Ecclesiastes 2:3

3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

Read Ecclesiastes 2:3 Using Other Translations

I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, 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 searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine--my heart still guiding me with wisdom--and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.
After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.

What does Ecclesiastes 2:3 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Ecclesiastes 2:3

I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine
Not in an immoderate way, so as to intoxicate himself with it, in which there can be no pleasure, nor any show of happiness; but in a moderate, yet liberal way, so as to be innocently cheerful and pleasant, and hereby try what good and happiness were to be possessed in this way. By "wine" is meant, not that only, but everything eatable and drinkable that is good; it signifies what is called good living, good eating and drinking: Solomon always lived well; was brought up as a prince, and, when he came to the throne, lived like a king; but being increased in riches, and willing to make trial of the good that was in all the creatures of God, to see if any happiness was in them; determines to keep a better table still, and resolved to have everything to eat or drink that could be had, cost what it will; of Solomon's daily provision for his household, see ( 1 Kings 4:22 1 Kings 4:23 ) ; the Midrash interprets it, of the wine of the law. It may be rendered, "I sought in mine heart to draw out my flesh with wine", or "my body" F25; to extend it, and make it fat and plump; which might be reduced to skin and bones, to a mere skeleton, through severe studies after wisdom and knowledge. The Targum is,

``I sought in my heart to draw my flesh into the house of the feast of wine;''
as if there was a reluctance in him to such a conduct; and that he as it were put a force upon himself, in order to make the experiment; (yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom);
or, "yet my heart led [me] in wisdom" F26: he was guided and governed by wisdom in this research of happiness; he was upon his guard, that he did not go into any sinful extravagancies, or criminal excesses in eating and drinking; and to lay hold on folly;
that he might better know what folly was, and what was the folly of the sons of men to place their happiness in such things; or rather, he studiously sought to lay hold on folly, to restrain it, and himself from it, that it might not have the ascendant over him; so that he would not be able to form a right judgment whether there is any real happiness in this sort of pleasure, or not, he is, speaking of; for the epicure, the voluptuous person, is no judge of it; 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;
where the "summum bonum", or chief happiness of man lies; and which he should endeavour to seek after and pursue, that he might enjoy it throughout the whole of his life, while in this world: and that he might still more fully know it, if possible, he did the following things.
FOOTNOTES:

F25 (yrvb ta Nyyb Kwvml) "ut diducerem vino carnem meam", Piscator; "ut protraherem, et inde distenderem carnem meam", Rambachius.
F26 (hmkxb ghn yblw) "et cor meam ducens in sapientia", Montanus; "interim cor meum ducens in sapientiam", Drusius.
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