Introduction

\\INTRODUCTION TO ECCLESIASTES, OR THE PREACHER\\

This book has been universally received into the canon of the
Scriptures, by Jews and Christians. The former, indeed, had once some
controversy {a} about it; and they thought to have hid it, or put it
among the apocryphal books; because, at first sight, some things seemed
contradictory to each other {b}, and to incline to heresy {c}, atheism,
and epicurism, and to assert the eternity of the world {d}: but they
better considered of it; and when they observed those passages were
capable of a good sense, and that the whole agreed with the law of God,
they changed their minds {e}. And so likewise it has been rejected by
some heretical persons, of the Christian name, as Theodore and
Mopsuest, and others; and by deists, and some deistically inclined. But
it carries in it such internal evidences of a divine original, as
cannot well be denied; it delivers out and inculcates such divine
instructions, concerning the duties of men to God, and one another;
concerning the contempt of the world, and the carnal pleasures of it;
the fear and worship of God, and a future judgment; as none but the
wisdom of God could suggest. There are various things in it which seem
to be referred to by Christ and his apostles; at least there is an
entire agreement between them: among the many things that might be
observed, compare \\#Ec 11:5 12:11\\ with \\#Joh 3:8 10:16\\; and
\\#Ec 11:9 12:14\\ with \\#2Co 5:10 1Co 4:5\\; and \\#Ec 7:20\\ with
\\#1Jo 1:8\\. As to the author of it, there are evident marks of its being
written by Solomon; yet, by some Jewish writers, it is ascribed to Isaiah
{f}, which seems exceeding strange; for though he was a great prophet,
and an evangelical preacher, yet no king in Jerusalem; whatever may be
said for his being of the house of David, and of the royal family, as
some have thought: and, besides, there is no agreement in style between
this book and the writings of Isaiah. Others of them ascribe it to
Hezekiah and his men {g}: Hezekiah was indeed the son of David, and
David in expressly called his father; and he was a prince of great
character, both with respect to religion, and to wealth and grandeur;
see \\#2Ch 29:2 32:27-29 2Ki 18:5\\; which might induce them to such a
conceit; though it seems to take its rise from Hezekiah's men being the
copiers of some of Solomon's proverbs, \\#Pr 25:1\\; but the proof from
thence must be exceeding weak; that because they were the transcribers
of some of his proverbs, therefore were the writers of this book; and
especially King Hezekiah; for, whatever may be said of his character,
it falls greatly short of Solomon's wisdom or riches; and such things
are said, with for respect to both, in this book, as cannot agree with
him: and, on the other hand, it does not appear that he was addicted to
wine and women, and gave himself a loose to carnal pleasures, as the
writer of this book had formerly done. Grotius thinks it was written by
some persons in the times of Zerubbabel, and published under the name of
Solomon, as a penitent; which is quite shocking, that an inspired
writing should have a false title put to it, and be imposed upon the
church of God under a wrong name: besides, the name of Solomon is never
mentioned in it; though this, by the way, betrays a conviction that he
is intended in the title of it: nor are many persons concerned in it;
it appears throughout the whole to be the work of a single person, who
often speaks as such in it. That Zerubbabel should be meant by the one
shepherd, \\#Ec 12:11\\, is a mere fancy; it is better interpreted, as by
many, of Jesus Christ: his chief argument for this conjecture is,
because there are three or four Chaldee words in it, as he supposes;
which yet does not appear, and are nowhere to be found but in Daniel,
Ezra, and the Chaldee interpreter: and so there are in the book of
Proverbs, \\#Pr 31:2,3\\; but it does not follow, that because these words,
or others, are but once used in Scripture, that they are not originally
Hebrew; since the language was more extensive and better understood in
Solomon's time than now, when we have only the copy of the Old
Testament in which it is preserved. In short, what is said of the
descent and dignity of the writer of this book, of his wisdom, wealth,
riches, and grandeur, of his virtues and of his vices, agrees with none
as with Solomon; to which may be added, that there is one passage in
it, the same he used in his prayer at the dedication of the temple,
\\#Ec 7:20\\; compared with \\#1Ki 8:46\\. As to the time in which it was
written by him, it seems to have been in his old age, as the Jewish
writers observe {h}; after his sin and fall, and recovery out of it,
and when he was brought to true repentance for it: it was after he had
made him great works, and built houses, his own house and the house of
God, which were twenty years in building; it was after he had acquired
not only vast riches and treasures, which must require time, but had
gotten knowledge of all things in nature; and had seen all the works that
are done under the sun, and had made trial of all pleasures that were
to be enjoyed; see \\#Ec 1:1-2:26\\; it was after he had been ensnared
by women, which he confesses and laments, \\#Ec 7:26\\; and his
description of old age seems to be made, not merely upon the theory of
it, but from a feeling experience of the evils and infirmities of it,
\\#Ec 12:1-6\\. The general scope and design of it is to expose the
vanity of all worldly enjoyments; to show that a man's happiness does
not lie in natural wisdom and knowledge; nor in worldly wealth; nor in
civil honour, power, and authority; nor in the mere externals of
religion; but in the fear of God, and the worship of him. It
encourages men to a free use of the good things of life in a moderate
way, with thankfulness to God; to submit with cheerfulness to adverse
dispensations of Providence; to fear God and honour the king; to be
dutiful to civil magistrates, and kind to the poor; to expect a future
state, and an awful judgment; with many other useful things.

{a} Misn. Yadaim, c. 3. s. 5. T. Bab. Megilia, fol. 7. 1.
{b} T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 30. 2.
{c} Midrash Kohelet, fol. 60. 4. Vajikra Rabba, s. 28. "in principio",
fol. 168. 4.
{d} Maimon. Moreh Nevochim, c. 28. p. 262.
{e} T. Bab. Sabbat, ut supra. (fol. 30. 2.)
{f} R. Gedaliah in Shalshelt. Hakabala, fol. 55. 1. R. Moses Kimchi & alii.
{g} T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 15. 1.
{h} Peskita Rabbati apud Yalkut in Kohelet, l. 1. Shirhashirim Rabba,
fol. 2. 3. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 15. p. 41. R. Gedaliah in
Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 8. 2.

\\INTRODUCTION TO ECCLESIASTES 1\\

After the title of the book, which describes the author of it, by his
office, as a preacher; by his descent, as the son of David; and by his
dignity, king in Jerusalem, \\#Ec 1:1\\; the principal doctrine insisted on
in it is laid down, that the world, and all things in it, are most vain
things, \\#Ec 1:2\\. Which is proved in general, by the unprofitableness of
all labour to attain them, be they what they will, wisdom, knowledge,
riches, honours, and pleasures, \\#Ec 1:3\\; by the short continuance of
men on earth, though that abides, \\#Ec 1:4\\; by the constant revolution,
going and returning, of the most useful creatures, the sun, winds, and
water, \\#Ec 1:5-7\\; by the unfruitful and unsatisfactory labour all
things are full of, \\#Ec 1:8\\; by the continual repetition of the same
things, and the oblivion of them, \\#Ec 1:9-11\\; and by Solomon's own
experience in one particular thing; his search after, and acquisition
of, knowledge and wisdom, which he attained a large share of; and which
he found attended with labour, difficulty, and little satisfaction;
nay, was vanity and vexation of spirit; for, as his knowledge
increased, so did his grief and sorrow, \\#Ec 1:12-18\\.