Ecclesiastes 7:3

3 Sorrow[a] is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

Ecclesiastes 7:3 Meaning and Commentary

Ecclesiastes 7:3

Sorrow [is] better than laughter
Sorrow, expressed in the house of mourning, is better, more useful and commendable, than that foolish laughter, and those airs of levity, expressed in the house of feasting; or sorrow on account of affliction and troubles, even adversity itself, is oftentimes much more profitable, and conduces more to the good of men, than prosperity; or sorrow for sin, a godly sorrow, a sorrow after a godly sort, which works repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of, is to be preferred to all carnal mirth and jollity. It may be rendered, "anger [is] better than laughter" F8; which the Jews understand of the anger of God in correcting men for sin; which is much better than when he takes no notice of them, but suffers them to go on in sin, as if he was pleased with them; the Midrash gives instances of it in the generation of the flood and the Sodomites: and the Targum inclines to this sense,

``better is the anger, with which the Lord of that world is angry against the righteous in this world, than the laughter with which he derides the ungodly.''
Though it may be better, with others, to understand it of anger in them expressed against sin, in faithful though sharp rebukes for it; which, in the issue, is more beneficial than the flattery of such who encourage in it; see ( Proverbs 27:5 Proverbs 27:6 ) ; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better:
when the sadness is not hypocritical, as in the Scribes and Pharisees, but serious and real, arising from proper reflections on things in the mind; whereby the heart is drawn off from vain, carnal, and sensual things; and is engaged in the contemplation of spiritual and heavenly ones, which is of great advantage to it: or by the severity of the countenance of a faithful friend, in correcting for faults, the heart is made better, which receives those corrections in love, and confesses its fault, and amends.

F8 (qwxvm oek bwj) "melior est ira risu", Pagninus, Mercerus; "melior est indigatio risu", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius.

Ecclesiastes 7:3 In-Context

1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Footnotes 1

The King James Version is in the public domain.