Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart.
9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:4 in Other Translations

KJV
4 I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards:
ESV
4 I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.
NLT
4 I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards.
MSG
4 Oh, I did great things: built houses, planted vineyards,
CSB
4 I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO ECCLESIASTES 2

Solomon, having made trial of natural wisdom and knowledge in its utmost extent, and found it to be vanity, proceeds to the experiment of pleasure, and tries whether any happiness was in that, Ec 2:1. As for that which at first sight was vain, frothy, and frolicsome, he dispatches at once, and condemns it as mad and unprofitable, Ec 2:2; but as for those pleasures which were more manly, rational, and lawful, he dwells upon them, and gives a particular enumeration of them, as what he had made full trial of; as good eating and drinking, in a moderate way, without abuse; fine and spacious buildings; delightful vineyards, gardens, and orchards; parks, forests, and enclosures; fish pools, and fountains of water; a large retinue, and equipage of servants; great possessions, immense riches and treasure; a collection of the greatest rarities, and curiosities in nature; all kinds of music, vocal and instrumental, Ec 2:3-8; in all which he exceeded any that went before him; nor did he deny himself of any pleasure, in a lawful way, that could possibly be enjoyed, Ec 2:9,10. And yet on a survey of the whole, and after a thorough experience of what could be found herein, he pronounces all vanity and vexation of spirit, Ec 2:11; and returns again to his former subject, wisdom; and looks that over again, to see if he could find real happiness in it, being sadly disappointed in that of pleasure, Ec 2:12. He indeed commends wisdom, and prefers it to folly, and a wise man to a fool; Ec 2:13,14; and yet observes some things which lessen its value; and shows there is no happiness in it, the same events befalling a wise man and a fool; both alike forgotten, and die in like manner, Ec 2:15,16. And then he takes into consideration business of life, and a laborious industry to obtain wealth; and this he condemns as grievous, hateful, and vexatious, because, after all a man's acquisitions, he knows not to whom he shall leave them, whether to a wise man or a fool, Ec 2:17-21. And because a man himself has no rest all his days, nothing but sorrow and grief, Ec 2:22,23; wherefore he concludes it is best for a man to enjoy the good things of this life himself; which he confirms by his own experience, and by an, antithesis between a good man and a wicked one, Ec 2:24-26.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 In-Context

2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
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.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.
5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.
7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.
8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.
9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.

Cross References 10

  • 1. 1 Kings 7:1-12; 2 Chronicles 2:1; 2 Chronicles 8:1-6
  • 2. Song of Songs 8:11
  • 3. 2 Chronicles 8:7-8
  • 4. S 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:10,14,21
  • 5. S Judges 3:15
  • 6. S 2 Samuel 19:35
  • 7. Ecclesiastes 1:12
  • 8. 1 Chronicles 29:25; Ecclesiastes 1:16
  • 9. S Ecclesiastes 1:14
  • 10. S Ecclesiastes 1:3

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
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