the Eccles. iii, 1—8. To every 
opportunity (Kacpds), thing there is a season, and a time 

to every purpose under the heaven; 
a time to be born, and a time to 
die; a time to plant, and a time 
to pluck up that which is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal A 


Ecclus. vi. 6. Have but one 
counseller of a thousand. 

Ecclus. viii. 8. Of them thou 
shalt learn how to serve great men 
with ease. 

Ecclus, vi. 14. A faithful friend 
is a strong defence, and he that 
hath found such an one hath found 
a treasure. 

a time to break down, and a time 
to build up; a time to weep, and 
a time to laugh; a time to mourn, 
and a time to dance; a time to 
cast away stones, and a time to 
gather stones together; a time to 
embrace, and a time to refrain 
from embracing; a time to get, 
and a time to lose; a time to keep, 
and a time to cast away; a time 
to rend, and a time to sew; a time 
to keep silence, and a time to 
speak; a time to love, and a time 
to hate; atime of war, and atime 
of peace. 

Eccles. vii. 28. Which yet my 
soul seeketh, but I find not: one 
man among a thousand have I 
found; but a woman among all 
those have I not found. 

Eccles. vili. 2-4, x.20. I counsel 
thee to keep the king’s command- 
ment, and that in regard of the 
oath of God. Be not hasty to go 
out of his sight: stand not in an 
evil thing; for he doeth whatso- 
ever pleaseth him....Where the 
word of a king is, there is power: 
and who may say unto him, What 
doest thou?...Curse not the king, 
no, not in thy thought; and curse 
not the rich im thy bed-chamber: 
for a bird of the air shall carry the 
voice, and that which hath wings 
shall tell the matter. 

Eccles. iv. 9. Two are better 
than one; because they have a 
good reward for their labour. 


Ecclus. ix. 3. Meet not with a 
harlot, lest thou be taken with her 

Ecclus. x. 3. An unwise (d- 
maidevros) king destroyeth his 

Ecclus. x. 9. 
and ashes proud? 

Why is earth 

Ecclus. x. 23. It is not meet 
to despise the poor man that hath 

Ecclus. xi. 5. Many kings have 
sat down upon the ground; and 
one that was never thought of hath 
worn the crown. 

Ecclus. xi. 17. The gift of the 
Lord remaineth with the godly, 
and his favour bringeth prosperity 
for ever. 

Ecclus. xi. 18, 19. There is 
that waxeth rich by his wariness 
and pinching, and this is the por- 
tion of his reward: whereas he 
saith, I have found rest, and now 
will eat continually of my goods ; 
and yet he knoweth not what time 
shall come upon him, and that he 

Eccles. vii. 26. And I find 
more bitter than death the woman, 
whose heart is snares and nets, 
and her hands as bands: whoso 
pleaseth God shall escape from 
her; but the sinner shall be taken 
by her. 

Eccles. iv. 13. Better is a poor 
and a wise child than an old and 
foolish king, who will no more be 

Eccles. x. 16. Woe to thee, O 
land, when thy king is a child, 
and thy princes eat in the morning. 

Eccles. xii. 7. Then shall the 
dust return to the earth as it was: 
and the spirit shall return unto 
God who gave it. 

Eccles. ix. 15. Now there was 
found in it a poor wise man, and 
he by his wisdom delivered the 
city ; yet no man remembered that 
same poor man. 

Eccles. x. 7. I have seen ser- 
vants upon horses, and princes 
walking as servants upon the earth. 

Eccles. iii. 13. And also that 
every man should eat and drink, 
and enjoy the good of all his 
labour, it is the gift of God. 

Eccles, ii. 18, 19, v. 13, vi. 2. 
Yea, I hated all my labour which 
I had taken under the sun: be- 
cause I should leave it unto the 
man that shall be after me. And 
who knoweth whether he shall be 
a wise man or a fool? yet shall 
he have rule over all my labour 


must leave those things to others, 
and die. 

Ecclus. xii. 13. Who will pity 
a charmer that is bitten with a 

Ecclus. xiii. 23. When a rich 
man speaketh, every man holdeth 
his tongue. 

Ecclus. xiii. 26. The finding 
out of parables is a wearisome la- 

bour of the mind. 
Ecclus. xiv. 12.- Remember 

that death will not be long in 
coming, and that the covenant of 
the grave (Hades) is not shewn 
to thee. 

wherein I have laboured, and 
wherein I have shewed myself 
wise under the sun. This is also 
vanity. ... There is a sore evil which 
I have seen under the sun, namely, 
riches kept for the owners thereof 
to their hurt....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. 

Eccles. x. 8, 11. Whoso break- 
eth an hedge, a serpent shall bite 
him....Surely the serpent will bite 
without enchantment; and a bab- 
bler is no better. 

Eccles. ix. 11, 16. I returned, 
and saw under the sun, that the 
race is not to the swift, nor the 
battle to the strong, neither yet 
bread to the wise, nor yet riches | 
to men of understanding, nor yet 
favour to men of skill; but time 
and chance happeneth to them all. 
...Then said I, Wisdom is better 
than strength; nevertheless the 
poor man’s wisdom is despised, 
and his words are not heard. 

Eccles xii. 12. Of making many 
books there is no end; and much 
study is a weariness of the flesh. 

Eccles. viii. 8. There is no 
man that hath power over the 
spirit to retain the spirit; neither 
hath he power in the day of death ; 
and there is no discharge in that 


Ecclus. xv. 5. In the midst of 
the congregation (éxkAyola) shall 
wisdom open his mouth. 

Ecclus. xvi. 4. By one that 
hath understanding shall the city 
be replenished. 

Ecclus. xvii. 28. Thanksgiving 
perisheth from the dead as from 
one that is not. 

Ecclus. xvii. 30. All things can- 
not be in men, because the son of 
man is not immortal. 

Ecclus. xviii. 6. As for the 
wondrous works of the Lord, there 
may be nothing taken from them, 
neither may anything be put unto 
them, neither can the ground of 
them be found out. 

Ecclus. xix. 16. Who is he 
that hath not offended with his 
tongue ? 

Ecclus, xx. 7. A wise man will 
hold his tongue till he see oppor- 
tunity (kacpév). 

Kcclus, xxv. 7, Xxvi. 5, xxvi. 28, 
There be nine things which I have 

war; neither shall wickedness de- 
liver those that are given to it. 

Eccles. xii. 10. The Preacher 
sought to find out acceptable 
words: and that which was written 
was upright, even words of truth. 

Eccles. ix. 15. Now there was 
found in it a poor wise man, and 
he by his wisdom delivered the 
city ; yet no man remembered that 
same poor man. 

Eccles. ix. 4. For to him that 
is joined to all the living there 
is hope: for a living dog is better 
than a dead lion. 

Eccles. iii. 20, 21. All go unto 
one place; all are of the dust, 
and all turn to dust again....Who 
knoweth the spirit of man that 
goeth upward, and the spirit of 
the beast that goeth downward to 
the earth? 

Eccles. vii. 13, xi. 8. Consider 
the work of God: for who can 
make that straight, which he hath 
made crooked?...As thou knowest 
not what is the way of the spirit, 
nor how the bones do grow in the 
womb of her that is with child, 
even so thou knowest not the 
works of God who maketh all. 

Eccles. vii. 22. For oftentimes 
also thine own heart knoweth that 
thou thyself likewise hast cursed 

Eccles. iii. 7. A time to rend, 
and a time to sew; a time to keep 
silence, and a time to speak. 

Eccles. xi. 2. Give a portion 
to seven, and also to eight; for 


judged in mine heart...and the 
tenth I will utter with my tongue. 
... There be three things that mine 
heart feareth; and for the fourth 
I was sore afraid.... There be two 
things that grieve my heart; and 
the third maketh me angry. 

Ecclus. xxvi. 13. The grace of 
a wife delighteth her husband. 

Ecclus. xxvi. 23. A wicked 
woman is given as a portion to 
a wicked man: but a godly woman 
is given to him that feareth the 

Ecclus. xxvii. 25, 26. Whoso 
casteth a stone on high casteth it 
on his own head; and a deceitful 
strokeshallmake wounds. ... Whoso 
diggeth a pit shall fall therein. 

Ecclus. xxxili. 15, xlil. 24. So 
look upon all the works of the 
most High; and there are two and 
two, one against another....All 
these things are double one a- 
gainst another. 

thou knowest not what evil shall 
be upon the earth. 

Eccles. ix. 9. 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. 

Eccles. vii. 26. And I find 
more bitter than death the woman, 
whose heart is snares and nets, 
and her hands as bands: whoso 
pleaseth (od shall escape from 
her; but the sinner shall be taken 
by her. 

Eccles. x. 8, 9. He that dig- 
geth a pit shall fall into it; and 

_ whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent 

shall bite him....Whoso removeth 
stones shall be hurt therewith; 
and he that cleaveth wood shall 
be endangered thereby. 

Eccles, vii. 27, iii. 1—8. Be- 
hold, this have I found, saith the 
Preacher, counting one by one, to 
find out the account....[o every 
thing there is a season, and a time 
to every purpose under the heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to 
die; a time to plant, and a time 
to pluck up that which is planted ; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal ; 
a time to break down, and a time 


Ecclus. xxxiv. 7. Dreams have 
deceived many, and they have 
failed that put their trust in them. 

Ecclus. xxxv. 4. .Thou shalt 
not appear empty before the Lord. 

Ecclus. xxxiii. 13. As the clay 
is in the potter’s hand, to fashion 
it at his pleasure, so man is in the 
hand of him that made him. 

Ecclus. xxxviii. 16. Cover his 
body according to the custom, and 
neglect not his burial. 

Ecclus. xl. 1. Great travail is 
created for every man, and an 
heavy yoke is upon the sons of 

Ecclus. xl, rr. All things that 
are of the earth shall return to the 

to build up; a time to weep, and 
a time to laugh; a time to mourn, 
and a time to dance; a time to 
cast away stones, and a time to 
gather stones together; a time to 
embrace, and a time to refrain 
from embracing; a time to get, 
and a time to lose; atime to keep, 
and a time to cast away; a time 
to rend, and a time to sew; a 
time to keep silence, and a time 
to speak ; a time to love, and a 
time to hate; a time of war, and 
a time of peace. 

Eccles. v. 7. For in the mul- 
titude of dreams and many words 
there are also divers vanities: but 
fear thou God. 

Eccles. v. 5. Better is it that 
thou shouldest not vow, than that 
thou shouldest vow and not pay. 

Eccles. vii. 13. Consider the 
work of God: for who can make 
that straight, which he hath made 
crooked ? 

Eccles. vi. 3. 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 

Eccles. i. 3, 5. What profit hath 
a man of all his labour which he 
taketh under the sun?...... All 
things are full of labour, 

Eccles. i, 7, xii. 7. All the 
rivers run into the sea; yet the 


earth again: and that which is of 
the waters doth return into the 

Ecclus. xli. 4. There is no in- 
quisition in the grave, whether 
thou hast lived ten, or a hundred, 
or a thousand years. 

‘than he. 

sea is not full; unto the place from 
whence the rivers come, thither 
they return again....Then shall the 
dust return to the earth as it was: 
and the spirit shall return unto 
God who gave it. 

Eccles. vi. 3—6, ix. 10. 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 
For he cometh in with 
vanity, and departeth in darkness, 
and his name shall be covered with 
darkness. Moreover he hath not 
seen the sun, nor known any thing: 
this hath more rest than the other. 
Yea, though he live a thousand 
years twice told, yet hath he seen 
no good: do not all go to one 
place?... Whatsoever thy hand find- 
eth to do, do it with thy might; 
for there is no work, nor device, 
nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in 
the grave, whither thou goest. 

Making all due allowance, in considering this evidence, 
for the fact that some at least of the passages cited are of the 
nature of maxims that form the common stock of well-nigh all 
ethical teachers, there is enough, it is submitted, to leave little 
doubt on the mind that the later writer was acquainted with the 
earlier. Essentially a compiler, and not entering into the deeper 
genius of Ecclesiastes, the son of Sirach found in it many epi- 
grammatic precepts, summing up a wide experience, and used it 
as he used the Proverbs of Solomon, and those of his grand- 
father Jesus, in the collection which he aimed at making as 

complete as possible. 


Assuming this connexion between the two books to be proved 
we may find, perhaps, in the Prologue and Epilogue of the later 
work, something that throws light upon the history of the earlier. 
In the former the son of Sirach tells his readers that he was led 
to the task of translating and editing the maxims which his 
grandfather Jesus had written by a previous experimental work 
of a like nature. When he had come to Egypt at the age of 
thirty-eight}, under Euergetes II. (B.c. 170—117) better known 
in history by his nickname of Physcon, or the Fat, he had found 
a MS. (a¢opouor, used like the Latin “exemplum”) of no small 
educational value (ov pxpas maidelas) and “thought it most neces- 
sary to give diligence and travail to interpret it.” It is obvious 
that this must have been altogether distinct from the “Wisdom” 
of his grandfather Jesus with which he must naturally have 
become familiar in Palestine, and the question which meets us 
is, what was the book? and what became of the son of Sirach’s 
translation of it? The answer which I venture to suggest is that 
the book was none other than the Ecclesiastes of the Old Tes- 
tament Canon, The character of the book was precisely such 
as would attract one who was travelling in search of wisdom, 
though, as we have seen, he was caught more by its outwardly 
gnomic character than by its treatment of the deeper under- 
lying problems with which it deals, and which have exercised, 
as with a mysterious fascination, the ingenuity of later writers, 

? This is held by most scholars (e.g. Westcott) to be the natural 
rendering of the sentence. By some, however, it has been taken as 
referring to the thirty-eighth year of the king’s reign. Neither of the 
two Ptolemies, however, who bore the name of Euergetes, had so 
long a reign as this, unless we include in that of Euergetes II. the 
time in which he ruled conjointly with his brother Ptolemy Philometor. 
Another interpretation refers the words to the thirty-eighth year of the 
son of Sirach’s stay in Egypt. On any supposition the words bring us 
to a later date than that to which we have assigned the composition of 

* It is perhaps worth mentioning that this view of the passage in 
its general meaning has been maintained by Arnold in his Commentary 
on Lcclestasticus. He supposes, however, that the MS. in question 
was the Wisdom of Solomon. It will be seen in the next chapter 

that there are good grounds for assigning to that book a considerably 
later date. 


The context seems to imply, though the words do not necessarily 
involve the idea of a fixed canon, that the book had come to take 
its place on nearly the same level with “the law and the prophets 
and the other books” which had been translated from Hebrew 
into Greek. On this assumption then we may have in this ob- 
scure passage the first trace of the reception of Ecclesiastes into 
the Hebrew Canon, a reception which we may in part, at least, 
attribute to the commendatory verses in ch. xil. 9, 10 which 
were clearly added by some one other than the writer and which, 
on this assumption, may well have been written by the son of 
Sirach himself. Is it not, we may add, a probable inference 
that it was this connexion that led to the title Ecclesiasticus 
by which the book, which in the Hebrew MSS. that Jerome 
had seen bore the title of “Proverbs” and in the LXX. that of 
the “Wisdom of Sirach” (a title singularly misleading, as that 
was the name neither of the author or the translator), was 
known in the Latin Version? Would it not be natural, if the 
Greek Version came from the pen of the son of Sirach, and if 
his own book presented manifest traces of its influence, that he 
should sooner or later come to be known as belonging to the 
same school, an Ecclestasticus following in the track of an Ec- 
clestastes? The common traditional view, adopted without 
question, from Rufinus (Comm. in Symb.c. 38), that here the 
word has the distinctly Christian sense which is altogether 
absent from Ecclesiastes, and describes the character of the 
book as “Ecclesiastical,” z.¢, read in church or used in the 
public instruction of catechumens and young men, is surely a 
less probable explanation, to say nothing of the absence of any 
proof that it was so used!, and of any sufficient reason why a 
name, which in this sense, must have been common to many 
books, should have been confined to this one. 

1 The nearest approach to such a proof is found in the statement of 
Athanasius (ZZ. Fest. s. f.) that the book was ‘‘one of those framed 
by the fathers for the use of those who wished to be instructed in the 
way of godliness,” (Westcott, Art. Acclesiasticus, in Smith’s Dict. of 
Bible). It is obvious however that this applied to a whole class of 
books, not to this in particular. 



One more conjecture presents itself as throwing light on the 
prayer of the son of Sirach, in all probability the translator and 
not the original author of the book!, which forms the last chap- 
ter of Ecclesiasticus. The occasion of that prayer was the 
deliverance of the writer from some extreme peril. He had 
been accused to the king and his life had been in danger. 
He does not name the king, probably because he had already 
done so in the Prologue, and had fixed the time when he had 
come under his power. He does not name the nature of 
the charge, but the Apologia that follows (Ecclus. li. 13—30) 
seems to imply that in what he had done he had been pursuing 
the main object of his life, had been seeking wisdom and in- 
struction (aadeiav). May not the charge have been connected 
with the Greek translation of Ecclesiastes which we have seen 
good reason to look on as his handiwork? Those pointed 
words as to the corrupt and oppressive government of the king’s 
provinces (ch. v. 8), those vivid portraits of the old and foolish, 
or of the young and profligate, king (chs. iv. 13, x. 16), of princes 
revelling in luxury while the poor were starving (ch. x. 16), might 
well seem to the cruel and suspicious king to be offensive and 
dangerous, while the turn for literature which led him to become 
an author, would naturally also lead him to take cognizance of a 
new Greek book beginning to be circulated among his Jewish 
subjects. That the translator’s Apologia was successful may 
partly have been due to the fact that he could point to passages 
which more than balanced what had given occasion of offence 
by apparently enjoining the most entire and absolute submission 
to the king’s lightest words, and prohibiting even the mere utter- 
ance of discontent (ch. x. 4, 20). 

1 This, it may be mentioned, is the view taken by Grotius and 
Prideaux. They agree in assigning the incident of the peril to the 
reign of Ptolemy Physcon. 




The coincidences between the teaching of the unknown author 
of Ecclesiastes and that of the Son of Sirach are, it will be 
admitted, whatever estimate may be formed of the inferences 
drawn from them, interesting and suggestive. They at least 
shew that the one writer was more or less influenced by the 
other. Those that present themselves on a comparison of the 
former book with the Wisdom of Solomon are of a very different 
yet not less suggestive character. Before entering on an exami- 
nation of them it will be well to sum up briefly all that is known 
as to the external history of the book to the study of which that 
comparison invites us. The facts are few and simple. It is not 
mentioned by name by any pre-Christian writer. The earliest 
record of its existence is found in the Muratorian Fragment 
(A.D. 170) where it is said to have been “ab amicis Solo- 
monis in honorem ipsius scripta.” An ingenious conjecture of 
Dr Tregelles suggests, as has been stated above (Note p. 21), 
that this was a mistaken rendering of a Greek text on which the 
Latin writer of the Fragment based his Canon, and that the 
original ascribed the authorship of the book to Philo of Alex- 
andria. The statement that Philo was probably the writer of 
the book is repeated by Jerome. The book is found in all the 
great MSS. of the LXX. but these do not carry us further back 
than the 4th or 5th century of the Christian zra. We have, 
however, indirect evidence of its existence at an earlier period. 
Two passages are found in Clement of Rome which make it all 
but absolutely certain that he must have been acquainted with 
the book. 

(1) Who will say to him, What (1) For who will say, What 
didst thou? or who will resist the  didst thou? or who will resist thy 

might of his strength? Clem. R. judgment? Wisd. xii. 12. 
I. 27- Who will resist the might of 

thine arm? Wisd. xi. 22. 



(2) Unrighteous envy... by (2) By envy of the devil death 
which also death entered into the entered into the world. Wisd. ii. 
world. Clem. R. 1. 3. 2d. 

Among the earlier post-apostolic Fathers, and we need not go 
beyond these for our present purpose, Irenzeus is said to have 
written a book “on various passages of the Wisdom of Solomon 
and the Epistle to the Hebrews” (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. v. 26). 
Clement of Alexandria quotes the teaching as “divine” (Strom. 
Iv. 16,17). Tertullian quotes it, sometimes without naming it 
(Adv. Marc. 111. 22), sometimes as being the work of Solomon 
(Adv. Valent. c. 2). So far we have evidence of its being read 
and held in honour at the latter part of the first and throughout 
the second century, but not earlier. 

A comparison of the Book of Wisdom with some of the writ- 
ings of the New Testament leads, however, to the conclusion 
that it must have been more or less studied between A.D. 50 and 
A.D. 70. Dr Westcott has called attention (Smith’s Dzct. of 
the Bible. Art. Wisdom of S olomon) to some striking parallelisms 
with the Epistles of St Paul, and these it may be well to bring 
before the reader, 

(1) Wisd. xv. 7. The potter, 
tempering soft earth, fashioneth 
every vessel with much labour for 
our service: yea, of the same clay 
he maketh both the vessels that 
serve for clean uses, and likewise 
all such as serve to the contrary. 

(2) Wisd. xii. 20. If thou didst 
punish the enemies of thy people, 
and the condemned to death, with 

(1) Rom. ix. 21. Hath not the 
potter power over the clay, of the 
same lump to make one vessel 
unto honour, and another unto 

(2) Rom. ix. 22. What if God, 
willing to shew his wrath, and to 
make his power known, endured 

such deliberation, giving them time 
and placetorepent of their malice... 

(3) Wisd. v. 17—19. He shall 
put on righteousness as a breast- 
plate, and true judgment instead 
of an helmet. He shall take 
holiness for an invincible shield, 

with much longsuffering the vessels 
of wrath fitted to destruction. 

(3) « Thess. v, 8, Eph, viel r3 
—17. But let us, who are of the jf 
day, be sober, putting on the 
breastplate of faith and love; and 
for an helmet, the hope of sal- 


His severe wrath shall he sharpen _vation.... Wherefore take unto you 
for a sword. the whole armour of God, that 
ye may be able to withstand in the 
evil day, and having done all, to 
stand. Stand therefore, having 
your loins girt about with truth, 
and having on the breastplate of 
righteousness; and your feet shod 
with the preparation of the gospel 
of peace; above all, taking the 
shield of faith, wherewith ye shall 
be able to quench all the fiery darts 
ofthe wicked. And take the helmet 
of salvation, and the sword of the 
Spirit, which is the word of God. 

The coincidences of the Wisdom of Solomon with the thoughts 
and language of the Epistle to the Hebrews are yet more nume- 
rous. They are enough, as I have elsewhere endeavoured to 
shew}, to suggest the thought of identity of authorship. With 
that hypothesis, however, we are not now concerned, and I 
content myself with noting a few that are sufficient to establish 
the conclusion that the former book must have been known to 
the writer of the latter. Thus in the opening of the Epistle we 
have the two characteristic words moAvupepds (“in sundry parts,” 
or “times”) agreeing with the woAvpepés (“manifold”) of Wisd. 
vii. 22, and dravyacpa (“brightness”) with Wisd. vii. 26. In 
Wisd. xviii. 22 the “Almighty Word” is represented as bring- 
ing “the unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword” and in 
Heb. iv. 12 that Word is described as “sharper than any two- 
edged sword.” In Wisd. i. 6, “God is witness of his reins and 
a true beholder of his heart,” and in Heb. iv. 12 the divine 
Word is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” 
The following characteristic words are common to both: the 
“place of repentance” (Wisd. xii. 10; Heb. xii. 17), Moses as 
the servant (Gcpdrov =“attendant”) of God (Wisd. Xyllaweodes 
Heb. iii. 5), Enoch translated, pereréOy (Wisd. iv. 10; Heb. xi. 5), 

1 See Expositor, Vol. 11. Two papers on “‘ the Writings of Apollos.” 


umdotacis (=“substance” or “confidence” Wisd. xvi. 21; Heb. 
i. 3, iii. 14), reAeudtns (=“ perfection” Wisd. vi. 15; Heb. vi. 1), 
BeBaiwous (=“ confirmation” Wisd. vi. 18; Heb. vi. 6), dmoAei- 
merat (=“there remaineth” Wisd. xiv. 6; Heb. iv. 6), mpodpopos 
(=“fore-runner” Wisd. xii. 8; Heb. vi. 20). The above instances 
are but a few out of a long list, but they are sufficient for our 
present purpose. It may be added that both books present 
numerous parallelisms with the writings of Philo}. 

It follows from the facts thus brought together, as well as from 
an examination of the book itself, that the Wisdom of Solomon 
was known to Hellenistic Jews early in the Apostolic age, that 
it probably had its origin in the Jewish School of Alexandria, 
or that its writer was acquainted with the works of the greatest 
of the teachers of that school. Looking to the work itself we 
find that he had at least some knowledge of the ethical teaching 
of Greek philosophers, and enumerates the four great virtues, of 
“courage, temperance, justice, prudence” (dvdpela, cappocum}, 

dikavoovrn, Hpdvyors), as they enumerated them (Wisd. viii. ys 

With these data we may proceed to examine the relation in which 
he stands to the two books which have already been discussed in 
their relation to each other. The title of his book “Wisdom” 
indicates that he challenged comparison with the “Wisdom” of 
the son of Sirach. The form which he adopts for his teaching, 
his personation of the character of Solomon (Wisd. vii. 7—11, viii. 
14, ix. 7, 8), shews that he did not shrink from challenging com- 
parison with Ecclesiastes. A closer scrutiny shews, if I mistake 
not, that a main purpose of his book was to correct either the 
teaching of that book, or a current misinterpretation of it. Let 
us remember in what light it must have presented itself to him. 
It had not, if our conclusion as to its authorship be right, the 
claim which comes from the reverence due to the authority of a 
remote antiquity or an unquestioned acceptance. He must have 
known that it had not been received as canonical without a 
serious opposition, that the strictest school of Pharisees had 
been against its reception, that it had seemed to them tainted 
with the heresy of Epicureanism and Sadduceeism. If it was 

+ See the papers on ‘“‘the Writings of Apollos” already referred to. 


interpreted then as it has often been interpreted since, it may 
have seemed to him to sanction a lawless sensuality, to fall in 
with the thoughts of those who said “let us eat and drink, for to- 
morrow we die,” to throw doubt, if not denial, on the soul’s 
immortality. Was this, he seems to have asked himself, the 
true ideal of wisdom? Was it not his duty to bring before men 
another Solomon than that whose experience seemed to end 
in materialism and pessimism, in the scepticism of an endless 
doubt? And so he too adopts, without any hesitation, the form of 
personated authorship. He-has indeed less dramatic power 
than his predecessor. His Solomon is more remote from the 
Solomon of history than that of Koheleth. The magnificence, 
the luxury, the voluptuousness, which the earlier writer portrays 
so vividly, not less than the idolatry which is so prominent in 
the historical Solomon, are passed over here. The Son of David, 
as painted by him, is simply an ideal sage, a kind of Numa Pom- 
pilius, consecrating his life from beginning to end to the pursuit 
of wisdom, blameless and undefiled (Wisd. vii. vili.). Looked at 
from this point of view the opening of his book is in its very 
form sufficiently significant. He will not call himself an Eccle- 
stastes or Debater. It seems to him that the work of a teacher is 
to teach and not merely to discuss. The wisdom which inspires 
him is authoritative and queen-like. He is, what Koheleth is 
not, a “preacher” in the modern sense of the word, and calls on 
men to listen with attention (Wisd. i. 1). Had his predecessor 
counselled submission to the tyranny of kings, and accepted the 
perversion of judgment and justice as inevitable (Eccles. v. 8, x. 4, 
20), he, for his part, will call on the judges of the earth and kings, 
and rebuke them for their oppressions (Wisd. i. 1, vi. I—Io). 
Had Koheleth spoken of seeking wisdom in wine and revelry, 
and the “delights” of the sons of men (Eccles. ii. 1—8), he will 
proclaim that “wisdom will not dwell in the body that is subject 
unto sin” (Wisd. i. 4) and that “the true beginning of her is the 
desire of discipline” (Wisd. vii. 17). Had the earlier writer 
spoken bitter things of men and yet more of women (ch. vii. 28), 
he will remind his hearers that wisdom is a “loving,” a “philan- 
thropic,” spirit (piAdvOpwrov mveipa, Wisd. i. 6). To the ever- 


recurring complaint that all things are “vanity and feeding upon 
wind” (Eccles. i. 14, 17, ii. 26, e¢ al.) he opposes the teaching 
that “murmuring is unprofitable” (Wisd. i. 11). The thought 
that death was better than life, to be desired as an everlasting 
sleep (Eccles. vi. 4, 5), he meets with the warning “seek not death 
in the error of your life” (Wisd. i. 12), ventures even on the 
assertion that “God made not death,” that it was an Enemy that 
had done this, that life and not death was contemplated in the 
Divine Purpose as the end of man (Wisd. i. 13). It was only 
the ungodly who counted death their friend (Wisd. i. 16). In 
the second chapter of the book, there is a still more marked 
antagonism. He puts into the mouth of the “ungodly” what 
appears in Ecclesiastes as coming from the writer himself. It 
is they who say “our life is short and miserable” (Wisd. ii. 6; 
Eccles. viii. 6), that “we shall be hereafter as though we had 
never been” (Wisd. ii. 2; Eccles. ix. 5, 6), that death and life are 
both determined by a random chance, “at all adventure” (Wisd. 
li. 2; Eccles. ix. 11), that “our body shall be turned into ashes, 
and our spirit vanish in the soft air” (Wisd. ii. 3; Eccles. iii. 19, 
xii. 7)1, that after death the doom of oblivion soon overtakes man: 
and all his actions (Wisd. ii. 4; Eccles. i. 11). They take up almost 
the very words of Koheleth when they say “Let us enjoy the good 
things that are present...Let us fill ourselves with costly wine 
and ointments” (Wisd. ii.7; Eccles. ix. 7-9). Had the despond- 
ent pessimist mourned over the fact that the “wise man dieth 
as the fool,” that there is one event to the righteous and the 
wicked” (Eccles. vii. 15, ix. 2), the answer is ready—that it was 
only “in the sight of the unwise they seemed to die,” and that 
their hope is full of immortality (Wisd. iii. 2). Had he declared 
that he had not found one righteous woman after all his searching 
(Eccles. vii. 26), he is met with the half-personal answer that 
that was but natural, that it was true of all who despised wisdom 
and nurture that “their wives are foolish and their children 
wicked” (Wisd. ili. 12). Had he taught, or been thought to 

1 TI hold this to be a misinterpretation of the meaning of Eccles. 
xii. 7, but it was not the less a natural interpretation at the time, and 
has often been accepted since. 


teach, a life which was emancipated from all restraints and 
welcomed on almost equal terms children born in and out of 
wedlock (see Notes on Eccles. ix. 9, xi. 1, 2), entering as it were, a 
protest against the asceticism which afterwards developed itself 
into the rule of the more rigid Essenes, the voice of the writer 
of Wisdom declares that “blessed is the barren who is undefiled” 
and “the eunuch, which with his hands hath wrought no iniquity” 
(Wisd. iii. 14), that it is better “to have no children and to have 
virtue” (Wisd. iv. 1), that “the multiplying brood of the ungodly 
shall not thrive.” Had the sceptical thinker spoken in terms 
which suggested the thought that he looked on the hope of im- 
mortality and the enthusiasm of virtue as no less a form of in- 
sanity than the passionate vices of mankind (Eccles. i. 17, il. 12, 
vii. 25), the author of the Wisdom of Solomon puts into the 
mouth of the scoffers the confession “we fools counted his life 
madness” (Wisd. iv. 4). 

And the corrective antagonism of the later writer to the earlier 
is seen not less clearly in the fact that he gives prominence 
to what had been before omitted than in these direct protests. 
It seemed to him a strange defect that a book professing to 
teach wisdom should contain from first to last no devotional 
element, and therefore he puts into the mouth of his ideal Solo- 
mon a prayer of singular power and beauty for the gift of wisdom 
(Wisd. ix.). He, an Israelite, proud of the history of his fathers, 
could not understand a man writing almost as if he had ceased 
to be an Israelite, one to whom the names of Abraham and Isaac 
and Jacob were unknown, and therefore he enters on a survey of 
that history to shew that it had all along been a process mani- 
festing the law at once of a Divine retribution, and of a Divine 
education (Wisd. x. xi.). He could as little understand how a 
son of Abraham, writing in Egypt with all the monuments of its 
old idolatries and later developments of the same tendency to 
anthropomorphic and theriomorphic worship around him, could 
have let slip the opportunity of declaring that God is a spirit 
(Wisd. xii. 1) and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth; 
that the worship of “fire or wind, or the swift air or the circle of 
the stars, or the violent water or the lights of heaven” (Wisd. 


xili. I—4) was relatively noble, “less to be blamed” as com- 
pared with the gross idolatry which stirred his spirit within him 
—as that of Athens stirred the spirit of St Paul—as he walked 
through the streets of Alexandria. The one idea of God pre- 
sented in Ecclesiastes seemed to him to be that of Power, 
hardly of Law, predestinating times and seasons (Eccles. iii. I—I0) 
and the chances and changes of men’s lives (Eccles. ix. 1 1), work- 
ing out a partial retribution for man’s misdeeds within the limits 
of earthly experience (Eccles. xi. 9, xii. 14), but leaving many 
wrongs and anomalies unredressed (Eccles. v. 8, viii. 11). He 
seeks therefore to bring before men that thought of the Father- 
hood of God, which was beginning to dawn upon men’s minds, 
some echoes of which (if our conclusion as to the date of the 
book be right) had perhaps floated to him from the lips that 
proclaimed that Fatherhood in its fulness. He had heard, it 
may be, that One had appeared in Galilee and Jerusalem who 
“professed to have the knowledge of God, and called himself 
the ‘child’ or ‘servant’ (maida) of the Lord and made his boast 
that God was his Father” (Wisd. ii. 1 3—16), that He had been 
slandered, conspired against, mocked, and put to death, that 
Sadducean priests had stood by his cross deriding Him, “if the 
righteous man be the son of God, He will help him and deliver 
him from the hands of his enemies. Let us examine him with 
despitefulness and torture and condemn him with a shameful 
death” (Wisd. ii. 183—20) and that marvellous history had stirred 
him into a glow of admiration for Him whom as yet he knew 
not. He could not subside after that into the tone of mind 
which looks on “life as a pastime and our time here as a market 
for gain” (Wisd. xv. 12), 

It will be seen in the Commentary that follows that I look on 
the estimate which the author of the Wisdom of Solomon 
formed of Ecclesiastes as a wrong one, that he was wanting in 
the insight that sees the real drift which is the resultant of cross 
currents and conflicting lines of thought. The mystical ascetic 
who had been trained in the school of Philo, who was, it may 
be, to develope afterwards, under a higher teaching, into the 
writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, lived and moved in a 


region of thought and feeling altogether different from that of 
the man who had passed through a multiform experience of 
wine and wisdom, of love and madness, of passion and “ feeding 
upon wind.” But it is not the less instructive to note how such 
a writer treated the earlier book which also professed to embody 
the Wisdom of Solomon, of which he could not possibly have 
been ignorant, and which seemed to him to tend to the popular 
easy-going Epicureanism that was destructive of all lofty aims 
and nobleness of character. 


It is, perhaps, natural in dealing with a book which presents 
so many difficulties both in particular passages and in its 
general drift, to turn to the interpreters who belonged to the 
same race and spoke the same language as the writer. How 
did they understand this or that expression? What did they 
gather from the book as its chief substantial lesson? And of 
these we look naturally, in the first instance, with most interest 
and expectation to the book which gives us the expression, not 
of an individual opinion, but of the collective wisdom of Israel. 
We have heard, it may be, high things of the beauty Gletne 
Haggadistic mode of interpretation that prevailed in the schools 
out of which the Mishna, the Gemara, the Targum, and the 
Midrashim sprang?, We open the Midrash, or Commentary, 

1 The terms may be briefly explained for the reader to whom they 
are wholly or comparatively new. The Targums (= Interpretation) are 
the Chaldee or Aramaic Paraphrases of the Books of the Old Testa- 
ment. The Mishna (=repetition or study) is a collection of Treatises 
‘on various points, chiefly ceremonial or juristic, in the Mosaic Law. 
The Gemara (=completeness) is a commentary on, or development of, 
the Mishna, the contents of which have been classified as coming under 
two categories, (1) the Halachah (=Rule), which includes the enact- 
ments of the Mishna in their application to life, and answers ac- 
cordingly to the casuistic systems of Scholastic Theology, and (2) the 

Haggadah (= Legend, or Saga) which comprises a wide range of legend- 
ary, allegorical, and mystical interpretation. The Midrashim (=studies, 


on Koheleth in the hope that we shall see our way through 
passages that have before been dark, that some light will 
be thrown on the meaning of words and phrases that have 
perplexed us. What we actually find answers to the parable of 
the blind leading the blind and both falling into the ditch (Matt. 
XV. 14); rules of interpretation by which anything can be made 
to mean anything else; legends of inconceivable extravagance 
- passing the utmost limits of credibility ; an absolute incapacity for 
getting at the true meaning of a single paragraph or sentence,— 
this makes up the store of accumulated wisdom to which we had 
fondly looked forward. Instead of a “treasure” of “ things new 
and old,” the pearls and gems, the silver and the gold, of the 
wisdom of the past, we find ourselves in an old clothes’ shop 
full of shreds and patches, of rags and tatters. We seem, as we 
read, to be listening to “old wives’ fables” and old men’s dreams. 
A suspicion floats across our mind that the interpreta- 
tions are delirantium somnia in the most literal sense of the 
word, We involuntarily ask, Can these men have been in their 
right minds? Are we not listening to a debate of insane Com- 
mentators? Is not the Midrash as a Créticd Sacri compiled and 
edited within the walls of Colney Hatch? Of other expositions it 
is true that they “to some faint meaning make pretence.” Of 
this alone, or almost alone, it may be said that it “never 
deviates into sense.” 

Would the reader like to judge for himself and try his luck at 
Sortes Midrashiane? 1 take a few samples at a venture. 

(1) Eccles. i. 7, “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea 
is not full.” Of this verse we have a wide variety of interpreta- 
tions: (a) All wisdom is in the heart of man and the heart is 
not full’ (4) The whole law goes into the heart and the heart is 
not satisfied. (c) All people will join themselves to Israel and 
yet the number of Israel will still grow. (Z) All the dead pass 
into Hades and Hades is not tull. (e) All Israelites go on their 

or expositions) are commentaries, collecting the opinions of distin- 
guished Rabbis on the Books of the Old Testament, and these also 
contain the Halachah and Haggadah as their chief elements, Deutsch. 
Lissays, pp. 17—20, 4I—5 1. 


yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem and yet the Temple is never 
crowded. (/) All riches flow into the kingdom of Edom 
(=Rome), but in the days of the Messiah they shall be brought 

(2) Eccles. iv. 8, “There is one alone, and there is not a 
second; yea, he has neither child nor brother.” (a) He who is 
alone is God, the ever-blessed One. (4) Or he is Abraham, 
who had no son or brother or wife when he was thrown into 
Nimrod’s furnace, when he was told to leave his father’s house, 
and when he was commanded to offer up his only son Isaac; or 
(c) He who is alone, is the tribe of Levi, who found “no end of 
all his labour” in erecting the Tabernacle; or (d) that which is 
alone is the evil lust which leads a man to sin and breaks the 
ties of kindred; or (¢) the words describe Gebini ben Charson 
who was his mother’s only son and was blind and could not see 
his wealth and had no end of trouble with it. 

(3) Eccles. ix. 14—16. “There was a little city and few men 
within it, and there came a great king and besieged it, and built 
great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor 
wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city.” Here again 
the expositions are manifold. (@) The city is the world, and 
the few men are those that lived at the time of the Flood and 
the king is Jehovah, and the wise man is Noah. (6) The city 
is Egypt and the king is Pharaoh, and the poor wise man is 
Joseph. (c) The city is Egypt and the few men are Joseph’s 
brethren and the king is Joseph, and the wise man is Judah. 
(d) The city is Egypt and the men are the Israelites, and the 
king is the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and the wise man is Moses. 
(e) The city is Sinai, the men are the Israelites and the king 
is the King of kings, and the bulwarks are the 613 precepts of 
the Law, and the wise man is Moses. (/) The city is Sinai 
and the few men are the Israelites, and the king is the lust of 
the flesh, and the wise man is Moses. (g) The little city is the 
Synagogue, and the men are the assembly in it, and the king is 
the King of kings and the wise man is the elder of the 
Synagogue. (#) The city is the human body, and the men 
are its limbs, and the king is the lust of the flesh, and the 


bulwarks are temptations and errors, and the wise man is 

A few more specimens will be enough to complete the induc- 
tion. The “dead flies” of Eccles. x. 1 are (2) Korah and his 
company; or (4) Doeg and Ahithophel. The precept, “give a 
portion to seven and also to eight” of Eccles. xi. 3, is explained 
as referring (a) to the Laws of the Sabbath on the seventh day 
of the week and of Circumcision on the eighth day after birth; 
or (4) to Moses as in the seventh generation from Abraham and 
Joshua as representing the eighth; or (c) to the ceremonial pre- 
cept of Lev. xii. I—3; or (d) to the seven days of the Feast of 
Tabernacles and the closing festival of the eighth day. The 
maxim, “in the morning sow thy seed and in the evening with- 
hold not thine hand” of Eccles, xi. 6, means Marry in thy youth 
and beget children, and if thy wife dies, marry again in thine 
age and beget more children. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy 
youth...” means “Rejoice in the study of the Law and let thy 
heart cheer thee with the doctrine of the Mishna and walk 
in the ways of thy heart, ze. of the higher knowledge of the 
Talmud.” The “evil days” of Eccles. xii. 1 are the days of the 
Messiah and of the great tribulation that accompanies them. 
The “mourners that go about the streets” are the worms that feed 
upon the carcase (Eccles. xii. 5). The “clouds that return after 
the rain” are the stern prophecies. of Jeremiah that came after 
the destruction of the Temple. The “ pitcher broken at the 
fountain” (Eccles. xii. 6) is the potter’s vessel of Jerexxxvire rd, 
The “grasshopper” of Eccles. xii. 6 is the golden image of 

The student will probably think that he has had enough and 
more than enough of the insanities of the Midrash Koheleth. 

If the Midrash fail us, shall we fare better with the Targum, 
or Paraphrase, of Ecclesiastes? Here at any rate we are not 
involved in a labyrinth of conflicting interpretations each more 
monstrous than the other. The mass of opinions has been sifted, 
and the judicious editor, compiling, as it were, a Commentary 
for use in families and schools, has selected that which seems 
to him most in accordance with the meaning of the original, 


explaining its hard passages so as to make them easy and 

edifying for the unlearned reader. 

Let us see what he will find 

in this instance and how the edification is obtained. 


Eccles. i. 3. What profit hath 
a man of all his labour which he 
taketh under the sun? 

Eccles. i. 11. Neither shall 
there be any remembrance of 
things that are to come with those 
that shall come after. 

Eccles. i. 17. I the Preacher 
was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 


What advantage is there to a 
man after his death, from all his 
labour which he laboured under 
the sun in this world, except he 
studied the word of God, in order 
to receive a good reward in the 
world to come? 

There will be no remembrance 
of them among the generations 
which will be in the days of the 
King Messiah. 

When king Solomon was sitting 
upon the throne of his kingdom, 
his heart became very proud of his 
riches, and he transgressed the 
word of God, and he gathered 
many horses, and chariots, and 
riders, and he amassed much gold, 
and silver, and he married froin 
foreign nations; whereupon the 
anger of the Lord was kindled 
against him, and he sent to him 
Ashmodai the king of the demons, 
who drove him from the throne 
of his kingdom, and took away 
the ring from his hand, in order 
that he should wander about the 
world to reprove it, and he went 
about in the provincial towns and 
cities of the land of Israel, weep- 
ing and lamenting, and saying, 
I am Koheleth whose name was 
formerly called Solomon, who was 
king over Israel in Jerusalem. 

a ai ee 

Eccles. ii. 4. I made me great 
works: I builded me houses; I 
planted me vineyards, 

Eccles. ii. 10, 
remained with me. 

My wisdom 

Eccles. ii. 18. Because I should 
leave it unto the man that shall 
be after me. 

Eccles. iii, 2. A time to be 
born, and a time to die. 

Eccles. iii, 11. He hath made 
everything beautiful in his time. 


I multiplied good works in Je- 
rusalem. I built houses, the Tem- 
ple, to make atonement for Israel, 
and a royal palace, and a conclave, 
and the porch, and a house of 
judgment of hewn stones where 
the wise men sit, and the judges 
to give judgment. I madea throne 
of ivory for the sitting of royalty. 
I planted vineyards in Jabne, that 
I and the Rabbis of the Sanhed- 
rin might drink wine, and also 
to make libations of wine new and 
old upon the altar. 

Whatsoever the Rabbis of the 
Sanhedrin asked of me respecting 
pure and impure, innocent and 
guilty, I did not withhold from 
them any explanation of these 

Because I must leave it to Re- 
hoboam my son who comes after 
me, and Jeroboam his servant will 
come and take away out of his 
hands ten tribes, and will possess 
half of the kingdom. 

There is a special time for be- 
getting sons and daughters, and 
a special time for killing disobe- 
dient and perverse children, to 
kill them with stones according to 
the decree of the judges. 

King Solomon said by the spirit 
of prophecy, God made everything 
beautiful in its time 3 for it was 
opportune that there should be the 
strife which was in the days of Jero- 
boam son of Nebat: for if it had 



Eccles. iii. 19. That which be- 
falleth the sons of men befalleth 

Eccles. iv. 13. Better is a poor 
and wise child than an old and 
foolish king. 

Eccles. y. 7. In the multitude 
of dreams and many words there 
are also divers vanities: but fear 
thou God. 



been in the days of Sheba, son of 
Bichri, the Temple would not have 
been built because of the golden 
calves which the wicked Jeroboam 
made...He concealed from them 
also the great Name written and 
expressed on the foundation stone. 

For as to the destiny of the 
wicked and the destiny of the 
unclean beast, it is one destiny for 
both of them. 5 

Better Abraham, who is the 
poor youth and in whom is the 
spirit of prophecy from the Lord, 
and to whom the Lord was known 
when three years old, and who 
would not worship an idol, than 
the wicked Nimrod who was an 
old and foolish king. And be- 
cause Abraham would not wor- 
ship an idol he threw him into 
the burning furnace, and a miracle 
was performed for him of the 
Lord of the world, and He de- 
livered him from it... For Abra- 
ham went out from the family of 
idolaters, and reigned over the 
land of Canaan; for even in the 
reign of Abraham Nimrod became 
poor in the world....[Then follows 
a long prediction like that in the 
paraphrase of chap. iii. 11 of the 

revolt of the ten tribes under 


In the multitude of the dreams 
of the false prophets, and in the 
vanities of sorcerers, and in the 
many words of the wicked, be- 




Eccles. v. 6. Neither say thou 
before the angel that it was an 

Eccles. vi. 6. Do. not all go to 
one place? 

Eccles. vi. 8. What hath the 
poor, that knoweth to walk before 
the living? 

Eccles. vii. 4. The heart of the 
wise is in the house of mourning. 

Eccles. vii. 15. All things have 
I seen in the days of my vanity. 

Eccles. vii. 16. Be not righteous 
over much, 

Eccles. vii. 24. That which is 
far off, and exceeding deep, who 
can find it out? 

Eccles. vii. 28. One man a- 
mong a thousand have I found; 

lieve not, but serve the wise and 

In the day of the great judg- 
ment thou wilt not be able to say 
before the avenging angel who 
exercises dominion over thee, that 
it is an error. 

If he...had not studied the law the day of his death he will 
go to Gehenna, to the place 
whither all sinners go. 

What is this poor man to do 
but to study the law of the Lord, 
that he may know how he will 
have to walk in the presence of 
the righteous in Paradise? 

The heart of the wise mourns 
over the destruction of the Temple, 
and grieves over the captivity of 
the house of Israel. 

All this I saw in the days of 
my vanity, that from the Lord 
are decreed good and evil to be 
in the world according to the 
planets under which men are 

Be not over-righteous when the 
wicked is found guilty of death in 
the court of judgment: so as to 
have compassion on him, and not 
to kill him. 

Who is he that will find out by 
his wisdom the secret of the day 
of death, and the secret of the 
day when the King Messiah will 

From the days of the first Adam 
till the righteous Abraham was 



but a woman among all those 
have I not found. 

Eccles. viii. 14. There be just 
men to whom it happeneth ac- 
cording to the work of the wicked ; 
again, there be wicked men to 
whom it happeneth according to 
the work of the righteous. 

Eccles. ix. 2. All things come 

alike to all. 

Eccles. ix. 8. Let thy gar- 
ments be always white; and let 
thy head lack no ointment. 

Eccles. ix. 14. There was a 
little city, and few men within 


born, who was found faithful and 
just among the thousand kings 
that gathered together to build the 
tower of Babel? and a woman, as 
Sarah, among all the wives of those 
kings I have not found. 

There are righteous to whom 
evil happens as if they had done 
like the deeds of the wicked; and 
there are wicked to whom it hap- 
pens as if they had done like the 
deeds of the righteous; and I saw 
by the Holy Spirit that the evil 
which happens to the righteous 
in this world is not for their guilt, 
but to free them from a slight 
transgression, that their reward 
may be perfect in the world to 
come; and the good that comes 
to sinners in this world is not 
for their merits, but to render them 
a reward for the small merit they 
have acquired, so that they may 
get their reward in this world, and 
to destroy their portion in the 
world to come. 

Everything depends upon the 
planets; whatever happens to any 
one is fixed in heaven. 

At all times let thy garment be 
white from all pollution of sin, 
and acquire a good name, which 
is likened to anointing oil. 

Also this I saw...the body of 
a man which is likea small city... 
and in it are a few mighty men 
just as the merits in the heart of 
man are few; and the evil spirit 




Eccles. x. 7. I have seen ser- 
vants upon horses, and princes 
walking as servants. 

Eccles. xi. 9. Whoso removeth 
stones shall be hurt therewith; 
and he that cleaveth wood shall 
be endangered thereby. 

Eccles. x. 16, 17. Woe to thee, 


who is like a great and powerful 
king, enters into the body to se- 
duce catch him in the great 
snares of Gehenna, in order to 
burn him seven times for his sin. 
And there is found in the body 
a good spirit, humble and wise, 
and he prevails over him and sub- 
dues him by his wisdom, and saves 
the body from the judgment of 

King Solomon said by the spirit 
of prophecy, I saw nations who 
were before subject to the people 
‘of the house of Israel, now pros- 
perous and riding on horses like 
princes, whilst the people of the 
house of Israel and their princes 
walk on the ground like slaves. 

King Solomon the prophet said, 
It is revealed to me that Ma- 
nasseh, the son of Hezekiah, will 
sin and worship idols of stone; 
wherefore he will be delivered into 
the hands of the king of Assyria, 
and he will fasten him with halters: 
because he made yoid the words 
of the law which are written on 
ithe tables of stone from the be- 
ginning, therefore he will suffer 
from it; and Rabshakeh his brother 
will worship an image of wood, 
and forsake the words of the law 
which are laid in the ark of 
shittim-wood; therefore he shall 
be burned in a fire by the angel 
of the Lord. 

Woe to thee, O land of Israel, 


O land, when thy king is a child, 
and thy princes eat in the morning. 
Blessed art thou, O land, when 
thy king is the son of nobles, and 
thy princes eat in due season, 

Eccles. x. 20. Curse not the 
king, no not in thy thought; and 
curse not the rich in thy bed- 
chamber; for a bird of the air 
shall carry the voice, and that 
which hath wings shall tell the 

Eccles. xii. 5. The mourners 
go about the streets. 

Eccles. xii. 11. The words of 
the wise are as goads, and as nails 
fastened by the masters of assem- 
blies, which are given from one 


when wicked Jeroboam shall reign 
over thee, and remove from thee 
the morning sacrifices, and thy 
princes shall eat bread before 
offering the daily morning sacri- 
fice. Well to thee, O land of 
Israel, when Hezekiah son of 
Ahaz, from the family of the house 
of David, king of Israel, who is 
mighty in the land, shall reign 
over thee, and shall perform the 
obligations of the commandments, 
and thy nobles, after having 
brought thee the daily sacrifice, 
shall eat bread at the fourth hour. 

Even in thy mind, in the inner- 
most recesses of thy heart, curse 
not the king, and in thy bed- 
chamber revile not a wise man, 
for the angel Raziel proclaims 
every day from heaven upon Mount 
Horeb, and the sound thereof goes 
into all the world; and Elijah the 
high-priest hovers in the air like 
an angel, the king of the winged 
tribe, and discloses the things that 
are done in secret to all the in- 
habitants of the earth. 

The angels that seek thy judg- 
ment walk about like mourners, 
walking about the streets, to write 
the account of thy judgments. 

The words of the wise are like 
goads that prick, and forks which 
incite those who are destitute of 
knowledge to learn wisdom as the 
goad teaches the ox; and so are 
the words of the rabbis of the 



Sanhedrin, the masters of the 

Halachas and Midrashim which 

were given through Moses the 

prophet ; who alone fed the people 

of the house of Israel in the wil- 

derness with manna and delicacies. 

Eccles, xii, 12, And further, And more than these, my son, 
by these, my son, be admonished; take care to make many books of 
of making many books there is wisdom without an end, to study 
no end, and much study is a much the words of the law and to 
weariness of the flesh. consider the weariness of the flesh. 

It will be felt from the extracts thus brought together! that the 
Targum is on the whole pleasanter reading than the Midrash. 
The traces of discordant interpretation are carefully effaced. 
All flows on smoothly as if there never had been and never 
could be any doubt as to what the writer of the original book 
had meant. Hard sayings are made easy. A spiritual, or at least 
an ethical, turn is given to words which seemed at first to suggest 
quite other than spiritual conclusions. The writer of the book, 
whose identity with Solomon is not questioned for a moment, is 
made to appear not only as a moral teacher but in the higher 
character of a prophet. The illustrations drawn from the history 
of Israel, the introduction of the name of Jehovah, the constant 
reference to the Shechinah and the Law, give the paraphrase a 
national and historical character not possessed by the original. 
The influence of the planets as determining men’s characters 
and the events that fashion them is brought in as a theory of 
predestination easier to receive than that which ascribes all that 
happens to the direct and immediate action of the Divine Will. 
All is done, in one sense, to edification. 

The misfortune is, however, that the edification is purchased at 
the cost of making the writer say just the opposite, in many 
cases, of what he actually did say. As Koheleth personates 

1 I have to acknowledge my obligations for these extracts to the 
translation of the Targum appended to Dr Ginsburg’s Koheleth, 


Solomon, so the paraphrast personates Koheleth, and the con- 
fessions of the Debater, with their strange oscillations and con- 
trasts, become a fairly continuous homily. In all such interpre- 
tations, and the Targum of Koheleth is but a sample of a wide- 
spread, class which includes other than Jewish commentators, 
there is at once an inherent absence of truthfulness and a want 
of reverence. The man will not face facts, but seeks to hide 
them or gloss them over. He assumes that he is wiser than 
the writer whom he interprets, practically, ze. he claims for 
himself a higher inspiration. He prefers the traditions of the 
school in which he has been brought up to the freshness of the 
Divine word as it welled forth out of the experience of a human 

With the eleventh century we enter on a fresh line of Jewish 
interpreters of the book. The old rabbinical succession had 
more or less died out, and the Jewish school of Europe began 
to be conspicuous for a closer and more grammatical exegesis of 
the sacred text. An interesting survey of the literature which 
thus grew up, so far as it bears on the interpretation of Eccle- 
siastes, will be found in the Introduction to Dr Ginsburg’s Com- 
mentary. It is marked, as might be expected, by more thorough- 
ness and more individual study, a truer endeavour to get at the 
real meaning of the book. Each man takes his place in the 
great army of Commentators and works on his own responsi- 
bility. To go through their labour would be an almost intermin- 
able task. It was worth while to give some account of the 
Midrash and the Targum because they represented certain 
dominant methods and lines of thought, but it does not fall 
within the scope of this volume to examine the works of all 
Jewish interpreters simply because they are Jewish, any more 
than of those that are Christian. 



It does not fall, as has been just said, within the plan of the 
present book, to give a review of the Commentaries on Ecclesi- 
astes that have preceded it, so far as they represent only the 
opinions of individual writers. The case is, however, as before, 
altered when they represent a school of thought or a stage in the 
history of interpretation, and where accordingly the outcome 
of their labours illustrates more or less completely the worth of 
the method they adopted, the authority which may rightly be 
given to the dzcta of the School. 

It has been said (Ginsburg, p. 99), that Ecclesiastes is nowhere 
quoted in the New Testament, and as far as direct, formal 
quotations are concerned the assertion is strictly true. It was 
not strange that it should thus be passed over. The controversy 
already referred to (Ch. 111.) between the schools of Hillel and 
Shammai as to its reception into the Canon, the doubts that 
hung over the drift of its teaching, would naturally throw it into 
the background of the studies of devout Israelites. It would 
not be taught in schools. It was not read in Synagogues. It 
was out of harmony with the glowing hopes of those who were 
looking for the Christ or were satisfied that they had found 
Him. Traces of its not being altogether unknown to the writers 
of the New Testament may, however, be found. When St Paul 
teaches why “the creation was made subject to vanity” (Rom. viii. 
20), using the same Greek word as that employed by the LXX. 
translators, we may recognise a reference to the dominant burden 
of the book. When St James writes “What is your life? It is 
even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth 
away” (James iv. 14) we may hear something like an echo 
of Eccles. vi. 12. 

The earlier Christian writers followed in the same track and 
the only trace of the book in the Apostolic Fathers is the quota- 
tion of Eccles. xii. 13 (“Fear God and keep His command- 


ments”) in the Shepherd of Hermas (Jand. Vil.). Justin quotes 
the Wisdom of Solomon but not Ecclesiastes. Irenzeus neither 
names nor quotes it. Clement of Alexandria, who makes no 
less than twenty-six quotations from the Wisdom of Solomon, 
quotes in one solitary passage (Stvom. 1. 13) from Eccles. i. 16— 
18, vii. 13. In Origen, though the quotations from Wisdom are 
still far more numerous, we have more traces of a thoughtful 
study. The vanitas vanitatum is connected with Rom. viii. 20 
as above (de Princ. 1. 7, c. Cels. 1.7). He supposes Eccles. i. 6 
to have given occasion to the contemptuous language in which 
Celsus had spoken of Christians as talking of “circles upon circles” 
(c. Cels, V1. 34, 35). In Eccles. i. 9 he finds a confirmation of his 
belief that there have been worlds before the present world and 
that there will be others after it (de Princ. 11. 5, c. Cels. IV. 12). 
The “Spirit of the ruler” (Eccles. x. 4) is interpreted of the evil 
Spirit (de Princ. 11. 2). In the words “the earth abideth for 
ever” (Eccles. i. 4) he finds an instance of the use of the word 
“eternity” with a secondary and limited connotation (Comm. 
in Rom. B. Vi.). He gives a mystical interpretation of Eccles. 
iv. 2 as meaning that those who are crucified with Christ are 
better than those that are living to the flesh; of the ‘untimely 
birth” of Eccles. vi. 3 as meaning Christ whose human nature 
never developed, as that of other men develops, into sin (Hom. 
vil. zz Num.), and cites Eccles vii. 20, with Rom. xi. 33 as a 
confession that the ways of God are past finding out (de Princ. 
IV. 2). i 

The passages now cited are enough to shew that it was pro- 
bable that those who had studied in the school of Origen would 
not entirely neglect a book to which he had thus directed their 
attention. His treatment of them indicates that they were likely 
to seek an escape from its real or seeming difficulties in an alle- 
gorizing, or, to use the Jewish phrase, a Haggadistic interpre- 
tation. And this accordingly is what we find. The earliest 
systematic treatment of Ecclesiastes is found in the Metaphrasts 
or Paraphrase of Gregory Thaumaturgus, who had studied under 
the great Alexandrian teacher. Of all patristic commentaries 
it is the simplest and most natural. From first to last there 


is no strained allegorism or mysticism, finding in the text quite 
another meaning than that which was in the mind of the writer. 
The scepticism of Eccles. iii. 20, 21 is freely rendered, “The 
other kind of creatures have all the same breath of life and men 
have nothing more...For it is uncertain regarding the souls of 
men, whether they shall fly upwards; and regarding the others 
which the unreasoning creatures possess whether they shall fall 
downwards.” The Epicurean counsel of Eccles. ix. 7—g9 is 
stated without reserve, but is represented as the error of “men 
of vanity,” which the writer rejects. The final close of the 
writer’s thought (Eccles, xii. 7) is given without exaggeration, 
“For men who be on the earth there is but one salvation, that 
their souls acknowledge and wing their way to Him by whom 
they have been made.” Perhaps the most remarkable passage 
of the Commentary is the way in which the paraphrase of 
Eccles. xii, I—6 represents the original as depicting the ap- 
proach of a great storm filling men with terror, anticipating in 
this the interpretation which Dr Ginsburg and Mr Cox have 
worked out with an elaborate fulness : 

“Moreover it is right that thou shouldest fear God, while thou 
art yet young, before thou givest thyself over to evil things, and 
before the great and terrible day of God cometh, when the sun 
shall no longer shine, neither the moon, nor the other stars, but 
when in that storm and commotion of all things, the powers 
above shall be moved, that is, the angels who guard the world; 
so that the mighty men shall cease, and the women shall cease 
their labours, and shall flee into the dark places of their dwell- 
ings, and shall have all the doors shut; and a woman shall be 
restrained from grinding by fear, and shall speak with the 
weakest voice, like the tiniest bird; and all impure women shall 
sink into the earth, and cities and their blood-stained govern- 
ments shall wait for the vengeance that comes from above, while 
the most bitter and bloody of all times hangs over them like a 
blossoming almond, and continuous punishments impend over 
them like a multitude of flying locusts and the transgressors 
are cast out of the way like a black and despicable caper plant. 
And the good man shall depart with rejoicing to his own ever. 


lasting habitation; but the vile shall fill all their places with 
wailing, and neither silver laid up in store, nor tried gold, 
shall be of use any more. For a mighty stroke shall fall upon 
all things, even to the pitcher that standeth by the well, and the 
wheel of the vessel which may chance to have been left in the 
hollow, when the course of time comes to an end and the ablu- 
tion-bearing period of a life that is like water has passed away}.” 

A more ambitious but less complete treatment of Ecclesiastes 
is found in eight homilies by Gregory of Nyssa, which cover 
however only the first three chapters. Like his other writings 
it breathes the spirit of a devout thinker trained in the school 
of Origen, alike in his allegorizing method of interpretation and 
in his utterance of the wider hope. At every step he diverges 
from the true work of the interpreter to some edifying and 
spiritual reflection, The Greek title of the book suggests 
its connexion with the work and life of the £cclesia of 
Christ. Christ himself was the true Ecc/estastes gathering 
together those that had been scattered into the unity of His 
fulness. The true son of David was none other than the in- 
carnate Word. In the language of Eccles. i. 11, “neither shall 
there be any remembrance of things that are to come,” Gregory 
finds an indication of his deeply-cherished conviction that the 
final restitution of all things will work out an entire oblitera- 
tion even of the memory of evil (Hom. 1.). The words “that 
which is lost cannot be numbered” seem to him connected 
with the fall of Judas as the son of perdition, with the wander- 
ing sheep who reduces the complete hundred to the incomplete- 
ness of the ninety and nine (Hom. 11.) The description of the 
magnificence of Solomon in Eccles. ii. 1—8 leads to a whole 
train of half-mystical reflections. The true palace is that of 
Wisdom and its pillars are the virtues that sustain the soul. 
What need is there of gardens for one who was in the true 
Paradise of contemplation? (Hom. I11.). Is not the true fountain 

1 The original is obscure and probably corrupt. The meaning of 
the commentator may be that the period of life in which a man 
may receive the ‘‘ washing of regeneration ” will in that day come to 
a sudden end. 


the teaching that leads to virtue? The mention of servants and 
handmaids leads him to protest against the evil of slavery 
(Hom, 1v.). In the counsel to eat and drink he finds a reference 
not to the bread which nourishes the body but to the food which 
sustains the soul (Hom. v.). The catalogue of Times and Seasons 
in Eccles. iii. 1—8 suggests, as might be expected, a copious 
variety of like reflections. He cannot speak of the “time to 
plant” without thinking of the field of which the Father is the 
husbandman, of “the time to pluck up” without dwelling on the 
duty of rooting out the evil tares of sin (Hom. V1.). The “time 
to kill” can refer only to the vices which we are called on to 
strangle and destroy. The “time to weep” recalls to his mind 
the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 4) and the 
parable of the children sitting in the market-place (Matt. xi. 16, 
17) (Hom. Vi1.). So “the time to gather stones” is applied to 
the stones of temperance and fortitude by which we destroy 
vice. The “time to keep silence” reminds him of St Paul’s rule 
bidding women be silent in the Church, and the “time for war” 
of the Christian warfare and the whole armour of God (Hom. 
VilI.). Beyond this point he does not go, and perhaps it is well 
that he stopped where he did, Interesting and even edifying 
as such homiletic treatment may be as the expression of a 
refined and devout and noble character, it is obvious that it 
hardly contributes one jot or tittle to the right understanding of 
the book which it professes to. expound. With the exception 
of the hints given by Gregory Thaumaturgus, the Greek Fathers 
of the Church have contributed almost as little to the exegesis 
of Ecclesiastes as the Rabbis of the Midrash K, oheleth. 

