Annotations on the book of Ecclesiastes
Reynolds, Edward, 1599-1676.


IN this Chapter is continued a further de∣scription of the common vanity of riches, in the hands of a covetous person. He is here set forth,

First, By the good things which he hath; 1. Riches in abundance, riches and wealth. 2. Honour, and both to the uttermost of his desires, vers. 2. 3. Many Children. 4. Ma∣ny years, a great old age, vers. 3, 6.

Secondly, By his misery, which makes all that vain unto him. 1. God gives him not power to enjoy it. 2. A stranger eateth it. 3. His Soul is not filled with good. 4. He hath no burial, vers. 2, 3.

Thirdly, the censure of all this: 1. Ab∣solutely, 2. Comparatively. Absolutely; It is first, an evil; secondly, a common evil; Page  184 thirdly, a vanity; fourthly, a disease, vers. 1, 2. Comparatively, an untimely birth, o abortive is better; For, 1. He is born dead, and so free from sense of miseries, which the other discruciated himself withal. 2. He departs in darkness, without the loss of light and comfort, which the other denies unto himself. 3. His name is covered in dark∣ness, the others name is odious, vers. 4. 4. He hath not seen the Sun, nor known any thing: the other hath indeed seen the Sun, but hath seen no good, nor known any thing but sorrow and vexation, and at last goes to the same place, vers. 5, 6. This vanity he fur∣thers opens:

First, By the narrow use of Riches, and all the labour conversant about them; it terminates in the body; it cannot satiate the minde nor appetite; that is, if evil and co∣vetous, insatiable; if wise and prudent, above satisfaction by these things, vers. 7. That they cannot satisfie the minde, appears, be∣cause then wise men might find out some more good in them then fools; but the wisest can have no more out of them, then for their mouths, and so have fools, and the poorest men that know how to live, as well as the richest, vers. 8.

Secondly, By the vanity of wandring and endlesse desires; the wise, the foolish, the Page  185 rich, the poor have things present and neces∣sary, so long as they live, they have enough to that use; and this is a real fruit, much bet∣ter, then to let the heart wander and weary it self in endless desires, vers. 9.

Thirdly, By the impossibility of mending a mans condition by these things, or of rai∣sing him above the state of mortality and in∣firmity. A man will be but a man how rich soever he be, and all his wealth will not guard him against the evils incident to humanity, vers. 10. He will be still never the better by such things, as do but increase vanity, vers. 11.

Fourthly, By the ignorance of man to make the best use of things, and to resolve himself, whether a great, or a moderate estate be better for him; especially considering the shortnesse of his life, and the ignorance of what will become of his Estate or Family af∣ter he is gone, vers. 12. Thus we may con∣nex the two last Verses, with the Argument of those before: or rather we may take them for a general conclusion of all the precedent vanities, since so many things there are which increase vanity, what is man the better for them, vers. 11. For first, amongst them all, he can hardly know what is good for himself. 2. If he do, he can enjoy that good but a little while, his very life (the best outward Page  186 blessing he hath) is vain, and but a shadow 3. When his life is over, he shall be never the better for any thing which comes after him. 4. Neither can he please himself with the fore-sight of what shall be after him, be∣cause he cannot tell it to himself, neither can any man else declare it to him.

Vers. 1. THere is an evil which I have seen under the Sun] He shews the misery of a discontented covetous dispo∣sition, and that it is a special gift of God to bestow upon a man the sweet enjoyment of outward blessings, which when he hath, he is apt enough to deny unto himself.

and it is common amongst men] Or much and great. Covetousness is both a great sin, and yet a very usual and frequent sin, that it is to be met with, in all parts of the habitable world, where ever the Sun riseth and setteth. The commonness of sin, doth not at all exte∣nuate the greatnesse of it, but rather aggrava∣te the same, Psal. 14.2.3. Jer. 5.1.5.

