1 I said in my heart, 'Go to now, I will prove you with mirth, therefore look you into pleasure:' and, behold, this also is vanity.
2 I said to laughter, 'It is mad:' and to mirth, 'What does she do?'
3 I sought in my heart (i.e. resolved) to give myself to wine (or, how to enlist, by wine, my very flesh [in the work]: i.e. the work of proving the heart with mirth - "yet retaining wisdom"), yet acquainting my 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 numbered days of their life.
4 I increased my possessions; I built me houses; I planted me vineyards:
5 I made me gardens and paradises (or parks, pleasure grounds. Different from gardens, which were cultivated [Deut. 11:10. 1 Kings 21:2]. Paradises were formed by eastern monarchs. In the British Museum may be seen the inscriptions of Gudea, the greatest of the Sumerian rulers of Chaldea [2500 B.C.], and Tiglath-pileser I, king of Assyria [1200 B.C.], describing what could be only a botanical and zoological park. Assur-nazir-pal, king of Assyria [885 B.C.], founded such a public paradise, and describes how he stocked it; what he brought, and where he brought the natural history collection. The British Museum contains a portion of a similar catalog of Sennacherib. The Paradise in Rev. 2:7; 22:1,2 refers to the future paradise, which will be as literal and real, not figurative.), and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
6 I made me pools of water, to water therewith the forest that brings forth trees:
7 I brought me servants and maidens (Heb. bondage has nothing in common with Greek, Roman, or African slavery. There is no word for such slavery in Hebrew; 'ëbëd = laborer, is the name of all Yehovah's servants.), and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me:
8 I amassed me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the country: I got me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.
9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. (The Divine wisdom given by God [1 Kings 3:5-15] had not been taken away. This must be remembered in reading this book. Like Luke's "understanding" it comes "from above". See "very first" Luke 1:3.)
10 And whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my toil: and this came to be my share of all my toil.
11 But when I turned in order to look on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the toil that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and feeding on wind, and there was no profit under the sun.
12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that comes after the king? even that which has been already done.
13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness.
14 The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool (= fat, and then dense, or stupid, which comes of it, showing itself in impiety) walks in darkness: as I too knew (i.e. as well as they) also that one happening happens to them all.
15 Then spoke with myself, 'As it happens to the fool, so it happens even to me; and why was I then more wise?' Then I spoke with myself, that this also is vanity.
16 For there is no memorial for the wise more than of the fool for ever (see 1:4); for, as in time past in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dies the wise man? as the fool. (Cp. Ps. 49:10. 2 Sam. 3:33.)
17 Therefore I hated life (put for the pleasure enjoyed in it);
because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous to me: for all is vanity and feeding on wind.
18 Yes, I hated all my labor (put for all that is produced by toil) which I had toiled under the sun: because I should leave it to the man that shall be after me.
19 And who knows whether he shall be a wise man or a fool (= stupid)? yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have acted wisely under the sun. This is also vanity.
20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labor which I toiled [an wherein I acted wisely] under the sun.
21 For here is a man whose labor is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity; yet to a man that has not labored therein shall he leave it [to another] for his portion. This also is vanity and a great calamity.
22 For what has man of all his labor, and of the feeding (or delight) of his heart, wherein he has labored under the sun?
23 For all his days are sorrows, and his toil (that brings about fatigue) grief; yes, his heart takes not rest in the night. This is also vanity.
24 There is no goodness for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make himself enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it (i.e. true enjoyment) was from the hand of the true God. (God [as Creator] is the subject which is continued through the next verse as the Source and Giver of all good. It is not therefore necessary to suppose that "another hand has been here at work".)
25 For who can eat, or who can enjoy, more than I?
26 For God gives to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He gives travail, to gather in and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God.
This also is vanity and feeding on wind.