The history of the interpretation of Ecclesiastes among the 
Latin Fathers runs more or less on parallel lines with that which 
has just been traced. The earlier writers knew the book, and 
this or that proverbial sentence dwells in their memories, but 
they have not studied it and do not venture on any systematic 
interpretation. Thus Tertullian simply quotes three times the 
maxim of Eccles. iii. 1, that “there is a time for all things” (adv, 
Mare. V. 4, de Monog. i1., de Virg. Vel. IIl.). Cyprian cites 
Eccles. i. 14, v. 4, 10, vil. 17, x. 9 in his Testimonia adversus 


Fude@os (Cc. 11, 30, 61, 53, 86) but with no indication that the 
book as a whole had been thought over, and no trace of any 
mystical interpretation. When we come to Augustine the case 
is widely different. The allegorizing method which had been 
fostered by Origen had taken root, and the facility with which it 
ministered to spiritual meditation and turned what had been 
stumblingblocks into sources of edification, commended it to 
devout interpreters. He does not write a Commentary on the 
book, but he quotes it in a way which shews that it was often in 
his hands and is always ready with an interpretation that brings 
an edifying thought out of the least promising materials. Thus 
he fastens on the “vanitas vanitantium” of the old Latin Ver- 
sion as shewing that it is only for the “vanztantes,” the men who 
are without God, that the world is vanity (de Ver. Relig. c. 41). 
The “portion to seven and also to eight” of Eccles. xi. 2 is for 
him “ad duorum Testamentorum significationem,” the one rest- 
ing on the sabbath, the other “on the eighth day, which is 
also the first, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection” (ad Jngu. 
Fan. c. 23). In the words that “the Spirit returns to God who 
gave it” (Eccles. xii. 7) he finds a proof that each single soul is 
created by an individual divine act and not engendered as was 
the bodily frame in which it dwelt. He connects Rom. viii. 20 
(“the creature was made subject to vanity”) with the main thesis 
of the book, as shewing that the sentence “vanity of vanities” is 
temporary and remedial in its nature and will one day be 
removed (Expos. Epist. Rom. c. 53), and dwells on the fact that 
it applies only to the things that are “under. the sun,” to the 
visible things which are temporal, and not to the invisible which 
are eternal (Evarr. in Ps. xxxviit.). His controversy with Pela- 
gianism leads him to recognise in the “righteous overmuch” of 
Eccles. vii. 16 the character of the man who wraps himself up 
in the garments of his own “righteousness of works” (Zvacé. in 
Foamn. XCv.). He contrasts the “one generation goeth. and 

another generation cometh” with the permanence of the eternal 
Word (Exarr. in Ps. ci.. The maxim that “he that increaseth 
knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Eccles. i. 18) is for him true even 
of the wisdom of charity, seeing that we cannot love men with- 


out a fresh pang of sorrow for their sufferings and their sins 
(Enarr. in Ps. xcvidi.), On the “many inventions” of Eccles. 
vii, 30 he characteristically preaches “Jane apud unum, Noli 
tre in multa, Ibi beatitudo” (Serm. XCVI.). In his later treatment 
of the book the allegorical method is more fully developed and 
the “eating and drinking,” the “bread and wine” of Eccles. viii. 
15, ix. 7 are interpreted as pointing not even to the most inno- 
cent forms of sensuous enjoyment, but to that which is repre- 
sented by the symbols of the Eucharistic feast (de Civ. Dei, 
XVII. 20). The “dead flies” that mar the fragrant “ointment 
of the apothecary” (Eccles. x. I) are the post-baptismal sins 
which taint the good fame of professing Christians (c. Efzs¢. 
Parmen.). The Haggadistic style of interpretation culminates in 
his explanation of Eccles. x. 16,17. He finds there the “due 
ctvitates” which are the subject of his great work, the land 
whose “king is a child” is the evil city of the world, and the devil 
is the young king who is wilful and rebellious, and the princes 
who “eat in the morning” are the men of the world, who find 
their pleasures in this earthly life which is but the dawn of their 
existence, and the “son of nobles” is none other but the Christ, 
the heir, according to the flesh, of patriarchs and kings, and 
the “princes who eat in due season” are the believers who are 
content to wait for their future blessedness in the heavenly city 
(De Civ, Det, Xvi. 20), 

In Jerome’s treatment of the book we have, as was to be 
expected from his student character, a more systematic ex- 
position. It takes the form of a Commentary, is fuller than 
the Metaphrase of Gregory Thaumaturgus, less merely homiletic 
and fragmentary than the Discourses of Gregory of Nyssa. 
He had compared the translations of Aquila and Symmachus 
and Theodotion with that of the LXX. and discusses criti- 
cally the two renderings of the ‘burden’ of the book which he 
found in them, the Bararns pataorirav (“vanity of vanities”) 
of the LXX., the druls drpiSey (“vapour of vapours”) of all the 
others. He compares, in dealing with the companion phrase, 
the mpoaipeois mvevparos (a deliberate choice of wind) with the 
voui of Aquila and Theodotion, the Booknots mvevparos of Sym- 


machus (both=feeding upon wind). Perhaps the chief interest 
of the Commentary lies in the traces which it preserves of the 
divided counsels of the earlier Rabbis as to the drift and autho- 
rity of the book. “Some,” he says, “affirm that it came from 
Solomon as a penitent confessing his transgressions.” Some 
had rejected the book because it seemed inconsistent with itself, 
now bidding men go to the house of mourning as better than 
the house of feasting, now telling them that there was nothing 
better than to eat bread and drink wine and live with the 
woman they love, and perfume themselves with costly unguents, 
the latter precepts being those of Epicurus and not of Israel. 
His knowledge of Hebrew led him to connect the “dead flies” 
of Eccles. x. 1 with Baal-zebub, the Lord of flies, and also the 
prince of the devils, and so to find in them the evil thoughts which 
do the devil’s work. He, almost alone among commentators, 
connects the “almond tree” of Eccles. xii. with its figurative use 
as the “early waking” tree in Jer. i, 11, and therefore as the 
symbol of the old man’s wakefulness. He discusses the various 
meanings of the words which we render “srasshopper” and “de- 
sire” in the same passage. His view of the drift of the book may 
be inferred partly from his having read it with Blesilla, one of 
the many female disciples to whom he acted as director, when he 
sought to lead her to enter on the life of the convent at Beth- 
lehem (Pref. in Eccles.), partly from his assigning, on the tradi- 
tional theory of the authorship of the three books, Proverbs to 
the youth of Solomon, Ecclesiastes to his middle age, the Song 
of Songs to his old age, first the maxims of prudence, then the 
experience of the world’s vanities, lastly, as the crown of life’s 
teaching, the mystical passion of the bride and bridegroom, of 
the soul and Christ. He starts, as Gregory of Nyssa had 
done, with the thought that “Zcclesdastes noster est Chits- 
tus,’ and taking this as his key-note he finds suggestions of 
devout thoughts where we see only the maxims of prudential or 
even Epicurean wisdom. Thus the “one alone” that “hath not a 
second” of Eccles. iv. 8 is referred to Christ as the one Media- 
tor saving men by His one sacrifice, and the teaching as to 
friendship of Eccles. iv. g—11 is applied to Christ as the Friend 


who raises us when we fall, and will warm us when we lie cold 
in the grave to everlasting life, and, like Augustine, he finds in 
the “bread and wine” which man is to enjoy (Eccles. ix. 7), 
the symbols of the body and blood of Christ; but these are 
given obviously rather as homiletic reflections than as direct 
interpretations. A trace of early tendencies to the characteristic 
teaching of Origen is found in his suggesting as a tenable inter- 
pretation of Eccles. i. 15 that “omnibus per poenitentiam in 
entegrum restitutis solus diabolus in suo permanebit errore.” On 
the whole, we may say that Jerome’s style of commenting might 
have been followed with advantage by many of his successors. 

As it was, however, the ascetic and the allegorizing interpre- 
tations which had thus been started developed with a marvellous 
rapidity. Ambrose reproduces what we have seen in Jerome 
and, in addition, finds the Christ as the second Adam in the 
“second child” of Eccles. iv. 15 and the doctrine of the Trinity 
in Unity in the “threefold cord” of Eccles. iv. 12. The alle- 
gorizing, mystical method is found yet further expanded in 
Gregory the Great (Commentary on $ob), and after the marvel- 
lous interpretations of that book nothing seems impossible, In 
the application of that method to Ecclesiastes the two leaders 
of the mystic school, Richard and Hugo of St Victor, hold a 
foremost place. In “the rivers that run into the sea” (Eccles. 
i. 7) the former finds the fleshly lusts that seem sweet and 
pleasant, yet end in bitterness. In the “casting away of stones” 
(Eccles. iii. 5) the latter sees the multiplication of good works, 
in the “gathering stones” the reward of those works. The 
Haggadistic method, however, culminates in Peter Lombard, 
and his exposition of Eccles, xii. 5 presents, perhaps, the w/ima 
Thule of this style of interpretation. The “almond,” with its rind, 
shell and kernel, answers to the tripartite nature of Christ, body, 
soul, and Deity. It flowered when He rose from the dead. 
The fattening of the “grasshopper” (so the Vulg. zmpinguabitur 
locusta) represents the admission of the Gentiles, leaping, as 
leaps the grasshopper, into the Church of Christ. In the Vulg. 
for “desire shall fail” (diss¢paditur capparis) he sees the disper- 
sion of the unbelieving. 


The continuity of succession in this method was broken by 
Nicholas de Lyra, who, having been born and educated in the 
Jewish schools that had felt the influence of the more critical 
spirit of Maimonides, laid stress on the necessity of first settling 
the literal meaning of the text before entering into speculation 
on its allegorical, moral, and anagogical or mystical meanings, 
and so led the way to the enquiries of later students. In this he 
was followed by Luther whose views as to the authorship of the 
Book have been already noticed (chap. 11.) and who maintains 
in his Commentary on Ecclesiastes that its aim was to reject the 
ascetic, gloomy view of life of which monasticism was the de- 
velopment, and to commend a life of active industry and simple 
innocent enjoyment. Luther was followed in his turn by Melan- 
cthon, and so we enter on the line of individual commentators, 
Grotius and his followers, each thinking for himself, and working 
out his own conclusion as to the meaning of individual passages 
and the drift of the whole book. The limits of the present 
volume do not admit of our tracing the varying opinions thus 
arrived at. Those who wish to follow them through their many 
windings will find them analysed in Dr Ginsburg’s exhaustive 
Introduction to his Commentary on Koheleth, 


It follows from what has been already said (chap. 111.) that the 
Book before us is very far removed from the character of a sys- 
tematic treatise and therefore does not readily admit of a formal 
analysis. What will now be attempted accordingly is rather to 
prepare the reader for the study of the book itself by tracking, 
as far as the conditions of the case admit, the oscillations and 
wanderings of thought by which the writer makes his way to his 
final conclusion. It will be convenient, as in the ideal biography 
given in chap. III., to use the name Koheleth as that by which 
the writer wished himself to be known. 



(1) I. 1—11. The book opens with reproducing the phase of 
despair and weariness in which it had originated. All things are 
“vanity” and ‘‘vapour.” There was no gain in living (1—3). 
The monotony of succession in nature, and in human life, was abso- 
lutely oppressing. It was made even more so by the feeling of the 
oblivion that sooner or later falls over all human activities. There 
was nothing new in the world, nothing permanent (4—11). 

(2) I. 12—II. 23. Koheleth appears in the personated character 
of the son of David, and as such retraces his experience. He had 
found the search after wisdom wearisome and unsatisfying. It was 
all ‘vapour and feeding upon wind.” Increase of knowledge was 
but increase of sorrow (i. 12—18). From wisdom he had turned to 
kingly state, and magnificence, and luxury, and had found that this 
also was vanity, and without profit (ji. 1—11). Then came the study 
of human nature in its manifold phases of sanity and insanity, and 
something was gained in the conviction that the former was better 
than the latter (ii. 12, 13). This was soon traversed, however, by 
the thought that the advantage lasted but for the little span of life, 
and that death, the great leveller, placed the wise man and the fool 
on the same footing, and that thought made life more hateful than 
before, and deepened the feeling that all was vanity and “feeding 
upon wind” (ii, 14—23). He fell back from all this profitless endeavour 
upon a less ambitious yet more practical and attainable ideal. To 
eat and drink, not with the license of the sensualist, but as the con- 
dition of a healthy activity, accepting the limitations of man’s 
earthly life, this was at least safe, and if received as from the hand 
of God, not otherwise than religious. 

III. 1—17. Another thought helps to restore the mind of Koheleth 
to equilibrium. Wisdom lies in opportuneness. The chances and 
changes of life have each their appointed season in a divine order. 
Man’s wisdom is to take each of them in its season, not to strive 
restlessly after that which is not given him (1—8). And yet there 
is a disturbing element in man’s very nature which hinders this con- 
formity to circumstances. He is a “ being of large discourse, looking 
before and after,” and craves to find beauty and order throughout the 
universe (9—11). Yet he must repress, or at least limit that craving, 
and fall back as before upon the practicable union of honest labour 
and innocent enjoyment. Such a life was consistent with that ‘fear 
of God” which was the beginning of wisdom (iii. 12—14). And that 
fear of God led on to the thought of a law of retribution working 


aa ee ee Be ee 
through the disorders of the world (1s—17). It was a thought, a fear, 
a hope. Could he say that it was more? Who could answer the 
question as to the ‘“‘whither” of man’s spirit after death? Was not 
his life subject to the same conditions as that of beasts? That doubt 
might be painful, but it did not affect the practical ideal to which 
he had before been led. It need not lead to despair, or madness, or 
reckless profligacy. Reasonable labour, reasonable enjoyment, that 
was still within his reach. 

(3) 1V. 1—16. New phases of thought are indicated by the words 
“T returned,” ‘‘I considered.”. The wrongs and miseries of the 
world, the sufferings of others rather than his own, these weighed on 
his spirit. How could he account for them? (iv. I—3), Was it 
worth while labouring when the success of his labour did but expose 
amanto envy? Was it better not to labour when indolence led on 
to poverty? (iv. 4). The extremes of wealth and poverty brought the 
risk of isolation, and cut a man off from that companionship which 
was at least an unquestioned good (iv. 7—12). His survey of life, 
alike in the vicissitudes of national and individual life, oppresses him 
once more with the thought that all is vanity and ‘‘feeding upon wind” 
(iv. 13—16). 

(4) V. 1—VI. 12. There was one phase of human life which yet 
remained to be examined. Koheleth turned to the religionists of his 
time. Did he find anything more satisfying there? The answer was 
that he found hollowness, formalism, hypocrisy, frivolous excuses and 
dreams taken for realities (v. 1—7). From the religious life he turned 
to the political, and there also all was anomalous and disheartening, 
rulers oppressing the tillers of the soil, yet less happy in their wealth 
than the labourers in their poverty, heaping up riches and not knowing 
who should gather them (v. 8—17). What remained but to make 
the best of life under such conditions, seeking neither poverty nor 
riches, rejoicing in God’s gifts of wealth and honour within the same 
limitations as before? (v. 13—20). Yes, but then there comes once 
more the depressing thought that we must leave all this, often before we 
have had any real enjoyment of it. Another comes and reaps what 
we have sown. Would it not be better that we had not been born? 
Is not even this moderated aim, this lower ideal, a delusion and a 
dream, subject, as the higher aim was, to the doom of vanity? (vi. 1—12). 

(5) VII. 1—22. The succession of thoughts becomes less con- 
secutive and systematic, and we have the lessons on many things 
which Koheleth had been taught by his experience. Reputation, the 



fair name that is fragrant in the memories of men, this is better than 
riches or pleasure. It is worth dying to get that posthumous im- 
mortality (vii. 1). It is worth while to visit the sorrowing and the 
sick, for so we learn to sympathize and correct the flattering deceits 
of false hopes, and learn the calmness of wisdom (vii. 2—6). The_ 
root-evil in life is impatience, the wish to have lived in a former 
age, under different conditions (vii. 7—10). Prosperity and adversity 
have each their lessons, and in each we need the spirit which accepts 
what comes to us as part of God’s order, and avoids the falsehood 
of extremes (vii. rr—18). This was wisdom, but then how few were 
wise, how far fewer still were righteous? One among a thousand 
might be found among men: not one among all the women whom 
Koheleth had ever known. The conclusion to which he was led was 
that man’s freedom had marred God’s order as it was when He looked 
on all that He had made and saw that it was very good (vii. rg—29). 

(6) VIII. 1—IX. 10. The same weary round is trodden over again. 
The experience of Koheleth throws his mind upon the wisdom that 
is needed by those who live in the courts of kings (viii. r—s). But 
that life, with its unequal distribution of rewards and honours, am- 
bition cut short by death, power hurting its possessor, the unrighteous 
ruler exulting in his impunity, these were fresh elements of disorder and 
vanity. He retired once more from the life of courts to that of a 
tranquil seclusion and calm enjoyment (viii. 6—15). What profit was 
there in speculating on the problems presented by history any more 
than on those of individual men? Here also there was that which was 
inscrutable. Men might talk of the law of retribution, might feel that 
there must be such a law, but facts were against them. There was 
one event to the righteous and the wicked (viii. 16—ix. 3). Before, 
that thought had almost driven him to despair. Now, the path by 
which he has travelled has led him to a truer solution of the problem. 
Make life worth living. Work, rest, rejoice, lay aside the vexing 
questions which make life miserable. All beyond is darkness (ix. 

(7) IX. 11—X. 20. As before, the phrase ‘I returned ” indicates a 
fresh start of thought. Koheleth looks on life and is struck by the 
want of proportion in the distribution of its rewards. The race is 
not to the swift. Time and chance seem to order all things. The 
sons of men are ensnared in an evil net. Wisdom does more than 
strength, and yet the wise man is forgotten and wealth carries off the 
world’s honours (ix. rr—18). Even in the wise there are follies that 


mar their wisdom, and though we despise the fool, we see him sitting 
in high places (x. 1—7). The labour of the reformer, who seeks to 
set things right, ends too often in his own ruin and disgrace, and the 
empty-headed babbler gains the day (x. 8—15). The evils of mis- 
government, the caprice of a boy king, the oppressions of his ministers, 
were patent evils, and yet there was no remedy for them without peril 
and no course open except silent acquiescence (x. 16—20). 

(8) XI. 1—XII. 7. Koheleth feels that it is time these many wan- 
derings should end, and that his book, perhaps his life also, is drawing 
to a close. He passes therefore to more direct teaching. Whatever 
else was doubtful, it was clear that to do good must be right. To 
use opportunities for a wide charity, without over-anxious care as to 
immediate results, this was the path of wisdom (xi. 1—6). This at 
least made life worth living, even though darkness lay beyond it. 
And with this clearer insight into the true law of life there came 
a clearer faith. Joy and pleasure were not in themselves evil, but 
they might easily become so, and the young man in the midst of the 
glow of life, must remember that the Creator is also the Judge. We 
see tokens of that judgment now in the evil days which follow on a 
life of sensuous pleasure—the decay of strength, and health, and 
faculties of perception and of thought (xi. 7—xii. 6). Soon the goal 
is reached, and death closes all, and the spirit returns to God who gave 
it (xii.). Are there not grounds for believing that the judgment which 
we see here working partially, the education which here so often ends 
in seeming failure, will then work out their tendencies into results? 
Is not that a conclusion in which the spirit of man may rest? It was, 
at all events, Koheleth’s last word on the great problem. 

(9) XII. 8—14. The closing verses of the book are in the nature 
of an epilogue, added, it is almost certain, by another writer. The 
book is commended to the reader as written by a seeker after wisdom, 
who had sought to make the words of truth acceptable, whose incisive 
taaxims were as goads and nails. Such a book, short and incomplete 
as it might seem, was better in its pregnant truthfulness than the 
tomes of elaborate system-builders. As a guide to the reader in 
tracking his path through the somewhat labyrinthine structure of the 
book, the editor sums up what seemed to him, as it seems to us, the 
outcome of the whole. It was man’s wisdom to fear God, and keep 
His commandments and live in the expectation of His judgment. 




HE words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in1 
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; 2 

1. The words of the Preacher] For the title of the Book and the 
meaning of the word translated ‘‘Preacher” (better, Debater, or, per- 
haps, as the Hebrew noun has no article, Koheleth, as a proper name, 
carrying with it the meaning of Debater), see Zntroduction. ‘The de- 
scription ‘‘king in Jerusalem” is in apposition with ‘‘the Preacher” 
not with “‘David.” It is noticeable that the name of Solomon is not 
mentioned as it is in the titles of the other two books ascribed to him 
(Prov. i. 1; Song of Sol. i. 1). 

2. Vanity of vanities] The form is the highest type (as in the ‘‘ser- 
vant of servants” of Gen. ix. 25, the “‘chief over the chief” of Num. iii. 
32) of the Hebrew superlative. The word translated “‘vanity,” iden- 
tical with the name Abel or bel (Gen. iv. 2) means primarily a‘‘breath,” 
or *‘vapour,” and as such becomes the type of all that is fleeting and 
perishable (Ps. Ixii. 9, cxliv. 4). It is uniformily translated by ‘‘vanity” 
in the English Version of this book, which is moulded on the Vulgate 
as that was upon the LXX. The other Greek versions gave ‘vapour 
of vapours”? (Hieron, iz Joc.) and this may perhaps be regarded as, in 
some respects, a preferable rendering. ‘The watchword of the book, 
the key-note of its melancholy music, meeting us not less than thirty- 
nine times, is therefore, whether we take it as a proposition or an 
exclamation, like that of the Epicurean poet ‘‘Pulvis et umbra 
sumus” (Hor. Od. Iv. 7. 9), like that also, we may add, of St James 
(Jas. iii. 14) and the Psalmist (Ps. xc. 3—10). In the Wisdom of 
Solomon apparently written (see /ntroduction, chap. v.) as a corrective 
complement to Ecclesiastes we have a like series of comparisons, 
the ‘‘dust,” the ‘‘thin froth,” the ‘‘smoke,” but there the idea of 
‘yanity’ is limited to the ‘‘hope of the ungodly” and the writer, as 



104 ECCLESIASTES, I. [vv. 3, 4. 

all 7s vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour 
which he taketh under the sun? 
One generation passeth away, and another generation 

if of set purpose, avoids the sweeping generalizations of the Debater, 
who extends the assertion to the ‘‘all” of human life, and human aims. 
It is not without significance that St Paul, in what is, perhaps, the 
solitary reference in his writings to this book, uses the word which the 
LXX. employs here, when he affirms that ‘‘the creature was made 
subject to vanity” and seeks to place that fact in its right relation to 
the future restitution of the Universe (Rom. viii. 20). 

3. What profit hath a man] The question is, it is obvious, as in 
the analogous question of Matt. xvi. 26, the most emphatic form of a 
negation. For ‘‘all his labour which he taketh” read all his toil 
which he toileth, the Hebrew giving the emphasis of the combination 
of the verb with its cognate substantive. The Debater sums up his 
experience of life in this, “There is toil, and the toil is profitless.”” 
The word for ‘‘profit,” not meeting us elsewhere in the Hebrew of the 
O. T., occurs -ten times in Ecclesiastes. Its strict meaning is ‘‘that 
which remains,”—the surplus, if any, of the balance-sheet of life. It 
was, probably, one of the words which the commerce of the Jews, after 
the Captivity, had brought into common use. The question is in 
substance, almost in form, identical with that of our times ‘‘Is life 
worth living?” 

under the sun] The phrase thus used, occurring 29 times in Ecc/esz- 
astes, has nothing like it in the language of other books of the Old 
Testament. It is essentially Greek in character. Thus we have in 
Euripides, Hipfol. 1220, 

doa Te ya Tpéper 
tay "A)wos aidouevay dépxerat 
avdpas Te. 

“All creatures that the wide earth nourisheth 
Which the sun looks on radiant, and mankind.” 

And Theognis, 168, 

—— TO 8 drpexés, d\Btos ovdels 
eo ip 2 = 
avOpwrwv, dmdcous Hedcos kaOopa. 

“One thing is certain, none of all mankind, 
On whom the sun looks down, gains happiness.” 

- Our English “sublunary” may be noted as conveying an analogous 

4. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh| The 
sentence loses in strength by the words inserted in italics. Better, 
generation passeth and generation cometh. This is, as it were, 
the first note of vanity. Man, in idea the lord of the earth, is but as a 
stranger tarrying for a day. As in the touching parable of the Saxon 
chief, he comes from the darkness as into the light of a festive hall, and 
then passes into the darkness once again (Bede, Eccl. Hist. 11. c. 14), 

v. 5.] ECCLESIASTES, I. 105 

cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ; 
ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place 

but the earth which is in idea subject to him boasts a permanence which 
he cannot claim. Inthe Hebrew word which answers to ‘‘for ever” 
we have, as elsewhere, an undefined rather than an absolutely infinite 

Parallelisms of thought present themselves in Ecclus. xiv, 19; Job 
x. 213; Ps. xxxix. 13, and, we may add, in Homer, //. vi. 146, 

otn wep pUANwWY even, ToLnde Kal dvdpap. 

gud\d\a Ta wév 7 dvewos xauddis xéer, ddAda OE & VAy 
TyrEOdwoa Pret, ~apos 8’ emrylyverar wWpn’ 

ws dvipwv yeven 4 pev pier, 7 5 dmodnyet. 

** As are the leaves, so is the race of men; 
Some the wind scatters on the ground, and some 
The fruitful forest, when the springtide comes, 
Puts forth; so note we also with mankind; 
One comes to life, another falls away.” 

It is significant that, these lines were ever in the mouth of Pyrrho, 
the founder of the Greek school of Sceptics (Diog. Laert. 1x. 11. 6). 

5. The sun also ariseth| From the standpoint of modern thought 
the sun might seem even more than the earth to be the type of perma- 
nent existence, but with the Hebrew, who looked on it in its phe- 
nomenal aspect, it was not so, and the sun accordingly appears as 
presenting not a contrast, but a parallel, to human mutability and 
resultless labour. We are reminded of the Rabbinic legend of Abra- 
ham’s looking on the sun, and, when half tempted to adore it, repressing 
the temptation by watching its going down and saying ‘‘The God 
whom I worship must be a God that does not set.” Koran, Sur. 6. 
Stanley’s Fewesh Church, 1. Lect. I. 

hasteth to his place where he arose| The primary meaning of the first 
of the two verbs is that of the panting of one who travels quickly. 
Here again we have to think of the belief that, between the sunset and 
the sunrise, the sun had a long journey to perform, as the Greeks 
thought, by the great Ocean river, till it returned to the point where 
it had risen the day before. Possibly the clouds and mists of the 
morning were thought of as the panting of the sun, as of ‘the strong 
man” who ‘runs his race” (Ps. xix. 5). 

Parallels present themselves in Ps. xix. 5 (“‘rejoiceth as a strong man 
to run a race”) and yet more strikingly in Virgil, Georg. 1. 250, 

Nosque ubi primus equis Oriens adflavit anhelis, 
Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper. 

‘‘And when to us the sun with panting steeds 
Hastens at dawn, far off the star of eve 
There lights her glowing lamp.” 

Comp. also 4x, XI. 113. 

106 ECCLESIASTES, I. [vv. 6, 7. 

where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and 
turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, 
and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All 
the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea zs not full; unto the 
place from whence the rivers come, thither they return 

6. The wind goethtoward the south] This comes after the sun as exhibit- 
ing a like, though more irregular, law of mutability. ‘‘South and north” 
only are named, partly, perhaps, because east and west were implied 
in the sunrise and sunset of the previous verse, more probably because 
these were the prevailing currents of air in Palestine. Comp. “‘ Awake, 
O north wind; blow, O south,” in Song of Sol. iv. 16; Ecclus. xliii. 20; 
Luke xii. 55. 

Lt whirleth about continually} The whole verse gains in poetic 
emphasis by a more literal rendering, It goeth to the south, and it 
circleth to the north, circling, circling goeth the wind, and on its 
circlings returneth the wind. The iteration and order of the words 
seem to breathe the languor of one who was weary with watching the 
endless and yet monotonous changes. (Comp. the illustration in /ztro- 
duction, chap. 111.) 

7. <All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full] The 
words express the wonder of the earliest observers of the phenomena of 
nature: as they observed, the poet described. 

So we have in Aristophanes (C/ouds, 1248), 

atrn wev (y Oddatra) obdev ylyverat 
érippeovTwy Tay ToTauur, meElwy. 

‘The sea, though all the rivers flow to it, 
Increaseth not in volume.” 

Lucretius, representing the physical science of the school of Epicurus, 

thought it worth his while to give a scientific explanation of the fact : 
“Principio, mare mirantur non reddere majus 
Naturam, quo sit tantus decursus aquarum.” 

“And first men wonder Nature leaves the sea 
Not greater than before, though to it flows 
So great a rush of waters.” 

LucRET. vI. 608. 

thither they return again] We are apt to read into the words the 
theories of modern science as to the evaporation from the sea, the clouds 
formed by evaporation, the rain falling from the clouds and replenishing 
the streams. It may be questioned, however, whether that theory, 
which Lucretius states almost as if it were a discovery, were present to 
the mind of the Debater and whether he did not rather think of the 
waters of the ocean filtering through the crevices of the earth and so 
feeding its wells and fountains. The Epicurean poet himself accepts 
this as a partial solution of phenomena, and on the view taken in the 
Introduction as to the date of Aeclestastes it may well have been known 

v. 8.] ECCLESIASTES, I. 107 

again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter 7f:8 
the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with 

to the author as one of the physical theories of the school of Epicurus. 
We can scarcely fail, at any rate, to be struck with the close parallelism 
of expression. 

**Postremo quoniam raro cum corpore tellus 
Est, et conjuncta est, oras maris undique cingens, 
Debet, ut in mare de terris venit umor aquai, 
In terras itidem manare ex aequore salso; 
Percolatur enim virus, retroque remanat ’ 
Materies humoris, et ad caput amnibus omnis 
Confluit; inde super terras redit agmine dulci.” 

‘Lastly since earth has open pores and rare, 
And borders on the sea, and girds its shores, 
Need must its waters, as from earth to sea 
They flow, flow back again from sea to earth, 
And so-the brackish taint is filtered off 
And to the source the water back distils, 
And from fresh fountains streams o’er all the fields.” 
LUCRET. VI. 631—637. 

The same thought is found in Homer, /7, xx1. 196, 

“‘Ocean’s strength 
From which all rivers flow,” 

and is definitely stated in the Chaldee paraphrase of the verse now 
before us. Comp. also Lucret. v. 270—273. An alternative rendering 
gives ‘‘to the place whither the rivers go, thither they return again” 
or ‘‘thence they return again.” 

8. All things are full of labour| The Hebrew dabar may mean 
either ‘‘word” or ‘‘thing,” and so the sentence admits equally of this 
or the nearly equivalent rendering, All things are weary with toil 
and All words are feeble, and each gives, it is obvious, a fairly tenable 
meaning. The first generalizes as by an induction from the previous 
instances, that all things (especially, z¢. all human affairs) are alike 
“stale, flat and unprofitable.” The latter stops in the induction to say 
that all speech is feeble, that time and strength would fail to go through 
the catalogue. On the whole, looking to the fact that the verb ‘‘utter” 
is cognate in form with the word translated ‘‘things,” the latter seems 
more closely in harmony with the context. We might fairly express 
the force of the Hebrew by saying All speech fails; man cannot 
speak it. The seeming tautology gives the sentence the emphasis of 
iteration. So the LXX. and the Targum. 

the eye ts not satisfied with seeing| The thought is hmited by the 
context. It is not that the Debater speaks of the cravings of sight and 
hearing for ever-new objects, true as that might be; but that wherever 
the eye or the ear turn, the same sad tale meets them, the same paradox 
of an unvarying record of endless yet monotonous variation. The state 
which Lucretius (11. 1037) describes, probably as echoing Epicurus, that 

108 ECGLESIAST ES, 1: [vv. 9—II. 

9 hearing. The thing that hath been, z¢# zs that which shall 
be; and that which is done zs that which shall be done: 
ro and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any 
thing whereof it may be said, See, this zs new? it hath been 
tr already of old time, which was before us. There is no 

of one ‘‘fessus satiate videndi,” presents a parallelism too striking to be 
passed over. 

9. The thing that hath been| What has been affirmed of natural 
phenomena is now repeated of the events of human life. The writer 
reproduces or anticipates the Stoic doctrine of a recurring cycle of events 
which we find reproduced in Virgil: 

“‘Magnus ab integro seeclorum nascitur ordo. 
Alter erit tum Tiphys, et altera que vehat Argo 
Delectos heroas; erunt etiam altera bella, 
Atque iterum ad Troiam magnus mittetur Achilles.” 

“‘Lo! the great cycle rufis its course anew: 
A second Tiphys springs to life, and steers 
A second Argo with its warrior freight 
Of chosen heroes, and new wars arise, 
And once again Achilles sails for Troy.” 
Virc. Zc. IV. 5, 34—36. 

10, Zs there any thing| A man may challenge, the writer seems 
to say, the sweeping assertion just uttered. He may point to some 
new phenomenon, some new empire, some invention of art, or 
discovery of science. It is all to no purpose. It has been before in 
the vast eons (the Hebrew word for ‘‘of old time” is the plural of 
that commonly translated ‘‘age” or ‘‘eternity”) of the recorded or 
unrecorded past. It is but an oblivion of what has been that makes 
us look to that which is to be as introducing a new element in the 
world’s history. The thought was a favourite one with ‘the Stoics. 
For a full account of their doctrine on this point see Zeller’s Stoics and 
Lpicureans, ch. VI. Aurelius does but sum up the teaching of the 
school, where he says, almost in the very words of Ecclesiastes, that 
“they that come after us will see nothing new, and that they who went 
before us saw nothing more than we have seen” (AZedit#. x1. 1). “’There 
is nothing new” (/d¢d. Vil. 1). ‘All things that come to pass now have 
come to pass before and will come to pass hereafter” (/ézd. Vit. 26). 
So Seneca (Zf. XXIv.), ‘‘Omnia transeunt ut revertantur ; Nil novi 
video, nil novi facto.” (“All things pass away that they may return 
again; I see nothing new, I do nothing new.”) 

11. There is no remembrance of former things] Better, of former 
men, or of those of old time, and so in the next clause of those 
that shall come after. The thought of the oblivion of the past 
suggested in the previous verse, as explaining the fact that some things 
seem new to us which are not so, is reproduced in another aspect as 
yet a new element in the pessimism into which the writer has fallen, 

vv. 12, 13.] EGGLEESIASTES; I. 109 

remembrance of former ¢iimgs; neither shall there be any 
remembrance of ¢hzngs that are to come with dose that shall 
come after. 

I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And 
I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concern- 

Men dream of a fame that shall outlive them. How few of those that 
went before them do they remember even by name? How little do 
they know even of those whose names have survived amid the wreck 
that has engulfed others? What does it profit to be famous now, just 
known by name to the generation that follows, and then forgotten alto- 
gether? Comp. a striking passage to the same effect in Jeremy Taylor’s 
Contemplations of the State of Man, ch. 11., ‘‘The name of Echebar 
was thought by his subjects to be eternal, and that all the world did 
not only know but fear him; but ask here in Europe who he was, and 
no man hath heard of him; demand of the most learned, and few shall 
resolve you that he reigned in Magor,” and Marc. Aurel. Meditt. 11. 17, 
3 vorepodnuta, ANOn, “posthumous fame is but oblivion.” So ends 
the prologue of the book, sounding its terrible sentence of despair on 
life and all its interests. It is hardly possible to turn to the later work, 
which also purports to represent the Wisdom of Solomon, without feeling 
that its author deliberately aimed at setting forth another aspect of 
things. He reproduces well-nigh the very words of the prologue, “the 
breath of our nostrils is as smoke”...‘‘our name shall be forgotten in 
time: our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud”...but he puts all 
this into the mouth not of his ideal Solomon but of ‘‘ungodly men,.. 

reasoning with themselves but not aright,” Wisd. ii. 1—5, and shews 
how it leads first to sensuous self-indulgence, and then to deliberate 
ae and persistent antagonism to God. (See Lntroduction, 
chap. V. 

12. TZ the Preacher was king over Israel] Better, “‘I...have been 
king.” It would, perhaps, be too much to say that this mode of intro- 
ducing himself, is so artificial as to exclude, as some have thought, the 
authorship of the historical Solomon. Louis XIV.’s way of speaking 
of himself ‘‘ Quand j’etois roi” may well have had its parallel, as Mr 
Bullock suggests in the Speaker’s Commentary, in the old age of another 
king weary of the trappings and the garb of Majesty. As little, how- 
ever, can they be held to prove that authorship. A writer aiming at a 
dramatic impersonation of his idea of Solomon would naturally adopt 
some such form as this and might, perhaps, adopt it in order to indicate 
that it was an impersonation. The manner in which the son of David 
appears in Wisd. vii. 1—15 presents at once a parallel and a contrast. 

13. J gave my heart] The phrase, so expressive of the spirit of an 
earnest seeker, is eminently characteristic of this book and meets us 
again in ver. 17, chaps. vii. 25, viii. 9, 16. Like forms are found in Isai. 
xli. 42; Ps. xlviii. 14. ‘Heart” with the Hebrews, it may be noticed, 
+s the seat of the intellect as well as the affections, and ‘‘to give the heart” 
is therefore specially expressive of an act of concentrated mental energy. 
The all that is done under heaven (we note the variation of phrase 


110 ECCLESIASTES, I. [vv. 14—16. 

ing all ¢Azmgs that are done under heaven: this sore travail 
hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised there- 
14 With. I have seen all the works that are done under the 
x5 sun; and behold, all zs vanity and vexation of spirit. That 
which ts crooked cannot be made straight: and that which 
161s wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine 

from the ‘‘under the sun” of verse 9) takes in the whole range of human 
action as distinct from the cosmical phenomena of verses 5—7. The 
enquiry of the seeker was throughout one of ethical rather than physical 

this sore travail] The words express the feeling with which the 
writer looked back on his inquiry. It had led to no satisfying result, 
and the first occurrence of the name of God in the book is coupled with 
the thought that this profitless search was His appointment. He gave. 
the desire but, so the preacher murmurs in his real or seeming pessim- 
ism, not the full Truth in which only the desire can rest. The word 
for ‘‘ travail” is peculiar to this book. That for ‘‘ exercised” is formed 
from the same root. 

14. all 1s vanity and vexation of spirit| The familiar words, though 
they fall in with the Debater’s tone and have the support of the Vulg. 
“afflictio spiritus,” hardly express the meaning of the Hebrew and we 
must read ‘‘vanity and feeding upon wind.” The phrase has its parallel 
in Hos, xii. 2 (‘Ephraim feedeth on wind”) and Isai. xliv. 20 (“feedeth 
on ashes”) and expresses, with a bold vividness, the sense of emptiness 
which accompanies unsatisfied desire. Most commentators, however, 
prefer the rendering ‘striving after the wind” or ‘windy effort,” but 
“*feeding” expresses, it is believed, the meaning of the Hebrew more 
closely. The LXX. gives rpoatpeots rveduaros (=resolve of wind, z.e. 
fleeting and unsubstantial). Symmachus gives Bécxnois and Aquila 
voun (= feeding). The word in question occurs seven times in Eccle- 
siastes but is not found elsewhere. The rendering ‘‘vexation” rests 
apparently on a false etymology. 

15. That which is crooked| The words are apparently a proverbial 
saying quoted as already current. The complaint is that the search 
after wisdom brings the seeker face to face with anomalies and defects, 
which yet he cannot rectify. The Hebrew words are not the same, but 
we may, perhaps, trace an allusive reference to the promise of Isai. xl. 
4 that ‘“‘the crooked shall be made straight,” and the Debater in his 
present mood looks on this also as a delusive dream. There is nothing 
left but to take things as they are and ‘‘accept the inevitable.” Comp. 
chap. vii. 13, as expressing the same thought. 

that which 1s wanting| The second clause presents the negative 
aspect of the world’s defects as ‘*crooked” did the positive. Every- 
where, if there is nothing absolutely evil, there is an ‘“incompleteness” 
which we cannot remedy, any more than our skill in arithmetic can 
make up for a deficit which stares us in the face when we look into an 
account, and the seeker had not as yet attained to the faith which sees 


own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have 
gotten more wisdom than all ¢/ey that have been before me 
in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wis- 
dom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wis- 

beyond that incompleteness the ultimate completeness of the Divine 

16. Lo, [ am come to great estate| ‘The pronoun is used emphati- 
cally. ‘The verb in the Hebrew is connected closely with what follows 
and speaks not of outward majesty but of ‘‘becoming great,” in 
wisdom. So taken we may read, ‘‘I became great and increased in 
wisdom more than all.” We note again, as in verse 13, the kind of 
dialogue which the Debater holds with his inner consciousness. He 
“‘communes with his heart” (comp. Ps. iv. 4, Ixxvii. 6). So Marcus 
Aurelius gave to the book which we call his Afedztations, the title rd eis 
éavréy—literally, ‘‘ Things for myself” or ‘‘Self-communings.” 

they that have been before me in Ferusalem] Better, ‘over Jerusalem.” 
Those who maintain the late origin of the book point to this apparent 
retrospect over a long series of predecessors as betraying, or possibly 
as intended to indicate, the pseudonymous authorship. The historical 
Solomon, it is said, had but one predecessor over Jerusalem. The 
inference. is, however, scarcely conclusive. Even on the theory of 
personated authorship, the writer would scarcely have slipped into 
so glaring an anachronism, and the words admit of being referred, on 
either view, either to the line of unknown Jebusite rulers, including 
perhaps Melchizedek (Gen. xiv. 18), Adonizedek (Josh. xv. 63; 2 Sam. 
v. 7) and others, or to the sages ‘‘Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman and 
Chalcol and Darda the sons of Mahol,” who are named in 1 Kings 
iv. 31, and who may, in some sense, as teachers and guides, have been 
‘fover” as well as ‘‘in” Jerusalem. Some MSS. indeed give the 
preposition ‘‘in” instead of ‘‘over.” 

my heart had great expertence| More literally, and at the same time 
more poetically, my heart hath seen much wisdom and knowledge. 
The two nouns are related, like the Greek oodia and émiornuy, the 
former expressing the ethical, the latter the speculative, scientific side 
of knowledge. 

17. And TZ gave my heart] The apparent iteration of the phrase 
of verse 13 expresses the concentration of purpose. The writer adds 
that his search took a yet wider range. He sought to know wisdom 
through its opposite, to enlarge his experience of the diseases of 
human thought. He had fathomed the depths of the ‘‘madness and 
folly ;” the former word expressing in Hebrew as in English the wilder 
forms of unwisdom. There is,-perhaps, a touch of self-mockery in the 
fact that the latter word in the Hebrew is all but identical in sound 
with a word which means ‘‘prudence.” One, the writer seems to say, 
has the same issue as the other. Some critics, indeed (e.g. Ginsburg), 
think that the present text originated in an error of transcription and 
that we ought to read ‘‘to know wisdom and knowledge.” It has 


112 ECCLESIASTES, I. [v. 18. 

dom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that 
this also zs vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom 2s 
much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth 

been thought and, as stated in the Jutroduction (chap. I1.), with some 
reason, that in the use of the stronger word we have an echo of the 
current language of the Stoics who looked on all the weaknesses of 
mankind as so many forms of insanity. So Horace (Sad. 11. 3. 43)s 

‘Quem mala stultitia et quemcunque inscitia veri 
Czecum agit, insanum Chrysippi porticus et grex 
Autumat. Hzec populos, heec magnos formula reges, 
Excepto sapiente, tenet.” 

‘‘ Him, whom weak folly leads in blindness on, 
Unknowing of the Truth, the Porch and tribe 
Who call Chrysippus Master, treat as mad. 
Peoples and mighty kings, all but the wise 
This formula embraces.” 

So also Diog. Laert. V11. 124, 
Aéyouoe rdvtas Tous appovas palvecBa. 
‘All that are foolish they pronounce insane.” 

vexation of spirit] Better, feeding on wind, as before. See note 
on ver. 14. The word is, however, not identical in form, but expresses 
a more concrete idea. By some it is rendered ‘‘meditation.” The 
fact that the writer uses a word not found elsewhere in the Old Testa- 
ment, suggests the thought that he wanted a new word for the expression 
of a new thought. 

18. in much wisdom is much grief] The same sad sentence was 
written on the study of man’s nature in its greatness and its littleness, 
its sanity and insanity. The words have passed into a proverb, and 
were, perhaps, proverbial when the Debater wrote them. The mere 
widening of the horizon, whether of ethical or of physical knowledge, 
brought no satisfaction. In the former case men became more conscious 
of their distance from the true ideal. They ate of the fruit of the tree 
of knowledge of good and evil, and the only result was that they knew 
that ‘‘they were naked” (Gen. iii. 7). In the latter, the more they 
knew of the phenomena of nature or of human life the more they felt 
that the ‘‘most part of God’s works were hid.” Add to this the brain- 
weariness, the laborious days, the sleepless nights, the frustrated ambi- 
tions of the student, and we can understand the confession of the 
Debater. It has naturally been often echoed. So Cicero (usc. Disp. 
111. 4) discusses the thesis, ‘‘ Videtur mihi cadere in sapientem 
agritudo” (‘ Sickness seems to me to be the lot of the wise of heart”). 

vv. I—3.] ECCLESIASTES, II. 113 

I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with 2 
mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold, this also zs 
vanity. I said of laughter, /¢ zs mad: and of mirth, What 2 
doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, 3 


1. JZ will prove thee with mirth] The self-communing of the man 
talking to his soul, like the rich man in Luke xii. 18, 19, in search of 
happiness, leads him to yet another experiment. He will lay aside 
philosophy and try what pleasure will do, and live as others live. The 
choice of Faust in Goethe’s great drama, presents a striking parallel in 
the world of creative Art. The fall of Abelard is hardly a less striking 
parallel in the history of an actual life. Consciously or unconsciously 
(probably the former) the Debater had passed from the Hebrew and the 
Stoic ideals of wisdom to that of the school of Epicurus. The choice of 
the Hebrew word for “ pleasure” (literally ‘‘good”’) implies that this now 
appeared the summum bonum of existence. But this experiment also 
failed. The doom of ‘‘vanity” was on this also. The “‘laughter” was 
like the crackling of burning thorns (chap. vii. 6) and left nothing but 
the cold grey ashes of a cynical satiety. In the ‘‘Go to now” with 
which the self-communing begins we trace the tone of the irony of 

2. J said of laughter, It is mad| "The choice of a word cognate 
with the madness of chap. i. 17, gives a special emphasis to the judg- 
ment which the man thus passes on himself. There was as much in- 
sanity in this form of life as in the other. He was plunging into mad- 
ness with his eyes open and might say, 

‘*Video meliora proboque, 
Deteriora sequor,.” 
“TI see the better, yet ithe worse pursue.” 
Ovip, Metamorph, Vil. 20. 

In each case the question might be asked ‘‘What does it work? What 
is its outcome?” And the implied answeriis ‘‘ Absolutely nothing.” 

3. to give myself unto wine] Literally, and more vividly, to cherish 
my flesh with wine. The Hebrew word for “‘give” is unusual and 
obscure. The primary meaning is ‘‘to draw out,” that of the word for 
“acquainting” is “to guide” or “drive,” as in Exod. ili. 1; 2 Sam. vi. 3. 
Possibly, as Lewis suggests in Lange’s Commentary, the idea is like that 
of the parable in the PAedrus of Plato (p. 54) and the seeker gives the 
rein to pleasure, yet seeks to guide or drive the steed with his wisdom, 
The words point to the next stage in the progress of the pleasure seeker. 
Pleasure as such, in its graceful, lighter forms, soon palls, and he seeks 
the lower, fiercer stimulation of the wine cup, But he did this, he 
is careful to state, not as most men do, drifting along the current of 
lower pleasures 

‘*Till the seared taste, from foulest wells 
Is fain to quench its fires,” 


114 ECCLESIASTES, II. [vv. 4, 5. 

(yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom) and to lay 
hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the 
sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all 
the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded 
sme houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens 


but deliberately, ‘‘yet guiding mine heart with wisdom.” This also 
was an experiment, and he retained, or tried to retain, his self-analysing 
introspection even in the midst of his revelry. All paths must be tried, 
seeming folly as well as seeming wisdom, to see if they gave any 
adequate standard by which the ‘‘sons of men” might guide their 
conduct, any pathway to the ‘“‘chief good” which was the object of 
the seeker’s quest. 

4, I made me great works| The verse may be either a retrospect of 
the details of the life of the pleasure-seeker as sketched in the previous 
verse, or, as seems more probable, the account of a new experiment in 
which the man passed from purely sensual pleasures to the life of what 
we know as ‘culture,’ the pursuit of beauty and magnificence in Art. 
Here the writer throws himself into the surroundings of the historical 
Solomon. We may venture to refer to Tennyson’s Palace of Art as 
tracing the working out of a like experiment to its inevitable issue. See 
Appendix II. 

L builded me houses] We think of David’s house of cedar (2 Chron. 
ii. 3) and the storehouses, oliveyards and vineyards (x Chron. xxvii. 
25—31) which Solomon had inherited, of his own palace, and the house 
of the forest of Lebanon and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter, which he 
built (1 Kings vii. 1—9), of Tadmor and Hamath and Beth-horon and 
Baalath, the cities in far off lands which owned him as their founder 
(2 Chron. viii. 3—6). It is significant, on any theory of authorship, 
that we find no reference to Solomon’s work in building ‘the house of 
the Lord.” ‘That was naturally outside the range of the experiments in 
search of happiness and too sacred to be mentioned in connexion with 
them here, either by the king himself or by the writer who personates 
him. On the assumption of personation the writer may have drawn his 
pictures of kingly state from the palaces and parks of the Ptolemies, in- 
cluding the botanical and zoological gardens connected with the Museum 
at Alexandria, or from those of the Persian kings at Susa or Persepolis. 

I planted me vineyards] Of these one, that of Baal-hamon, has been 
immortalised by its mention in the Song of Solomon (viii. 11). It 
was planted with the choicest vine, and the value of its produce esti- 
mated at a thousand pieces of silver. Engedi seems also to have been 
famous for its vineyards (Song Sol. i. 14). 

5. L made me gardens and orchards] The latter word, originally 
Persian, and found only in the O. T, in this book, in Song Sol. iv. 13, 
and Nehem. ii. 8, is the “paradise” of Xenophon, of later Rabbinic 
writings and of the New Testament (Luke xxiii. 43; 2 Cor. xii. 4). It 
indicates what we call a park, with flowing streams and shady groves and 
fruit trees, and deer feeding on the fresh green grass, and doves flitting 
through the trees, such as scemed to the Eastern imagination the fittest 

wv. 6, 7.] ECCLESIASTES, II. 115 

and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all zind of 
fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the 6 
wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and 7 
maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had 

type of the highest blessedness. The whole scenery of the Song of 
Solomon is such a garden, planted with pomegranates and pleasant 
fruits, spikenards and camphire, calamus and cinnamon, and trees of 
frankincense, and lilies (Song Sol. iv. 13—15, vi. 2). The pools of Solo- 
mon at Etam, on the south-west of Bethlehem, described by Josephus 
(Ant. VIII. 7. 3) still preserve the memory of such a ‘‘paradise.” Other 
traces of these surroundings of the palaces of Jewish kings are found in 
the history of Naboth’s vineyard, where the ‘‘garden of herbs” can 
hardly be thought of as merely a “kitchen garden” (t Kings xxi. 2) 
and in the garden of Zedekiah (Jer. lii. 7). 

all kind of fruits] ‘The horticulture of Palestine included the apple, 
the fig, the pomegranate, the date, the caper-tree, nuts, almonds, rdisins 
and mandrakes. The account is in strict keeping with the character of 
the king who spake of trees “‘from the cedar that is im Lebanon to the 
hyssop on the wall” (1 Kings iv. 33). 

6. made me pools of water} Those at Etam have been mentioned 
above. Besides these we have the fish-pools of Heshbon-(Song Sol. 
vii. 4), the pool of the king (Neh. ii. 14), possibly also, the pools of 
Siloam (John ix. 7), and Beth-esda(Johnv. 2). In Palestine, asin India, 
these large tanks or reservoirs of water, as: meeting the necessities of the 
climate, were among the favourite works of kingly munificence. Stress 
is laid on the fact that they were not for beauty only, but for service in 
irrigating the extensive park. 

the wood that bringeth forth trees} Better, “a grove making trees 
to bud,” z.¢. in the language of modern gardening, a ‘‘nursery” for 
young trees. 

7. Igot me servants and maidens] Better, I bought. The picture 
of Oriental state was incomplete without this element, and the slave 
trade, of which the Midianites were the chief representatives in the 
patriarchal history (Gen, xxxvii. 28), had probably been carried on 
without intermission, and supplied both the household and the harem 
of Solomon. In the Cushi of 2 Sam. xviii. 21, in his namesake of 
Jer. xxxvi. 14, in Ebedmelech, the Cushite, or Ethiopian, of Jer. 
XXxviii. 7, we have instances of the presence of such slaves in the royal 
households. The history of every ancient nation shews the universality 
of the traffic. Of these slaves each great household had two classes: 
(1) those ‘‘bought with money,” men of other races, captives in war, 
often, probably, negroes (Jer. xxxviii. 7) who were employed in the 
more menial offices (Gen. xi. 11, 12, 23), and (2) those born in the 
house (Gen. xiv. 14, xv. 3; Jer. ii. 14), the ‘sons of the handmaids’ 
(Exod. xxiii. 12), who rose into more confidential service, the olxoyevets 
of the Greeks, the wernae of the Latins. On the assumption that the 
book was written under the Ptolemies, their court would present the 
same features in an even more conspicuous manner. 


116 ECCLESIASTES, ITI. [v. 8. 

great possessions of great and small cattle above all that 
were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver 
and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the 
provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and 
the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, 

great and small cattle] Better, oxen and sheep. The daily provision 
for Solomon’s household (1 Kings iv. 22) gives some idea of the mag- 
nitude of his flocks and herds. See also 1 Chron. xxvii. 29; 1 Kings 

Ve. 3: 

8. I gathered me also silver and gold| Here also we find a counter- 
part in what is recorded of the wealth of Solomon, the ships of Hiram 
that brought gold from Ophir, to the amount of 420 talents (1 Kings 
ix. 28), the gifts from the queen of Sheba (1 Kings x. 1), the total 
revenue of 666 talents (1 Kings x. 15), the 200 targets and 300 shields 
of beaten gold, and the throne of gold and ivory and the drinking vessels 
of the house of the forest of Lebanon, and the silver that was in Jeru- 
salem as stones (1 Kings x. 16—27). 

the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces] The words may point 
to the special gifts which came to Solomon by way of tribute from other 
lands, from Seba and Sheba (Ps. Ixxii. 10), from the “kings of Arabia 
and the governors of the country” (1 Kings ix. 15, x. 27). Many com- 
mentators, however, see in the phrase a description of the treasures of 
Solomon as being such as were the special possessions of sovereign 
rulers and sovereign states as distinct from the wealth of private citizens. 
The word for “province” may be noted as a comparatively late word, 
hardly coming into use till the time of the Captivity (Lam. i. 1; Ezek. 
xix. 8), and prominent chiefly in the books of the Persian period, 
Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel. It probably designates here the 
anal districts into which Solomon divided his empire (1 Kings iv. 

men singers and women singers] The mention of women shews that 
the singers meant are not those connected with the choir of the Temple, 
but those who, as in the speech of Barzillai (2 Sam. xix. 35), figured at 
state banquets. These women, as in Isai. xxiii. 6, were commonly taken 
from the class of harlot aliens, and as such were condemned by the 
counsel of the wise of heart (Ecclus, ix. 4). For the general use of 
one at feasts, comp. Isai. v. rr, 12; Amos vi. 5; Ecclus. xxxii, 5,10, 


the delights of the sons of men] The use of the word in Song Sol. 
vii. 6 leaves little doubt that the phrase is an euphemism for sensual 
pleasures, and as such it helps ‘to determine the meaning of the words 
that follow. 

musical instruments, and that of all sorts] The Hebrew substantive 
which is not found elsewhere, is first given in the singular and then in 
the plural, as an emphatic way of expressing multitude, and has been 
very variously interpreted, as meaning, with the A. V., following Luther, 

vv. 9—I1.] ECCLESIASTES, II. > ig; 

and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more 
than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wis- 
dom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes de- 
sired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from 
any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this 
was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the 

a ‘‘musical instrument,” or with the Vulgate ‘‘cups,” or with the LXX. 
**cup-bearers,” or a “bath,” or “heaps” of treasure, or a ‘‘chariot,” or 
a ‘‘palanquin,” or even “male and female demons.” Most modern 
scholars however agree, though differing as to its etymology, some finding 
its root-meaning in ‘‘couch,” and some in the “‘female breast,” and 
others in “captives taken in war,” in rendering it as a ‘‘concubine.” 
This agrees, it is obvious, with the context and with what is recorded of 
Solomon’s seraglio with its thousand inmates (Song Sol. vi. 8; 1 Kings 
xi. 3). It was not likely, we may add, that so characteristic a feature 
in that monarch’s prodigal excesses should have been altogether passed 
over in a picture so elaborate. ‘Musical instruments,” it may be added, 
would have formed a somewhat poor climax to the long catalogue of 
kingly luxuries. The interpolated ‘“‘as” should be omitted. 

9. JL was great, and increased| There is something significant in 
the repetition of the formula of ch. i. 16. The king had surpassed 
all others in wisdom, he was now surpassing all others in magnificence. 

also my wisdom remained with me] The thought expressed seems 
to be, as in verse 3, that the seeker, though he plunged into the pleasures 
of a sensual life, was never altogether their slave. They were for him 
experiments which he watched as with an intellectual impartiality. Like 
Goethe, he analysed his voluptuousness, and studied his own faculties 
of enjoyment. 

10. whatsoever mine eyes destred| From such a life the idea of self- 
denial, even of self-control, was absolutely excluded. Money and 
power were but means to the end, and the end proposed was the 
gratification of the ‘‘desire of the eyes,” not identified with the “‘lust of 
the flesh,” but closely allied to it (1 John ii. 16), in all its restless cravings. 
It was not altogether a fruitless effort. Such joy as these things could 
bring he had in abundant measure. It was for a time his ‘‘ portion.” 
Like the rich man in the parable of Luke xvi. 25 he had his ‘good 
things,” and could not complain that the experiment failed as through 
imperfect apparatus. He also was tasting of the ‘tree of knowledge 
of good and evil,” and found that it was ‘‘ good for food, and pleasant 
to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 
iii. 6). 

te Then I looked| Were also, however, the result was as before. 
There came the afterthought which scrutinised the enjoyments and found 
them wanting. The pursuit of pleasure was as unsatisfying as the 
pursuit of knowledge. Like others who have trodden the same path, 
he had to confess that 




118 ECCLESIASTES, II- [Vvadzqrge 

works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I 
had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vex- 
ation of spirit, and ¢here was no profit under the sun. 

And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, 
and folly: for what caz the man do that cometh after 
the king? even that which hath been already done. Then 
I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth 

“Medio de fonte leporum 
Surgit amari aliquid.” 

‘‘E’en from the centre of the fount of joys 
There springs an element of bitterness.” 

Lucret., De Rer. Nat. Iv. 1127. 

All was vanity and feeding on the wind. There was no real ‘‘profit” 
(see note on chap. i. 3) that could take its place among his permanent 
possessions, no surplus to his credit on the balance-sheet of life. In the 
more solemn words of Matt. xvi. 26, ‘‘What is a man profited if he 
shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” we have substantially 
the same teaching. 

12. J turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly| We 
enter on yet another phase of the life of the seeker after happiness. He 
falls back with a cynical despair, when mere pleasure left him a prey to 
satiety and ennui, upon his former study of human nature in its con- 
trasted developments of wisdom, and madness, and folly (see note on 
chap. i. 17). 

what can the man do that cometh after the king?] Literally, What is 
the man...... The words are apparently a kind of proverb. No other 
child of man could try the experiment under more promising conditions 
than a king like the Solomon of history, and therefore the answer to the 
question, What can such a man be or do? is simply (if we follow the 
construction of the A.V.) ‘‘Even that which men did before.” He 
shall tread the same weary round with the same unsatisfying results. 

. The verse is, however, obscure, and has been very variously rendered. 

So (1) the LXX., following another text, gives ‘‘What man will follow 
after counsel in whatsoever things they wrought it;” (2) the Vulgate, 
‘‘What is man, said I, that he can follow the King, his Maker;” and 
(3) many modern interpreters. ‘* What can the man do that comes after 
the king, whom they made long ago?” z.e. Who can equal the time- 
honoured fame of Solomon? 

13. J saw that wisdom excelleth folly] Better, as keeping up, in the 
English as in the Hebrew, the characteristic word of the book, There 
is profit in wisdom more than in folly, and so in the second clause. 
Something then had been gained by the experience. In language like 
that of the Stoics he sings the praises of wisdom. Even the wisdom 
that brings sorrow (ch. i. 13) is better than the mirth of fools. A man 
is conscious of being more truly man when he looks before and after, 
and knows how to observe. Light is, after all, better than darkness, 

vv. 14, 15.] ECCLESIASTES, II. 119 

darkness, The wise man’s eyes ave in his head; but the 14 
fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also 
that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I in my 1s 
heart, As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to 
me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my 

even if it only shews us that we are treading the path that leads to 
fos ae The human heart obeys its instincts when it cries out with 
év 5¢ gdev kal Sdecoor. 
‘‘And if our fate be death, give light, and let us die.” 

Hom. //. Xvit. 647. 

14. The wise man’s eyes are in his head] The figurative language is 
so much of the nature of an universal parable that we need hardly look 
to any special source for it, but we are at least reminded of those that 
‘¢walk on still in darkness,” who have eyes and yet ‘‘see not” in any 
true sense of seeing (Isai. vi. 10). In Prov. xvii. 24 we have the oppo- 
site form of the same thought: “The eyes of a fool are in the ends of 
the earth.” Comp. also John xi. 10, xii. 33. 

and I myself perceived also) Better, And yet I myself perceived. 
The thought of verse 13 which had given an apparent resting-place for 
the seeker, is traversed by another which sends him once more adrift. 
Wisdom is better than folly. True, but for how long? With an em- 
phasized stress on his own personal reflections, he goes on, SNCS AL 
myself, learning it for myself, and not as a topic of the schools, saw 
that there is one event for the wise and for the fool.” In a few short 
years the difference in which the former exults will vanish, and both 
will be on the same level. So sang the Epicurean poet: 

‘¢Omnes una manet nox, 
Et calcanda semel via lethi.” 

6¢One dark black night awaits us all; 
One path of death we all must tread.” 

Hor. Od. 1. 28. 15. 

15. why was I then more wise?| Better, Why have I been wise now 
overmuch? The very wisdom of the seeker might lead him to see 
that he has not only been wiser than others, but wiser than it was 
wise to be. The last word is almost identical with the ‘‘ profit” which 
occurs so frequently. He found that he had a surplus of wisdom, and 
that it was but surplusage. We seem to hear an echo of the Mydev 
dryav, the Me guid nimis (‘‘ Nothing in excess”’) of Greek and Roman 
sages. So, with the same Hebrew word, we have in chap. vil. 10, °° be 
not righteous over much.” So it was that the sentence of ‘Vanity’ was 
once more written on wisdom as well as folly. It is not without signifi- 
cance that the man feels the bitterness of the sentence, because, even 
in his wisdom, he, like the Stoics, had been egoistic. That he and the 
fool, the man of large discourse, and the man to whom culture was an 




120 BCCLESTAST ES, LE [vv. 16, 17. 

heart, that this also zs vanity. For ¢here zs no remembrance 
of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that 
which now zs, iz the days to come shall all be forgotten. 
And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I 
hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun 

unknown word, should die the same death, this made him curse his 

16. ee zs no remembrance of the wise| More accurately, For the 
wise man as for the fool there is no remembrance for ever, the 
last two words being emphatic, almost as if intentionally calling in 
question the teaching of Ps. cxii. 6, that ‘‘the righteous shall be had in 
everlasting remembrance.” The assertion seems at first too sweeping. 
There are sages, we say, who live yet in the memory of men whose 
names the world will not willingly let die. Practically, however, as 
regards the influence of the desire for posthumous fame as a motive, 
the number of such names is inappreciably small, even with the 
manifold resources of monuments and written records. The scribes 
and doctors, the artists and the poets of one age are forgotten in the 
next, and only here or there can any man be bold to say with Bacon 
that he commits his memory ‘‘to the care of future ages.” (See note 
on ch. i. 11.) Even a biographical dictionary is often but as the sepul- 
chre of the mouldering remains of reputations that have been long 
since dead, and their place knoweth them no more. ‘Then, as in later 
days, there were those who substituted the permanence of fame for that 
of personal being, and the Debater, with his incisive question shatters 
the unsubstantial fabric. 