V. 2. A man to whom God hath given, &c.] There is a man, who hath all things that heart can desire, not onely riches, but sub∣stance of all sorts, lands, moveables, with ho∣nour and great place, 2 Chron. 1.11, 12.

so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth] He is not defective, or Page  187 destitute of any thing which his soul can wish for; his substance extends to all just and large desires; it cannot be exhausted or worn out, Deut. 8.9. Isa. 51.14. 1 Reg. 17.16. He speaketh not of the boundless desires of covetous men, which are never satisfied; but of the just desires, which a man of dig∣nity and honour could have, in order to the decency of his estate, and to the quality of his place. He cannot rationally wish for any thing towards the satisfaction of his just desires, which his estate will not plentifully afford him, Psal. 73.7. Luk. 12.17, 18. Job 21.7—13. Psal. 17.14. All this a cove∣tous wretch is said to have from God, not in a way of blessing, as if God did prosper and approve of his sordid, or sinful waies of gain; but in a way onely of providence, his Sun shining on the just and unjust, Matth. 5.45.

yet God giveth him not power to eat there∣of] Chap. 5.18, 19. To eat of them, import∣eth a moderate and prudent use of them, for necessity and delight, taking a mans own portion; this is a special curse and judge∣ment of God, when a man hath not an heart to enjoy the blessigs which God bestoweth on him: as the contrary is a blessing from God, Chap. 5.19.

but a stranger eateth them] One that is Page  188 in no relation of neerness, blood, friendship to him: or an enemy, who spoileth and plundreth him of them. This is noted as a great affliction, Hos. 7.9. Deut. 28.33. Isa. 1.7. Lam. 5.2. Jer. 5.17. Here the Learned observe a difference, between a mans own use of his goods and a strangers; for he himself doth but eat of them; but a stranger eateth them. The former noteth care, mo∣deration, providence: The later, cruelty and devouring, without pity without mea∣sure.

This is a vanity, and an evil disease] Not onely a fruitlesse thing, but a very grievous trouble, when a man by sordid thoughts, base∣ness of spirit, unquiet and incessant cares, greedy desires, distrustful jealousies, anxious fears, thronging imployments, keeps himself from taking any delight in his abundance, and pierceth himself through with divers sor∣rows, 1 Tim. 6.10.

V. 3. If a man beget an hundred children] He spake before of one, who had none to succeed him in his estate, but a stranger; here, he shews the misery of a covetous per∣son to be as great, though he have many chil∣dren, and live many years. These be grea∣ter blessings in themselves, Psalm 127.3, 4.5. therefore children were called the glory of their Parents, Hos. 9.11. Job 5.25, 26. Page  189 Psal. 21.5. & 128.6. But covetousnesse takes away the comfort of them.

an hundred children] Very many,; a cer∣tain number for an uncertain; as 1 Cor. 14.19. Prov. 17.10. 1. Sam 18.7.

many years, so that the dayes of his years be many] He seemeth, speaking of long life, to correct himself, and call it rather many dayes, then many years: so Gen. 47.9.

and his soul be not filled with good] Or, satisfied with good. Either in regard of his own insatiable desires, or of some curse of God, mixing biternesse therewith; as Chap. 5.10. Job 9.25. By his soul, is meant 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, his appetite and desires; as Gen. 34.8. 1. Sam. 20.4. Psal. 103.6. O∣thers, understand this of the vanity of chil∣dren and old age without riches, when a man is so poor, that he hath nothing to satis∣fie nature while he lives, and cannot leave e∣nough to bury him when he is dead Which sense is touched at in the Contents of the Chapter, in our English Bibles.

and also that he have no burial] Either through cruelty of murherers & spoylers, or through neglect of heirs and successors, who deny him an honourable interment. It is a part of humane misery to be without burial, Deut. 28.26. 1 Re. 14.11, 13. 2 Reg. 9.37. Isai. 14 20. Jer. 8.2 & 16.4. & 22.19. 2 Chron. 21.19.

Page  190I say, that an untimely birth is better then he] In regard of outward respects, never to have felt good or evil, not to be born at all, or to be born and die at once, then to live long in misery, and then dye without love or honour from any. Hereby is noted the base condition of such a person, who is worse then an untimely birth, which hath not had the ordinary comfort of the meanest living creatures, to see the Sun, Job 3.10, 11, 12, 16. Psal. 58.8.

