Ecclesiastes 1:17

17 And I 1applied my heart to know wisdom and to know 2madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but 3a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:17 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 1:17

And I gave my heart to know wisdom
Which is repeated, for the confirmation of it, from ( Ecclesiastes 1:13 ) , and that it might be taken notice of how assiduous and diligent he had been in acquiring it; a circumstance not to be overlooked; and to know madness and folly:
that he might the better know wisdom, and learn the difference between the one and the other, since opposites illustrate each other; and that he might shun madness and folly, and the ways thereof, and expose the actions of mad and foolish men: so Plato F19 says, ignorance is a disease, of which there are two kinds, madness and folly. The Targum, Septuagint, and all the Oriental versions, interpret the last word, translated "folly", by understanding, knowledge, and prudence; which seems to be right, since Solomon speaks of nothing afterwards, as vexation and grief to him, but wisdom and knowledge: and I would therefore read the clause in connection with the preceding, thus, "and the knowledge of things boasted of", vain glorious knowledge; "and prudence", or what may be called craftiness and cunning; or what the apostle calls "science falsely so called", ( 1 Timothy 6:20 ) ; see ( Proverbs 12:8 ) ( Daniel 8:25 ) ; I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit;
(See Gill on Ecclesiastes 1:14); the reason follows.


F19 In Timaeo, p. 1084.

Ecclesiastes 1:17 In-Context

15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said in my heart, "I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge."
17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Cross References 3

  • 1. ver. 13; [Ecclesiastes 2:3, 12; Ecclesiastes 7:23, 25]
  • 2. Ecclesiastes 9:3
  • 3. [See ver. 14 above]
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