And how dieth the wise man? As the fool] Literally, ‘with the fool,” 
as if in partnership with him, sharing the same lot. Better, perhaps, 
as an exclamation, not a question, ‘‘How dieth the wise man with 
(=as) the fool. The absence of any hope of an immortality beyond 
that of fame has been already implied. The present clause brings 
before us the manner and circumstances of death. We stand, as it 
were, by the two death-beds, of the wise and of the fool, and note the 
same signs of the end, the same glazed eye, the same death-dew on 
the brow, the same failing power of thought. The picture of chap. 
xii. r—6 is true of both. The seeker had apparently never stood by 
the death-bed of one whose face was lit up, and, as it were, trans- 
figured by a ‘“‘hope full of immortality.” Here also we may trace 
in the later personator of Solomon a deliberate protest against what 
seemed to him the teaching of Ecclesiastes (Wisd. ii. I—9). 

17. Therefore [ hated ife| Better, And I hated. Of such a temper, 
the extremest form of pessimism, suicide would seem the natural and 
logical outcome. In practice, however, the sages who have thus 
moralized, from Koheleth to Schopenhauer, have found life worth living 
for, even when they were proving that it was hateful. Even the very 
utterance of the thought has been a relief, or, like Hamlet, they have 
been deterred by the vague terror of the “‘something after death” 

vv. 18—20. | ECCLESIASTES, II. 121 

is grievous unto me: for all zs vanity and vexation of spirit. 
Yea, I hated all my labour which I ad taken under the :s 
sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be 
after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise 19 
man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour 
whereiz I have laboured, and wherezz I have shewed myself 
wise under the sun. This zs also vanity. Therefore I went 20 
about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I 

which their scepticism cannot quite shake off. The actual self-murderers 
are those who cannot weave their experiences into poems and confes- 
sions, and find the burden of life, including its sin and shame, more 
than they can bear. It may be questioned whether mere weariness of 
life, able to find vent for itself in verse or prose, has ever led to suicide. 
The man, as here, seems to come to the very verge of it, and then 
draws back. It is suggestive that in the history of Greek and Roman 
philosophy suicide was more frequent and more honoured among the 
Stoics than the Epicureans (Zeller, Stoics and Epic. C. xii.). The 
recurrence of the burden ‘‘vanity and feeding upon wind” rings, as it 
were, the death-knell of life and hope. 

18, because [should leave it unto the man that shall be after me] The 
history of the great ones of the earth presents not a few parallel utter- 
ances. Mazarin walks through the galleries of his palace and says to 
himself, ‘‘Z/ faut quitter tout cela.” Frederick William IV. of Prussia 
turns to his friend Bunsen as they stand on the terrace at Potsdam, and 
says, as they look out on the garden, “Das auch, das soll ich lassen,” 
(‘¢This too I must leave behind me”.) The thought recurs again and 
again (chs. iv. 8, v. 14, Vi. 2). 

19. who knoweth whether he shall bea wise man] We note in this 
rather the utterance of a generalized experience than, as some have 
thought, the special thought of the historical Solomon watching the 

rowth of a character like Rehoboam. No man, whatever care he may 
take to entail his possessions, can secure an entail of character. And 
there is something irritating at times,—the writer seems to hint, almost 
maddening,—in the thought that whatever may be the character of the 
heir, he will have power to scatter in random waste what has been 
brought together, as with a purpose and a policy. Lands, libraries, 
galleries are all liable to be scattered and broken up. So in Ps. xxxix. 
6 we have as the doom of the mammon-worshipper, “‘ He heapeth up 
riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.” So the sting of the 
message that comes to the Rich Fool of the parable is ‘‘Then whose 
shall those things be which thou hast provided?” Luke xii. 20. 

20. J went about to cause my heart to despair] The verb for despair 
js nota common one. Another form of it meets us in the emphatic cry, 
‘There is no hope” of Jer. ii. 25, xvill. 12. What he had felt had 
made the seeker renounce the very impulse that led to labour. In the 
phrase ‘‘I went about,” literally, **I turned,” we have, as it were, the 

122 ECCLESIASTES, II. [vv. 21—24. 

21 took under the sun. For there is a man whose labour zs in 
wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man 
that hath not laboured therein shall he leave it for his por- 

22tion. ‘This also zs vanity and a great evil. For what hath 
man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, 

23 wherein he ath laboured under the sun? For all his days 
are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not 
rest in the night. This zs also vanity. 

24 here is nothing better for a man, ¢ham that he should 

attitude of one who looks behind him on the road on which so far he 
has travelled. The retrospect was so dreary that it made the prospect 
drearier still. 

21. or there ts a man] It is characteristic of the Debater that he 
broods over the same thought, and contemplates it as in a variety of 
aspects. It is not merely, as in verse 19, that another possessed his heaped 
up riches who may use them quite otherwise than he would have them 
used, but that the man who by his wisdom has achieved wealth (for 
‘“‘equity”’ we should rather read here and in chap. iv. 4, v. rr ‘skill’? 
or “success,” the moral character of the success not being here in 
question) has to leave it to one who has not worked at all, it may be to 
an alien in blood. 

22. the vexation of his heart] The word differs from that for which 
‘(feeding on wind” has been suggested, but is akin to it, and has been, 
as ini. 17, rendered by meditation. Here, perhaps, ‘‘ corroding care” 
would best convey its meaning. : 

23. yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night] The verse speaks 
out the experience of the men who labour for that which does not profit. 
There is no real pleasure, even at the time. The “cares of this world” 
come together with “the pleasures of this life” (Luke viii. 14). We trace 
the same yearning after the “sweet sleep”’ that lies in the far-off past as 
in ch. v. 12, perhaps also in the ‘‘almond tree” of ch. xii. 5. So has 
the great master-poet portrayed the wakefulness.of successful ambition, 
the yearning for the sleep of the “smoky crib,” or even of the ship-boy 
on the mast, the terrible conclusion, 

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” 
SHAKESPEARE, Henry IV, Part II. Act m1. 1. 

No “‘poppies”’ or ‘‘mandragora” can restore that sleep to the slave of 
mammon or the worn-out sensualist. : 

24. There is nothing better for a man] The Hebrew, as it stands, 
gives a meaning which is partly represented by the LXX., ‘*There is 
no good for a man which he shall eat and drink,” as though the simplest 
form of bodily pleasure were condemned. Almost all interpreters how- 
ever are agreed in adopting a conjectural emendation, which again in 
its turn has given rise to two different renderings: (1) ‘Is it not better 
(or “‘Is it not good”) for a man to eat and drink...>” or (2) “there is 

v. 24.] ‘ ECCLESIASTES, II. 123 

eat and drink, and ¢#at he should make his soul enjoy good 

nothing good for a man but to eat and drink...” The two last are of 

course substantially the same in their teaching, and both express what 
we may call the higher type of Epicureanism which forms one element 
of the book. ‘The pursuit of riches, state, luxury, is abandoned for the 
simple joys that lie within every man’s reach, the ‘‘fallentis semita vitae” 
of one who has learnt the lesson of regulating his desires. The words 
“to eat and drink” are closely connected with ‘‘enjoying good zm his 
labour.” What is praised is not the life of slothful self-indulgence 
or zesthetic refinement, but that of a man who, though with higher cul- 
ture, is content to live as simply as the ploughman, or the vinedresser, 
or artificer. Ade Budscas, “live in the shade,” was the Epicurean rule 
of wisdom. Pleasure was not found in feasts and sensual excess but in 
sobriety of mind, and the conquest of prejudice and superstition (Diog. 
Laert. X. I. 132). The real wants of such a life are few, and there is 
a joy in working for them. Here again the thought finds multiform 
echoes in the utterances of men who have found the cares and pleasures 
and pursuits of a more ambitious life unsatisfying. It is significant 
that the very words ‘‘eat and drink” had been used by Jeremiah in 
describing the pattern life of a righteous king (Jer. xxii. 15). The type 
of life described is altogether different from that of the lower Epicureans 
who said “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die” (1 Cor. xv. 32). 
So we have one Epicurean poet singing 

“‘Si non aurea sunt iuvenum simulacra per aedes 
Lampadas igniferas manibus retinentia dextris, 
Lumina nocturnis epulis ut suppeditentur, 

Nec domus argento fulget auroque renidet 

Nec citharae reboant laqueata aurataque templa, 
Cum tamen inter se prostrati in gramine molli 
Propter aquae rivum sub ramis arboris altae 
Non magnis opibus iucunde corpora curant, 
Praesertim cum tempestas adridet et anni 
Tempora conspergunt viridantis floribus herbas.” 

“What though no golden statues of fair boys 
With lamp in hand illumine all the house 
And cast their lustre on the nightly feast; 

Nor does their home with silver or with gold 
Dazzle the eye; nor through the ceiléd roof, 
Bedecked with gold, the harps re-echo loud. 

Yet, while reclining on the soft sweet grass 

They lie in groups along the river’s bank, 

Beneath the branches of some lofty tree, 

‘And at small cost find sweet refreshment there, 
What time the season smiles, and spring-tide weeks 

Re-gem the herbage green with many a flower.” 
Lucret. De Rer. Nat. I. 24—33. 

124 ECCLESIASTES, II. [v. 24. 

in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand 

So Virgil sang: 
“O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, 

and of these good things dwelt chiefly on 

**At secura quies et nescia fallere vita. 
Dives opum variarum, at latis otia fundis, 
Speluncae, vivique lacus, et frigida Tempe, 
Mugitusque boum, mollesque sub arbore somni 
Non absunt; illic saltus ac lustra ferarum, 
Et patiens operum exiguoque adsueta juventus, 
Sacra deum, sanctique patres; extrema per illos 
Justitia excedens terris vestigia fecit.” 
** Ah! but too happy, did they know their bliss 
The tillers of the soil !... 
Their’s the calm peace, and life that knows no fraud, 
Rich in its varied wealth ; and leisure their’s 
In the broad meadows; caves and living lakes 
And Tempe cool, and lowing of the kine; 
Nor want they slumber sweet beneath the trees ; 
There are the thickets and the wild beasts? haunts, 
And youth enduring toil and trained to thrift ; 
There Gods.are worshipped, fathers held in awe, 
And Justice, when she parted from the earth 
Left there her latest foot-prints.” 
Georg. I. 467—474. 
So Horace, in the same strain: 
“Beatus ille qui procul negotiis, 
Ut prisca gens mortalium, 
Paterna rura bubus exercet suis, 
Solutus omni foenore.” 

‘Thrice blest is he who free from care 
Lives now, as lived our fathers old, 
And free from weight of honoured gold, 
With his own oxen drives the share 
O’er fields he owns as rightful heir.” 
Horace, Zod, 11. 1. 

So Shakespeare once more makes a king echo the teaching of Eccle- 
siastes : 

“And to conclude: the shepherd’s homely curds, 
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle, 
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree’s shade, 
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys, 

Is far beyond a prince’s delicates, 
His viands sparkling in a golden cup, 

wv. 25, 26.] ECCLESIASTES, II. 125 

of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, 
more than I? For God giveth to a man that zs good in his 

His body couched in a curious bed, 
When care, mistrust, and treason wait on him.” 

Henry VI, Part III. Act 1. 5. 

This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God| In the thought 
which is thus expressed, we find, however, something more than an 
echo of Greek Epicureanism. The Debater recognises a Divine Will 
in this apportionment of happiness, just as he had before recognised 
that Will in the toil and travail with which the sons of man were 
exercised (ch. i. 13). The apparent inequalities are thus, in part at 
least, redressed, and it is shewn as the teaching of experience no less 
than of the Divine Master, that ‘‘a man’s life consisteth not in the 
abundance of things which he possesseth” (Luke xii. 15). 

25. For who can eat) The sequence of thought is obscure, and 
many commentators follow the LXX. and the Syriac version, as im- 
plying an original text which gives a better meaning, Who can eat and 
who can hasten (.c. be eager in this pursuit of pleasure), or, as some 
take the words, have enjoyment, without Him, z.c. without God. This, 
it is obvious, follows on the thought of the preceding verse, that the 
calm enjoyment of which it speaks as ‘‘good,” is ‘‘from the hand of 
God.” Those who keep to the received text give it very different mean- 
ings, of which the two most prominent are: (1) that we have, as it were, 
the words of the labourer whose lot the Debater here admired, ‘* Who 
has aright to eat and enjoy himself, if not 1?” the thought being parallel 
to that of 2 Tim. ii. 6 (‘‘The husbandman that laboureth must be 
first partaker of the fruits”) ; and (2) that the Debater speaks in his own 
person, ‘* Who could eat or enjoy more than I? Who therefore can 
better attest that it is all in vain without the gift of God.” On the as- 
sumption that the writer was one who had come into contact with Greek 
thought, we may trace in this utterance partly the old faith of Israel 
reasserting itself and giving a. higher sanction to the life of regulated 
enjoyment which the Greek teachers counselled, partly, perhaps, the 
mingling of Stoic and Epicurean counsels natural in a mind that had 
listened to both and attached himself definitely to neither. So in the 
Meditations of Aurelius we have like thoughts: mdvra yap ratra Gedy 
BonOdv cat rixns decrat (“all these things require the help of the Gods 
and of Fortune”); and again ra rav Oca mpovolas peord (“‘the works of 
the Gods are full of Providence” (AZedzt#, 11. 3). Koheleth, of course, 
as an Israelite, used the language of the wiser Stoics, like Cleanthes, 
and spoke of one God only. , 

26. For God giveth) The word for God, as the italics shew, is 
not in the Hebrew, but it is obviously implied, and its non-appearance 
justifies the change in the text of the previous verse, which preserves 
the sequence of thought unbroken. What we get here is the recog- 
nition of what we have learnt to call the moral government of God in 
the distribution of happiness. It is found to depend not on outward 
but inward condition, and the chief inward condition is the character 


sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he 
giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that 4e may give to 
him that ts good before God. This also zs vanity and vex- 
ation of spirit. 
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every 
purpose under the heaven: 

that God approves. The Debater practically confesses that the life of 
the pleasure-seeker, or the ambitious, or the philosopher seeking 
wisdom as an end, was not good before God, and therefore failed to 
bring contentment. 

wisdom, and knowledge, and joy| The combination forms an em- 
phatic contrast with ch. i, 18, and marks a step onward in the 
seeker’s progress. There is a wisdom which is not grief, an increase 
of knowledge which is not an increase of sorrow. We are re- 
minded of the parallel thought which belongs to a higher region of 
the spiritual life, “The Kingdom of righteousness and peace 
and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xiv. 17). Here the lesson is that 
the man who seeks great things fails to find them, that he who is 
content with a little with God’s blessing on it, finds in that little much. 
He becomes atrapxys (=self-sufficing)—and has enough. 

but to the sinner he giveth travail] The words point to a further 
perception of a moral order in the midst of the seeming disorders of 
the world. The fruitless labour of the sinner in heaping up his often 
ill-gotten gains is not altogether wasted. His treasure passes into hands 
that make a better use of it than he has done. So we find a like 
thought in Prov. xxviii. 8, ‘He that by usury and unjust gains in- 
creaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the 
poor,” and in Job xxvii. 16, 17, “Though he heap up silver as the dust, 
and prepare raiment as the clay; he may prepare it, but the just shall 
put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver” (comp. Prov. xiii. 22). 

This also is vanity] The question which we have to answer is 
whether this sentence is passed only on the travail of the sinner, as in 
verse 11, or whether it includes also the measure of joy attainable by 
him who is ‘‘ good” in the sight of God. From one point of view the 
former interpretation gives a preferable meaning, as more in harmony 
with what immediately precedes, On the other hand, it is character- 
istic of the cynical pessimism into which the Preacher has, by his own 
confession, fallen, that he should fall back into his despondency even 
after a momentary glimpse of a truth that might have raised him from 
it, The “Two Voices” utter themselves, as in Tennyson’s poem, (see 
Appendix II.) in a melancholy alternation and there comes a time 
when the simple joys which God gives to the contented labourer, no 
less than the satiety of the voluptuous and the rich, seem to him but 
as ‘‘ vanity and feeding upon wind.” 

1. Zo every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose] The 

vv. 2, 3.] ECCLESIASTES, III. 127 

A time to be born, and a time to die; 

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up chat which is 

_A time to kill, and a time to heal; 

two Hebrew nouns stand to each other in much the same relation as the 
Greek xpévos and kxatpds, the former expressing a period of duration, 
the latter the appointed time at which an event happens. Accepting 
this view, the words “season” and ‘“‘time” in the A.V. ought, perhaps, 
to change places, The thought is one of which we find an echo in the 
maxim of Pittacus, Kacpov yrao:—*‘ Know the right season for everything” 
(Diog. Laert. 1. 4, §6). It is significant, in connexion with the conclu- 
sion maintained in the Introduction, Ch. 111., that Demetrius Phalereus, 
the librarian of Ptolemy Philadelphus, wrote a treatise, mepl Kaupod, of 
opportuneness (Diog. Laert. v. 5 § 9). So Theognis, (402), Mndev dyav 
orevsew, Karpds & érl rdow dpioros, “Do nothing in excess, In all we 
do is the right season precious.” So here the thought with which the 
new section opens is that it is wisdom to do the right thing at the right 
time, that inopportuneness is the bane of life. The survey of human 
occupations and interests that follows has a striking perallel in the 
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (1v. 32), who, from his Stoic stand- 
point, sees in their perpetual recurrence, evidence of the monotonous 
iteration of the phenomena of man’s life, analogous to that of the 
phenomena of Nature. ; 

9. A time to be born] Literally, a time to bear. It should be 
noted that in Hebrew MSS. and printed texts, the list of Times and 
Seasons appears in two parallel columns, as if forming a kind of 
rhythmical catalogue, what the Greeks called a cvoroxia, or Table of 
Contrasts. It seems at first strange that the list should begin with 
events which are (putting aside the exceptional case of suicide) invol- 
untary. It may be, however, that they were chosen for that very 
reason as representative instances of the fixed order on which the 
writer dwells. We shrink from the thought of an untimely birth (ch. 
vi. 3) or an untimely death; we shudder at the thought of accelerating 
either, or of hindering the former, and yet the other incidents of life 
have, not less than these, each of them, their appointed season, if only 
we could discern it. 

a time to plant| Human life in its beginning and its end is seen 
to have a parallel in that of plants. Here also there is a time for 
sowing, and after the fruits of the earth have been gathered in (this and 
not a wanton destruction, which would be a violation of the natural 
order, is clearly meant) to pluck up that the planting may again 
come. It is, perhaps, over fanciful to make the words include 
the ‘‘planting” and ‘‘uprooting” of nations and kingdoms as in 
Jerem. i. 10. It is significant, however, that the word for “pluck 
up” is an unusual word, and, where it occurs elsewhere, in the O. T. 
is used figuratively of the destruction of cities as in Zeph. ii. 4. 

3. atime to kill, and a time to heal] ‘The first group had brought 

128 ECCLESIASTES, III: [vv. 4, 5 

A time to break down, and a time to build ug; 

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 

A time to mourn, and a time to dance; 

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones 

together natural death and natural birth. This includes in the induction 
the death which man inflicts in battle or single combat, in attack or 
self-defence, or in administering justice, and with it the verb that 
includes all the resources of the healing art which can raise men from 
all but actual death. Here also there is an appointed order, and man’s 
wisdom lies in accepting it. This, rather than a fatalistic theory ot 
Necessity, as being what man cannot, even if he will, resist, seems the 
thought expressed. The wise man knows when to slay and when to 

a time to break down, and a time to build up| The grouping reminds 
us as before of Jerem. i. 10 and may possibly be extended so as to take 
in a figurative as well as a literal building. We may perhaps trace an 
allusive reference, if not to the text, yet to the thought which it ex- 
presses, in St Paul’s language in Gal. ii. 18, ‘‘If I build again the things 
which I destroyed J make myself a transgressor.” His wisdom lay in 
recognising that the ‘‘ fulness of time” had come for breaking down the 
old structure of Judaism and building up the new structure of the 
kingdom of God. Of the mere literal sense we have a striking illustra- 
tion in the paraphrase of the words of Elisha to Gehazi (2 Kings v. 26) 
as given in the Christian Year, 

“Is this a time to plant and build, 
Add house to house and field to field?” 

4. atime to weep] The two couples are naturally grouped together, 
the first taking in the natural spontaneous expression of individual 
feeling, the second the more formal manifestation of the feelings in the 
mourners and wailers of a funeral (Zech, xii. 10, where the same verb 
is found) and the dancers at a wedding feast. In the parable of the 
Children in the Market-place our Lord practically inculcates the lesson 
of the Debater. The Scribes who sneered at the fasts of John’s dis- 
ciples, and condemned the disciples of Jesus for not fasting were as 
the children whose dramatic funerals and weddings were alike out of 
place and inopportune, and so the true followers after the Wisdom which 
‘is justified of her children,” who recognised that the ascetic and the 
joyous life had each its true time and season, would not weep to their 
lamenting or dance to their piping (Matt. xi. 16—19). 

5. A time to cast away stones! The vagueness of the phrase has 
naturally given rise to conjectural interpretations. It seems obvious 
that the words cannot be a mere reproduction of verse 4 and therefore 
that the ‘‘casting away” and the “gathering” of stones must refer to 
something else than pulling down and building. Possibly we may think, 
with some interpreters, of the practice of covering fertile lands with: 

vv. 6, 7. ECCLESIASTES, III. 129 

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from em- 

A time to get, and a time to lose; 

A time to keep, and a time to cast away ; 

A time to rent, and a time to sew; 

stones as practised by an invading army (2 Kings iii. 19) and clearing 
out the stones of a field or vineyard before planting it (Isai. v. 2). In 
this case however we fail to see any link uniting the two clauses in the 
couplet. A possible explanation may be found (as Delitzsch half 
suggests) in the old Jewish practice, which has passed into the Christian 
Church, of flinging stones or earth into the grave ata burial, but this leaves 
the “‘gathering” unexplained, except so far as it represents the building 
of a house, and thus contrasts the close of a man’s home life with its 
beginning. In this case the ceremonial of death would be contrasted 
with the ‘‘embracing” of friends or lovers in the second clause. 

6. A time to get, and a time to losé|_ The getting or the losing refer 
primarily, we can scarcely doubt, to what we call property. There are 
times when it is better and wiser to risk the loss of all we have rather 
than to set our minds on acquiring more. Something like this lesson 
we have in our Lord’s paradox ‘‘whosoever will (wills to) save his life 
shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” 
(Matt. xvi. 25). In earthly, as in heavenly, things it is the note of a wise 
man that he knows when to be content to lose. So the Satirist 
condemns the folly of those who are content, 

** Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.” 

**And for mere life to lose life’s noblest ends.” 
JUVEN. Sad. VIII. 84. 

a time to keep, and a time to cast away] The second couplet though 
closely allied with the foregoing is not identical with it. What is 
brought before us here is “‘keeping” as distinct from “getting,” and 

the voluntarily casting away (2 Kings vii. 15) what we know we have, 
as distinct from the loss of a profit more or less contingent. And here 
too, as life passes on, it presents occasions when now this, now that, is 
the choice of wisdom. So the sailor, in danger of shipwreck, casts out 
his cargo, his tackling, the ‘‘furniture” of his ship (Acts xxvii. 18, 
19, 38). 
om A time to rent, and a time to sew| The words are commonly con- 
nected with the practice of rending the garments as a sign of sorrow 
(Gen. xxxvii. 29, 34, xliv. 13; Job i. 20; 2 Sam. i. 2) and sewing them up 
again when the season of mourning is past and men return again to the 
routine of their daily life. It is, however, somewhat against this view 
that it makes this generalisation practically identical with that of verse 
4. The symbolic use of ‘‘rending a garment” to represent the division 
of a kingdom, as in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings xi. 
30) and therefore of ‘‘sewing” for the restoration of unity (so the ‘“‘seam- 


130 ECCLESIASTES, III. [v. 8. 

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
A time to love, and a time to hate; 
A time of war, and a time of peace, 

less garment” of John xix. 23 has always been regarded as a type of 
the unity of Christ’s Church) seems to suggest a more satisfying sense. 
There are seasons when it is wise to risk or even to cause discord and 
division in families (Matt. x. 34, 35) or schism in Church or State, other 
seasons when men should strive to restore unity and to be healers of 
the breach (Isai. lviii. 12). In the parable of the New Patch upon the 
old Garment we have an instance of an inopportune sewing which does 
but make the rent worse (Matt. ix. 16). 

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak| Here again the range of 
thought has been needlessly limited by interpreters to the silence which 
belongs to deep sorrow, of which we have an example in the conduct of 
the friends of Job (Job ii. 12, 13), of the want of which in the sons of 
the prophets Elisha complained bitterly (2 Kings ii. 3, 5). This is, of 
course, not excluded, but the range of the law is wider, and takes in on 
the one hand, the unseasonable talk of the “ prating fool” of Prov. x. 8, 
and on the other the ‘‘word spoken in due season” (Prov. xv. 23), to one 
that is weary (Isai. l. 4), the right word at the right time, in the utterance 
of which we rightly see a genius akin toinspiration. If it is true at times 
that speech is silvern and silence golden, there are times when the con- 
verse also is true, when the word in season is like ‘‘apples of gold (=per- 
haps, oranges) in a basket of silver” (Prov. xxv. I1). 

8. A time to love, and a time to hate] Greek thought again supplies 
us with a parallel, 

quets 58 ws od yrwodpuerOa Twppoveiv; 
éyo 8, érloramas yap dpriws dre 
6 7 éxOpds nuiv és torbvd’ éxGapréos, 

ds kal diigowy avdis, és re Tov pldov 

rooadd sroupyav wpedreiv BovdAngomat, 

ws alév ov pevodrra. 

‘Shall not we too learn 
Our lesson of true wisdom? I indeed 
Have learnt but now that we should hate a foe 
Only so far as one that yet may love, 
And to a friend just so much help I'll give 
As unto one that will not always stay.” 
SorH. Azas, 680—686. 

a time of war, and a time of peace) The change in the Hebrew, as in 
the English, from verbs in the infinitive to substantives is probably intended 
to emphasize the completion of the list. The words are of course closely 
connected with the ‘‘love” and “hate” of the preceding clause, but differ 
in referring to the wider range of national relations. Here also the 
wisdom of a king or statesman lies in discerning the opportuneness of 

vv. 9—I1.] ECCLESIASTES, TI. 131 

What profit atk he that worketh in that wherein he 9 
laboureth ? 

T have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons x0 
of men to be exercised in it. He hath made every thing 1 
beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their 

War or peace, in seeing when the maxim “st vis pacem para bellum” 
is applicable or inapplicable. 

It may be well to repeat here what was said at the outset in reference 
to this list of times and seasons, that the idea of a Necessity, Fate, 
Predestination, which many interpreters, bent on finding traces of a 
Stoic fatalism, have read into the teaching of the section, is really 
foreign to the writer’s thoughts. That which he insists on is the thought 
that the circumstances and events of life form part of a Divine Order, 
are not things that come at random, and that wisdom, and therefore 
such a measure of happiness as is attainable, lies in adapting ourselves 
to the order and accepting the guidance of events in great things and 
small, while shame and confusion come from resisting it. The lesson 
is in fact identical with one very familiar to us at once in the commonest 
of all proverbs, ‘‘ Take time by the forelock ;” ‘Time and tide wait for 
no man,” and in a loftier strain, 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men 
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; 
Omitted, all the remnant of their lives 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.” 
SHAKESPEARE, Fulius Caesar, IV. 3. 

It is well to remember such counsels of prudence. It is well also to 
remember that a yet higher wisdom bids us in the highest work ‘‘to be 
instant, in season, out of season” (evxalpws, dxalpws, 2 Tim. iv. 2). 

9. What profit hath he that worketh?| The long induction is 
completed, and yet is followed by the same despairing question as that 
of ch, i. 3, asked as from a. stand-point that commands a wider 
horizon. Does not this very thought of a right season for every action 
increase the difficulty of acting? Who can be sure that he has found 
the season? The chances of failure are greater than the chances of 

10. JL have seen the travail, which God hath given] Better perhaps, 
I have seen the labour, or the business. As before, in the preceding 
verse, the thinker, once back in the old groove of thought, repeats 
himself, and we have the very words of ch. i. 13, but, as before, here 
also developed by a wider experience. In this feeling after the right 
‘‘season” for each act, this craving for a harmony between man’s will 
and the divine order, he recognises a divinely implanted instinct which 
yet finds no full satisfaction. 

11. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time] Better, as 
removing the ambiguity of the possessive pronoun in modern English 
ears, ‘‘in its time.” The thinker rests for a time in the primeval faith 
of Israel that all things were created ‘‘very good” (Gen. i. 31), in the 



132 ECCLESIASTES, III. [v. 12. 

ee SS eS 

heart, so that no man can find out the work that God 
maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there 
is no good in them, but for @ man to rejoice, and to do 

Stoic thought of a divine system, a Cosmos of order and of beauty, of 
a plan, even in the development of human history, in which all things 
work together for good. So even in Lucretius, 
“‘Certa suo quia tempore semina rerum 
Cum confluxerunt, patefit quodcumque creatur.” 
“So when the germs of things in season due 
Have met together, all creation’s work 
Is to our eyes made open.” De Rer. Nat. 1. 176. 

What hinders it from being a final resting-place of thought is that his 
knowledge is confined within narrow limits. He sees but a fragment, 
and the ‘‘most part” of the Divine Work ‘‘is hid.” 

also he hath set the world in their heart] The Hebrew for “world” 
(primarily, ‘‘the hidden”) is that which, in its adverbial or adjectival 
use, constantly appears in the English Version as ‘‘for ever,” ‘‘per- 
petual,” ‘‘everlasting,” “always,” “eternal,” and the like. No other 
meaning but that of a duration, the end or beginning of which is hidden 
from us, and which therefore is infinite, or, at least, indefinite, is ever 
connected ‘with it in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and this is its 
uniform sense in this book (chs. i. 4, 10, ii. 16, iii. 14, ix. 6, xii. 5). 
In post-Biblical Hebrew it passes into the sense of the Greek adv, for 
the age, or the wov/d considered in its relation to time and, on the theory 
of authorship adopted in the /w¢roduction there is, perhaps, an approxi 
mation to that sense here. We must however translate, as the nearest 
equivalent, He hath set eternity (or, the everlasting) in their heart. 
The thought expressed is not that of the hope of an immortality, but 
rather the sense of the Infinite which precedes it, and out of which at 
last it grows. Man has the sense of an order perfect in its beauty. 
He has also the sense of a purpose working through the ages from ever- 
lasting to everlasting, but ‘‘ beginning” and “end” are alike hidden 
from him and he fails to grasp it. In modern language he sees not 
‘‘the beginning and the end,” the whence and the whither, of his own 
being, or of that of the Cosmos. He is oppressed with what German 
thinkers have named the -We/¢-Schmerz, the world-sorrow, the burden 
of the problems of the infinite and unfathomable Universe. Here 
again we have an echo of Stoic language as reproduced by Cicero, 
““Tpse autem homo natus est ad mundum contemplandum et imitan- 
dum” (de Nat. Deor, i, 14. 37). All interpretations resting on later 
ideas of the ‘‘world,”.as meaning simply the material universe, or 
worldly pleasures, or worldly wisdom, have to be rejected as incon- 
sistent with lexical usage. By some writers, however, the word, with 
a variation in the vowels, has been taken as itself meaning “wisdom,” 
but though this signification is found in a cognate word in Arabic, it is 
unknown in Hebrew. 

12. for a man to rejoice, and to do good] Thereis no instance in O. T. 

vv. 13—15.] ECCLESIASTES, III. 133 
ope EE eo SE 
good in his life. And also that every man should eat and 
drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it zs the gift of 
God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for 
ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: 
and God doeth 7, that men should fear before him. That 
which hath been, zs now; and ¢hat which zs to be hath 
already been; and God requireth that which is past. 

language of the phrase ‘‘do good” being used, like the Greek e3 rpdrrew, 
in the sense of ‘‘prospering,” or ‘‘enjoying one’s self,” and in ch. 
vii. 20 it can only have its full ethical meaning, such as it has in Ps. 
xxxiv. 14, Xxxvii. 3; Isai. xxxviii. 3. On the whole, therefore, we are 
led to assign that meaning to it here. Over and above the life of 
honest labour and simple joys which had been recognised as good 
before, the seeker has learnt that ‘‘honesty is the best policy,” that 
“doing good” (the term is more comprehensive in its range than our 
“*beneficence”) is in some sense the best way of getting good. It is 
not the highest ethical view of the end of life, but it was an advance on 
his previous conclusion. 

13. And also that every man] The addition of this clause confirms 
the interpretation just given of the ‘‘doing good” of the preceding verse. 
Had that meant simply enjoyment, this clause would have been an idle 
repetition. As it is, ‘‘doing good” takes its place, as it did with the 
nobler Epicureans, among the elements of happiness. So Epicurus 
himself taught that ‘‘it is not possible to live happily without also living 
wisely, and nobly, and justly” (Diog. Laert. x. 1, § 140). 

14. J know that, whatsoever God doeth| We ask once again whether 
we are brought face to face with the thought of an iron destiny immutably 
fixing even the seeming accidents of life, and excluding man’s volition 
from any share in them, or whether the writer speaks of an order which 
men may, in the exercise of their freedom, transgress. And the answer, as 

_ before, is that the Debater, while he recognises man’s freedom, has come 
to see a purpose and an order even in those accidents. So Epicurus 
himself taught that it was better to hold even the popular belief as to the 
Gods than to be in bondage to the dogma of a destiny (Diog. Laert. x. 
1, § 134). The Eternal Law fulfils itself, “‘whether men will hear or 
whether they will forbear.” They cannot add to it or take from it, but 
they retain the power of obeying or resisting it. It partakes so far of 
the character which was afterwards ascribed to a special revelation 
(Rev. xxii. 18, 19). 

God doeth it, that men should fear before him] There is a profound 
psychological truth in the thought thus expressed. Men may dream that 
they can propitiate or change an arbitrary will, but no reverential awe, 
no fear of God, is so deep as that which rises from the contemplation of 
a Righteousness that does not change. So, in like manner, the unchange- 
ableness of the Divine Will is made a ground of confidence and hope in 
the midst of perturbations (Mal. iii. 6). 

15. God requireth that which zs past] Better, seeks after that 








134 ECCLESIASTES, III. [vv. 16, 17. 

And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, 
that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, 
that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall 
judge the righteous and the wicked: for chere zs a time there 
for every purpose and for every work. 

which is put to flight. The old thought of the uniformity of sequence 
in nature and in history which had before seemed oppressive in its 
monotony, has been balanced by the thought of God’s perfection and 
the beauty of His order, and by the ‘‘fear” which grows out of it. It is 
followed up by a new aspect of the same truth. The past is thought 
of as vanishing, ‘‘ put to flight,” receding into the dim distance. It might 
seem to be passing into the abyss of oblivion, but God recalls it (this 
is obviously the meaning of ‘‘require” as used by the translators of 
the A. V. in its strict etymological sense), brings back the same order, 
or an analogous order of events, and so history repeats itself. The 
strange rendering adopted by the Targum and some modern inter- 
preters, ‘“‘God seeks the persecuted,” t.e. visits and protects them, 
though tenable as a translation, introduces an idea quite foreign to 
the train of thought. 

16. Jsaw under the sun the place of judgment] The Hebrew gives 
slightly different forms of the same noun, so as to gain the emphasis, 
without the monotony, of iteration, where the A.V. has the needless 
variation of ‘‘ wickedness” and ‘‘iniquity.” Either word will do, but 
it should be the same in both clauses. We enter on another phase of 
the seeker’s thoughts. The moral disorder of the world, its oppressive 
rulers, its unjust judges, its religious hypocrisies, oppress him even more 
than the failure of his own schemes of happiness. In part the feeling im- 
plies a step out of selfishness, sympathy with the sufferers, the percep- 
tion of what ought to be, as contrasted with what is, and therefore an 
upward step in the seeker’s progress. In the ‘‘ place of judgment” we 
may see the tribunal where justice is administered: in that of “right- 
eousness” the councils, secular, or, it may be, ecclesiastical, in which men 
ought to have been witnesses for the divine law of Righteousness and 
were self-seeking and ambitious. 

17. God shall judge the righteous and the wicked] The words ‘I 
said in my heart ” introduce this as the first thought that rises unbidden 
at the sight of the wrong-doing in the world. It was, as it were, an 
immediate intuitive judgment, as distinguished from those which are 
introduced by “‘I returned,” or “I considered” (chap. iv. 1, 4, 7, 18) 
In the emphatic ‘‘ there is a time ¢here,” we may, perhaps, trace, as in 
the grand abruptness of Medea’s blessing on her children, 

Hvdacpovolrov' add’ éxel* ra 8 evade 
Tlarnp deter’. 

** All good be with you!—but it must be there; 
Here it is stolen from you by your sire.” 

Eurip. Med. 1065. 
or in Plato, 9 éxeloe mopela, (= “‘the journey ¢hither” Phaed. p. 107 @), 

wv. 18, 19.] ECCLESIASTES, III. 135 

I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of 18 
men, that God might manifest them, and that ¢Aey might 
see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth x9 
the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth 
them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have 

and in the ‘‘¢ha¢ world” of Luke xx. 35, a passing belief in a judgment 
after death as redressing the wrongs of earth, soon to be, for a time, at 
least, traversed and overclouded by the sceptical thoughts with which 
the writer had come in contact. It is, however, possible that ‘‘ there” 
may refer to the unfathomed depths of the divine Judgment which 
works, through long delay, at its appointed time, and in this case the 
thought finds a parallel in the complaint and confession of Ps. Ixxiii. 
17—28. The one immediate conviction is, however, balanced in the 
conflict of thought through which the Debater is passing, by another 
which seems incompatible with it. 

18. said in mine heart) The word “estate” expresses fairly the 
meaning of the Hebrew noun, which may be rendered ‘ word,” 
“‘matter,” or “subject.” In the next clause for “that God might 
manifest them,” we may better read, that God might separate, sift, or 
try them, z.c. in modern phrase, He leaves the disorders of the world 
unredressed, as part of man’s probation. This comes into the heart of 
the seeker as a partial explanation of the disorders noted in verse 16. 

that they might see that they themselves are beasts! The pronoun in 
the original has, as in the English version, the strong emphasis of 
iteration, that they are beasts, they by themselves. The thought 
implied is that without a higher faith of some kind—whether in the 
Divine Righteousness or in Immortality, is not yet defined —Man 
stands, as having only an animal life, on the same level as other 
animals. In the words of an old English poet : 

‘‘ Unless above himself he can 
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!” 

19. that which befalleth the sons of men| More accurately, chance 
are the sons of men; chance is the beast; one chance is to both of 
them. The thought is emphasized by the threefold iteration of the de- 
pressing word. As so often throughout the book, we have an echo, 
almost a verbal translation, of a Greek saying. So Solon had said to 
Crcesus in a discourse which breathes the very spirit of Ecclesiastes 
(Herod. 1. 32), wav éort dv@pwaos cuppopy (‘man is altogether a 
chance”’). f 

as the one dieth, so dieth the other| The words are not without a 
partial parallel in the more devotional literature of Israel. The writer 
of Ps. xlix. had given utterance to the thought ‘‘man that is in honour like the beasts that perish.” With him, however, this was affirmed 
only of those that ‘trust in their wealth,” the triumphant, self-indul- 
gent evildoers, and it was balanced by the belief that “God would 
redeem” his soul ‘‘from the power of the grave.” Here the same 
thought is generalised in the tones of a half cynical despair, all the 



136 ECCLESIASTES, III. [vv. 20, 21. 

all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a 
beast: for all zs vanity. All go unto one place; all are of 
the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the 

more striking if we assume that the belief in immortality, as afterwards 
developed in the creed of Pharisaism, was at the time gaining a more 
definite form among the writer’s countrymen. It may be traceable either 
to the reaction against the germs of Pharisaism which was afterwards 
represented by the Sadducees, or, as seems more probable from the 
general tone and character of the book, to the influence of the Greek 
thought, such as was embodied in the teaching of Epicurus and Pyrrho, 
with which the writer had come in contact. 

yea, they have all one breath] The word is the same as the ‘‘spirit ” 
of verse 23, and seems deliberately chosen with reference to the record 
of Gen. ii. 7. The writer asks, What after all was that ‘‘ breath 
of life?” Was there not a like ‘‘ breath of life” in every beast of the 
field? It is significant that this is the only passage in the Old Testa- 
ment in which the word is used definitely for the living principle of 
brutes, though we find it in Gen. vi. 17, vii. 15, 22; Ps. civ. 30 for the 
life which is common both to them and man. Commonly, as in Job 
xii. 10, xxxii. 8, it is contrasted with the ‘‘soul” which represents their 
lower life. 

a man hath no preeminence above a beast] This then was the con- 
clusion to which the thinker was led by the materialism which he had 
imbibed from his Greek or Sadducean teachers. Put aside the belief in 
the prolongation of existence after death, that what has been begun here 
may be completed, and what has gone wrong here may be set right, 
and man is but a more highly organised animal, the ‘‘cunningest of 
Nature’s clocks” (to use Huxley’s phrase), and the high words which 
men speak as to his greatness are found hollow. They too are 
‘‘vanity.” He differs from the brutes around him only, or chiefly, 
in having, what they have not, the burden of unsatisfied desires, the 
longing after an eternity which after all is denied him. 

20. All go unto one place] The ‘‘ place” thus spoken of is not the 
Sheol of the Hebrews or the Hades of the Greeks, which implied, how- 
ever vaguely, some notion of a shadowy disembédied existence, for the 
souls of men as distinct from those of brutes, but simply the earth as at 
once the mother, the nourisher, and the sepulchre of every form of life. 
So Lucretius, as a disciple of Epicurus, speaks (De Rer. Nat. v. 2 59) of 
earth as being 

““Omniparens eadem rerum commune sepulcrum.” 
“The mother and the sepulchre of all.” 

all are of the dust) There is an obviously deliberate reference to the 
narrative of the Creation in Gen. ii. 7. “To those who did not see 
below the surface, it seemed to affirm, as it did to the Sadducee, the 
denial of a life to come. ‘Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou 
return” was the sentence passed, they might say, as on the brute 
creation, so on man also (Gen. iii. 19), 


spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast 
that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive 
that here is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice 
in his own works; for that zs his portion: for who shall 
bring him to see what shall be after him? 

21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward| The words 
imply a strictly sceptical rather than a negative answer. They do not 
actually deny, still less do they affirm, as some have thought, that the 
spirit of man does ascend to a higher life, while that of the brute 
returns to dust. This would indeed be inconsistent with the whole 
context, and the consensus of the LXX., the Vulgate, the Targum, and 
the Syriac versions, all of which give ‘‘Who knoweth whether the 
spirit of man goeth upward?” is practically decisive. It is not till 
nearly the close of the book, with all its many wanderings of thought, 
that the seeker rests. in that measure of the hope of immortality which 
we find in ch. xii. 7. Here we have the accents, almost the very 
formula, of Pyrrhonism (Diog. Laert. 1x. 11, §. 73), as borrowed from 
Euripides : 

tls 8’ oldev ef TO Sv mev éore KaTOavety, 
TO KaTOavely 5é Sv voulveras Bporots. 

‘¢Who knoweth if true life be found in death, 
While mortals think of what is death as life?” 

Once more Lucretius echoes. the phase of thought through which the 
Debater was passing : 
“‘Tonoratur enim quae sit natura animai, 
Nata sit an contra nascentibus insinuetur, 
Et simul intereat nobiscum morte dirempta, 
An tenebras Orci visat vastasque lacunas. 

‘We know not what the nature of the soul, 
Or born, or entering into men at birth, 
Or whether with our frame it perisheth, 
Or treads the gloom and regions vast of death.” 

De Rer, Nat. 1. 113—116. 

So far, however, as scepticism is a step above denial, we may note this 
asanadvance. There is at least the conception of a spirit that ascends 
to a life higher than its own, as a possible solution of the great enigma 
presented by the disorders of the world. 

22. Wherefore I perceive) The lesson of a tranquil regulated Epi- 
cureanism with its blending of healthy labour and calm enjoyment, is 
enforced as the conclusion from our ignorance of what comes after 
death, as before it flowed from the experience of life (ch. ii. 24). Who 
knows whether we shall even have the power to take cognizance of 
what passes on earth after we are gone, or what our own state will be, 
if we continue to exist at all? The feeling was not unknown even to 




138 ECCLESIASTES, IV. [vv. 1-3. 

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that ave 
done under the sun: and behold, the tears of such as were 
oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side 
of their oppressors ¢herve was power; but they had no 
comforter. Wherefore I praise the dead which are already 
dead more than the living which are yet alive. Yea, better 
zs he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not 
seen the evil work that is done under the sun. 

men of a higher faith than the Debater (Ps. xxx. 9, Ixxxviii. lo—12, 
Isai. xxxviii. 18). 


1. Sol returned, and considered| The thought that follows is the 
same in substance as that of chap. iii. 16, but, in the speaker’s wanderings 
of thought he passes once again, after the manner of the éroy7, or 
‘*suspense”’ of Pyrrho, he looks at the same facts, the ‘‘ oppressions ” 
and disorders of the world as from another stand-point, and that stand- 
point is the negation of immortality, or, at least, the impossibility 
of being sure of it. It may be noted that the tone is that of a 
deeper compassion than before. He sees the tears of the oppressed 
and sighs at their hopelessness: ‘‘Oh, the pity of it! the pity 
of it!” We can see in this new element of despair, that which was the 
beginning of a better life. The man was passing, to use modern terms, 
from egoism to altruism, thinking more of the misery of others than of 
his own enjoyment. 

they had no comforter| The iteration rings like a knell of doom. 
The words have sometimes been taken as if they meant ‘‘they had no 
advocate, none to plead their cause,” but there is no sufficient reason for 
abandoning the more natural meaning. It was the bitterest drop in 
their cup, that men met with no sympathy, no visits of consolation 
such as Job’s friends paid him. They found none to pity or to comfort 
them. So the absence of comforters is the crown of sorrow in Ps. lxix. 
20; Lam. i. 2; Jer. xvi. 7, as its presence was one of the consolations of 
the bereaved household of Bethany (John xi. 19). It may be noted, 
that, as far as it goes, this picture of the social state in which the 
Debater found himself is in favour of a later date than that of Solomon. 
The picture of that king’s reign was, like that of the days of ** good 
Queen Bess” in our own history, one of almost proverbial prosperity; 
the people “eating, drinking and making merry” (1 Kings iv. 20), 
and his administration, as far as his own subjects were concerned, one 
of ‘judgment and justice” (1 Kings x. 9). It was probably equally 
true of the Persian kings and of the Ptolemies that their rule was cruel 
and oppressive. The picture which Justin gives of the state of Egypt 
under Ptolemy Philopator (XxIX. 1) and Ptolemy Epiphanes exactly 
corresponds with that drawn by Koheleth. 

3. Yea, better ts he than both they] «As the utterance of a personal 

v. 4.] ECCLESIASTES, IV. 139 

Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that 4 
for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This zs also 

feeling of despair we have a parallel in the words of Job (iii. 11—16). 
As expressing a more generalised view of life we have multiform 
echoes of the thought in the Greek writers, of whose influence, direct 
or indirect, the book presents so many traces. Thus we have in 
Theognis : 
Tldvrwv pev py pivar émixGovlowsw dpioror, 
bund? éovdelv airyas df€os Hedlov* 
givra & Srws wkicTa mUAas *Aléao mepjoat, 
kat KetoOar TrodAqy yqv éwapnodmevor. 

*‘ Best lot for men is never to be born, 
Nor ever see the bright rays of the morn: 
Next best, when born, to haste with quickest tread 
Where Hades’ gates are open for the dead, 
And rest with much earth gathered for our bed.” 

Or in Sophocles : 

Bh Povae Tov dravra viKg Abyov' 7d 3, érel dary, 
Brvat xetOev d0ev ep HKee, 

*‘ Never to be at all 
Excels all fame; 
Quickly, next best, to pass 
From whence we came.” 

Oed. Col, 1225. 

More remote but of yet deeper significance is the fact that the same 
feeling lies at the root of Buddhism and its search after Nirvana (an- 
nihilation or unconsciousness) as the one refuge from the burden of 
existence. ‘Terrible as the depression thus indicated is, it is one step 
higher than the hatred of life which appeared in chs. i. 14, 11. 17, 18. 
That was simply the weariness of a selfish satiety ; this, like the feeling 
of Cakya Mouni when he saw the miseries of old age and disease and 
death, and of the Greek Chorus just quoted, rose from the contempla- 
tion of the sorrows of humanity at large. It was better not to be than 
to see the evil work that was done under the sun. In marked contrast 
with this dark view of life we have the words : “ Good were it for that 
man not to have been born” in Matt. xxvi. 24, as marking out an 
altogether exceptional instance of guilt and therefore of misery. 

4. I considered all travail, and every right work\ The “right work,” 
as in ch. ii. 21, is that which is dexterous and successful, without 
any marked reference to its moral character. Men exult in such work 
at the time, but they find it has the drawback of drawing on them the 
envy and ill-will of their less successful neighbours, and this therefore 
is also vanity and feeding on wind, 

140 ECCLESIASTES, IV. [vv. 5—8. 

s vanity and vexation of spirit. The fool foldeth his hands 

6 together, and eateth his own flesh. Better zs a handful 
with quietness, than both the hands full w7t# travail and 
vexation of spirit. 

8 Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun. There 

5. The fool foldeth his hands together] Simple as the words seem 
they have received very different interpretations: (1) The fool (the 
word is the same as in ch. ii. 14—16, and is that, the prominence of 
which in both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes serve as a connecting link 
between the two Books), the man without aim or insight, leading a 
half brutish life, ‘‘ folds his hands” in the attitude of indolence (Prov. 
vi. 10, xxiv. 33), and yet even he, with his limited desires, attains to 
the fruition of those desires, ‘‘eats his meat” and rejoices more than 
the wise and far-sighted who finds his dexterous and successful work 
empty and unsatisfying. (So Ginsburg.) For this sense of the words 
‘‘eateth his flesh,” we have the usage of Exod. xvi. 8, xxi. 28; Isai. 
xxii. 133 Ezek. xxxix. 17. So taken, this thought coheres with the con- 
text, and expresses the sense of contrast between the failure of aspiring 
activity and skill to attain the happiness they aim at, and the fact that 
those who do not even work for enjoyment get as full a share of it— 
perhaps, even a fuller—as those who do. (2) The last clause has been 
interpreted, as in the A.V., as meaning literally that the slothful man 
“consumes his own flesh,” 7.e. reduces himself literally to the poverty 
and starvation which culminates in horrors such as this, as in Isai. 
ix. 20; Jer. xix. 9, or, figuratively, pines away under the corroding 
canker of envy and discontent. For the latter meaning, however, 
we have no authority in the language of the Old Testament, and so 
taken, the passage becomes only a warning, after the manner of the 
Proverbs, against the sin of sloth, and as such, is not in harmony with 
the dominant despondency of this stage of the writer’s experience, 
The view which sees in verse 5, the writer’s condemnation of sloth, and 
in verse 6 the answer of the slothful, seems out of keeping with the 

6. Letter is a handful with quietness] The preposition is in both 
clauses an interpolation, and we should read ‘‘a handful of repose, ... 
two handfuls of travail and feeding on wind.” In form the saying pre- 
sents a parallel to Prov. xv. r7, “ Better is a dinner of herbs where love 
is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith;”? but the thought is obviously 
of a less ethical character. The feeling expressed in verses 5 and 6 
(the latter confirming the interpretation just given of the former) is such 
as we may think of as rising in the mind of an ambitious statesman or 
artist striving after fame, as he looks on the dolce far niente of a lazzarone 
at Naples, half-naked, basking in the sun, and revelling in the enjoy- 
ment of his water-melon. The one would at sucha time, almost change 
places with the other, but that something after all forbids. The words 
have almost a verbal parallelism in our common English proverb “a 
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” 

v. 9.] ECCLESIASTES, IV. 141 

is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither 
child nor brother: yet zs ¢Zere no end of all his labour; 
neither is his eye satisfied wth riches; neither sazth he, For 
whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This zs 
also vanity, yea, it zs a sore travail. Two ave better than 
one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 

8. There ts one alone, and there is not a second| The gaze of the 
seeker now falls on another picture. That which strikes him as an- 
other example of the vanity of human efforts is the frequent loneliness 
of the worshipper of wealth. He is one, and he has no companion, no 
partner or friend, often none bound to him by ties of blood, child or 
brother, yet he labours on, as though he meant to be the founder of a 
dynasty. ‘‘He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather 
them” Ps. xxxix. 6. 

neither is his eye satisfied with riches} The words paint vividly the 
special characteristic of the insatiability of avarice, 

“‘Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit.” 
“6So grows our love of wealth as grows the wealth itself.” 

neither saith he, For whom do I labour| The words in italics “saith 
he” express the meaning of the original but deprive it of its dramatic bold- 
ness. The speaker imagines himself in the place of the miser and this is 
the question which in that case he would ask. The picture is, as it were, 
a replica of that already drawn in chap. li, 18, 19. 

9. Two are better than one] ‘The strain of moralising which 
follows indicates at least the revived capacity for a better feeling. As 
the Debater had turned from the restless strivings of the seeker after 
wealth to the simple enjoyment of the labouring man or even the sen- 
suous pleasure of the indolent, so now he turns from the isolation of the 
avaricious to the blessings of companionship. Here at least, in that 
which carries 2 man out of himself, there is a real good, a point scored 
as “gain.” Here also, over and above his own experience the Seeker 
may have been helped by the current thought of his Greek teachers, the 
xowda Ta pldwv of the proverb, or the lines of Homer, 

Div re bv épxouevn, kal re mpd 6 rod évanoev 

"Omrmws Képdos éy' wovvos 5 elrep Te vonon, 

"AAG Te of Bpdoowy Te vous hemry SE TE MATLS. 
‘When two together go, each for the other 

Ts first to think what best will help his brother ; 

But one who walks alone, though wise in mind, 

Of purpose slow and counsel weak we find.” 

Thad, X. 224—6. 
So the Greek proverb ran as to friends 

xelp xetpa vlmret, Saxrvdds Te Sdxrv)ov. 
‘‘ Hand cleanseth hand, and finger finger helps.” 





142 ECCLESIASTES, IV. [wv. ro—12. 

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to 
him ¢hat is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another 
to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have 
heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail 
against him, two shall withstand him; and a three-fold cord 
is not quickly broken. 

The ‘‘good reward” 1s more than the mere money result of partnership, 
and implies the joy of 
“‘United thoughts and counsels, equal hope 
And hazard.” 

The literature of well-nigh all ages and races abound in expressions 
of the same thought. Aristotle dedicates two whole books (VIII. 
Ix.) of his Ethics to the subject of Friendship, and Cicero made 
it the theme of one of his most finished essays. Commonly, how- 
ever, men rested it, as the writer does here, mainly on the basis of 
utility. ‘‘The wise man,” says Seneca (Zfist. 1x. 8) from his higher 
Stoic standpoint, ‘‘needs a friend, not as Epicurus taught, that 
he may have one to sit by his bed when he is ill, or to help 
him when he is poor or in prison, but that he may have one by 
whose bed he may sit, whom he may rescue when he is attagked by 
foes.” We may point also to Prov. xvii. 17, xxvii. 17, and the Jewish 
proverb ‘‘a man without friends is like a left hand without the right” 
(Pirke Aboth, f. 30. 2) as utterances of a like nature. It is, however 
to be noted, in connexion with the line of thought that has been 
hitherto followed in these notes as to the date and authorship of the 
book, that the preciousness of friendship as one of the joys of life 
was specially characteristic of the school of Epicurus (Zeller, Stoics and 
Lpicureans, c. XX.). It was with them the highest of human goods, 
and the wise would value it as the chief element of security (Diog, 
Laert. X. 1.148). The principle thus asserted finds, it may be added, 
its highest sanction in the wisdom of Him who sent out His disciples 
**two and two together” (Luke x. 1). 

of they fall) The special illustration appears to be drawn from the 
experience of two travellers. If one slip or stumble on a steep or rocky 
path the other is at hand to raise him, while, if left to himself, he 
might have perished. 

11. if two lie together] Here again the experience of travel comes 
before us. Sleeping on a cold and stormy night, under the same 
coverlet, or in Eastern houses, with their unglazed windows and many 
draughts, two friends kept each other warm, while one resting by 
himself would have shivered in discomfort, Commonly as in Exod, 
xxii. 6, the mantle of the day served also as the blanket of the night. 
So, of course, it would be with those who travelled according to the 
tule of Matt. x. Io. 

12. if one prevail against him] Better, If a man Overpowers him 

wv. 13, 14.] ECCLESIASTES, IV. 143 

Better zs a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish 13 
king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison 14 
he cometh to reign; whereas also Ae ¢hat is born in his 

that is alone, yet two shall withstand. Another incident of travel is 
brought before us. The robber may lie in ambush. Against one his 
attack would be successful; the two friends defend each other and are 

a threefold cord is not quickly broken] Perhaps no words in Eccle- 
siastes are better known than this as a proverbial expression for the 
stiength of unity. It differs from the previous illustration in suggesting 
the thought of a friendship in which more than two persons are joined. 
< Threefold” is chosen as an epithet, partly as carrying on the thought 
from two to three, as in Prov. xxx. 15, 18, 21, from three to four, partly 
because “ three” was for the Israelite the typical number for complete- 
ness, probably also because the rope of three strands was the strongest 
cord in use. The proverbial form has naturally led to manifold applica- 
tion of the maxim, and the devout imagination of the interpreters has 
seen in it a reference to the doctrine of the Three Persons in the unity of 
the Godhead, to the union of Faith, Hope and Charity in the Christian 
life, and so on. These, it need scarcely be said, lie altogether outside 
the range of the thoughts of the Debater. 

13. Better is a poor and a wise child| Better, young man. The 
words are general enough but the ingenuity of commentators has sought 
for examples in history, which the writer, according to the varying 
theories as to his date, may have had in his thoughts. Such, ¢.g. as 
Abraham and Nimrod, Joseph and Pharaoh, David and Saul (all these 
are named inthe Midrash Koheleth, see Introduction, ch. v1.), Joash and 
Amaziah, Cyrus and Astyages, the high priest Onias and his nephew 
Joseph (circ. B.C. 246—221, see Joseph. Ant. XII, 4, and Note on next 
verse), or Herod and his son Alexander. None of these identifications 
are altogether satisfactory, and it is quite possible that the writer may 
simply have uttered a general statement or may have had in view some 
events of which we have no record. In Wisd. iv. 8, 9 we have a more 
eloquent utterance of the same thought, ‘‘Honourable age is not that 
which standeth in length of time or that is measured by number of 
years, but wisdom is the grey hair unto men and unspotted life is old 
age.” The word for “child” is used of Joseph at the age of 17 (Gen. 
xxxvii. 30, xlii. 20) and even’ of the companions of Rehoboam when 
the latter was over 40 (1 Kings xii. 8). 

14. For out of prison he cometh to reign| The pronouns are am- 
biguous in the Hebrew as in English, and the clauses have consequently 
been taken in very different ways, as referring to one and the same 
person, or to the two who had been named in the preceding verse (r) 
‘For one cometh out of prison to reign, though he (the young succes- 
gor) was born poor in his kingdom” (that of the old king, or that which 
was afterwards to be his own); or (2) ‘‘For one cometh out of prison 
to reign, while a king becomes a beggar in his kingdom.” Here also 




144 ECCLESIASTES, IV. [vv. 15, 16. 
kingdom becometh poor. I considered all the living which 
walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand 
up in his stead. There is no end of all the people, even 
of all that have been before them: they also that come 
after shall not rejoice in him. Surely this also zs vanity and 
vexation of spirit. 

a reference has been found to the history of Onias under Ptolemy Euer- 
getes. Josephus describes him (Amt. x11. 4) as ‘fof a little soul and a 
great lover of money” while his nephew Joseph ‘ ‘young in age” was “of 
great reputation for gravity, wisdom and justice,” and obtained from 
the king permission to farm the revenues of Ccelesyria, Phoenicia, Sama- 
ria and Judzea. It can scarcely be said however that the case thus 
narrated is parallel with what we find in the verse before us. There is 
no king old or young, coming out of prison, or reduced to poverty. On 
the whole, unless the words refer to some unrecorded incident, some 
vague reminiscence of Cyrus and Astyages seems more likely to have 
been before the writer’s mind, According to one version of that history 
Cyrus had been brought up in poverty (Herod. 1. 112), and was so 
strictly guarded that Harpagus had recourse to Stratagem tg convey a 
letter into his hands (Herod. 1. 123). 

15. with the second child that shall stand up tn his stead| If we take 
the word “‘second ” in its natura] meaning, the clause may point either 
to the wise young ruler of the previous verse, as succeeding (2.2, 
coming second to) the old and foolish king, or possibly to Azs successor, 
and points in either case to what we have learnt to call the “ worship of 
the rising Sun.” All gather round him, and their name is legion. There 
is “no end of all the people.” 

16. Lhere is no end of all the people| The words continue the picture 
of the crowds who follow the young king. 

even of all that have been before them| The last words are not of time 
but position. The people are before their king, or rather, heis before 
them all, going in and out before them (1 Sam. xviii. 16; 2 Chron. i, ro), 
ruling and guiding. The reference of the words to the Messianic child 
of Isai. vii. 14, ix. 6, falls under the same category as the interpretation 
which finds the doctrine of the Trinity in the ‘threefold cord” of verse 
12. \ It is true of both that they may be devout applications of the words, 
but are in no sense explanatory of their meaning. 

they also that come after] This is added as the crowning stroke of the 
irony of history. The reign which begins so brightly shares the inevitable 
doom, and ends in darkness, and murmuring and failure. “J/ »’y a pas 
a’homme necessaire,” and the popular hero of the hour finds himself 
slighted even in life, and is forgotten by the next generation. The 
glory of the most popular and successful king shares the common doom 
and is but as a feeding upon wind. Here again the statement is so 
wide in its generalization that it is not easy to fix on any historical 

vy. 1, 2.] ECCLESIASTES, V. 145 

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, 5 « 
and 4e more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: 
for they consider not that sey do evil. Be not rash with 2 

identification. David, Solomon himself, Jeroboam, Cyrus, Antiochus 
the Great, Herod have been suggested by the ingenuity of commentators. 


1, Keep thy foot) In the Heb., LXX. and Vulg. this verse forms 
the conclusion to chap, iv. The English version is obviously right, 
however, in its division of the chapter. The moralist reviews a new 
region of experience. ‘‘Vanity” has been found in all that belongs to 
the outward secular life of men. Is their higher life, that which we call 
their religion, free from it? Must not the Debater, from his standpoint, 
rebuke the follies and sins even of the godly? Here, as might be 
expected, we have an intermingling of two elements of thought, the 
traditional teaching which the thinker has. learnt from psalmist and 
prophet, and the maxims which have come to him from his Greek, 
probably from his Epicurean, teachers. Both, it will be seen, find 
echoes in the precepts that follow. The precepts are suggestive as 
shewing the kind of religion which the Debater had seen in Palestine, 
the germs of the formalism and casuistry which afterwards developed 
into Pharisaism, To “keep the foot” was to walk in the right way, 
the way of reverence and obedience (Ps. cxix. 32, ror). The outward 
act of putting the shoes off the feet on entering the Temple (Exod. iii. 5 ; 
Josh. v. 15), from the earliest times to the present, the custom of the 
East, was the outward symbol of such a reverential awe. ‘We note, 
as characteristic, the substitution of the ‘“‘house of God” for the more 
familiar ‘‘house of the Lord” (2 Sam. xii. 20; Isai. xxxiii. 1, and else- 
where). Possibly the term may be used, as in Ps, Ixxiv. 8, Ixxxiii. 12, to 
include synagogues as well as the Temple. The precept implies that he 
who gives it had seen the need of it. Men -went to the place where 
they worshipped with little thought that it was indeed a Beth-el, or 
“house of God.” 

and be more ready to hear] The-words have been differently inter- 
preted: (1) ‘‘And to draw near to hear is better than to offer the 
sacrifice... ;”’ and (2) ‘“‘To hear (=obey) is nearer (z.¢. is'the truer way 
for thy foot to take) than to offer the sacrifice...” ‘The general spirit of 
the maxim or precept is identical with that of 1 Sam. xv. 22; Ps. xl. 
6—8, 1. 8—14, li. 16, 17. The “sacrifice of fools” as in Prov. xxi. 27 
is that offered by the ungodly, and therefore an abomination. y 

Sor they consider not that they do evil) The A.V. is perhaps sufficiently 
expressive of the meaning, but the following various renderings have 
been suggested: (1) ‘‘they know not, so that they do evil,” zc. their 
ignorance leads them to sin; (2) ‘‘they (those who obey, hear) know not 
to do evil,” z.e. their obedience keeps them from it. Of these (1) seems 
preferable. Protests against a superstition that was not godliness, the 


146 ECCLESIASTES, V. olv.4, 

thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any 
thing before God: for God zs in heaven, and thou upon 
3 earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh 
through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice zs 

SercvSatmovta of the Greeks (Acts xvii. 22), were, it need scarcely be said, 
part of the current teaching of Epicurus and his followers. So Lucretius; 

‘‘Nec pietas ullast velatum spe videri 
Vertier ad lapidem atque omnes accedere ad aras, 
Nec procumbere humi prostratum et pandere palmas 
Ante defim delubra, nec aras sanguine multo 
Spargere quadrupedum, nec votis nectere vota, 
Sed mage pacata posse omnia mente tueri.” 