V. 4. For he cometh in with vanity] (i.) He is born, Job 1.21. Josh. 1.9. To no pur∣pose. That which never comes to perfection, but melteth and vanisheth away as soon as it is born, is born in vain.

and departeth in darknesse] Or, into dark∣nesse, or, obscurely without any notice. A Periphrasis of death, Eccl. 11.8.

his name shall be covered with dark∣nesse] (i.) Shall utterly be forgotten; there shall never be any mention of him.

V. 5. hath not seen the Sun] Job 3.16. Hath not felt any worldly delight, and therefore is not affected with the loss o it.

nor known] Hath had no use, either o sense or reason, and so cannot compare the evil of loss with the good of fruition.

Page  191this hath more rest then the other] For he rests immediately from the wom, whereas a covetous man lives a toylsome and unquiet life, and then parts with all, unwillingly, in∣to the condition of the abortive.

V. 6. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told] Whereas it might be objected, that the one hath lived a long life, and that alone is a blessing; and therefore in that re∣spect, he is to be preferred before an untime∣ly birth. He answereth, That long life, with∣out seeing good, doth but lengthen out mise∣ry; It is not the life, but the good, which makes a solid difference, Psal. 34.12. else the evil of the day, Matth. 6.34. makes day and life it self undesirable, Job 3.20—23 & 7.1, 2.

Do not all go to one place] As well he that lives longest, as he that never saw the Sun: and though one never saw the Sun, yet if the other never saw good, but only weaies him∣self with sorrowes and vanity, and goes to the same dust; what difference is there be∣tween them?

V. 7. All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled] For his mouth; For his bodily sustenance, and the services of life. Here is first a Metonymie of the subject, the mouth for the noursh∣ment which is put into it: and then a Sy∣necdoche, Page  192 of the part for the whole; food being, though the principal, yet but one part of mans necessary provision; all which the Apostle comprizeth in food and rayment, 1 Tim. 6.8. All the real fruit which any man can reap of all his worldly labours, is to have his daily bread, the bread of his allow∣ance, or food convenient for him, Prov. 30.8. Things simply necessary for life, and things secundarily necessary for the decency of his condition, and proportion of his qua∣lity and degree in the world.

yet the appetite is not filled] (i.) Either the covetous desires of a worldling remain still insatiable, he is not contented with his own portion, he cannot contain his heart within the limits of reason or religion; but though he have abundantly sufficient for all his wants, yet he toyleth still as if he had nothing, Chap. 4.8. Or else, The Soul is not filled; riches may benefit the body, and feed, and cloath, and comfort that, but to the nobler part of man, they can afford no sa∣tisfaction, they do not bear any proportion at all. They cannot hold the soul, Luk. 12.19, 20. They cannot help the Soul in a day of trouble, Prov. 11.4. Zeph. 1.18. They cannot follow it into another World, Psal. 49.17. They have no suteableness, either in ex∣cellency or duration unto it.

Page  193V. 8. Fr what hath the wise more then the fool, &c.] This question is a denyal, The Wise man hath nothing more then the fool. Internal excellency there is in wisdom above folly, Chap. 2.13. But here he speaketh with relation to wealth, and the outward events of things, in which regard, the Wise man hath no peculiar prerogative above the fool. The one fares as deliciously, is cloa∣thed as richly, hath Lands and Revenues left him by his Ancestors, as well as the other. The wisest man can but provide for back and belly, and such other conveniences, as out∣ward things are proper to supply; and so much may he do who hath Wealth without Wit. Outward things promiscuously hap∣pen unto all, and beyond their own use, they are not able to supply a wise man more then a fool.

what hath the poor which knoweth to walk before the living?] A poor man that lives, hath the substantial benefit of outward things as well as the richest or the wisest. What hath he lesse then the rich? he knowes how to get his living, and walk through his short time of life, as well as the other. Or, what hath the poor wise man, who by his industry and prudent conversing amongst men doth Page  194 maintain himself, more then the poor foolish man, who makes a shift to live as well as the other?

to walk before the living] That is, to live decently and discreetly amongst men, Chap. 4.15. Isa. 42.5. Psal. 56.13. Chap. 7.12.

