Ye have said, it [is] vain to serve God
This they said in their hearts, if not with their lips, that it was a vain thing for a man to serve God; he got nothing by it; he had no reward for it; it fared no better with him than the wicked; nay, the wicked fared better than he; and therefore who would be a worshipper of God? see ( Job 21:15 ) . Abarbinel understands this also with respect to God, who is worshipped; to whom worship, say these men, is no ways profitable, nor does he regard it; see ( Job 35:7 ) and therefore it is in vain to serve him, since neither he, nor we, are the better for it: and what profit [is it] that we have kept his ordinance;
or "his observation" F14; that is, have observed that which he commanded to be observed; this respects not any single and particular ordinance, but every ordinance of God: the Sadducees of those times seem designed, who denied the resurrection of the dead, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and so might well conclude it in vain to serve God: and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
or "in black" F15; which is the habit of mourners; see ( Psalms 38:6 ) with an humble spirit, as Jarchi interprets it; or with humiliation (or contrition) of spirit, as the Targum, which paraphrases the whole verse thus,
``ye have said, he gains nothing who worships before the Lord; and what mammon (or riches) do we gain because we have kept the observation of his word, and because we have walked in contrition of spirit before the Lord of hosts?''Aben Ezra and Abarbinel seem to understand this last clause of their being afflicted and suffering for the sake of religion, and which they endured in vain, seeing they were not respected and rewarded for it; but the other sense is best, which represents them as sincere penitents, and humble worshippers of God in their own account, and yet were not taken notice of by him: it seems to describe the Pharisees, who disfigured their faces, and affected down looks and sorrowful countenances F16.