*¢ True worship is not found in veiled heads 
Turned to a statue, nor in drawing near 
To many an altar, nor in form laid low 
Upon the ground, nor sprinkling it with blood 
Of bulls and goats, nor piling vows on vows; 
But rather in the power which all surveys 
With mind at rest and calm.” 
De Rer. Nat. V. 1198—1203. 

2. Le not rash with thy mouth| The rule follows the worshipper 
from the threshold into the Temple-court and tells him how he is to act 
there. ‘We are reminded of our Lord’s warning against “vain repeti- 
tions,” after the manner of the heathen (Matt. vi. 7). The second 
clause, though parallel to the first, carries the thought further. The 
‘‘heart” or mind of the worshipper also is to be calm and deliberate. 
We are not to turn every hasty wish into a prayer, but to ask ourselves 
whether it is one of the things for which we ought to pray. Here also 
the precept has its analogies in the counsels of the wise of heart outside 
the covenant of Israel. See especially Juven. Sat. x. 

therefore let thy words be few| The Son of Sirach gives the same rule 
for our speech when in the presence of the ‘‘great men” of earth (Ecclus. 
xxxii. 9), and @ fortiori the reverence due to God should shew itself in 
the same form as our reverence for them. Ina Talmudic precept we 
find the rule in nearly the same words, ‘‘the words of a man should 
always be few in the presence of God” (Berachoth, 61a, quoted by 
Ginsburg). Comp. also Hooker Z. P. 1. 2. § 3. 

3. ora dream cometh through the multitude of business| The one 
psychological fact is meant to illustrate the other. The mind that has 
lost the power to re-collect itself, haunted and harassed by the cares of 
many things, cannot enjoy the sweet and calm repose of a dreamless 
slumber, and that fevered state with its hot thoughts and wild fancies 
is but too faithful a picture of the worshipper who pours out a multi- 
tude of wishes in a ‘‘multitude of words.” His very prayers are those 
of a dreamer. It seems obvious, from the particle that connects this 
with the preceding verse, that the maxim refers specially to these 

vv. 4—6.] BCCEESIASTES;, V. 147 

known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow 4 
unto God, defer not to pay it; for fe hath no pleasure in 
fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better ds 7¢ that ; 
thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and 
not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin;6 

utterances of the fool and not merely to the folly of his speech in 
general. The words ‘“‘is known,” as the italics shew, have nothing 
answering to them in the Hebrew. The same verb was meant to serve 
for both the clauses. 

4. When thou vowest'a vow unto God| The words are almost a 
reproduction of Deut. xxiii. 22—24. They point to a time when vows, 
such as are here referred to, entered largely into men’s personal religion. 
Memorable instances of such vows are found in the lives of Jacob 
(Gen. xxviii. 20), Jephthah (Judg. xi. 30), Saul (r Sam. xiv. 24). In 
later Judaism they came into a fresh prominence, as seen especially in 
the Corban of Mark vii. 11, the revival of the Nazarite vow (Acts 
xviii. 18, xx. 23; Joseph. Wars 11. 15, p. 1), and the oath or anathema 
of Acts xxiii. 21; and one of the treatises of the Mishna (Vedavim) was 
devoted to an exhaustive casuistic treatment of the whole subject. In 
Matt. v. 23 we find the recognised rule of the Pharisees, ‘Thou shalt 
perform unto the Lord thine oaths,” as the conclusion of the whole 
matter. This the Debater also affirmed, but he, in his deeper wisdom, 
went further, and bade men to consider well what kind of vows they 

Sor he hath no pleasure in foots| The construction of the sentence in 
the Hebrew is ambiguous, and may give either (1) that suggested by the 
interpolated words in the A. V., or (2) “‘there is no pleasure in fools,” 
ze. they please neither God nor man, or (3) ‘‘there is no fixed purpose 
in fools,” z.¢. they are unstable in their vows as in everything else. Of 
these interpretations (2) has most to commend it. In Prov. xx. 25, ‘‘It 
is a snare.,.after vows to make inquiry,” we have a striking parallel. 

5. Better ts it that thou shouldest not vow] The point which the Teacher 
seeks to press is obviously the optional character of vows. They form 
no part of the essentials of religion, they are to be deprecated rather than 
otherwise; but to make them, and then delay or evade their fulfilment, 
is to tamper with veracity and play fast and loose with conscience, and 
so is fatally injurious. ‘The casuistry condemned by our Lord (Matt. 
V. 33, xxiii. 16—22) shews how fertile was the ingenuity of Scribes in 
devising expedients of this nature. 

6. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin) The “mouth” 
may refer either to the thoughtless utterance of the rash vow, such as 
that of Jephthah (Judg. xi. 30) or Saul (1 Sam. xiv. 24), or to the 
appetite which leads the man who has made a vow, say of the Nazarite 
type, to indulge in the drink or food which he had bound himself to 
renounce. ‘The former meaning seems more in harmony with the con- 
text. The latter clause is translated by many Commentators 40 bring 
punishment (the expiation for sin) upon thy flesh, but the A.V. is 


148 ECCLESIASTES, V. [V. 7. 

neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error : 
wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy 
7 the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams 

probably correct. ‘The ‘‘flesh” stands as in Gen. vi. 3; Ps. Ixxviii. 39, 
and in New Testament language (Rom. vii. 18, 25), for the corrupt 
sensuous element in man’s nature. The context forbids the extension of 
the precept to sins of speech in general, as in the wider teaching of 
James iii. I—12. 

neither say thou before the angel] The words have been taken by 
most Jewish and some Christian interpreters as referring to the “angel” 
in the strict sense of the term, who was believed in Rabbinic traditions 
to preside over the Temple or the altar, and who, it is assumed, would 
punish the evasion of the vow on the frivolous excuse that it had been 
spoken inconsiderately, 1 Cor. xi. 13 and 1 Tim. v. 21 are referred to 
as illustrations of the same thought. This interpretation, however, 
seems scarcely in harmony with the generally Hellenised tone of the 
book, and in Hagg. i. 13 and Mal. ii. 7 we have distinct evidence that 
the term had come to be applied to prophets and priests, as in 2 Cor. 
viii. 23 and Rev. i. 20 it is used of ministers in the Christian Church, 
and this, it is obvious, gives a tenable, and, on the whole, a preferable 
meaning. The man comes to the priest with an offering less in value 
than he had vowed, or postpones the fulfilment of his vow indefinitely, 
and using the technical language of Num. xv. 25, explains that the vow 
had been made in ignorance, and therefore that he was not bound to 
fulfil it to the letter. Other commentators again (Gratz) look on the 
word as describing a subordinate officer of the Temple. 

wherefore should God be angry at thy voice] The question is in form 
like those of Ezra iv. 22, vii. 23, and is rhetorically more emphatic than 
a direct assertion. The words are a more distinct assertion of a Divine 
Government seen in earthly rewards and punishments than the book 
has as yet presented. The vow made, as was common, to secure safety 
or prosperity, could have no other result than loss and, it might be, ruin, 
if it were vitiated from the first by a rashness which took refuge in 

1. Lor in the multitude.of dreams] The order of the words in the 
A. V. is not that of the Hebrew, which gives For in the multitude of 
dreams and vanities and many words, but is adopted by many commenta- 
tors as representing a more correct text. The introduction of the word 
‘ vanities” (the “divers” of the A. V. has, as the italics shew, nothing 
answering to it in the Hebrew,) indicates the purpose of the writer in 
thus noting the weak points of popular religionism. They also, the 
dreams which seemed ‘to them as messages from heaven, the ‘“many 
words” of longand resounding prayers, took their place in the induction 
which was to ‘prove that ‘‘all is vanity.” So Theophrastus (Charact. 
XVI.) describes the superstitious man (deordaluwy) as agitated when he 
sees a vision and straightway going off to consult a soothsayer. In con- 
trast with the garrulous rashness and the inconsiderate vows and the 
unwise reliance on dreams which Judaism was learning from heathenism 

v. 8.] ECCLESIASTES, V. 149 

pe many words ¢here are also divers vanities: but fear thou 

If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent 
perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel 
not at the matter: for 4e ¢hat zs higher than the highest 
regardeth; and ¢here de higher than they. 

(Matt. vi. 7) Koheleth falls back on the ‘‘fear of God,”’ the temper of 
reverential and silent awe, which was ‘‘the beginning of wisdom” 
(Prov. i. 7; Job xxviii. 28). It is significant that here again the 
teaching of Koheleth has a parallel in that of the Epicurean poet who 
traces the ‘‘religions” of mankind (in his sense of the word) in no small 
measure to the influence of dreams. 

‘‘Quippe etenim jam tum divum mortalia seecla 
Egregias animo facies vigilante videbant, 
Et magis in somnis mirando corporis auctu.” 

‘‘Even then the race of mortal men would see 
With waking soul the mighty forms of Gods, 
And in their dreams with shapes of wondrous size.” 
Lucret. De Rer. Nat. v. 1169—71. 

8. Jf thou seest the oppression of the poor| From the follies of the 
religious life we pass to the disorders of the political. As in ch. 
iv. 16, the thinker looks on those disorders of the, world, “the poor 
man’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,” and teaches others how he has 
learnt to think of them. The words ‘‘wonder not”’ tells us with scarcely 
the shadow of a doubt who had been his teachers. In that counsel 
we have a distinct echo from one of the floating maxims of Greek 
proverbial wisdom, from the Mydev Gavuatew (** wonder at nothing”) of 
Pythagoras, and Cebes (Zabula, p. 232), which has become more 
widely known through the Vi admirari of Horace (Zfist. 1. 6. 1). 
Why men were not to wonder at the prevalence of oppression is 
explained afterwards. The word for ‘‘ province” may be noted as one 
distinctly belonging to later Hebrew, found chiefly in the books of the 
Persian period, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel; once only in those 
of earlier date, 1 Kings xx. 14—17. 

for he that is higher than the highest] The first impression made by 
the verse is that the Debater tells men not to wonder or be dismayed 
at the prevalence of wrong, on the ground that God is higher than the 
highest of the tyrants of the earth and will in the end punish their 
wrong-doing. So understood, the first and the last “higher” both 
refer to ‘‘God,” or, as some take it, the last only, the first referring to 
the king as distinct from satraps or other officers, and the train of 
thought is supposed to be “ Wonder not with the wonder of despair, at 
the seeming triumph of evil. The Supreme Judge (ch. iii. 17) will one 
day set all things right.” The last “higher” is however plural in the 
Hebrew, and if it be understood of God, it must be by a somewhat 
unusual construction connecting it with the plural form (Z/ohim) of the 

150 ECCLESIASTES, V. [vv. 9, 10. 

9 Moreover the profit of the earth zs for all: the king Azm- 
10 Seif is served by the field. He that loveth silver shall not 

name of God. We have, it may be noted, another example of a like 
construction in the use of the plural form for Creator in ch. xii. 1, and 
for “‘the Holy” in Prov. ix. 10, xxx. 3. Over and above the grammatical 
difficulties, however (which, as has been shewn, are not insuperable), it 
may be said that this thought is hardly in keeping with the tone of the 
Debater’s mind at this stage of his progress. Belief in the righteous 
government of God can hardly remove, though it may perhaps silence, 
the wonder which men feel at the prevalence of evil. It seems better 
accordingly to fall back upon another interpretation. The observer 
looks upon the state of the Persian or Syrian or Egyptian Monarch’ 
and sees a system of Satraps and Governors which works like that of 
the Pachas in modern Asiatic Turkey. There is one higher than 
the high one, the king who is despotic over the satraps: there are 
others (the court favourites, king’s friends, eunuchs, chamberlains) 
who are higher or, at least, of more power, than both together, each 
jealously watching the others, and bent on self-aggrandisement. Who 
can wonder that the result should be injustice and oppression? The 
system of government was rotten from the highest to the lowest, 
suspicion and distrust pervading its whole administration. Comp. 
Anistotle’s description of Asiatic monarchies as suppressing all public 
spirit and mutual confidence (Po/. v. 11). It may be suggested, lastly, 
that the enigmatic form of the maxim may have been deliberately 
chosen, so that men might read either the higher or the lower inter- 
pretation into it, according to their capacities. It was a “word to 
the wise” after the measure of their wisdom. The grave irony of 
such an ambiguous utterance was quite after the Teacher’s method. 
See notes on ch. xi. 1, 2. 

9. Moreover the profit of the earth is for all] The verse is difficult 
and has been very variously interpreted. The most satisfactory render- 
ings follow: But the profit of a land every way is a king for the 
field under tillage, or, as some take the words, a king devoted to the 
field. In either case the main sense isthesame. The writer contrasts the 
misery of the Oriental government of his time with the condition of 
Judah under the model kings who gave themselves chiefly to the develop- 
ment of the resources of the country by agriculture, such e. g. as 
Uzziah who “‘loved husbandry” (2 Chron, xxvi. 10). This gives, it is 
obvious, a much better sense than the rendering that ‘the king is 
served by the field” or “is subject to the field,” ze. dependent on it. 
Assuming the Alexandrian origin of the book, we may perhaps see in 
the maxim a gentle hint to the Ptolemy of the time being to improve 
his agricultural administration and to foster the growing export-trade in 

10. He that loveth silver! The sequence of thought led the 
Debater from the evils of the love of money as seen in mis-government 
to those which are seen in the life of the individual man. 

‘ en In The ccn- 
spicuous fact was the insatiableness of that passion for money ; 

vv. II, 12.] ECCLESIASTES, V. 151 

be satisfied with silver ; nor he that loveth abundance with 
increase: this zs also vanity. When goods increase, they 
are increased that eat them: and what good zs ¢here to the 
owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their 
eyes? The sleep of a labouring maz zs sweet, whether he 

‘¢Semper avarus eget; hunc nulla pecunia replet.” 
““The miser still is poor, no money fills his purse.” 
JUVEN. Sat. XIV. 139. 

The second clause may be taken either as in the A.V. as a maxim 
He who clings to wealth (the word implies the luxury that accompanies 
wealth as in Ps. xxxvii. 16; 1 Chron. xxix. 16; Isai. lx. 5), there is 
no fruit thereof, or as a question, Who clings to wealth? There is no 
fruit thereof, z.¢. no real revenue or veturn for the labour of acquiring 
it. In this the Teacher found another illustration of his text that ‘‘all 
is, vanity.” 

11. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them| The fact 
is one which has met the gaze of the moralists of all countries. A large 
household, numerous retainers, these are but so many elements of 
trouble. In the dialogue of Croesus and Solon (Herod. I. 32), yet more 
closely in that of Pheraulas and Sacian (quoted by Ginsburg) in Xeno- 
phon (Cyrop. VIII. 3, pp- 35—44), we have distinct parallels. The latter 
presents so striking a resemblance as to be worth quoting, ‘‘Do you 
think, Sacian, that I live with the more pleasure the more I possess... 
By having this abundance, I gain merely this, that I have to guard more, 
to distribute more to others, and to have the trouble of taking care of 
more; for a great many domestics now demand of me their food, their 
drink, and their clothes... Whosoever, therefore, is greatly pleased with 
the possession of riches will, be assured, feel much annoyed at the 
expenditure of them.” 

saving the beholding of them with thew eyes] So Horace paints the 
muiser : 

“*Congestis undique saccis 
Indormis inhians, et tanquam parcere sacris 
Cogeris, aut pictis tanquam gaudere tabellis.” 

“Sleepless thou gazest on thy heaped-up bags, 
And yet art forced to hold thy hand from them, 
As though they were too sacred to be touched, 
Or were but painted pictures for thine eyes.” 
Sat. 1. 1. 66. 

12. The sleep of a labouring man is sweet] We may probably, as 
suggested in the ‘Ideal Biography” of the Zx¢roduction ch. Il., see in 
this reflection the reminiscence of a state with which the writer had 
once been familiar, and after which, now that it had passed away, 
he yearned regretfully. Again we get on the track of the maxims of 
Epicurean teachers. So Horace; 

152 ECCLESIASTES, V. [vv. 13—15. 

eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not 
suffer him to sleep. : 
13 There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, 
namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. 
4 But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a 
15 son, and ¢kere zs nothing in his hand. As he came forth 
of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he 

‘*Somnus agrestium 
Lenis virorum non humiles domos 
Fastidit umbrosamque ripam, 
Non Zephyris agitata Tempe.” 
‘Gentle slumber scorneth not 

The ploughman’s poor and lowly cot, 
Nor yet the bank with sheltering shade, 
Nor Tempe with its breezy glade.” 

Od. 111. 1. 21—24. 

See the passage from Virgil, Georg. Iv., already quoted in the note on 
ch. it, 24, and 

‘*Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade 
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep, 
Than doth a rich embroider’d canopy 
To kings that fear their subjects’ treachery? 
O, yes, it doth; a thousand-fold it doth. 
And to conclude, the shepherd’s homely curds, 
His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle, 
His wonted sleep under a fresh tree’s shade, 
All which secure and sweetly he enjoys, 
Is far beyond a prince’s delicates, 
His viands sparkling in a golden cup, 
His body couched in a curious bed, 
When care, mistrust, and treason wait on him.” 

SHAKESPEARE, Henry VI. Act ii. Sc. 5. 

13. riches kept for the owners thereof] Yet another aspect of the 
evils attendant on riches is brought before us, as in ch. ii, 18, 19. Not 
only do they fail to give any satisfying joy, but the man who reckoned 
on founding a family and leaving his heaped-up treasures to his son 
gains nothing but anxieties and cares, loses his wealth by some unfore- 
seen chance, and leaves his son a pauper. By some commentators the 
possessive pronoun in “42s hand” (verse 14) is referred to the father. 
The crowning sorrow for him is that he begets a son and then dies 
himself in poverty. The upshot of the two constructions is, of course, 
practically the same, 

15. As he came forth of his mother’s womb] The words so closely 
resemble those of Job i. 21 that it is natural to infer that the writer had 
that history in his mind as an example of a sudden reverse of fortune. 

vv. 16—20.] BCCEESIASTES; V. 153 

came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may 
carry away in hishand. And this also zs a sore evil, ¢hat in 16 
all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit 
hath he that hath laboured for the wind? All his days also 17 
he eateth in darkness, and Ze Za‘ much sorrow and wrath 
with his sickness. 

Behold ¢hat which I have seen: z¢ zs good and comely :8 
for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his 
labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, 
which God giveth him: for it zs his portion. Every man 19 
also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath 
given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, 
and to rejoice in his labour; this zs the gift of God. For 20 

In both, earth, as the mother of all living, is thought of as the womb out 
of which each man comes (Ps. cxxxix. 15) and to which he must return 
at last, carrying none of his earthly possessions with him. Comp. a 
striking parallel in Ecclus. xI. 1. 

16. what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?| The ever- 
recurring question (ch. i. 3, ii. 22, iii, 9) rises once again, “‘What 
profit?” In ‘labouring for the wind” we have a phrase almost identi- 
cal with the ‘feeding on wind” or, as some render it, the ‘‘striving 
after the wind” which is the key-note of the whole book. As in 
Prov. xi. 29; Isai. xxvi. 18; Job xvi. 3 the “wind” is the emblem of 
emptiness and nothingness, 

17. he eateth in darkness) The words are so natural a figure of a 
cheerless life with no ‘‘sweetness and light” in it (comp. Mic. vii. 8), 
that there is something almost ludicrous in the prosaic literalism which 
interprets them, either (1) of the miser as eating in the dark to save 
candlelight, or (2) working all day and waiting till nightfall before he 
sits down to a meal. 

much sorrow and wrath with his sickness] Better, and sickness and 
wrath. The Hebrew gives a conjunction and not a preposition. The 
words have been variously taken, (1) ‘‘2s much disturbed and hath grief 
and vexation,” (2) “‘grieveth himself much, and oh! for his sorrow and 
hatred,” but the general meaning remains the same. Koheleth teaches, 
as St Paul does, that ‘‘they that will be (ze. set their hearts on being) 
rich, pierce themselves through with many sorrows »? (x Tim. vi. 6). 

18. Behold that which I have seen| The thinker returns to the 
maxim of a calm regulated Epicureanism, as before in chs. ii. 24, iii. 22. 
If a man has little, Jet him be content with that little. If he has much, 
let him enjoy it without excéss, and without seeking more. In the 
combination of ‘“‘good” and ‘‘comely” we have perhaps an endeavour 
to reproduce the familiar Greek combination of the dyafov and the caddy, 

19. this is the gift of God| The words indicate a return to the 
sense of dependence on the Divine bounty, which we have seen in 


he shall not much remember the days of his life 3 because 
God answereth 42m in the joy of his heart. 
6 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it 

chs. ii. 24, iii. 13. Life itself, and the outward goods of life, few or 
many, and the power to enjoy these, all are alike God’s gifts. 

20. he shall not much remember the days of his life| This follows 
the order of the Hebrew and gives a satisfying meaning: The man who 
has learnt the secret of enjoyment is not anxious about the days of his 
life, does not brood even over its transitoriness, but takes each day 
tranquilly, as it comes, as God’s gift to him. By some commentators, 
however, the sentence is construed so as to give just the opposite sense, 
“He remembereth (or should remember) that the days of his life are not 
many,” i.e. never loses sight of the shortness of human life. It is diffi- 
cult to see how the translators of the A. V. could have been led to their 
marginal reading ‘‘ Though he give not much, ye he remembereth the 
days of his life.” 

because God answereth him in the joy of his heart] Theverb has been very 
variously rendered, (1) “‘ God occupies him with the joy...,” or (2) “God 
makes him sing with the joy...,” or (3) “God causeth him to work Sor 
the enjoyment...,” or (4) ‘God makes all answer (2.2. correspond with) 
his wishes,” or (5) ‘God himself corresponds to his Joy,” te. is felt to 
approve it as harmonizing, in its calm evenness, with His own blessed- 
ness. The last is, perhaps, that which has most to commend it. So 
taken, the words find a parallel in the teaching of Epicurus, ‘The 
Blessed and the Immortal neither knows trouble of its own nor causeth it 
to others. Wherefore it is not influenced either by wrath or favour,” 
(Diog. Laert. x. 1. 139). The tranquillity of the wise man mirrors, 
the Teacher implies, the tranquillity of God. So Lucretius; 

‘‘Omnis enim per se divum natura necessest, 
Immortali zvo summa cum pace fruatur, 
Semota ab nostris rebus sejunctaque longe ; 
Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis, 

Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nil indiga nostri, 
Nec bene promeritis capitur neque tangitur ira.” 

‘The nature of the Gods must need enjoy 
Life everlasting in supreme repose, 
Far from our poor concerns and separate : 
For from all pain exempt, exempt from risks, 
Rich in its own wealth, needing nought of ours, 
’Tis neither soothed by gifts nor stirred by wrath.” 
De Ker. Nat, i. 646—651. 


1. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun] The Picture is 
substantially the same as that of ch. iv. 7, 8. The repetition is charac- 

V¥..2, 3] ECCLESIASTES, VI. 155 

#s common among men: a man to whom God hath given 2 
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 zs vanity, 
and it zs an evil disease. If a man beget an hundred chz/- 
dren, and live many years, so that the days of his years be 
many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also ‘hat he 
have no burial; I say, ¢ha¢ an untimely birth zs better than 


teristic, consciously or unconsciously, of the pessimism from which the 
writer has not yet emancipated himself. He broods over the same 
thought, chews, as it were, the ‘cud of bitter fancies” only, ‘‘semper 
eandem canens cantilenam.” Here the picture is that of a man who 
has all outward goods in abundance, but he just lacks that capacity for 
enjoyment which is (as in ch. v. 20) the “gift of God,” and he dies 
childless and a stranger becomes the heir. We are reminded of the 
aged patriarch’s exclamation, ‘‘I go childless, and the steward of my 
house is this Eliezer of Damascus” (Gen. xv. 2). 

3. Jf a man beget an hundred children] A case is put, the very 
opposite of that described in the preceding verse. Instead of being 
childless the rich man may have children, and children’s children; may 
live out all his days. What then? Unless his ‘‘soul be filled with 
good,” unless there is the capacity for enjoyment, life is not worth 
living. Still, as before, ‘‘it were good never to have been born.” 
We may probably trace an allusive reference to Artaxerxes Mnemon, 
who is reported to have had 115 children, and who died of grief at the 
age of 94, at the suicide of one of his sons, and the murder of another, 
both caused by a third son, Ochus, who succeeded him (Justin, X. 1). 

and also that he have no burial) The sequence of thought seems 
at first strange. Why should this be, from the writer’s standpoint, as 
the climax of sorrow? Why should he who had noted so keenly the 
vanities of life put seemingly so high a value on that which comes when 
life is over and done with? Some writers have felt this so strongly, that 
they have suggested the interpretation, ‘‘even if there be no grave 
waiting for him,” i.e. even if he were to live for ever. The natural 
meaning is, however, tenable enough, and we have once more an echo 
of Greek teaching. Solon had taught that we are not to call any man 
happy before his death, and by implication, in his story of the sons of 
Tellus, had made the prospect of posthumous honour an element of 
happiness (Herod. 1. 30). So, in like manner, it was the direst of 
woes for a man to know that he ‘“‘should be buried with the burial of 
an ass” (Jer. xxii. 19), or, in Homeric phrase, that his body should be 
*‘cast out to dogs and vultures.” How could any man, however rich and 
powerful, be sure that that fate might not be in store for him? On 
the assumption of the late date of the book, there may be a reference 
to the death of Artaxerxes Ochus, who was murdered by the eunuch 
Bagoas, and his body thrown to the cats. Possibly, Koheleth himself 
may have had some reason for an anxious doubt, whether the honours 

156 ECCLESIASTES, VI. [vv. 4—7. 

«he. For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in dark- 

5 ness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. More- 
over he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this 

6hath more rest than the other. Yea, though he live a 
thousand years twice /o/d, yet hath he seen no good: do 
not all go to one place? 

7 All the labour of man 7s for his mouth, and yet the appe- 

of sepulture would be his. If, as seems likely, he was a stranger in a 
strange land, alone and with no child to succeed him, perhaps with a 
name cast out as evil or heretical, there was small chance of his being 
laid to rest in the sepulchre of his fathers. See the “Ideal Biography,” 
Lntroduction, ch. Il. 

an untimely birth is better than he| The thought of ch. iy. 3 is 
reproduced, but in a somewhat less. generalized form. There, never to 
have been born, is asserted, after the manner of the Greek maxims 
quoted in the notes, to be better than existence of any kind. Here the 
assertion is limited to. the comparison with the joyless pursuit of wealth. 
The “‘untimely birth” was the natural emblem of all abortive enter- 
ptise (Job iii. 16; Ps. lviii. 8). 

4. he cometh in with vanity] The pronoun in the English Version 
refers the clause to the man who has heaped up riches, and had a long 
life with no real enjoyment, Probably, however, the words describe, in 
harmony with the thought of the preceding verse, the portion of the 
still-born child. It comes and goes, and is forgotten, and never sees 
the sun, and tastes not the misery of life. The last clause of verse 5, 
there is rest to this rather than to that (‘‘rest” idealised, as in Job 
iii. 13, as in itself all but the supreme good that man can strive after), 
seems to make this construction certain. Possibly, however, the de- 
scription of verse 4 is made to apply in part to both terms of the 
comparison, so that it may be seen, on which side, both having so 
much in common, the balance of advantage lies. On ‘seeing the 
sun” as an equivalent for living, see chs. vii. Il, xi. 7; Job iii. 16; 
Ps. xlix. 20. 

6. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told| The weari- 
ness of life carries the thinker yet further. Carry it to the furthest 
point conceivable, and still the result is the same. The longer it is, 
the fuller of misery and woe. The thought finds, as before, a parallel in 
the speech of Solon to Croesus (Herod. 1. 32). The man goes to the 
same place,—to the dark, dreary world of Sheol, perhaps even to a more 
entire annihilation than was implied in the Hebrew thought of that 
unseen world,—as the abortive birth, with nothing but an accumulated 
experience of wretchedness. Depression could go no further. See the 
poem of Omar Khayyam in the Appendix, 

7. <All the labour of man is for his mouth] i.e. for self-preservation 
and enjoyment. That is assumed to be the universal aim, and yet even 
that is not satisfied. The “‘ appetite,” literally sozd (not the higher, 

vv. 8—10.] ECCLESIASTES, VI. 157 

tite is not filled. For what hath the wise more than thes 
fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the 
living? Better zs the sight of the eyes than the wandering 9 
of the desire: this zs also vanity and vexation of spirit. 
That which hath been is named already, and 7 zs known 10 

but the sensuous, element in man’s nature), still craves for more. 
Desire is progressive, and insatiable. 

8. For what hath the wise more than the fool?| The question so 
far is easy. In this matter, the gifts of intellect make no difference. 
The wise, no less than the fool, is subject to the pressure of bodily 
necessities, and has to labour for them. The second clause is some- 
what less clear. Ofthe many interpretations that have been given, 
two have most to commend them, (1) supplying the subject of com- 
parison from the first clause, what advantage hath the poor that 
knows to walk before the living (2c. that has learnt the art to 
live) over the fool (who is the mere slave of appetite)? what does 
wisdom and self-control and freedom from the snares of wealth 
really profit him? and (2), treating the sentence as elliptical, What 
advantage hath the poor over him who knows how to walk before 
the living (é.c. the man of high birth or station, who lives in public, 
with the eyes of men on him)? ‘The latter explanation has the merit 
of giving a more balanced symmetry to the two clauses. The question, 
with its implied answer, seems at first at variance with the praise of 
the lot of the labouring poor in ch. v. 12, ‘‘Don’t trust,” the writer 
seems to say in his half-cynical, half-ironical mood, ‘‘even to poverty, 
as a condition of happiness. The poor man is as open to cares and 
anxieties as the man of culture and refinement. After all, poor and 
rich stand on nearly the same level.” 

9. Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire] 
Literally, than the wandering of the soul. The truth is substantially 
that embodied in the fable of ‘the dog and his shadow”’ and in 
proverbs like ‘‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” To 
enjoy what we actually see, z.¢. present opportunities, however limited, 
is better than the cravings of a limitless desire, “wandering” at will 
through all the region of possibilities. In that wandering, there is 
once more the feeding upon wind. Perhaps, however, that sentence is 
passed with an intentional ambiguity, characteristic of the writer (see 
note on verse 9), upon the actual present enjoyment, as well as on the 
unsatisfied desire, or upon the bare fact that the former with its lower 
aims is better than the latter with its higher ones. 

10. That which hath been is named already ‘The maxim is enig- 
matic. As viewed by many commentators, it asserts that man is the 
creature of a destiny, which he cannot resist. Long ago, in the far 
eternity, his name has been writtten, and what he will be. He cannot 
plead against the Power that is mightier than himself, z.e. against God. 
There is nothing left but submission, So taken, the words have a 
parallel in all utterances in the Bible, or out of it, that assert, or seem 



yo ow 

158 ECCLESIASTES, VI. [vv. 11, 12. 

that it zs man: neither may he contend with him that zs 
mightier than he. Seeing there be many things that in- 
crease vanity, what zs man the better? For who knoweth 
what zs good for man in 7fés life, all the days of his vain 

to assert, an absolutely predestinating fatalism (Isai. xlv. 9; Acts xv. 183 
Rom. ix. 20). In such a fatalism, reconciled in some way or other 
with man’s freedom and responsibility, both the Stoics and Pharisees 
believed, and so far there would be nothing strange in finding a like 
maxim in a book which contains so many mingled and heterogeneous 
elements, both Greek and Jewish, of oscillating thought. There are, 
however, what seem sufficient reasons for rejecting this interpretation. 
The word for ‘‘already,” which occurs only in this book (chs. i. 10, 
ii. 12, iii. 15), is never used of the eternity of the Divine decrees, but, 
as the passages referred to shew, of that which belongs essentially to 
human history; that for “‘ mightier,” found in the O. T. only here and 
in Ezr. iv. 20; Dan. ii. 40, 42, iv. 3, vii. 7, is not used, in any of 
these passages, of God. The sequence of thought leads the writer 
to dwell on the shortness of man’s life, rather than on its subjection to 
a destiny. The following explanation gives that sequence more clearly, 
What he is, long ago his name was called. In the last words 
we find a reference to Gen. ii. 7, where the name of Adam (=man) 
is connected with Adamah (=the ground), as homo was, by older philo- 
logists, derived ex humo, The very name of man bore witness to his 
frailty. This being so, he cannot take his stand in the cause, which 
one “‘mightier” than himself pleads against him. Death is that mightier 
one, and will assert his power. So, taken, the thought is continuous 
and harmonious throughout. 

11. there be many things that increase vanity] The Hebrew noun, 
as so often throughout the book, may stand either for things or words. 
In the former case, the maxim points to the pressure of affairs, what 
we call ‘‘business,” the cares about many things, which make men feel 
the hollowness of life. In the latter, it probably refers to the specu- 
lative discussions on the chief good, destiny, and the like, which were 
rife in the schools both of Jews and Greeks, and finds a parallel in 
ch, xii. 12, and in Milton’s description of like debates, as to 

“* Fixed fate, free will, fore-knowledge absolute; 
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy.” 
The latter fits in best with the explanation which refers the previous 
verse to the Divine decrees, the former with that which has been adopted 

what ts man the better! Literally, what profit (the word is another 
form of that which occurs so frequently), what outcome, is there for 

12. who knoweth what ts g00d for man] We have once more the 
distinctive formula of Pyrrhonism. ‘* Who knows?” was the sceptic’s 
question, then as at all times. See note on ch. iii. 21. After all 
discussions on the supreme good, some pointing to pleasure, and some 


life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a 
man what shall be after him under the sun? 
A good name 7s better than precious ointment; and the 7 

to virtue, and some to apathy, who can give a definite and decisive 
answer? Life remained after all vain, and not worth living. See again 
the poem of Omar Khayyam in the Appendix. 

which he spendeth asa shadow] The thought was so natural as to 
be all but universal. It had been uttered by Job (viii. 9), and by 
David (1 Chron. xxix. 15). It was uttered also by Sophocles : : 

Spa yap juas obdév Svtas dAdo, wiv 
eidwr’, Goomep Sauer, | Kovpyy oKLdv. 

‘*In this I see that we, all we that live, 
Are but vain shadows, unsubstantial dreams.” 

Aias, 127, 

jor who can tell a man] Man’s ignorance of the future, of what may 
become of children or estate, is, as before in chs. ii. 18, 19; iv. 7, 
another element in the ‘‘ vanity” of human life. Granted that it is 
long and prosperous to the end, still the man is vexed or harassed with 
the thought that his work may be all undone, his treasures wasted, his 
plans frustrated. 


1. A good name is better than precious ointment] The sequence of 
thought is interrupted, and the writer, instead of carrying on the induc- 
tion which is to prove that all is vanity, moralizes on the other results of 
his experience. He has learnt to take a relative estimate of what men 
count good or evil, truer than that which commonly prevails among 
them. It lies almost in the nature of the case, that these moralizings 
should take a somewhat discontinuous form, like that, ¢.g. of the Pensées 
of Pascal or the J/editations of Marcus Aurelius, the entries, let us 
say, which the thinker entered, day by day, in his tablets or on his codex. 
They are marked, however, by a sufficient unity of tone. The same 
pensive cast of thought is found in all, and it raises the thinker out of 
a mere self-seeking, self-indulgent Epicureanism into a wider and nobler 
sympathy. He rises as on the “‘stepping-stones ” of his ‘‘ dead self” to 
higher things. Nor are the maxims indeed without a certain unity of 
form, and the three words ‘‘it is better” in verses I, 5, 8 serve asa 
connecting link. ‘The words and the maxims that follow in verses 2—5 
have naturally been:a stumblingblock to those who saw in Koheleth 
nothing but the advocate of a sensual voluptuousness, and with the 
desperate courage of men maintaining a theory, they argue (I take 
Gritz as the representative of a school) that these are not the thoughts 
of the Debater himself, but of some imaginary opponent of the ascetic 
Essene type, against whom he afterwards enters his protest. The view 
is, it is believed, just as untenable as that of the interpreters of the 


160 ECCLESIASTES, VII. [v. 2. 

day of death than the day of one’s birth. J¢ zs better to 

opposite school, who see in the oft-repeated precepts counselling mode- 
rate enjoyment nothing but the utterances of an ideal Epicurean, set 
up for the purpose of being knocked down. ; 

In the maxim which opens the series there is an alliterative em- 
phasis, which is fairly represented by the German translation (Knobel) 
“Besser gut Gerticht als giite Gertiche. The good name (shem) is 
better than good ointment (skemen), echoing in this respect the 
words of Song Sol. i. 3, ‘A good name is better than good nard,” 
is perhaps the nearest English approximation in this respect. The 
maxim itself indicates a craving for something higher than the per- 
fumed oil, which was the crowning luxury of Eastern life (Ps. xly. 8; 
Amos vi. 6; Luke vii. 37; Matt. xxvi. 7), even the praise and ad- 
miration of our fellow-men. To live in their memories, our name 
as a sweet odour that fills the house, is better than the most refined 
enjoyment. The student of the Gospel history will recall the contrast 
between the rich man who fared sumptuously every day (Luke xvi. 
19), whose very name is forgotten, and who is remembered only as a 
type of evil, and the woman whose lavish gift of the ointment of 
spikenard is told through the whole world as a memorial of her (Mark 
xv. 9), and who is identified by John, xii. 3, with Mary of Bethany. 

and the day of death than the day of one’s birth] The two parts of 
the thought hang closely together. If the ‘‘good name” has been 
earned in life, death removes the chance of failure and of shame. In 
the language of Solon (Herod. 1. 32) only he who crowns a prosperous 
life by a peaceful death can be called truly happy. The thought 
presents, however, a strange contrast to the craving for life which 
was so strong an element, as in Hezekiah’s elegy (Isai. xxxviii. 
9—20), of Hebrew feeling, and is, like similar thoughts in ch. vi. 33 45 
essentially ethnic in its character. So Herodotus (v. 4) relates that 
the Trausi, a Thracian tribe, met on the birth of a child and bewailed 
the woes and sorrows which were its inevitable portion, while they 
buried their dead with joy and gladness, as believing that they were set 
free from evils and had entered on happiness, or at least on the 
unbroken rest of the eternal sleep. So Euripides, apparently with 
reference to this practice, of which he may well have heard at the court 
of Archelaus, writes in his Cresphontes, 

ede yap nuds ovANoyor movounevous 

Tov pivra Opnvetv, els So’ &pyxerar kakd* 
Tov 8 ad Oavdvra Kal rbvev remavuévov 
xXalpovras edpnuodvras éxméurew Somer. 

“It were well done, comparing things aright, 
To wail the new-born child for all the ills 
On which he enters; and for him who dies 
And so has rest from labour, to rejoice 
And with glad words to bear him from his home.” 

Strabo, who quotes the lines (xi. c. 12, p. 144), attributes the practice to 

vv. 3, 4-] ECCLESIASTES, VIL 161 

go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of 
feasting: for that zs the end of all men; and the living will 
lay zt to his heart. Sorrow zs better than laughter: for by 3 
the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 
The heart of the wise zs in the house of mourning ; but the 4 

Asiatic nations, possibly to those who had come under the influence of 
that Buddhist teaching as to the vanity and misery of life of which even 
the partial pessimism of Koheleth may be as a far-off echo. 

2. Tt is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of 
Jeasting| The customs of Jewish mourning must be borne in mind to 
appreciate the full force of the maxim. The lamentation lasting for 
seven (Ecclus. xxii. 10) or even for thirty, days, as in the case of Aaron 
(Num. xx. 29), and Moses (Deut. xxiv. 8), the loud wailing of the hired 
mourners (Jer. xxii. 18; Matt. ix. 23; Mark v. 38), the visits of consola- 
tion (John xi. 31), the sad meals of the bread and wine of affliction 
(Jer. xvi. 7; Hos. ix. 4; Job iv. 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 lachrymee rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.” 

**We needs must weep the chance and change of life, 
And mortal sorrows touch a mortal’s heart.” 
Virc. 4, 1. 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” (Jas. i. 27), and having found that there was some 
‘*profit” at least in this. 

3. Sorrow ts better than laughter] The thought is essentially the 
same as that of the preceding verse, but is somewhat more generalized. 
We are reminded of the Greek axiom, raelv, wafety (*‘ Pain is gain”), 
of the teaching of Aischylus. 

LGU Cs cideeouie a 
tov dpoveiv Bporods 6bu- 
cavra, Tov Taher pdos 
Oévra Kuplws exe. 
“Yea, Zeus, who leadeth men in wisdom’s way 
And fixeth fast the law 
That pain is gain.” 
Agam. 170. 
There is a moral improvement rising out of sorrow which is not gained 
from enjoyment however blameless. The ‘“‘Penseroso” is after all a 
character of nobler stamp than the “‘ Allegro.” ‘ 

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. 





162 , “ECCLESIASTES,; VIT. [vv. 5—7. 

heart of fools zs in the house of mirth. /¢ zs better to hear 
the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of 
fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so és the 
laughter of the fool: this also 2s vanity. 

Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift 

6. Lt ts better to hear the rebuke of the wise] The word for “rebuke” 
is characteristic of the sapiential books of the Old Testament (Prov. 
xiii. 1, xvii. 10). Here also the teacher finds the moral that “ pain is 
gain.” The ‘‘ rebuke” is not pleasant, but it acts with a power to heal. 
The ‘‘song of fools” points to the type of lyric poetry of which we 
have examples in Anacreon, perhaps to the more wanton and impure 
poems which entered so largely into Greek life, and are preserved in 
such abundance in the Anthologia Greca. The comic drinking songs 
of a people represent at all times the lowest form of its animal life, and 
with these also, either in his own country or in Greek-speaking lands, 
the writer of the book had become acquainted. Amos vi. 5 indicates 
the existence of a like form of revelry in the older life of Israel. Such 
songs left a taint behind them and the man was permanently the worse 
for it. In Eph. v. 4 we may probably trace a reference to the same 
form of literature. 

6. As the crackling of thorns under a fot) As in verse 1 the epi- 
grammatic proverb is pointed by a play of alliterative assonance (sivzm 
=thorns, szr=pot) ‘*As crackling nettles under kettles,” “ As 
crackling stubble makes the pot bubble” are the nearest English equi- 
valents. The image is drawn from the Eastern use of hay, stubble, 
and thorns for fuel (Matt. vi. 30; Ps. cxviii. 12). A fire of such material, 
burnt up more quickly than the charcoal embers (Jer. xxvi. 22; 
John xviii. 18), which were also in common use, but then it also died out 
quickly and left nothing but cold dead ashes. So it would be with the 
mirth which was merely frivolous or foul. That also would take its 
place in the catalogue of vanities. 

7. Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad] Literally, For oppres- 
sion... The sequence of thought is obscure and the English rendering is 
an attempt to evade the difficulty by making what follows the beginning 
of a new section. One commentator (Delitzsch) cuts the knot by 
supposing the first half of the verse to have been lost, and supplies 
it conjecturally from Prov. xxxvii. 16 or xvi. 8, ‘Better is a little with 
righteousness than great revenues without right,” after which the 
conjunction “for” comes in natural order. Taking the text as it 
stands we may yet trace a latent connexion. The ‘song’ and ‘laughter’ 
of fools, z.¢. of evil-doers, like those of Prov. i. ro—18; Wisd. ii. r—20 
leads to selfish luxury, and therefore to all forms of unjust gain. The 
mirth of fools, z.é. of the godless, is vanity, for it issues in oppression and 
in bribery. It is a question whether the ‘‘ wise man” who is thus mad- 
dened by oppression is the oppressor or the oppressed. The balance 
seems to turn in favour of the former. The oppressive exercise of 
power is so demoralising that even the wise man, skilled in state-craft, 

vv. 8—10.] ECCLESIASTES, VII. 163 

destroyeth the heart. Better zs the end of a thing than thes 
beginning thereof: ad the patient in spirit zs better than 
the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: 9 
for anger resteth in the bosom of fools, Say not thou, 10 
What is the cause that the former days were better than 

loses his wisdom. There comes upon him, as the history of crime so 
often shews, something like a mania of tyrannous cruelty. And the 
same effect follows on the practice of corruption. It is true of the 
giver as well as the receiver of a bribe, that he loses his ‘sheart,” ze, 
his power of moral discernment. 

8. Detter is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof] Asin 
ch. vi. 11, the noun translated ‘‘thing” may mean “word” and 
this gives a preferable meaning. It cannot be said of everything, good 
and bad alike, that its ‘‘end is better than its beginning” (comp. Prov. 
V. 3, 4, XVi. 25, xxili, 32), and those who so interpret the maxim are 
obliged to limit its meaning to good things, or to assume that the end 
must be a good one. Some (as Ginsburg) givé to the “word” the sense 
of “‘reproof,” but this limitation is scarcely needed. It may be said of 
well-nigh every form of speech, for silence is better than speech, and 
‘*in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.” It is obvious that 
this furnishes a closer parallel to the second clause. The “ patient in 
spirit” is the man who knows how to check and control his speech, 
and to listen to reproof. The “ proud” (literally, the lofty or exalted) 
is one who has not learnt to curb his tongue, and to wait for the end 
that is better than the beginning. So interpreted the whole maxim 
finds a parallel in James iii. 1—18, in the precepts of a thousand sages 
of all times and countries. 

9. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry| From sins of speech 
in general, the teacher passes on to that which is the source from 
which they most often flow. Anger, alike from the Stoic and Epi- 
curean stand-point (and the writer, as we have seen, had points of 
contact with each of them), was the note of unwisdom. [If it be right 
at all, it is when it is calm and deliberate, an indignation against 
moral evil. The hasty anger of wounded self-love is, as in the teaching 
of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 22), destructive of the tran- 
quillity of true wisdom, and, transient and impulsive as it seems at first, 
may harden ‘‘in the bosom of the fool” into a settled antipathy or 
malignant scorn. 

10. What is the cause that the former days were better than these| 
It would be a mistake to treat this as describing merely the 
temper of one who is a ‘‘laudator temporis acti, se puero.” That 
is, as the poet noted (Hor. Zfist. ad Fis. 173), but the infirmity of 
age. What is condemned as unwise, as we should call it in modern 
phrase, unphilosophical, is the temper so common in the decay and 
decadence of national life (and pointing therefore to the age in which 
the Debater lived) which looks back upon the past as an age of heroes 
or an age of faith, idealizing the distant time with a barren admiration, 






164 ECCLESIASTES, VII. (vv. 11, 12. 

these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this. 
Wisdom zs good with an inheritance: and dy dé there ts 
profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom ¢s a defence, 
and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge 

apathetic and discontented with the present, desponding as to the 
future. Such complaints are in fact (and this is the link which connects 
this maxim with the preceding) but another form of the spirit which 
is hasty to be angry, as with individual men that thwart its wishes, 
so with the drift and tendency of the times in which it lives. The 
wise man will rather accept that tendency and make the best of it. 
Below the surface there lies perhaps the suggestion of a previous 
question, Were the times really better? Had not each age had its 
own special evils, its own special gains? Illustrations crowd upon 
one’s memory. Greeks looking back to the age of those who fought 
at Marathon; Romans under the Empire recalling the vanished great- 
ness of the Republic; Frenchmen mourning over the ancien régime, 
or Englishmen over the good old days of the Tudors, are all examples 
of the same unwisdom. 

11. Wisdom is good with an inheritance] The words fall on our 
ears with something like a ring of cynicism, as though the teacher said 
with a sneer, ‘‘ wisdom is all very well if you have property to fall back 
upon.” If that sense were however admissible at all, it could only 
be by emphasizing the word ‘‘inheritance,’’ as contrasted with the 
treasure which a man heaps up for himself. The inherited estate, be 
it great or small, does not interfere with wisdom as money-making 
does. The dpxasdmAourot (‘‘ rich with ancestral wealth”) are, as Aris- 
totle taught, of a nobler stamp than those who make their fortunes 
(Rhet. 11. 9. 9). Comp. Aesch. Agam. 1043. Even so taken, however, 
the tone is entirely out of harmony with the immediate context, and 
a far more satisfactory meaning is obtained by taking the preposition 
as a particle of comparison (it is often so used, as in ch. ii. 173 
Ps. Ixxiii. 5, cxx. 4 (probably); Job ix. 20); and so we get 
*¢ Wisdom is good as an inheritance.” 

and by it there is profit to them that see the sun] Better, And it 
is profitable for them that see the sun. It stands instead of both 
inherited and acquired wealth. In the use of the term “those that 
see the sun” as an equivalent we note again an echo of Greek poetic 
feeling. The very phrase dpay pdos edo. (‘to see the light of the 
sun”) is essentially Homeric. Here, as in chap. xii. 7, it seems 
chosen as half conveying the thought that there is after all a bright 
side of life, 

12. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence) Better, as 
a shadow, or, as a shelter, in both clauses. The Hebrew, as the 
italics shew, has no “and.” ‘‘Shadow” as in Ps. xvii. 8, xci. 1, 
stands for shelter and protection. This, the writer says, not without 
a touch of his wonted irony in coupling the two things together, 
to those who looked to wealth as their only means of safety (Prov. 
xiii, 8), is found not less effectually in wisdom. 

vv. 13, 14.] ECCLESIASTES, VII. 165 

2s, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it. Consider 13 

the work of God: for who can make shat straight, which he 
hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, 
but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set 
the one over against the other, to the end that man should 
find nothing after him, 

but the excellency of knowledge] Better, the profit, thus keeping 
up what we may call the catch-word of the book. Wisdom, the 
Debater says, does more than give shelter, as money, in its way, 
does. It quickens those who have it to a new and higher life. The 
use of the word {womoujoe: (‘shall quicken”), by the LXX. connects 
the maxim with the higher teaching of John v. 21, vi. 63; 2 Cor. iii. 6. 
The Spirit which alone gives the wisdom that “‘cometh from above” 
does the work which is here ascribed to wisdom as an abstract quality. 
It is clearly out of harmony with the whole train of thought to see in 
the “‘life”” which wisdom gives only that of the body which is pre- 
served by the prudence that avoids dangers. It is as much beside the 
point to interpret it of the “‘life”’ of the resurrection. 

13. who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked| The 
sequence of thought is as follows. To ‘‘consider the work of God” 
intelligently is one application of the wisdom which has been praised 
in verses 11, 12. In so considering, the mind of the Debater goes 
back to verse ro, and he bids men accept the outward facts of life 
as they come. If they are “crooked,” ze. crossing and thwarting 
our inclinations, we cannot alter them. It is idle, to take up a 
Christian phrase that expresses the same thought, to seek to ** change 
our cross.” We cannot alter the events of life, and our wisdom is 
not merely to accept them as inevitable, but to adapt ourselves to 
them. It is a striking example of Rabbinic literalism that the Chaldee 
Targum refers the words to the impossibility of removing bodily 
deformities, such as those of the blind, the hunchback, and the lame. 
The word and the thought are clearly the same as in ch, i. 15. 

14. Ln the day of prosperity be joyful] Literally, In the day of good, 
be in good, z.c. use it as it should be used. True wisdom, the teacher 
urges, is found in a man’s enjoying whatever good actually comes 
tohim. The warning is against the temper which “‘ taking thought for 
the morrow,” is 

“over exquisite 
To cast the fashion of uncertain evils.” 

And on the other hand he adds In the day of evil, look well, z.¢, 
consider why it comes, and what may be gained from it. 

God also hath set the one over against the other| The words 
assert what we should call the doctrine of averages in the distribution 
of outward good and evil. God has made one like (or parallel with) 
the other, balances this against that and this in order that man may 
find nothing at all after him, The last words may mean either 



166 ECCLESIASTES, VIT. {v. 15. 

:3 All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is 

(x) that man may have nothing more to learn or discover in his own 
hereafter; or (2) that man may fail to forecast what shall come to pass 
on earth after he has left it, as in ch. vi. 12, and may look to the 
future calmly, free from the idle dreams of pessimism or optimism. The 
last meaning seems most in harmony with the dominant tone of the 
book, and has parallels in the teaching of moralists who have given 

counsel based on like data. 

In the noble hymn of Cleanthes to Zeus (18) we have the Stoic view 

in language presenting a striking parallel to that of verses 13, 14. 

GANG od Kal Ta Tepicod emloracat Gpria Oeivat, 

kal Koopey TX dkoopa, Kal ov dia, col dita éotu* 
be yap els év dravTa cwjpyooas écOAA KaKoiow, 
bo00 ba ylyvecOar mdvtwv dbyov ailev édvTa. 

** Thou alone knowest how to change the odd 
To even, and to make the crooked straight, 
And things discordant find accord in Thee. 

- Thus in one whole Thou blendest ill with good, 
So that one law works on for evermore.” 

The Epicurean poet writes: 

** Prudens futuri temporis exitum 
Caliginosa nocte premit Deus, 
Ridetque, si mortalis ultra 
Fas trepidat. Quod adest, memento 
Componere aequus; cetera fluminis 
Ritu feruntur, nunc medio alveo 
Cum pace delabentis Etruscum 
In mare, nunc lapides adesos, 
Stirpesque raptas et pecus et domos 
Volventis una.” 

**God in His wisdom hides from sight, 
Veiled in impenetrable night, 
The future chance and change, 
And smiles when mortals’ anxious fears, 
Forecasting ills of coming years, 
Beyond their limit range. 

**Use then the present well, and deem 
All else drifts onward, like a stream 
Whose waters seaward flow, 
Now gliding in its tranquil course, 
Now rushing on with headlong force 
O’er rocks that lie below.” 

Od, III. 29. 29—38. 

vv. 16, 17.] ECCLESIASTES, VII. 167 

a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there 
1s a wicked man that prolongeth Azs Ue in his wickedness, 
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over 
wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over 
much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou 

15. there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness] The 
writer looks back on what he calls ‘the days of his vanity,” his fleeting 
and profitless life, and notes, as before in ch. ii. 14, 16, the disorders 
and anomalies of the world. The righteous are “of all men most 
miserable;” (1 Cor. xv. 19) the ungodly “prosper in the world” and 
*‘come in no peril of death, but are lusty and strong,” Ps. Ixxili. 4 
(Ba B: Aa Here indeed those disorders present themselves 
in their most aggravated form. It is not only, as in ch. iii. Tg, that 
there is one event to the righteous and the wicked, but that there is an 
apparent inversion of the right apportionment of good and evil. The 
thought is the same as that of Ps. Ixxiii., and the Debater has not as yet 
entered, as the Psalmist did, into the sanctuary of God, and so learnt to 
“understand the end of these men” (Ps. Ixxiii. 17). The same problem 
in the moral order of the Universe furnishes a theme for the discussions 
of the Book of Job. 

16. Se not righteous over much] Here again we have a distinct 
reproduction of one of the current maxims of Greek thought, Mndev 
aya (Ve guid nimis—Nothing in excess) of Theognis 402, and of Chilon 
(Diog. Laert. 1. 1, § 41). Even in that which is in itself good, virtue 
lies, as Aristotle had taught (Z¢z. Vicom. 11. 6. 7), in a mean between 
opposite extremes. Popular language has embodied the thought in the 
proverb, Summum jus, summa injuria. Even in the other sense of 
“*righteousness,” as meaning personal integrity, personal religion, there 
might be, as in the ideal of the Pharisees and Essenes and Stoics, the 
*‘vaulting ambition” that o’erleaps itself.” And “what was true of 
righteousness was true also of speculative philosophy. The wisdom 
that will not be content to rest in ignorance of the unknowable is 
indeed unwisdom, and ‘‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” 

why shouldest thou destroy thyself?| The primary meaning of the verb 
in the form used here is that of ‘‘being amazed, stunned, astonished,” 
and may have been chosen to express the besotted and bedazed spiritual 
pride which St Paul paints by the participle “puffed up” (rupw0els) in 
1 Tim. iii. 5, and which was but too commonly the accompaniment of 
fancied excellence in knowledge or in conduct. 

17. Be not over much wicked] There seems something like a paradox 
in the counsel. Surely, we think, the teacher is carrying his doctrine 
of the mean too far when he gives a precept, which, by forbidding 
excess, seems to sanction a moderate amount of wickedness. Various 
attempts have been made to tone down the precept by taking “wicked” 
as=not subject to rule, or= engaged in worldly affairs (the “‘mammon of 
unrighteousness”) that so often lead to wickedness. ‘The difficulty 
vanishes, however, if we will but admit that the writer might have 


168 ECCLESIASTES, VII. [vv. 18, 19. 

Rai ee Cs NS RS NE SRT SE Se ES 
x3 die before thy time? /¢ és good that thou shouldest take 
hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: 
for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all. 
19 Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men 

learnt the art of a playful irony from his Greek teachers. He has uttered 
the precept, “Be not righteous over-much.” That most men would 
receive as a true application of the doctrine of “Nothing in excess,” or, 
in the phrase we owe to Talleyrand, ‘‘Surtout, point de zéle.” He 
mentally sees, as it were, the complacent smile of those who were in no 
danger of that fault and who think that the precept gives them just the 
license they want, and he meets the feeling it expresses by another 
maxim, ‘Yes, my friends,” he seems to say, ‘‘but there is another 
‘over-much,’ against which you need a warning, and its results are 
even more fatal than those of the other.” In avoiding one extreme men 
might fall easily into the other. 

why shouldest thou die before thy time?| Literally, Not in thy time. 
The form of the warning is singularly appropriate. The vices thought 
of and the end to which they lead are clearly those of the sensual 
license described in Prov. vii. Death is the issue here, as the loss of 
spiritual discernment was of the Pharisaic or the over-philosophizing 
temper described in the preceding verse. In both precepts we may 
trace Koheleth’s personal experience. Ch. ii. traces the history of 
one who in his life experiments had been both ‘‘ over much wise,” and, 
it must be feared, ‘* over much wicked.” 

18. /¢ 7s good] The sentence is somewhat enigmatic, and its meaning 
depends on the reference given to the two pronouns. Commonly, the 
first ‘‘this” is referred to the “righteousness and wisdom” of verse 16, 
the second ‘‘this” to the ‘‘wickedness and folly” of verse 17, and the 
Teacher is supposed to recommend a wide experience of life, the tast- 
ing of ‘‘the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” which, as in 
ch. i. 17, shall embrace both, and bring with it a corresponding large- 
nessofheart. This gives, of course, aperfectly intelligible meaning, though 
it is not that of a high-toned morality, and belongs to the earlier rather 
than the later stage of the Debater’s progress. ‘The close parallelism 
of ch. xi. 6 suggests however another and preferable interpretation. 
The first and the second ‘‘this” and ‘‘that” of that verse are both in- 
definite, used alike of such work and opportunities as God gives. So 
taken, the precept now before us runs much in the same line of thought, 
“Lay hold on this—do not let that slip—do what thy hand findeth to 
do. Only be sure that it is done in the right spirit, for ‘‘he that feareth 
God,” he, and he alone, ‘‘comes forth of all things well,” ze, does 
his duty and leaves the result to God. This temper, in exact harmon 
with the practical good sense of moderation, is contrasted with the 
falsehood of extremes condemned in the two previous verses. 

19. Wosdom strengtheneth the wise] The fact that the Debater had 
not forgotten that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” 
(Prov. i. 73 Ps. cxi. 10; Job xxviii. 21) serves as the connecting link 

vv. 20, 21.] ECCLESIASTES, VII. 169 

which are in the city. For there zs not a just man upon 20 
earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. Also take no 2: 
heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy 

between this and the preceding verse. The ‘“‘ten mighty men” stand 
as a vague number, certus pro incerto (comp. Gen. xxxi. 7; Num. xiv. 
22), and it is a fantastic line of interpretation to connect them with 
any definite political organization, Assyrian viceroys, Persian vice- 
satraps, Roman decurions, or the like. It is, however, an interesting 
coincidence, pointed out by Mr Tyler, that a city was defined by the 
Mishna (JZegz/a 1. 3) to be a town in which there were ten Batlanim, or 
men of leisure, to constitute a synagogue. A striking parallel is found in 
Ecclus, xxxvii. 14, ‘‘A man’s mind is wont to tell him more than seven 
men that sit upon a tower.” What is meant is generally that the 
wisdom that fears God is better than mere force, that moral strength is 
in the long run mightier than material. Wise statesmen may do more 
than generals. 

20. For there ts not a just man upon earth] The sequence of thought 
is again obscure. We fail at first to see how the fact of man’s sinfulness 
is the ground of the maxim that wisdom is a better defence than material 
strength. The following train of associations may perhaps supply the 
missing link, There had been a time when the presence of zen righteous 
men would have preserved a guilty city from destruction (Gen. xviii. 32). 
But no such men were found, and the city therefore perished. And 
experience shews that no such men—altogether faultless—will be found 
anywhere. No one therefore can on that ground claim exemption 
from chastisement. What remains for the wise man but to fall 
back on the wisdom which consists in the “fear of God” (verse 
13), the reverential awe which will at least keep him from pre- 
sumptuous sins. Substantially the thought is that of a later teaching, 
that ‘‘in many things we offend all” (James iii. 2), and therefore that 
a man is justified by faith (the New Testament equivalent for ‘“ the 
fear of the Lord” as the foundation of a righteous life), and not by 
works, though not without them. Here again we may compare the 
Stoic teaching, “Wise men are rare. Here and there legends tell 
of one good man, or it may be two, as of strange preeter-natural being 
rarer than the Phcenix....All are evil and on a level with each other, so 
that this differs not from that, but all are alike insane” (Alex. Aphrod. 
de Fato 28). 

21. Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken] The train of 
thought leads on to another rule of conduct. The fact that all men 
sin is shewn by the words with which men talk of the faults and 
weaknesses of their neighbours. To such words, the idle gossip of 
rumour, the comments on words or acts, no wise man will give heed. 
For him, in St Paul’s language, it will be ‘‘a very small thing to be 
judged of man’s judgment” (1 Cor. iv. 3). An idie curiosity to know 
what other people say of us will for the most part bring with it the 
mortification of finding that they blame rather than praise. No man is 
a hero to his valet, and if he is anxious to know his servant’s estimate 








170 ECCLESIASTES, VII. [vv. 22—25. 

servant curse thee: for oftentimes also thine own heart 
knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others. 

All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise : 
but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceed- 
ing deep, who can find it out? I applied mine heart to 
know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the 

of him, he may discover, however wise and good he strives to be, that 
it may find utterance in a curse and not a blessing. So, in political 
life. men have been known (e.g. Pompeius in the case of Sertorius) 
to burn the papers of their fallen foes. So in literary life some of the 
wise of heart have laid it down as a rule not to read reviews of their 
own writings. The same feeling finds an epigrammatic expression 
in the proud motto of a Scotch family: 
“They say: What say they? Let them say!” 

22. For oftentimes also thine own heart] The rule of the previous 
verse is backed by an appeal to a man’s own conscience, ‘‘mutato 
nomine de te fabula narratur.” “Thou too art not free from the habit 
of censorious censure, of hard and bitter speeches; even, it may be, 
of ‘cursing,’ where blessing would have been better.” 

23. J said, LT will be wise; but it was Jar from me| The words 
express at once the high aim of the seeker and his sense of in- 
completeness. Wisdom in its fulness -was for him, as for Job (chap. 
xxvii.) far above out of his reach. He had to give up the attempt 
to solve the problems of the Universe, and to confine himself to rules 
of conduct, content if he could find guidance there. 

24. Lhat which is far off and exceeding deep| The English of the 
latter clause scarcely expresses the Hebrew more emphatic iteration and 
deep deep. By some interpreters a like iteration is supplied in the 
first clause, far off is that which is far, but there does not seem 
adequate ground for thus altering the text. Rather are the first words 
to be taken of substantial being, far off from us is that which is 
(the ra 6vra of Greek thought, the sum total of things past and present). 
So in another and later Jewish book impregnated, like this, with Greek 
thought, wisdom is described as a rév bytwp yrGous awevdns (‘a true 
knowledge of the things that are” Wisd. vii. 17). Comp, Job. xi. 7, 83 
Rom. xi. 33, for like language as to the Divine Counsels. 

25. J applied mine heart to know] The present text and pune- 
tuation give, as in the marginal reading of the A.V., I and my 
heart. The expression has no exact parallel in O. T. language, but 
harmonizes with the common mode of speech, familiar enough in the 
poetry of all times and countries, furnishing a title (“My Soul and TI’) 
to a poem of Whittier’s, in which a man addresses his heart or soul 
(comp. Luke xii, 19), as something distinguishable from himself. So in 
ch. i, 13 we have ‘‘I gave my heart.” Here the thought implied 
seems to be that of an intense retrospective consciousness ot the 
experience, or experiment, of life which the seeker is about to narrate. 

v. 26.] ECCLESIASTES, VII. 171 

reason of ¢hings, and to know the wickedness of folly, even 
of foolishness amd madness: and I find more bitter than 
death the woman, whose heart zs snares and nets, amd her 

The words indicate another return to the results of that experience 
and the lessons it had taught him. He turned to ask the ‘‘rveason,” 
better perhaps, the g/an or rationale, of the prevalence of madness 
and folly. We note, as before in ch. ii. 12, the Stoic manner of 
dealing with the follies of men as a kind of mental aberration. 