V. 9. Better is the sight of the eyes, then the wandring of the Desire] By the sight of the Eyes, he meaneth things present, and in possession, which we have before us, in our eye, and in hand: by the wandring or walking of the Soul, he meaneth an insatiable and endlesse pursuit of the heart after thing which we have not, and cannot easily over∣take. So sight is opposed by the Apostle to Faith, Because Sight looketh on things in possession; Faith, on things in expectation, 2 Cor. 5.7. and so property or possession is before called the seeing of things with the eye, Eccles. 5.11. And on the other side, unsatisfied desires are expressed by wandring of the heart up and down, Isa. 57.10. Jer. 2.25. & 14.10. when the minde is not stayed and fixed with contentment in its present condition, but like a Bee flyeth from flower to flower, from creature to creature, to ga∣ther more. This then is the plain meaning of these words, It is better for a man quietly Page  195 and contentedly to enjoy the things which he hath in present possession, then to rove up and down, and weary himself with anxi∣ous and unsatisfied desires after things which he hath not: since the poor man hath as much the substantial and principal benefit of outward things, as the Rich, namely life and health, and food convenient: since the wisest man that is, can fetch no more real good out of wealth, then fools themselves do enjoy from it, It is much more comfortable to enjoy what we have, then endlesly to weary our selves in hoarding and hunting after more, Matth. 6.25—31. This is the same in sense with that, Chap. 4.6. but spoken here by Solomon as a remedy against covetous desires; there, by the sluggard, as an apology for his laziness. Though some would have it here understood in the person of a covetous Rich man. As if he would answer Solomons question: What good hath one more then another, the wise then the fools, the rich then the poor? yes saith the covetous rich man, he hath an Estate to look on, the other is continually vexed with want and desires: and it is much better to be in possession of a good Estate, then to languish under poverty, and be ever in a craving condition. But the former sense is more genuine.

Page  196This also is vanity and vexation of spirit] That is, in the later sense, It is a vain and troublesome thing to possess good things only to look on them, and not to use them. Or rather in the former sense, the wandring of the fool up and down after new gain, and denying it self the comfortable fruition of present contentments, is vanity, because much can do a man no more real good, then a little cheerfully used: and vexation of spirit, because insatiable desires bring per∣petual disquiet upon the heart of a man.

V. 10. That which hath been, is namel already] He sheweth the vanity of wandri•• desires, and greedy endeavours after gre••ter things then God hath yet afforded a ma for whatever things have been or are, wh••ther a man be rich or poor, noble or 〈◊〉 his condition comes not unto him by chanc but is prae-assigned him, in the purpose an decree of God, and therefore much bett•• is it for him contentedly to enjoy what Go gives, then with a vain and ineffectual amb••tion, to strive for things without his rea•• Especially since no things acquireable 〈◊〉 humane industry, can exempt or protect man from the evils, or common miseri which mankind is exposed unto. Let 〈◊〉 grow as Rich, as potent, as Honourable the world can make him; A man he was 〈◊〉Page  197 and he will be but a man still, from earth he came, and to earth he will go, he lies under a decree of mortality and infirmity, which by the help of no worldly wealth or greatness, he is able to break through.

That which hath been, The name of it is called already] That is, Its state, quality, order, condition, every thing belonging to the nature and being of it, every thing externally happening unto it, is all pre-ordained in the counsel and decree of God. He by his im∣mutable and irresistible providence hath▪ as∣signed unto every one his order, and doth 〈◊〉 his wisdome dispose of all things belong∣ng unto men, They are under his care and llowance, and therefore ought not anxi∣usly and sollicitously to insist upon provi∣••ons for the future, but rather comfortably to ••joy things present, and in a conscionable ••scharge of duty, to wait for a like blessing 〈◊〉 providence of God for hereafter, as ever ••fore they have had experience of, Psal. .11, 31, 14, 15. 1 Sam. 2.7, 8. Act. 2.. & 4.28.

and it is known that it is man] Be his ••alth or honours what they will, yet a frail, ••rtal, mutable, earthly creature he is still, he was before. And though men have 〈◊〉 so dementated with worldly greatness, 〈◊〉 take Divine honour to themselves, and Page  198 to think themselves lawless, and exempted from the bonds of other men, yet it is known and visible, that they remain men still, and so God will at last make them known to them∣selves, Psal. 9.20. Ezek. 28.6, 9. Isa. 2.22. & 31.3.

Neither may he contend with him that is mightier then he] He cannot implead God, nor enter an action or suit in Judgement with him, he cannot call him to an account, or judge him; he may not think by contend∣ing with God, to alter or break through the order of his providence or decrees, Isa. 45.9. Job 9.2, 3, 12. Jer. 50.44. Job. 4.17. Rom. 9.20. Ps. 51.4. 1 Cor. 10.22. Ezek. 22.14. Ps. 33.10, 11. Job. 34.23.

V. 11. Seeing there be many things which increase vanity, what is man the better? This is commonly understood as a furth•• argument against insatiable desires of wealth because where there are many of them, the increase doth but increase vanity, that is 〈◊〉 usual concomitant of great abundance, mor cares, more distractions, more fears, mor troubles and imployments come along wit them, and yet man is not a whit bette then he was before, he was fed, and cloathe then, and he is no more now. Can he carry any of them with him? can he find 〈◊〉 any more excellency in them? will the••Page  199 any real advantage remain unto him more then his own portion, and comfortable ac∣commodations by them? But I rather con∣ceive these words to be a solemn conclusion of all the former discoveries of vanity in the creatures, and repetition of what he gave summarily before, Chap. 1.3. It was there laid down as the Proposition which he un∣dertook to demonstrate, and having demon∣strated it, it is here in the close of the whole discourse resumed again, and the whole drawn together in one brief recapitulation, seeing there are thus many things, widome, folly, pleasures, honours, crowns, riches, that increase vanity, what is man the bet∣ter in regard of solid happiness and content∣ment for any, or for all of them?

V. 12. For who knoweth what is good for man in this life?] Amongst such variety of things under the Sun which the heart of man is apt to be drawn unto, neither he himself nor any other is able certainly to inform him, which of all those is best for him to enjoy and reap comfort from. Whether it be bet∣ter for him to be rich or poor, in a 〈◊〉 or low condition, in a private retirement, or in publick service; some mens greaness hath undone them, or other mens meanness hath secured them, 2 Reg. 25.9, 12. Sme men had not been so wicked, if they had not Page  200 been so learned; others had not been so vi∣tious, if great wealth had not excited and been fuel to feed their lusts. Achitophel might have lived longer with less wisdome, and Nabal with less wealth. No man can tell whether that which he snatcheth at, as the silly fish, with most greediness, and grea∣test expectation of contentment from it, may not be temper'd with poyson, or have a hook under it, and so be the occasion of his grea∣ter misery, Rom. 1.22. 2 Pet. 2.18, 19. Rom. 6.21. Prov. 1.13, 18, 19.

All the dayes of his vain life which he spen∣deth as a shadow] If he do by chance, rather then by election, happen upon that way and course which was best for him, yet his very life, the best of all outward blessings, is it self but a very vanity and shadow. It is but a very little while before he must part with it, and all those comforts which rendred it peaceable and cheerfull to him. A very e∣legant description of the shortness of mans life, All the number of the dayes of the life of his vanity, which he spendeth as a sha∣dow: 1. He calleth them dayes, not years. 2. Dayes that may be numbred, which like∣wise intimateth fewness of them, as Job. 16.22. Isa. 10.19. Psal. 105.12. Num. 9.20. 3. A life of vanity; a very vain life. The substantive for the adjective; as Psal. 31.3. Page  201 & 68.31. Psal. 140.12. Rom. 7.24. Ephes. 4.24. Phil. 3.21. 4. A life spent like a shadow, that hath little of substance while it lasts, and doth presently vanish a∣way, Ps. 39.6. & 144.4. Job. 14.2. Jam. 4.14. Job. 8.9.

for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the Sun.] As a man can have little satisfaction by outward good things here in his own sight and life-time, so can he pro∣mise himself as little in name or family, when he is gone, because he can by no means foresee or foreknow future and contingent events, Chap. 2.18, 19.