26. And I find more bitter than death] ‘The result is a strange 
one in its contrast to the dominant tendency of Hebrew thought; 
especially we may add to that thought as represented by the Son of 
David with whom the Debater identifies himself. We think of the 
praises of the Shulamite in the Song of Solomon; of the language of 
Prov. v. 13; and (though that is probably of later date) of the acrostic 
panegyric on the virtuous woman in Prov, xxxi, 1o—31; and we find 
here nothing like an echo of them, but rather a tone of scorn, cul- 
minating in verse 28 in that which reminds us of the misogyny of 
the later maxim-makers of Greece, or of the Eastern king who never 
heard of any great calamity or crime without asking, Who is she? 
Such a change might, it is true, be explained as the result of the 
satiety into which the historical Solomon might have fallen as the 
penalty of his sensuality; and has its parallel in the cynical scorn of 
Catullus forthe Lesbia whom he had once loved so tenderly (see 
Introduction, ch. 111.) and in that of a thousand others. Doubtless the 
words speak of such a personal experience on the part of the Debater. 
He had found no wickedness like that of the ‘‘strange woman,” such 
as she is painted in Prov. ii. 16—19, vii. 1-27. But we can scarcely 
fail to trace the influence of the Greek thought with which, as we have 
seen, the writer had come into contact. Of this the following may 
serve as samples out of a somewhat large collection, 

Meordy xaxdv répuxe doprloy yun. 
‘‘ A woman is a burden full of ills.” 
“Orov yuvaixes clot, war’ éxel kakd. 
‘¢ Where women are, all evils there are found.” 
Onpav dmrdyrav dypuwrépa yuv7. 
‘Woman is fiercer than all beasts of prey.” 
Poet. Graec. Gnomici, Ed. Tauchnitz, p. 182. 

It might, perhaps, be pleaded in reference to this verse that. the 
writer speaks of one class of women only, probably that represented 

in the pictures of Prov. ii. or vii. and that the “‘ corruptio optimt est 
pessima,” but the next verse makes the condemnation yet more sweeping, 
The suggestion that the writer allegorizes, and means by “the woman” 
here the abstract ideal of sensuality is quite untenable. 

In the imagery of “snares” and ‘‘nets” and ‘‘ bands ” some critics 

172 ECCLESIASTES, VII. [vv. 27, 28. 

hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; 
27 but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I 
found, saith the Preacher, counting one by one, to find out 
28 the account: which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: 
one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman — 

(Tyler) have traced a reminiscence of the history of Samson and 
Delilah (Judg. xvi.). Such a reference to Hebrew history is however 
not at all after the writer’s manner, and it is far more natural to see 
in it the result of his own personal experience (see /utroduction, ch. I1.). 
The Son of Sirach follows, it may be noted, in the same track of thought, 
though with a somewhat less sweeping condemnation (Ecclus. xxv. 
15—26, xxvi. 6—12), 

whoso pleaseth God] The marginal reading, whoso is good before 
God should be noted as closer to the Hebrew. 

27. saith the Preacher] The passage is remarkable as being the 
solitary instance in the book in which the name Kohe/eth, feminine in 
form, yet elsewhere treated as masculine, is joined with the feminine 
form of the verb. It is possible, however, that this may be only an 
error of transcription, the transfer of a single letter from the end of 
one word to the beginning of another, restoring the verse to the more 
common construction, as found, e.g. in chap. xii, 8, where, as here, 
adopting this reading, the article is prefixed to the word Koheleth, else- 
where treated as a proper name. 

counting one by one| The words remind us, on the one hand, of 
Diogenes the Cynic, with his lantern, looking for an honest man at 
Athens, and answering, when asked where such men might be found, 
that good men were to be found nowhere, and good éoys only in 
Sparta (Diog. Laert. vi. 2. 27); and on the other, of Jeremiah’s search 
to see “‘if there were any in Jerusalem that sought after God” (Jer. 
v. I—s). The words, as it were, drag their slow length along, as 
if expressing the toil and weariness of the search. And after all he 
had failed to find. 

28. one man among a thousand have [found] We have, in the absence 
of an adjective, to supply the thought ‘“a man such as he ought to be, 
truthful and righteous.” The form in which the rare exceptional discovery 
is given is as an echo from Job ix. 3, xxxiii. 2 3- It represents we can- 
not doubt the capacity of the writer for a warm and earnest friendship. 
It shews that he had found one such friend. But what the seeker found 
among men, he sought in vain among women. Corruption there was, 
from his point of view, absolutely without exception. The interesting 
parallelism of Heine’s language has been noticed in the Introduction, 
ch. 111. The words may be received as recording the writer’s personal 
experience of the corrupt social state under the government of Persian 
or Egyptian kings. One commentator (Hitzig) has even ventured to 
identify the “woman more bitter than death” with a historical character, 
Agathoclea, the mistress of Ptolemy Philopator. Justin (xxx. 1) 
describes the King’s life *‘ Meretricis illecebris capitur...noctes in stupris, 
dies in conviviis consumit,” 

v. 29-] ECCLESIASTES, VIL 173 

among all those have I not found. Lo, this only have I 29 
found, that God hath made man upright; but they have 
sought out many inventions. 

Here also we have an echo of the darker side of Greek thought. 
The Debater catches the tone of the woman-hater Euripides. 

GAN ws TO wGpov dvipdow pev odk en, 
yuvadl & eumépuxer. 
** But folly does not find its home with men, 
But roots in women’s hearts.” 
Eurip. Hippol. 920. 

So a later Rabbinic proverb gives a like judgment : ‘‘ woe to the age 
whose leader is a woman” (Dukes, Raddin. Blumenl. No. 32). 

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 Chron. xxvi. 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 Aztigone 332—5 

mona Ta Sewa Kovdey avOpwrov Sevorépov é)et. 
* * * * * * 

copéy Te 7d pynxavbev Téxvas vrép éharld Exwv, 
more pev KaKOV, GANoT ém’ éoOddv Epmet. 

‘‘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—1438 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 éschylus 
(450—514). Both these passages are somewhat too long to quote. 

174 ECCLESIASTES, VIII. [vv. 1, 2. 

8 Who Zs as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpre- 
tation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, 
2 and the boldness of his face shall be changed. I counsel 
thee to keep the king’s commandment, and ¢#a¢ in regard of 


1. Whois as the wise man?] The question comes in abruptly as from 
a teacher who calls the attention of his scholars to things that are 
guvjevra cvérooe (‘significant to those who understand”) and remind 
us of the “He that hath ears to hear let him hear” in our Lord’s 
teaching (Matt. xi. 15, xiii. 9; Mark iv. 9). Something there was in 
what he is about to add, to be read between the lines. It required a 
a man to “know the interpretation” (the noun is Chaldaean and is 
found, with a slight variation, as the prominent word in Dan. iv. v. vii.) 
of the “thing” or better, ‘‘of the word.” We find the probable ex- 
planation of this suggestive question in the fact that the writer 
veils a protest against despotism in the garb of the maxims of ser- 

E mans wisdom maketh his face to shine] Literally, illuminates his 
face. The word paints with a wonderful vividness the almost trans- 
figuring effect of the ‘‘sweetness and light” of a serene wisdom, or of 
the joy that brightens a man’s countenance when he utters his Zureka 
over the solution of a long-pondered problem. 

the boldness of his face shall be changed| Literally, the strength of 
face, i.e. its sternness. The words have been very variously trans- 
lated, (1) as in the LXX. ‘‘his shameless face shall be hated,” (2) as by 
Ewald ‘‘the brightness of his countenance shall be doubled.” There is 
no ground, however, for rejecting the Authorised Version. The ‘‘bold- 
ness of the face” is, as in the ‘‘fierce countenance” of Deut. xxviii. 50; 
Dan. viii. 23, the ‘impudent face” of Prov. vii. 13, the coarse ferocity 
of ignorance, and this is transformed by culture. The maxim is like that 
of the familiar lines of Ovid, 

“‘Adde quod ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes, 
Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros.” 

‘*To learn in truth the nobler arts of life, 
Makes manners gentle, rescues them from strife.” 

Epp. ex Ponto it. 9. 47. 

2. L counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment| The words in 
Italics *‘coumsel thee,” have nothing answering to them in the Hebrew, 
and the grammar of the sentence does not allow us to translate with the 
Vulgate, ‘‘I keep the king’s commandment.” The pronoun on the 
other hand is emphatic and it introduces a series of precepts. We have 
therefore to supply a verb, /, for my part, say, which is practically 
equivalent to the English Version, The reference to the king is not 
without its bearing on the political surroundings of the writer and 
therefore on the date of the book, It is a natural inference from it that 


the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: 3 
stand not in an evil thing ; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth 

the writer, whether living in Palestine or elsewhere, was actually under 
a kingly government and not under that of a Satrap or Governor under 
the Persian King, and that the book must therefore have been written 
after the Persian rule had become a thing of the past. On this view 
Ptolemy Philopator has been suggested by one writer (Hitzig); Herod 
the Great by another (Gritz). See /ntroduction,ch.11. The interpretation 
which explains the word as referring to the Divine King must be rejected 
as allegorising and unreal. The whole tone of the passage, it may be 
added, is against the Solomonic authorship of the book. The writer 
speaks as an observer studying the life of courts from without, not as a 
king asserting his own prerogative. Even on the assumption that Prov. 
xxy. 2—6 came from the lips of Solomon, they are pitched in a very 
different key from that which we find here. 

and that in regard of the oath of God| It is not without significance 
as bearing on the question of the date and authorship of the book, 
that Josephus relates (Am¢. xu. 1) that Ptolemy Soter, the Son of 
Lagus, carried into Egypt a large number of captives from Judza and 
Samaria, and settled them at Alexandria, and knowing their scrupulous 
reverence for oaths, bound them by a solemn covenant to obey him and 
his successors. Such an oath the Debater bids men observe, as St 
Paul bade Christians obey the Emperor, ‘‘not only for wrath but also for 
conscience’ sake” (Rom. xiii. 5). Submission was the part of a wise 
man seeking for tranquillity, however bad the government might be. 
Of such covenants between a people and their king we have an example 
in 1 Chron. xxix. 24. 

8. Le not hasty to go out of his sight] The phrase is explained by 
Gen. iv. 16; Hos. xi. 2 as implying flight or desertion. Such a flight 
the Teacher looks on as an act of impatient unwisdom. It is better to 
bear the yoke, than to seek an unattainable independence. So those 
who have grown grey in politics warn younger and more impetuous 
men against the folly of a premature resignation of their office. 

stand not in an evil thing| The Hebrew noun (as so often else- 
where) may mean either ‘‘word” or ‘“‘thing:” the verb may mean 
‘‘standing” either in the attitude (1) of persistence, or (2) protest, or 
(3) of hesitation, or (4) of obedient compliance. Hence we get as 
possible renderings, (1) ‘‘Persist not in an evil thing;” z.e in con- 
spiracies against the king’s life or power. (2) Protest not against an 
evil (¢.e. angry) word. (3) Stand not, hesitate not, at an evil thing, ze. 
comply with the king’s commands however unrighteous. (4) Obey not 
in an evil thing, z.c. obey, but let the higher law of conscience limit thy 
obedience. Of these (1) seems most in harmony with the context, and 
with O. T. usage asin Ps. I. 1. Perhaps, however, after the manner 
of an enigmatic oracle, not without a touch of irony, requiring the 
discernment of a wise interpreter, there is an intentional ambiguity, 
allowing the reader if he likes, to adopt (3) or (4) and so acting asa 
test of character. 

176 ECCLESIASTES, VIII. [vv. 4, 5. 

4him. Where the word of a king 7s, there is power: and who 

5 may say unto him, What doest thou? Whoso keepeth the 
commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s 
heart discerneth Joti time and judgment. 

he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him] The words paint a sovereignty such 
as Greek poets loved to hold up for men’s abhorence, 

GAN’ % Tupavvis moANG T GAN evdarmovel, 
Kdgeotww avry Spav héyew 8’ & Bovderar. 
‘The tyrant’s might in much besides excels, 
And it may do and say whate’er it wills.” 
SopH. Antig. 507. 

Here also we have an echo of the prudential counsel of Epicurus, who 
deliberately preferred a despotic to a democratic government (Sen. 
£p. XXIX. 10), and laid it down as a rule, that the wise man should at 
every opportune season court the favour of the monarch (kal pdvapxov 
€v xaip@ Oeparevoer), Diog. Laert. X. 1, § 121. 

4. Where the word of a king ts, there is power| Better, Forasmuch 
as the word of a king is power, or rather authority. The latter 
word in the Hebrew text is used in Chaldee as meaning a ruler, or 
potentate. In the last clause, “Who may say unto him, What doest 
thou?” we have an echo of Job xxxiv. 13, where the question is asked 
in reference to the sovereignty of God. The covert protest of the writer 
shews itself in thus transferring, as with a grave irony, what belonged 
to the Divine King to the earthly ruler who claimed a like authority. 
The despot stands, or thinks he stands, as much above the questionings 
and complaints of his subjects, as the Supreme Ruler of the Universe 
does above those of men in general. 

6. Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing| The 
words are once again ambiguous. If the ‘‘commandment” is that of 
the king, they enjoin unhesitating servile obedience as in the interpreta- 
tion (3) of verse 3. If, according to the all but invariable use of the word 
in the O. T., we take it as the “‘ commandment” of God, the meaning is 
in harmony with the interpretation (4) of the previous precept, and 

arallel with the French motto, “‘Fais ton devoir, avienne que pourra” 
(‘Do thy duty, come what may”). Here again, it seems natural to as- 
sume an intentional ambiguity. A like doubt hangs over the words “shall 
feel (literally know) no evil thing” which may mean either ‘‘shall be 
anxious about no moral evil,” or more probably “shall suffer no physical 
evil as the penalty of moral.” Can we not imagine the writer here 
also with a grave irony, uttering his Delphic oracles, and leaving men 
to choose their interpretation, according as their character was servile 
or noble, moved by ‘‘the fear of the Lord,” or only by the fear of men? 

a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment| The ‘‘ heart” 
as, for the most part, elsewhere in the Old Testament, includes the 
intellectual as well as the moral element in man’s nature. In the 
word ‘‘time” we have, as in ch. iii. 1, the xapds or **season” on 
which Greek sages laid so great a stress. What is meant is that the 

vv. 6—8.] ECCLESIASTES, VIII. 177 

Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, « 
therefore the misery of man zs great upon him. For he 7 
knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him 
when it shall be? There 2s no man that hath power over 8 
the spirit to retain the spirit; neither ath he power in the 

wise man, understanding the true meaning of the previous maxim, will 
not be impatient under oppression, but will bide his time, and wait in 
patience for the working of the Divine Law of retribution. This 
meaning is, however, as before, partially veiled, and the sentence might 
seem to imply that he should let his action depend on opportunities and 
be a time-server in the bad sense. 

6. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore] 
The English conjunctions misrepresent the sequence of thought, and 
we should read ‘‘For to every purpose there is time and judgment, for 
the misery (or, better, the wickedness) of man...” The wise man waits 
for the time of judgment, for he knows that such a time must come, 
and that the evil of the man (.e. of the tyrant) is great upon him, 
weighs on him as a burden under which he must at last sink. This 
seems the most natural and legitimate interpretation, but the sentence 
is obscure, and has been very differently interpreted. (1) The evil of 
man (of the oppressor) is heavy upon him (the oppressed). (2) Though 
there is a time and a judgment, yet the misery of man is great, because 
(as in the next verse) he knows not when it is to come. 

7. For he knoweth not that which shall be| The subject of the 
sentence is apparently the wicked and tyrannous ruler. He goes on 
with infatuated blindness to the doom that lies before him. The same 
thought appears in the medizeval proverb, “* Quem Deus vult perdere 
prius dementat,” or, in our modern condemnation of the rulers or the 
parties, who ‘‘learn nothing, and forget nothing.” The temper con- 
demned is that (1) of the cynical egoism, which says, ‘* Apres moz, le 
deluge,” (2) of those who act, because judgment is delayed, as if it would 
never come. 

8. Thereisno man that hath power over the spirit] The word for ‘‘spirit,” 
may mean either ‘‘the wind” or the ‘‘spirit,” the ‘‘breath of life” in man, 
and each sense has been adopted by many commentators. Taking the 
former, which seems preferable, the latter involving a repetition of the 
same thought in the two clauses of the verse, we have a parallel in 
Prov. xxx. 4, perhaps also in John iii. 8. Man is powerless to control 
the course of the wind, so also is he powerless (the words, though 
general in form, point especially to the tyrannous oppressor,) to control 
the drift of things, that is bearing him on to his inevitable doom. The 
worst despotism is, as Talleyrand said of Russia, ‘tempered by assas- 

neither hath he power in the day of death] Better, over the day 
of death. The analogy of the previous clause, as to man’s impotence 
to control or direct the wind, suggests that which is its counterpart. 
When ‘‘the day of death” comes, whether by the hand of the assassin, 


178 ECCLESIASTES, VIII. [vv. 9, 10. 

day of death: and ¢here is no discharge in hat war ; neither 
9 shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it. All 
this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work 
that is done under the sun: ¢here zs a time wherein one 
xo man ruleth over another to his own hurt. And so I saw 

or by disease and decay, man (in this case again the generalized 
thought applies especially to the oppressor) has no power, by any 
exercise of will, to avert the end. The word for ‘‘ power” in the 
second clause is, as in Dan. iii. 3, the concrete of the abstract form 
in the first, There is no ruler in the day of death. 

there is no discharge in that war| The word for ‘‘ discharge” occurs 
elsewhere only in Ps. Ixxviii. 49, where it is rendered ‘‘sending,” 
and as the marginal reading (‘‘no casting of weapons’’) shews has been 
variously interpreted. That reading suggests the meaning that ‘‘in 
that war (against death), there is no weapon that will avail.” The 
victorious leader of armies must at last succumb to a conqueror mightier 
than himself. The text of the English version is probably, however, 
correct as a whole, and the interpolated ‘‘¢/az,” though not wanted, is 
perhaps excusable. The reference is to the law (Deut. xx. 5—8) which 
allowed a furlough, or release from military duty, in certain cases, and 
which the writer contrasts with the inexorable sternness which summons 
men to their battle with the king of terrors, and that a battle with a 
foregone and inevitable conclusion. Here the strict rigour of Persian 
rule under Darius and Xerxes, which permitted no exemption from 
service in time of war, was the true parallel (Herod. Iv. 84, VII. 38). 

neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it| Better, 
neither shall wickedness deliver its lord. The last word is the same 
as Baal, in the sense of a ‘‘lord” or ‘‘ possessor,” and is joined with 
words expressing qualities to denote that they are possessed in the 
highest degree. Thus ‘‘a lord of tongue” is a ‘*babbler” (ch. x. 11), 
‘lord of hair” is ‘‘a hairy man” (2 Kings i. 8), and so on. Here, 
therefore, it means those who are specially conspicuous for their 
wickedness. The thought is as before, that a time comes at last, when 
all the schemes and plans of the oppressor fail to avert his punishment, 
as surely as all efforts to prolong life fail at last to avert death. 

9. <All this have I seen] The formula which had been used before 
(chs. v. 18, vii. 23) to enforce the results of the Debater’s experience 
of life in general, is now employed to emphasize the wide range of the 
arene induction on which the conclusions of the previous verses 

there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt] 
The Hebrew is, as in so many other instances, ambiguous. The English 
reflexive pronoun, in which our Version follows the Vulgate, misrepre- 
sents the purport of the sentence, What is described is, as before, the 
misrule of the tyrant-king who rules over others (the indefinite ‘‘another” 
standing for the plural) to their hurt. The wide induction had not 
been uniform in its results. The law of Nemesis was traversed by 


the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place 
of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they 
had so done: this és also vanity. 

the law of apparent impunity. We have the ‘‘two voices” once 
again, and the writer passes, like Abelard in his Sic ef Won, from 
affirmation to denial. The English version seems to have originated 
in the wish to make this verse also repeat the affirmation of the 
preceding. The immediate context that follows shews however that 
this is not now the writer’s thought, and that he is troubled by the 
apparent exceptions to it. 

10. And so I saw the wicked buried] The English version is 
scarcely intelligible, and as far as it is so, goes altogether astray. 
We must therefore begin with a new translation, And so I have seen 
the wicked buried and they went their way (z.¢. died a natural death 
and were carried to the grave); but from the holy place they de- 
parted (z.¢. were treated with shame and contumely, in some way 
counted unholy and put under a ban), and were forgotten in the 
city, even such as acted rightly. 

The verse will require, however, some explanation in details. In 
the burial of the wicked we have a parallel to the pregnant sig- 
nificance of the word in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, where 
**the rich man died and was buried” (Luke xvi. 22). This, from the 
Jewish standpoint, was the fit close of a prosperous and honoured 
life (comp. 2 Chron. xvi. 14, xxvi. 23, xxviii. 27; Jer. xxii. 18, 
19). It implied a public and stately ceremonial. The words ‘they 
are gone” are not, as some have thought, equivalent to ‘‘they have 
entered into rest” (Isai. lvii. 2), but, as in ch. i. 4, are given as 
the way in which men speak respectfully of the dead as ‘‘ gone” 
or ‘“‘gathered to their fathers.” So the Latins said Adit ad plures. 
So we speak, half-pityingly, of the dead, ‘‘Ah, he’s gone!” 

The ‘‘holy place” may possibly mean the consecrated ground 
(I do not use the word in its modern technical sense) of sepulture, 
but there is no evidence that the term was ever so used among the 
Jews, and it is more natural to take it, as explained by the use of 
the same term in Matt. xxiv. 15, as referring to the Temple. The 
writer has in his mind those whose names had been cast out as evil, 
who had been, as it were, excommunicated, ‘‘put out of the synagogue” 
(as in John ix. 22, xii. 42), compelled to leave the Temple they had 
loved and worshipped in, departing with slow and sorrowing tread 
(comp. Ps. xxxviii. 6; Job xxx. 28). And soon their place knows 
them no more. A generation rises up that knows them not, and they 
are forgotten in the very city where they had once been honoured. 
The reflection was, perhaps, the result of a personal experience. The 
Debater himself may have been so treated. The hypocrites whom he 
condemned (ch. v. 1—7) may have passed their sentence upon him as 
heretical, as some did afterwards upon his writings (see /vtroduction, 
ch. t1.). If he was suspected of being in any way a follower of 
Epicurus, that would seem to them a sufficient ground for their 




180 ECCLESIASTES, VIII. [vv. II, 12. 

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed 
speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set 
in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred 

anathemas. Epicureanism was, as it were, to the later Rabbis the 
deadliest of all heresies, and when they wanted to brand the be- 
lievers in Christ with the last stigma of opprobrium, they called them 
not Christians, or even Nazarenes, but Epicureans. Something of 
this feeling may be traced, as has been shewn in the Jutroduc- 
tion, ch. V., evenin the Wisdom of Solomon. The main thought, so far as 
it refers only to the perishableness of human fame, has been common 
to the observers of the mutability of human things in all ages, and the 
Debater had himself dwelt on it (chaps. i. 11, vi. 4). It finds, perhaps, 
its most striking echo in a book which has much in common with 
one aspect of Ecclesiastes, the De Jmitatione Christi of & Kempis 
(B. 1. 3). In substituting ‘‘such as acted rightly” for ‘‘ where they 
had so done,” I follow the use of the word which the A. V. translates 
as “so” (Rez); in 2 Kings vii. 9 (‘‘we do not well”); Num. xxvii. 7 
(‘‘speak vzght”); Exod. x. 29 (‘‘thou hast spoken we//”); Josh. ii. 43 
Prov. xv. 7; Isai. xvi. 6; Jer. viii. 6, xxiii, ro, and other passages. 

I have given what seems to me (following wholly, or in part, on the 
lines of Ginsburg, Delitzsch, Knobel, and Bullock), the true meaning » 
of this somewhat difficult verse, and it does not seem expedient, in a 
work of this nature, to enter at length into a discussion of the ten 
or twelve conflicting and complicated interpretations which seem to 
me, on various grounds, untenable. The chief points at issue are 
(1) whether the ‘‘ departing from the place of the holy” belongs to 
**the wicked” of the first clause, or to those who are referred to in 
the second; (2) whether it describes that which was looked on as 
honourable or dishonourable, a stately funeral procession from temple 
or synagogue, or a penal and disgraceful expulsion; and (3) whether 
the latter are those who ‘“‘act so,” z.e. as the wicked, or, as above, 
those who act rightly; and out of the varying combinations of the 
answers to these questions and of the various meanings attached to 
the phrases themselves, we get an almost indefinite number of theories 
as to the writer’s meaning. 

this ts also vanity] The recurrence of the refrain of the book at 
this point is interesting. It is precisely the survey of the moral ano- 
hee ey the world that originates and sustains the feeling so ex- . 

11. Because sentence against an evil work] The word for ‘‘sen- 
tence” is only found here and in Esth. i. 20, where it is translated 
decree” and is probably of Persian origin. Its primary meaning 
seems to be ‘‘a thing sent” and so the king’s missive or edict. The 
point of the reflection is that the anomaly noted in the previous verse 
was not only evil in itself, but the cause of further evil by leading 
men to think they could go on transgressing with impunity. 

2 is fully set in them to do evil) Literally, their heart is full in 


times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it 
shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before 
him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall 
he prolong zs days, whith are as a shadow; because he 
feareth not before God. 

12. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times] The definite 
number is used, of course, as in Prov. xvii. 10; or the ‘‘ hundred years” 
of Isaiah lxv. 20; or the ‘‘seventy times seven” of Matt. xviii. 22, 

for the indefinite. There is no adequate reason for inserting ‘‘ years” 
instead of “‘times.”. By some grammarians it is maintained that the 
conjunctions should be read ‘‘ Because a sinner...” and ‘‘ although I 
know,” but the Authorised Version is supported by high authority. 

yet surely [ know that tt shall be well with them that fear God 
The adverb ‘‘surely”’ has nothing answering to it in the Hebrew, and 
seems an attempt to represent the emphasis of the Hebrew pronoun. 
Better, perhaps, I for my part. We may compare the manner in 
which Atschylus utters a like truth on the moral government of the 

diya & ad\d\ov povddpwy elul. 7d yap SvoceBes epyov 
pera pev mrelova tlkre, operépga O elxdta yerva. 

‘*But I, apart from all, 
Hold this my creed alone: 
For impious act it is that offspring breeds, 
Like to their parent stock.” 
Agam. 754, 8. 

There is an obviously intentional contrast between what the thinker 
has seen (verse 9), and what he now says he £mows as by an intuitive 
conviction. His faith is gaining strength, and he believes, though, it 
may be, with no sharply defined notion as to time and manner, that the 
righteousness of God, which seems to be thwarted by the anomalies 
of the world, will in the long run assert itself. There is at least an 
inward peace with those who fear God, which no tyrant or oppressor 
can interfere with. The seeming tautology of the last clause is best 
explained by supposing that the term ‘‘God-fearers” had become 
(as in Mal. iii. 16) the distinctive name of a religious class, such as 
the Chasidim (the “‘Assideans” of 1 Macc. ii. 42, vii. 133 2 Macc. xiv. 6), 
or ‘‘ devout ones” were in the time of the Maccabees. The Debater, 
with the keen scent for the weaknesses of a hypocritical formalism, 
which we have seen in ch. v. 1—y, says with emphatic iteration, as 
it were, ‘‘ when I say ‘God-fearing’ I mean those that do fear God in 
reality as well as name.”’ So in French men talk of Ja vérité urate, 
or we might speak of ‘‘a liberal indeed liberal,” ‘religious people 
who ave religious,” and so on. 

13. neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow] The 
words seem at first in direct contradiction to the admission of the previous 
verse. But it is of the nature of the method of the book to teach by 

182 ECCLESIASTES, VIII. [vv. 14—16. 

4 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that 
there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to 
the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to 
whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: 

15 I said that this also zs vanity. Then I commended mirth, 
because a man hath no better ¢#img under the sun, than to 
eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with 
him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth 
him under the sun. 

16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see 

paradoxes, and to let the actual contradictions of the world reflect 
themselves in his teaching. What is meant is that the wicked does 
not gain by a prolonged life; that, as Isaiah had taught of old, ‘‘the 
sinner though he die a hundred years old, is as one accursed ” (Isai. 
Ixv. 20). His life is still a shadow and ‘‘he disquieteth himself 
in vain” (Ps. xxxix. 6). So the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon 
(iv. 8) writes, probably not without a reference to this very passage, 
that ‘‘honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, 
nor that is measured by the number of the years.” In the ‘‘ days which 
are as a shadow,” so far as they refer to the shortness of human life in 
general, we find, as before in ch. vi. 12, echoes of Greek thought. 

It is noticeable that in Wisd. ii. 5, in accordance with what one may 
call the polemic tendency of the writer, the thought and the phrase are 
put into the mouth of the ‘ungodly, who reasoned not aright.” The 
universal fact, however, has become a universal thought and finds 
echoes everywhere (Ps. cii. 11, cxliv. 4). 

14. There is a vanity] There is something almost painful in the 
iteration of the ever-recurring thought that after all there are disorders 
in the world. A modern writer, we feel, would have pruned, con- 
densed, and avoided such a repetition of himself. We are dealing, 
however, with ‘‘Thoughts” like Pascal’s Pemsées, rather than with a 
treatise, jotted down, it may be, day by day, as has been said before, 
on his tablets or his papyrus, and there is, as has been said before, 
something significant in the fact that, wherever the thinker turns, the 
same anomalies stare him in the face. 

15. Then I commended mirth] As before in chs. ii. 14, iii. 12, 22, 
v. 18, the Epicurean element of thought mingles with the higher fear of 
God, to which the seeker had just risen. There, at least, in regulated 
enjoyment, free from vices, and not without the fear of God which 
keeps men from them, there was something tangible, and it was better 
to make the best of that than to pine, with unsatisfied desires, after the 
impossible ideal of a perfectly righteous government in which there are 
no anomalies. For ‘‘of his labour” read in his labour. 

16. When I applied mine heart to know wisdom] The opening 
formula has met us before in ch. i. 13. The parenthetical clause 
expresses, with a familiar imagery, the sleepless meditation that had 

w. 173 1] ECCLESIASTES, VIII. 1X. 183 

the business that is done upon the earth: (for also ¢here is 
that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) then 17 
I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out 
the work that is done under the sun: because though a man 
labour to seek ¢ out, yet he shall not find zt, yea further, 
though a wise man think to know #7, yet shall he not be 
able to find z¢. 

For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all 9 
this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, ave 

sought in vain the solution of the problem which the order and disorder 
of the world presented. So Cicero (ad Fam. Vil. 30) says ‘‘ Fuit miri- 
Jicé vigilantid qui toto suo consulatu somnum non vidit.” 

17. then I beheld all the work of God| The confession is like that 
which we have had before in chap. vii. 23, 24: perhaps, also, we may 
add, like that of a very different writer dealing with a very different 
question, ‘‘How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past 
finding out” (Rom. xi. 33). The English reader may be reminded 
of Bishop Butler’s Sermon (XV.) on the ‘‘Ignorance of Man,” of which 
these verses supply the text. What is noticeable here is that the 
ignorance (we may use a modern term and say the Agnosticism) is not 
atheistic. That which the seeker contemplates he recognises as the 
work of God. Before that work, the wise man bows in reverence with 
the confession that it lies beyond him. The Finite cannot grasp the 
Infinite. We may compare Hooker’s noble words ‘‘Dangerous it were 
for the feeble brain of man to wade far into the doings of the Most 
High; whom although to know be life, and joy to make mention of 
His name; yet our soundest knowledge is to know that we know Him 
not as indeed He is, neither can know Him, and our safest eloquence 
concerning Him is our silence, when we confess without confession 
that His glory is inexplicable, His greatness above our capacity and 
reach, He is above, and we upon earth; therefore it behoveth our 
words to be wary and few” (Zccl. Fol. 1. 2, § 3) 


For all this I considered in my heart) More literally, For to all this 
I gave my heart to dig through, z.c. to explain and penetrate to the 
secret of the great enigma of life. 
that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of 
God] The words hover, as it were, between the thought of Destiny and 
Providence, the latter, perhaps, slightly predominating. The wise and 
ood need not despair, though they remain in ignorance of the working 
of the Divine Will. It is enough for them to know that they are in 
Its power, under Its care, and that It is in its essence as righteous as It 
is almighty. 


184 ECCLESIASTES, IX. [v. 2. 

in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred 
by all that ts before them. All ¢hings come alike to all: 

no man knoweth either love or hatred| The words have been dif- 
ferently interpreted according as the ‘‘love” and ‘‘hatred” are referred 
to God or man. In the former case, the thought would be, that as 
things are, no man knows by the outward events of his life whether he 
is the object of God’s favour or displeasure, in the latter that no man 
knows who, as he passes through life, will be the objects of his love or 
hate. Both interpretations are tenable, but the former seems more in 
harmony with what follows. The latter has the interest of finding a 
parallel in the thought of Sophocles as to the mutability of human 
 POtvar pev loxyds yas, POlver 58 odparos, 
OvnoKker 6& mloris, Bracrdve & dmioria, 
kal mvedua Traitov ob tor’ ott’ év dvipdow 
piros BéEBnker, ore mpos wow mé)et. 
Tois wey yap nn, Tots 8 év vorépw xpbivy 
Ta Teprva TiKpa ylyverar kabOis plda. 
“‘Earth’s strength doth wither, withers strength of limb, 
And trust dies out, and mistrust grows apace, 
And the same spirit lasts not among them 
Who once were friends, nor joineth state with state. 
To these at once, to those in after years, 
Sweet things grow bitter, then turn sweet again.” 

Gd. Col. 610—615. 

by all that zs before them] Better, all is before them, 7.¢. as in 
what follows: all chances and changes of life coming from love or 
-wrath, are possible in the future. 

2. All things come alike to all] As before, the seeker sees no order 
or purpose in the chances and changes of life. Earthquakes, pestilences, 
tempests make no discrimination between good and evil. As with the 
melancholy emphasis of iteration, the various forms of contrasted cha- 
racters are grouped together. ‘‘The righteous and the wicked” point 
to men’s conduct relative to their neighbours, the ‘‘good and pure” 
(the first word is probably added to shew that a moral and not merely 
a ceremonial purity is meant) to what we call “‘self-regarding” actions, 
the self-reverence of purity in act and thought. ‘*Sacrifice” is the 
outward expression of man’s relation to God. ‘‘The good” and ‘‘the 
sinner” are wider in their range and express the totality of character. 
The last group is not without difficulty. As commonly interpreted, “he 
that sweareth” is the man who swears falsely or rashly, as in Zech. v. 3, 
he “ that feareth an oath” is either the man who looks on its obliga- 
tion with a solemn awe, or one whose communication is Vea, yea, 
Nay, nay, and who shrinks in reverential awe from any formal use of 
the Divine Name. On this view, the words probably point to the 
tendency of thought which was developed in the teaching of the 
Essenes, who placed every oath on the same level as perjury (Jos. 

vv. 3, 4.] ECCLESIASTES, IX. 185 

there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to 
the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that 
sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as zs the good, 
so zs the sinner; avd he that sweareth, as he that feareth an 
oath. This zs an evil among all ¢/zmgs that are done under 
the sun, that ¢here zs one event unto all: yea, also the heart 
of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness 2s in their 
heart while they live, and after that hey go to the dead. 
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for 

Wars, 1. 8, § 6), and was in part sanctioned in the Sermon on the 
Mount (Matt. v. 3337). It may be noted, however, that in all the 
other groups, the good side is placed first, and I do not feel quite sure 
that it is not so in this case also. The man ‘‘that sweareth” maybe he 
who does what most religious Jews held to be their duty, truthfully and 
well (comp Deut. vi. 13; Isai. Ixv. 16; Ps. lxiii. 11), he who ‘‘ fears the 
oath,” may be the man whose ‘‘coward conscience” makes him shrink 
from the oath either of compurgation on the part of an accused person 
(comp. Aristot. A/ez. 1.27), or of testimony. The former was in frequent 
use in Jewish as in Greek trials. Comp. Exod. xxii. 10, 11; 1 Kings viii. 
31; 2 Chron. vi. 22; Num. v. 19—22. It may be added that this view 
agrees better with the language about ‘‘ the oath of God” in ch. v. 2. 

8. This is an evil among all things| The pessimism of the thinker 
returns once more upon him, and he falls into the strain which we 
have heard before in chs. ii. 14—16, iii. 19, v. 15, vi. 12. The great 
leveller comes and sweeps away all distinctions, and there is no assured 
hope of immortality. Life is ‘‘ evil” even while it lasts, and death is 
the same for all, when the curtain drops on the great drama. 

madness ts in their heart while they live] The ‘*madness” is that of 
chs. i. 17, ii. 12. All man’s life, in its vain strivings, its fond hopes, 
its wild desires, seems to the pessimist but as the ‘‘ dehrantium 
somnia.” The English version seems to imply that the writer laid 
stress on the fact that the evildoers did not continue in existence to 
bear the penalty they deserved, but rested in the grave like others ; 

“* After life’s fitful fever they sleep well,” 

‘but it is rather the Epicurean thought of death as the common lot, and 
the sigh with which it is uttered is, as it were, the unconscious protest 
of the philosophising Hebrew against the outcome of his philosophy. 
In what he heard of as a ‘‘short life and merry” he finds an insanity 
that ends in nothingness. 

4. For to him that is joined to all the living there ts hope| A dif- 
ferent and preferable punctuation gives the rendering: For who is 
specially chosen, z.¢. who is excepted from the common lot of death. 
To all the living there is hope. The passage has, however, received 
many conflicting interpretations, of which this seems, on the whole, the 
best. It was quite after the tone of Greek thought to find in the inextin- 
guishable hope which survives in most men even to the end, even though 

186 ECCLESIASTES, IX. [v. 5. 

5 a living dog zs better than a dead lion. For the living know 
that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, nei- 

the hope does not stretch beyond the horizon of the grave, their one 
consolation, that which made life at least liveable, even if not worth 
living. So Hope was found at the bottom of Pandora’s treasure-chest 
of evils. So Sophocles: 

& yap 5) wodkbrdarykros €Amls moors wey dvacis dvSpav. 

‘‘For unto men comes many-wandering hope, 
Bringing vain joy.” 
Antig. 613. : 

a living dog is better than a dead lion] The point of the proverb lies, 
of course, in the Eastern estimate of the dog as the vilest of all animals 
(x Sam. xvii. 43; Ps. lxix. 6; 2 Kings viii. 13; Matt vii. 6, xv. 26; Rev. 
xxii. 15, e¢ a/.), while the lion, with both Jew and Greek, was, as the 
king of beasts (Prov. xxx. 30), the natural symbol of human sovereignty. 
A like proverb is found in Arabic. 

The pessimist view of life, co-existing with the shrinking from death, 
finds a parallel in Euripides (A7zppol. 190—197) 

mas 6 dduynpds Blos dvOpwrwr, 
KovK €ort mover avamavots 

aN 5 te ToD Sav PidrTepov dddo 
oxéros dumicxwv Kptmre vepédais* 
ducépwres 5h hawvdue? dvtes 

700 8 8re TovTO orihBet Kara yar. 
6 daretpootvay aAdov BidTov, 

kovK amddakiv trav vmd yalas. 

**Yea, every life of man is full of grief, 
Nor is there any respite from his toils: 
But whatsoe’er is dearer than our life, 
Darkness comes o’er it, covering all with clouds; 
And yet of this we seem all madly fond, 
For this at least is bright upon the earth, 
Through utter nescience of a life elsewhere, 
And the ‘no-proof’ of all beneath the earth.” 

6. for the living know that they shall die) The writer in one of the 
strange paradoxes of the mood of pessimism finds that though life is 
vanity, it is yet better than the death which he looks upon as its only 
outcome. There is a greatness in the very consciousness of the coming 
doom. Man, knowing he must perish and lamenting over his fate, is 
nobler than those that are already numbered with the dead. There 
is a pride even in the cry with which those who enter on the arena as 
doomed to death greet the sovereign Power that dooms them: 

**Ave, Ceesar; morituri te salutamus.” 

‘‘ Hail to thee Czesar, hail! on our way to our death-doom we 
greet thee.” 

vv. 6, 7.] ECCLESIASTES, IX. 18 
’ 7 

ther have they any more a reward ; for the memory of them 
is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their 6 
envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a 
portion for ever in any ¢#zng that is done under the sun. 

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine 7 

They were nobler then than when their bleeding and mangled car- 

cases on the arena were all that was left of them. 
neither have they any more @ reward| The words exclude the 

thought (in the then phase of the Debater’s feeling) of reward in a 
life after death, but the primary meaning of the word is that of ‘‘ hire” 
and “wages” (Gen. xxx. 28 ; Exod. ii. 9), and the idea conveyed is 
that the dead no longer find, as on earth, that which rewards their 
labour. There is no longer even death to look forward to as the wages 
of his life. 

So we have in Shakespeare: 

**Thou thy worldly task hast done, 
Home art gone and ta’en thy wages.” 
Cymbeline, Act iv., Sc. 2. 

Sor the memory of them is forgotten] The Hebrew gives an assonance 
between “reward” (sheker) and ‘‘memory” (zeker), which it is hard to 
reproduce in English. ‘‘ Reward” and ‘ record” suggest themselves 
as the nearest approximation. For the thought see note on ch. i. 11. 
Even the immortality of living in the memory of others, which modern 
thinkers have substituted for the Christian hope, is denied to the vast 
majority of mankind. 

6. Also thetr love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished | 
The three passions are named as strongest and most vehement in their 
action. Even these are all hushed in the calm of the grave. There are 
no passions there, and the deadliest foes, rival statesmen and bitter 
controversialists, rest side by side together. The thought of the state 
of the dead stands on nearly the same level as that of the elegy of 
Hezekiah (Isai. xxxviii. g— 20). 

7. Go thy way, cat thy bread with joy| The Debater falls back, as 
before, on the Epicurean rule of tranquil regulated enjoyment, as in 
chs. ii, 24, ili. 12, 22, v. 18. Life was after all liveable, if a man 
would but set himself to look at its brighter side. The specific mention 
of ‘‘ wine”? for the first time in this connexion does not imply anything 
more than the moderate use of it commended in Prov. xxxi. 67; Ps. civ. 
15. What is asserted, is that asceticism is not the right remedy for 
pessimism. Experience indeed seems to shew that too often it does 
but intensify it. Whatever else might be doubtful, if such a life were 
accepted as God’s gift (chs. ii. 24, viii, 15), He approved of the 
deeds of the man who so lived. The ‘‘other, and more cheerful, voice” 
utters a protest against the mere gloom of despair. We have oscilla- 
tions of thought, but not, as some have supposed, the maxims of a 
sensualist introduced only to be condemned. 

188 ECCLESIASTES, IX. [vv. 8, 9. 

with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. 
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no 
9 Ointment. 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 zs thy 
portion in ¢#zs life, and in thy labour which thou takest 

8. Let thy garments be always white] In the symbolism of colours, 
so universal that we may almost call it natural, white garments, cool 
and refreshing in the heat of an Eastern climate, have always been 
associated with the idea of purity and joy (2 Chron. v. 12; Esth. viii. 
15). In the religious symbolism of Rev. iii. 4, 5, 18, vi. r1, the idea of 
purity is, perhaps, predominant over that of joy. So in Roman life 
the term ‘‘a/datus” (clothed in white garments) was used of one who 
took part in a festive banquet (Hor. Sat. 11. 2. 61; Cic. i Vatin. c. 13). 
A singular instance of literalism is recorded in the life of Sisinnius, 
the Novatian bishop of Constantinople, who, as in obedience to this 
precept, never wore any but white garments (Socr. H. Z. vi. 21). 
Chrysostom censures his ostentation. 

let thy head lack no ointment| Here, again, illustrations from Hebrew, 
Greek and Roman life crowd on us. We think of the ‘oil of glad- 
ness” of Ps. xlv. 7; the ‘‘oil of joy” of Isai. Ixi. 3; of ‘the sweet 
smell” of Isai. iii. 24; of ‘‘the costly wine and ointments” of Wisd. 
ii. 73 of the ‘‘perfusus liguidis odoribus” of Hor. Od. 1. 53 of the 
“ Assyriague nardo potamus uncti” (“let us drink anointed with 
Assyrian nard ”) of Hor. Od. 1. 11. 

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 sen- 
suality, as indicating indifference to the marriage union (‘live joyfully 
with @ 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. ii. r1, vii. 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 Care diem of Hor. Od. 1. 11. 

that ts thy portion in this life] This, the calm regulated enjoyment 
of the wiser Epicureans, 

vv. 10, TI.] ECCLESIASTES, IX. 189 

under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do 7 10 
with thy might ; for ¢here zs no work, nor device, nor know- 
ledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. 

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race zs not to a 
the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to 

10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do] Here again men have 
interpreted the maxim according to their characters; some seeing in 
‘‘ whatsoever thy hand findeth” simply opportunities for enjoyment; 
others taking the precept as meaning practically, ‘‘do whatever thou 
hast strength to do, let might be right with thee ;” others, as it seems, 
more truly, finding in it a call to work as well as enjoyment; to work 
as the condition of enjoyment (chs. i. 24, v. 12). It may be 
questioned whether the word for ‘‘work” is ever used of mere activity 
in sensual pleasure. For the phrase ‘‘ whatsoever thy hand findeth” 
see the marginal reading of t Sam. x. 73; Judg. ix. 33. 

Sor there is no work, nor device] "The words find a parallel, though 
in a far higher region, and with a far nobler meaning, in those which 
were spoken by the Son of Man, ‘‘I must work the works of Him 
that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can 
work” (John ix. 4). From the standpoint of the Debater the region 
behind the veil, if there be a region there, is seen as a shadow-world 
in which all the energies that belong to a man as a “‘being of large dis- 
course looking before and after” are hushed in the deep sleep of death. 
The common saying, often in men’s mouths as if it came from the 
Bible, ‘‘ There is no repentance in the grave,” is probably an echo of 
this passage. It is obvious, however, that the state of the dead which 
is in the writer’s thoughts approximates to a theory of annihilation 
rather than to that of a state of torment in which repentance is impos- 
sible or unavailing. The ‘‘grave”’ stands as elsewhere (Job vii. 9; Ps. 
vi. 5, et al.) for the Hebrew Sed/, the Hades of the Greek, the unseen 
world of the dead. It is noticeable that this is the only passage in 
the book in which the word occurs. 

ll. that the race is not to the swift] The sequence of thought 
is that while it is a man’s wisdom to do the work which he finds ready 
to his hand, he must not reckon on immediate and visible results. The 
course of the world witnesses many apparent failures even where men 
fulfil the apparent conditions of success. The wise and skilful often 
gain neither ‘‘bread” nor ‘‘ favour,” and the injustice of fortune is 
worse than that painted in the words of the Satirist, “ Proditas laudatur 
et alget” (Juven. I. 74). Soa poet of our own time has sung, 

‘Oh, if we draw a circle premature, 
Heedless of far gain, 
Greedy of quick return of profits, sure 
Bad is our bargain.” 

BROWNING. A Grammarian’s Funeral. 

The thought of ‘‘the race” seems to belong to a time when contests 

190 ECGEESTAS TES, LX [vv 12h 335 

the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet 
favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to 
x2 them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the 
fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that 
are caught in the snare; so ave the sons of men snared in 
an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. 
13 This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it 

of this nature had become familiar to the dwellers in Palestine, z.e. 
after they had come in contact with Greek habits, and is so far an 
argument for the later date of the book. In 1 Macc. i. 143 2 Macc. 
iv. 9—14, games of this kind are said to have been introduced in 
Jerusalem under Antiochus Epiphanes. On the assumption of Alex- 
andrian authorship we may think of the hippodrome of that city as 
present to the writer’s mind. 

time and chance] The first word is that which is so prominent in 
ch. iii. r—8; the second is found elsewhere only in 1 Kings v. 4, 
where it is translated ‘‘occurrent,” the latter word being used, as com- 
monly in the English of the 16th and 17th centuries, as a substantive. 
So in Shakespeare we have “So tell him, with the occurrents more and 
less,” in Hamlet, v. 2. 

12. as the fishes that are taken in an evil net) The words paint 
vividly the suddenness of calamities which defeat all men’s purposes 
and plans. The imagery was a natural one in any country, and meets 
us in Hos. vii.; Ezek. xii. 13, xxxii. 3; Prov. vii. 23; but it is in- 
teresting to note a parallel in the poetry of Greece. So A‘schylus: 

qr ért Tpolas mépyous Bares 
oreyavoy dtkrvoy, ws unre wéyar 
Hr oby veap&v tw saeprehécas 
uéya Sovdelas 
ydyyayuov, drns ravaddrov. 

‘*Who upon the towers of Troia 
Castedst snare of closest meshes, 
So that none, full-grown or youthful, 
Could o’erleap the net of bondage, 
Woe of universal capture.” 
Agam. 347—350. 
We may compare the parallels, for the illustration drawn from the 
“snare of the fowler,” of Pss. xci. 3, cxxiv. 7; Prov. i. E75 Vie Ss 
13. This wisdom have I seen also! The Debater points the 
moral of his previous maxim by a special illustration and it can scarcely 
be doubted that it was one which his first readers would recognise, 
though the nature of his method led him to speak as in hints and dark 

sayings, eschewing the historical element altogether, except so far 
as men might be able to read between the lines. 

vv. 14—17.] BCCLESIASTES. (IX. TOI 

seemed great unto me: ¢here was a little city, and few men 
within it; and there came a great king against it, and be- 
sieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there 
was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom 
delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor 
man. Then said I, Wisdom ?s better than strength: never- 
theless the poor man’s wisdom zs despised, and his words 
are not heard. The words of wise men are heard in quiet, 

14. there was a little city] The city has been identified by one 
commentator (Hitzig) with Dora, which was besieged unsuccessfully 
by Antiochus the Great in B.C. 218 (Polyb. v. 66). Josephus describes 
it, in his narrative of its siege by Antiochus Sidetes (Az. XIII. 7, § 2), 
as ‘‘a city hard to be taken,” but we know nothing of any special inci- 
dents corresponding to the allusion in this passage. The term ‘“‘ great 
king” fits in with the hypothesis, as also does the fact that the siege was 
raised, but that is all. The spiritualising interpretations which have found 
favour with Jewish and Christian commentators, in which the history 
represents something like the attack of Satan on the town of Mansoul 
(as in Bunyan’s Holy War), must be rejected as altogether arbitrary and 

and built great bulwarks against it] The ‘‘bulwarks,” as in the 
Old Testament generally, are the out-works of the besiegers, the banks 
or mounds from which missiles were thrown into the city (comp. 
Deut. xx. 20; 2 Sam. xx. 153 2 Chron. xxvi. 15). 

15. and he by his wisdom delivered the city| The history of the 
siege of Abel-beth-Maachah in 2 Sam. xx. 14—20 presents a suggestive 
parallel, but there the wisdom that delivered the city was that of a 

16. Wisdom is better than strength] The maxim of ch. vii. 19 
is reproduced, but it is traversed by the fact that the wisdom must 
often be content to remain unrecognised. The power of the purse 
too often prevails against the wisdom of the poor. At the best, 
often, in words already quoted (verse 11), 

“Probitas laudatur et alget.” 

“‘Virtue is praised, and left out in the cold.” 
JUVENAL, Sat. I. 74. 

The marginal reference in the A. V. to Mark vi. 2, 3 is not without 
significance as indicating the highest illustration of the maxim, in the 
question which asked ‘‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is he not 
himself a carpenter?” The chief butler’s forgetfulness of Joseph (Gen. 
xl. 23) supplies another obvious parallel. 

17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet| The thought is 
like that of the “great cry and little wool” of the English proverb. 
That which tells on men, in the long run, is the wisdom whose words 
are wary, and calm, and few, not the declamation of the wind-bags 




192 ECCLESIASTES, IX. X. [vv. 18; 1, 

1s more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom 
zs better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth 
much good, 

10 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send 
forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly Aim that zs in 
reputation for wisdom and honour. 

of popular oratory. Comp. the description of the highest type of 
wisdom in Isai. xlii. 2; Matt. xii. 19. He that ‘‘ruleth among fools” 
is not the foolish ruler, but the man who takes the highest place in 
the company of fools, and graduates, as it were, as the Senior Wrangler 
in that class-list. Such an one is as the ‘‘prating fool” of Prov. 
x. 10, 

18. Wisdom is better than weapons of war| The maxim presents 
another illustration of the irony of history. The excellence of wisdom 
is acknowledged. Counsel is more than the mazeriel of war; the states- 
man more than the general, and yet one man by his guilt or folly, by 
the perversity which includes both (the Hebrew verb for ‘‘sinneth” 
has this meaning, as in Prov. viii. 36), may mar what it has taken years 
to bring to a good issue. The defeat of an army, the most terrible 
catastrophe, may often be traced to the fact that “some one has 
blundered,” in carelessness.or passion. It is probable enough that, as 
in verse 14, the writer had some definite historical fact present to his 
thoughts which we are unable to identify. The history of Achan, in 
Josh. vii. I—12, presents a sufficient illustration. 


1. Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary] The division of 
the chapters obscures the connexion. The maxim now before us is but 
the figurative expression of the fact stated, without a parable, in the 
last verse of ch. ix. The ‘‘dead flies” are, in the Hebrew, “flies of 
death,” probably, z.e. poisonous, or stinging flies of the dung-fly, or 
carrion-fly type. Such insects, finding their way into a vase of precious 
ointment, would turn its fragrance into a foetid odour, The work of 
an ‘‘apothecary” or manufacturer of unguents was one held in honour 
in Jerusalem, and the guilds to which they belonged had a special 
street or bazaar. Few similitudes could describe more vividly the 
tainting influence of folly, moral or intellectual. It is to the full as 
expressive as ‘‘a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” of 1 Cor. v. 6. 
The experience of every day shews us how little sins mar the nobleness 
of a great character; procrastination, talkativeness, indecision, over- 
sensitiveness to praise or blame, undue levity or undue despondency, 
want of self-control over appetites or passions, these turn the fragrance 
of a good name (ch. vii. 1) into the ‘‘ill savour” which stinks in the 
nostrils of mankind. 

so doth a little folly| ‘The completeness of the proverb in the English 
is obtained by the insertion of the words ‘‘so doth.”’ This is, however, 

Yeuzul ECCLESIASTES, X. 193 

A wise man’s heart zs at his tight hand; but a fool’s2 

a somewhat over-bold manipulation of the text, and it remains to see 
whether we can get an adequate meaning without it. The true rendering 
seems to be as follows, More prevailing (this takes the place of ** him 
that is in reputation,” the primary meaning of the root being that of 
weight) than wisdom and honour is a little folly. This gives substan- 
tially the same meaning as the present English text, though in a differ- 
ent manner. The “little folly ” outweighs the wisdom, and diminishes 
both its actual value and the estimate men form of it. Looking to 
the language of ch. vii. 1, the effect of a little folly on the reputation of 
the wise would seem to be the prominent thought. By some commen- 
tators the English meaning of the word is retained even with this con- 
struction ‘* More highly prized (i.e. in the opinion of the unthinking) 
zs a little folly than wisdom and honour,” but this destroys the paral- 
lelism with the first clause. The writer does not. here speak of the 
undue honour paid to folly, but of its really destructive power even 
when matched against wisdom. The saying ascribed to the Chancellor 
Oxenstiern comes to one’s mind, “Quantulé Sapientié regatur mundus |” 
One foolish prince, or favourite, or orator prevails against many wise. 
One element of folly in the character prevails over many excellencies. 
2. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand| The symbolism of the 
right or the left hand, the former pointing to effective, the latter to 
ineffective, action, is so natural that it is scarcely necessary to look for 
its origin in the special thoughts or customs of this or that nation. It 
is, however, noticeable, probably as another trace of the Greek in- 
fluence which pervades the book, that this special symbolism is not 
found elsewhere in the Old Testament, in which to “be on the right 
hand” of a man is a synonym for protecting him (Ps. xvi. 8, cx. 8), 
while to ‘‘sit on the right hand,” is to occupy the place of honour 
(Ps. cx. 1). In Greece, on the other hand, the figurative significance 
was widely recognised. The left was with augurs and diviners the 
unlucky quarter of the heavens. So the suitors of Penelope see an 
ill-boding omen : 
abrap 6 rolcw dpiorepds #rvOev Bpvis 
aleros bywmrérys, exe dé Tpypwva méevay, 
“But to them came an omen on the left, 
A lofty eagle, holding in its claws 
A timid dove.” 
Od. XX. 242. 
Or still more closely parallel, as indicating a mind warped and per- 
verted by unwisdom, in Sophocles : 
ovmore yap ppevdder y én’ dporepd, 
mot Tehaudvos, €Bas toccor, 
**For never else, O son of Telamon, 
Had’st thou from reason gone so far astray, 
Treading the left-hand path.” 
Alas 184. 


194 ECCLESIASTES, X. [vv. 36. 

3 heart at his left. Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh 
by the way, his wisdom faileth Aém, and he saith to every 
one ¢hat he 7s a fool. 

, If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not . 
thy place ; for yielding pacifieth great offences. 

; There is an evil wich I have seen under the sun, as an 

¢ error which proceedeth from the ruler: folly is set in great 

Our own use of the word “sinister” is of course, a survival of the 
same feeling. The highest application of the symbolism is found in 
those that are set ‘‘on the right hand” and ‘‘on the left” in the 
parable of Matt. xxv. 31—46. 

3. Vea also, when he that ts a fool walketh by the way] The general 
drift of the proverb seems plain enough. ‘“‘Zven when the fool is in 
the way (either literally, ‘whenever and wherever he goes,’ or figu- 
ratively, ‘when he has been put in the right path of conduct’), zs 
heart (it. e. his intellect) fails him, and he manifests his folly.” The last 
clause, however, admits of two constructions, each of which has the 
support of high authorities, (1) Ze saith to every one that he (the fool 
himself) zs a fool, z.e. betrays his unwisdom in every word he utters; 
or (2) he says to every man that he (the man he meets) 7s @ fool, 2. é. 
in his self-conceit he thinks that he alone is wise (comp. Rom. xii. 16). 
On the whole the latter construction seems preferable. So it is no- 
toriously the most significant symptom of insanity that the patient looks 
on all others as insane. It may be noted that (1) finds a parallel in 
Prov. xiii. 16, xviii. 2; (2) in Prov. xxvi. 16. 

4. If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee] To the picture of the 
boastful self-assertion of the fool is appended as a contrast, that of the 
self-effacement of the wise. The scene brought before us is that of a 
statesman, or minister, whose advice runs counter to that of the ruler. 
The “spirit,” what we should call the “temper,” of the latter “rises up” 
against the former. What shall the adviser do? His natural impulse 
is to “leave his place,” z.e. either to cut short his interview, or, resign 
his office. He won’t be slighted, will not put up with contradiction. 
That, however, is precisely what the wise of heart will not do. Yielding, 
z.e. the temper of conciliation (the Hebrew noun is literally the healing, 
orthe healthy, mood of mind) puts to rest, or puts a stop to, great offences. 
The history of all nations, our own included, presents manifold instances 
of both modes of action, sometimes, as in the case of Chatham’s behaviour 
to George III., in the same statesman at different times, sometimes in 
the attitude of rival statesmen towards the same sovereign. Interpreters 
after their manner, seeing either the golden or the silver side of the 
shields, have referred the last words either to the angry acts of the 
ruler, or to the sins of rebellion in the minister. It can scarcely be 
questioned, however, that the proverb includes both. The maxim has 
its parallel in our English proverb, ‘‘Least said is soonest mended.” 

5. as an error which proceedeth from the ruler| The last word 
serves as a link connecting this verse with the preceding. It might 

vv. 7, 8] ECCLESIASTES, X. 195 

dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants 7 
upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth. 
He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it 3 and whoso break- g 

be wise at times to bow to the temper of a despotic ruler, but the 
ruler was not always right. What the Debater had seen was to 
him a blot upon the government of him who allowed it. There lies 
below the surface the half-suppressed thought that this anomaly, stated 
in the next verse, was as a blot in the government of the supreme 
Ruler of the Universe. Technically the word was used in the Mosaic 
Law of the involuntary sins of ignorance (Lev. iv. 22, 27, v. 18). The 
unequal distribution of honours seemed to men as a blunder of Pro- 

6. Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place] For 
“great dignity,” literally great heights. The “rich” here are those 
who by birth and station are looked on as the natural rulers of 
mankind. Such men, like the apxacémAovros (the **men of ancestral 
wealth”) of Greek political writers, (Aristot. Rez. I. 9; Aesch. Acam. 
1043) a wise ruler associates with himself as counsellors. The tyrant, 
on the other hand, like Louis XI. exalts the baseborn to the place 
of honour, or like Edward II. or James I. of England, or Henry III. 
of France, lavishes dignities on his minions. So the writer may have 
seen Agathoclea and her brother, all-powerful, as mistress and favourite, 
in the court of Ptolemy Philopator (Justin xxx. 1). 

7. L have seen servants upon horses] The general fact of the 
previous verse is reproduced with more dramatic vividness. To ride 
upon horses was with the Parthians a special distinction of the nobly 
born (Justin XLI. 3). So Mordecai rides on horseback through the 
city as one whom the king delighted to honour (Esth. v. 8, 9). So 
the Azpfers in the polity of Solon, and the Liquites in that of Servius 
Tullius, took their place as representing the element of aristocratic 
wealth. So Aristotle notes that the keeping a horse (irmorpodia) 
was the special distinction of the rich, and therefore that all cities 
which aimed at military strength were essentially aristocratic (Po/. 
Iv. 23, VI. 7). So in the earlier days of European intercourse with 
Turkey, Europeans generally were only allowed to ride on asses 
or mules, a special exception being made for the consuls of the great 
powers (Maundrell, Fourney from Aleppo, P. 492, Bohn’s Edition). 
Our own proverb ‘Set a beggar on horseback, and he will ride to 
the devil” is a survival of the same feeling. The reign of Ptolemy 
Philopator and Epiphanes may have presented many illustrations of 
what the writer notes. 

8. He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it] It is scarcely a profitable 
task to endeavour to trace a very close connexion between this and. 
the preceding verses. The writer has got into what we may call the 
gnomic, or proverb-making, state of mind, and, as in the Book of 
Proverbs, his reflections come out with no very definite or logical 
sequence. All that we can say is that the context seems to indicate 
that the maxims which follow, like those which have gone before, 


196 ECCLESIASTES, X. [v. 9. 

eth a hedge, a serpent shall bite him. Whoso removeth 
stones shall be hurt therewith ; avd he that cleaveth wood 
shall be endangered thereby. 


indicate a wide experience in the life of courts, and that the experience 

of a courtier rather than of a king, and accordingly find their chief 
application in the region of man’s political life, and that their general 

drift is that all great enterprises, especially perhaps all enterprises 

that involve change, destruction, revolution, have each of them its 

special danger. The first of the proverbs is verbally from Prov. xxvi. 

27, and finds parallels in Ps. vii. 15, 16, ix. 15, x. 2, lvii. 6. The_ 
thought is that of the Nemesis which comes on the evil doer. He 

digs a pit that his enemy may fall into it, and he falls into it himself. 

Plots and conspiracies are as often fatal to the conspirators as to the 

intended victims. ‘The literature of all nations is full of like sayings, 

among which that of the engineer ‘‘hoist with his own petard” is 
perhaps the most familiar. 

whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him] Better, whoso break- 
eth down a fence or a stone wall, as in Prov. xxiv. 31; Lam. iii. 9, and 
elsewhere. Hedges, in the English sense of the word, are rare in the 
landscapes of Syria or Egypt. The crannies of such structures were 
the natural haunts of serpents (Isai. xxxiv. 15; Amos y. 19), and the 
man who chose to do the work of destruction instead Of being ‘‘a 
repairer of the breach” (Isai. Iviii. 12), might find his retribution in 
being bitten by them. The proverb, like many like sayings, is double- 
edged, and may have, as we consider the breaking down of the wall 
to be a good or evil work, a twofold meaning: (1) If you injure 
your neighbour’s property, and act as an oppressor, there may come 
an instrument of retribution out of the circumstances of the act itself. 
(2) If you are too daring a reformer, removing the tottering wall of 
a decayed and corrupt institution, you may expect that the serpents 
in the crannies, those who have “‘ vested interests” in the abuse, will bite 
the hand that disturbs them. You need beforehand to “count the cost” 
of the work of reformation. 

9. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith] The words 
are referred by some commentators to an act like that of the previous 
verse, by others to hewing stone in the quarry. In the former case, 
however, we get but a tame repetition, in the latter there is nothing in 
the act that deserves retribution. We get a more natural meaning, 
if we think of the curse pronounced on him who “removes his 
neighbour’s landmark” (Deut. xix. 14, xxvii. 17). Such landmarks 
often consisted of cairns or heaps of stones, as in Gen. xxxi. 46—48, or 
a pillar, and the act of removing it would be one of wrongful aggression. 
For the stone to fall on a man so acting would be once more an 
instance of the Nemesis which is presented in these similitudes, 

he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby] Better, “he that 

- cleaveth trees or logs,” as in Gen. i. 11, ii. 16, xxiii. 16; Isai. xl. 20 
and elsewhere. Here again the proverb seems to have a double edge. 
(1) On the one hand it might seem that an act of unjust aggression is 



If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then 10 

must he put to more strength: but wisdom 2s profitable to 
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a 

contemplated. The special sacredness of trees as standing above most 
other forms of property is recognised in Deut. xx. 19, 20, and the fre- 
quency of accidents in the process was provided for by the special legisla- 
tion (Deut. xix. 5), which exempted from penalty one who in this way 
was the involuntary cause of his neighbour’s death. The primary thought 
in the saying, so taken, is, as before, that retribution comes on the evil-doer 
out of the very deed of evil. Out of our “pleasant vices’’ the gods “make 
whips to scourge us.” The attack on sacred and time-honoured institu- 
tions is not without peril. (2) On the other hand, eastern as well as westera 
thought recognises in decayed trees the types of corrupt institutions that 
need to be reformed, and, as in the last proverb, the work of the reformer 
is not always a safe or easy one. Popular political rhetoric has made 
us familiar both with the appeal to ‘‘spare the tree” under the shadow 
of whose branches our fathers lived, and with that which bids men lop 
branch after branch from the “ deadly Upas” of oppression and iniquity, 
especially of corrupt kingdoms (Isai. xiv. 8; Jer. li. 15; Ezek. 
xxxiv. 3; Dan. ix. ro, 14; Matt. ili. 10; Luke xiii. 7, 9). 

10. Lf the iron be blunt| The proverb seems obviously sug- 
gested by that of the preceding verse, but its meaning is far from clear. 
The axe (literally, the iron) is used to cut wood. What if it fail 
to cut (2.2, if, going below the imagery, the man has not the sharpness 
or strength to carry his plans promptly into effect), if he (the cutter 
down of trees) has not sharpened its edge, literally its face as in 
Ezek. xxi. 21, z.¢. if he has entered on his plans without due prepa- 
ration. In that case he must ‘‘put to more strength,’’ must increase 
his force (z.¢. the impact of his stroke). He will have to do by the 
iteration of main force what might have been effected by sagacity and 
finesse. So interpreted, the whole imagery is consistent. The man 
who enters on the perilous enterprise of reform or revolution has to 
face not only the danger that he may perish in the attempt, but the 
tisk of failure through the disproportion of his resources to his ends. 
The meaning of the proverb would be clear to any one who united 
the character of an expert in felling timber with the experience of 

-a political reformer. Briefly paraphrased, the maxim would run thus 

in colloquial English, ‘‘If you must cut down trees, take care that 
you sharpen your axe.” 

but wisdom ts profitable to direct} Better, But it is a gain to use 
wisdom with success, z.e. It is better to sharpen the axe than to go on 
hammering with a blunt one, better to succeed by skill and tact than 
by mere brute strength. E 

11. Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment] Literally, 
If the serpent will bite without enchantment, z.¢. in the absence of 
skill to charm it. It is hardly necessary to dwell at length on a topic so 
familiar as the serpent-charming of the East, It will be enough to say that 





198 ECCLESIASTES; X [vv. 12, 13. 

babbler is no better. The words of a wise man’s mouth 
are gracious ; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. 
The beginning of the words of his mouth zs foolishness: 

from time immemorial in Egypt, Syria, Persia, India, there have been 
classes of persons who in some way or other have gained a power over 
many kinds of snakes, drawing them from their retreats, handling 
them with impunity, making them follow their footsteps like a tame 
dog. The power was really or ostensibly connected with certain mut- 
tered words or peculiar intonations of the voice. We find the earliest 
traces of it in the magicians of Pharaoh’s court (Exod. vii. 11). So the 
“<deaf adder that cannot be charmed” becomes the type of those whom 
no appeal to reason or conscience can restrain (Ps. lviii. 5; Jer. viii. 
17; Ecclus. xii. 13). The proverb obyiously stands in the same relation 
to the ‘‘ breaking down of walls” in verse 8, as that of the ‘‘ blunt axe” 
did to the ‘‘cutting down trees” of verse 9.- ‘‘If.a serpent meets you 
as you go on with your work, if the adder’s poison that is on the lips 
of the traitor or the slanderer (Ps. cxl. 3; Rom. iii. 13) is about to do 
its deadly work, are you sure that you have the power to charm? If 
not, you are not likely to escape being bitten.” The apodosis of the 
sentence interprets the proverb. ‘Ifa serpent will bite in the absence 
of the charmer, there is no profit in a babbler (literally, a lord or 
master of tongue, see note on ch. v. 10), who does not know the 
secret of the intonation that charms it.” No floods of wind-bag elo- 
quence will avail in the statesman or the orator if the skill that per- 
suades is wanting. 

12. Zhe words of a wise man’s mouth} The mention of the 
babbling eloquence of “the master of tongue” in the previous verse 
is naturally followed by precepts fashioned after the type of those in 
Prov. x. 8, 14, 32, xii. 13, XV. 2, xvii. 7 as to that which is of the essence 
of true eloquence. In ‘‘are gracious” (literally are grace itself) we find 
a parallel to the “‘gracious words” (literally words of grace) of Luke 
iv. 22. They describe the quality in speech which wins favour, what 
the Greeks called the 70:9 mlorcs (moral suasion), which conciliates the 
good will of the hearers (Aristot. Rhez. 1. 2, § 3). 

the lips of a fool will swallow up himself| The English version 
rightly preserves the vivid force of the original, instead of weakly para- 
phrasing it by ‘‘destroy” or ‘‘consume.”” Who has not heard orators 
who, while they thought they were demolishing their opponents, were 
simply demolishing themselves, swallowing up their own reputation 
for honesty or consistency, greeted by the ironical cheers of their 
opponents, while those of their own party listen in speechless dismay? 
Our own familiar phrase, when we speak of an imprudent orator having 
‘“‘to eat his own words,” expresses another aspect of the same idea, 

13. The beginning of the words of his mouth is Soolishness| The 
words point, with a profound insight into human nature, to the progress 
from bad to worse in one who has the gift of speech without discretion. 
He begins with what is simply folly, unwise but harmless, but ‘* vires 

vv. 14, 15.] ECGLESIASTES, X. 199 

- and the end of his talk zs mischievous madness. A fool 14 
also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and 
what shall be after him, who can tell him? ‘The labour of :s 
the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth 
not how to go to the city. 

acquirit eundo”’ he is borne along on the swelling floods of his own 
declamatory fluency, and ends in what is ‘‘mischievous madness.” 
He commits himself to statements and conclusions which, in his calmer 
moments, he would have shrunk from. As has been said of such an 
orator or preacher, without plan or forethought, he ‘‘ goes forth, not 
knowing whither he goeth.” 

14. A fool also is full of words] Literally, multiplies words. 
The introduction of ‘‘a man” is not an idle pleonasm. The ‘‘man” 
is not the ‘‘ fool,” but the fool forgets the limitations of human know- 
ledge, as to what lies in the near future of his own life, or the more 
distant future that follows on his death, and speaks as if it all lay before 
him as an open scroll. The point of the maxim is like that with which 
we have become familiar in the region of political prediction in the 
words ‘‘ Don’t prophesy unless you know.” Boasting of this kind, as 
regards a man’s own future, finds its reproof, as in the wisdom of all 
ages, so especially in the teaching of Luke xii. 16—20; James iv. 

15. The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them] The 
word for ‘“‘labour” as in chap. i. 3; Gen. xli. 52; Job ili. 3, as with 
our word “travail,” carries with it the connotation of trouble as well as 
toil. He labours to no result, for he is destitute of common sense. 
Not to know ‘‘the way to the city” is clearly a proverbial phrase for 
the crassa ignorantia of the most patent facts of experience that lie 
within all men’s experience. If a man fails to see that, how will he 
fare in the difficulties which lead him as into the “ bye-ways” of life? 
We are reminded of the saying, attributed, if 1 remember rightly, to 
the Emperor Akbar that ‘‘ None but a fool is lost on a straight road,” 
or of Shakespeare’s ‘‘The ‘why’ is plain as way to parish Church” 
(As You Like It, 11. 7). 

he knoweth not how to go to the city] The words probably imply a 
reminiscence of a childhood not far from Jerusalem as ¢he city of which 
the proverb spoke. Isaiah’s description of the road to the restored 
Jerusalem as being such that ‘‘the wayfaring men, though fools, shall 
not err therein” (Isai. xxxv. 8) supplies an interesting parallel. The 
ingenuity of interpreters has, however, read other meanings into the 
simple words and ‘‘the city” has been taken (1) for the city’s ways 
and customs, its policy and intrigue which the “fool” does not under- 
stand, (2) for the city of God, the new Jerusalem, or some ideal city of 
the wise, while (3) some, more eccentric than their fellows, have seen in 
it a hit at the Essenes who, like the Rechabites (Jer. xxxv. 7), shunned 
the life of cities and dwelt in the desert country by the Dead Sea. 

200 ECCLESIASTES, X. [vv. 16, 17. 

16 Woe to thee, O land, when thy king zs a child, and thy 
17 princes eat in the morning. Blessed ar¢ thou, O land, 

Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child] The gnomic temper 
which we have seen in verse 7 still continues, and passes from the weak- 
nesses of subjects and popular leaders to those of rulers. It is, of course, 
probable that the writer had a specific instance in his thoughts, but as 
the Hebrew word for ‘‘child” has a wide range including any age from 
infancy (Ex. ii. 6; Judg. xiii. 5) to manhood (Gen. xxxiv. 19; 1 Kings iii. 
7), it is not easy to fix the reference. In Isai. iii. 12 a like word appears 
to be used of Ahaz. The old school of interpreters saw in it Solomon’s 
prophetic foresight of the folly of Rehoboam (1 Kings xii. 1—11). One 
commentator (Hitzig) connects it, with some plausibility, with the reign 
of Ptolemy Epiphanes who was but fifteen years of age on his father’s 
accession to the throne (Justin xxx. 2) and whose government, as 
described by Justin (‘‘¢ribunatus, prefecturas et ducatus mulieres ordina- 
dant”) resembled that painted by Isaiah (iii. 12), the queen mother 
Agathoclea (see Note on ch. vii. 26) and her brother being the real 
rulers. Gratz, adapting the words to his theory of the date of the book 
takes the word child as=servant, and refers it to the ignoble origin of 
Herod the Great. 

thy princes eat tn the morning] The word “eat” is, of course, 
equivalent to ‘‘ feast ”’ or ‘‘ banquet,” and the kind of life condemned is 
the profligate luxury which begins the day with revels, instead of giving 
the morning hours to “sitting in the gate” and doing justice and judg- 
ment. Morning revelling was looked upon naturally as the extreme of 
profligacy. So St Peter repudiates the charge of drunkenness on the 
ground that it was but ‘the third hour of the day” z.¢. 9 A.M. (Acts 
li. 15). So Cicero (Philipp. 11. 41) emphasizes the fact ‘ab horé tertid 
bibebatur.” So Catullus (XLVII. 5) 

“*Vos convivia lauta sumtuose 
De die facitis.” 

“Ye from daybreak onward make 
Your sumptuous feasts and revelry.” 

So Juvenal (Sat. 1. 49) ‘‘Exsul ab octavd Marius bibit” (*In exile 
Marius from the eighth hour drinks”). So Isaiah (v. 11) utters his woe 
against those that ‘‘rise up early in the morning that they may follow 
strong drink,” 

17. Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles] The 
epithet has been taken as instance of the Hebrew of expressing cha- 
racter by the phrase ‘‘the son of...,” and hence as having a meaning 
here like that of the Latin generosus. Probably, however, the maxim 
reflects the thought of Greek political writers that they ‘‘are truly 
noble who can point to ancestors distinguished for both excellence and 
wealth” (Aristot. Polit. v.17) that if there were any one family with 
an hereditary character for excellence, it was just that it should be 
recognised as kingly, and that the king should be chosen from it (Zoid. 
III, 16), Such, the writer may have meant covertly to imply, ought a 

vv. 18, 19.] ECCLESIASTES, X: 201 

when thy king zs the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in 
due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness. 

By much slothfulness the building decayeth ; and through 
idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. 

A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: 
but money answereth all ¢hzngs. 

true descendant of the Ptolemies to have been instead of sinking into a 
degenerate profligacy. 

thy princes eat tn due season) The word ‘‘season” reminds us of the 
sense in which in chap. iii. 1—8 it is said that every thing, feasting 
included, has its proper “time.” In the case supposed the character 
of the king is reflected in the princes that rule under him. The words 
‘for strength” may, perhaps, mean ‘‘in strength,” z.¢. with the self- 
control of temperance, the éyxparefa of Greek ethics, and not in the 
drunkenness which accompanies the morning revels. 

18. Ly much slothfulness the building decayeth)] The maxim, though 
generalised in form, and applicable to every form of the evil which it 
condemns, may fairly be contemplated, in relation to its context, as 
having a political bearing. There, /azssez-faire, the policy of indolent 
procrastination, may be as fatal to the good government and prosperity 
of a state as the most reckless profligacy. The figure is singularly apt. 
The fabric of a state, like that of the house (Amos ix. 11), needs from 
time to time to be surveyed and repaired. ‘‘Time,” as Bacon has said, 
‘alters all things” (houses of both kinds included) ‘‘for the worse.” ‘The 
timber framework of the house decays.” The decay may be hidden 
at first (this seems the point implied in the relation of the two parts of 
the proverb) but the latent cause soon shews itself in a very patent 
effect, ‘‘The house lets in the rain,” there is the ‘‘continual dropping,” 
the ‘‘drip, drip, drip,” which, to the householder seeking comfort, is the 
type of all extremest discomfort (Prov. xix. 13). Delitzsch quotes 
a curious Arab proverb that “‘there are three things that make a house 
intolerable, rain leaking through the roof, an ill-tempered wife, and the 
cimex lectularius.” So is it with the state. The timbers are the funda- 
mental Jaws or principles by which its fabric is supported. Corruption 
or discord (the ‘‘beginning of strife” which is ‘‘as when one letteth 
out of water,” Prov. xvii. 14) is the visible token that these are worm- 
eaten and decayed through long neglect. y 

19. money answereth all things| The maxim as it stands in the 
English Version, has a somewhat cynical ring, reminding us only too 
closely of the counsel condemned by the Roman satirist, 

*°O cives, cives, queerenda pecunia primum est; 
Virtus post nummos.” 

‘‘Money, my townsmen, must be sought for first ; 
Virtue comes after guineas,” 




202 ECCLESIASTES, X. [v. 20. 

20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse 

“‘Isne tibi melius suadet, qui rem facias; rem, “s 
Si possis, recte; si non, quocunque modo rem? 

“Does he give better counsel whom we hear, 
‘Make money, money; justly if you can, 
But if not, then in any way, make money?’” 

Hor. Zf#. I. 1. 53, 65. 

So Menander (quoted by Delitzsch) ‘‘Silver and gold—these are the 
Gods who profit most. If these are in thy house pray for what thou 
wilt and it shall be thine,” and Horace: 

‘“‘Scilicet uxorem cum dote, fidemque, et amicos, 
Et genus, et formam, regina pecunia donat; 
Ac bene nummatum decorat Suadela Venusque.” 

**Seek’st thou a dowried wife, or friends, or trust, 
Beauty or rank, Queen Money gives thee all; 
Put money in thy purse, and thou shalt lack 
Nor suasive power nor comeliness of form.” 
Epp. 1. 6. 36—38. 

The truer rendering of the Hebrew, however, gives not so much a 
maxim as the statement of a fact and is entirely in harmony with the pre- 
ceding verses. For revelry they (z.c. ‘‘man,” indefinitely) prepare food 
(literally, bread) and wine that rejoices life, and money answereth 
all things, z.e. meets all they want. The words obviously point to the 
conduct of the luxurious and slothful princes condemned in verses 16, 
18. Regardless of their duty as rulers and of the sufferings of their 
people, they aim only at self-indulgence and they look to money, how- 
ever gained, as the means of satisfying their desires. So, in our own 
times, Armenians or Fellaheen may die by thousands of famine or 
pestilence, but the palaces of the Sultan and the Khedive are as full 
of luxury and magnificence as ever. The State may be bankrupt and 
creditors unpaid, but they manage somehow to get what they want. 
The money which they squeeze out from a starving province is for 
them as the God they worship who grants all they wish. 

20. Curse not the king, no not in thy thought] The words paint, as 
from a painful experience, the all-pervading espionage, which, as in the 
delatores of the Roman Empire, associates itself naturally with the 
police of a despotic government. The wise man must recognise that 
espionage as a fact and gives his counsel accordingly, but it is not the 
less clear that the counsel itself conveys, in its grave irony, a condem- 
nation of the practice. It may be noted that the addition of “curse not 
the rich” makes the irony clearer, and takes the maxim out of the hands 
of those who would read in it the serious condemnation of all indepen- 
dence of thought and speech in face of the “‘right divine of kings to 
govern wrong.” For the purposes of the teacher, in the maxims in 
which the irony of indignation veils itself in the garb of a servile 
prudence, the rich man and the king stand on the same level. 

v. 20.] BCCEESTASTES,) X. 203 

not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall 
carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the 

in thy bedchamber| This is, asin 2 Kings vi. 12, like the ‘‘closet” 
of Matt. vi. 6, proverbial for the extremest retirement. 

a bird of the air shall carry the voice] The figure is so natural, 
answering to the ‘‘walls have ears” of the Rabbinic, German, English 
proverbs, that any more special reference scarcely need to be sought 
for, but it is interesting to note the close parallel :presented by the 
familiar Greek proverb of ‘the cranes of Ibycos.” For the reader 
who does not know the story it may be well to tell it. Ibycos was a 
lyric poet of Rhegium, circ. B.c. 540, He was murdered by robbers 
near Corinth and, as he died, called on a flock of cranes that chanced 
to fly over him, to avenge his death. His murderers went with their 
plunder to Corinth, and mingled with the crowd in the theatre. It 
chanced that the cranes appeared and hovered over the heads of the 
spectators, and one of the murderers betrayed himself by the terror- 
stricken cry ‘‘ Behold the avengers of Ibycos!” (Suidas “ISvxos. Apollon. 
Sidon in the Anthol. Graec. B. vil. 745, ed. Tauchnitz). Suggestive 
parallels are also found in Greek comedy. 

ovdels oldev Tov Onoavpdy Tov émov 
Try el tis dp opus. 

‘‘No one knows of my treasure, save, it may be, a bird.” 
ARISTOPH. irds, 575. 

4 Kopwvn pol madac 
dyw Te ppager 

‘‘Long since the raven tells me from on high.” 
ARISTOPH. Birds, 50. 

Possibly, however, the words may refer to the employment of carrier 
pigeons in the police espionage of despots. Their use goes back to a 
remote antiquity and is at least as old as Anacreon’s *‘Ode to a pigeon.” 
The pigeon speaks: 

*Eyo@ & Avaxpéovre 

Ataxovw Tocatra, 

Kal viv épas éxelvov 

*EmioroAds Kouliw. 

‘“Now I render service due 
To Anacreon, Master true, 
And I bear his billets-doux.” 

Frequently they were employed to keep up communication between 

enerals, as in the case of Brutus and Hirtius at the battle of Mutina. 
“ What availed it,” says Pliny, in words that coincide almost verbally 
with the text (Hist. Vat. x. 37), ‘‘that nets were stretched across the river 
while the messenger was cleaving the air” (‘‘per calum eunte nuntio”’). 



11 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it 


1. Cast thy bread upon the waters| The book, as it draws nearer to 
its close, becomes more and more enigmatic, and each single verse is as 
a parable and dark saying, It is not to be wondered at, in such a case, 
that interpreters should, after their nature, read their own thoughts 
between the lines and so ‘‘find what they have sought.” This precept 
accordingly has been taken by some commentators (e¢.¢. Gratz) as recom- 
mending an unrestrained licentiousness. By others it has been raised 
almost to the level of the counsel which bids us ‘‘do good, hoping for 
nothing again, even to the unthankful and the evil” (Matt. v. 44—46; 
Luke vi. 32—35). The latter is, it need hardly be said, infinitely more 
in accordance with the context and with the conclusion to which the 
writer is drawing near. Here again we find guidance in the parallelism 
of Greek thought. As Lowth pointed out (De Sac. Poes. Heb. x.) the 
words refer to the Greek proverbial phrase o7elpe éml révrw (‘to sow 
in the ocean”) as indicating a thankless labour. So Theognis, Vv. 105, 

Acthods 8 ev epdovre paraordry xdpis ecru, 
“Ioov yap ometpew mévrov ddos monys. 

Ovre ydp avy mévrov omelowy Babd Ajiov duds, 
Ovre xaxods €5 Spay eb madw avTiAdBows. 

‘Vain is thy bounty, giving to the base, 
Like scattering seed upon the salt sea’s plain; 
Sowing the sea, thou shalt no harvest reap, 
Nor, giving to the vile, reward shalt gain,” 

Other parallels are found (1) in the Aramaic version of the proverbs of 
Sirach ‘‘Cast thy bread upon the water and the land, and at last thou 
shalt find it again” (Dukes, Radbdin. Blumenl. p. 73). (2) In an 
Arabic proverb, the moral of a long legend narrating how Mohammed 
the son of Hassan had been in the daily habit of throwing loaves into 
a river, how the life of an adopted son of the Caliph Mutewekjil, who 
had narrowly escaped drowning by clambering to a rock, was thus pre- 
served, and how Mohammed saw in this a proof of the proverb he had 
learnt in his youth ‘‘Do good; cast thy bread upon the waters, and one 
day thou shall be rewarded” (Diez, Denkwtirdigheiten von Asien, I. p. 
106, quoted by Dukes, w¢ supra). (3) In a Turkish proverb, also quoted 
by Dukes from Diez, ‘‘Do good, cast thy bread upon the water. If the 
fish know it not, yet the Creator knows.” 

The writer holds himself aloof from the selfish prudence of the 
maxim of Theognis, and bids men not to be afraid ‘‘to cast their bread 
(the generic term stands for ‘‘corn,” as in Gen. xli. 543 Isai. xxviii. 
28) even upon the face of the thankless waters.” Sooner or later they 
shall reap as they have sown, Comp. 2 Cor. ix. 6—r0. It is not 
without interest to note that this interpretation is adopted by Voltaire 
in his Préis de [ Ecclesiaste, 

v. 2.] ECCLESIASTES, XI. 208 

after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to2 
eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the 

**Répandez vos bienfaits avec magnificence, 
Méme aux moins vertueux ne les refusez pas.” 

Other interpretations may be briefly noted, but have not much to 
commend them: (r) that the figure is drawn from agriculture, and that 
the corn is to be sown in a well irrigated field, but this gives a mean- 
ing precisely the opposite of the true one; (2) that it is drawn from 
commerce and commends a venturous spirit of enterprise like that of 
exporting corn, which is certain to bring profit in the long run; but this 
again, unless we make the venture one of benevolence, is foreign to the 
spirit of the context; (3) that it speaks of throwing cakes of bread upon 
the water, that float away and seem to be wasted; but this, though leading 
to the same result as the interpretation here adopted, and having the 
support of the Arab legend quoted above, lacks the point of the refer- 
ence to the Greek proverb ; (4) last and basest, the imagination of one 
interpreter mentioned above that the precept sanctions a boundless 
sensual indulgence. 

2. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight) ‘The precept is 
clearly a pendant to verse 1 and has received the same variety of inter- 
pretations. Following the same line of thought as before, we find in 
it the counsel to give freely as opportunities present themselves. The 
combination of ‘‘to seven and also to eight,” is, like that of ‘*six and 
seven” in Job v. 19, of ‘‘three and four” in Amos i. ii., like the 
‘© seventy times seven” of Matt. xviii. 22, a Hebrew form of the definite 
for the indefinite. ‘There is, in our acts of kindness, to be no grudging 
narrowness. In such things 

‘Kind heaven disdains the lore 
Of nicely calculated less or more.” 

And the reason given fits in with the counsel, ‘‘Thou knowest not 
what evil shall be on earth.” ‘‘Hard times may come, when thou shalt 
have no means for giving; therefore waste not the present opportunity. 
Help those to whom thou givest to meet the hazards of the uncertain 
future.” Here again men interpret according to their character, and so, 
we have, as before, the licentious moralist finding a plea for unlimited 
voluptuousness, while the prudential adviser sees in the precept, which 
he renders ‘‘ Divide the portion into seven, yea eight parts,” a caution 
like that which led Jacob to divide his caravan into two portions for 
the sake of safety (Gen. xxxii. 7,8). Taken in this last sense the precept 
stands on a level with the current saying of the Stock Exchange that it 
isn’t wise to ‘‘ put all your eggs into one basket,” with the ‘‘ hedging ” of 
those who bet on more than one horse at the Derby and other races. 
It may well be left to the student to decide which of these interpre- 
tations has most to commend it. 

It may be admitted, however, as it is the enigmatic form of the 

precept which has given rise to these discordant views as to its meaning, 



206 ECCLESIASTES, XI. [vv. 3—5. 

earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves 
upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or 
toward the north, zz the place where the tree falleth, there 
it shall be. He that observeth the wind shall not sow ; and 
he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou know- 
est not what zs the way of the spirit, zor how the bones do 

that the grave irony of the writer, which we have already traced in 
ch. x. 4, 20 may have led him to adopt that form because it served as a 
test of character, each scholar finding what he sought. Here also it 
might be added ‘‘ Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. xiii. 9). 

8. Lf the clouds be full of rain] The thought is linked to that 
which precedes it by the mention of the “evil coming upon the earth.” 
In regard to that evil, the sweeping calamities that lie beyond man’s 
control, he is as powerless as he is when the black clouds gather and 
the winds rush wildly. He knows only that the clouds will pour down 
their rain, that the tree will lie as the tempest has blown it down. 
Is he therefore to pause, and hesitate and stand still, indulging the 

“over exquisite 
To cast the fashion of uncertain evils”? 

That question is answered in the next verse. It may be noted, as an 
illustration of the way in which the after-thoughts of theology have 
worked their way into the interpretation of Scripture, that the latter 
clause has been expounded as meaning that the state in which men 
chance to be when death comes on them is unalterable, that there is 
“no repentance in the grave.” So far as it expresses the general truth 
that our efforts to alter the character of others for the better must cease 
when the man dies, that when the tree falls to south or north, towards 
the region of light or that of darkness, we, who are still on earth, cannot 
prune, or dig about, or dung it (Luke xiii. 8), the inference may be 
legitimate enough, but it is clear that it is not that thought which was 
prominent in the mind of the writer. 

4. Le that observeth the wind shall not sow] This is, as has been 
said above, the answer to the question suggested in verse 3. Our 
ignorance of the future is not to put a stop to action. If we allowed 
that *‘taking thought for the morrow” (Matt. vi. 2 5) to hinder us from 
doing good, we should be as the husbandman who is always observing 
the clouds and lets the time of sowing pass by ; who when harvest 
comes, watches the wind as it blows round him, till ‘the harvest is 
past, and the summer ended ” (Jer. viii. 20) and he can no longer reap. 
The very watching for opportunities may end in missing them. There 
are times when it is our wisdom to “be instant owt of season ” (2 Tim. 
iv. 2). 

= As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit) The Hebrew 
word for ‘‘spirit” has also the meaning of ‘‘wind” as in the verse 
immediately preceding, and this has led many commentators (as with 
the corresponding Greek word in John iii. 8) to prefer that meaning, 

v. 6] ECCLESIASTES, XI. 207 

grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou 
knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In thes 
morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not 

here. Two different examples of man’s ignorance of the processes of the 
common phenomena of nature are adduced on this view as analogous 
to his ignorance of the ‘‘work of God,” of what we call the Divine 
Government of the Universe. It may be questioned however whether, 
both here and in John iii. 8, a more adequate meaning is not given by 
retaining the idea of “spirit” as the ‘breath of life” of Gen. ii. 7. 
The growth of the human embryo was for the early observers of nature 
an impenetrable mystery (Job x. 11; Ps. cxxxix. 13—17). It became 
yet more mysterious when men thought of life, with all its phenomena 
of sensation and consciousness entering into the material structure thus 
‘*fearfully and wonderfully made.” This sense of the word agrees it 
will be seen, with its use in chaps. iii. 21, xii. 7. The word ‘‘nor” has 
nothing answering to it in the Hebrew and the sentence should run 
thus, describing not two distinct phenomena but one complex fact, ‘‘as 
thou knowest not the way of the spirit (the breath of life) how the 
framework of the body (literally the bones, but the word is used 
commonly for the whole body as in Lam. iv. 73; Job vii. 15; Prov. 
Xv. 30, xvi. 24 and elsewhere) is in the womb of her that is with 

the works of God who maketh all] So in ch. vii. 13, we had 
** Consider the work of God.” Here the addition of ‘‘ who maketh 
all” indicates a higher stage of faith. That ‘‘ never-failing Providence 
orders all things both in heaven and earth.” The agnosticism of the 
Debater is, like that of Hooker (Zcc/. Pol. 1. 2. § 3), the utterance of a 
devout Theism, content to keep within the limits of the Knowable, but 
not placing the object of its adoration in the category of the Unknown 
and Unknowable. 

6. Ln the morning sow thy seed] Once again the enigmatic form, 
as in verse 2, is the touchstone of interpreters. It has been held to 
mean (1) that men are to seek sensual pleasures not in the morning 
of their youth only, but in the eventide of age, not to be afraid of 
begetting children, in or out of wedlock, in any period of their life; or 
(2) that man is to work, as we say, early and late, doing his appointed 
task, regardless of the chances of life; or (3) with a more specific 
application of the same general principle, that he is to sow the seed 
of good and kindly deeds, and wait for the harvest, the prospect of 
which is hidden from him. Of these (3) seems every way the truest 
and most satisfying interpretation. In ‘‘ withdraw not thy hand,” 
and in the use of the two demonstrative pronouns (in the Hebrew, 
however, the same pronoun is repeated, this or this), we have a 
parallel to the thought and language of ch. vii. 18. The whole precept 
is a call to activity in good, not unlike that of Him who said “‘I must 
work the works of Him that sent me, while it is called to day: the night 
cometh, when no man can work” (John ix. 4); who taught men to 
labour in the vineyard, even though they were not called to begin 

208 ECCLESIASTES, XI. [vv. 7, 8 

thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, 

either this or that, or whether they both shad/ de alike good. 
7 Truly the light zs sweet, and a pleasant ching zt is for the 
s eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and 

their work till the eleventh hour when it was ‘‘ toward evening, and the 
day far spent” (Matt. xx. 1—16). 

thou knowest not whether shall prosper| The ignorance of men as 
to the results of their labour, still more the apparent or the actual 
failure of their earlier efforts, tempts them too often to despondency 
and indolence. The maxim, like that of verse 6, bids them take 
comfort from that very ignorance. The seed sown in the morning 
of life may bear its harvest at once, or not till the evening of age. 
The man may reap at one and the same time the fruits of his earlier 
and his later sowing, and may find that ‘‘ both are alike good.” 

7. Truly the light is sweet) Better, And the light is sweet. 
The conjunction is simply the usual copulative particle. The word for 
““sweet” is that used of honey in Judg. xiv. 14; of the honeycomb 
in Prov. xxiv. 13. The pessimism of the thinker is passing away under 
the sunshine of the wiser plan of life in which he at last finds guidance. 
Life may after all, rightly ordered, be pleasant and comely, not without 
the ‘sweetness and light” on which the modern preachers of wisdom 
Jay stress. A remarkable parallel to the form of the maxim (quoted by 
Ginsburg) is found in Euripides: 

My « daodéons dwpov' 75d yap rd pbs 
Nevooev, TU SO bd yhv wh pw’ lbciv dvayKdons. 

‘“Destroy me not before my youth is ripe: 
For pleasant sure it is to see the sun; 
Compel me not to see what lies below.” 
Iphig. in Aul. 1219. 
So Theognis contemplating death: 

kelooua wore AlOos 
apboyyos, AckWyw 8 epardv dos HeAloto. 

‘Then shall I lie, as voiceless as a stone, 
And see no more the loved light of the sun.” 

The use of the phrase “seeing the sun” for living, may be noted 
as essentially Hellenic in its tone. So we have again ‘‘seeing the 
light of the sun” for ‘‘living”’ in Eurip. Aipfol. 4. 

8. But if a man live many years...) Better, For if a man... The 
relation is one of connexion rather than contrast. In the calm, 
enjoyable because beneficent, life which the thinker now contemplates 
as withim his reach, the remembrance of the darkness which lies beyond 
is to be a motive, not for a fretful pessimism, but for a deliberate 
effort to enjoy rightly. The figure of a corpse which was carried 
about in the banquets of the Egyptians was intended not to destroy» 
or damp the joy, but to make it more lasting by making it more 

v. 8.] ECCLESIASTES, XI. 209 

rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of dark- 
ness ; for they shall be many. All that cometh zs vanity. 

controlled (Herod. 1. 78). The teaching now is something more 
than the ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die” of the sensualist 
(Wisd. ii. 1—6; 1 Cor. xv. 32). ‘‘Respice finem; Memento mori,” 
these rules teach us to use life wisely and therefore well. 
let him remember the days of darkness] These are clearly not the 
days of sorrow or adversity (though the phrase as such might admit 
that meaning), but those of the darkness which is contrasted with the 
light of the sun, with the light of life, the land that lies behind the 
veil, in the unseen world of Hades or of Sheol, the darkness of the 
valley of the shadow of death. As the Greeks spoke of the dead as of 
mheloves ‘the many,” so does the writer speak of the days after death 
_as ‘‘many.” The night will be long and dreary, therefore it is well to 
make the most of the day. The teaching of the whole verse finds, as 
might be expected, an echo in that of the Epicurean poet, when he 
greets his friend on the return of spring, but the echo is in a lower key. 

Nunc decet aut viridi nitidum caput impedire myrto 
Aut flore, terree quem ferunt solute, 
* * * * * * * 

Pallida Mors zequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas 
Regumque turres. O beate Sexti, 

Vitze summa brevis spem nos vetat inchoare longam, 
Jam te premet nox, fabulzeque Manes 

Et domus exilis Plutonia, 

‘Now is it meet to crown bright brow 
With wreaths of fresh green myrtle; now, 
With flowers that owe their timely birth 
To spring’s soft influence o’er the earth. 

With equal foot the pauper’s cell 
Death visits, and where emperors dwell, 
Wherefore my Sextus, good and dear, 
Life’s little span forbids us here 
To start, if we indeed are wise, 
On some far-reaching enterprise: 
Soon Night and fabled forms of dread, 
Where Pluto lords it o’er the dead, 
Shall meet thee in thy narrow bed.” 
Hor. Od. I. 4. 

All that cometh is vanity] There is a significance in the new form 
of the burden of the Debater’s song. The sentence of ‘‘ vanity,” 2.e. of 
shadowy transitoriness, is passed not only on the years in which he 
is, in a measure, capable of enjoyment, and on the days of darkness, 
but even on that which lies beyond them. The unknown future—the 
undiscovered country—it was, from the point of view from which, for 


210 ECCLESIASTES, XI. [v. 9. 


Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart 

the time, he looked at it, ‘‘ vanity” to build too much even on that. 
Men speculated much and knew but little, and there was an unreality 
in sacrificing the present to that undefined future. What has been 
called ‘other-worldliness,” involving the contempt at once of the 
duties and enjoyments of this world, was but a form of unwisdom. 
Asceticism, looking to that other world, needed to be balanced by 
the better form of Epicureanism. 

9. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth) Strictly speaking, as 
the beginning of the end, the opening of the fizale of the book, these 
should be read in close connexion with chap. xii. The Debater turns 
with his closing counsel to the young. That counsel, like the rest 
of the book, has been very variously interpreted. (1) Men have seen 
in it the stern irony of the ascetic, killing the power of rejoicing in 
the very act of bidding men rejoice, holding before the young man 
the terrors of the Lord, the fires of Gehenna. Coarsely paraphrased, 
the counsel so given is practically this, ‘‘ Follow your desires, take 
your fling, sow your wild oats, go forth on the voyage of life, ‘youth 
at the prow and pleasure at the helm,’ but know that all this, the 
‘primrose path of dalliance,’ ends in Hell and its eternal fires.” It is 
not without significance, from this point of view, that the counsel given 
is almost in direct contradiction to the words of the Law, brought, we 
may believe, into notice by the growing stress laid on the use of phylac- 
teries, on which those words were written, which warned men that they 
should not ‘ seek after their own heart and their own eyes” (Num. xv. 
39). (2) Men have also seen in it the unchastened counsel of the lowest 
form of Epicureanism, ‘‘ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. 
Leave no desire ungratified, seek the maximum of intense enjoy- 
ment, crowd the sensations of a life-time into a few short years.” 
(3) Even the closing words have, by a strange ingenuity, been turned 
into a protest against asceticism. ‘‘God will judge you, if you slight 
His gifts. Self-denial is for Him no acceptable service. He rejoices 
in your joy, will punish the gloomy Pharisee or Essene who morti- 
fies the flesh, by leaving him to his self-inflicted tortures.” Once 
again men have looked at the shield on its gold or its silver side: and 
the Truth is found in seeing it on both. Once again we may recognise 
the method of one who spoke gwyjevra cuvérorw (*‘ full of meaning 
to those who have eyes to see”), and uttered his precepts with a double 
sense as a test of the character of those who heard or read them. 
The true purport of the words seems to be as follows. After 
the manner of chs. ii. 24, iii. 12, 22, v. 18, ix. 7, the Debater 
falls back on the fact that life is after all worth living, that it is wise 
to cultivate the faculty of enjoyment in the season when that faculty 
is, in most cases, as by a law of nature, strong and capable of being 
fashioned into a habit. So moralists in our own time, preachers 
of ‘sweetness and light,” have contrasted the gloomy plodding Phi- 
listinism or Puritanism of the English as a people, ‘‘guz s’amusent 
moult (=bien) tristement” (Froissart), with the brightness and gaiety 

v. 9.] ECCLESIASTES, XI. 211 

cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of 
thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, 

of the French, and have urged us to learn wisdom from the comparison. 
In good faith he tells the young man to “rejoice in his youth,” to 
study the bent of his character, what we should call his esthetic tastes, 
but all this is not to be the reckless indulgence of each sensuous 
impulse, but to be subject to the thought ‘‘God will bring thee into 
judgment.” What the judgment may be the Debater does not define. 
It may come in the physical suffering, the disease, or the poverty, or 
the shame, that are the portion of the drunkard and the sensualist. 
It may come in the pangs of self-reproach, and the memory of the 
“mala mentis gaudia.” ‘*The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices 
make whips to scourge us.” _It is singularly significant to find an echo 
of the precept so given in the teaching of the great Poet of the more 
atheistic type of Epicureanism, obliged, as in spite of himself, to re- 
cognise the fact of a moral order in the world: 

‘Inde metus maculat pcenarum preemia vitee. 
Circumretit enim vis atque injuria quemque, 
Atque, unde exorta est, ad eum plerumque revertit; 
Nec facile est placidam ac pacatam degere vitam, 
Qui violat facteis communia fcedera pacis. 
Etsi fallit enim divom genus humanumque, 
Perpetuo tamen id fore clam diffidere debet.” 

“Fence fear of vengeance life’s best prizes mars; 
For violence and wrong take him who works them, 
As in a net, and to their source return. 
Nor is it easy found for him who breaks 
By deeds the common covenants of peace 
To lead a placid and a peaceful life. 
For grant he cheat the gods and all mankind, 
He cannot hope the evil done will be 
For ever secret.” 
Lucr. De Rer. Nat. V. 1151. 

Did the judgment of which the thinker speaks go beyond this ? That 
question also has been variously answered. The Debater, it is obvious, 
does not draw the pictures of the Tartarus and Elysian Fields of the 
Greek, or of the Gehenna and the Paradise of which his countrymen 
were learning to speak, it may be, all too lightly. He will not map out 
a country he has not seen. But the facts on which he dwells, the life of 
ignoble pleasure, or tyranny, or fraud carried on successfully to the last, the 
unequal distribution of the pleasures and the pains of life, the obvious 
retort on the part of the evil-doer that if this life were all, men could 
take their fill of pleasure and evade the judgment of man, or the 
misery of self-made reproach and failure, by suicide, all this leads to 
the conclusion that the ‘‘judgment” which the young man is to 
remember is ‘‘ exceeding broad,” stretching far into the unseen future 


212 ECCLESIASTES, XI. XII. [vv. 10; I. 

Oe a ee 

that for all these ¢hings God will bring thee into judgment. 

vo Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil 
from thy flesh: for childhood and youth ave vanity. 

12 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, 

while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when 

of the eternal years. Faith at last comes in where Reason fails, and 
the man is bidden to‘remember, in all the flush of life and joy, that 
“judgment” comes at last, if not in man’s present stage of being, yet 
in the great hereafter. 

10. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart] The two clauses 
recognise the two conditions of happiness so far as happiness is attain- 
able by man on earth. ‘‘ Sorrow,” better perhaps, discontent or 
vexation, is by a deliberate effort to be put away from our ‘‘ heart,” 
z.e. from our mind. We are not to look on the dark side of things, 
but to cultivate cheerfulness, to be ‘‘content” (adrdpxns) with whatever 
life brings us (Phil. iv. 11). And the“ flesh” too has its claims which 
may legitimately be recognised. We need not vex it with the self- 
inflicted tortures of the ascetic, but, in a sense as far as possible 
different from ‘the rehabilitation of the flesh” which has been made 
the plea for an unrivalled sensuality, consider and meet its capacities 
for pure and innocent enjoyment. 

childhood and youth are vanity] The Hebrew word for “ youth” is 
an unusual one and is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament. It has 
been differently explained: (1) as the dawn or morning of life, the period 
of its brightness; and (2) as the time when the hair is black as con- 
trasted with the grey hair of age. Of these (1) seems preferable. The 
prominent idea of ‘‘vanity” here is that of transitoriness. The morning 
will not last. wise to use it while we can. 


1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth| The word 
for ‘Creator’ is strictly the participle of the verb which is translated 
‘‘create” in Gen. i. 1, 21, 27, and as a Divine Name is exceptionally 
rare, occurring only here and in Isai. xl. 23, xliv. 15. It is plural in 
its form, as Elohim (the word for God) is plural, as the ‘‘ Holy One” 
is plural in Prov. ix. 10, xxx. 3; Hos. xii. 1, as expressing the majesty 
of God. ‘The explanations which have been given of the words as 
meaning (1) *‘thy fountain” in the sense of Prov. v. 18, “ thy well- 
spring of sensuous joy,” or (2) ‘‘thy existence,” are scarcely tenable 
philologically, and are altogether at variance with the context. 

while the evil days come not) The description which follows forms 
in some respects the most difficult of all the enigmas of the Book. 
That it represents the decay.of old age, or of disease anticipating age, 
ending at last in death, lies beyond the shadow of a doubt; but the 
figurative language in which that decay is represented abounds in 
allusive references which were at the time full of meaning for those 

v. 2.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 213 

thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, 2 
or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor 

that had ears to hear, but which now present. riddles which it is not 
easy to solve. Briefly, the two chief lines on which commentators have 
travelled have been (1) that which starts as in the comment of Gregory 
Thaumaturgus (see /troduction, ch. Vit.) from the idea of the approach 
of death as the on-coming of a storm; (2) that which assumes that 
we have as it were a diagnosis of the physical phenomena of old age 
and its infirmities, and loses itself in discussions as to what bodily 
organ, heart, brain, liver, gall-duct, or the like, is specially in the 
author’s mind. It will be seen, as the imagery comes before us in 
detail, how far either solution is satisfactory, how far they admit of 
being combined, or what other, if any, presents itself with stronger 
claims on our attention. 

The ‘evil days” are those which are painted in the verses that follow, 
not necessarily the special forms of evil that come as the punishment 
of sensual sins, but the inevitable accompaniment of declining years or 
of disease. There is the implied warning that unless a man has 
remembered his Creator in his youth, it will not then be easy to 
remember Him as for the first time in the “‘evil days” of age or infirmity. 
In those days it will be emphatically true that there will be no pleasure 
in them. 

2. while the sun, or the light] The imagery falls in naturally with 
the thought that the approach of death is. represented by the gathering 
of a tempest. It does not follow, however, that this excludes the 
thought of a latent symbolism in detail as well as in the general idea. 
The thought that man was as a microcosm, and that each element in 
the universe had its analogue in his nature, was a familiar one to the 
Greek and Oriental mind, and was susceptible of many applications. So, 
to take an instance belonging to a different age or country, we find 
an Eastern poet thus writing, czvc. A.D. 1339, 

‘Of all that finds its being in the world 
Man in himself the symbol true may find. 
* * * = 

His body is as earth, and as the Heaven 

His head, with signs and wonders manifold, 

And the five senses shine therein as stars. ~ 

The Spirit, like the sun, pours light on all. 

The limbs, that bear the body’s burden up, 

Are as the hills that raise their height to heaven. 
Hair covers all his limbs, as grass the earth, 
And moisture flows, as flow the streams and brooks. 
So on the day when soul and body part, 

And from the body’s load the soul is freed, 
Then canst thou see the body all a-tremble, 

As earth shall tremble at the last great day; 
The Spirit with its senses fall away, 

As stars extinguished fall on earth below; 

214 ECCLESIASTES, XII. [v. 3. 
3 the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers 

The last death-sigh. with which the body dies 

Thrill through the bones, like tempest-blast and storm. 
As on that day the hills shall pass away, 

So does death’s storm break up our mortal frame. 

A sea of death-damps flows from every pore: 

Thou plungest in, and art as drowned therein: 

So is thy dying like the great world’s death; 

In life and death it is thy parallel.” 

From the Gulschen Ras of Mahmud, quoted in Tholuck’s Blithen- 
Sammlung aus der morgenlindischen Mystik, p. 213. 

It will be admitted that the parallelism is singularly striking and 
suggestive. With this clue to guide us we may admit all that has been 
urged by Umbreit, Ginsburg and others in favour of the ‘‘storm” inter- 
pretation and yet not reject the more detailed symbolic meaning of 
Jewish and other commentators. We may have the broad outline of 
the phenomena that precede a tempest, sun, moon and stars, hidden by 
the gathering blackness. A like imagery meets us as representing both 
personal and national calamity in Isai. xiii. 10; Jer. xv. 9; Amos viii. 9. 
The sun may be the Spirit, the Divine light of the body, the moon as 
the Reason that reflects that light, the stars as the senses that give but 
a dim light in the absence of sun and moon. The clouds that return 
after rain are the natural symbol of sorrows, cares, misfortunes, that 
obscure the shining of the inward light, perhaps of the showers of tears 
which they cause, but after which in the melancholy and gloom of 
age and weakness they too commonly ‘‘return.” The mere anato- 
mical interpretation which interprets the first four symbols as re- 
ferring to the eyes, the brow, the nose, the cheeks, and finds in the 
‘clouds after rain” the symptoms of the catarrh of old age, may be 
looked upon as a morbid outgrowth of prosaic fancy in men in whom 
the sense of true poetic imagination was extinct. 

8. in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble] ere, as 
before, there is a vivid picture which is also an allegory. The words 
represent (1) the effect of terror, such as that produced by tempest, or 
by earthquake, in the population of the city; and (2) the fact which 
corresponds to these in the breaking up of life. As in the previous 
verse the phenomena of the firmament answered to those of the higher 
region of man’s nature, so these represent the changes that pass over 
the parts of his bodily structure. Here accordingly the mode of inter- 
pretation which was rejected before becomes admissible. The error of 
the allegorizers was that they had not the discernment to see that the 
decay of mental powers would naturally take precedence of that of the 
bodily organs and that they would as naturally be symbolized by sun, 
moon and stars. The ‘‘keepers” or ‘‘watchers” of the houses are in 
the picture those who stand at the gate as sentinels or go round about 
the house to see that there are none approaching with the intention to 
attack. In the allegory they represent the legs which support the frame 
at rest or give it the power of movement. The trembling is that of the 


of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow 
themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, 

unsteady gait of age, perhaps even of paralysis. Not a few features 
in the picture seem to indicate experience rather than observation, and 
this fits in with the thought, suggested in the Zdeal Biography (Intro- 
duction, ch. I11.), of a form of creeping paralysis depriving one organ 
after another of its functional activity yet leaving the brain free to note 
the gradual decay of the whole organism. 

and the strong men shall bow themselves| As the previous clause 
painted the effect of terror on the slave sentinels of the house, so this 
represents its action on the men of might, the wealthy and the noble. 
They too cower in their panic before the advancing storm. Interpreting 
the parable, they are the symbol of the arms as man’s great instrument 
of action, They too, once strong to wield sword, or axe, to drive 
plough, or pen, become flaccid and feeble. The ‘‘hands that hang 
down” (Job iv. 3, 4; Isai. xxxv. 3; Heb. xii. 12) become the pro- 
verbial type of weakness as well as the ‘‘feeble knees.” It should be 
added that the allegorizing commentators for the most part invert the 
order of interpretation which has been here adopted, finding the arms 
in the ‘‘keepers” and the legs in the ‘‘strong man.” Something may, 
of course, be said for this view, but the balance of probabilities turns in 
favour of that here adopted. 

and the grinders cease because they are few] Both this noun and 
“they that look out” are in the feminine, and this determines their 
position in the picture. As we found slaves and nobles in the first half of 
the verse, so here we have women at the opposite extremes of social ranks. 
To ‘‘grind at the mill” was the type of the humblest form of female 
slave labour (Judg. xvi. 21; Isai. xlvii. 2; Exod. xi. 5; Job xxxi. 105 
Matt. xxiv. 41; Homer, Od. xx. 1038). To “‘look out of the windows” 
(i.e. the latticed openings, glazed windows being as yet unknown) was 
as naturally the occupation of the wealthy and luxurious women of the 
upper class. So the ladies of Sisera (Judg. v. 28), and Michal, Saul’s 
daughter (2 Sam. vi. 16), and the observing sage, or probably, Wisdom 
personified (Prov. vii. 6), and Jezebel (2 Kings ix. 30), and the kingly 
lover of the Shulamite (Song Sol. ii, 9) are all represented in this 

The interpretation of the parable is here not far to seek. The grinders 
(as the very term ‘‘molar” suggests) can be none other than the teeth, 
doing, as it were, their menial work of masticating food. They that 
look out of the windows can be none other than the eyes with their 
nobler function as organs of perception. So Cicero describes the eyes 
as “‘tanguam in arce collocati...tanguam speculatores altissimum locum 
obtinent.” ‘*Placed as in a citadel, like watchmen, they hold the 
highest places” (de Wat. Deor. 11. 140). The symbolism which thus 
draws, as it were, distinctions of dignity and honour between different 
parts of the body will remind a thoughtful student of the analogy on 
which St Paul lays stress in 1 Cor, xii. 12—26. Each member of 


,and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and 
the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of 

that analogy may, of course, thus be used as a symbol of the other. 
Here the gradations of society represent the organs of the body, and 
the Apostle inverts the comparison. 

4. and the doors shall be shut in the streets| The picture of the 
city under the terror of the storm is continued. The gates of all 
houses are closed. None leave their houses; the noise of the mill 
ceases. The bird (probably the crane or the swallow) rises in the 
air with sharp cries (literally, for a cry). Even the ‘‘daughters of 
song” (the birds that sing most sweetly, the nightingale or thrush, 
or possibly the ‘‘singing women” of ch. ii. 8, whose occupation 
is gone in a time of terror and dismay) crouch silently, or perhaps, 
chirp in a low tone. Few will dispute the vividness of the picture. 
The interpretation of the symbols becomes, however, more difficult 
than ever. The key is probably to be found in the thought that as we 
had the decay of bodily ovgams in the previous verse, so here we have 
that of bodily fusctions. The “doors” (the Hebrew is dual as represent- 
ing what we call ‘‘ folding doors”) are the apertures by which the life 
of processes of sensation and nutrition from its beginning to its end is 
carried on, and the failure of those processes in extreme age, or in the 
prostration of paralysis, is indicated by the ‘‘shutting” of the doors. 
‘What we may call the dual organs of the body, lips, eyes, ears, alike 
lose their old energies. The mill (a better rendering than ‘‘ grinding”’) 
is that which contains the ‘‘grinders” of verse 3, z.e. the mouth, by 
which that process begins, can no longer do its work of vocal utterance 
rightly. The words “the shall rise up at the voice of the bird” have 
for the most part been taken as describing the sleeplessness of age, the 
old man waking at a sparrow’s chirp, but this interpretation is open to 
the objections (1) that it abruptly introduces the old man as a personal 
subject in the sentence, while up to this point all has been figurative; 
and (2) that it makes the clause unmeaning in its relation to the picture 
of the terror-stricken city, below which we see that of the decay of 
man’s physical framework. Adopting the construction given above, we 
get that which answers to the ‘‘ childish treble” of the old man’s voice, 
and find a distinct parallel to it in the elegy of Hezekiah “Like a crane 
or a swallow, so did I chatter” (Isai. xxxviil. 14); the querulous moaning 
which in his case was the accompaniment of disease becoming, with the 
old or the paralysed, normal and continuous. The ‘daughters of song” 
are, according to the common Hebrew idiom, those that sing, birds 
or women, as the case may be. Here, their being ‘ brought low,” 
z.e. their withdrawal from the stage of life, may symbolise the failure 
either of the power to sing, or of the power to enjoy the song of others. 
The words of Barzillai in 2 Sam. xix. 35 paint the infirmities of age in 
nearly the same form, though in less figurative language. ‘Can thy 
servant taste what I eat or drink? Can I hear any more the voice of 
singing men or singing women?” The interpretations which find in 
the ‘‘daughters of song” either (1) the lips as employed in singing, or 

v. 4.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 217 

the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the 
bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low ; 

(2) the ears as drinking in the sounds of song, though each has found 
favour with many commentators, have less to commend them, and are 
open to the charge of introducing a needless and tame repetition of 
phenomena already described. 

With the picture of old age thus far we may compare that, almost 
cynical in its unsparing minuteness, of Juvenal Sat. X. 200—239. A 
few of the more striking parallels may be selected as examples : 

*‘Frangendus misero gingiva panis inermi.” 
.- “Bread must be broken for the toothless gums.” 

‘‘Non eadem vini, atque cibi, torpente palato, 

‘‘For the dulled palate wine and food have lost 

Their former savours.” 
‘¢ Adspice partis 

Nunc damnum alterius; nam que cantante voluptas, 
Sit licet eximius citharcedus, sitve Seleucus, 
Et quibus aurata mos est fulgere lacerna? 
Quid refert, magni sedeat qua parte theatri, 
Qui vix cornicines exaudiet, atque tubarum 

*‘ Now mark the loss of yet another sense: 
What pleasure now is his at voice of song. 
How choice soe’er the minstrel, artist famed, 
Or those who love to walk in golden robes? 
What matters where he sits in all the space 
Of the wide theatre, who scarce can hear 
The crash of horns and trumpets?” 

Or again 
‘¢T1le humero, hic lumbis, hic cox4 debilis; ambos 

Perdidit ille oculos, et luscis invidet ; hujus 

Pallida labra cibum accipiunt digitis alienis. 

Ipse ad conspectum ccenz diducere rictum 

Suetus, hiat tantim, ceu pullus hirundinis, ad quem 

Ore volat pleno mater jejuna.” 

‘Shoulders, loins, hip, each failing in its strength 
Now this man finds, now that, and one shall lose 
Both eyes, and envy those that boast but one.... 
And he who used, at sight of supper spread, 

To grin with wide-oped jaw, now feebly gapes, 
Like a young swallow, whom its mother bird 
Feeds from her mouth filled, though she fast herself.” 


218 ECCLESIASTES, XIT. [v. 5. 

also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and 
fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, 

5. also when they shall be afraid of that which is high| The 
description becomes more and more enigmatic, possibly, as some have 
thought, because the special forms of infirmity referred to called for a 
veil. The first clause, however, is fairly clear if we omit the interpolated 
“when.” They (the indefinite plural, with the force of the French om) 
shall be afraid of a height, or hill. The new form of the sentence, the 
opening words also, indicate that the picture of the storm has been com- 
pleted, and that symbolism of another kind comes in. We see, as it were, 
another slide in the magic lantern of the exhibiter. To be ‘afraid of 
a hill” expresses not merely or chiefly the failure of strength of limbs 
to climb mountains, but the temper that, as we say, makes ‘‘ mountains 
out of molehills,” which, like the slothful man of Prov. xxii. 13, sees. 
‘fa lion in the path.” There are ‘“‘fears in the way.” Imaginary terrors 
haunt the aged. Here again we have a parallel in Latin poetry; 

‘Multa senem circumveniunt incommoda; vel quod 
Querit et inventis miser abstinet, ac timet uti, 
Vel quéd res omnes timidé gelidéque ministrat.” 

‘*Many the troubles that attend the old; 
For either still he sets his mind on gains 
And dares not touch, and fears to use his gains, 
Or deals with all things as with chill of fear.” 
Horace, £f, ad Pis. 169—71. 

So Aristotle among the characteristics of age notes that the old are 
deol Kal ravra mpopoByrcxol (timid and in all things forecasting fears) 
(Ahez, 11. 23). The interpreters who carry the idea of a storm through 
the whole passage explain the passage: ‘‘ They (the people of the city) 
shall be afraid of that which is coming from on high,” ze. of the 
gathering storm-clouds, but for the reasons above given, that interpre- 
tation seems untenable, 

and the almond tree shall flourish] ‘The true meaning is to be found, 
it is believed, in the significance of the Hebrew name for almond tree 
(Sheked=the early waking tree, comp. Jerem. i. rz), and the enigmatic 
phrase describes the ¢somnia which often attends old age. The tree that 
flourishes there is the tree of Vigilantia or Wakefulness. As might be 
expected, the discordant interpretations of commentators multiply, and we 
may record, but only in order to reject them, the more notable of these. 
(rt) The almond blossoms represent the white hairs of age. Those 
blossoms are, however, pink and not white, and few persons would find a 
likeness in the two objects thus compared. (2) The verb rendered “shall 
flourish” has been derived from a root with the meaning ‘to loathe— 
scorn—reject,” and the sentence has been explained either (2) he 
(the old man) loathes the almond, z.¢. has no taste for dainties, or 
(3) turns away from the almond tree, z.e. has no welcome for the 
messenger of spring, or (4), with the same sense as (2), ‘‘the 

v. 5.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 219 

and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: 

almond causes loathing.” Anatomical expositors strain their fancies 
to find in the almond that which answers to (gs) the thigh bone, or (6) 
the vertebral column, or some other part of the body which age affects 
with weakness. Into the discussion what part best answers to the 
almond we need not follow them. 

and the grasshopper shall be a burden] The word translated “grass- 
hopper” is one of the many terms used, as in 2 Chron. vii. 13, for insects 
of the locust class, as in Lev. xi. 22; Num. xiii. 33; Isai. xl. 22, where the 
A.V. has “grasshopper.” It will be noted that in some of these passages 
(Num. xiii. 33; Isai. xl. 22) it plays the part of the ‘‘mustard seed” of 
the Gospel parable (Matt. xiii. 31) as the type of that which is the 
extreme of diminutiveness. And this we can scarcely doubt is its mean- 
ing here. ‘‘That which is least weighty is a burden to the timidity of 
age.” Assuming the writer to have come in contact with the forms of 
Greek life, the words may receive an illustration from its being the 
common practice of the Athenians to wear a golden grasshopper in their 
heads as the symbol of their being aztochthones, ‘‘sprung from the soil.” 
Such an ornament is to the old man more than he cares to carry, and 
becomes another symbol of his incapacity to support the least physical 
or mental burden. As before we note a wide variety of other, but, it is 
believed, less tenable, explanations. (1) The locust has been looked on 
as, like the almond, another dainty article of food, which the terror of the 
storm, or the loss of appetite in age, renders unattractive. Commonly 
indeed they are said to have been eaten only by the poor, but Aristotle 
(Hist. Anim. V. 30) names them as a delicacy, and the Arabs are said 
to consider them as such now (Ginsburg). Entering once more on the 
region of anatomical exposition we have the grasshopper taken (2) for 
the bone of the Ze/vis which becomes sharp and prominent in age, (3) for 
the stomach which swells with dropsy, (4) for the ankles swelling from 
the same cause, and so on through various other members. 

and desire shall fail) The word translated ‘“‘desire” is not found 
elsewhere in the Old Testament, and this rendering rests on a some- 
what doubtful etymology. The LXX. version, which may be admitted 
as shewing in what sense the word was taken at a very early date, 
and with which the Rabbinic use of the word agrees, gives xdmmapts, 
which the Vulgate reproduces in cafparis, z.e. the caper or Capparis 
- spinosa of botanists. It is in favour of this rendering that it preserves 
the enigmatic symbolism of the two previous clauses, while ‘‘desire” 
simply gives an abstract unfigurative term, out of harmony with the 
context. Possibly indeed the name was given to the plant as indicating 
its qualities as a restorative and stimulant (Plutarch, Symfos.; Athenzus, 
Deipnos, 1X. p. 405). The pickled capers of modern cookery are the 
buds of the shrub, but the berries and leaves are reputed to possess the 
same virtues. Hence one of the Epicures in Athenzeus (Dezpnos. IX. p. 
370) takes Nx rov x4amapw (By the caper!) as a favourite oath, just as a 
modern gourmet might swear by some favourite sauce. So understood 
the meaning of the passage seems fairly clear, The caper-berry shall 


220 ECCLESIASTES, XII. [v. 6. 

because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go 
about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the 

fail, z.e. shall no longer rouse the flagging appetite of age. There shall 
be a /onga oblivio of what the man had most delighted in. It would 
seem indeed from the account of the cafparis given by Pliny (Hist. 
Wat. XX. 59) that its medicinal virtues were of a very varied character. 
It was a remedy for paralysis and diseases of the kidneys and the liver, 
for tooth-ache and ear-ache, for scrofula and phagedzenic ulcers. The 
words describe accordingly the infirmity which no drugs, however 
potent, can cure. It is as whem Shakespeare says that ‘“‘poppy and 
mandragora”’ shall fail to minister the “sweet sleep” of yesterday, as 
when we say of a man in the last stage of decrepitude that ‘‘no quinine 
or phosphorus will help him now.” See the Jdeal Biography in the 
Lniroduction, ch.111. So understood the Debater speaks with a scorn 
like that of Euripides (.5%Z/. 1060) of the attempts of the old to revive 
their flagging desires and avert the approach of death. 

jucd 8 8co xppfovow éxrelvew Blov 
AouTpotor, Kal oTpwuvator kal payévpacw. 

“I hate them, those who seek to lengthen life 
With baths, and pillows, and quack-doctor’s drugs.” 

Substantially most commentators agree in this meaning. The anato- 
mical school, however, identify it, as before, with this or that bodil 
organ affected by old age, and one writer (Rosenmiiller) thinks that the 
point of comparison is found in the fact that the caper-berry as it 
ripens, bends the stalk with its weight, and then splits open and lets the 
seeds fall out. 

because man goeth to his long home| Literally, to the house of his 
eternity, z.c. to his eternal home. The description of the decay of age 
is followed by that of death as the close of all, and for a time, perhaps 
to link together the two symbolical descriptions, the language of figura- 
tive imagery is dropped. The ‘‘eternal home” is, of course, the grave 
(the phrase is stated by Ginsburg to be in common use among modern 
Jews), or more probably, Sheo/, or Hades, the dwelling-place of the dead. 
In Tobit iii. 6, ‘‘the everlasting place” seems used of the felicity of 
Paradise, and it is, at least, obvious that the thought of immortality, 
though not prominent, is not excluded here. The term Domus eterna 
appears often on the tombs of Rome in Christian as well as non-Chris- 
tian inscriptions, probably as equivalent to the “everlasting habitations” 
of Luke xvi. 9, and in these cases it clearly connotes more than an 
“eternal sleep.” An interesting parallel is found in the Assyrian legend 
of Ishtar, in which Hades is described as the ‘‘ House of Eternity,” the 
‘*Flouse men enter, but cannot depart from; the Road men go to, but 
cannot return” (Zecords of the Past, 1. 143). 

the mourners go about the streets] Literally, in the singular, the 
street or market-place. The words bring before us the most prominent 
feature of Eastern funerals. The burial-place was always outside the 

v. 6.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 221 
golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the 

city, and the body was borne on an open bier through the streets and 
open places of the city, and the hired mourners, men and women, 
followed with their wailing cries, praising the virtues, or lamenting the 
death, of the deceased (2 Sam. iii. 31; Jer. xxii. 10, 18; Mark v. 38). 
Sometimes these were short and simple, like the ‘‘ Ah brother! Ah, 
sister! Ah, his glory!” of Jer. xxii. 18. Sometimes they developed 
into elegiac poems like the lamentations of David over Saul and 
Jonathan (2 Sam. i. 17—27), and Abner (2 Sam. iii. 32—34). So we 
have in the Talmud (quoted by Dukes, Rabdin. Blumenlese, pp. 256, 
257) examples such as the following, ‘‘ The palms wave their heads for 
the just man who was like a palm ”’—‘‘If the fire falls upon the cedar 
what shall the hyssop on the wall do?” It is obvious that such 
elegies would often take the form of a figurative description of death, 
and that which follows in the next verse may well have been an echo 
from some such elegy. 

6. or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken] ‘The 
figurative character of the whole section reaches its highest point 
here. It is clear however that the figures, whatever they may be, 
are symbolic of nothing less than death. We have had the notes of 
decay in organs and in functions brought before us one by one. 
Now we come to the actual dissolution of soul and body. It will 
help us to a right understanding to begin with the golden bowl. The 
noun is the same as that used in Zech. iv. 3, 4, for the bowl of 
the golden seven-branched candlestick (better, lamp) of the Temple. 
It was the vessel, or reservoir, from which the oil flowed into the lamps. 
The lamp itself was, in the judgment of most students of the Mosaic 
ritual, the symbol of life—perhaps, even in its very form, of the Tree of 
life—in its highest manifestations. The symbolism of Greek thought 
harmonized with that of Hebrew, and ‘‘the lamp of life” was a 
familiar image. So when Pericles visited Anaxagoras, as he was dying 
of want and hunger, the sage said reproachfully ‘‘ When we wish to keep 
the lamp burning, we take care to supply it with oil.” (Plutarch, 
Pericles.) So Plato (de Lege. p. 776) and Lucretius (11. 78) describe the 
succession of many generations of mankind, with an allusive reference 
to the Lampadephoria, or torch races of Athens. 

‘‘Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt.” 
‘* Like men who run a race, hand on the lamp of life.” 

So the ‘‘light of life” appears in Greek epitaphs, 
Nvé ue euov xaréxee Kwys pdos vrvodorelpy 
‘‘ Sleep-giving night hath quenched my light of life.” 
Anthol. Graec. Ed. Jacobs, App. 265. 

It can scarcely remain doubtful then that the ‘‘golden bowl” is life 
as manifested through the material fabric of man’s body. And if so, 
the ‘silver cord” in the imagery of the parable can only be the chain 

222 ECCLESIASTES, XII. [v. 7. 

7 fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall 

by which, as in houses or temples, the lamp hangs, z.e. when we 
interpret the parable, that on which the continuance of life depends. 
Death, elsewhere represented as the cutting of the thread of life by the 
‘‘abhorred shears” of the Destinies, is here brought before us as the 
snapping of the chain, the extinction of the principle of life. The 
anatomist commentators have, as before, shewn their lack of poetic feel- 
ing by going 2 omnia alia as to the interpretation of the symbols. The 
*“golden bowl” has been identified with the skull or the stomach, and 
the “silver cord” with the tongue or the spinal marrow, and so on into 
a region of details into which it is not always pleasant to follow the 

or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the 
cistern] Better, or the pitcher be shattered. As with the Hebrews 
so also with the Greeks, life was represented by yet another symbol 
almost as universal as that of the burning lamp. The ‘fountain of 
life” was with God (Ps. xxxvi. 9). It was identified in its higher 
aspects with ‘‘the law of the wise” (Prov. xiii. 14), with ‘‘the fear 
of the Lord” (Prov. xiv. 27). The ‘fountain of the water of life” 
was the highest symbol of eternal blessedness (Rev. xxi. 6, xxii. 17). 
Two aspects of this symbolism are brought before us. (1) There is the 
spring or fountain that flows out of the rock, as in Isai, xxxv. 7, xlix. 
10. When men go to that spring with their pitcher (an ‘‘earthen vessel” 
as in Gen. xxiv. 17) there is an obvious type of the action of the body 
(we may, perhaps, go so far with the Anatomists as to think specially 
of the action of the lungs) in drawing in the breath which sustains 
life. The ‘‘cistern” represents primarily the deep well or tank from 
which men draw water with a windlass and a rope and bucket (1 Sam. 
xix. 22; Lev. xi. 36; Deut. vi. 11), a well like that of Sychar (John iv. 
6). Here obviously we have another parable of the mechanism of life, 
pointing to an action lying more remote than that of the fountain and 
the pitcher, and, if we have been right in connecting that with the act 
of breathing, we may as naturally see in this the action of the heart. 
Death is accordingly represented under both these figures. There will 
come a day when the pitcher shall be taken to the fountain for the 
last time and be broken as in the very act of drawing water, when the 
wheel that guides the current of the blood ‘* which is the life” shall turn 
for the last time on its axis. Into the more detailed anatomical explana- 
tions which find in the pitcher and the wheel, the liver and the gall-duct, 
or the right and left ventricle, we refrain, as before, from entering. 

7. Zhen shall the dust return to the earth as it was| The reference 
to the history of man’s creation in Gen. ii. 7 is unmistakeable, and 
finds an echo in the familiar words of our Burial Service, ‘‘ Earth to 
earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”” So Epicharmus, quoted by Plutarch, 
Consol. ad Apoll. p. 110, “Life was compound, and is broken up, 
and returns thither whence it came, earth to earth and the spirit on 
high.” So the Epicurean poet sang, 


the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall 
return unto God who gave it. 

“ Pulvis et umbra sumus.” 
** Dust and shadows are we all.” 

; : Hor. Od. Iv. 7. 16— 
echoing the like utterance of Anacreon, 

Ovlyn Kbms Keobueda. 

‘“We shall lie down, a little dust, no more”— 
echoed in its turn by Shakespeare (Cymébeline, Iv. 2), 

‘Golden lads and lasses must, 
Like chimney sweepers, turn to dust.” 

the spirit shall return unto God who gave it] We note, in the 
contrast between this and the “ Who knoweth...?” of ch. iii. 21, what 
it is not too much to call, though the familiar words speak of a higher 
triumph than is found here, the Victory of Faith. If the Debater had 
rested in his scepticism, it would not have been difficult to find parallels 
in the language of Greek and Roman writers who had abandoned the 
hope of immortality. So Euripides had sung 
*"Edoar 45n yh KadupOnvar vexpovs, 
"Ode & Exacrov és 70 pas adlkero, 
*Evraté’ amedOeiv, mvevua pev pds alfépa, 
To capa & és yqv. 
**Let then the dead be buried in the earth, 
And whence each element first came to light 
Thither return, the spirit to the air, 
The body to the earth.” 
Evrie. Suppl. 529— 
or as Lucretius at a later date, 

“‘Cedit item retro, de terra quod fuit ante, 
In terras, et quod missum ’st ex eetheris oris, 
Id rursum cceli rellatum templa receptant.” 

* That also which from earth first came, to earth 
Returns, and that which from the ether’s coasts 
Was sent, the vast wide regions of the sky 
Receive again, returning to its home.” 
De Rer. Nat. 1. 998. 
Or again, 
‘‘Ergo dissolvi quoque convenit omnem animai 
Naturam, ceu fumus, in altas aéris auras.” 

‘¢So must it be that, like the circling smoke, 
The being of the soul should be dissolved, 
And mingle with the breezes of the air.” 
Lucret. De Rer. Nat. Wl. 455+ 

224 ECCLESIASTES, XI. [v. 8. 

8 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher ; all zs vanity. 

Or Virgil, with a closer approximation to the teaching of the Debater, 

‘Deum namque ire per omnes 
Terrasque tractusque maris, ccelumque profundum; 
Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum, 
Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas; 
Scilicet huc reddi deinde, ac resoluta referri 
Omnia; nec morti esse locum; sed viva volare 
Sideris in numerum, atque alto succedere ccelo.” 

‘‘[They teach] that God pervades the world, 
The earth and ocean’s tracts and leftiest heaven, 
That hence the flocks and herds, and creatures wild, 
Each, at their birth, draw in their fragile life ; 
That thither also all things tend at last, 
And broken-up return, that place for death 
Is none, but all things, yet instinct with life, 
Soar to the stars and take their place on high.” 

VIRG. Georg, IV. 220—227. 

We cannot ignore the fact that to many interpreters (including 
Warburton) the words before us have seemed to convey no higher 
meaning than the extracts just quoted. They see in that return to God, 
nothing more than the absorption of the human spirit into the Anima 
Mund, the great World-Soul, which the Pantheist identified with God. 

It is believed, however, that the thoughts in which the Debater at last 
found anchorage were other than these. The contrast between the 
sceptical “‘ Who knoweth the spirit of man that it goeth upward?” (ch. 
lii. 21) and this return to God, ‘who gave it,” shews that the latter 
meant more than the former. The faith of the Israelite, embodied in 
the Shemé or Creed which the writer must have learnt in childhood, 
was not extinguished. The ‘‘fear of God” is with him a real feeli 
of awe before One who lives and wills (ch. viii. 8, 12). The hand of 
God is a might that orders all things (ch. ix. 1). It is God that 
judges the righteous and the wicked (ch. iii. 17). Rightly, from this 
point of view, has the Targum paraphrased the words “The Spirit will 
return to stand in judgment before God, who gave it thee.” The long 
wandering to and fro in many paths of thoughts ends not in the denial, 
pe the affirmation, of a personal God and therefore a personal immor- 

8. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher ; all ts vanity] The recur- 
rence at the close of the book, and after words which, taken as we have 
taken them, suggest a nobler view of life, of the same sad burden with 
which it opened, has a strange melancholy ring in it. To those who see 
in the preceding verse nothing more than the materialist’s thoughts 
of death as echoed by Epicurean poets, it seems a confirmation of 
what they have read into it, or inferred from it. The Debater seems to 
them, looking on life from the closing scene of death, to fall back into a 

v. 9.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 225 

And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still 

hopeless pessimism. It may be rightly answered however that the view 
that all that belongs to the earthly life is ‘‘vanity of vanities” is one not 
only compatible with the recognition of the higher life, with all its 
infinite possibilities, which opens before man at death, but is the natural 
outcome of that recognition as at the hour of death, or during the 
process of decay which precedes and anticipates death. The ‘things 
that are seen and are temporal” are dwarfed, as into an infinite 
littleness, in the presence of those which are ‘not seen and are eternal” 
(2 Cor. iv. 18). And there would be, we may add, even a singular im- 
pressiveness in the utterance of the same judgment, at the close of the 
great argument, and from the higher standpoint of faith which the 
Debater had at last reached, as that with which he had started in his 
despondent scepticism. It is, in this light, not without significance that 
these very words form the opening sentence of the De Jmuitatione Christi 
of 4 Kempis. 

There remain, however, two previous questions to be discussed. (1) 
Are the words before us the conclusion of the main body of the treatise, 
or the beginning of what we may call its epilogue? and (2) is that 
epilogue the work of the author of the book or an addition by some later 
hand? The paragraph printing of the Authorised Version points in 
the case of (r) to the latter of the two conclusions, and it may be noted 
as confirming this view that the words occur in their full form at the 
beginning of the whole book, and might therefore reasonably be expected 
at the beginning of that which is, as it were, its summing-up and com- 
pletion. In regard to the second question, the contents of the epilogue 
tend, it is believed, to the conclusion that they occupy a position ana- 
logous to that of the close of St John’s Gospel (John xxi. 24) and are, 
as it were, of the nature of a commendatory attestation. It would 
scarcely be natural for a writer to end with words of self-praise like 
those of verses 9, 10. The directly didactic form of the Teacher ad- 
dressing his reader as ‘‘my Son” after the fashion of the Book of 
Proverbs (i. 8, ii. 1, iii. 1, 11, 21) has no parallel in the rest of the book. 
The tone of verse 11 is rather that of one who takes a survey of the 
book as one of the many forms of wisdom, each of which had its place 
in the education of mankind, than of the thinker who speaks of what 
he himself has contributed to that store. On the whole, then, there 
seems sufficient reason for resting in the conclusion adopted by many 
commentators that the book itself ended with verse 7, and that we have 
in what follows, an epilogue addressed to the reader; justifying its ad- 
mission into the Canon of Scripture and pointing out to him what, in the 
midst of apparent perplexities and inconsistencies, was the true moral of 
its preaching. The circumstances which were connected with that 
admission (see Zztroduction, chs, Il., III., IV.) may well have made such 
a justification appear desirable. 

9. And moreover, because the Preacher was wise] The opening words, 
closely linked on, as they are, to the preceding, confirm the conclusion 
just stated that verse 8 belongs to this postscript of attestation. The 



taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and 
10 sought out, avd set in order many proverbs. ‘The Preacher 
sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was 

unknown writer of the attestation (probably the President of the Sanhe- 
drin, or some other Master of the Wise, such as were Hillel and Gama- 
liel) begins by repeating the key-note of the opening of the book. So 
taken, the words are every way significant. They do not name Solomon 
as the author, but content themselves with recognising the enigmatic 
name with which the unknown writer had veiled himself. He, they 
say, belonged to the company of the sages. He “gave good heed” 
(literally, he hearkened or gave ear), he ‘‘sought out” (we note 
how exactly the word describes the tentative, investigating character of 
the book, as in Judg. xviii. 2; 2 Sam. x. 3; Prov. xxvili. 11; Job v. 27, 
xxviii. 27), he “set in order” (z.e. composed) ‘‘many proverbs.” The 
word for ‘‘proverbs” is that which stands as the title of the Book of 
Proverbs, but it expresses, more than the English term does, the para- 
bolic, half-enigmatic character which is characteristic of most sayings of 
this nature in the East, and as such is translated by ‘‘parables”’ in the 
LXX. here, and in the A.V. in Ezek. xx. 49; Ps. xlix. 43 Num. xxiii. 
47, 18, 24 and elsewhere. The words have been pressed by some inter- 
preters as a testimony to the Salomonic authorship, but it is obvious 
that though they fit in with that hypothesis, they are equally applicable 
to any one who followed in the same track and adopted the same method 
of teaching. 

10. Zhe Preacher sought to find out acceptable words| Literally, 
words of delight, or pleasure, as in chs. v. 4, xii. 1. The phrase re- 
minds us of ‘*the words of grace” (Luke iv. 22) which came from the 
lips of Him, who, as the Incarnate Wisdom of God, was, in very 
deed, greater than Solomon. The fact is stated as by way of afologia 
for the character of the book. The object of the teacher was to 
attract men by meeting, or seeming to meet, their inclinations, by 
falling in with the results of their own experience. We are reminded 
so far of the words of Lucretius: 

‘Nam veluti pueris absinthia tetra medentes, 
Cum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum 
Contingunt mellis dulci, flavoque liquore, 
Ut puerorum etas improvida ludificetur 
Labrorum tenus, interea perpotet amarum 
Absinthi laticem, deceptaque non capiatur, 
Sed potius tali pacto recreata valescat.” 
‘* As those who heal the body, when they seek 
To give to children wormwood’s nauseous juice, 
First smear the cup’s rim with sweet golden honey, 
That infant’s thoughtless age may be beguiled 
Just to the margin’s edge, and so may drink 
The wormwood’s bitter draught, beguiled, not tricked, 
But rather gain thereby in strength and health.” 
De Rer. Nat. 1. 11—17. 

vv. IT, 12.] ECCLESIASTES, XII. 227 
eee eee es | 

written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the 1: 
wise are as goads, and as nails fastened dy the masters of 
assemblies, which are given from one shepherd, And x2 

and that which was written was upright] The italics shew that 
the sentence is somewhat elliptical, and it is better to take the two 
sets of phrases in apposition with the * acceptable words” that precede 
them, even a writing of uprightness (2.2. of subjective sincerity), 
words of truth (in its objective sense). The words are, thus under- 
stood, a full testimony to the character of the book thus commended 
to the reader’s attention. 

ll. The words of the wise are as goads] The general fact is, of 
course, stated in special connexion with the book which furnishes the 
writer’s theme. They assert that its words also, sweet as they seem, 
are not without their sting, though, like the prick of the goad, it is 
for good and not for evil, urging men on to strong and vigorous labour 
in the fields of thought and action. The comparison was a natural 
one in any country, but we are reminded of what was said of the 
words of Pericles that his eloquence ‘left a sting (xkéyTpov) in the 
minds of his hearers (Eupolis, quoted by Liddell and Scott, s.a. 
kévrpov), and in part also of the Greek proverb, consecrated for us 
by a yet higher application (Acts ix. 5, xxvi. 14) that ‘‘it is hard to 
kick against the pricks,” as applicable to resisting wisdom as well 
as to defying power (Asch. Agam. 1633, Pindar, Lyth. i. 173). 

as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies) The word for nails” 
is found in this, or a cognate form, with that meaning in Isai. xli. 7; 
Jer. x. 43 1 Chron. xxii. 3; 2 Chron. iii. 9; and there is no adequate 
reason for taking it here, as some have done (Ginsburg), in the sense 
of the “stakes” of a tent. The word “by” however is an interpo- 
lation, and the words taken as they stand would run as nails fastened 
are the masters of assemblies. The whole analogy of the Hebrew 
is against our referring the last words to any but persons, and we 
must therefore reject the interpretation that the “‘words of the wise 
are as goads, as fastened nails which are put together in collections” 
(Delitzsch). The ‘‘masters of assemblies ” (not, as it has been rendered 
(Tyler) ‘‘editors of collections”,) can be none else than the heads or 
leaders of a body of learned men, like the Great Synagogue of the tradi- 
tions of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, or the Sanhedrin of a later date. 
In “the fastened nail” we have a symbolism like that of Isai. xxii. 2 28 
Ezra ix. 8, and seen also in the Rabbinic proverb, ‘Well for the 
man who has a nail to hang things on” (Dukes, addin, Blumenlese, 
p- 121). In both these cases, it will be noted, the word refers 
to persons. It is the fitting emblem of fixity and permanence, and 
forms the natural complement to that of the goads. As it has been 
well put (Ginsburg), the two words express the several aspects of Truth 
as progressive and conservative. 

which are given from one shepherd| The noun is used often in the 
Q. T, both in its literal sense, and of kings and rulers as the shepherds 


228 ECCLESIASTES, XII. [v. 12: 

nen Sc 
further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many 
books ¢heve is no end; and much study ¢s a weariness of 
the flesh. 

of their people (Jerem. ii. 8, ili. 15, xlix. 19, 1. 443 Ezek. XXxiV. 
passim), and of God as the great Shepherd of Israel (Ps. xxiii. 1, 
Ixxx. 1, and by implication, Ezek. xxxiv. 23). We have to choose 
accordingly between the two latter meanings. The words either assert 
that all the varied forms of the wisdom of the wise come from God, 
or that all the opinions, however diversified, which are uttered by 
‘the masters of assemblies,” are subject to the authority of the 
President of the assembly. The first gives, it is believed, the most 
satisfactory meaning, and so taken, the words express the truth de- 
clared, without symbolism, in 1 Cor. xil. I—1I. It was not, perhaps, 
without some reference to this thought, though scarcely to this passage, 
that our Lord claimed for Himself as the one true Guide and Teacher 
of mankind the title of the ‘‘Good Shepherd,” and condemned all 
that had come before Him, assuming that character, as thieves and 
robbers (John x. 8, r1), and that St Peter speaks of Him as the ‘‘chief 
Shepherd” (1 Pet. v. 4) over all who exercise a pastoral office in the 
Church of Christ. 

12. And further, by these, my son, be admonished| Better, And 
for more than these (z.c. for all that lies beyond), be warned. The ad- 
dress ‘my son” is, as in Prov. i. I, ii. 1, X. 15, that of the ideal teacher 
to his disciple. It is significant, as noted above, that this appears here 
for the first time in this book. 

of making many books there is no end\ The words, which would have 
been singularly inappropriate as applied to the scanty literature of 
the reign of the historical Solomon, manifestly point to a time when the 
teachers of Israel had come in contact with the literature of other 
countries, which overwhelmed them with its variety and copiousness, and 
the scholar is warned against trusting to that literature as a guide to 
wisdom. Of that copiousness, the Library at Alexandria with its countless 
volumes would be the great example, and the inscription over the portals 
of that at Thebes that it was the Hospital of the Soul (larpetov puxijs, 
Diodor. Sic. 1. 49) invited men to study them as the remedy for their 
spiritual diseases. Conspicuous among these, as the most voluminous 
of all, were the writings of Demetrius Phalereus (Diog. Laert. v. 5. 9), 
and those of Epicurus, numbering three hundred volumes (Diog. 
Laert. x. x. 17), and of his disciple Apollodorus, numbering four 
hundred (Diog. Laert. x. 1. 15), and these and other like writings, 
likely to unsettle the faith of a young Israelite, were probably in the 
Teacher’s thought. The teaching of the Jewish Rabbis at the time 
when Koheleth was written was chiefly oral, embodying itself in 
maxims and traditions, and the scantiness of its records must have 
presented a striking contrast to the abounding fulness of that of the 
philosophy of Greece. It was not till a much later period that these 
traditions of the elders were collected into the Mishna and the Gemara 
that make up the Talmud. Scholars sat at the feet of their teacher, 

vv. 13, 14.] MECEESTASTES? XI. 229° 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear :3 
God, and keep his commandments: for this zs the whole 
duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judg- x4 

and drank in his words, and handed them on to their successors. The 
words of the wise thus orally handed down are contrasted with the 
‘many books.” 

much study is a weariness of the flesh) ‘The noun for ‘‘study” is 
not found elsewhere in the O.T., but there is no doubt as to its 
meaning. What men gain by the study of many books is, the writer 
seems to say, nothing but a headache, no guidance for conduct, no 
solution of the problems of the universe. They get, to use the phrase 
which Pliny (Z//. vii. 9) has made proverbial, ‘‘multa, non multum.” 
We are reminded of the saying of a higher Teacher that ‘‘ one thing 
is needful” (Luke x. 42). The words of Marcus Aurelius, the repre- 
sentative of Stoicism, when he bids men to ‘“‘free themselves from 
the thirst for books” (Mediz. 11. 3), present a striking parallel. So 
again, ‘‘Art thou so unlettered that thou canst not read, yet canst 
thou abstain from wantonness, and be master of pain and pleasure 
(Meditt. Vi. 8). 

13. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter] The word for 
‘Jet us hear” has been taken by some scholars as a participle with a 
gerundial force, “‘ Zze sum of the whole matter must be heard,” 
but it admits of being taken as in the English version, and this gives 
a more satisfying meaning. The rendering ‘‘everything is heard,” 
i.e. by God, has little to recommend it, and by anticipating the 
teaching of the next verse introduces an improbable tautology. The 
words admit of the rendering the sum of the whole discourse, which 
is, perhaps, preferable. : 

Fear God, and keep his commandments] This is what the Teacher 
who, as it were, edits the book, presents to his disciples as its sum 
and substance, and he was not wrong in doing so. In this the Debater 
himself had rested after his many wanderings of thought (ch. v. 7, 
and, by implication, xi. 9). Whatever else might be ‘vanity and 
feeding on wind,” there was safety and peace in keeping the command- 
ments of the Eternal, the laws “‘ which are not of to-day or yesterday.” 

for this is the whole duty of man| The word “ duty ”’ is not in the 
Hebrew, and we might supply ‘‘the whole end,” or ‘‘the whole 
work,” or with another and better construction, This is for every man: 
i.e. a law of universal obligation. What is meant is that this is the only 
true answer to that quest of the chief good in which the thinker had 
been engaged. This was, in Greek phrase, the épyor or ‘“‘work” of 
man, that to which he was called by the very fact of his existence. 
All else was but a mdpepyov, or accessory. 

14. For God shall bring every work into judgment] Once again 
the Teacher brings into prominence what was indeed the outcome of 
the book; though, as history shews, the careless reader, still more the 
reader blinded by his passions, or prejudice, or frivolity, might easily 

230 ECCLESIASTES, XII. [v. 14. 

ment, with every secret ¢#zmg, whether z¢ de good, or whether 
it be evil. 

overlook it. The object of the writer had not been to preach a self- 
indulgence of the lowest Epicurean type, or to deny the soul’s 
immortality, though for a time he had hesitated to affirm it, but much 
rather to enforce the truth, which involved that belief, of a righteous 
judgment (ch. xi. 9), seen but imperfectly in this life, with its 
anomalous distribution of punishments and rewards, but certain to 
assert itself, if not before, when “‘the spirit shall return to God who 
gave it” (verse 7). From the standpoint of the writer of the epilogue 
it was shewn that the teaching of Ecclesiastes was not inconsistent 
with the faith of Israel, that it had a right to take its place among 
the Sacred Books of Israel. From our standpoint we may say that it 
was shewn not less convincingly that the book, like all true records 
of the search after Truth, led men through the labyrinthine windings of 
doubt to the goal of duty, through the waves and winds of conflicting 
opinions to the unshaken rock of the Eternal Commandment. 



I HAVE already in the ‘Ideal Biography” of the Author of Eccle- 
siastes (ch. 111.), suggested a parallelism between the thoughts which 
have found expression in the writings of Shakespeare and Tennyson, 
and those that meet us in the Book with which this Volume deals. 
That parallelism is, I believe, deserving of more than a passing 
sentence, and I accordingly purpose to treat of it, as far as my limits 
permit, in the two following Essays. 


Tt lies almost in the nature of the case that the standpoint of a 
supreme dramatic artist involves the contemplation of the chances and 
changes of human life, of the shifting moods of human character, in 
something like the temper of a half-melancholy, half-genial irony. 
Poets, who, like Aéschylus or Calderon, write in earnest to enforce 
what they look upon as a high and solemn truth, and to present to men 
the consequences of obeying or resisting it, who seek to present the 
working of a higher order, and characters of a loftier nobleness, than 
the world actually presents, have, in the nature of the case, little of 
that element. Those who write, as Sophocles did, impressed with the 
strange contrasts which human life presents in its ideal and its reality, 
its plans and their frustration, its aims and its results, who cannot 
bring themselves to think that it is the duty of the artist to present a 
false, even though it be a fairer, picture than what the world actually 
exhibits, manifest the irony of which we speak, as Bishop Thirlwall has 
shewn in his masterly Essay?, in its graver forms, restrained, in part, it 
may be, by the dignity of their own character, in part by the conditions 
under which they work as artists, from dealing with its applications to 
the lighter follies of mankind. One who, like Shakespeare, worked 
with greater freedom, and, it may be, out of the resources of a wider 
experience, was free to present that irony in both its applications. 
That sense of the nothingness of life, which manifests itself in the melan- 
choly refrain of ‘‘ Vanity of vanities” in Koheleth, would be sure to 
shew itself in such a poet, in proportion, perhaps, as he had ceased to 
strive after a high ideal, and learnt to look with an Epicurean tran- 

1 Cp. Thirlwall, ‘‘The Irony of Sophocles,” Philological Museum, 11. 483. 
Remains, ul. 1. 


quillity on the passions of those who, though puppets in his mimic 
drama, had yet found their archetypes in the characters of the men and 
women with whom he had lived, and whose weaknesses he had noted. 
If the story of his own life had been that of one who had sought to 
find satisfaction in the impulses of sense, or in affections fixed on an 
unworthy object, we might expect to find the tendency to dwell on 
the various forms of the ironical, or the pessimist, view of life, which is 
the natural outcome of the disappointment to which all such attempts 
are doomed. And this, it is believed, is what we find in Shakespeare, 
as the result of his personal experience, reproduced now in this aspect, 
now in that, according as each fitted in best with his purpose as an 

I have already shewn in the ‘“ Ideal Biography”’ of ch. 111. that the 
Sonnets of Shakespeare present a striking parallelism to the personal 
experience that lay at the root of the pessimist tone of thought which 
the confessions of Koheleth present to us. There had been the 
element of afriendship which he thought to be ennobling, of a love 
which he felt to be debasing. But we may go further than this, and 
say that they manifest also, and not in that passage only, the tone and 
temper to which that experience naturally leads. Without discussing 
the many problems which those mysterious poems bring before us, this 
at least is clear, that they speak of a life which had not been free from 
the taint of sensuality, of a friendship which, beginning in an almost 
idolatrous admiration, ended in a terrible disappointment, and that the 
echoes of that disappointment are heard again and again in their 
plaintive and marvellous sweetness. The resemblance between their 
utterances and those of Ecclesiastes is all the more striking, because 
there is not a single trace that Shakespeare had studied the book that 
bears that title. He does not use its peculiar watchwords, or quote its 
maxims. Despite of all that has been written of Shakespeare’s know- 
ledge of the Bible by Archbishop Trench, Bishop Charles Wordsworth, 
and others, it does not seem to have been more than a man might gain, 
without study, by hearing lessons and sermons when he went to Church 
on Sundays, and as Ecclesiastes was not prominent in the calendar of 
Sunday lessons, and not a favourite book with the preachers of the 
sixteenth century, he probably knew but little of it. We have to deal, ac- 
cordingly, with the phenomena of parallelism and not of derivation. But 
the parallelism is, it will be admitted, sufficiently suggestive. Does 
Koheleth teach that ‘‘there is nothing new under the sun,” that “if 
there is anything whereof it may be said, See this is new; it hath been 
already of old time, which was before us” (Eccl. i. 10), Shakespeare 

““No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change. 
Thy pyramids built up with newer might, 
They are but dressings of a former sight. 
Our dates are brief, and, therefore we admire 
What thou dost foist upon us that is old: 
And rather make them born to our desire, 
Than think that we before have heard them told. 


Thy registers and thee I both defy, 
Not wondering at the present and the past.” 
Sonn. 123. 

Does Koheleth utter his belief that ‘‘the day of death is better 
than the day of one’s birth” (Eccl. vii. 1), ‘‘that an untimely birth is 
better than the longest life” (Eccl. vi. 3), as growing out of the 
anomalies of a world in which ‘‘the race is not to the swift, nor the 
battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise...but time and chance 
happeneth alike to all” (Eccl. ix. 11) ; Shakespeare echoes the cry of 
that weariness of life : 

‘Tired with all these, for restful death I cry, 
As, to behold desert a beggar born, 
And needy nothing trimmed in jollity, 
And purest faith unhappily foresworn, 
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced, 
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted, 
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced, 
And strength by limping sway disabled, 
And art made tongue-tied by authority, 
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill, 
And simple truth miscalled simplicity: 
Tired with all these, from these I would be gone, 
Save that to die, I leave my love alone.” 

Sonn. 66. 

The tendency which thus utters itself as in a personal subjective 
monologue took naturally another form, when, rising out of the feverish 
unrest which the Sonnets indicate, the writer passed into the true work 
of the poet-creator, contemplating man’s nature as from without, and 
embodying the results of his boundless observation in the characters of 
his dramas, as if he had lived in each of them, identified at once with 
Coriolanus and with Falstaff, with Macbeth and with Malvolio. But 
the tendency, in such a case, remains. The man’s experience determines 
the greater or less frequency of his choice of characters in which he can 
embody it. And what I seek to shew is that such a choice is traceable 
in the dramas of Shakespeare, and that no type of character appears 
so frequently, or is so conspicuously the reflection of what the poet 

~~ Sitmeself had once been, as that of the contemplative half-sad, half- 
cynical temper which we find in Ecclesiastes. He has risen on the 
‘* stepping-stones of his dead self” to higher things, but he surveys that 
dead self with a certain loving complacency, and is not unwilling that 
~ for atime it should live again. He will shew that he understands the 
inner depths of the character that seems to many so inexplicable, and 
not seldom wins from them the reverence which of right is due only 
to that which is far worthier. Take, for example, the two types 
of character represented by the Duke and by Jaques, in ‘As You 
Like It.” The former speaks in the nobler tones of Koheleth, the 
latter in the baser. The one has learnt that ‘‘sorrow is better than 
laughter,” that ‘the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning A 

(Eccl. vii. 3). 


“Sweet are the uses of adversity, 
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, 
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. 
And this our life, exempt from public haunt, 
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” 

As You Like /t, 1. 1. 

Jaques, on the other hand, is emphatically **melancholy,” but the 
temper is one which finds not ‘‘ good” but evil in everything. For him, 
the sons of men are ‘‘as fishes taken in an evil net” (Eccl. ix. 12). 
His meditations on the sufferings of the wounded stag reveal but little 
of real humanity, but ‘“‘he moralizes” the spectacle into ‘*a thousand 

' similes.” All forms of life present to him the same picture of injustice 
and of wrong. 

‘Thus most invectively he passeth through 
The body of the country, city, court, 
Yea, and of this our life,” 
As You Like Jt, 11. 1. 

As the sight of brute suffering, so that of men, stirs him to no 

healthy sympathy. The Duke speaking as before, in the loftier moods 
of Koheleth, learns the lesson that 

‘*This wide and universal theatre 

Presents more woeful pageants than the scene 
Wherein we play in,” 

but this is preceded by his kindly ministrations to the old and weary 
Adam, the very type of the “labouring man whose sleep is sweet to 
him” of Eccl. v. 12. Jaques joins in no such ministrations, but in the 
memorable speech of the Seven Ages, moralizes once more on the 
hollowness of human life, and paints, almost in the very colours of 
Eccles. xii. 3, 4, the decay and death in which it ends, 

‘*The sixth age glides 
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, 
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side, 
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide 
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice 
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes 
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, 
That ends this strange eventful history, 
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion, 
Sans teeth, saws eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 

As You Like It, 11. 7. 

And the secret of this evil cynicism is found in the previous life of this 
preacher of endless homilies on the “vanity of vanities.” Of such 
homilies, the Duke tells him, no good cancome, He will work 

““Most mischievous foul sin in chiding sin, 
For thou thyself hast been a libertine, 


As sensual as the brutish sting itself, 

And all the embosséd sores and headed evils, 
That thou with licence of free foot hast caught, 
Wouldst thou discharge into the general world.” 

As Vou Like ft, i. 7. 

In ‘* Timon of Athens” we have a variation on the same theme. He 
has sought happiness, as Koheleth did, in the life of wealth, magnifi- 
cence, and culture. Poets and painters have ministered to his tastes 
and caprices. But among the thousand friends of his prosperity he 
finds but one faithful in adversity, and he loathes the very sight of 
the gold, with the absence or presence of which the friendship. of the 
world wanes or waxes. He has used his wealth ‘‘unwisely, not ig- 
nobly,” thinking that thus he will gather round him true and loving 
hearts, and finds that this also, as his wiser counsellor foretold, is 
‘* vanity of vanities.” 

‘¢ Ah! when the means are gone that buy this praise, 
The breath is gone whereof this praise is made, 
Fast won, fast lost; one cloud of winter showers, 
These flies are couched.” 
Timon of Athens, i. 2. 

And so when he finds that the prediction is fulfilled, his love turns to 
gall and bitterness. The philanthropist becomes the misanthrope: As 
with Koheleth, men were hateful to him, and much more, women 
(Eccl. vii. 26—28). 

‘Let no assembly of twenty be without a score of villains; if there 
sit twelve women at the table, let a dozen of them be as they are.” 

Timon of Athens, Ul. 6. 

Henceforward there is nothing for him but the moody curse of a 
solitary bitterness, and his faithful friends moralize on the transforma- 

*©O, the fierce wretchedness that glory brings us! 
Who would not wish to be from wealth exempt, 
Since riches point to misery and contempt, 
Who would be so mocked with glory? or to live 
But in a dream of friendship? 
To have his pomp and all what state compounds, 
But only painted, like his varnished friends? 
Poor honest lord, brought low by his own heart, 
Undone by goodness.” 
Timon of Athens, IV. 2. 

Timon himself, however, cannot so moralize. The element of selfish- 
ness that had mingled with his seemingly limitless benevolence, seeking 
its reward in the praise and gratitude of men, turns to malignant scorn. 
He rails, as Shakespeare in his own person had railed, as in the Sonnet 
already quoted, at the disorders of society, in terms which again remind 
us of Ecclesiastes. 


**Twinned brothers of one womb, 
Whose procreation, residence, and birth, 
Scarce is dividant: touch them with several fortunes, 
The greater scorns the lesser: not nature, 
To whom all sores lay siege, can bear great fortune 
But by contempt of nature. 
The senator shall bear contempt hereditary ; 
The beggar native honour. 
It is the pasture lards the rother’s? sides, 
The want that makes him lean. Who dares, who dares, 
In purity of manhood stand upright 
And say, ‘ This man’s a flatterer?’ If one be, 
So are they all; for every grise? of fortune 
Is smoothed by that below: the learned pate 
Ducks to the golden fool: all is oblique, 
There’s nothing level in our cursed nature 
But direct villainy. Therefore be abhorred 
All feasts, societies, and throngs of men! 
His semblable, yea, himself, Timon disdains.” 

Limon of Athens, iv. 3. 

Is not this almost as the very echo of the words which tell us how 
beggars had been seen riding on horseback, how the ‘‘ poor man who 
had saved the city” was ‘‘no more remembered,” how ‘‘time and 
chance happen alike to all” (Eccl. ix. 11—15), ‘‘how scarcely among a 
thousand men was one found faithful” (Eccl. vii. 28)? The one fact 
that kept him from utter despair was that he had such a friend. 

“T do proclaim 
One honest man—mistake me not—but one.” 
Timon of Athens, IV. 3. 

In the account which Timon gives himself of this terrible transforma- 
tion we trace the confession of an experience like that which Koheleth 
narrates in Eccles. ii. Apemantus, the cynic, who has not passed 
through that experience, whose moroseness is that of the man soured by 
the world’s oppression and his own poverty rather than of one satiated 
with self-indulgence, taunts him with this extreme sensitiveness. He 
has a pessimism of his own, but it is that of apathy and scorn, and not 
of hatred. 

‘*This in thee is a nature but infected, 

A poor unmanly melancholy sprung 
From change of fortune.” 

Timon allows that it is so, and makes that his Afologia. Apemantus 
does but 

**Compound for sins he is inclined to, 
By damning those he has no mind to,” 

1 Apparently a Warwickshire name for ox. 
2 Grise=the “‘step” of fortune’s ladder. 


**Thou art a slave, whom Fortune’s tender arm 
With favour never clasp’d; but bred a dog. 
Hadst thou, like us from our first swath, proceeded 
The sweet degrees that this brief world affords 
To such as may the passive drugs of it 
Freely command, thou would’st have plunged thyself 
In general riot; melted down thy youth 
In different beds of lust, and never learned 
The icy precepts of respect, but followed 
The sugared game before thee. But myself, 
Who had the world as my confectionary, 
The mouths, the tongues, the eyes, the hearts of men, 
At duty, more than I could frame employment ; 
That numberless upon me stuck as leaves 
Do on the oak, have with one winter’s brush 
Fell from their boughs, and left me open, bare 
For every storm that blows,—I, to bear this, 
That never knew but better, is some burden; 
Thy nature did commence in sufferance: time 
Hath made thee hard in’t.” 
Timon of Athens, iv. 3. 

To one in such a mood, Nature did but minister, as it did to Kohe- 
leth, food for his absorbing passion. The ebb and flow of the ocean 
was the type of the changeable monotony of misery. 

“Timon hath made his everlasting mansion 
Upon the beached verge of the salt flood; 
Which once a day with his embossed froth 
The turbulent surge shall cover; thither come, 
And let my grave-stone be your oracle. 
Lips, let sour words go by and language end, 
What is amiss, plague and infection mend! 
Graves only be men’s works: and death their gain! 
Sun, hide thy beams—Timon hath done his reign.” 
Timon of Athens, V. t. 

And so, the end came, as it has to a thousand others plunged in the 
same wretchedness, with no outward sign of hope. Like Keats he 
wishes his name to be ‘‘writ in water.” Like Koheleth he seeks to 
hide it from the memories of men. He writes his own epitaph, and it 
is this 

*¢ Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft; 

Seek not my name: a plague consume you wretched caitiffs left !” 

It was, perhaps, with a subtle touch of irony that Shakespeare, 
working, as experts think, on the rough materials supplied by an in- 
ferior writer, made the last couplet of the epitaph inconsistent with the 
first, In spite of his hatred of mankind the pessimist could not bear to 

1 We are reminded of the ‘‘long home,” the ‘‘ domus eterna” of Eccles. xii. 5. 


be forgotten. The one real mortification in Schopenhauer’s life was 
that men did not read his books. The desire to be remembered is the 
ineradicable ruling passion which yet remains in him whose fault was 
that he had lived too entirely in the praise of men: 

“‘Here lie I, Timon; who, alive, all living men did hate, 
Pass by and curse thy fill; but pass, and stay not here thy gait.” 

Limon of Athens, V. 4. 

The life closed apparently in darkness, but the pity and sympathy of 
the poet for a mood through which he had himself passed, and out of which 
he had emerged, cannot leave it altogether without hope. He can recog- 
nise and reverence the nobleness of spirit, which soured and thwarted, 
was latent under this seeming blasphemy against humanity. And so 
he puts into the mouth of Alcibiades the judgement which we should 
pass on such moods of perverted nature wherever they may meet us. 

“These well express in thee thy latter spirits: 
Though thou abhorr’dst in us our human griefs, 
Scorn’dst our brain-flow, and those our droplets which 
From niggard nature fall, yet rich conceit 
Taught thee to make vast Neptune weep for aye 
On thy low grave, on faults forgiven, Dead 
Is noble Timon, of whose memory 
Hereafter more.” 

Limon of Athens, v. 4. 

The words are almost in the very note of David’s lament over Saul 
the outcast and the suicide, ‘* The beauty of Israel is slain in thy high 
places” (2 Sam. i. 19), of the sie ist gerettet (“she is saved’’) which the 
angels utter over the Margaret of “Faust,” of the lines in Hood’s 
** Bridge of Sighs” which describe the drowned outcast in the 

‘* All that remains of ‘her 
Now is pure womanly.” 

And so the preacher of hatred becomes in his death the benefactor 
of his country which he had loved passionately, with a love that turned 
to scorn, and Alcibiades ‘ purified” by the * pity and terror” of 
which Aristotle spoke (Poet. c. xiii.) as of the very essence of the work 
of the tragic dramatist, offers peace to the Athenians on whom he had 
come to wreak his vengeance, 

1 have dwelt at some length on Shakespeare’s treatment of this 
character, partly because, if I mistake not, the parallelism with some 
aspects of Koheleth is a very striking one, partly because there are few 
of his plays less generally read than that which supplies the parallelism. 
I turn from this, the picture of one who has fallen in his conflict with 
the pessimism that grows out of satiety and disappointment, and the 
sense that ‘‘all is vanity,” to that of one who, passing through a like 
knowledge of good and evil gained by a like experience, has fought 
and has prevailed. Henry V. is obviously Shakespeare's pattern king, 
such a monarch as he could picture himself to be, had an inherited 


SS SS eee 
crown rested on his head. When he first appears on the scene he 
seems rapidly on the road to ruin, the grief of his father’s heart, the 
companion of roysterers and debauchees. But the poet is careful to let 
us see that he has strength enough to pass through the ordeal. He is 
but “‘seeking in his heart,” as Koheleth had done, ‘‘to give himself unto 
wine,...laying hold on folly...yet guiding his heart with wisdom ” 
(Eccl. ii. 3), and he is confident that he shall not fail in the perilous 
experiment : 

“T know you all, and will awhile uphold 
The unyok’d humour of your idleness, 
Yet herein will I imitate the sun, 
Who doth permit the base, contagious clouds 
To smother up his beauty from the world; 
That when he please again to be himself, 
Being wanted, he may more be wondered at; 
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists 
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.” 
1 Henry IV. 1. 2. 

The first step towards higher things is found in the call of duty. He 
is taught to see the evils of a country in which “the king is a child and 
the princes feast in the morning” (Eccl. x. 17). Such, as he himself 
then was, Richard II. had been. 

‘‘The skipping king, he ambled up and down 
With shallow jesters and rash bavin! wits 
Soon kindled and soon burned: carded his state. 
Mingled his royalty with carping fools; 
Had his great name profaned with their scorns.” 
1 Henry IV. 111. 2. 

He is roused to the consciousness of the nobler possibilities of life by 
that mirror in which he sees his own likeness. As, to use a phrase of 
Kinglake’s that floats in my memory, the ‘‘curled darlings of the 
Guards” were transformed into the “ heroes of the Crimea,” so here the 
boon companion of Pistol, Poins and Falstaff becomes the conqueror, 
first of Shrewsbury and then of Agincourt. In the care and trouble 
that haunt the sick-bed of his father “eating in darkness and having 
much sorrow and wrath in his sickness ” (Eccl. v. 17) he learns how far 
more sweet is the sleep of the labouring man than that of ‘the rich 
man whose abundance will not suffer him to sleep” (Eccl. v. 12). 

‘‘Flow many thousand of my poorest subjects 
Are at this hour asleep! O sleep, O gentle sleep, 
Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, 
That thou wilt no more weigh my eyelids down 
And steep my senses in forgetfulness? 
Why rather, Sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, 
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, 

1 Bavin = brushwood. 



And hushed with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, 

Than in the perfumed chambers of the great, 

Under the panopies of costly state, 

And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody? 

O thou dull god! why liest thou with the vile 

In loathsome beds, and leav’st the kingly couch 

A watch-case or a common ’larum bell? 

Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast 

Seal up the sea-boy’s eyes, and rock his brains 

In cradle of the rude tempestuous surge, 

And in the visitation of the winds? 
* * * * * 

Can’st thou, O partial sleep! give thy repose 

To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude, 

And in the calmest and most stillest night 

Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” 

2 Henry IV. Mt. 1. 

That father sees or thinks he sees the frustration of all his schemes 
of ambition and mourns over them almost in the very terms of Kohe- 
leth, ‘‘There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, riches kept 
for the owners thereof to their hurt... They perish by evil travail and he 
begetteth a son and there is nothing in his hand...What profit hath he 
that hath laboured for the wind?” (Eccles. v. 13—16). 

**See, sons, what things you are! 
How quickly nature falls into revolt 
When gold becomes its object! 
For this the foolish, over-anxious fathers 
Have broke their sleep with thoughts, their brains with care, 
Their bones with industry: 
For this they have engrossed and piled up 
The cankered heaps of strange-achieved gold; 
For this they have been thoughtful to invest 
Their sons with arts and martial exercises; 
Where, like the bee, tolling from every flower 
The virtuous sweets, 
Our thighs packed with wax, our mouths with honey, 
We bring it to the hive, and, like the bees, 
Are murdered for our pains. This bitter taste 
Yield his engrossments to the ending father.” 

2 Henry IV. Iv. 5. 

The lesson of that death-bed is not lost upon the nobler elements in 
the nature of the son, and the change is perfected. 

“‘The courses of his youth promised it not: 
The breath no sooner left his father’s body, 
But that his wildness, mortified in him, 
Seemed to die too: yea, at that very moment, 


Consideration, like an angel, came 
And whipped the offending Adam out of him, 
Leaving his body as a paradise, 
To envelope and contain celestial spirits.” 
Henry V.1, x, 

He too has learnt the lesson of ‘‘vanity of vanities,” but it leads him 
not to idle moralisings, like those of Jaques or the malignant misan- 
thropy of Timon, but to ‘‘fear God and keep his commandments,” to 
heroic deeds and high purpose, to a largeness of heart like that of the 
ideal Solomon. He hears his soldiers throw the burden of their suffering 
and death upon the king and feels that, if the majesty of the king rests 
only upon pomp and state, they are more than half-right ; 

“Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls, 
Our debts, our careful wives, our children, and 
Our sins lay on the king. 
We must bear all. 
O hard condition! twin-born with greatness, 
Subject to the breath of every fool, whose sense 
No more can feel, but his own wringing, 
What infinite heart’s ease must kings neglect 

, That private men enjoy? 
And what have kings that privates have not too, 
Save ceremony, save general ceremony? 
And what art thou, thou idle ceremony? 
What kind of God art thou, that suffer’st more 
Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers? 
What are thy rents? what are thy comings in? 
O ceremony, shew me but thy worth, 
What is thy soul of adoration? 
Art thou aught else but place, degree and form, 
Creating awe and fear in other men? 
Wherein thou art less happy, being feared, 
Than they in fearing. 
What drinkest thou oft, instead of homage sweet 
But poisoned flattery? O, be sick, great greatness, 
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure! 
Think’st thou the fiery fever will go out, 
With titles blown from adulation? 
Will it give place to flexure and low bending? 
Can’st thou, when thou command’st the beggar’s knee 
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream, 
That played so subtly with a king’s repose, 
I am a king that find thee, and I know 
*Tis not the balm, the sceptre, and the ball, 
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial, 
The inter-tissued robe of gold and pearl, 
The farcéd title running ’fore the king, 
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp 
That beats upon the high shore of this world, 



No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony, 
Not all these, laid in bed majestical, 
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave 
Who, with a body fill’d and vacant mind, 
Gets him to rest, crammed with distressful bread, 
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell, 
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set, 
Sweats in the eye of Phcebus, and all night 
Sleeps in Elysium; next day, after dawn, 
Doth rise, and help Hyperion to his horse; 
And follows so the everrunning year 
With profitable labour to his grave: 
And, but for ceremony, such a wretch, 
Winding up days with toil, and nights with sleep, 
Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king; 
The slave, a member of the country’s peace, 
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots 
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace, 
Whose hours the peasant best advantages.” 

Henry V. 1. 1. 

And in the strength of such thoughts he is able to preach to the 
murmurers the lesson which they need in the nearest approach to a 
Homily which the dramas of Shakespeare present to us and to tell 
them, as Koheleth tells his readers, of a righteous judge who ‘‘shall 
bring every secret thing to light whether it be good or whether it be 

‘‘ Every subject’s duty is the king’s, but every subject’s soul is his 
own. ‘Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man 
in his bed—wash every mote out of his conscience, and dying so, death 
is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was blessedly lost wherein 
such preparation was gained: and in him that escapes, it were not sin 
to think, that making God so free an offer, he let him outlive that day 
to see His greatness, and to teach others how they should prepare.” 

Henry V., IV. 1 

T take it that, though there may be many other passages in which we 
trace the hand of the Master Artist working with a more subtle power, 
Shakespeare reaches here, and in the prayer that follows, almost without 
a parallel in his other dramas, his highest ethical elevation. The heroic 
soul in whom he embodied what for the time at least was an ideal like- 
ness of himself, has conquered the temptations of sense that deepen into 
malice, and has his faith fixed in the righteous judgment of God. And 
with this there is, as in a later scene of the play, a healthy capacity for 
the purer form of enjoyment such as Koheleth so often counsels. The 
reformed prodigal has found that after all there are some things that are 
not altogether vanity. 

“* A good leg will fall ; a straight back will stoop ; a black beard will 
turn white; a fair face will wither; a full eye will wax hollow; but a 


good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon, or rather the sun and not 
moon ; for it shines bright, and never changes, but keeps his course 

Henry V., Vv. 2. 

On more familiar illustrations of the temper that thus moralises on 
the hollowness of things earthly I do not dwell. Wolsey’s lamentations 
over his fallen greatness : 

“This is the state of man: to day he puts forth 
The tender leaves of hope: to-morrow blossoms, 
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him, 
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost ; 
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely 
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root, 
And then he falls, as I do,” 
Henry VITL., iW. t. 

will occur to most readers. The thought that “as the crackling of thorns 
under a pot, so is the laughter of fools,” finds its apt illustration alike 
in the imbecility of Shallow who found his delights of the sons of 
men” in the merry nights of sin that he remembered in St. George’s 
Fields (2 Henry IV. 111. 3), and yet more in the death without honour of 
the supreme jester, “his nose as sharp as a pen and babbling of green 
fields” (Henry V. 111. 3), his only nurse silencing the thought of God 
and of repentance, in the misery that taught Gloucester all too late that 

**The Gods are just, and of our pleasant vices 
Make instruments to scourge us.” 
King Lear, v. 3. 

The temper that remains unmoved “ fully set to do evil, because sen- 
tence against an evil work is not executed speedily” (Eccl. viii. r1) is 
brought before us in Gloucester’s confession 

‘Heavens, deal so still ! 
Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man 
That slaves your ordinance, that will not see 
Because he doth not feel, feel your power quickly.” 

King Lear, iv. 1. 
The supreme malignity of the mood that hates life because it has 
made life hateful is seen in Richard III. 
‘*O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict ! 
* * * * * * 

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues 
And every tongue brings in a several tale. 
* * * * * * 
There is no creature loves me; 
And if I die, no soul will pity me: 
Nay, wherefore should they? Since that I myself 
Find in myself no pity to myself.” 
Richard III. v. 3. 


244 , APPENDIX. 

ine A SS 
It would seem however, as if the myriad-minded poet felt that he 
had not exhausted the many aspects of what we have called the Koheleth 
mood of mind, that there yet remained to exhibit, in their highest mani- 
festations, the results to which it leads when man is over-mastered by it, 
or in his turn, masters it, and the works of the poet’s ripest and best 
years, and of the supreme culmination of his art, bring before us accord- 
ingly the characters of Hamlet and of Prospero. I accept, as in part 
adequate, the analysis of the former character which Goethe has given 
as that of a man upon whom is laid a burden which he is not strong 
enough to bear, and which therefore disturbs the balance of thought 
and will. From the stand-point of our present enquiry some fresh ele- 
ments have to be added to that analysis. In Hamlet then, prior to the 
disclosure that haunts him afterwards night and day, we have the highest 
type of the Koheleth search after happiness in the path of culture. All 
perfections have met inhim. He is nothing less than ; 

“The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, 
The expectancy and rose of the fair state, 
The glass of fashion, and the mould of form, 
The observed of all observers.” 
Hlamlet, Ul. 1. 

He has studied man’s life and nature less by the personal experience of 
their follies and their sins than in the drama which ‘‘holds, as ’twere, 
the mirror up to nature.” He shrinks from the coarse revelry of the 
princes who “drink in the morning,” keeping up a custom which is 
“‘ more honoured in the breach than in the observance.” He seeks for 
wisdom, and if for folly also, only that he may see ‘“‘ what is that good 
for the sons of men which they should do under heaven” (Eccl. il. 3). 
He is beginning to feel the impulse of a new affection, in itself a pure 
and noble one, for Ophelia. Possibly there are memories lying behind 
a affections less pure which justified the warnings that Laertes gives 
is sister: 

‘‘T am myself indifferent honest ; but yet I could accuse me of such 
things that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am very 
proud, revengeful, ambitious ; with more offences at my back than [ 
have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to 
act them in.” 

Hamlet, Il. 1. 

His discovery of the terrible disorder in the world that surrounds him 
has wakened conscience to a discernment, perhaps a morbid exaggera- 
tion, of a like disorder in himself, and this becomes, in its turn, an en- 
feebling element hindering him from bearing the burden that is laid 
upon him bravely likea man. He represents that aspect of the Kohe- 
leth temper which had its birth in the sight of iniquity where it looked 
for righteousness (Eccl. iii. 16), of power on the side of the oppressors 
while “the poor had no comforter” (Eccl. iv. 1). There is something 
significant in the contrast between the wider yet less balanced thoughts 
of one on whom rests the burden of the ‘‘ world in the heart” (Eccl. iii. 
11), the unfathomable mystery of the moral anomalies of the universe 


and the calmer, more worldly precepts of prudence which come from 
Polonius as one who has grown grey in courts and statecraft. Such 
precepts, it is surely the lesson which Shakespeare meant to teach, are 
of little value in ministering to a mind diseased. They may do for 
Laertes but not for Hamlet. There is a singular resembiance between 
those precepts and Bacon’s Essay (xviii.) on ‘Travel’ which half sug- 
gests the thought that the poet, noting the weak points which such an 
eye as his could not fail to discern in the character of him who was the 
“greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind,” and impatient of the pedantic 
moralisings that had nothing answering to them in the man’s inner life, 
had that type of character in his mind when he drew the portrait of 
the “rash intruding fool” who schemes and plans, and utters his worldly 
maxims as if they were the oracles of God}. 

And what makes the burden more intolerable is that he is not 
allowed to bear it patiently and to refer it to the judgment of the Ruler 
who will bring “the secret things to light, whether they be good or 
evil.” The ‘world is out of joint” and he, and none other, ‘is born 
‘to set it right.” He must be the minister of vengeance, and in taking 
that office upon himself he does but make all things worse both for him- 
self and others. And so the weariness of life, the “ satias videndz” falls 
on him as it did on Koheleth. Below his simulated madness there is 
the real insanity of pessimism: 

“It goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the 
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory ; this most excellent canopy the 
air, look you,—this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof 
fretted with golden fire, why it appears no other thing to me than a 
foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is 
a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in 
moving, how like an angel! in apprehension how like a God! the 
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! and yet to me what is 

1 The suggestion may seem bold, almost to the verge of paradox, but is not 
made without a fairly close study of the original and the counterpart. The coinci- 
dences which I have pointed out between the counsel of Polonius and the Essay on 
Travel are, it will be admitted by any one who will take the trouble to compare 
them, striking enough. It may be said further that the whole phraseology of 
Polonius, shrewd yet slightly pedantic, 

“full of wise saws and modern instances” 

corresponds to that of Bacon as the collector of apophthegms and maxims and rules 
of prudence. May we not think that Shakespeare, through Hamlet, uttered his 
sense of the impotence of such counsels as applied to the deeper evils of the soul,. 
when he makes the half-distracted prince declare 

“Vea, from the table of my memory 
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, 
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, 
‘That youth and observation copied there.” 

Bacon’s rise upon Raleigh’s fall, about the time when Hamlet received the poet’s 
last revision, and the part that he had taken in the proceedings against Essex were not 
likely to win the admiration of a man of letters who had known something of both 
his victims. To such a man he may well have seemed to embody the intriguing 
statecraft as well as the pedantry of Polonius. 


this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me: no, nor woman 

FHlamle, U1. 2. 

Has the theme of ‘‘ Vanity of Vanities” ever been uttered in tones 
of profounder sadness? Has the irony of the contrast between the 
ideal and the actual in life ever been expressed more forcibly? 

And with this there comes the thought on which Koheleth rings the 
changes that death is better than life (Eccl. vi. 3, vii. 1), traversed in 
its turn by the thought that life is better than death (Eccl. ix. 4, 9, Io), 
the known than the unknown, the certainties of the present than the 
uncertain chances of the future. 

‘To be, or not to be, that is the question :— 
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind, to suffer 
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing, end them? To die,—to sleep,— 
No more; and, by a sleep, to say we end 
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation 
Devoutly to bé wish’d. To die,—to sleep,— 
To sleep! perchance to dream ;—ay, there’s the rub, 
That makes calamity of so long life: 
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, 
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, 
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay, 
The insolence of office, and the spurns 
That patient merit of the unworthy takes 
When he himself might his quietus make 
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, 
To grunt and sweat under a weary life; 
But that the dread of something after death,— 
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn 
No traveller returns,—puzzles the will, 
And makes us rather bear those ills we have 
Than fly to others that we know not of? 
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; 
And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought; 
And enterprises of great pith and moment, 
With this regard their currents turn awry, 
And lose the name of action.” 

Flamlet, Itt. 1. 

We feel that here, as in the case of Koheleth, the weariness of life 
will not end in suicide. He talks too much of it for that, contemplates 
it as a spectator from without, moralises on it, like Jaques, with a 
thousand similies. Perhaps, we must add, as the thought of the undis- 
covered country has no purifying or controlling power, as conscience 
leads only to cowardice and not to courage, suicide would have been 


the lesser evil of the two. As it is, the cancer of pessimism is driven 
inward and eats into the inmost parts. We cannot doubt that Shake- 
speare had seen like phzenomena in actual insanity, had felt the possi- 
bility of them in his own being. The moralising melancholy becomes 
a cynical and brutal bitterness, It is just after the soliloquy that he 
treats Ophelia with an almost savage ferocity. In the churchyard 
scene he speaks as one in whom the reverence for humanity is extin- 
guished, moralises on the skulls of the lawyers, and of Alexander, and 
of Yorick, the well-loved friend of his boyhood, in tones that remind us 
at once of Jaques and of Timon. There are no “ lachrymae rerum,” 
in that survey of mortality, hardly more than the risus Sardonicus 
which Tennyson has painted so vividly, as we shall see, in his Vision of 
Sin. The ruin is complete, or seems so. But the parallelism with 
Koheleth and with Shakespeare himself would not have been com- 
plete if, in this case also, there had not been in Horatio, the presence 
of the faithful friend, the “‘man who pleaseth God” (Eccl. vii. 26), to 
whom, as free from the passions that have plunged him inthe abyss, he 
clings, as the drowning man to the hand that would fain have saved 
him. His last words are addressed to him: 

‘Horatio, what a wounded name, 
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me! 
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, 
Absent thee from felicity awhile, 
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain 
To tell my story.” 
Hamlet, V. 2. 

And here, as in the case of Timon, the faithful friend sees a glimmer 
of hope even in the thick darkness. He will not despair even though 
the sufferer dies and make no sign. He loves him, will not God 
forgive ? 

** Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, 
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” 
Hamlet, v. 2. 

The last instance to which I call attention, that of Prospero, has the 
special interest of giving us the last, or all but the last, utterances of the 
great Master on the great mystery. As in Hamlet we have the history 
of a shipwrecked soul, so in the Zemfest, almost as if its title and its 
opening scenes were meant to be a parable of the gist and drift of the 
whole book, we have that of one who has escaped from shipwreck and 
reached the desired haven of a supreme tranquillity. Prospero had 
sought wisdom at first in the ‘‘many books” of the making of which 
there is ‘‘no end” (Eccl. xii. 12). His “‘library” was ‘dukedom 
large enough.” That study had left him exposed to treachery and 
baseness. He was shut out from the world, and knew its hollowness 
but he did not hate it or rail at it, as Timon and Hamlet did. He 
had found the well-spring of a new life and hope in the purest of all 
affections. He owns to Miranda all that she had been to him in the 
unconscious helplessness of her infancy, 


*©O! a cherubim 
Thou wast that did preserve me! Thou didst smile, 
Infused with a fortitude from heaven, 
When I have decked the sea with drops full salt; 
Under my burden groan’d; which raised in me 
An undergoing stomach, to bear up 
Against what should ensue.” 

Tempest, 1. 2. 

He has learnt, —Shakespeare himself, speaking through Prospero, has 
learnt,—that the sensuality that defiles the first stirrings of youthful 
love is the root of all bitterness, that then only can the man ‘‘ live joy- 
fully with the wife whom he loves” (Eccl. ix. 9), when passion has 
been controlled and purity preserved from stain, and 

‘*Each to other gives the virgin heart.” 

And he too moralises on the chances and changes of life with the better 
form of Epicurean calmness. For him also 

‘All the world’s a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players,” 

but the thought leads to no cynical revilings. It is not a Christian 
view of life and death. The ethics of Shakespeare are no more Chris- 
tian, in any real sense of the word, than those of Sophocles or Goethe. 
But it is a view that commended itself not unnaturally to one who 
being himself the creator of the mimic drama that mirrored life, pic- 
tured to himself the great Workmaster as being altogether such an one 
as himself, the author of the great world-drama in which men and wo- 
men were the puppets. 

‘© These our actors, 
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and 
Are melted into air, into thin air; 
And like the baseless fabric of this vision, 
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, 
The solemn temples; the great globe itself, 
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, 
And, like this unsubstantial pageant faded, 
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 
As dreams are made of, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep.” 

Tempest, WV. 1. 

The pessimism which haunted Koheleth is absent from this calm 
contemplative acquiescence in the inevitable transitoriness of human 
life and of the world itself. It may be questioned perhaps whether the 
pessimism was not better than the calmness, testifying, even against 
its will, of higher possibilities, unable to satisfy itself with any belief 
that was, in its essence, though not formally, Pantheistic, and craving 
for the manifestation of a personal Will ruling the world in righteousness, 
and therefore ‘‘ executing judgement against every evil work.” 


One more instance in which the final resting-place of Shakespeare’s 
thoughts answers to that in which Koheleth rested for a time, and I 
have done. There is another drama, Cyméeline (A.D. 1605), which 
also belongs to the latest group of Shakespeare’s writings. In that 
drama we have a funeral dirge sung over the supposed corpse of the 
disguised Imogen. It does not help to the development of any 
character in the play, but comes in, as it were, by way of parenthesis, 
and therefore may be legitimately considered as embodying the poet’s 
own thoughts of what, if men could get rid of the Burial Service and 
other conventional decorums, would be the right utterance for such a 
time and place. And the dirge runs thus: 

‘¢Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, 
Nor the furious winter’s rages; 
Thou thy worldly task hast done, 
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages. 
Golden lads and girls all must, 
Like chimney sweepers, come to dust. 

Fear no more the frown of the great, 
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke; 
Care no more to clothe and eat ; 

To thee the reed is as the oak; 

The sceptre, learning, physic must 
All follow this and come to dust. 

Fear no more the lightning-flash, 
Nor th’ all-dreaded thunder-storm, 
Fear not slander, censure rash, 
Thou hast finished joy and moan; 
All lovers young, all lovers must 
Consign to thee and come to dust.” 

Cymbeline, Iv. 2. 

So Koheleth had said of old “One generation passeth away, and 
another generation cometh” (Eccl. i. 4). ‘‘And how dieth the wise 
man? as the fool” (Eccl. ii. 16). ‘* All go unto one place; all are of 
the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccl. iii. 20). ‘‘There is no work, 
nor desire, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou 
goest” (Eccl. ix. ro), 



The conditions under which this paper is written forbid an analysis 
of life such as I have ventured to apply to the Sonnets and Dramas 
of Shakespeare in the Essay which precedes it. One may not, in the 
case of a living writer, remove the veil which shrouds the privacy of 
his home life, or draw conjectural inferences as to that life, however 
legitimate they may seem, from his writings. We must be content 
with what he has actually told us. And so, in the present instance, 
we must rest in the pictures which he himself has drawn of the 
Lincolnshire home, and the happy gatherings when 

**The Christmas bells from hill to hill 
Answer each other in the mist,” 
In Memor. XXVIII. 

in what we know of the brothers, three of whom shared in different 
measures, the gifts and tastes of the poet’s vocation; of the volume of 
early poems published by two of those brothers in their schooldays; of 
the Cambridge prize poem on Timbuctoo; of the new friendships and 
companionships which the life of Cambridge brought with it. 

Of one of those friendships, however, the poet has himself taught 
us to think more freely, and to speak more fully. No one can read 
the Zz Memoriam without feeling that the world owes more than it 
knows to the man who will probably be scarcely remembered in the 
history of literature, except as having formed its subject. To that 
sacred influence, purifying and ennobling during life, yet more puri- 
fying and ennobling after death, we can trace in part at least, as well 
as to the early impressions of a happy home, that which forms one 
conspicuous element in the greatness of the poet’s ripened genius, and 
places the name of Tennyson, along with those of Homer and of 
Virgil, of Dante, and Milton, and Wordsworth, in the list from which 
Byron and Burns, and even Shakespeare are excluded, of those who 
being in the first order of poets in their greatness are also first in their 
purity. The Sonnets of Shakespeare and the 7 Memoriam will occupy 
a prominent place in the history of English Literature at once as 
parallels and as antitheses. In both we have the outpouring of a 
fervent and deep affection, so profound and lasting, that we might 
almost apply to it the language in which David speaks of the friendship 
that bound to him the soul of Jonathan, ‘‘ Thy love to me was won- 
derful, passing the love of woman.” The thought of the parallelism 
seems to have come before the mind of the later poet when he wrote: 

**T loved thee, Spirit, and love, nor can 
The soul of Shakespeare love thee more.” 
In Memoriam, LX, 


But what a contrast between the luscious and sensuous sweetness of 
what his contemporaries called those ‘‘sugared sonnets” of the one 
poet, and the out-poured meditations, ever-rising to a clearer and 
calmer serenity, of the other. In this respect at least, and it is from 
this point of view alone that I am now contemplating the works of 
the two poets, the friendship which Tennyson has made immortal, 
comes nearer to the type of that to which we have been led to look 
as one element in Koheleth’s recovery. Here also there was one who 
did in very deed ‘‘fear God” and ‘‘ pleased Him” (Eccl. vii. 26). 
And it may be said freely, without going beyond the record, that the 
In Memoriam is itself also the history of a like recovery in the poet’s 
inner life. He too had learnt to rise out of ‘‘ the confusions of a wasted 
youth,” had ‘‘ held it truth” 

‘*That men may rise on stepping stones 
Of their dead selves to higher things.” 

ln Memoriam, i. 

The earlier poems are in the tone of the Mataiotes Mataiotéton: 

**From out waste places comes a cry, 
And murmurs from the dying sun, 

And all the phantom, Nature, stands, 
With all the music in her tone, 
A hollow echo of my own, 

A hollow form with empty hands.” 

Ln Memoriam, it. 

His assured faith in the continued being and growth of the soul that 
has passed from earth is, as with Koheleth (Eccl. xii. 7), the triumph 
over a previous doubt: 

‘*My own dim life should teach me this, 
That life shall live for evermore, 
Else earth is darkness at the core, 
And dust and ashes all that is.” 

In Memoriam, XXXIV. 

He has communed with Nature, and her witness to him is as dreary 
and depressing as it was to Koheleth (Eccl. i. 2, 3, iil. 19, 20), or 

‘Thou makest thine appeal to me; 
I bring to life, I bring to death; 
The spirit does but mean the breath; 
I know no more,” 
In Memoriam, Lv. 

but he has learnt to look ‘‘ behind the veil” and to ‘‘ trust,” how- 
ever ‘‘faintly” the ‘‘ larger hope.” Deve 

It lies in the nature of the case, however, that the pessimist temper, 
so far as it had ever entered into the poet’s consciousness at all, as 
more than what he felt was a possibility towards which he might drift 


as others had drifted, already lay behind him before he entered on the 
In Memoriam musings, as part of the ‘‘ dead self” which had been made 
a ‘‘stepping-stone.” We must turn to the earlier poems if we want to 
find parallels to that aspect of the Koheleth experience. And they are 
not hard to seek. In the Vision of Sin, in the Palace of Art, in the 
Two Voices, we may find, if I mistake not, the most suggestive of all 
commentaries on Ecclesiastes. 

The first of these poems deals with the baser, more sensuous form 
of the Koheleth experience of life (Eccl. ii. 8). 

**T had a vision when the night was late; 
A youth came riding towards a palace gate, 
He rode a horse with wings that would have flown, 
But that his heavy rider kept him down.” 

In the symbolism of those two last lines we may trace something like 
a reminiscence, though not a direct reproduction, of the marvellous 
mythos of the Phedrus of Plato (pp. 246, 254). The horse with wings 
that ‘‘ would have flown” is the nature of man with its capacities and 
aspirations }, 

The ‘‘heavy rider” is the sensuous will that represses the aspirations 
and yields easily to temptation. And so: 

‘‘From out the palace came a child of sin, 
And took him by the curls and led him in, 
Where sat a company with heated eyes, 
Expecting when a fountain should arise.” 

And then follows a picture of revel and riot, like that which Ko- 
heleth had known (Eccl. ii. 12). The fountain of sensual pleasure 
flows at last. The orgiastic ecstasy reached its highest point ; 

‘* Twisted hard in fierce embraces, 
Like to Furies, like to Graces, 
Dashed together in blinding dew, 
Till, killed with some luxurious agony, 
The nerve-dissolving melody 
Fluttered headlong from the sky.” 

And then the vision changes, the mirth that has blazed so brightly, 
like the crackling of the thorns (Eccl. vii. 6) dies out, and the slow retri- 
bution comes : 

‘I saw that every morning, far withdrawn 
Beyond the darkness and the cataract, 
God made himself an awful rose of dawn 
Unheeded: and detaching fold by fold 
From those still heights, and slowly drawing near, 

1 * yuxy mace mavrds éryedeirat Tod disyov...mavra St obpardy mepuTodel...TeAca 
Mév ov oVoa. Kal émrepwmMevy MeTEWpOTOAE? TE Kal davTa Tov KdoM.OV SLOLKEL. 
‘*The whole soul contemplates the whole that is without soul... It surveys the 

heavens...developed and with wings full grown it soars aloft and penetrates th> 


A vapour heavy, hueless, formless, cold, 
Came floating on for many a month and year 

That vapour is, as the sequel shews, the cynical pessimism which des- 
troys all joy, and makes a man hate his life (Eccl. ii. 17) and find no 
aia in nature, or comeliness in man or woman. The youthful reveller 


‘© A gray and gap-toothed man as lean as death, 
Who slowly rode across a withered heath 
And lighted at a ruined inn.” 

And the monologue that follows can scarcely fail to remind us of 
much that we have met as we have traced the many wanderings of the 
soul of Koheleth. . There is the same sense of the transitoriness of life, 
tempting men to drown it in oblivion (Eccl. ii. 22, vi. 12), 

‘‘Fill the cup and fill the can: 
Have a rouse before the morn; 
Every minute dies a man, 
Every minute one is born.” 

There is the same contempt for the glory of living in the memories 
of men, after which so many strive without profit (Eccl. i. 11). 

‘‘Name and fame! to fly sublime 
Thro’ the courts, the camps, the schools, 
Is to be the ball of Time, 
Bandied in the hands of fools.” 

The anomalies of a world out of joint socially and politically do but 
stir in him the cynical ‘‘wonder not” (Eccl. v. 8) and he finds in these 
also, as Koheleth found, “‘ vanity and feeding upon wind” (Eccl, viii. 10, 
i, 17). 

‘‘He that wars for liberty 
Faster binds the tyrant’s power, 
And the tyrant’s cruel glee 
Forces on the freer hour. 
Fill the can and fill the cup; 
All the windy ways of men 
Are but dust that rises up, 
And is lightly laid again.” 

Here also time and chance happeneth alike to all (Eccl. ix. 11) and 
the days of darkness are many (Eccl. xi, 8). 

‘‘Drink to Fortune, drink, to chance, 
While we keep a little breath. 

Thou art mazed: the night is long, 
And the longer night is near > 
* * * 

ee ee oe 
and all that remains is but 

“Dregs of life and lees of man.” 

The vision receives its interpretation from the voices that come from 
the mystic mountain range where the judgments of God hide themselves 
in clouds and darkness, ; 

“Then some one said, ‘Behold! it was a crime 
Of sense avenged by sense that wore with time.’ 
Another said, ‘The crime of sense became 
The crime of malice and is equal blame.’ 
And one ‘He had not wholly quenched his power, 
A little grain of conscience made him sour.’’ 

The transformation presents a parallel, obviously, one would say, an 
unconscious parallel, to what we have seen in Shakespeare’s Zion. And 
here too the wider thoughts of the seer lead him to look on that pessimism 
of the depraved and worn-out sensualist rather with pity and terror than 
with absolute despair. He dares not absolve, he dares not condemn : 

“At last I heard a voice upon the slope 
Cry to the summit ‘Is there any hope?’ 
To which an answer pealed from that high land, 
But in a tongue no man could understand, 
And on the glittering summit far withdrawn 
God made Himself an awful rose of dawn.” 

The ‘Palace of Art” presents the analysis of a far nobler experiment 
in life, answering to that of Koheleth when he sought to ‘‘guide his heart 
with wisdom” and surrounded himself with the “peculiar treasure of 
kings and of the provinces” and ‘‘whatsoever his eye desired, he kept 
not from them, and withheld not his heart from any joy and his heart 
rejoiced in his labour” (Eccl. ii, 8—1o). 

In this case the writer prologuizes and states in advance the moral of 
his poem. It will scarcely be questioned that it is identical with that 
which we have seen to be the moral of Ecclesiastes. 

“I send you here a sort of allegory 
(For you will understand it), of a soul, 
A sinful soul possessed of many gifts, 
A spacious garden full of flowering weeds, 
A glorious devil large in heart and brain, 
That did love Beauty only (Beauty seen 
In all varieties of mould and mind) 
And knowledge for its beauty; or if good 
Good only for its beauty, seeing not 
That Beauty, Good and Knowledge, are three sisters 
That doat upon each other, friends to man, 
Living together under the same roof, 
And never can be sundered without tears. 
And he that shuts Love out in turn shall be 
Shut out from Love, and on her threshold lie 


Howling in outer darkness. Not for this 

Was common clay ta’en from the common earth, 
Moulded by God and tempered with the tears 
Of angels to the perfect shape of man.” 

And then the allegory begins. The man communes with his soul 
after the manner of Koheleth (Eccl. ii, r—3): 

**T built my soul a lordly pleasure-house 
Wherein at ease for aye to dwell, 
I said, O Soul, make merry and carouse, 
Dear Soul, for all is well” 

That “ pleasure-house” is filled with all that art can represent of the 
varying aspects 
‘*Of living Nature, fit for every mood 
And change of my still soul.” 

It is filled also with all types and symbols of the religions of humanity, 
regarded simply from the artist’s stand-point as presenting, in greater 
or less measure, the element of beauty, from St Cecilia, and the houris 
of Islam, down to Europa and Ganymede. 

“Nor these alone, but every legend fair 
Which the supreme Caucasian mind 
Carved out of Nature for itself, was there 
Not less than life designed.” 

And poetry also in its highest forms ministered to the soul’s delight ; 

‘‘For there was Milton like a seraph strong, 
Beside him Shakespeare bland and mild; 
And there the world-worn Dante grasped his song, 
And somewhat grimly smiled.” 

And with them were the typical representatives of divine philosophy, 

‘¢Plato the wise, and large-brow’d Verulam, 
Masters of those who know.” 

The highest ideal of Epicurean culture in its supreme tranquillity 
was at least for a time attained, and there was no contaminating ele- 
ment of the lower forms of baseness. The soul can say: 

*¢ All these are mine, 
And, let the world have peace or war, 
Tis one to me.” 

She found delight in tracing the evolution of organic, the development 
of intellectual, life, and had placed beneath her feet, as Epicurus him- 
self had done, the superstitions of the crowd, and, as Koheleth had 
at one time done, had cast aside the memories of a national and 

historical religion. 


‘*I take possession of men’s mind and deed, 
I live in all things great and small; 
I sit apart, holding no form of creed, 
And contemplating all.” 

But the germ of retribution was already planted. As with Koheleth 
there was ‘‘the world set in the heart” (Eccl. iii, 11), the problems 
of the unfathomable universe ; 

‘Full oft the riddle of the painful earth 
Flashed thro’ her as she sate alone, 
Yet not the less held she her solemn mirth 
And intellectual throne 

Of full-sphered contemplation.” 

And then, as with a stroke like that which fell on Herod, the penalty 
of her selfish search for happiness, her isolated eudzemonism, there 
fell on her as in a moment, the doom of ‘vanity of vanities” written 

on all her joys, and the mood of pessimism which was its first and 
bitterest fruit : 

‘*When she would think, where’er she turned her sight, 
The airy hands confusion wrought, 
Wrote ‘mene, mene’ and divided quite 
The kingdom of her thought. 

Deep dread and loathing of her solitude 
Fell on her, from which mood was born 

Scorn of herself: again from out that mood 
Laughter at her self-scorn.” 

Has the picture of one who is “fessus satiate videndi” been ever 
drawn by a more subtle master-hand? To such a mood, as seen in 
Koheleth, existence is a burden, and non-existence a terror (Eccl. 

ii. 17, vi. 3, ix. 5), the sleep of the grave, or the dreams that may 
haunt that sleep are equally appalling ; 

“‘And death and life she hated equally, 
And nothing saw, for her despair, 
But dreadful time, dreadful eternity, 
No comfort anywhere.” 

It was a more terrible, if a less loathsome, form of retribution, than 
the cynical scorn of the ‘Vision of Sin,” not without a certain element 
of greatness, and therefore that cry out of the depths was not uttered 
in vain: 

“What is it that will take away my sin, 
And save me lest I die?” 

There is no other road to restoration than the old “ king’s highway” 
of penitence and prayer and self-renunciation, The deepest lesson of 
the poem is perhaps kept to the last. The joys of beauty, and culture, 
and art, and wisdom, are not lost utterly and for ever. The Palace 


of Art remains for the soul to dwell in, when it is purified from evil, 
no longer in selfish isolation, but in the blessedness of companionship. 
“ Whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever 
things are lovely,” are not forfeited by the discipline of repentance, 
but rather secured as for an everlasting habitation, withdrawn for a 
season, but only that they may abide with the soul for ever: 
‘*So when four years were wholly finished, 
She threw her royal robes away. 
‘Make me a cottage in the vale,’ she said, 
‘Where I may fast and pray. 
Yet pull not down my palace towers that are 
So lightly, beautifully built ; 
Perchance I may return with others there, 
When I have purged my guilt.’” 

In the ‘‘Two Voices” we have a fuller unveiling of what the poet 
pictured to himself as the working of the pessimist temper, to which 
life has become hateful, while yet it shrinks from death. Here also the 
unconscious echoes of the thoughts of Koheleth (Eccl. vi. 3) are dis- 
tinctly heard: 

‘°A still small voice spake unto me, 
‘Thou art so full of misery, 
Were it not better not to be?’” 

The soul makes answer to the tempter with feeble and faltering voice. 
It is in vain to urge the dignity of man’s nature and his prerogative of 
thought. . Nature cares for the race, not for the individualman, ‘‘ One 
generation goeth and another generation cometh” (Eccl. i. 4). 

‘*It spake moreover in my mind 
‘Tho’ thou wert scatter’d to the wind, 
Yet is there plenty of the kind.’” 

Tn the language of the French cynic, “// n’y a pas Phomme necessaire.” 

‘*Good soul suppose I grant it thee 
Who'll weep for thy deficiency? 
Or will one beam be less intense, 
When thy peculiar difference 
Is cancelled in the world of sense?” 

Hope that the future may be better than the past is repressed with 
a like sneer: 
‘*¢Some turn this sickness yet might take, 
Ev’n yet.” But he ‘what drug can make 
A withered palsy cease to shake?’” 
It is in vain to aim at the Epicurean tranquillity of culture or refined 
enjoyment (Eccl. ii. 24, v- 18). 
‘* Moreover but to seem to find, 
Asks what thou lackest, thought resigned, 
A healthy frame, a quiet mind.” 



As with Hamlet, this shrinking from the logical outcome of pessimism, 
lest it should tarnish his fair fame among his fellows, shews weakness 
and not strength. That desire to be remembered is also ‘ vanity,’ 

‘Such art thou, a divided will, 
Still heaping on the fear of ill 
The fear of men, a coward still. 

Do men love thee? Art thou so bound 
To men, that how thy name shall sound 
Shall vex thee, lying underground?” 

The aspirations after the heroic life are shewn to be as hollow as 
the search for happiness. This also is vanity. 

‘Then comes the check, the change, the fall; 
Pain rises up, old pleasures pall; 
There is one remedy for all.” 

The old question, who knows whether man is better than the brute 
creatures round him (Eccl. iii. 21) is asked and with the old answer: 
““Tf straight thy track, or if oblique, 
Thou know’st not, shadows thou dost strike, 
Embracing cloud, Ixion-like; 

And owning but a little more 
Than beasts, abidest tame and poor, 
Calling thyself a little lower 

Than angels. Cease to wail and brawl; 
Why inch by inch to darkness crawl? 
There is one remedy for all.” 

As with Hamlet, the voice that prompts to self-destruction is met in 

part by the fear of the unknown. We have no full assurance that death 
is the end of consciousness: 

**For I go, weak from suffering here; 
Naked I go, and void of cheer; 
What is it that I may not fear?” 

The very weariness of life, which is the outcome of pessimism, testifies 
to the higher capacities, and therefore the higher possibilities, of the 
human spirit. The Welt-schmerz, the ‘world set in the heart,’ the 
thought of Infinity (Eccl. iii. 11), bears its unconscious witness, 

‘*Here sits he shaping wings to fly, 
His heart forebodes a mystery, 
He names the name Eternity.” 

Conscious as he is of the contradictions in his inner life, of the ‘‘ dead 
flies” that taint the fair fame even of the best and wisest (Eccl. vii. 1). 

‘He knows a baseness in his blood, 
At such strange war with something good, 
He may not do the thing he would.” 


Yet with him, as with Koheleth, faith at last prevaiis, and the goal of 
his many labyrinthine wanderings of thought is hope and not despair, 
And the faith comes to him, not through the careful balancing of the 
conflicting arguments of the Voice that whispered despair and of his 
own soul in reply, but partly through his inner consciousness of aspira- 
tions after a higher blessedness, partly through the contemplation of a 
form of life natural and simple enough, in which that blessedness is, in 
part at least, realised, in a fresh sympathy with humanity, in acts, or at 
least thoughts, of kindness (Eccl. xi. 1, 2). 

** Whatever crazy sorrow saith, 
No life that breathes with human breath, 
Hath ever truly longed for death. 

*Tis life whereof our nerves are scant; 
Oh, life, not death, for which we pant, 
More life, and fuller, that I want.” 

And what he sees is a village Churchyard, on ‘“‘the Sabbath morn,” 
and “the sweet Church bells begin to peal,” and among those who 
are so ‘‘ passing the place where each must rest” are three—husband, 
wife and child, bound together as by ‘‘a three-fold cord that is not 
easily broken” (Eccl. iv. 12). 

**These:three made unity so sweet, 
My frozen heart began to beat, 
Remembering its ancient heat.” 

And so “the dull and bitter voice was gone” and a second voice was 
heard with its whisper, 

‘“*A murmur ‘Be of better cheer.’” 

He looked back, as Koheleth looked back, on his previous mood of 
pessimism as a thing belonging to the past, and just as the last words 
of the one were those that said in tones, which though a sad tender 
irony might mingle with them, were far from being merely ironical, 
* Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth” (Eccl. xi. 9), so, in the new 
sense of life that dawned upon the thinker, this was the Voice that at 
last prevailed, as he looked on the blameless joys of the life of home, 
purified by the fear of God, and felt the calming influence of sky and 
stream and meadow-land and flowers, 

**So variously seem’d all things wrought, 
I marvelled how the mind was brought 
To anchor by one gloomy thought, 

And wherefore rather I made choice 
To commune with that barren voice 
Than him that said Rejoice, rejoice.” 

A later poem of Tennyson’s, his ‘‘ Lucretius,” gives a new signifi- 
cance to these three earlier works, as shewing how deeply he had 
entered into that Epicurean teaching both in its higher and its lower 
aspects, of which we have seen so many traces in the words of Kohe- 



leth. With the profound insight which that study had given him he 
paints, on the one hand, the insane impurities which are the outcome 
of the soul’s disease, and haunt the mind that has rested in sensuous 
pleasure as its goal, and of which the Poet’s fourth Book presents 
but too full and terrible a picture; and, on the other, recognises the 
higher aim which makes the De Rerum Natura one of the loftiest and 
noblest poems of Latin, or indeed of any, literature. It had not been 
his aim, any more than it was that of Koheleth, to rest in mere 

‘*My Master held 
That Gods there are, for all men so believe. 
I prest my footsteps into his, and meant 
Surely to lead my Memmius in a train 
Of flowery clauses onward to the thought 
That Gods there are, and deathless.” 

He too has known ‘the two Voices’ that tempt to self-slaughter and 
resist the temptation, as a man looks out at ‘‘all the evil that is done 
under the sun” (Eccl. iv. 1), of which he says: 

‘*And here he glances on an eye new born, 
And gets for greeting but a wail of pain; 
And here he stays upon a freezing orb 
That fain would gaze upon him to the last; 
And here upon a yellow eyelid fall’n, 
And closed by those who mourn a friend in vain, 
Not thankful that his troubles are no more. 
And me, altho’ his fire is on my face, 
Blinding, he sees not, nor at all can tell 
Whether I mean this day to end myself, 
Or lend an ear to Plato, where he says, 
That men, like soldiers, may not quit the post 
Allotted by the Gods: but he that holds 
The Gods are careless, wherefore need he care 
Greatly for them, nor rather plunge at once, 
Being troubled, wholly out of sight, and sink 
Past earthquake—ay, and gout and stone, that break 
Body towards death, and palsy, death-in-life 
And wretched age...?” 

The student will have noticed how singularly all this coincides with 
Koheleth’s view of the ‘vanity’ of human life, one generation going 
and another coming (Eccl. i. 4), and with the picture of disease and 
decay in Eccl. xii. 3—6. Lucretius, like Koheleth, had aimed at the 
higher ideal of the life of the Garden of Epicurus. He turns to the 
Gods and says: 

“T thought I lived securely as yourselves— 
No lewdness, narrowing envy, monkey spite, 
No madness of ambition, avarice, none: 

No larger feast than. under plane or pine 


With neighbours laid along the grass, to take 
Only such cups as left us friendly warm, 
Affirming each his own philosophy— 
Nothing to mar the sober majesties 

Of settled, sweet Epicurean life.” 

The agony which drove him to self-slaughter was that he had fallen 
from that ideal into the sensuous baseness with which he had made 
himself but too fatally familiar. He too had his “‘ Vision of Sin,” the 
‘crime of sense avenged by sense,” and found the haunting burden of 
it unendurable, and in words which again remind us of Koheleth (Eccl. 
i. 9, I1, ili. 20), utters his resolve, 

** And therefore now 
Let her that is the womb and tomb of all, 
Great Nature, take, and forcing far apart 
Those blind beginnings that have made me man, 
Dash them anew together at her will, 
Thro’ all her cycles—into man once more, 
Or beast, or bird, or fish, or opulent flower :” 

And doing this, he looks forward to the time 

‘When momentary man 
Shall seem no more a something to himself, 
But he, his hopes and hates, his homes and fanes, 
And even his bones long laid within the grave, 
The very sides of the grave itself shail pass 
Vanishing, atom and void, atom and void, 
Into the unseen for ever.” 

With Tennyson, as with Shakespeare, there are few, if any, traces, 
that this striking parallelism with the Confessions of the Debater, is 
the result of any deliberate study of, or attempt to reproduce, them. 
The phrases of Ecclesiastes are not borrowed, admirably as they might 
have served to express his thoughts; there is no reference, however 
distant, to his experience. We have to do once more with parallelism 
pure and simple and not with derivation. What I have attempted to 
shew is that under every extremest variation in circumstances and 
culture the outcome of the pursuit of happiness, what we have learnt to 
call eudzemonism, after the Epicurean ideal, is sooner or later, that, in 
the absence of a clearer faith and loftier aim, the ideal breaks down 
and leaves the man struggling with the question ‘Is life worth living?’ 
perhaps finding the answer to that question in some form of a pessimist 
view of life and of the Universe. It will be admitted, I think, that, so 
far as I have proved this, I have added to the arguments which I have 
urged in favour of the view that I have maintained, both in the Notes 
and in the ‘‘Ideal Biography,” as to the gees and plan of Eccle- 



I have yet another instance of unconscious parallelism with the expe- 
rience and the thought of Koheleth to bring before the student’s notice. 
It comes from a far off land and from a more distant age than the two 
which I have already discussed. Omar Khayyam (=Omar, the Tent 
maker)! was born in the latter half of the eleventh century at Naishapur 
in Khorasan. He was in his youth the friend and fellow-student of 
Nizam ul Mulk, the Vizier of Alp Arslan, the son of Toghrul Bey. 
They read the Koran sitting at the feet of the Imam Mowaffek, the 
greatest teacher of his age and city. Another fellow-student became 
afterwards a name of terror as Hasan, the OLD MAN OF THE MOUN- 
TAINS, the head of the Assassins whose name and fame became a word 
of terror to the Crusaders. Omar, as acting on the Epicurean counsel, 
abe Biwoas (=live as hidden from view), asked his Vizier friend to ‘‘let 
him live in a corner under the shadow of his fortune,” giving his life to 
the pursuit of wisdom. Like the Greek and Roman Epicureans, he 
devoted himself chiefly to astronomy and physical science. He was 
employed in reforming the Persian Calendar, and died, as the paragon 
of his age, in A.D. 1123. It was characteristic of the mood of thought, 
the workings of which we are about to trace, that his wish as to his 
grave was that it might be ‘‘ where the North wind might scatter roses 
over him.” Like the Koheleth of the ‘‘Ideal Biography,” in his rela- 
tion to the Jewish Rabbis of his time, he startled alike the orthodox 
Imams of Islam and the mystics of the Sufi sect, by the half-voluptuous, 
half-cynical strain which found utterance in his poems and his conversa- 
tion, The writer of an article in the Calcutta Review, No. 59, draws 
an elaborate parallel between his poetry and that of Lucretius, but it 
does not seem to have occurred to him to carry the line of thought 
further and to note the many coincidences which the Rudaiyat (= Te- 
trastichs) presents to the thoughts and language of Ecclesiastes, as well 
as to those of the later Epicurean poet. ‘To these the attention of the 
student is now invited. 

The poem opens with the dawn of a New Year’s day, and a voice 
calls as from a tavern where revellers are carousing, and summons to 

**Come fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring 
Your winter garment of Repentance fling, 
The Bird of Time has but a little way 
To flutter—and the Bird is on the wing, 

1 I owe my knowledge of the poet to the “‘ Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” pub- 
lished by Quaritch, 1879. The name of the translator is not given. 


Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, 
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run, 

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, 
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one. 

Each morn a thousand Roses brings, you say, 
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of yesterday ? 

And this first summer-month that brings the Rose, 
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away. 

Well, let it take them.” 

The lesson drawn from that thought of the transitoriness of enjoyment 
is the old lesson of a calm and tranquil Epicureanism such as that of 
Heche M.1 245) Vass aXe 7 

‘“*A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
A Jug of Wine, a loaf of Bread—and thou 
Beside me singing in the Wilderness, 

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow. 

Some for the Glories of this World, and some 
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; 

Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, 
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum! 

Look to the blowing Rose about us;—‘Lo! 
‘Laughing’ she says ‘into the world I blow, 
“At once the silken tassel of my Purse 
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw;’ 

* * * * * 

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon 
Turns ashes, or it prospers; and anon 

Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty face, 
Lighting a little hour or two—was gone. 

Think—in this battered Caravanserai 

Whose portals are alternate Night and Day, 
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp 

Abode his destin’d Hour, and went his way.” 

And this sense of the transitoriness of all things human (Eccl. i. 4—7, 
ii. 16) leads, as with the Epicureans of all times and countries, to the 
Carpe diem of Horace, the ‘‘let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die” 
of 1 Cor. xv. 34, to the belief that there is ‘‘ nothing better for a man 
than that he should thus eat, drink and be merry.” 

‘Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears 
To-Day of past Regret and future Fears, 

* * * * * * 

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
Before we too into the Dust descend; 

Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie, 
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer and sans End,” 


Man’s aspirations after immortality are met with the scepticism of 
the “‘who knoweth?” of Pyrrho and of Koheleth (Eccl. iii, 21), or even 
with a more definite denial. 

‘* Alike for those who for To-Day prepare, 
And those that after some to-morrow stare, 
A Muezzin from the towers of darkness cries 
‘Fools, your reward is neither Here nor There.’ ” 

The discussions of the Sages of his land, the making of many books 
without end, were for him but as the ‘feeding upon wind” (Eccl. 
xii. 2) and brought no satisfying answer. 

“Myself when young did eagerly frequent 
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument, 
About it and about: but evermore 
Came out by the same door where in I went. 

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow, 

And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow; 
And this was all the Harvest that I reaped : 

‘I came like Water and like Wind I go,’’ 

The problem of Life, the enigma of the Universe, found no solution, 
God had ‘‘set the world in the heart” of man to the intent that 
they might not ‘find out his work from the beginning to the end” 
(Eccl, iti, rr), 

‘Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate 
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, 
And many a Knot unravell’d by the Road, 
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate. 

There was the Door to which I found no Key, ' 

There was the Veil through which I might not see: 
Some little talk awhile of Mz and THEE, 

There was,—and then no more of THEE and Mk. 

Earth could not answer: nor the Seas that mourn 
In flowing Purple, of their Lord forlorn; 

Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs revealed, 
And hidden by the Sleeve of Night and Morn,” 

Agnosticism has, perhaps, never spoken in the tones of a more terrible 
despondency than in the words that follow, though the language of 
Koheleth in Eccl. iii. 13, ix. 3, falls not far short of it. 

““Then of the THEE IN ME who works behind 
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to, find 
A Lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard 
As from Without, ‘The ME within THEE blind.” 

‘ We are reminded ot the grand language of Job xxviii. 13, 14, but there the 
questioner, like Koheleth, was led to a very different conclusion, 


The sense of the infinite littleness of the individual life (Eccl. i. 4, 11), 
is expressed in words which remind us (once more a case of uncon- 
scious parallelism) of Tennyson’s gloomier Voice, 

‘‘When you and I behind the Veil are past, 
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last, 
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds, 
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast. 

A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste 
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste— 
And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reacht 
The NOTHING it set out from. Oh, make haste.” 

He takes refuge, like Koheleth (Eccl. ii. 3, ix. 7), from this despair, in 
the juice of the ‘‘ fruitful Grape,” 

‘‘The Sovereign Alchemist that in a trice 
Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmutes.” 

He is not deterred from that sweet balm by the Prophet’s prohibition, 
or fears of Hell, or hopes of Paradise, 

‘¢One thing is certain, and the rest is lies, 
The Flower that once has blown, for ever dies.” 

None have come back from the bourne of that ‘‘ undiscovered country” 
that lies behind the veil, 

‘* Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who 
Before us pass’d the doors of Darkness through, 
Not one returns to tell us of the Road, 
Which to discover we must travel too.” 

Like Milton’s Satan he has come to the conviction that, 

‘The Soul is its own place and of itself 
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven,” 

and gives utterance to the conviction: 

“‘T sent my Soul through the Invisible 
Some letter of that After life to spell, 
And by and by my Soul return’d to me 
And answered, ‘I myself am Heaven and Hell.’ 

Heaven but the Vision of fulfilled Desire, 

And Hell the Shadow of a Soul on fire, 
Cast on the darkness into which ourselves 

So late emerg’d from, shall so soon expire.” 

In words which remind us of Prospero’s 

‘We are such stuff 
As dreams are made of,” 


or of Jaques’ 
‘*All the world’s a stage 
And all the men and women merely players,” 

he writes his view of the world’s great drama as seen from the half- 
pessimist, half-pantheistic, stand-point, 

‘We are no other than a moving row 
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go, 
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held 
In Midnight by the Master of the Show; 

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays 

Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days, 
Hither and thither moves, and checks and stays, 

And one by one back in the Closet lays.” 

Koheleth’s complaint that there is ‘*no new thing under the sun” 
(Eccl. i. 9), that the course of Nature and of human life presents but a 
dreary monotony of iteration (Eccl. i. 5, 6, 14), oppresses him once 
more with a despair for which the wine-cup seems the only remedy: 
he knows not either the ‘whence?’ the ‘whither?’ or the ‘why?’ 
of life, 

‘‘Yesterday, this Day’s Madness did prepare; 
To-morrow’s Silence, Triumph, or Despair: 
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: 
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.” 

In words which remind us of Heine, at once in their faint hope, and in 
the bold despair which equals almost the “‘ Zanté stat proedita culpa” 
of Lucretius, he utters his last words to the Eternal, whom he can nei- 
ther wholly deny nor yet trust in and adore, 

“What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke 
A conscious Something to resent the Yoke 
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain 
Of Everlasting Penalties if broke! 

What! from his helpless Creature be repaid 

Pure Gold, for what He lent him dross-allay’d— 
Sue for a debt he never did contract 

And cannot answer—Oh the sorry trade! 

Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin 
Beset the Road I was to wander in, 

Thou wilt not with Predestin’d Evil round 
Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to sin! 

Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make 
And evn with Paradise devise the Snake: 

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man 
Is blacken’d,—Man’s forgiveness give—and take.” 


In this instance also, as in those of Koheleth, Jaques, Hamlet, 
Heine, Schopenhauer, and a thousand others, the pessimism, self- 
conscious and self-contemplative, finding free utterance in the play of 
imagination or of humour, did not lead to suicide, but to the effort, 
after the manner of Epicureans less noble than Lucretius, to narcotise 
the sense of wretchedness by the stimulation of the wine-cup. In 
words which half remind us of some of Heine’s most cynical utterances 
and half of the epitaph said to have been placed on the tomb of 
Sophocles, he gives free vent to his thoughts as to the hard theory of 
destiny that had been pressed upon him under the form of the old 
parable of the Potter and the clay, and his refuge from those thoughts 
in the revelry which was rounded by the sleep of death, 

‘¢¢Why,’ said another, ‘Some there are who tell 
Of One who threatens He will send to Hell 
The luckless Pots He marred in making;—Pish! 
He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well’?. 

‘Well,’ murmured one, ‘Let whoso make or buy, 
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry: 

But fill me with the old familiar juice; 
Methinks I might recover by and by. 

* * * * * * 

‘Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, 
Ah, wash the Body whence the Life has died, 

And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf, 
By some not-unfrequented Garden-side. 

That ev’n my buried Ashes such a snare 

Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air 
As not a true believer passing by 

But shall be overtaken unaware.” 

Beyond this we need not go. The life of Omar Khayyam, so far as 
we know, did not end, as we have seen reason to believe that that of 
Koheleth, and even of Heine, did, in a return to truer thoughts of the 
great enigma. It will be admitted, however, that it is not without 
interest to trace, under so many varieties of form and culture, the iden- 
tity of thought and feeling to which an undisciplined imagination, 
brooding over that enigma and seeking refuge, in sensual indulgence, 
from the thought that it is insoluble, sooner or later leads. The poets 
and thinkers of the world might, indeed, almost be classified according 
to the relation in which they stand, to that world-problem which 
Reason finds itself thus impotent to solve. Some there are, like 
Homer, and the unknown author of the Mébelungen Lied, who in 
their healthy objectivity seem never to have known its burden. Some, 
like Aischylus, Dante, Milton, Keble, have been protected against its 
perilous attacks by the faith which they had inherited and to which 
they clung without the shadow of a doubt. Some, like Epicurus him- 

1 Comp. Heine’s words not long before his death ‘‘ Dieu me pardonnera; c’est 
son metier.” 


self, and Montaigne, have rested in a supreme tranquillity. Some, like 
Sophocles, Virgil, Shakespeare, Goethe, have passed through it, not 
to the serenity of a clearer faith, but to the tranquillity of the Supreme 
Artist, dealing with it as an element in their enlarged experience. Some, 
like Lucretius, Omar Khayyam, Leopardi, and in part Heine, have’ 
yielded to its fatal spell, and have ‘‘died and made no sign” after 
nobler or ignobler fashion. Others, to whom the world owes more, 
have fought and overcome, and have rested in the faith of a Divine 
Order which will at last assert itself, of a Divine Education, of which 
the existence of the enigma, as forming part of man’s probation and 
discipline, is itself a material element. Of this victory, the writer of 
the Book of Job, and Tennyson, present the earliest and the latest 
phases. An intermediate position may be claimed, not the less poetical 
in essence because its outward form was not that of poetry, for the 
writer of Ecclesiastes as in later times for the Fessées of Pascal. 

A berglaube, 47 

abiit ad plures, 179 

acceptable words, 226, 227 
adder, deaf, 198 

Eschylus quoted, 161, 181, 190 
Alexandria, museum of, 49, 114 
allis vanity, 110, 224 

almond tree, 218 

always white, 188 

Anima mundi, 224 

another generation cometh, 104 
Antiochus Epiphanes, 120 
Antiochus Sidetes, 191 
apothecary, 195 

Aristophanes, quoted, 106, 203 
Aristotle, quoted, 17 
dpxatdrrAovTot, 195 

Artaxerxes Mnemon, 155 
assemblies, masters of, 227 
Athanasius, 65 

bedchamber, 203 
Blaesilla, 95 

breaketh a hedge, 106 
Browning, quoted, 189 
bulwarks, 191 

caper-berry, 219 

cast thy bread, 204 

Catullus, quoted, 43, 200 
charming of serpents, 198 
Chasidim, 181 

child, 200 

* Christian Year,” quoted, 128 
Cicero, quoted, 132, 183, 200, 215 
cistern, 222 

cleaveth wood, 196 

comforter, 138 

consumes his own flesh, 140 
crackling of thorns, 162 
Croesus, 151 

cranes of Ibycos, 203 
commended mirth, 182 
considered in my heart, 183 
Creator, 212 


dabar, 107 

day of birth, 160 

day of prosperity, 165 
day; of death, 177, 178 
delirantium somnia, 185 
dead lion, 186 

dead flies, 192, 258 
deaf adder, 198 

days of darkness, 209 
daughters of song, 216 
doors, 216 

desire, 219 

dust, 222 

duty of man, 229 

eateth in darkness, 153 

eat in the morning, 200 

Ecclesiastes, meaning of word, 15; date 
and authorship of, 19~32; compared 
with Ecclesiasticus, 56—63; with the 
Wisdom of Solomon, 67—75; Jewish 
interpreters of, 75; parables in, 77, 
78; meanings of phrases in, 78; com- 
pared with Targum, 79 ff.; patristic 
interpreters of, 88; analysis of, 97 ff.; 
parallel between Shakespeare and, 
231 ff.; parallel between Tennyson 
and, 250 ff. ; parallel between poem of 
Omar Khayyam and, 262 ff. 

OuKy miortes, 198 

estate, 135 

Euripides, quoted, 104, 134, 137, 160, 
173, 186, 208, 220, 223 

Eternal Commandment, 230 

evil days, 213 

face to shine, 174 

feedeth on wind, rt0, 229, 253, 264 
folding doors, 216 

fountain of life, 222 

full of words, 199 

Gamaliel, 226 
gardens and orchards, 115 
gave good heed, 226 



gave my heart, 109, 170 

Gebini ben Charson, 77 

Gehenna, fires of, 210 

Gemara, the, 75, 228 

Ginsburg, quoted, go, 9 

golden bowl, 221 

good name, 159, 160 

gracious words, 198 

grasshopper, 219 

great dignity, 195 

Gregory of Nyssa, 91, 94 
Gregory Thaumaturgus, 89, 92, 94 
Gregory the Great, 99 

Gulschen Ras, by Mahmud, quoted, 214 
grinders, 215 

Hades, 136 

Haggadah, the, 75 

Halachah, the, 75 

have all one breath, 136 

have no burial, 155 

ce Nae quoted, 135 
igher, 149, 150 

Hillel, 226 

home, 220 

Homer, quoted, 105, 118, 141, 193 

Hood, quoted, 238 

Horace, quoted, 112, 119, 124, 151, 152, 
166 ,200, 201, 209, 218, 223 

horses, keeping of, 195 

housé, keepers of, 214 

house, of God, 145 

Hospital of the soul, 228 

Ibycos, cranes of, 203 
In Memoriam, quoted, 250, 251 
Irenaeus, 68 

judgment, place of, 134, 212 
Juvenal, quoted, 129, 151, 189, 191, 200, 

Keble’s “ Christian Year,” quoted, 128 

keep thy feet, 145 

keepers of the house, 214 

king over Israel, 109 

Koheleth, 16; biography of, 36; parallel 
between Shakespeare and, 231 ff.; 
parallel between Tennyson and, 250 
ff.; parallel between poem of Omar 
Khayyam and, 262 ff 

lamp of life, 221 

Latin Fathers, the, 92 
let thy words be few, 146 
life, fountain of, 222 
light is sweet, 208 

little city, rox 

little folly, 193 

long home, 220 

love or hatred, 184 

Lucretius, quoted, 106, 107, 117, 123, 132, 
136, 137, 146, 149, 154, 211, 223, 226 

madness, 185 

Mahmud, Gulschen Ras of, quoted, 2t4 
mandragora, 220 ; 
Martial quoted, 42 

masters of assemblies, 227 
Mataiotes Mataiotéton, 251 
matter, 229 

Mnéev ayav, 167 

Metaphrasis, the, 89, 94 
Midrashim, the, 75 

Milton, quoted, 158, 265 

Mishna, the, 75, 169, 228 

moral suasion, 198 

mourners, 221 

Muratorian Fragments, 67 
mischievous madness, 199 

my son, 228 

nails, 227 

nard, 188 

ne guid nimis, 119, 167 
Nibelungen Lied, 267 
Nirvana, 139 

nobles, 200 

no new thing, 108 

oath of God, 175 

ointment, 188 

Omar Khayyam, biography of, 262; 
parallel between Ecclesiastes and, 202 
ff.; poem of, quoted, 262 ff. 

over much wicked, 167, 168 

over the spirit, 177 

Ovid, quoted, 131, 174 

Paradise Lost, quoted, 158, 265 
Pelagianism, 93 
Pheraulas, 151 
pitcher, 222 

lace of judgment, 134, 212 
Plato, quoted, 17, 221, 252 
Pliny, quoted, 203 
Ptolemy, 64 
Pyrrhonism, 137 

ready to hear, 145 

rebuke of the wise, 162 
rejoice in thy youth, 210, 21x 
remembrance of the wise, 120 
reward, 163 

rich, 195 

right hand, 193 

right work, 139 

righteous over much, 167, 168 
Rufinus, 65 

Sacian, 151 
Sanhedrin, 226 
satias videndi, 245 


season, 201 

see the sun, 164, 208 

Seneca, quoted, 141 

sentence, 180 

serpents, charming of, 198 

set in order, 226 

Shakespeare, quoted, 40, 43, 122, 124, 
131, 187, 199, 223, 232, 233, 234) 235, 
236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 
244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 265, 266 

Shechinah, 86 

Sheked, 218 

Sheol, 136, 189, 209 

Shepherd, the Good, 228 

silver cord, 221 

sinister, 194 

slaves, 115 

slothfulness, 201 

Solomon, Wisdom of, 67; compared with 
Ecclesiastes, 68, 69 

Solon, 151 

song, daughters of, 216 

song of fools, 162 

Sophocles, quoted, 128, 130, 139, 159, 
173, 176, 184, 187, 193 

Sorrow, 212 

sow thy seed, 207 

spirit of the ruler, 194 

spirit shall return, 22 

**sprung from the soil,” 219 

storm, 214 

study, 229 


suicide, 120 
swallow up, 198 

Targum, the, 75 

Tennyson, parallel drawn between Ko- 
heleth and, 250 ff.; quoted, 250, 251, 
252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 
260, 261, 265 

threefold cord, 143, 144 

thy hand findeth, 189 

time and chance, 190 

to do good, 133 

“ Two Voices,” 126, 179, 252, 257, 260 

unto one place, 136 

vanity, 212, 229, 253 

vanity of vanities, 102, 224, 225, 231, 234 

vexation of spirit, 112, 122, 125 

Virgil, quoted, 48, 105, 108, 123, 124, 
152, 161, 224 

Voltaire, quoted, 205 

Welt-schmerz, the, 258 

wheel, 222 

wisdom is good, 164 

wise, remembrance of, 120: rebuke of, 

wonder not, 149 

work of God, 183, 207 

youth, 212 

= 2 
















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thorough competence of the.writer for dealing with questions of criti- 
cism in an earnest, faithful and devout spirit ; and the appendices discuss 
a few special difficulties with a full knowledge of the data, and a judicial 
reserve, which contrast most favourably with the superficial dogmatism 
which has too often made the exegesis of the Old Testament a field for 
the play of unlimited paradox and the ostentation of personal infalli- 
bility. The notes are always clear and suggestive; never trifling or 
irrelevant; and they everywhere demonstrate the great difference in 
value between the work of a commentator who is also a Hebraist, and 
that of one who has to depend for his Hebrew upon secondhand 
sources.” —Academy, 

I. Kings and Ephesians. ‘With great heartiness we commend 
these most valuable little commentaries. We had rather purchase 
these than nine out of ten of the big blown up expositions. Quality is 
far better.than quantity, and we have it here.” —Sword and Trowel. 

II. Kings. ‘The Introduction is scholarly and wholly admirable, 
the notes must be of incalculable value to students.”— Glasgow Flerald. 

“Tt would be difficult to find a commentary better suited for general 



The Book of Job. ‘‘ Able and scholarly as the Introduction is, it is 
far surpassed by the detailed exegesis of the book. In this Dr DAVIDSoN’s 
strength is at its greatest. His linguistic knowledge, his artistic habit, 
his scientific insight, and his literary power have full scope when he 
comes to exegesis. ...”— Zhe Spectator. 

‘In the course of a long introduction, Dr DAvIDSON has presented 
us with a very able and very interesting criticism of this wonderful 
book. Its contents, the nature of its composition, its idea and purpose, 
its integrity, and its age are all exhaustively treated of....We have not 
space to examine fully the text and notes before us, but we can, and do 
heartily, recommend the book, not only for the upper forms in schools, 
but to Bible students and teachers generally. As we wrote of a previous 
volume in the same series, this one leaves nothing to be desired. The 
notes are full and suggestive, without being too long, and, in itself, the 
introduction forms a valuable addition to modern Bible literature.” — Zhe 
Educational Times. 

‘Already we have frequently called attention to this exceedingly 
valuable work as its volumes have successively appeared. But we have 
never done so with greater pleasure, very seldom with so great pleasure, 
as we now refer to the last published volume, that on the Book of Job, 
by Dr Davibson, of Edinburgh.... We cordially commend the volume to 
all our readers. The least instructed will understand and enjoy it; ~ 
and mature scholars will learn from it.”—J/ethodist Recorder. 

Psalms. Book I. ‘‘It is full of instruction and interest, bringing 
within easy reach of the English reader the results of the latest scholar- 
ship bearing upon the study of this ever new book of the Bible. The 
Introduction of eighty pages is a repertory of information, not drily but 
interestingly given.” —A/ethodist Recorder. 

“*It seems in every way a most valuable little book, containing a 
mass of information, well-assorted, and well-digested, and will be useful 
not only to students preparing for examinations, but to many who want 
a handy volume of explanation to much that is difficult in the Psalter. 
AER We owe a great debt of gratitude to Professor Kirkpatrick for his 
scholarly and interesting volume.” —Church Times. 

‘In this volume thoughtful exegesis founded on nice critical scholar- 
ship and due regard for the opinions of various writers, combine, under 
the influence of a devout spirit, to render this commentary a source of 
much valuable assistance. The notes are ‘though deep yet clear,’ for 
they seem to put in a concentrated form the very pith and marrow of all 
the best that has been hitherto said on the subject, with striking freedom 
from anything like pressure of personal views. Throughout the work care 
and pains are as conspicuous as scholarship.” —Literary Churchman. 

Psalms. Books II. and Ill. ‘‘This second portion of the Psalter 
maintains all the excellencies of the earlier volume. It is scholarly and 
sympathetic, and, let us add, it is deeply interesting. The introduction 
on the whole of the Psalter is prefixed to the present volume, and is a 
triumph of comprehensiveness and clearness. Its learning is adequate, 
and its attitude on disputed points at once reasonable and reverent.”— 



‘©The second volume of Professor KIRKPATRICK’S Commentary on 
the Book of Psalms has all the excellent qualities which characterise 
the first....It gives what is best in the philology of the subject. Its notes 
furnish what is most needed and most useful. Its literary style is at- 
tractive. It furnishes all that is of real value in the form of introduction, 
and it has a studious regard for the devout as well as intelligent under- 
standing of the Psalms.” —Critical Review. 

** This volume of the Cambridge Bible for schools and colleges is a 
very valuable contribution to the expository literature of the Old Testa- 
ment. The introduction, which occupies some 7o pages, is a compact 
compendium of explanatory and critical information upon the whole 
Psalter. The notes are brief, but full, and very suggestive.” —Bapfist. 

Job—Hosea. ‘It is difficult to commend too highly this excellent 
series, the volumes of which are now becoming numerous. The two 
hooks before us, small as they are in size, comprise almost everything 
that the young student can reasonably expect to find in the way of helps 
towards such general knowledge of their subjects as may be gained 
without an attempt to grapple with the Hebrew; and even the learned 
scholar can hardly read without interest and benefit the very able intro- 
ductory matter which both these commentators have prefixed to their 
volumes.” —Guardian. 

Ecclesiastes; or, the Preacher.—‘‘ Of the Notes, it is sufficient to 
say that they are in every respect worthy of Dr PLUMPTRE’s high repu- 
tation as a scholar and a critic, being at once learned, sensible, and 
practical....Commentaries are seldom attractive reading. This little 
volume is a notable exception.” — Zhe Scotsman. 

Jeremiah, by A. W.STREANE, D.D. ‘‘The arrangement of the book 
is well treated on pp. xxx., 396, and the question of Baruch’s relations 
with its composition on pp. xxvii., xxxiv., 317. The illustrations from 
English literature, history, monuments, works on botany, topography, 
etc., are good and plentiful, as indeed they are in other volumes of this 
series.”—Church Quarterly Review. 

Malachi. ‘Archdeacon Perowne has already edited Jonah and 
Zechariah for this series. Malachi presents comparatively few difficulties 
and the Editor’s treatment leaves nothing to be desired. His introduction 
is clear and scholarly and his commentary sufficient. We may instance 
the notes on ii. 15 and iv. 2 as examples of careful arrangement, 
clear exposition and graceful expression.” —Academy. 

“The Gospel according to St Matthew, by the Rev. A. CArr. The 
introduction is able, scholarly, and eminently practical, as it bears 
on the authorship and contents of the Gospel, and the original form 
in which it is supposed to have been written. It is well illustrated by 
two excellent maps of the Holy Land and of the Sea of Galilee.”— 
English Churchman. 

“st Mark, with Notes by the Rev. G. F. Macizar, D.D. Into 
this small volume Dr Maclear, besides a clear and able Introduc- 
tion to the Gospel, and the text of St Mark, has compressed many 


hundreds of valuable and helpful notes. In short, he has given us 
a capital manual of the kind required—containing all that is needed to 
illustrate the text, i.e. all that can be drawn from the history, geography, 
customs, and manners of the time. But as a handbook, giving in a 
clear and succinct form the information which a lad requires in order 
to stand an examination in the Gospel, it is admirable...... I can very 
heartily commend it, not only to the senior boys and girls in our High 
Schools, but also to Sunday-school teachers, who may get from it the 
very kind of knowledge they often find it hardest to get.” —Expositor. 

‘*With the help of a book like this, an intelligent teacher may make 
‘Divinity’ as interesting a lesson as any in the school course. The 
notes are of a kind that will be, for the most part, intelligible to boys 
of the lower forms of our public schools; but they may be read with 
greater profit by the fifth and sixth, in conjunction with the original- 
text.” — The Academy. 

**St Luke. Canon FARRAR has supplied students of the Gospel 
with an admirable manual in this volume. It has all that copious 
variety of illustration, ingenuity of suggestion, and general soundness of 
interpretation which readers are accustomed to expect from the learned 
and eloquent editor. Anyone who has been accustomed to associate 
the idea of ‘dryness’ with a commentary, should go to Canon Farrar’s 
St Luke for a more correct impression. He will find that a commen- 
tary may be made interesting in the highest degree, and that without 
losing anything of its solid value....But, so to speak, it is too good for 
some of the readers for whom it is intended.” —TZhe Spectator. 

The Gospel according to St John. ‘‘The notes are extremely 
scholarly and valuable, and in most cases exhaustive, bringing to the 
elucidation of the text all that is best in commentaries, ancient and 
modern.” — Zhe English Churchman and Clerical Fournal. 

‘*(r) The Acts of the Apostles. By J. Rawson Lumpy, D.D. 
(2) The Second Epistle of the Corinthians, edited by Professor Lias. 
The introduction is pithy, and contains a mass of carefully-selected 
information on the authorship of the Acts, its designs, and its sources. 
Seb The Second Epistle of the Corinthians is a manual beyond all praise, 
for the excellence of its pithy and pointed annotations, its analysis of the 
contents, and the fulness and value of its introduction.”—ZAxamiiner. 

“The Rev. H, C. G. MouLeE, D.D., has made a valuable addition 
to THE CAMBRIDGE BIBLE FOR SCHOOLS in his brief commentary on 
the Epistle to the Romans. The ‘Notes’ are very good, and lean, 
as the notes of a School Bible should, to the most commonly ac- 
cepted and orthodox view of the inspired author’s meaning ; while the 
Introduction, and especially the Sketch of the Life of St Paul, is a model 
of condensation. It is as lively and pleasant to read as if two or three 
facts had not been crowded into well-nigh every sentence.” —Zxpositor, 

“The Epistle to the Romans. It is seldom we have met with a 
work so remarkable for the compression and condensation of all that 
is valuable in the smallest possible space as in the volume before us. 
Within its limited pages we have ‘a sketch of the Life of St Paul,’ 
we have further a critical account of the date of the Epistle to the 
Romans, of its language, and of its genuineness. The notes are 


numerous, full of matter, to the point, and leave no real difficulty 
or obscurity unexplained.” — Zhe Examiner. 

“‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Edited by Professor Lis. 
Every fresh instalment of this annotated edition of the Bible for Schools 
confirms the favourable opinion we formed of its value from the exami- 
nation of its first number. The origin and plan of the Epistle are 
discussed with its character and genuineness.” — 7he Monconformist. 

Galatians. ‘‘Dr PEROWNE deals throughout in a very thorough 
manner with every real difficulty in the text, and in this respect he has 
faithfully followed the noble example set him in the exegetical master- 
piece, his indebtedness to which he frankly acknowledges.”—Modern 

‘*This little work, like all of the series, is a scholarly production; 
but we can also unreservedly recommend it from a doctrinal standpoint ; 
Dr E. H. PEROWNE is one who has grasped the distinctive teaching of 
the Epistle, and expounds it with clearness and definiteness. In an 
appendix, he ably maintains the correctness of the A. V. as against the 
R. V. in the translation of II. 16, a point of no small importance.”— 
English Churchman. 

The Epistle to the Ephesians. By Rev. H. C. G. MouLet, D.D. 
*‘Tt seems to us the model of a School and College Commentary— 
comprehensive, but not cumbersome; scholarly, but not pedantic.’”— 
Bapiist Magazine. 

The Epistle to the Philippians. ‘‘There are few series more valued 
by theological students than ‘The Cambridge Bible for Schools and 
Colleges,’ and there will be no number of it more esteemed than that 
by Mr H. C. G. Movts on the Zfistle to the Philippians.” —Record. 

Thessalonians. ‘‘It will stand the severest scrutiny, for no volume 
in this admirable series exhibits more careful work, and Mr FINDLAY is 
a true expositor, who keeps in mind what he is expounding, and for 
whom he is expounding it.”—Zxfository Times. 

‘¢Mr FINDLAY maintains the high level of the series to which he has 
become contributor. Some parts of his introduction to the Epistles to 
the Thessalonians could scarcely be bettered. The account of Thessa- 
lonica, the description of the style and character of the Epistles, and the 
analysis of them are excellent in style and scholarly care. The notes 
are possibly too voluminous; but there is so much matter in them, and 
the matter is arranged and handled so ably, that we are ready to forgive 
their fulness....Mr FINDLAY’S commentary is a valuable addition to 
what has been written on the letters to the Thessalonian Church.”— 

“Mr FINDLAY has fulfilled in this volume a task which Dr Moulton 
was compelled to decline, though he has rendered valuable aid in its pre- 
paration. The commentary is in its own way a model—clear, forceful, 
scholarly—such as young students will welcome as a really useful guide, 
and old ones will acknowledge as giving in brief space the substance of 
all that they knew.” —Baftist Magazine. 

The Epistles to Timothy and Titus. ‘‘This is another contribution 
to ‘The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges,’ and one that is 
entirely true to the general idea of that excellent series. The pastoral 


epistles have unusual difficulties, if they have also a very peculiar 
ecclesiastical interest. They are well handled on the whole in both 
these respects by Mr Humphreys...... The book is a good piece of work, 
quite worthy of the place it occupies in the series.” —The Daily Free 
Press. ; 

“The series includes many volumes of sterling worth, and this last 
may rank among the most valuable. The pages evince careful scholar- 
ship and a thorough acquaintance with expository literature ; and the 
work should promote a more general and practical study of the Pastoral 
Epistles.” — Zhe Christian. : 

Hebrews. ‘Like his (Canon Farrar’s) commentary on Luke it 
possesses all the best characteristics of his writing. It is a work not 
only of an accomplished scholar, but of a skilled teacher.” —Bafptist 

The Epistles of St John. By the Rev. A. PLUMMER, D.D. 
“This forms an admirable companion to the ‘Commentary on the 
Gospel. according to St John,’ which was reviewed in Zhe Churchman 
as soon as it appeared. Dr Plummer has some of the highest qualifica- 
tions for such a task; and these two volumes, their size being considered, 
will bear comparison with the best Commentaries of the time.” —TZhe 

Revelation. ‘‘This volume contains evidence of much careful 
labour. It is a scholarly production, as might be expected from the pen 
of the late Mr W. H. Simcox....The notes throw light upon many 
passages of this difficult book, and are extremely suggestive. It is an 
advantage that they sometimes set before the student various interpre- 
tations without exactly guiding him to a choice.”—Guardian. 

“Mr S1mcox has treated his very difficult subject with that con- 
scious care, grasp and lucidity which characterises everything ke 
wrote.”—Modern Church. 

The Smaller Cambridge wWible for Dchools. 

‘* We can only repeat what we have already said of this admirable 
series, containing, as it does, the scholarship of the larger work. For 
scholars in our elder classes, and for those preparing for Scripiure examt- 
nations, no better commentaries can be put into their hands.” —Sunday- 
School Chronicle. 

“‘ Despite their small size, these volumes give the substance of the 
admirable pieces of work on which they are founded. We can only hope 
that in many schools the class-teaching will proceed on the lines these com- 
mentators suggest.” —Record. 

“ We should be glad to hear that this series has been introduced into 
many of our Sunday-Schools, for which it is so admirably adapted.” — 
Christian Leader. 

“All that is necessary to be known and learned by pupils in junior 
and elementary schools is to be found in this series. Indeed, much more 
is provided than should be required by the examiners. We do not know 
what more could be done to provide sensible, interesting, and solid Scrip- 
tural instruction for boys and girls, The Syndics of the Cambridge 


University Press are rendering great services both to teachers and to 
scholars by the publication of such a valuable series of books, in which 
Slifshod work could not have a place.” —Literary World. 

_ “For the student of the sacred oracles who utilizes hours of travel or 
moments of waiting in the perusal of the Bible there zs nothing so handy, 
and, at the same time, so satisfying as these little books..... Nor let anyone 
suppose that, because these are school-books, therefore they are beneath 
the adult reader. They contain the very ripest results of the best Biblical 
scholarship, and that in the very simplest Sorm.”—Christian Leader. 

“* Altogether one of the most perfect examples of a Shilling New Tes- 
ciitadias talasing ts which even this age of cheapness is likely to produce.” 

Samuel I. and II. ‘‘Professor KIRKPATRICK’S two tiny volumes on 
the First and Second Books of Samuel are quite model school-books ; 
the notes elucidate every possible difficulty with scholarly brevity and 
clearness and a perfect knowledge of the subject.”—Saturday Review. 

“‘They consist of an introduction full of matter, clearly and succinctly 
given, and of notes which appear to us to be admirable, at once full and 
brief.” —Church Times. 

Kings I. ‘ Wecancordially recommend this little book. The Intro- 
duction discusses the question of authorship and date in a plain but 
scholarly fashion, while the footnotes throughout are brief, pointed, and 
helpful.” —Review of Reviews. 

St Matthew. ‘The notes are terse, clear, and helpful, and teachers 
and students cannot fail to find the volume of great service.”— 
Publishers’ Circular. 

St Mark. St Luke. ‘We have received the volumes of St Mark 
and St Luke in this series.... The two volumes seem, on the whole, well 
adapted for school use, are well and carefully printed, and have maps 
and good, though necessarily brief, introductions. There is little doubt 
that this series will be found as popular and useful as the well-known 
larger series, of which they are abbreviated editions.” — Guardian. 

St Luke. ‘‘ We cannot too highly commend this handy little book 
to all teachers.” — Wesleyan Methodist Sunday-School Record. 

St John. ‘‘ We have been especially interested in Mr PLUMMER’S 
treatment of the Gospel which has been entrusted to his charge. Heis con- 
cise, comprehensive, interesting, and simple. Youngstudents of this inim- 
itable book, as well as elder students, even ministers and teachers, may 
use it with advantage as a very serviceable handbook.”—Litrary World. 

‘A model of condensation, losing nothing of its clearness and force 
from its condensation into a small compass. Many who have long since 
completed their college curriculum will find it an invaluable handbook,” 
—Methodist Times. 

Acts. ‘*The notes are very brief, but exceedingly comprehensive, 
comprising as much detail in the way of explanation as would be needed 
by young students of the Scriptures preparing for examination. We 
again give the opinion that this series furnishes as much real help as 
would usually satisfy students for the Christian ministry, or even minis- 
ters themselves.” —Literary Worl. 



with a Revised Text, based on the most recent critical authorities, 
and English Notes. 

“ Has achieved an excellence which puts it above criticism.” —Expositor, 

St Matthew. ‘‘ Copious illustrations, gathered from a great variety 
of sources, make his notes a very valuable aid to the student. They 
are indeed remarkably interesting, while all explanations on meanings, 
applications, and the like are distinguished by their lucidity and good 
sense.”—Pall Mall Gazette. ; 

St Mark. ‘‘Dr MACLEAR’s introduction contains all that is known 
of St Mark’s life; an account of the circumstances in which the Gospel 
was composed, with an estimate of the influence of St Peter’s teaching 
upon St Mark; an excellent sketch of the special characteristics of this 
Gospel; an analysis, and a chapter on the text of the New Testament 
generally.” —Saturday Review. 

St Luke. ‘‘Of this second series we have a new volume by 
Archdeacon FARRAR on St Luke, completing the four Gospels....It 
gives us in clear and beautiful language the best results of modern 
scholarship. We have a most attractive Jtroduction. Then follows 
a sort of composite Greek text, representing fairly and in very beautiful 
type the consensus of modem textual critics. At the beginning of the 
exposition of each chapter of the Gospel are a few short critical notes — 
giving the manuscript evidence for such various readings as seem to 
deserve mention. The expository notes are short, but clear and helpful. 
For young students and those who are not disposed to buy or to study 
the much more costly work of Godet, this seems to us to be the best 
book on the Greek Text of the Third Gospel.” —Methodist Recorder. 

St John. ‘‘ We take this opportunity of recommending to ministers 
on probation, the very excellent volume of the same series on this part 
of the New Testament. We hope that most or all of our young ministers 

will prefer to study the volume in the Cambridge Greek Testament for 
Schools.” —Methodist Recorder. 

The Acts of the Apostles. ‘‘Professor LumBy has performed his 
laborious task well, and supplied us with a commentary the fulness and 
freshness of which Bible students will not be slow to appreciate. The 
volume is enriched with the usual copious indexes and four coloured 
maps.”—Glasgow Herald. 

I. Corinthians. ‘‘Mr Lias is no novice in New Testament exposi- 

tion, and the present series of essays and notes is an able and helpful 
addition to the existing books.”—Guardian. 

The Epistles of St John. ‘‘In the very useful and well annotated 
series of the Cambridge Greek Testament the volume on the Epistles 

of St John must hold a high position....The notes are brief, well 
informed and intelligent.” —Scotsman. 



7 -_ 
7 vt 

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BS Bible. O.7. Ecclesiastes. English. Authorized 

1475 ... Ecclesiastes; or, The Preacher, with notes anc 
Ph8h tion by the late E. H. Plumptre ... Edited for | 
1895 of the University press. Cambridge ,Eng.; Unive 

vi, (%-271, :1) p. 17 cm. (The Cambridge Bible for 


i QR 


1. Bible. O. T. Ecclesiastes—Commentaries. 1, PB 
ward Hayes, 1821-1891,ed. (Series) | 

BS491.C3_ vol. 18 | CCSC/ss 

Library of Congress 15653)